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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone. I've been reading the internet and these forums all day and I'm hoping you can provide some insight into this controversial issue.

I have a 2006 Rav4, 6 cylinder, with 191,000 miles on it and I'm pretty sure I've never changed the transmission fluid. I bought it used from the original owner who did ALL recommended maintenance on it in the three years they owned it, but Toyota doesn't recommend regular tranny changes, so I'm unsure if it was done by the previous owner. Given their history and the fact that they put 88k miles on it in three years, it is likely that they had it done, but who knows.

I just got an oil change and they told me the fluid is bad, REALLY bad and they recommended a flush immediately. I know the flush is a bad idea at this point. I took it to a second shop and they said it's pretty bad, but recommended I do nothing as it would probably ruin the vehicle at this point. I then took it to my friend's son who worked in a transmission repair shop for six years and has a lot of other experience and he looked at the fluid on the dipstick, felt it, and smelled it. He said it's really not that bad, didn't see any metal pieces or shavings, and said it didn't smell super burnt. It appeared to be a reddish brown color, not super dark and not black. He thinks I could drive another 2,000 miles and be fine. But he recommends draining it and replacing some of the fluid. I asked him if that could cause damage and he said because of the appearance of the fluid and the fact that I'm not having any transmission problems, and because it's not a flush, he would do this and has done it numerous times in the past for vehicles like mine.

I drive my vehicle a lot, especially in the past three years. I've been coast to coast and north to south across the country numerous times. Let's assume the previous owner didn't change the fluid and it's been going with the same fluid for 191k miles: Do you think it's best to just leave it alone at this point? Is draining and replacing the fluid not damaging the way a flush would be? Is there still significant risk in doing this?

What should I do? I'm reading so many conflicting answers, I don't know what to think. I need this vehicle to last at least another four months. Any insight you can offer is greatly appreciated! Thank you!
 

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It sounds like you need some reassurance even though you asked a few experts. But if it does not smell burnt and runs fine and the color is reddish brown just do a drain and fill. When the fluid is dark black and not even red that is when deciding what to do is risky. Even though the mileage is high the fluid may have been changed at one point since it is still showing a little reddish color.

So far no negative signs that would make me think you should not get a drain and fill.
 

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If it were mine tjolly, I'd do a 'return-line flush' asap. Sure, it costs a bit for extra trans oil, but well worth it. Don't use Toyota ATF WS, as it's NOT synthetic.
Don't forget to remove the trans-pan, clean everything (magnets too), replace the filter, gasket as well. Check other posts on this forum for detailed instructions.
 

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You ask questions? You're gonna get answers!
Here's mine: DON'T do a flush. Of any kind. If anything do a drain and refill. I'd only use Toyota WS as it seemed to have done a pretty good job over the last 191,000 miles.
 

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Listen to your friend's son. Drain & refill with genuine Toyota WS.
 

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...What should I do? I'm reading so many conflicting answers, I don't know what to think. I need this vehicle to last at least another four months. Any insight you can offer is greatly appreciated! ...
I give you a lot of credit for reading the multitudes of posts on this before posing your question. Good on ya! Yes, lots of opinions on this because Toyota USA is largely silent in their maintenance schedule. Here's my take:

If you only need it for 4 months and the tranny is working fine, do nothing.

For longer ownership, I'd recco dropping and cleaning out the transmission pan, change the filter and then at minimum a drain and refill. The posts about using the return line to flush (AFTER dropping the pan and new filter) sound very good, too, as this seems a less intrusive procedure. Just avoid doing the JiffyLube type of flush which would stir all the gunk in the pan and everywhere else, and who knows if they use enough fluid to properly flush it and with what fluid.
 

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Actually, do 2 or 3 drain refills, maybe a week apart so the ATF is almost 90% clean.
But since you have no transmission issues, even 1 drain-refill will be better than what you have now.
If on a budget, do a drain-refill one a year for the next 3 years.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for the advice everyone. I really appreciate it!

I just can't risk having this vehicle die on me within the next four months because I'm traveling the country and I live in it most of the time, I built a bed in the back and all that, but I think I'm going to sell it soon.

I'll do the drain and re-fill. Is it necessary to drop the pan and change the filter too? Friend's son said we can do that, but we don't have to. Does it make a big difference? If I'm just trying to use the vehicle for the next 4-6 months? Thanks again!
 

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For next 4-6 months, I would not change the filter.
But If I were to keep it 2 years, I definitely would.
I am more concerned about the sludge at the bottom of the pan than the filter itself. There is so much sludge at the bottom that as soon as you add new fluid, it becomes dirty really fast. You need to drop the pan and clean it. Might as well change the filter then since the filter is about $20.
 

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You've got my vote for a simple drain and refill. Read back, you have about 5 five solid votes here from forum members trending for that approach.

But also, let me add: take a step back and rethink selling this rig. High miles even at 190k may be no big deal, indicates a lot of highway miles in a short time which are way less stress than city miles. The RAV4 6 cyl is the sweetest highway engine around and that is what you do--drive the country. So why do you think you should sell? Is the tranny making noise or are there other things cropping up make you think you should bail? High miles should not be the only factor, and certainly not for just a possible tranny neglect service that might have been missed.

On a side note for that, you can go to Toyota.com/owners and enter your VIN, check the service history. Possibly that tranny service will show as being done at a Toyota dealer, which would change the equation.

But at a minimum, just do the least expensive, least intrusive maintenance--a drain and refill, no pan drop or filter for now. And keep on truckin.
 

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I would do a drain/refill, at least twice. On the second one I would drop he pan, clean it out good as mentioned, and replace the $20 filter. I would also stick with the Toyota WS fluid. Switching to syn. could cause problems at this point. Drive a week between your drain and fills, and 3 would be better than 2 if you can afford it.
 

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I would do a drain/refill, at least twice. On the second one I would drop he pan, clean it out good as mentioned, and replace the $20 filter. I would also stick with the Toyota WS fluid. Switching to syn. could cause problems at this point. Drive a week between your drain and fills, and 3 would be better than 2 if you can afford it.
What you recommend is good, solid maintenance for someone who wants to keep the car longer. The OP indicates only needing ownership for a few months. In that case--if the tranny is working fine--don't fix it, lol. Most likely, most RAV owners never change the ATF, as that is what Toyota USA kinda sorta indicates in their maintenance schedules.
 

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What you recommend is good, solid maintenance for someone who wants to keep the car longer. The OP indicates only needing ownership for a few months. In that case--if the tranny is working fine--don't fix it, lol. Most likely, most RAV owners never change the ATF, as that is what Toyota USA kinda sorta indicates in their maintenance schedules.
Yes, and in their dealerships too, I've found!
 

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There is major crap in the bottom of the pan and there's no filter just a screen. Dropping the pan and adding some pimp fluid like Rdline d4/d6 will please you very much. You need a pipe to get 2 big frame bolts out' tha way then you're good.
 
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