Automatic Transmission Fluid Flush

As with many modern vehicles, replacing the Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) on the LandCruiser 200 is not part of the routine service schedule.

There's no simple way to check the fluid level or condition. This is often described as "lifetime fluid". Despite this description, conducting an ATF flush at 80-100,000km intervals should be part of your regular maintenance schedule, to keep the transmission operating efficiently and reliably.

Why change the ATF yourself?

There are two main reasons why you might want to change the ATF yourself, rather than take it to a dealer or auto transmission workshop.

Better outcomes

When you have an ATF flush performed at a dealership or transmission shop, they generally use a machine to perform the flushing. This machine extracts a portion of fluid from the transmission into a waste container, then pumps a portion of new fluid into the transmission. This process repeats until most of the fluid has been exchanged. This saves a great deal of time compared to the manual flushing process described below, but the drawback is that the same machine (and its hoses) is used with multiple different ATF types. This means your fresh fluid is potentially contaminated with small amounts of incorrect fluid during the flushing process. While not a major issue, better to avoid it.

Another advantage (over a dealership at least) is that you can use a superior, fully synthetic ATF, while a dealer will only use standard Toyota WS fluid.

Finally, some transmission shops use a cleaning/flushing fluid as part of the process. This is a very bad idea, because some of that fluid will remain in the transmission forever, changing the properties of the ATF and reducing its performance.

Cost savings

At the time of writing, a Toyota dealer will charge around $560 to 'flush' the transmission. Also at the time of writing, purchasing 12 litres of Penrite ATF LV costs around $140. So the couple of hours spent doing it yourself will save you around $400.

Choosing the right Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)

Unlike most automotive oils, ATF is not specified by viscosity (e.g. 10w40, 75w90), but by 'type'. You'll see types listed such as Dexron III, Type F, Mercon etc. The LandCruiser 200 uses WS type fluid. Choosing the correct ATF type for your transmission is vital. If you use an incorrect type, it could cause severe damage to the gearbox. Even the best-case result is that the shift quality and performance will suffer, and potentially require the transmission be removed from the vehicle to completely flush out all of the incorrect fluid.

Toyota specify their own brand of 'WS' type ATF for the 200. That's what it ships with from the factory, and you could certainly use that product. But I'm not using it. I'm using a fully synthetic WS-compatible fluid which has higher specifications than the mineral-based Toyota-branded fluid.

A near-complete flush/replacement of the original fluid requires approximately 12 litres of new fluid.

What is a 'flash point' and why does it matter?

Technically, it's the temperature at which a flammable liquid gives off sufficient vapour to 'flash' if you apply an ignition source.

Practically, it means that the liquid has begun to vaporise and break down into its chemical components.

In the case of ATF, it's just one measure of how the fluid copes with high temperatures. All else being equal, looking at the flash point will provide some indication of the temperature at which various fluids start to degrade.

It is by no means the only factor when choosing a suitable ATF, but it is one thing to consider given the high levels of load and heat that fluid can be subjected to in the LandCruiser 200, particularly with regular towing. The LC200's high temperature warning doesn't activate until around 150ºC. Given its 175º flash point, it's likely that standard Toyota WS fluid has begun losing its lubricating properties by the time the warning light comes on. Conversely, most synthetic aftermarket fluids have flash points 40-50ºC higher, indicating that they continue to perform well after WS has begun to break down.

Suitable Transmission Fluids for the LandCruiser 200

Toyota WS:  If you'd like to stick to genuine WS, it's available in 1-quart (946ml) or 4-litre pack sizes online, generally far cheaper than from a dealership.

Penrite ATF LV:  This is a fully-synthetic alternative to Toyota WS fluid from Australian manufacturer Penrite. It's listed by the manufacturer as being WS-compatible, and as being suitable for the LandCruiser 200. It has a flash point of 219ºC, indicating that the fluid starts to break down at a temperature almost 45º higher than Toyota WS fluid. It comes in 1L, 4L and 20L packs.

Amsoil Fuel Efficient ATF (BLUE label):  This is a fully-synthetic alternative to Toyota WS fluid from US company, Amsoil. It's listed as being WS-compatible, and as suitable for the LandCruiser 200. It's very popular for use in the US Toyota Tundra, which essentially shares the 200's Aisin AB60 transmission. However, it's about three times the price of the Penrite, and is a bit harder to find. It has a flash point of 224ºC, almost 50º higher than Toyota WS. Being from the US, this only comes in US pack sizes of 1 quart (946ml) and 1 gallon (3.79L)

Castrol Transmax FE:  This is a fully-synthetic alternative to Toyota WS fluid from Castrol. It's listed by the manufacturer as being WS-compatible, and as being suitable for the LandCruiser 200. It has a flash point of 220ºC.

Nulon ATF LV

Nulon Low Viscosity ATF (Low Viscosity):  This is a fully-synthetic alternative to Toyota WS fluid from Australian manufacturer Nulon. It's listed by the manufacturer as being WS-compatible, and as being suitable for the LandCruiser 200. Several 200 owners in Australia have reported good results with this fluid. It has a flash point of 190ºC. This is higher than Toyota WS fluid, but not as high as the other options.

  • MSDS:  Here
  • Buy Nulon LV ATF online: N/A

Note: Nulon also produce an 'alternative' fluid called Multi Vehicle ATF or SYNATF Note that it is not described as 'low viscosity'. They list this as being suitable for the LandCruiser 200, but confusingly not as being WS-compatible. I personally would err on the side of caution and not use this product in the LandCruiser 200.

What about the transmission fluid filter?

The 200's Aisin AB60F transmission has a mesh-type oil filter located within the transmission pan. There is no need to routinely change this type of filter, as opposed to some transmission fluid filters which are the fibre type. Personally, I plan on changing the filter at the 3rd fluid flush, (around the 300,000km mark), should I have the vehicle for that long.

I won't go into great detail about the procedure for changing the filter, but essentially you remove the transmission pan after draining the fluid. Then install a new filter module, new pan gasket, refit the pan and continue with the fluid flushing procedure below.

Should you wish to replace it, the additional parts required to perform the filter change are:

OR

IMPORTANT

The following should not be taken as instructions. It is simply a documenting of the procedure I followed for my own ATF change. No warranty is provided as to the accuracy of the information, and/or whether it applies in your situation or to your vehicle.

There are many additional checks which take place during routine vehicle servicing. It's not just a 'grease and oil change'. You may not be aware of these checks, which could lead to component failures. I strongly recommend you have your vehicle serviced regularly by a qualified mechanic. If you're not qualified and/or don't have the correct equipment, don't attempt to perform your own vehicle maintenance.

  • There are potentially lethal dangers resulting from the vehicle during the procedure.
  • There are potentially lethal dangers resulting from component failures which would ordinarily be checked during routine servicing.
  • There is the potential for expensive vehicle damage from improper ATF changing procedures.

If you undertake your own ATF change, you do so entirely at your own risk.

Parts and Equipment required - ATF replacement

ATF flush / change procedure

Click images to enlarge

Step 1: Remove the bash plate

  • Remove the single bash plate under the transmission, using a 14mm spanner/socket.
  • Clean the pan, paying particular attention to the drain, overflow and fill plug locations. Also wipe over the driveshaft, to prevent contamination, as the fill line will run over it.

Step 2: Drain and Refill the pan

  • Using a 24mm socket, loosen the refill plug located on the left side of the transmission.
  • Position a clear, 4-5 litre graduated container under the drain hole, remove the drain plug (14mm), and drain the pan into the jug. Note how much oil has been drained, which should be approximately 3.1 litres. Empty the jug into a waste oil container. You'll need it again in step 3.
  • Re-insert the drain plug and tighten to 20Nm (reuse the original crush washer at this stage. It will be replaced later).
  • Fill a clean graduated jug with the same amount of fresh fluid as you drained from the pan.
  • Remove the refill plug, and using a 12v pump or hand pump, refill the transmission with the fresh fluid.

Step 3: Flush the oil cooler and lines

  • (a) Disconnect the rubber hose from the oil cooler return line on the side of the transmission. It is the upper of the two lines (see photo). Ensure you wipe clean the lines before disconnecting the rubber hose.
  • (b) Attach a clear tube to the metal oil return line, and run it to your clear graduated drain container, placed beside the car where you can see it from the drivers' seat.
  • (c) Start the engine, and as it idles, slowly move the gear lever through all the gears (P, R, N, D, 1-6). Keep doing this until 1.7 litres of fluid has been pumped out into the clear container, then turn off the engine.
  • (d) Refill 1.7 litres of fresh fluid into the transmission via the refill hole.
  • (e) Dispose of the used fluid into the waste oil container.
  • (f) REPEAT steps (c) to (e) two more times.
  • At this point, you should have around 3.8 litres of new fluid remaining (sufficient for one more full pan drain), having drained and replaced 8.2 litres of fluid in total:
    • 3.1 litres from the pan;
    • 1.7 litres from cooler line;
    • 1.7 litres from cooler line;
    • 1.7 litres from cooler line.
  • Now, remove the clear tube from the oil return line, reconnect the original rubber hose and replace the hose clamp.

Step 4: Drive and final pan drain

  • Ensure the drain and refill plugs are suitably tensioned, and the oil cooler lines are re-attached and clamped.
  • Take the car for a short drive, preferably somewhere where you can engage and drive in every gear. Allow the vehicle to cool for an hour when you return, to prevent burns from the hot exhaust and/or transmission fluid.
  • As with Step 2, loosen the refill plug, remove the drain plug and drain all the oil from the pan into the clear graduated drain container.
  • Refit the drain plug using a new crush washer, and tension it to 20Nm.
  • Refill the transmission with slightly more fluid than was drained. 100-200ml should do it. This excess (if there is any) will be drained off in the next step.
  • Replace the fill plug (using a new O ring) and tension to 39Nm.

Step 5: Ensure you have the correct fluid level at operating temperature.

At this point, the transmission fluid should be just above 'overflow' level. However, the fluid level must be checked at between 41 and 46ºC.

If you have an Ultragauge or Scangauge, you can use that device to show the ATF (pan) temperature. If you don't have one, then you must follow the following procedure to enable the in-built temperature indicator:

  • Connect a wire between pins 4 and 13 of the OBDII connector, located below the steering column.
  • Slowly move the shift lever from P to S, then change the gears from 1st to 6th. Then return the shift lever to P.
  • Move the shift lever to D, and quickly move back and forth between N and D (at least every 1.5 seconds) for at least 6 seconds. This will activate the fluid temperature detection mode.
  • Return the shift lever to P and disconnect the wire joining the OBDII terminals.
  • Allow the engine to idle until the fluid temperature reaches 41 to 46°C
  • Even though the vehicle is in Park, the D indicator will come on again (so both P and D indicators will be illuminated) when the fluid temperature reaches 41-46°C. If you have an Optitron display (VX, Sahara), then the gear position indicator will change from P to D when the temperature is correct. If the D indicator flashes on either type of dash display, then the ATF temperature has exceeded 46ºC. You'll have to switch off the car and allow it to cool. On a warm day, this could take a couple of hours.

Once the Ultragauge/Scangauge or the inbuilt sensor detects the transmission is between 41 and 46ºC:

With the engine running, A/C turned off, and the transmission in Park:

  • Remove the overflow plug. Allow the excess fluid to overflow until it's just a slight trickle.
  • Fit a new crush washer, and replace/tension the overflow plug to 20Nm.
  • If the fluid did not overflow, add more fluid until it does overflow. Watch out for the hot exhaust. Refit the refill plug (with a new O ring).

Step 6: Refit the bash plates

  • Refit the bash plate.

Results

As you can see from the above photo, the transmission fluid was very dirty/dark at the beginning of the flush, but became progressively cleaner as the changeover progressed. The fluid was changed at around 100,000km.

After the change, there was a small improvement in shift quality, but no other changes were apparent.

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