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ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 #4077838 04/24/16 03:01 AM
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lexsc430 Offline OP
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Hi,

I bought a high-mileage (100k miles) Lexus SC430 on the cheap. It ran well during test drive.

After I got it, I noticed that the transmission has been overfilled. From service records, it seems to have been this way since 70k (5 years). I did one drain & refill on Friday and one yesterday (personality default, couldn't wait).

When I checked the car before purchase, I only looked at the fluid on the dipstick, and it was dark, but still reddish. After I drained it, I realized how dark it actually was (see image).

It's dark brown. The smell is sweet.

How bad is it?

Also, I was lazy and didn't bother to jack up the car. Unfortunately, I stripped perhaps the pan or the bolt when putting it back. Now it won't torque. I'll bring it probably to Toyota in a week's time (for a drain and refill and, if unlucky, pan replacement).

This transmission uses Toyota Type IV, which is red and doesn't have a sweet smell. I think it actually smells a bit like gear oil when new.

When people say 'burnt' smell, what exactly does 'burnt' fluid smell like? Is the sweet smell 'burnt'?

Also, since I had a look at the color of the fluid, I paid extra attention to the gear shifts. I noticed that sometimes the car rushes from 2nd to 3rd when very light on the gas. Using manual shifting, from 2nd to 3rd it would thump. Other shifts are unnoticeable. Also, when picking up speed very slowly, the car doesn't really stay long in 2nd. It's like 1000 rpm -> 1700 rpm in 1st -> 1500 - 1700 in 2nd -> 1000 - 1700 in 3rd...

Is the 2nd slipping?

I'm evaluating whether to sell this car on.

Thanks in advance!



Last edited by lexsc430; 04/24/16 03:04 AM.
Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: lexsc430] #4077844 04/24/16 03:34 AM
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BigD1 Offline
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In my GM service manual, Dexron 3 automatic transmission fluid brownish color is normal if it does not have a burned smell. That's about all I know about it.


1992 Toyota Pickup--AmazonBasics Conventional--10W-30--Toyota 90915YZZD1
Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: lexsc430] #4077857 04/24/16 04:43 AM
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demarpaint Offline
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If I didn't know any better judging from the picture it looks like someone might have filled it with oil.


God Bless Our Troops

Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: lexsc430] #4077864 04/24/16 05:11 AM
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dlundblad Offline
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It just looks old. 100,000 miles isnt "high mileage."

It is hard to judge ATF colors on the computer.. I am betting it looked slightly better in person?

If it was engine oil, it wouldn't have that sweet smell either.


03 Jeep WJ 4.0 208k
02 Volvo S60 2.4T 199k
97 Chevy Blazer 4.3 175k
04 Audi A4 3.0 210k

Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: lexsc430] #4077883 04/24/16 06:08 AM
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Miller88 Offline
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I think it's the original ATF and no one changed it.


18 Forester 2.5I 6M
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Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: lexsc430] #4077884 04/24/16 06:08 AM
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lexsc430 Offline OP
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Actually it did look like engine oil a bit. Also, when I say it smelled sweet, it did smell like some traditional engine oil (none synthetic).

So maybe the question is this: What exactly does burnt fluid smell like?

While my two drain and refills have changed almost half of the fluid, it still has that 'sweet smell' that is different from the fluid I poured in (which smelled like gear oil a little bit, but not that bad).

I also just found out that it's leaking from the stripped drain bolt. I originally plan to park it for a week before going to the dealer. Maybe I'll make time this week if the leak is serious (no more Type IV in hand to top up). Dealer is close, but probably won't have the parts to work on it. (the pan -> hopefully not needed).

Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: lexsc430] #4077885 04/24/16 06:13 AM
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dlundblad Offline
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If its the original Mobil 3309 (Toyota T-IV), it is a mineral ATF. That might be what you're smelling.

Burned ATF smells how it sounds. You'd be able to tell.

Now it smells like gear oil though? That stuff isnt sweet at all.

Once your gasket is fixed, you should do a cooler line flush and get as much out as possible.


03 Jeep WJ 4.0 208k
02 Volvo S60 2.4T 199k
97 Chevy Blazer 4.3 175k
04 Audi A4 3.0 210k

Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: lexsc430] #4077887 04/24/16 06:17 AM
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Donald Offline
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Maybe all it needs is a new washer. The pan should be dropped and filter changed if it has one.

They sell a drain plug to use after the hole is stripped. At least for engine drain pans. The dealer will probably install a new pan.

Does the drain plug take a large Allen wrench to remove it? You really should not lean on that Allen wrench.


2015 Ford F-250 w/Powerstroke
2016 Subaru Crosstrek CVT (wife's)
Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: lexsc430] #4077899 04/24/16 07:26 AM
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Oro_O Offline
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As above, that looks normal in the pan for neglected 100k fluid.

"Sweet" smells sweet, "burned" smells burned. This is not rocket science. It is difficult to judge color just from a dipstick; it leaves impurities behind in the pan. That is why you do a drop/blot test and not just gaze lovingly at the dipstick like a rube at a carnival. See this thread:

http://www.bobistheoilguy.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=59757&page=all

This is troublesome, also:

Quote:
I'm evaluating whether to sell this car on.


I assume you mean after either fixing it or fully disclosing any problem. Just covering up stuff and sticking it to the next guy is not really what I view as kosher.

The 2nd-3rd issue you describe is not "slipping" by any stretch. Change the fluid completely and then evaluate.

Last edited by Oro_O; 04/24/16 07:28 AM.
Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: lexsc430] #4077911 04/24/16 07:49 AM
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zeng Offline
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Originally Posted By: lexsc430
When I checked the car before purchase, I only looked at the fluid on the dipstick, and it was dark, but still reddish. After I drained it, I realized how dark it actually was (see image).
It's dark brown. The smell is sweet.
How bad is it?
When people say 'burnt' smell, what exactly does 'burnt' fluid smell like? Is the sweet smell 'burnt'?


Thanks for the picture .... and this is my take:
The smell is sweet ..... hence it's not 'burnt' smell , as 'burnt' smell is unpleasant to most people whose first reaction would be to keep sample at a certain distance apart.
Looking at the picture of brown colored oils as provided, and your comment oil on dipstick is dark but still reddish .........
the ATF is oxidised no doubt about it, but is still performing it's basic function ..... more so after D&F's ...........
this auto trans should be good to go.
JMHO blush

Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: lexsc430] #4077920 04/24/16 08:04 AM
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demarpaint Offline
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Maybe it's the monitor I have but even the fluid running down the side of the drain pan "looks" like spent oil to me. I would definitely do a line exchange or a few fluid extractions via the dipstick to try to get as much of that old spent fluid out.


God Bless Our Troops

Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: zeng] #4077932 04/24/16 08:21 AM
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pbm Offline
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Originally Posted By: zeng
Originally Posted By: lexsc430
When I checked the car before purchase, I only looked at the fluid on the dipstick, and it was dark, but still reddish. After I drained it, I realized how dark it actually was (see image).
It's dark brown. The smell is sweet.
How bad is it?
When people say 'burnt' smell, what exactly does 'burnt' fluid smell like? Is the sweet smell 'burnt'?


Thanks for the picture .... and this is my take:
The smell is sweet ..... hence it's not 'burnt' smell , as 'burnt' smell is unpleasant to most people whose first reaction would be to keep sample at a certain distance apart.
Looking at the picture of brown colored oils as provided, and your comment oil on dipstick is dark but still reddish .........
the ATF is oxidised no doubt about it, but is still performing it's basic function ..... more so after D&F's ...........
this auto trans should be good to go.
JMHO blush



I agree with Zeng....I'd get an oversized drain bolt (rather than change the whole pan which is pricey), change the filter and get another 100K out of that beauty....


'Journalism is Dead'
Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: zeng] #4077934 04/24/16 08:23 AM
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davison0976 Offline
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The sweet smell is just how some ATF fluids are. When I drained ATF from my G37 only after 6,000 miles since transmission was flushed with new fluid by dealer at 15,000 miles, the drained ATF had a sweet smell. In fact, it smelled like cherry soda.

I wouldn't worry too much about color at this point. Just refill with quality synthetic ATF that meets the spec and drive on. Not long ago in Blackstone's newsletter they showed an ATF UOA for a Toyota with 264K miles on it where ATF was never changed. The UOA showed on the order of 1,500ppm in iron wear and transmission was still in working order.

In your case the transmission was serviced at 70K. That's a big plus already.

Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: davison0976] #4077982 04/24/16 09:12 AM
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Leo99 Offline
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Originally Posted By: davison0976
The sweet smell is just how some ATF fluids are. When I drained ATF from my G37 only after 6,000 miles since transmission was flushed with new fluid by dealer at 15,000 miles, the drained ATF had a sweet smell. In fact, it smelled like cherry soda.

I wouldn't worry too much about color at this point. Just refill with quality synthetic ATF that meets the spec and drive on. Not long ago in Blackstone's newsletter they showed an ATF UOA for a Toyota with 264K miles on it where ATF was never changed. The UOA showed on the order of 1,500ppm in iron wear and transmission was still in working order.

In your case the transmission was serviced at 70K. That's a big plus already.


That Blackstone report is from my Rav4. My wife will be thrilled her Rav is "famous". The OP's fluid looks exactly like the ATF in my older Toyotas looked at 100k miles. I've put another 200k miles on the Rav with that ugly brown fluid. Truth be told, the Rav is at 299,500 miles today and it slips a little bit going from 1st to 2nd gear before it gets warmed up. I don't think it's going to make it to 400k miles.

Since that Blackstone report, I've pulled out 3 quarts of ATF and replaced with T-IV and half a bottle of Lubegard.


Last edited by Leo99; 04/24/16 09:13 AM.

Without data you're just another person with an opinion. W. E. Deming

2003 Corolla 250,000 miles (RIP)
2004 Corolla 125,000 miles
2004 Rav4 392,000 miles
2015 Camry 90,000 miles
Re: ATF brown color, smells sweet; Lexus 5pd SC430 [Re: lexsc430] #4077990 04/24/16 09:36 AM
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Noey Offline
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This is one of those threads that superficially seems to ask a mechanical question, but in fact, what you're after is reassurance.

Regardless of the quality of the ATF or the shift points (they're set up to get into high gear ASAP for fuel consumption and in a Lexus, "smoothness", or overall NVH), you;ve got what you;ve got. I'd suggest you flush and refill with correct amount and type of ATF and filter and be done with it. You can wring your hands and fret all you want over what might have happened or what it means, but it won't change anything.

Just as an aside, I always marvel at guys who buy used cars largely b/c they proudly claim they got such a "Great deal", only to discover to their dismay that maybe it wasn't such a great deal after all. Remember, if something is too good to be true...


"I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!"
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