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1994 Lexus Ls 400 Transmission Service


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I called a local transmission shop and asked about changing the transmission fluid since the car now has 99,000 miles on the odometer. The "technician" who answered the phone said he would have a problem changing the fluid on a car that was 15 years old. "The new fluid has harsh cleaners that could cause a tranny failure." He said..."if its not causing you any problem..why are you changing it?" I said I would like to keep the car for awhile and I always perform the necessary maintenance when called for. It didn't seem to ring a bell with this guy. Any recommendations? I'm sure Lexus did not install lifetime fluid in these cars. Is there a filter or a metal screen in this tranny? When the fluid is changed...should the fluid in the torque converter be done as well or is it not necessary?

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I'm sure Lexus did not install lifetime fluid in these cars.

And why are you sure?

The maintenance manual for my 2000 LS400 says that a transmission fluid change is never necessary unless the car is used in severe service such as commercial use, on dusty roads or pulling a trailer frequently -- then the recommended change interval is 60,000 miles or 48 months. I think the gen 1 LS400 has the same requirements but I always changed the transmission fluid in my 90 LS way more often than necesssary.

Like many conscientious or obsessive (take your pick) owners, I have the transmission fluid changed every 30,000 miles -- probably needless but we normally aim to keep cars for 10 - 15 years and beyond 200,000 miles.

I think I would avoid your "local transmission shop" and find somebody who is familiar with working on Lexus cars. Especially avoid the national chain transmission shops -- those guys sometimes have to meet a transmssion rebuild quota just to keep their jobs. It is not going to hurt anything to change your transmission fluid if it is done correctly. Be sure to use the correct transmission fluid -- check your owners manual to verify the type. Just do a "drain and refill" -- no need for one of those rip-off flush jobs.

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Substitute "engine" for "transmission" in your statement about the "technician". Then you'll see how foolish he is. The whole point of a fluid change is to maintain the quality of the oil in the unit, whether it's an engine, transmission, or differential.

So drain the two quarts you get out with the drain plug in the pan, add oil, drive for a year or two, and do it again. Costs about $10.00 each time. Big deal.

Stay away from shops like that one anyways.

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I wouldn't let a shop do a power flush on your car. If you aren't going to do it yourself just stick with a Toyota dealer. Stay far away from jiffy-lube type places with your LS, regardless of the age. They'll top off you power steering with power steering fluid, flush with Mercon fluid and put some trashy oil filter on it. Is your transmission causing you any problems? I'll suggest you something that's easier than an oil change if you do your own oil changes, which I highly recommend. Just drain your tranmission pan and refill during every oil change, which I do every 7,500 mi with synthetic oil. I don't recall the exact number of quarts but it's a few. It's better than nothing. It will at least give you piece of mind that you're getting some of the old ATF replaced with new. Make sure to use ONLY TOYOTA TYPE-IV FLUID.

Some people will swear not to flush ATF in older cars if the transmission is working fine because they think that flushing it removes metal particles that the trans is depending on for friction and will cause it to slip. I've flushed a 1996 Taurus with over 100k myself that had the original ATF in it and the trans felt better afterward. I didn't not do a power flush, however. I have flushed my 1996 with 200k by removing the line into the radiator and letting it fill up a bucket while pouring in new Type-IV to replace it. I had more piece of mind by doing that, the trans runs great, but it didn't give me any problems before.

If I was in your shoes somewhat unsure of what to do and wanted an easy and cheap way to get a little bit of piece of mind about your transmission I would just drain the pan every oil change for a while and refill with Type-IV and know that you're at least better off then you were before. That will at least get some new fluid in there with the full strength, new additives to keep the seals pliable and such.

-Kelly

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That's what I did with mine but drained and refilled 5 times over a couple of weeks, draining removes 1.9 Litres ( sorry UK measurements) so top up by the same amount.

On the last change I replaced the sealing washer on the drain plug for good measure (around $3.00 from a dealer)

Just a thought is the transmission pan made of metal or plastic mine seemed to be plastic.

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I cannot add anything Banshee365 didn't already say perfectly.

Just to point out my experience:

-I've heard bad things about transmission flush, but then again been told it doesn't cause any issues.

-Never heard anything bad about simple "drain-and-fill" changes, although it takes a few cycles to exchange ALL (or most of) the fluid.

-Make sure to use Toyota Type IV fluid (as several others already said)

-I don't think frequent changes can hurt. Definitely better than leaving the fluid in there forever. Every 30,000 miles is good. Personally, I've had the fluid drained/filled three times in a bit over 60K miles.

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I called a local transmission shop and asked about changing the transmission fluid since the car now has 99,000 miles on the odometer. The "technician" who answered the phone said he would have a problem changing the fluid on a car that was 15 years old. "The new fluid has harsh cleaners that could cause a tranny failure." He said..."if its not causing you any problem..why are you changing it?" I said I would like to keep the car for awhile and I always perform the necessary maintenance when called for. It didn't seem to ring a bell with this guy. Any recommendations? I'm sure Lexus did not install lifetime fluid in these cars. Is there a filter or a metal screen in this tranny? When the fluid is changed...should the fluid in the torque converter be done as well or is it not necessary?

Drop the plug on the transmission pan and 2 quarts of fluid will drain out. Refill with 2 quarts.

I do this every time I change the oil. 2 quarts of new transmission fluid Type T IV every oil change will keep you running smooth. With proper maintenance, you can get 400,000 miles.

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I have alot of experience with vintage Toyota automatics. They ALWAYS benefit from a pan drain and refill except in the extremely rare case of an owner driving around 250,000 miles without ever changing the fluid. In those rare cases the fluid will be sludged and the transmission near death and no amount of fluid changing can save it.

Your tranny has only 99K miles so there is no need to remove the pan and clean the screen - it will still be clean and free flowing (except if the prior owner was a wildly aggressive, street racer type)

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I do a fluid drop and fill every 30k miles, and drop the pan and replace the filter every 100k miles. It's simple, preventative maintenance. I've never believed in lifetime fluid, ATF is ATF, it eventually breaks down regardless of what type.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A buddy of mine is a Toyota Guru ... has his own shop (30 + years now) and has so much business he never needs to pay for advertisements of any kind. He is really good.

OK ... so we have talked about this subject a lot over the years ..... the result of which is that I do a total system flush on my Lexus transmission every 30,000 miles. I have never had a problem with my LS .... in fact it shifts and operates perfectly (now at about 140,000 miles)

Perhaps you would like another opinion from a highly respected automotive person? How about Bobby Likis over at CarClinicRadio.com. Give a listen to his radio program sometime .... he talks about this subject often. He has free pod casts on iTunes so you could listen to his show any time you wish ... for free. Did you catch that? Bobby is big enough to be on iTunes .... he is a nationally recognized automotive personality .... he has been in the automotive repair business for close to 40 years now ..... In fact, you could go to his web site and E-Mail him with your question, and he will answer you ... he always answers his E-Mails even if he does not know you .... he is a very cool guy .....

In short .... here is what Bobby would tell you: " ... it is never to late to stop smoking, and it is never to late to start servicing your transmission ... think about it; if you take cooking oil and put it on the stove for 2 hours at a temperature of 225 degrees ... does it change color? Yes it does. Why? Because heat changes the condition of the oil, and thus the properties of the oil change as well. It is the same with transmission fluid ..... over time and much exposure to heat, it too also changes .... it oxidizes and breaks down ... and looses viscosity"

I can tell you that when I first got my used LS400, the trans fluid was kind of burnt looking (the car had 101.000 miles on it then) .... and I noticed that my trans would kind of hang in 2nd gear when it was cold. As it would come to a normal operating temp, it shifted in somewhat of a harsh manor ..... so I did a total system flush / filter kit. We also changed it over to a synthetic trans fluid. The hanging in 2nd gear was suddenly over and it immediately started shifting in all gears with smoothness. I have driven the car for about 38,000 miles now (took me 3 years to put those miles on it) and it has been great ...... no trans problems since doing the total flush / filter kit ... absolutely NO problems.

Over the years .... I have noticed that in general terms, the people I know that do keep their transmissions serviced regularly do not have [transmission] problems. On the other hand ... I also know many people who are utterly clueless about the subject of auto maintenance .... and I have found that they are also the ones who eventually end up walking to work because of major automotive failures with their cars when they least expect it ..... they are the type to never service their cars ... and certainly would not ever entertain the thought of doing a trans service ...

Why take my word for it .... give Bobby a call ..... see what he says .... you will like him ... you really will.

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I wouldn't let a shop do a power flush on your car. If you aren't going to do it yourself just stick with a Toyota dealer. Stay far away from jiffy-lube type places with your LS, regardless of the age. They'll top off you power steering with power steering fluid, flush with Mercon fluid and put some trashy oil filter on it. Is your transmission causing you any problems? I'll suggest you something that's easier than an oil change if you do your own oil changes, which I highly recommend. Just drain your tranmission pan and refill during every oil change, which I do every 7,500 mi with synthetic oil. I don't recall the exact number of quarts but it's a few. It's better than nothing. It will at least give you piece of mind that you're getting some of the old ATF replaced with new. Make sure to use ONLY TOYOTA TYPE-IV FLUID.

Some people will swear not to flush ATF in older cars if the transmission is working fine because they think that flushing it removes metal particles that the trans is depending on for friction and will cause it to slip. I've flushed a 1996 Taurus with over 100k myself that had the original ATF in it and the trans felt better afterward. I didn't not do a power flush, however. I have flushed my 1996 with 200k by removing the line into the radiator and letting it fill up a bucket while pouring in new Type-IV to replace it. I had more piece of mind by doing that, the trans runs great, but it didn't give me any problems before.

If I was in your shoes somewhat unsure of what to do and wanted an easy and cheap way to get a little bit of piece of mind about your transmission I would just drain the pan every oil change for a while and refill with Type-IV and know that you're at least better off then you were before. That will at least get some new fluid in there with the full strength, new additives to keep the seals pliable and such.

-Kelly

I had my 1991 Taurus tranny power flushed for the first time when the car had 91,000 on the clock. 2,500 miles later the tranny blew and it cost me $2,400 to get it repaired. I traded the Taurus after it was repaired and got $1,900 trade in on the car. I'd say if you have that many miles on your car, DO NOT HAVE A POWER FLUSH TRANNY OIL CHANGE.!

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Sure, like your experience with a TAURUS transmission has anything to do with Lexus. One of the worst transmissions ever built, and the track record is that they all explode, so your "anecdotal" evidence is worthless. You bought a Taurus - they're designed to explode. Lexus transmissions don't.

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  • 4 months later...

i did it last week, pulled the pan replaced the screen/filter, took me 3-4 hours as i had to clean the old gasket off and the shavings in the pan plus you have to let it drain for an hour. Than afterwards i went under the car 3 other times to tighten up the bolts because it was leaking and i have never done tranny servicing before, so i learned alot. The tranny is really smooth, however from gear 1-2 is not as smooth as the others, not sure why but i figure it has something to do with the ect adaptive transmission, i have yet to pull the battery and reset to my driving styles. Anyone know where the torque converter is and how to service it?

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I must also agree with Banshee365. Excellent my friend. I change my fluid about every 50,000 miles by draining, filling, driving, draining, filling, driving about 4 or 5 times. With a case you can do about 5 changes by draining.

Regarding what hanging on said about his Ford experience, you compared apples to oranges. Ford transmissions are made to last about 100,000 miles and usually don't last that long. Lexus transmissions are built to last 10x longer. My brother had 2 POS Ford Taurus cars and both blew the transmissions before 60,000. My last Ford, a 1970 Gran Torino 351C dumped the transmission. I would be afraid to own a Ford.

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I had my tranny drained and filled last April @ 225K...it was rough in gears 1 & 2 but after I did the drain and fill, it shifted smoothly...on my next drain and fill, I'm switching to synthetic from AMSOIL...don't ever use jiffy lube; they put in the wrong filter and fluid type...fortunately, I caught it in time and got it completely service....with proper maintenance on your LEXUS, it will run forever and a day if you take care of it...

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i did it last week, pulled the pan replaced the screen/filter, took me 3-4 hours as i had to clean the old gasket off and the shavings in the pan plus you have to let it drain for an hour. Than afterwards i went under the car 3 other times to tighten up the bolts because it was leaking and i have never done tranny servicing before, so i learned alot. The tranny is really smooth, however from gear 1-2 is not as smooth as the others, not sure why but i figure it has something to do with the ect adaptive transmission, i have yet to pull the battery and reset to my driving styles. Anyone know where the torque converter is and how to service it?

Are you seriously asking where the torque converter is? Wow.

The torque converter is in the same place it is on every automatic transmission, bolted to the flexplate, inside the bellhousing. It is not serviced, you either leave it alone or replace it if it's slipping.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I called a local transmission shop and asked about changing the transmission fluid since the car now has 99,000 miles on the odometer. The "technician" who answered the phone said he would have a problem changing the fluid on a car that was 15 years old. "The new fluid has harsh cleaners that could cause a tranny failure." He said..."if its not causing you any problem..why are you changing it?" I said I would like to keep the car for awhile and I always perform the necessary maintenance when called for. It didn't seem to ring a bell with this guy. Any recommendations? I'm sure Lexus did not install lifetime fluid in these cars. Is there a filter or a metal screen in this tranny? When the fluid is changed...should the fluid in the torque converter be done as well or is it not necessary?

Drop the plug on the transmission pan and 2 quarts of fluid will drain out. Refill with 2 quarts.

I do this every time I change the oil. 2 quarts of new transmission fluid Type T IV every oil change will keep you running smooth. With proper maintenance, you can get 400,000 miles.

Everything I've read on here, seems to suggest 2 quarts will drain out. At 90,000 kilometres, last week, I drained my 1999 LS400 trans through the trans drain plug. FOUR litres worth came out, and the same amount of T IV went back in. That's a little over 4 US quarts. Anyone know why the difference? Oh, and the Type T IV I used from Toyota, costs nearly $NZ120.00, that's about $US85.00 for a 4 litre can! No $5.00 per quart here!

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I wouldn't let a shop do a power flush on your car. If you aren't going to do it yourself just stick with a Toyota dealer. Stay far away from jiffy-lube type places with your LS, regardless of the age. They'll top off you power steering with power steering fluid, flush with Mercon fluid and put some trashy oil filter on it. Is your transmission causing you any problems? I'll suggest you something that's easier than an oil change if you do your own oil changes, which I highly recommend. Just drain your tranmission pan and refill during every oil change, which I do every 7,500 mi with synthetic oil. I don't recall the exact number of quarts but it's a few. It's better than nothing. It will at least give you piece of mind that you're getting some of the old ATF replaced with new. Make sure to use ONLY TOYOTA TYPE-IV FLUID.

Some people will swear not to flush ATF in older cars if the transmission is working fine because they think that flushing it removes metal particles that the trans is depending on for friction and will cause it to slip. I've flushed a 1996 Taurus with over 100k myself that had the original ATF in it and the trans felt better afterward. I didn't not do a power flush, however. I have flushed my 1996 with 200k by removing the line into the radiator and letting it fill up a bucket while pouring in new Type-IV to replace it. I had more piece of mind by doing that, the trans runs great, but it didn't give me any problems before.

If I was in your shoes somewhat unsure of what to do and wanted an easy and cheap way to get a little bit of piece of mind about your transmission I would just drain the pan every oil change for a while and refill with Type-IV and know that you're at least better off then you were before. That will at least get some new fluid in there with the full strength, new additives to keep the seals pliable and such.

-Kelly

My experience with a ford Taurus (1991) with 88,000 miles having a full T-Tech flush and refill was a disaster. In less than 2,000 miles the tranny seized and trashed itself out on the open road 60 miles from home. Cost me $2,300 to repair it and I traded the car just weeks later and got only $1,900 on trade in. I would have been better off to have had the car hauled to a salvage lot and sold for parts before having the tranny overhauled. I'm now an ASE Certified Master Auto Technician and my advice is to change tranny oil at the first 30,000 miles and then at 15,000 intervals thereafter. But on vehicles that have not had regular tranny oil changes..., do not change it, just take your chances. I intrinsically knew that I should not have changed the oil when I did but I rolled the dice and crapped out.

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