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Recently bought an 09 4WD Rav that now has 175,500 miles. After reading numerous posts on this forum I've come to realize what I thought was a loose heat shield is almost certainly the (apparently notorious) torque converter shudder. The vehicle has been serviced at the dealership since new. I'm assuming this means the transmission fluid has never been changed; I'll be checking service records tomorrow. If a transmission flush does not remedy the problem, what's the life span of this failing torque converter? I should have saved the link to the post, but one poster indicated his or her shudder started around 100,000 miles and was finally fixed around 200,000 when some rather extensive motor work was being done, meaning nearly 100,000 fail free miles. While the shudder is an annoyance, I have yet to notice any real effect on performance. Has anybody actually continued driving the vehicle in lieu of pulling the trigger on the expensive torque converter replacement or actually had a torque converter fail altogether? While the vehicle is worth over $5k, I'd rather trade it than spend the money to replace the torque converter. Maybe I'll be the first test subject to see if this thing is just annoying, or will leave me stranded on the side of the road one day.
 

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I am in a similar boat. My '07 is a little past 170,000 miles. For what it's worth, the TC will take quite a while to fail. Mine has been making funny noises for at least 30,000 of those miles. This was not intentional; it took me a long time to figure out the problem.

The dealer wanted to replace the transmission. A local transmission shop said that they could just do the TC for half the price of a full transmission replacement, but I would risk having to eat extra cost if the TC replacement does not stop the issue. Whichever course I take, I will likely do a flush once the weather warms up.

If anyone else has dealt with this problem, I too would like to hear.
 

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If the flush does not resolve the problem you are ahead if you did not rebuild the transmission and just sell it. You can't recoup the cost especially with the mileage you have.

So if the verdict comes back that the flush did not resolve this problem now we have a case where no fluid change with 175,000 will result in a rebuilt transmission. This proves Toyota WS fluid will not last a life time.
 

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If the flush does not resolve the problem you are ahead if you did not rebuild the transmission and just sell it. You can't recoup the cost especially with the mileage you have.

So if the verdict comes back that the flush did not resolve this problem now we have a case where no fluid change with 175,000 will result in a rebuilt transmission. This proves Toyota WS fluid will not last a life time.
I doubt any trans fluid would last a "lifetime". IMO, anyone who doesn't change the trans fluid for 175,000 miles deserves whatever he gets. The OP bought his that way so not his fault.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I guess I'm just curious as to what exactly is faulty in these torque converters. Prior to this Rav I had a high mileage 99 Chevy Prizm (aka Toyota Corolla) and it also did not sound happy when it was lugged at low speed (around 40mph) in overdrive when the torque converter was locked. I always just assumed this noise was the motor struggling to maintain a realitively low speed for such a high gear. Anyone who has driven a manual knows that similar feeling/vibration/noise you get when you leave a transmission in high gear at low speed, the motor struggles because it has no power at such a low RPM. Just as in my Prizm, this Rav has a sweet spot in the throttle where the automatic transmission will maintain 4th gear around 40 mph; give it anymore gas and it'll unlock the torque converter. The noise occurs when the transmission is maintaining a high gear at a speed low enough the motor is lugged down and the torque converter is locked. Never any problems whatsoever on the highway when the motor is not lugged down, no problems shifting. I never thought anything of it until getting on this forum. Everything I've read has the same fact pattern: the transmission was making this noise, the torque converter was "going bad," I replaced the torque converter or the transmission. That's fine, but what's the fault in these torque converters? What is going to fail if I don't get this replaced? I guess I've just never associated a similar noise/vibration with a problem.
 

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The previous owner neglected to change the transmission fluid and unloaded it. I would not put more money in this vehicle and sell it. No sense thinking about what will fail next when you know transmission are expensive to replace.

I just had a co-worker buy an older Subaru Forester (2006) and he just bought 4 snow tires. He was doing a transmission oil change and noticed how black it was. He sold that within a week and only had the car for less than two months. He did not want to take a chance on future problems since a transmission problem will cost too much to repair.
 

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The previous owner neglected to change the transmission fluid and unloaded it. I would not put more money in this vehicle and sell it. No sense thinking about what will fail next when you know transmission are expensive to replace.

I just had a co-worker buy an older Subaru Forester (2006) and he just bought 4 snow tires. He was doing a transmission oil change and noticed how black it was. He sold that within a week and only had the car for less than two months. He did not want to take a chance on future problems since a transmission problem will cost too much to repair.
Your co-worker sounds particular about his maintenance habits, but I wonder why he didn't check it before he bought it.
 

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I have the same issue with my new to us 2010 I-4. This is what I will do in the next month or so. Change out the trans fluid with Amsoil universal 3 times and filter change on the last drain and fill.
About 5 years ago I had the very same issue on my 05 Honda Odyssey. At the time Honda was reflashing the PCM to keep TC lock up from holding low RPM's and they were doing ALOT of TC replacements with little permanent success. One lone poster said the Amsoil trick made it go away. I did his cheaper route and by God it worked like a charm. I like the gas saving low RPM TC lock up on that van and since that time I used that van for a multitude of moving trips of 900 miles one way. To this day the low RPM trany shudder has not shown its self in the least. Right after I did the fix, Honda issues a new all synthetic Trans fluid and alerts dealers to swap out all the old Honda semi synthetic crap. The TC stresses to maintain TC lock up at low rpm because it really doesent have the line pressure to sustain the Lock up as it once did so you get a rapid lock-unlock-lock taking place creating the grumble.
At least in the Honda, this trick worked great and if you think this Toyota grumbleing is bad, the Honda one was so bad you could swear the engine & trany was going to literally rip out of the mounts and bounce out threw the hood and on to the side walk. I never used Amsoil before but I have to say, that stuff was like the hand of God healing the Honda permanently! I would never have believed a oil change could make such a fantastic turn around.
Finding an Amsoil dealer around here is a problem... hate to have to pay shipping.
 

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My 2011 V6 makes the exact same noise and dealer after looking at it for several hours (and comparing it to other Rav's) concluded that it is a normal sound and they all make the same noise. I asked them to change the ATF fluid but they advised against that for now as it still looked fine. The vehicle has only 70k km on it. After reading through this site I am still a bit concerned about the noise and debating whether to keep the vehicle longer or not as it SHOULD have tons of life left at this low mileage. I did drive another V6 and heard the same shudder noise too.
Also, the Sienna that the shuttle driver drove me home in made the same noise too...so perhaps it is just a normal noise for Toyota?
 

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I've never heard any shudder noise from my transmission. Whatever it is, it isn't normal.
 

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Update:

I got around to cycling out some of the old fluid last weekend. As expected, it was nasty and dark. I replaced the drained volume with some Valvoline synthetic ATF, roughly calculating to 31% of the total fluid.

After a few days of observations, I feel fairly confident in posting observations. While the transmission still exhibits some shuddering behavior, it happens less frequent and not as loud as before. I expect it to get better as I cycle out more of the old fluid.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Update:

I got around to cycling out some of the old fluid last weekend. As expected, it was nasty and dark. I replaced the drained volume with some Valvoline synthetic ATF, roughly calculating to 31% of the total fluid.

After a few days of observations, I feel fairly confident in posting observations. While the transmission still exhibits some shuddering behavior, it happens less frequent and not as loud as before. I expect it to get better as I cycle out more of the old fluid.
I guess I'll try the same on the next oil change. Just makes me nervous when I constantly hear that changing fluid that's never been changed on a high mileage transmission is normally the final nail in the coffin. I know any failure would likely be the result of an already failing transmission, but one can't help think about those fluid change stories.
 

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I just bought a 2006 RAV4 with the TC shudder. It was so bad I thought the exhaust was going to shear off. Took it to a dealership and they wanted to do $3200 worth of work. NONE of which would have solved the problem.

After tons of online research, here, at BITOG forums, and other comment sections, I had Valvoline instant do a fluid exchange, where they put two tubes down the dipstick and add/remove fluid for a near total exchange. They used Valvoline MaxLife ATF which has a great rep, is a full synthetic, and is *slightly* thicker than the WS. (and which I will continue to drain and fill with).

During the next test drive, the shudder initially seemed 60% gone, and over a few miles got up to about 80% gone. Now for the next and most important step.

I added a full bottle of LubeGard ATF Protectant. Commonly known as LubeGard Red, this completely cured all of the shudder. Since I bought the stuff locally, and had already ordered the cheaper Lube Guard Shudder fix online, I also added that a few days later. I can now drive slowly at 39MPH, on a slight grade all day and not have a single incident of TC shudder!

For reference, the transmission had a Toyota WS refill at 70k miles (trans gaskets was leaky and replaced,) and I did the MaxLife fluid exchange and LubeGard treatments at 135k miles.

The transmission shifts and drive indistinguishable from new now. I can even tell that the shift points and lockup points are slowly starting to reprogram; the TC now lock in and out as needed very easily.

Bottom line, if you have the shudder, you really should, at least, at a bottle of LubeGard. I am not a snake oil guy, but holy crap in 25 years of maintaining my own vehicles, this fix has surprised me the most.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Finally did a drain and fill today. Happy to report the shutter is, as of now, gone. I'm sure once the dirty fluid gets mixed up with the new the shutter will come back to some extent. I used Valvoline Max Life fluid. The fluid that came out was absolutely black. I plan on doing two more drain and fills at 2,500 mile intervals. Still debating on whether to drop the pan and change the filter on the last service. Any advice as to a filter change?
 

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Finally did a drain and fill today. Happy to report the shutter is, as of now, gone. I'm sure once the dirty fluid gets mixed up with the new the shutter will come back to some extent. I used Valvoline Max Life fluid. The fluid that came out was absolutely black. I plan on doing two more drain and fills at 2,500 mile intervals. Still debating on whether to drop the pan and change the filter on the last service. Any advice as to a filter change?
Ensure you do not use an impact driver to remove/install the pan bolts as I can remember one member snapped a few bolts. These pan bolts have very thin and fine threads so be gentle with these and take your time removing them.. I applied penetrating oil on mine before removing. I cleaned each one and put new blue locktite on them to prevent them from loosening up. I also used a nut driver to install the bolts since it is much more safer because it is harder to over torque. Another tip is have the pan gasket flatten with some heavy books a few days before installing. I found the only way to move the filter upwards into position was when you tighten the bolts. I guess the o-ring created some resistance. I am also using Valvoline MaxLife and so far no problems. I did mine using the return line flush method which gets the fluid cleaner but some prefer to do 3 or 4 drain and fill.
 

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I was able to do a complete fluid change this weekend, using the return line to drain off the dirty fluid. The old fluid was nasty, but I did not find any substantial chunks of metal in the pan upon close inspection. With 14 quarts of Valvoline Synthetic ATF and a bottle of Lubeguard, the torque converter has been completely free of growl for two rounds of commuting. Also, the filter I got from Napa did not line up properly; I had to take a side trip to a dealer.
 

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So the remedy seems to be a full fluid/filter change with synthetic fluid? I'm taking mine to my mechanic tomorrow and want to tell them what I've read. I just bought the 09 Rav in January with 90,000 (now 106,000) and am a little annoyed this is happening.
 

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So the remedy seems to be a full fluid/filter change with synthetic fluid? I'm taking mine to my mechanic tomorrow and want to tell them what I've read. I just bought the 09 Rav in January with 90,000 (now 106,000) and am a little annoyed this is happening.

I have 126K on or 2010 and 2 drain & fills did the trick. Im still going to do a third with filter change but for now the grumbling and steering wheel vibration are completely gone from that 38-43 mph speed.
 
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