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Dealer Told Me Not To Change My Transmission Fluid 97 Ls400


adrian torres
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Question,

I have heard alot of different answers from my Lexus dealership and other informed individuals about this issue. I have a 97 LS400 with now 230k miles. The fluid was changed back in 2005 (9 years) and at 110k miles (120k miles) ago. When I tried to have the fluid changed around 190k miles in 2012, I was advised not change my fluid as it was already brown, and the dealership stated that sometimes, if you change the dirty fluid it can dislodge metal parts or the new viscosity would damage the aging transmission. I now realized after being told that I should get a new car, that this logic may make sense if someone was only planning to drive it a couple more years. I am planning to drive this car for at least 3 more years hopefully 5, and I do not want to have to replace the transmission due to poor advice.

I wonder if anyone has had any experience with this issue, either replacing fluid of this age, and having problems or no problems at all?

I am thinking of having it serviced in which the pan is dropped and the filter is replaced and magnets are cleaned, then the fluid is replaced. After which, the car is driven around to allow fresh fluid to engage the parts that are still coated and dirty, then drained again, and replaced with more fresh fluid. I had leaks due to shift seals failing over the past 3 years and have replaced the fluid gradually and replaced the seals to prevent any more leakage.

So, what would the be the most sensible course of action?

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Why do pesky oil/atf changes when you can just buy a new car every year. OK, I've seen many warn about doing a forced flush that would knock loose metal bits in the tranny but not for just a fluid change. What you described (and many recommend) is laid out in detail here:

http://www.lexls.com/tutorials/transmission/transflush.html

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I did not rebuild the transmission, only replaced the shift shaft seals that had failed. This was the source of the transmission leakage. My main concern is as the fluid was brown in Jan 2012 and still brown today and it was replaced last in Sep 2005, should I replace the fluid or not.

I notice when I shift from drive to neutral to reverse and back, the car does jolt a little. I do not experience this on my newer ES. I fear this is due to the fluid condition. My dealership stated that they will not do it out of liability concerns.

I really want to keep this car running for 3-5 years and do not want to have to replace the transmission. So I would like to know if people have replaced their fluid and either nothing happened or the transmission did break on them. Seems a 50/50 split on advice from place to place.

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The jolt might be the tranny mount. I used the method of removing the line to the cooler on the bottom of the radiator to flush mines out 8 years ago and will be doing it again real soon. It's really your call but if it were me I would get that fluid out off there. As you already know there are plenty of ppl that sit on both sides of this fence.

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Just my opinion. YMMV.....

I'm still a doubter when it comes to fluid changes followed closely with failure on high mileage transmissions. Even though it happened to me recently.

The transmission had 131k miles on it and always had regular filter and fluid changes at 30k miles. The last time I did a fluid and filter change, I did a fluid exchange using the dillution method. 7000 miles later the 3-4 clutch pack burned up. 3-4 clutch pack failure is very common with this model transmission.

I feel that when an AT transmission goes, it's going to go regardless of whether the fluid was/had been changed or not. This is something that cannot really be proved.

"Do you feel lucky?"

Edit: BTW, there is a distiction between a transmission flush (using cleaners/solvents) and just a fluid exchange (replacing old fluid with new). I would stay away from flushes.

dilution calculator.xls

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  • 5 months later...

This is a long lingering question as to change or not. I can't say one is better than the other because I used both methods in the past. On my LS400, I went to the Toyota dealership and bought a case of Toyota tranny oil. Seems it comes rather amber if I remember correctly, not red like Dextron.

I drained (there is a drain plug on the transmission pan), measured, refilled, drove, drained, refilled, drove and such until the case was gone. Did it right in my driveway. Probably not the official method but I do know the car now has in excess of 200,000 miles and the transmission is still perfect. Oh yeah, did I mention how much fun it was?

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Whatever evidence people provide for "don't change the trans oil" it is all anecdotal and co-incidental. Change it. If the trans is on its last few miles it won't help, but it won't be responsible for the failure. If the trans needs a service, it will help. That's it.

Would you consider such advice for the engine? Or the brake fluid? No.

I've heard this myth for years. Change the oil about two quarts or litres at a time from the drain plug. Every third engine oil change I drop two litres out of my trans. Costs almost nothing, takes almost no time.

Do it.

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If done right you should not have any problems. I would just drain from the drain plug, and measure it using an empty oil bottle. And then add the new stuff. Do it at the same time you do engine oil. Its 2 quarts on a Gen 1. Basically you did that a few times sorta when you did the seals. Do it slowly like that and all will be good. Having cleaner and newer additives will make it happier. I would wait a few changes before dropping the pan. I did a pan drop on a high mileage Subaru one time, it was a waste of time, I didn't use the new screen and had to mess with the pan gasket sealant etc. inside it looked new. And I know the dirty fluid had at least 150,000 on it. I now believe in changing the trans fluid at every engine change.

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Thank you for all of your comments. In the meantime, I have decided to go to the route of "if it isn't broken, don't fix it." I have some more needed upkeep expenses. I will wait until I start having shifting issues, the 10 year old transmission fluid does bother me, but some of it was replaced when the shift shaft seals were replaced. I will be creating a new thread with all of my learning experiences of LS400 ownership today, as I will be getting at 4 years and 55k miles of ownership.

But, I complete agree that swapping out the fluid and filter and re-draining is the safe way to change your fluid, seems like they only way to know if you need to change is if you send your fluid of analysis to see if there is metal or moisture in it.

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we all have our way of doing things, here is mine, I go get a gallon of Toyota dexron fluid, loosen the line at the radiator and drain out a gallon, put mine in, and 20k later, do the same thing.. works for me good luck

Dexron ? I guess the newer ones use that? For the Gen 1's Dexron is only for the power steering. Toyota type IV is for the transmission.

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I never stated that dropping the pan and changing the filter was the way to go. A few others have mentioned changing the fluid as I did, partially, over time. That's what Lexus advises. AFAIK Lexus does not advise removing the pan for routine fluid changes.

The cost of a partial fluid change using the drain plug ( they provide the drain plug for this purpose ) is about $10.00. Do that three or four times, over time, and you're good. Postponing that because it "ain't broke" is not logical, especially at such little cost.

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we all have our way of doing things, here is mine, I go get a gallon of Toyota dexron fluid, loosen the line at the radiator and drain out a gallon, put mine in, and 20k later, do the same thing.. works for me good luck

Dexron ? I guess the newer ones use that? For the Gen 1's Dexron is only for the power steering. Toyota type IV is for the transmission.

my ERROR I used CASTROL transmax see photo above (I was using my mind = dumb)

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Personally like good maintenance the fluid should be changed. A fluid exchange which uses the cars transmission pump is the safest method other than drain and refill. If The fluid is brown, you are asking for trouble. It just is not that expensive to change the fluid compared to a Transmission failure.

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