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Toyota Camry ATF (Transmission Fluid) Flush or Replacement

Updated on March 18, 2016

When to Replace Your Automatic Transmission Fluid

The Toyota Maintenance Guide for the four-cylinder Camry 5SFE engine says to inspect the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) every 30,000 miles. It doesn't say when or whether to replace the fluid, but in general, mechanics recommend a simple "drain-and-fill" every 30,000 miles.

With most automatic transmissions, ATF operating at or below 175 degrees F should last close to 100,000 miles. But for every 20-degree increase in temperature, ATF fluid life is cut in half. Cars can reach temperatures of 210 degrees or more during towing or stop-and-go summer driving. Fully synthetic ATF can withstand approximately 225 degrees before thermal breakdown.

When ATF breaks down, it "cooks," or oxidizes, losing its detergent and lubricating properties. It turns from bright red to brown or black, and has a burnt smell. Oxidized ATF can cause buildup of varnish and sludge.

Draining and Replacing the ATF

An ATF drain-and-fill is similar to a motor oil change, except there is no paper filter element to replace, and not all the fluid is drained. There is an internal metal mesh filter within the transmission drain cover, but it does not have as fine a mesh as an oil filter, and rarely requires replacement. The drain plug is a 10-mm indented hex bolt requiring a hex socket. You add the new transmission fluid by removing the fluid level dipstick, and inserting a narrow-mouthed funnel into the dip stick tube.

Approximately 2.6 quarts of fluid can be drained from the transmission oil pan, and replaced via the dipstick. Considerable fluid will remain in the transmission's torque converter, the transmission oil lines, and the radiator. If the fluid is dark red and has not turned brown, it’s okay to mix old and new fluid without flushing. But if the fluid is brown or black, a complete flush of the system would be in order. This would require about four additional quarts of oil.

How Flushing the ATF Works

The purpose of a 'flush' is to pump out as much as possible of the old oxidized ATF fluid out of the transmission and fluid lines. The engine's hydraulic pressure pumps new ATF through the system to push out an additional 4 quarts of trapped ATF.

Before doing a flush, perform a drain-and-fill and drive the car for a few days. The new fluid's detergent additives will dissolve harmful deposits from transmission components. Once these deposits are broken down and suspended in the fluid, a flush will remove them.

Even after doing a complete flush of an old, high-mileage Camry, you can expect the ATF to turn dark again within six months. At that time you can do a simple drain-and-fill or repeat the flush. The fluid should now stay red much longer.

Tools Needed

  • 10 mm hex wrench
  • Containers to catch used ATF, including one or more transparent or translucent containers like milk jugs or empty ATF jugs
  • Long-tipped needle-nosed pliers
  • (Optional) hose pliers
  • Funnel
  • New ATF (3 quarts for a drain-and-fill, 7 quarts for a flush)

1. Lift Front End to Access Drain Plug

Lift and support the front end safely so you can locate the drain plug for the ATF.

While you are under the car, you can look at a couple of other things:

  • Check for any fluid leaks where the CV axle meets the transmission. Signs of oil from this area may indicate a worn transmission axle shaft seal. If so, the axle will have to be pulled from the transmission, the seal pried out from the transmission, a new seal pressed in, and the axle shaft re-installed.
  • A leak from the valve cover plug (on the right side of the engine) is likely a leak of engine oil, and not a transmission leak.
  • Check the fluid level of the torque converter - although I've never encountered one that leaked.

Camry ATF Drain Plug
Camry ATF Drain Plug

2. Remove Drain Plug and Drain Out ATF; Replace Plug

Locate your 10 mm hex socket to remove the transmission drain plug.

Hex socket for removing drain plug
Hex socket for removing drain plug

Remove the drain plug and drain out the ATF into a ready container. Screw the drain plug back in when draining is complete.

Removing the Camry transmission pan drain plug
Removing the Camry transmission pan drain plug

Just Doing a Drain-and-Fill?

If you are just doing a drain-and-fill, and not a flush, skip to step 8 below, position your funnel as shown there, and add 2.6 quarts of new ATF. Replace the dipstick. You are done. Check your transmission fluid level again after your engine has run for a few minutes and has reached normal operating temperature.

3. To Flush the ATF: Remove the Hose Clamp on the ATF Return Line

If you are doing a flush, using an additional four quarts of ATF, you will want to drain the ATF from the torque converter. To do that, remove the hose clamp on the line that returns the ATF to the transmission from the radiator. Needle-nosed pliers make this easier.

Remove the hose clamp on the ATF return line to the Camry transmission
Remove the hose clamp on the ATF return line to the Camry transmission
Long-tipped needle-nosed pliers get a good grip on the hose clamp.
Long-tipped needle-nosed pliers get a good grip on the hose clamp.

4. Remove Return Hose

If you have hose pliers, you can use them to hold the hose. Twist the hose and push down.

Disconnecting the ATF return line hose with hose pliers
Disconnecting the ATF return line hose with hose pliers
These hose removal pliers make removing the hose easy
These hose removal pliers make removing the hose easy

5. Position Return Line Through Splash Pan

Run the ATF return line through the splash pan hole.

Run the ATF return line hose through the splash pan hole
Run the ATF return line hose through the splash pan hole

6. Feed Return Line Into Empty Container

Put the end of the return line hose into an empty 5-quart container, to receive ATF that will be pumped out of the torque converter.

Put the end of the hose into an empty container.
Put the end of the hose into an empty container.

7. Place Funnel in Dipstick Tube

Put an appropriate size funnel into the dipstick tube, and add 3.6 quarts of new ATF (for a flush; just 2.6 quarts for a drain-and-fill).

8. Pump out Two Quarts of Old ATF

Start the car and observe the ATF being pumped into the container at the end of the disconnected return line. Stop the engine when the 2-quart mark has been reached.

9. Add Another Two Quarts of New ATF

Add another two quarts of ATF through the transmission dipstick tube.

10. Pump Out Another Two Quarts

Start the car again and observe the ATF oil being pumped into the container. Stop the engine when the container is at the 4-quart mark.

11. Add One More Quart

Add one last quart of ATF, to leave 2.6 quarts total in your transmission oil pan. Replace dipstick.

12. Replace Return Line

Reconnect the ATF return line to your transmission and secure the hose clamp.

13. Check Fluid Level

13. Start your car and let it reach its normal operating temperature. While the engine is running, check the ATF fluid level with the dipstick. Add more oil if not at the high mark.

What ATF To Use

Synthetic ATF, such as Mobil or the new General Motors Dexron VI Synthetic Blend ATF, will extend the drain-and-fill interval beyond 30,000 miles and may extend the life of your transmission. 1990 to 2001 Camrys require Dexron III. The Dexron VI is backward compatible to Dexron III and will not harm your transmission.

Even though auto manufacturers want you to buy their own ATF, I have used other brands successfully in Toyotas, Volvos, and VWs. I have had the best success using a Universal Synthetic ATF made by Amalie Oil Corporation, which supplies WalMart under the SuperTech Brand. Also Valvoline Full Synthetic ATF, compatible with Toyota Type IV ATF and Honda ZF, was selling at Walmart in Oct. 2013 for $16.40 a gallon, or a little over $4 a quart, whereas most auto retailers sell synthetic ATF for $8 - $10 a quart. A colleague who used to work for Valvoline told me they maintain a very high quality control standard.


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    • yeswayhemmingway 5 years ago

      Thanks for this it has been really helpful with my camry

    • Phil 5 years ago

      Thanks for the detailed steps and photo details.

      This instruction was the most illustrative and easy to follow I could find on the net.

      Kudos to the author! Very well done.


    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 5 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Thanks Phil - I try to make things that seem difficult easy.

    • MK 4 years ago

      These were the instructions i was looking to do the transmission fluid flush on my 2000 camry LE V4.


    • Sasa Zuko 3 years ago

      The hex is actually a 10mm not a 14mm

      Thanks for the guide

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 3 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Thanks ... I'll make the change.

    • David 3 years ago

      Does this also take care of the fluid in the torque converter after starting the engine?

      Also, do we need to cycle through the gears and/or having the wheels to spin or can it be just left in Park?

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 3 years ago from Memphis, TN


      Yes. The fluid takes care of the torque converter; however, you can change out the differential fluid which is also ATF. Never encountered a failed differential due to the neglect of a fluid change.

      I've seen no benefit of cycling through the gears since you'll never get 100% of the old oil out of the sytem ... unless you're priming a new transmission with no fluid to begin with.

    • 3 years ago

      you are a real gent.thank you

    • JUN1 2 years ago

      I am very glad that I found this guide. I have a Camry 99, and it seems like I'll have to change out the transmission fluid for the first time by myself.

      One question:

      What if I start car first to pump 2.6 quarts of old fluid out from the transmission return line without draining from the transmission oil pan and then proceed with putting the 3.6 quart of new ATF in as instructed in the guide?

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 2 years ago from Memphis, TN


      Yes, you could do that assuming you know for certain that you have 2.6 qts of oil that the transmission pump will draw. The problem is you run the risk of pumping ALL the oil out BEFORE you have the chance to replace the oil fluid. Regardless, its impossible to drain all the fluid out of the lines and transmission ... you're going to get a mixture of old with new fluid. I recommend you pump up to a point then fill with new until the fluid comes out red.

    • jesse 2 years ago

      I don't why people think camry is the bast car I have 2012 camry with 40000 miles transmission have problem dealers no worst car I naver buy again

    • Joe 2 years ago

      I disagree on the Dex VI recommendation...

      "Dexron VI-the newest GM ATF, it was developed specifically for the new six-speed automatic and is a synthetic blend (meaning it has some conventional base stocks). That transmission has tighter internal tolerances and required a fluid that had higher shear strength that Dexron III. It was introduced with the 2006 models. GM considers Dexron VI to be "backward compatible," meaning GM recommends it for use in any vehicle that originally used any earlier version of Dexron and that it can be mixed with them. However, GM specifically recommends against using Dexron VI in non-GM made vehicles that used Dexron III as original equipment. It is also the specified ATF in certain non-GM models that use GM transmissions, such as BMW. It is not, however, specified for GM brand vehicles that have non-GM transmissions, as mentioned above, or are imported to the United States."

      NOTE: Dexron VI is not recommended for: Pontiac Vibe and Wave, Chevy Aveo, Epica, and Equinox, Saturn ION with CVT or AF23 transmission, Saturn Vue with CVT, AF33 or 5AT transmissions, or 1991-2002 Saturn S. These are vehicles with transmissions that were not manufactured by General Motors.

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 2 years ago from Memphis, TN


      And your point is??? I've used it in the Camry, Avalon, ES300, Corolla, I30, Maxima, etc. all with excellent results.

    • Rohit Shete 2 years ago


      I have a 2003 Camry, I have bought it two months ago. The mechanic said transmission fuel is not changed for long time and is black in color. He added if I changes the transmission oil, there are 50% chances of getting the transmission worst and it will warrant for a 3000 usd expense.

      Please advise


    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 2 years ago from Memphis, TN

      His logic applies to American car transmissions; not Toyota. Just do a drain and fill. The new fluid will mix with the old and turn the color dark red. If you have your trans fluid changed at every engine oil change (assuming 4 to 5K miles), the fluid will eventually dilute to red.

    • Keri 2 years ago

      About 5,000 miles ago, I was told I had "seepage" from my transmission pan, and that it wasn't serious, but that inevitably I would need a new pan installed. About 500 miles ago, I got my oil changed and was told my fluid was black and needed changed (I went to a different place because I had a deal). Are these two problems related? I have a 2009 Camry LE with 108,000 miles on it. I'm taking the car in tomorrow but wasn't sure if a flush would solve both of my problems. Also, how much should I be charged?

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 2 years ago from Memphis, TN


      Unless the pan is rusted out, I do not see any reason to replace it. If there is a pan leak, I would first start my tighten the bolts that secure the pan to the transmission. If that does not work, then replace the pan gasket (which requires removing the pan).

      If you're transmission fluid is black, then at every engine oil change (around 5k miles) perform a simple drain and fill of the transmission fluid (around 3 - 3.5 quarts of a 7 quart system). Do this around 3 times until the new ATF dilutes the oil ATF to the point when the fluid appears red. I recommend against a complete fluid flush since it is expensive and does not guarantee that the accumulated ATF sludge and varnish will be completely removed (I've seen within a month the new ATF turned black ... which indicates that the new ATF is braking down old accumulated sludge and varnish).

    • tommisalami 2 years ago

      awesome tutorial. My camry has a ph8an oil filter after the radiator on the return line. I disconnected the line before the filter and the hose was plenty long to run right down into a small container. Fluid comes out fairly fast,, 2 quarts pumps out in only like 15-20 seconds, so watch closely. Of course, i changed the filter too. This is sooo much cheaper than having a shop do it, and its sooo easy.

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 2 years ago from Memphis, TN


      It's amazing how much quick lube shops charge for a ATF change ... more than double a motor oil change.

    • Gregory Patricio 2 years ago

      Thank You Very Much......

      Your advice is sound and very, helpful indeed...


    • Liam Le 2 years ago

      Thank you, hardlymoving. Can you show me how to replace WS ATF fluid on Camry 2012-2014? It doesn't has a dipstick and the drain, fill plug are located in a different location. So, I hope you can make another topic about changing ATF fluid of 2012.

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 2 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Liam Le

      Sorry. Haven't had the opportunity to due a fluid change on a late model 2012 Camry. I believe there's no dipstick because the manufacturer does not want you to change the fluid ... ever. I've seen other cars with the same setup with many European cars. If you ask the dealer, their typical response is 'it's a fill for life'. My question is life of the car or the transmission? Seen a lot of transmission failures with these cars having over 100k miles. Perhaps now the manufacturers are using synthetic transmission fluid.

    • Aliyu Alkali 22 months ago

      Please what type of Automatic transmission fluid can I use for my Toyota Camry 2000 model.

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 22 months ago from Memphis, TN


      Currently recommend a gallon of Valvoline Synthetic ATF sold at Walmart for around $16.50

    • Ryan 20 months ago


      I was curious, is there a gasket to replace on the ATF drain plug? I recently changed my engine oil and I was told by the Toyota dealer that it was a good idea to replace the gasket on the engine oil drain plug. I assume the same holds true for the ATF drain plug? Is there even a gasket on the ATF drain plug?

      Also, if there is a gasket on the ATF drain plug, would it be wise to get a replacement from the dealer or any ole' parts store?


    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 20 months ago from Memphis, TN


      I'd get it from the dealer on the assumption it not that expensive of a part. The "gasket" looks like a big washer.

    • xtorro 17 months ago

      Thanks the pictures are real helpful. Thought that one was the engine oil drain plug... almost screwed up an oil change ︿( ̄︶ ̄)︿

    • David 16 months ago

      I would like to know on where to replace toyota camry 2011 transmission fluid change(put new ATF WS) back in Transmission? Thank you

    • David 16 months ago

      I would like to know on where to replace toyota camry 2011 transmission fluid change(put new ATF WS) back in Transmission? Thank you

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 16 months ago from Memphis, TN


      There is no dipstick because it is a hidden cap, has to be access through the bottom of the car and the new oil pumped in.

    • Abohagar 15 months ago

      So, what is the best ATF for toyota camry 2007 LE.

      Plese ASAP.


    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 15 months ago from Memphis, TN


      The most convenient available syn ATF for the price is ValvolineSynthetic ATF, 1 gallon at Walmart.

    • pehoffer 14 months ago

      Just did a filter and flush on a 95 camry I bought. Thanks for the pictures. They made it a lot easier.

    • R.V. 13 months ago

      Thank you for the instructions. I Just finished doing the atf fluid change on my 2003 Camry and it was a snap. I would had never thought it would be so easy. Thanks for that! Smooth ride!


    • fadal 12 months ago

      how many liters of transmission fluid can go in to Toyota Camry 2012 model

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 12 months ago from Memphis, TN


      Don't know but it's in your owner's manual

    • kevin 8 months ago

      very help full instruction, thank you, but still I have question: how I can find out which of those two hoses, is the return line? I have 2009 camry.

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 8 months ago from Memphis, TN


      With other cars I've worked on its trial and error. I just place the hoses in separate containers, start the car for a moment and see which container has fluid.

    • DON 8 months ago


    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 7 months ago from Memphis, TN


      If you didn't use Toyota Type 4 approved ATF, I would change the fluid again. Valvoline synthetic ATF with Type 4 approved and can be purchased by the gallon at Walmart for around $17.

      Dropping the pan will expose a screen ... it's really not a filter unless Toyota's design has changed. I never dropped the pan to change the screen.

    • James 7 months ago


      I have 2013 Camry SE. I can't find a dip stick for Transmission oil. There is no mention about transmission oil.

      What's your recommendation for transmission engine oil change?


    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 7 months ago from Memphis, TN


      Today's auto manufacturers are sealing their transmissions to prevent people from messing with the fluid level. The manufacturers believe the fluid will last forever or the life of the car which I do not agree.

      There's suppose to be a side plug on the transmission from which new fluid can be pumped into the transmission.

      Unless your car has over 100k miles, I wouldn't mess with changing the fluid.

    • Eric 6 months ago

      Hey so I have a 1998 Camry LE V6 with 300,000 miles now. I did a drain and fill at at 294k and 297k. It still shifts really well so would I be in good shape to do a flush?

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 6 months ago from Memphis, TN


      Your decision. Toyota transmission are tough, even when the fluid changes dark. I prefer to do a flush to keep the color of my fluid bright red.

    • Olayinka Oresanya profile image

      Olayinka Oresanya 6 months ago

      Hi, I use a camry 2010 and at 140k mileage. I have 4 questions.

      1. what transmission fluid type should I be using?

      2. When do I need change my brake fluid?

      3. Do I need to change my engine oil every 6months or until the 7000miles is reach; bear in mind that I usually dont reach that mileage until 9-11months because I have more than I car.

      4. I used oando SAE 5W 40 for my engine oil but resently saw on the engine SAE 0W 20 is recommended. should I change or continue with the oando oil am using?

      please reply

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 6 months ago from Memphis, TN


      All of you questions can be answered in you owner's manual maintenance section.

    • Ekpeowo 6 months ago

      Hi Hardlymoving.

      I bought a 2003 camry with 125000 miles on it,I had the engine oil and transmission oil change,but my mechanic recommended dexron III but after coming across this post I consulted my user manual and discovered its supposed to used toyota TIV atf. what should I do right now,a drain or a flush to get rid of the dexron III.

    • nicnok 6 months ago

      AWESOME INFO....thank you Sir...

    • Henry 6 months ago

      Hi Hardlymoving,

      I find your articles very informative and detailed, especially for a Camry or Avalon owner like me. Thank you and keep up the good works.

      I own a 1995 Avalon XL and am planning to change the transmission oil pan gasket (seeing some wetness around the seal), transmission oil filter/screen (may as well do it with the oil pan removed), flush the transmission and differential fluid, and change the transmission seals (maybe the wetness is from a seepage leak of a transmission seal) at the same time. Since I need to remove the drive shafts for replacing the transmission seals, I may as well replace the CV boots as there are stress cracks on them but no break/tears yet.

      Sorry I digress a little but my questions are:

      1. I flushed the transmission fluid with Castro Import Multi-vehicle ATF 2 years ago when I first obtained this vehicle from a friend. I plan to replace the ATF with Valvoline MaxLife High Mileage Mult-vehicle ATF this time as I heard good things about it. Do you know if this ATF is a synthetic oil?

      2. Your article recommends doing a drain-and-fill first and driving the car for a few days before flushing. Are these two types of ATF compatible such that I can mix and use the vehicle for a few days before a flush is done?


    • khaled 5 months ago

      AWESOME INFO....thank u Sir...

    • Don 5 months ago

      Not trying to purposely sound ignorant but does the Walmart atf function as well in a hybrid or does it call for an entirely different type of oil?

      (2007 Camry Hybrid)

      Thanks in advance

    • Baby Bear 5 months ago

      Not trying to purposely sound ignorant but does the Walmart atf function as well in a hybrid or does it call for an entirely different type of oil?

      (2007 Camry Hybrid)

      Thanks in advance

    • dev 4 months ago

      thank you so much . I did it myself

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 4 months ago from Memphis, TN

      Too all,

      Sorry for not responding to your transmission fluid inquiries going back for the last 6 months. Just recently got notification from hubpages of pending messages on this article.

    • Eric 3 months ago

      Hey so I gave my car its first flush at 303k miles after doing a drain and fill at 294k, 298k, and another one at 302k.

      So far so good! Thanks for the great article!

    • MoreCowbell 3 months ago

      Excellent write-up. Thanks!

    • Jo-Ann R. Jarvis 2 months ago

      I have a 2004 CamryLE... and Im at the mercy of mechanics... My Dad was one parttime... This was interesting, I'm hard on my transmission taking off too fast... I'm going to have my mechanic take a look at my car now because lite keeps blinking...

      I was thinking for all your great should get tips$$$

      just thinking...


    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 2 months ago from Memphis, TN


      Let your engine and transmission warm up before getting heavy on the gas peddle. Everything will last longer.

    • Oluwatola Kolawole 5 weeks ago

      i am highly impressed with this piece of information, it is timely and instructive, i used Camry 1997 model what appropriate ATF i should use. Thank you.

    • Frank 5 weeks ago

      So I found this article and proceeded to drop the tranny fluid along with oil change. Out the plugs back in and began my search for tranny fluid dipstick...looked and looked... Crap, can't find one! So I discoveredwjats already been mentioned..the new cars have sealed frigging transmissions!! I began my search for the filler plug but couldn't identify one positively. Long story short, I was lucky I drained the tranny fluid into a separatepan so I could measure the exact amount that came out... I removed the air filter housing to get a better viewbof the tranny and noticed some aluminum looking threaded plugs that had allen head fitting. I removed one and was hapoy to see fluid residue in its hole. I inserteda small funnel and very slowly poured in 66oz of new fluid at a rate of about 10 mins per quart. I was working on a 2012 Camry SE 2.5 L. On YouTube I found a video explaining the difficulty of correctly topping off the tranny with fluid. It has to be at a certain temperature, 108 I think, which is below operating temp. So you need to read temperature accurately and you also need special tools to refill through drainplug. What a clusterfuck.... From here on out I'll just have to pay the fuckers, IMHO, very 75K miles or so. I have a few pics I took but can't upload

    • David 20 hours ago

      I put new trans in my 93 camry 4cyl and it's not pumping oil out when i remove the right return hose to flush the trans. Do i need to prim torque converter if so how? Thank you

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 10 hours ago from Memphis, TN


      It's the other hose.

    • XLE95 7 hours ago

      Do you know if a fluid change or flush will help cure the blinking O/D light? The transmission shifts into gear hard, but then shifts smooth after underway.

    • hardlymoving profile image

      hardlymoving 4 hours ago from Memphis, TN


      I doubt a fluid change will fix it. Won't hurt to try. Recommend you go to a transmission shop for professional opinion.

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