If you need to check the ATF level on a newer Toyota, and you can't find the traditional dipstick, the vehicle may actually be using the "overflow" method instead. In other words, check the level by w...
If you need to check the ATF level on a newer Toyota, and you can’t find the traditional dipstick, the vehicle may actually be using the “overflow” method instead. In other words, check the level by warming the fluid up to a certain temperature then remove a bolt on the bottom of the pan, wait to see if any fluid dribbles -or streams -out and top-up as required.
Detailed instructions for checking the level are in the repair manual -and always check for TSBs -but here’s the procedure in a nutshell:
Begin warming up the transmission fluid to the specified temperature, either by jumping the correct terminals of the DLC (typically pins 13 and 4, but look it up to be sure), or by hooking up the scan tool and entering ATF temperature mode. Allow the engine idle with the AC, radio and lights OFF, and move the shifter slowly through the gear range to circulate the fluid while it warms up.
When the fluid is warmed up enough, it’s time to enter Fluid Detection Mode. To do this, move the shifter from P to D then quickly move back and forth between N and D for six seconds (shifting at least every 1.5-seconds).
The “AT OIL TEMP” warning light will then come on for two seconds and then shut off, letting you know that you’re in detection mode. Now put the vehicle in park, but leave the engine idling. It’s time to check the fluid level.
The fluid level is correctly checked at between 36-and 46-degrees Celsius. You can monitor this from the scan tool. Alternately, the warning light will come on again when the temperature reaches 36-degrees, and start blinking when it’s above 46-degrees. If it goes above 46-degrees shut the vehicle off and wait for the fluid to cool down to the correct range again.
Then remove the plug on the bottom of the pan with the engine idling. It looks like a drain plug, but it’s not. It’s actually an overflow plug, designed to indicate the fluid level by the amount that runs out. Allow the excess fluid to trickle out then reinstall the overflow plug using a new gasket. Torque for the plug is a light 15 ft-lbs (again, check this out for yourself in the repair manual), so be gentle.
If no fluid comes out and you suspect the level is low, add fluid through the refill hole until it begins to trickle out the overflow hole. Then reinstall the refill plug (torque to 29 ft-lbs), and clean off the case. Turn the ignition off, unhook the scan tool and road test the vehicle -and of course, check for leaks.
Admittedly, it’s more complicated than using a dipstick, but that’s the way it has to be done. And hopefully, with practice, it won’t take that long to do.