Help! Can you identify this transmission fluid in an A541E Tranny?

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May 13, 2022
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Hi All,

Long time reader, first time poster. Have searched extensively and cannot find this answer. What fluid is this? It looks like motor oil! This is in a 2002 Toyota Avalon I just picked up. It has 72k original miles and was a 1 owner, extremely well maintained. I also found these markings which I wonder are factory or from a junkyard? I don't see that second part as I've heard almost nothing but amazing things about this tranny, the A541e. It shifts smooth with no issues. The dipstick says "D-II (never heard of), Dexron II or Dexron III which I am well aware of and know those other 2 are not this color. Could it be synthetic? I don't know if the fluid had ever been changed and if the condition to you guys looks due I will change it. But I would like to keep the same fluid that is in it. Thank you!

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wwillson

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My guess is that someone used engine oil in the transmission, two or three spill and fills would rectify this problem.

Here is a thread on fluid for this transmission:

 
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Maxlife seems like a go-to for most. I’d flush it, using the cooler line to help fluid through, until it’s nice and red coming out. Then maybe do again in 5k, then forget about for another 30k when its time for fresh fluid.

Not sure if worth dropping the pan, usually its a strainer, and i wouldn’t expect that much metal in the pan at these miles. I mean, i would, in the typical over-maintain way of thinking.
 

kennjame62

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Thank you for the replies. It's definitely not engine oil because it smells like a dirty sock. I was told that Dexron smells like that. But I have never seen Dexron in this color. Yes I have seen the threads about different fluid to use. I just wanted to use whatever was in it. I've never seen a fluid this color.
 

CleanSump

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Hard to say from a photo, but old Dexron can be that color. It isn't burned yet, but lost the nice red.
I've seen it in Chevy's and MBs. It's the same color as the Dex VI I just dumped from my new to me BMW X3.
Any Dex III should serve you well. And as Supton suggested, Valvoline is the #1 selling transmission fluid on the planet because it's good.
 
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The Toyota ATF also turns to brown.
As said above, just drain and fill, overfill it by a quarts, then use the cooler line with running engine to drain 2 quarts and fill in 1 quarts till it comes out red. Then check for level. Be careful because the cooler lines will go very fast.
 
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Welcome to BITOG 🥳

Sometimes the red dye goes away, and some fluids don't even have the red dye at all :unsure:

Use Maxlife ATF. It is great stuff. Since your Avalon has a drain plug, changing the ATF is very easy. Do the job cold, drain it out, measure how much came out, and refill with the same amount :)
 
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My guess is that someone used engine oil in the transmission, two or three spill and fills would rectify this problem.

Here is a thread on fluid for this transmission:

or power steering fluid
 

kennjame62

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Thank you for everyone's replies. I was strongly considering Max life myself but I've understood recently they've reformulated it and if I am not mistaken it may be a bit thinner in viscosity to be more universal? I had a Solara of the same year with the same tranny and when I used the Castrol import transmax it never seemed to shift smooth and always seem to slow the car down after the fluid change, almost like the torque converter was locking up. I definitely don't want that to happen with this one. I'm still curious what the blue writing is too. It does say 20 on it.
 
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Thank you for everyone's replies. I was strongly considering Max life myself but I've understood recently they've reformulated it and if I am not mistaken it may be a bit thinner in viscosity to be more universal? I had a Solara of the same year with the same tranny and when I used the Castrol import transmax it never seemed to shift smooth and always seem to slow the car down after the fluid change, almost like the torque converter was locking up. I definitely don't want that to happen with this one. I'm still curious what the blue writing is too. It does say 20 on it.
It’s formulated thinner, yes. However, it shears less than a Dex 3.
 
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Does anyone know the difference between D-II and Dexron II and III? I've never heard of D-II.
Historical revisions of Dexron® fluid
According to the Toyota TSB, a 2002 Avalon A541E calls for Dexron II/III
You can get old style Dex 3 for $6.49 a qt on Amazon
ACDelco Gold 10-9240 Type III (H) Automatic Transmission Fluid - 1 qt https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EGOR40Y/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_i_DEWVCA8GKBQVBR3C1YZ1
You can still get it direct from Toyota Part # 00009-10029-12
Price shop around, see what works for you
 

kennjame62

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Historical revisions of Dexron® fluid
According to the Toyota TSB, a 2002 Avalon A541E calls for Dexron II/III
You can get old style Dex 3 for $6.49 a qt on Amazon
ACDelco Gold 10-9240 Type III (H) Automatic Transmission Fluid - 1 qt https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EGOR40Y/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_i_DEWVCA8GKBQVBR3C1YZ1
You can still get it direct from Toyota Part # 00009-10029-12
Price shop around, see what works for you
Thank you. I saw that Type III (h) online. I didn't know if that was actually Dexron III that meets the Toyota Spec, but I'll look at that Toyota fluid too.
 
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Thank you. I saw that Type III (h) online. I didn't know if that was actually Dexron III that meets the Toyota Spec, but I'll look at that Toyota fluid too.
IIIH was a minor update to III, and the last revision before the totally revamped Dexron VI
Your only gonna get 3-5qts when you drain and fill, so $6.50 a quart is fairly economical
I wouldn't pay anymore for the same fluid in a Toyota bottle
Toyota A5xx series transmissions debuted in 1988, so keep that in mind
No need to be that fussy, most any fluid is better than what was around back then
 
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AC Delco branded Dex 6 is colored "amber" according to their data sheet. I don't know about Dex earlier than 6, but, it is feasible it is the proper ATF and just looks like motor oil and darkened with age and use. Now is your chance to make it all right!
 
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Thank you. I saw that Type III (h) online. I didn't know if that was actually Dexron III that meets the Toyota Spec, but I'll look at that Toyota fluid too.
DEXRON is a supercession of licenses, the current license is DEXRON-VI. It is backwards compatible in automatic transmissions. DEXRON-VI is superior to all previous licenses in every way.
 
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