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Highlander: After about 20 minutes of city driving my 2003

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After about 20 minutes of...
After about 20 minutes of city driving my 2003 Toyota Highlander with 250K miles won't shift higher than 3rd gear. Read a thread where it could be an O/D issue, haven't changed transmission fluid in ~100K miles.
Submitted: 2 years ago.Category: Toyota
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6/18/2015
Toyota Mechanic: Toyota Service, Toyota Expert replied 2 years ago
Toyota Service
Toyota Service, Toyota Expert
Category: Toyota
Satisfied Customers: 4,989
Experience: 30+ Yrs of auto experience, Award Winning Svc. Manager; Just Answer Customer's Choice Award Winner
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Hello. Welcome to Just Answer. Please allow me to assist you. More often than not, when we see a no OD condition, we usually find a thermostat that is not sealing properly. This allows the coolant to not be at the correct temperature. Toyota deliberately prevents the OD from happening when the coolant is below 177 degrees F. (this is to reduce exhaust emission on a cold engine if it was able to obtain OD). If your thermostat is sticking open, even just a bit, the coolant will drop below 177 degrees and the OD will not occur. Additionally, if the trans fluid has +100K miles, is is very old and very dirty, this too can cause the OD solenoid valve to stick. The recommendation I have for you is: Get the transmission flushed at a shop where they have a machine that will remove all of the fluid form the transaxle. Make sure they use the correct replacement ATF> (a Toyota dealer is the best choice for this job). The fluid needs to be changed; thsi is a good time to do it. I would also recommend replacement of the thermostat. Here, it is strongly advised that you use a genuine Toyota thermostat, as the non-Toyota thermostats do not have a special air-elimination valve.If you have any questions, please feel free to reply.Thanks for choosing Just Answer. It was a pleasure to assist you today. I trust my input to your request is satisfactory to you and meets your expectations. A positive rating would be greatly appreciated for my assistance on your inquiry. Thanks in advance and thank you again for choosing Just Answer
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Customer reply replied 2 years ago
How can I make sure that the thermostat is a genuine Toyota thermostat - will autozone-type stores have them?
Customer reply replied 2 years ago
Also is there a specific code that a "Snap On Verus" will spit out to confirm that this is in fact the issue? THANK YOU!!
Customer reply replied 2 years ago
And lastly what exactly is the "correct replacement ATF"??
Toyota Mechanic: Toyota Service, Toyota Expert replied 2 years ago
You buy the thermostat at a Tiyita dealership parts dept. No specific codes on this. You need a scan tool that will display the engine coolant temperature in real time. I am not certain of the Solus does this or not. the correct replacement ATF is : Toyota Type T-IV. If you yse Dexron or a non-Toyota fluid during the flush, this can and will cause transmission problems.
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Toyota Mechanic: Toyota Service, Toyota Expert replied 2 years ago
Typo correction: If you Use Dexron or a non-Toyota fluid this can and will cause transmission problems.
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Customer reply replied 2 years ago
The guys at this local shop says there is a P0330 knock sensor code problem because my check engine light is also on. Will this have an effect?
Customer reply replied 2 years ago
Also do I need to replace the thermostat the same time I replace the fluid? Or can the thermostat be handled later?
Toyota Mechanic: Toyota Service, Toyota Expert replied 2 years ago
Some Toyota products will not allow the OD to happen when the Check Engine Light is on. I am pretty sure this car is not one of them. I would get the P0330 code addressed. This can cause you problems down the road. Let unattended, it may cause damage to the catalytic converter by the Knock sensor not working properly. You can do the flush first and the thermostat later. They do not need to be simultaneous.
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Customer reply replied 2 years ago
Got the ATF replaced yesterday and after a half day driving the car there are no noticeable improvements to the car being able to shift up to fourth (is that normal?) - when the thermostat is replaced, what are the chances that it will fix the problem?
Toyota Mechanic: Toyota Service, Toyota Expert replied 2 years ago
Did you have the atf replaced or flushed? Also, where is the temp gauge reading after warmed up?
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Customer reply replied 2 years ago
So the temp gauge is perfectly normal - and yes it was flushed.
Toyota Mechanic: Toyota Service, Toyota Expert replied 2 years ago
Did you have the transmission flushed or just drained & refilled?
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Customer reply replied 2 years ago
I don't personally know the difference but the mechanic was confident that it was flushed. Update 3 days after flush: it still goes into 4th and higher after car as been sitting but the time it takes to stop shifting up passed 3rd has decreased. Transmission is still functioning properly between gears 1-3. Still looking for solution- haven't gotten temp sensor replaced yet (how will that help?) and what's next for troubleshooting?
Toyota Mechanic: Toyota Service, Toyota Expert replied 2 years ago
I would have the transmission flushed again, and this time have them add a can of transmission fluid conditioner during the flush process. Since is is working a bit better, you probably have sticking valves in the valve body of the transaxle. The conditioner will help this out. Make sure you tell them you want the conditioner added.
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