www.popularmechanics.com has several articles on basic car repair and
maintenance, and www.toyotanation.com has Toyota-specific information
and news groups. But try to get a genuine Toyota factory manual for a
1998-2002 Corolla since nothing else is as easy to understand. The
next best source would be a Chevy/Geo Prizm factory manual (same car),
followed by a Mitchell manual. Other publications are markedly
inferior and may provide incorrect or only generic information for
certain procedures, but www.autozone.com has some online for several
You'll need to know how to read the transmission fluid level correctly
because it's essential to fill the transmission accurately to prevent
damage. Be sure the car is parked on a completely horizontal surface.
But unlike with an engine, you can't simply pull out the dip stick to
check the fluid level but instead you have to run the engine and slowly
shift through all the gears and end back in Park (all while the parking
brake is firmly set and your foot is pressing on the brake pedal, of
course). Then, while the engine is still running, read the dip stick.
Wipe off and reinsert the stick as many times as needed to remove
splashed fluid and get a good reading.
Toyotas transmissions I've seen had a drain plug, and if yours does,
simply remove it and drain and refill the transmission. That may not
be the most thorough way to change the fluid, but you're less likely to
get in trouble this way. Be careful not to confuse this drain plug
with the engine's. Some of these drain plugs require a hex or Torx
wrench instead of the usual socket wrench.
You'll need a clean funnel that will fit into the transmission dip
stick tube. A kitchen funnel may do, but auto parts stores sell long
ones that can reach into tight spaces and may fit better (or not).
Also you want a completely empty container in which to drain the old
fluid so you'll know exactly how much fluid drained out because
initially you'll want to put back the same amount of fluid that came
out of the transmission. probably just 2-3 quarts. Verify the fluid
level as described before, and add only a half pint at a time, shifting
through all the gears each time, until the level is correct. If you
overfill, even slightly, drain the excess and check the level again.
Buy the correct type of fluid. I don't know if you need Toyota type T
or T-4 or can use Dexron III, but don't second guess on this, and don't
take the advice of any clerk at a discount auto parts store.
Transmissions are easy to wreck with the wrong fluid, and even the most
expensive correct fluid is far cheaper than a new transmission. Don't
buy synthetic fluid.
Count the number of shifts when you accelerate moderately from 0-60 MPH
without letting up on the pedal. 3 shifts means a 4-speed. If you
have an overdrive (OD) button on the shifter (button is probably
lighted, do not confuse this with the shifter lock button on the side
of the shifter knob), then you have a 4-speed. I believe Toyota still
used the 3-speed A131L speed in 1999 and that its oil pan had 15 bolts,
with a U- or blunted V-shaped indentation surrounding the drain plug.
I would expect the pan of the 4-speed to have more bolts (the 4-speed
A240L, which is probably not what Toyota used in the 1999 Corolla, had
17 or 18 bolts, and the indentation around its drain plug was a
circle). Amazingly, Wikipedia had Toyota transmission information:
===================================The engine oil I use has "ounce" markings on a translucent strip on the
side, so I pour the drained transmission fluid into the empty oil
bottles filling them to an even number of ounces, then use a measuring
cup to add back the same amount when re filling the automatic
When checking the final level, the fluid needs to be "hot." That is,
normal operating temperature, typically driven at least ten miles
before the final check, but not idled in city traffic on a hot day with
the air conditioning on, or driven at continuous high speed, just fully
warmed up to normal operating temperature.
Because the fluid expands when heated, if you fill it when not fully
heated, it will be over filled at operating temperatures.
Sometimes, the drain plug is hot to remove by hand. If you get a small
telescoping magnet, and let the fluid drain over night (more drains out
that way) you can retrieve the drain plug with the magnet easily when
the fluid has cooled.
You'll most likely need a 10mm Allen head socket, and it's helpful to
have a 3/8 to 1/2" converter bit so you can easily apply the extra
torque with a larger wrench when removing the drain bolt.
It is best to use a new aluminum gasket when reinstalling.
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