Here's how to change your transaxle, radiator fluid. - Toyota Prius Forum : Prius Online Toyota Forums
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-08-2008, 12:28 PM Thread Starter
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Default Here's how to change your transaxle, radiator fluid.

I spent several days trying to figure out how to change the engine coolant and transaxle oil on our 2002 Prius. I've yet to receive a shop manual,but I figured that something as rudimentary as this would've surely had some decent instructions online somewhere. There were a few vague web sites, but nothing concrete.

So... Here's how you can do it ( for the classic Prius anyway)

Transaxle: It holds 5 quarts of Toyota T-IV transmission oil. I bought 6 because since you have to pump it into the transaxle case just like you would on a manual transmission, you will likely spill some, so its good to have extra.

Secondly, I bought a small transfer pump. I usually get the cheap-o disposable units for my Tacoma since I only change it every 100k or so, but these always leak and are a real mess. I got a better unit that had double the transfer capacity. I could transfer each quart in about 1 minute.

Now for getting the oil out. Using some of those drive-up ramps, slowly drive up onto them. I don't have a full ramp that would elevate the entire car, but that's ok since the transaxle has the plug at the rear of the pan, hence all the fluid will drain out at a back-leaning tilt- a clever fore site by the engineers. The transaxle is to the right side of the engine, if you were facing the front of the car. The drain plug is on the pan underneath, the fill plug on the front of the transaxle case. You will need to remove the front protective splash guard under the engine. Actually, it is in two pieces so you only need to remove the right side. It is simply held on with Phillips machine screws. Remove this and you will have access to both the fill plug as well as the radiator drain **** which we'll get to later.

Using a 24 MM wrench, lossen the TOP fill cap to the transaxle. No big deal if you don't, but there is back pressure within the case, so it is best to let the vacuum escape by loosening the fill plug first. Then loosen the drain bolt and let it drain. Surprisingly, the oil in this one was pretty durn clean. But it has 53,000 miles on it, so out it goes.

With that done, replace the drain plug, remove the fill plug and insert the end of the pump hose far enough into the opening as to not allow fluid to splash out. Then fill it up with the 5 quarts of oil. As expected, I spilled some, so I added a smidgen more from a 6th bottle. With the car up on ramps, the reading from the transaxle will not be level. But that's ok. We'll address that in a bit.

Radiator:

I read a lot about what differences there are between Toyota and other brands of coolant. Not much other than that Toyota claims their's is silicate-free. That and it is pink. Under normal circumstances I'd say screw it and be off to buy a gallon of Prestone long life coolant, which has worked dandy in my 210,000 mile Tacoma. But being a newer vehicle, I bit the bullet and bought the real Toyota stuff. I bought 2 gallons of pre-mixed Toyota SLL coolant. The stuff is twice as much as typical coolant. I usually keep an extra on hand because all cars tend to go through a little coolant over time.You will need to take the car off the ramps in order to drain all the coolant,but before you do that, look underneath the front of the radiator to your right facing the front of the car. You'll see what looks like a white plastic wing nut. That's the radiator draincock.Take the car down. Making sure that the engine is cool, remove the radiator cap and unscrew the draincock. The draincock is simply hand screwed in, so no tools required. The coolant will immediately shoot out, so make sure you have a large pan to collect it. The stuff will kill pets, so avoid spilling it and make sure the dogs/cats aren't hanging out while you do this.

The coolant on this Prius came out quickly initially, but then sat there and dribbled for about 30-40 minutes. It doesn't hold much, but I wanted to get all of the old 6 year old coolant out. I then usually get the hose and give it 2-3 short bursts of water through the filler neck. That will loosen/dislodge debris from the block/radiator. Make sure all the hose water drains out as it has minerals and other stuff in it.

Now fill the radiator with coolant. I also remove the reservoir tank and clean it out. After filling the radiator, fill the overflow tank. The cooling system will gradually 'burp' out air, so it doesn't hurt to add additional coolant to the reservoir tank to anticipate this. I had maybe a quart left of the gallon, so I put what remained in the trunk. When I drive it to work, the air will likely come out of the coolant system, therefore I can put the rest into the reservoir and it will be done.

Lastly- checking the level of the transaxle. Remember that?Well now that the car is on level ground,we can check it accurately. Anyway, place a pan under it, pull the FILL plug, and see if any fluid drains out. Mine did just a bit. When it stops draining,then you know at that point that the transaxle fill is now level.

That's it! Anyhow, after my experience yesterday, I find that for the engine oil, plugs, transaxle, radiator coolant, and air filter, it isn't all that different from a normal car and hence perfectly capable of being serviced by the average DIYer. Hope that helped.[attachment=0:2ozknucz]drip_drip.jpg[/attachment:2ozknucz]
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File Type: jpg transaxle_drain.jpg (46.4 KB, 595 views)
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-08-2008, 03:29 PM Thread Starter
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Default Re: Here's how to change your transaxle, radiator fluid.

please read the followup post below.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-08-2008, 04:51 PM
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Default Re: Here's how to change your transaxle, radiator fluid.

Bob,
You give clear and concise directions. I used to do a lot of my own vehicle servicing, especially when I was putting on a lot of miles. Now I find it is just easier to let the professionals do it, but I do sometimes miss the tinkering.
I hope some others here are able to avail themselves of your well thought out instructions.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-08-2008, 05:45 PM Thread Starter
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Default Re: Here's how to change your transaxle, radiator fluid.

I just spoke with a Toyota tech. My concern was that since this car has a sort of Thermos bottle container, there would be some air pocket problems, and hence I would need to perform a bleeding procedure. However, after speaking with him, this car-which again is the classic prius- can have the radiator fluid changed just like a regular car and therefor, any air trapped in the engine block will eventually come out. The only thing that I should've done was to pull the engine block drain as well. That said, I did this on my Tacoma with a 2.7 liter engine versus the Prius 1.5 and there was a negligible amount of coolant in it, thus once the old remaining fluid mixes with the new, the differences will not be that big of a deal I'd imagine. Either way, it wasn't that hard to do. Just as easy as my Tacoma which I've always hailed as the epitome of simplicity and ease of repair.

There seems to be very little, if any repair procedures online for these cars. Hopefully this will help a few.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-09-2008, 12:52 AM
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Default Re: Here's how to change your transaxle, radiator fluid.

"...The only thing that I should've done was to pull the engine block drain as well."

I was just about to mention that. Your fluid change was not thorough.

The 2001-2003 Prius has no thermos bottle.

The coolant loop for the inverters and electrical motors should be serviced on the same interval. There are instructions posted on various ways to insure complete air bleeding.

I disagree somewhat with an earlier post in this thread. The transaxle fluid should certainly be replaced on intervals shorter than Toyota suggests, which is in the US (according to some sources) never. However…

Engine oil can be 10-12k miles if you use products of the highest quality. Brake fluid is simply not thermally stressed in this vehicle, and other than absorption of water from the air, it might last indefinitely.

Reports on coolant lifetime are mixed. I suggest that 30k for LLC and 50k for SLLC are both very conservative. OTOH, at least one person reported some sort of gunk or gel in the inverter coolant passages, which did not sound good. But we have no way to confirm that only the correct fluid was used in that case.

Wiper fluid life is about what you’d expect with any other car

DAS
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-09-2008, 12:25 PM Thread Starter
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Default Re: Here's how to change your transaxle, radiator fluid.

I agree, the radiator change was perhaps not as thorough as it could have been, but since the system holds a gallon of coolant and I only had slightly less than a quart left, then 80% of the coolant is now new, and perhaps more since I actually filled the system with water and let is cycle through and flush the system as you would on any other car.Now that I've learned that the water pump and engine block are the same as a regular engine, I'll use a flush agent next time. But next time I will pull the plug on the block. On the other hand, my Mom has a 98' Toyota Avalon with 210,000 miles on the engine. I visited recently and changed it for her, which believe it or not was the first time it had ever been changed. I'm not saying that was a good thing, but surprisingly the coolant was still clean and when I shined a flashlight into the radiator, it at least looked clean with no corrosion. Even on my Tacoma, I tend to change the conventional coolant maybe every 60-70k and with 220,000 miles on it, the coolant system is still very clean. I changed the water pump a year ago and all of the surfaces inside had no corrosion or scale. Modern cars simply have far less electrolytic corrosion due to improved technology in metallurgy. In contrast, I have a 1955 Mercury that I change the coolant in every 2 years and the coolant always has some rust in it. That's not to say that you should neglect this, but I'd be curious to know exactly how long modern coolants last. The bigger concern is about the increased corrosive properties it gets with age as it reacts with the metals in the system. But so far, all 5 cars that I work on for me, my wife, and my parents have never showed signs of internal corrosion or even mild discoloration. The only time I had problem was when I put GM dexcool in my truck. It for some reason created a lot of scale that took several flushes to remove. I've had no problem with any other brand.

In regards to the transaxle oil, well I've heard opinions about this that are all over the place. Some say that it should be changed as frequently as every 15,000 miles. Others say 50k, and some even say 100k or more. I tend to be in the sooner is better camp. The procedure for changing it was as easy as changing engine oil, so if 15k is what's recommended by one of the few mechanics I've met who seems to know how to repair these, then 15k it'll be. Its easy enough and doesn't cost much either.

Engine oil... well I'm old fashioned when it comes to this. I change it every 3,000 miles. The primary reason is that engine oil absorbs the acids within the crank case. This has been reduced by improved EVAP systems, but still- if you open the drain cap of any car and peer under it, if you see carbon deposits, that means the oil hasn't been changed frequently enough. Using my Mom's car again as an example, she changed the oil when she remembered... maybe every 5-10,000 miles. Looking under the cap and into the engine, it was filthy. On the other hand, I've changed mine every 3k. looking inside the oil fill hole shows a nice, clean set of valve lifters. The cap underneath is clean. The engine still has perfect compression. I've always run cheap Fram oil filters and plain ole' Valveoline oil.I've Never had a problem. Changing the oil on this car is very easy and it only holds 3.5 quarts. So I figure a 3,000 mile interval will be sufficient if not better. Perhaps since the engine on it runs less, perhaps a 4-5k interval would suffice.

As for the inverter, well as much as I'd like to do it myself, you need to have a vacuum lift kit which I don't have in order to get all the air out. I've looked at pictures of these being taken apart and there's no way I can imagine that conventional bleeding would enable all the air to escape. So for $70 or so, the shop I know will do it for me.

Anyhow, I've only been working on the car for a week. As mentioned, the maintenance so far hasn't been what I'd call all that different from conventional cars. Yet there was very little if any info on how to do this online and of what I did read, it seems like the majority of those who own them take them in for all the maintenance. To me, part of what owning a car like this is supposed to be about it saving money. If you have to take it in every 30k to have $400 worth of work done on it, then that will subtract from the overall cost savings of driving it. So I hope that in the future, more information regarding how to do regular maintenance will be out there. I intend to learn more about it and will post my results here.
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