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When should I change my car’s transmission fluid?

Posted by John Paul  January 3, 2012 04:41 PM

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Q. My 2007 Camry has 115,000 miles on it. When I brought it in for transmission fluid change at 100,000 miles per the owner's manual, the service tech at my dealership told me it wasn't necessary. The technician told me that the transmission fluid was good forever. What do you think?

A. Toyota has two recommendations for transmission fluid changes, depending on how the car is driven. Under normal conditions, the fluid should be checked regularly and changed if it shows signs of discoloration and wear. If the car is driven more aggressively, the fluid should be changed every 36 months.

Q. I have been told, and have experienced, that if a modern car is allowed to stand unused for about two weeks that the battery will drain to zero and not start the engine. The explanation given by my very competent mechanic is that the computer is programmed to let this happen. Why, if true, would any computer programmer do this? Is this some safety feature?

A. Cars today have so many electronics in them that it can be a burden to the cars battery. In most cases, the electronics are designed to go into a “sleep” mode to minimize the chance of a discharged battery. Most cars will easily be able to sit for three weeks, and in some cases more, without the battery becoming fully discharged. I would have your car tested just to make sure that all the systems are shutting down as they were designed to.

Q.Is there a way of finding the percent of a Toyota Highlander and a Chevy Traverse that is made in the USA or the percent of these vehicles that are made outside of North America? A. The vehicles Monroney window sticker lists part content information and percentage of as well as the country of origin of the imported parts. In addition, the sticker will list the vehicles final assembly plant location. As an example, 76 percent of the Chevrolet Traverse is made from parts sourced from the United States or Canada.

Q.We have a 1996 Nissan 4X4 pickup. We have put in new battery cables, a new alternator, and a new battery. If the headlights or heater are on, the truck will start sputtering and quit within 30 minutes and the battery will be dead. If the headlights and/or heater are not on, it will run a little longer, but will still eventually quit. What could be wrong?

A. The output voltage of the alternator should be checked to see exactly what is happening. At first impression, it would seem as if the alternator belt is slipping. Recently I saw a very similar problem and the belt was slipping because the crankshaft pulley was starting to separate. When the electrical system was put under a load, the pulley would slip and the alternator would stop charging.

Q. I have a 2003 Toyota 4Runner with about 30,000 miles. The frame is beginning to rust! I use the car as a second car, to pull a utility trailer and to pull my boat to and from the ramp in the spring and fall. What can be done to delay the rust problem? The Toyota Tundra has a similar frame and has been recalled and frames been replaced.

A. It really depends on the extent of the rust. If the entire frame is becoming structurally compromised, there is little you can do other than replace the frame. If there are one or two rusted areas, perhaps it can be welded. If it is just getting rusty, clean up the rust and apply an undercoating or rust inhibitor. This will help slow the rusting process.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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