4th Gen 4 Runner Transmission Fluid Change
If you’re the owner of a 4th generation 4Runner, then maintenance and scheduled repairs are just a part of life. One such repair that is often necessary is a transmission fluid change. In this post, we’ll walk you through the process of how to change your 4 Runner’s transmission fluid, so you can do it yourself with confidence.
4th Gen 4 Runner Transmission Overview
The 4th Gen 4Runner is equipped with a full-time four wheel drive transfer case. This means that the front and rear axle shafts are constantly driven by the engine via the transmission, giving it better fuel economy than part-time four wheel drive systems which require you to manually engage or disengage the front wheels when on slippery surfaces (like dry pavement). To do this the 4Runner uses what’s called an electronically controlled transfer clutch.
As with most electronically controlled components, proper care must be taken to ensure long life of these sensitive parts. Changing fluid in these transmissions is essential for their continued health since gear oil acts as a lubricant (to prevent wear) while also washing away contaminants that would otherwise accumulate over time. Contaminants in the fluid will quickly cause wear on transmission components, especially bearings, which are highly susceptible to damage without lubrication.
What Does Transmission Fluid Do?
Transmission fluid in your 4th gen 4Runner carries torque from the engine to your transmission. The torque is then changed into usable power that is sent to the wheels, which allows you to drive.
The way this is done is by having gears inside of the transmission change where the power goes. They do this with little clutches in between each gear called bands, packings or pads. These are designed to stretch over time and make contact with another surface when they do so. As these parts wear they create metallic particles that circulate in your transmission fluid.
Best Transmission Fluid for a 4th Gen 4 Runner Transmission:
A 4th Gen 4 Runner has a Transmission that is electronically controlled. This type of transmission runs off the power from the engine to move the vehicle forward and backward. The fluid in this system keeps everything lubricated and cool. It works very hard so it needs to be changed every once in a while depending on how much you drive your car or truck, how cold it gets where you live, if you take your 4Runner off-roading. There are numerous brands out there but this article focuses on what I consider to be the best fluid for my Toyota.
When to check transmission fluid in the 4th Gen 4 Runner
It is recommended to check and fill (if needed) the transmission fluid on a 4th Gen 4Runner every 15,000 miles or once a year. If there are any leaks found with the transmission then it is best to have that looked at as soon as possible. If you wait too long to address a problem with your 4 Runner transmission it may cause further costly repairs. The following recommendations will help ensure proper maintenance of your Toyota’s manual transmission.
How do You Check Transmission Fluid?
The 4th Generation Toyota 4Runner has an automatic transmission. For fluid checking, it is positioned underneath the vehicle by the rear axle area. On the driver side of this area, there is a small compartment with a lid revealing an opening which sand can be poured through to check for any contaminant.
This article will tell you where to find your oil gib and how to properly check your transmission fluid levels in order to keep your 4Runner running smoothly.
To locate the transmission fluid dipstick on your 4Runner, open up the engine bay next to the driver-side wheel well. There should be several tubes protruding from below that are attached via clips towards the front of the car toward the drivers side. The one you want to check is the one directly above and in front of the muffler. To access this compartment, simply undo the clips and remove the lid, then pull out the dipstick.
Inserting it into its slot should be fairly simple. If it resists or doesn’t go all the way in, don’t force it! It’s probably not inserted correctly and will cause issues when you try to read your transmission fluid levels. However, if there’s no issue once you’ve oiled up your fingers and tried again please continue reading:
To check your transmission fluid levels for a 4th Gen 4Runner: wipe off any excess oil from outside of tube with paper towels Turn the stick so that it reads “add”/high on the side with the transmission fluid level facing you. Then remove and check your transmission fluid levels with the stick upright to see if there’s any water/water bubbles or “low” marks on any part of the dipstick.
*Note: If you let it sit for a bit, this will cause condensation to form on your dipstick so it’s best to read immediately after pulling it out.
Reading only two parts of the dipstick is all that is needed – either low or high. Any more than that means you need to top off some transmission fluid until it reaches halfway between high/add and low/empty. This will ensure that your next time checking, everything should be good by then! If everything looks fine, simply screw the lid back on and you’re good to go! If there’s any water bubbles or low marks (which there shouldn’t be), this means you need to change your fluid.
4th Gen 4 Runner Transmission fluid dipstick location
To change the fluid on a 4th generation Toyota 4Runner you will need a few tools but the process is relatively simple.
Steps for changing 4th Gen 4 Runner Transmission Fluid:
As part of routine maintenance, 4Runner owners should change the transmission fluid every 30k miles or so depending on driving conditions. Luckily for us the procedure is quite easy and only takes about 30 minutes to complete provided you have all of the necessary tools available. We’ll cover this process below along with a few other things like checking clutch fluid levels (some models) and inspecting your transfer case (for open differentials, anyone?) . If you’re not yet familiar with what’s involved in changing your own oil check out our article here for more information.
The 4 Runner has a factory fill transmission fluid capacity of 7 quarts with filter replacement. If you have an automatic, it is recommended to replace the filter every 30k miles. Check your owners manual for more information.
A pump or funnel, about 5 quarts of fluid and a rag or paper towels to clean up any spills. Jack and jack stands for safety if you are underneath the vehicle, a small pry bar can also help in removing some panels/shields that may be in your way when replacing your fluid. Also a c-clamp can be used to remove some bolts that hold shields in place on top of the transmission pan which you will need to remove in order to get at the pan bolts.
The first step is to make sure the vehicle is parked on a level surface and engage the emergency brake and place wheel chocks behind and in front of all tires to ensure it does not roll while you are underneath working on it. Remove both back wheels for better access if needed. Undo any bracket or shield that may be in your way when removing screws that hold the transmission pan down, then undo all 12 pan bolts with an extension/ratchet and socket wrench pulling them out from right to left starting from driver side rear followed by passenger side rear, 1-2-3-4-5-6… etc left to right .
Some pans will not have the metal gasket, if so be sure to remove it. Once all 12 pan bolts are removed then you can slide out your old transmission fluid by tilting the pan or using a small pry bar if its stuck.
Using a pump or funnel pour in new oil until it reaches the bottom of where your dipstick was. Put the dipstick back in with an air nozzle attached to help the diesel/oil reach all corners of your transmission case and allow 5 minutes for any air pockets to rise to top, recheck fluid level and adjust as needed with additional oil if there is still space between where it says full on your dipstick. If you do not have air hose attachment use an open end wrench on the bottom of the dipstick to push it back up through the tube. To remove just pull on your dipstick until its out of the tube and wipe off excess oil with paper towel or rag.
Start vehicle and let idle for about 5 minutes then recheck fluid levels on dipstick after vehicle has reached operating temperature, this will ensure all air pockets have risen to top so you can properly fill your transmission case. Once completed, reattach any brackets or shields that was removed during removal process, clean up any spilled fluid with some paper towels/rags and reinstall both rear wheels with lug nuts hand tight. Put jack stands under chassis for safety if going underneath again to tighten bolts holding transmission pan down, tighten all 12 pan bolts from right to left in criss-cross pattern 5-6-7-8… etc. Start vehicle and check for any leaks, if need be then recheck again after a few days for additional leaks that may have occurred when tightening bolts or reinstalling shields/panels.
Stop by your local 4th Gen 4 Runner parts dealer and pick up a transmission fluid pump, replacement filter and fluid before your next scheduled oil change since you will already have the vehicle raised in the air. This preventative maintenance procedure is good practice even if you do not plan on changing the fluids yourself but take it to a trusted mechanic instead. Some models with rear differentials also require additive similar when filling up your 4Runner’s transmission case or transfer case. Be sure to check your owners manual for any additional fluid recommendations that may be unique to the model vehicle you drive.