Transmission fluid is a vital component in any vehicle with an automatic gearbox. This specialized hydraulic fluid lubricates the internal components, keeps operating temperatures in check, and allows smooth gear shifts. Toyota recommends periodically inspecting the level and condition of the transmission fluid in your Avalon sedan.
Checking this vital fluid only takes a few minutes. We’ll review the steps and provide tips for keeping your Avalon’s transmission running smoothly for years.
Table of Contents
- Understanding Transmission Fluid Functions
- What You’ll Need to Check Transmission Fluid
- How to Check Transmission Fluid Level
- When to Check Transmission Fluid
- Adding Transmission Fluid to Your Avalon
- Signs Your Avalon’s Transmission Needs Service
- Caring for Your Avalon’s Transmission
- DIY Transmission Fluid Changes
- The Importance of Noticing Leaks
Understanding Transmission Fluid Functions
Before learning how to check it, let’s briefly discuss why transmission fluid matters so much:
Lubrication: The fluid coats moving parts like gears, shafts, bearings, valves, and clutch plates. This prevents metal-to-metal wear and friction damage.
Cooling: As the fluid circulates, it regulates the transmission’s internal temperatures. This prevents overheating.
Hydraulics: Fluid pressure allows smooth, seamless gear changes. It actuates critical components.
Cleansing: Suspended contaminants and debris are removed by the transmission filter.
Sealing: Fluid seals pistons, valves, and other tiny spaces to maintain pressure.
Corrosion Protection: Most transmission fluids also contain anti-rust additives.
Fresh, high-quality fluid keeps your Avalon’s transmission working efficiently. Let’s look at how to check the level.
What You’ll Need to Check Transmission Fluid
Checking and adding fluid to your Avalon is a straightforward process. Make sure you have these items on hand:
- Clean, lint-free rags
- Funnel (a small one if adding fluid)
- Toyota-approved transmission fluid
- Jack and jack stands (for safety if checking underneath)
You’ll also want your Avalon parked on level ground with the engine fully warmed up before checking.
Now let’s cover the step-by-step process.
How to Check Transmission Fluid Level
Here is the basic process for inspecting the fluid level in an Avalon:
1. Park on Level Ground and Warm Up the Engine
- Park your sedan on flat, level pavement without any tilt. Shut off the engine.
- Allow the engine to fully warm up to its normal operating temperature before checking.
2. Pop the Hood and Locate the Dipstick
- The transmission dipstick has a red handle and is found near the front of the engine bay.
- Remove the dipstick by pulling the ring straight up.
3. Wipe the Dipstick Clean
- Use a clean, lint-free rag to wipe any fluid residue off the end of the dipstick. You want to avoid cross-contamination.
4. Reinsert the Dipstick Fully
- Push the dipstick back into the tube until the handle seats fully. This ensures an accurate reading.
5. Check the Fluid Color and Level
- Slowly pull the dipstick straight up again. Examine the condition and level of fluid residue on the end.
- The fluid should be transparent red with no brown tones. Any metallic flakes or grit indicate bigger issues.
- The level should be between the full “HOT” range marks. If outside the range, top off or drain as needed.
And that’s all there is to it! Be sure to push the dipstick back in once it’s complete. Now let’s go over a few other key inspection tips.
When to Check Transmission Fluid
Follow this guidance on the optimal times to check the fluid level:
- If you notice any shifting problems, check the fluid level immediately. Low fluid is a common cause.
- Inspect every 30,000 miles when getting an oil change. Top off if needed.
- Do a quick visual inspection whenever you pop the hood to top off other fluids.
- After transmission repairs, flush changes, or removing the pan, double check the level before driving again.
Routinely inspecting and changing the fluid keeps your Avalon’s transmission healthy. Next, let’s look at adding fluid if the level is low.
Adding Transmission Fluid to Your Avalon
Use caution whenever topping off the transmission fluid.
- Only use the specific fluid type recommended in your owner’s manual. For most Avalons, Toyota WS fluid is required. Using the wrong fluid can severely damage the transmission.
- Add slowly, rechecking the dipstick often to avoid overfilling. Overfilled transmission fluid causes major issues.
- Use a small funnel to prevent spills, and place a drip pan beneath to catch any drips.
- Do not overfill the fluid. It can leak out and damage painted surfaces.
Adding about one pint of fluid at a time until the dipstick reads between the hot marks is sufficient. Replace the dipstick when finished, and recheck after driving to confirm the level.
Signs Your Avalon’s Transmission Needs Service
Watch for these warning signs that your transmission fluid may be low or dirty:
- Grinding when shifting gears
- Slipping between gears or delayed engagement
- Increased vibration or loud whining noise
- Leaking fluid under the sedan
- Burning smell coming from underneath
- Fluid that is very dark or dull instead of vibrant red
- Transmission running hotter than normal
Schedule transmission service immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. Waiting risks permanent damage. Catching problems early makes repairs more affordable.
Caring for Your Avalon’s Transmission
Taking excellent care of your Avalon’s transmission will keep it running smoothly for years:
- Use the transmission fluid type specified by Toyota only. Never mix incompatible fluids.
- Consider a periodic full flush to completely replace old fluid rather than just topping it off.
- Replace the fluid if you notice a burnt smell. Discolored fluid also means it’s time for a change.
- Install an auxiliary transmission cooler if you regularly haul heavy loads or tow trailers.
- Service the transmission filter at recommended intervals to remove debris.
- Address any slippage, rough shifts or leaks promptly to prevent bigger issues.
- Check fluid levels frequently and top off as soon as you notice low readings.
Your Avalon’s transmission fluid is the lifeblood of this vital system. Take time to properly maintain it and your gearbox will provide you years of reliable service.
DIY Transmission Fluid Changes
Some Avalon owners choose to tackle transmission fluid changes themselves rather than paying a shop. Here are a few pointers if you want to DIY this maintenance:
- Assemble all required tools – wrenches, jack stands, drain pans and a heavy duty drip pan. Also have plenty of rags and gloves.
- Drain the transmission when it is fully warmed up but not scalding hot. The used fluid will flow out faster at normal operating temperatures.
- Locate the transmission drain plug. It’s often a hex head bolt requiring a 3/8” ratchet or wrench to loosen.
- Allow adequate time for the old fluid to fully drain, often 30 minutes or longer.
- Examine the old fluid for any concerning smells, textures or debris.
- Reinstall the drain plug with a new sealing gasket. Torque it to the specified setting.
- Refill slowly with new fluid through the dipstick tube, rechecking levels often.
- Dispose of used fluid properly. Most municipalities require bringing it to approved recycling centers.
With attention to detail, you can potentially save money by DIYing transmission fluid changes. But also be prepared to get very dirty!
The Importance of Noticing Leaks
One serious transmission issue to watch for is any sign of leaks underneath your Avalon. Transmission fluid leaks point to a real problem that needs prompt attention.
Here’s what to look out for:
Check Your Driveway – Regularly scan your driveway and parking spots for any new stains or wet patches. Transmission leaks often drip when parked.
Look Below the Sedan – Crawl under the car or place it on ramps, then inspect the transmission case, hoses and fittings closely for seepage.
Check Fluid Levels – If you notice the dipstick reading dropping repeatedly, a leak may be draining fluid without leaving exterior signs.
Pay Attention to Smells – Sniff near the transmission area for any burning or funky scents. Fluid leaks can emit odors.
Catching transmission leaks quickly and repairing the cause prevents having to rebuild or replace the entire transmission. Minor seepage caught early may just require resealing a small gasket or hose.
Clean, full fluid is the lifeblood of your sedan’s gearbox. Take a few minutes periodically to check its condition and levels. Address any low readings or leaks immediately.
With proper care and diligent maintenance, your Avalon’s transmission should deliver years of smooth, reliable performance. The steps outlined here will help you keep this vital system running great. Here’s to safe travels and happy driving!