Switch to synthetic automatic transmission fluid? - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 04-11-2014, 12:26 AM   #1
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Switch to synthetic automatic transmission fluid?

Most tow vehicles have an original equipment or aftermarket automatic transmission fluid cooler, and presumably most of them do an adequate job of cooling.

As is often stated on this forum, the first protections are to not use overdrive while towing, and to avoid any situation where the AT makes excessive, heat-producing shifts while "searching" for the right gear.

Is it possible to gain more protection against overheated AT fluid and excess transmission wear when towing, especially in summer heat, by replacing a tow vehicle's conventional automatic transmission fluid with synthetic fluid?

Amsoil, for one brand, has a highly informative website about (of course) the advantages of synthetic lubricants for engines, transmissions, and all other geared components.

The site includes a feature ("I need products for") that allows you to enter your specific vehicle and get a thorough summary of the type and volume of synthetic lubricants you would need should you decide to change over.
AMSOIL - Synthetic Oil, Motor and Engine Oil, Lubricants, Air Filters, Oil Filters and Greases

Is anyone using synthetic AT fluid for towing? If so, are any advantages apparent?
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Old 04-11-2014, 12:48 AM   #2
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I'm inclined to believe that whatever transmission fluid Toyota puts in my vehicle is adequate for the job.
I did cause the transmission warning light to come on once ( being stupid ), but when it came time to replace the fluid, the Toyota shop made no comment on the condition of the old fluid.
I tend to believe that they would have brought it to my attention, given their attention to detail, which generally translates into more dollars for them.
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Old 04-11-2014, 03:06 AM   #3
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Synthetic fluids are superior in lubricating. They do cost more, but you do make up some of the cost with improved economy. Once you switch to synthetic, you should stay with it, as switching back can cause issues.
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Old 04-11-2014, 09:44 AM   #4
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When our Tacoma hit 30K, the manual recommended changing all the transmission and gear lube if the vehicle had been used extensively for towing. I usually have my routine service done at the dealer, but when I added up their charges for the 30K service I went into shock. Instead, I had it all replaced with synthetic by my non-dealer mechanic. Even using the synthetic he charged me about 1/2 of the amount Toyota wanted using non-synthetic.

BTW my non Toyota mechanic and the dealer shop said that they thought it was overkill to do the replacement that soon, but I considered it to be relatively cheap insurance.
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Old 04-11-2014, 10:41 AM   #5
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transmission fluid

I may tend to overdo a number of things, maybe due to my aircraft back ground, mechanic as well as a pilot. I took my jeep in to the dealer at 8000 miles and let them do the 2nd oil change and a transmission flush. The mechanic thought the service writer was trying to rip me off. My thought was that if the manufacturing and assembly process left anything, I wanted it out of the trans since that is one expensive item to fix and the oil is relatively cheap. At 30,000 miles I again did the full service including the trans and this past month I had a full 60,000 mile service which included change ALL LIQUIDS except radiator. The bill was $1300 and I hope to see 90,000 miles and then sell for top dollar because of condition and care even if half of the mileage is towing close to 4000#. Also I hope I never use my good sam towing service. I do bring my own Mobil 1 oil to the dealer if I let them change the engine oil, but I let them use their own liquids for everything else.
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Old 04-11-2014, 12:22 PM   #6
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I use synthetic oil & transmission fluids in my RAV4, changing the oil at around 4,000 miles & the transmission fluid every 30,000 miles. I figure the RAV4 is working pretty hard towing the 17, and have seen transmission temperatures as high as 245F on a long uphill tow, so I figure it is worth the early changes.
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Old 04-11-2014, 12:38 PM   #7
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Check your owners manual as your 2011 4R should have Toyota's WS ATF fluid which supposedly is a synthetic fluid. Lots of chatter regarding this fluid on the internet. I tow with a 08 Sienna and do a drain and fill once a year with the WS fluid.
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Old 04-11-2014, 03:35 PM   #8
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My '07 Tacoma doesn't even have a dipstick for the transmission fluid. They recommend 100,000 miles before fluid change. I couldn't wait that long. I change mine at 80,000 miles.
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Old 04-11-2014, 04:09 PM   #9
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I generally prefer synthetic lubricants, but as A&B pointed out, factory-original fluids are now commonly synthetic already. Also, in automatic transmissions (more so than in engine oil) having the very specific right fluid is more important than whether or not it is synthetic. I would certainly check carefully before changing just to get a different fluid type.

I had the transmission fluid in our tug (a Toyota Sienna) changed as recommended (once, at something like 100,000 km), replacing it with the correct genuine Toyota fluid. The original fluid condition was fine.
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Old 04-11-2014, 06:29 PM   #10
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It's hard to go wrong with synthetic lubricants, other than the higher cost. I use them whenever I can. I've always preached following manufacturer's recommendations and industry standards.
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