Tag Archives: ATF

Valvoline Max Life ATF Works Great in 2002 Toyota Camry XLE

We are a Toyota family and most of our cars were bought either used or very used from private parties.  At any rate, a few years ago I bought a 2002 Toyota Camry XLE with a 4-Cylinder engine.  The other day my older daughter said it was making a funny noise in reverse so I checked the dipstick.  Wow.  Not only was it low but the ATF looked awful.  For comparison, the below photo with the brownish ATF on the white paper towel is on the left and brand new ATF is on the right.  Wow!!  (Yeah, I wrote wow twice because I was stunned.

So I told my daughter to ride with her sister in our old 92 Corolla and that I needed to work on their car.  First thing I did was to look at the fluid a couple of times – it was brownish but not black, no metal flakes and no bad smell.

In reading the manual, Toyota wrote that the transmission fluid should be good for the life of the car … right.  I guess it depends on how you view that, or at least how they view it.  I’m sure I checked the fluid when we got the car and it wasn’t this color but I’m not in a habit of checking it regularly unless I see drips or a puddle under a car or truck.

This car had almost 195,000 miles on it and we put about 50,000 of those miles on it.  I figured a change was past due.  So, before I did anything, I decided to do some reading first.

Picking Valvoline Max Life ATF

I knew there were a ton of different automatic transmission fluids (ATF) out there and that getting the right one was key.  The transmission was designed to use Toyota ATF T-IV and there are different brands that claim to meet the spec.  The problem is that the wrong one can cause headaches.  One particular formulation kept coming up as I read about what others used – Valvoline Max Life ATF:

Note in the next photo you can see that Valvoline says this can replace Toyota T-IV as well – it’s not just guys on the Internet.  By the way, if you feel uncomfortable with what I am saying, definitely do your own research and you’ll see tons of favorable posts about using this fluid.

Okay, so I bought two gallons of the above.  The automatic transmission in the car uses about 4.1 quarts.  I used a 10mm allen bit in my Onyx 3/8″ impact wrench and drained everything I could from the pan.  I then put the plug back in and added two quarts of fresh Max Life and let it run for about 30 seconds and shifted through the gears (I was up on 6 ton jack stands with rubber wheel chocks and the parking brake on).

I then removed the plug again and drained the fluid.  I then removed the return line, started the car for maybe 30 seconds if that – I turned it off when nothing else was coming out.  I then buttoned it all back up.

In  theory the transmission was empty.  I’ve had issues in the past where I assumed that was the case but it was not so I didn’t want to assume anything.  I added two quarts and moved it to a perfectly flat spot on my driveway.  I could just barely see a hint of ATF on the tip.  I added a bit more to get it short of the cold empty mark.

I don’t trust the cold measure on the dipstick.   With an automatic transmission it must be up to its operating temperature to get a good reading in the hot zone (the bottom mark is for cold is a ballpark – get it hot and then test as you absolutely do not want to overfill an automatic transmission).  As it gets hot the fluid expands hence my wanting to know at temperature where I was at.

How to Check the Automatic Transmission Fluid Level

Now, to check the ATF level, Toyota does not tell you in the operator’s manual and I frown on that.  With the car flat, let it idle (or drive it 10 miles if you have fluid in it – I had an unknown level so I didn’t want to get on the road) and let the engine and transmission come up to operating temperature (158-176F).  Then, with your foot on the brake, shift the gear selector from park through all the gears, stopping at each one and then back up.  With the car idling and the transmission in park, check the dipstick.

To make sure the engine and tranny were hot enough, I used my BAFX plug in OBD II probe that connects to the Torque app on my Android phone via Bluetooth.

I kept adding smaller and smaller amounts of ATF and moved the selector lever per the above before I would test the level again.  I got it close to full in the hot range and then stopped.  As mentioned, I did not want to go past full.  By the way, when you are reading a dipstick with during filling, you must wipe it off each time to get a good reading and you may find that you get a better view of the fluid level on one side or the other of the dipstick.

In case you are wondering, I did not do the transmission filter.  It would have taken a ton of time and I figured I would start with the fluid and see what happened.

The end result – it shifts beautifully.  I could not be happier — even my wife thinks it shifts smoother and feels better.   To wrap this up, I wrote this post in case one of you has questions about what transmission fluid is a good substitute for Toyota Type T-IV, and also how to properly check the automatic transmission fluid level.

6/1/2019 Update – Still no problems.  Our 1992 Corolla sprung a leak in the transmission fluid cooling line so I had to both install some fuel like to patch the corroded line plus I had to refill the transmission fluid.  That was about 2-300 miles ago and that is working fine too.  Bottom line,  I do think this fluid performs just fine in place of Toyota Type T-IV fluid.

9/10/2018 Update – The Camry XLE has been on a number of 200-400 mile highway road trips at highway speeds and shows no signs of shifting problems.  The family agrees the car shifts smoother.  I have now replaced the ATF in our 2004 Solara SLE and 1994 Corolla with Max Life ATF also and all are running well.  The Solara has close to a 1,000 miles on it now.  I’m very pleased with Max Life and will continue using it in my Toyotas.  By the way, I now use an EWK Fluid Evacuator for getting the ATF exactly where I want it.  Here’s the post about that tool.


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ATF letter stating you can build an AR pistol from a receiver transferred as such and never assembled as a rifle

Okay, I posted a couple of ATF letters and a guy sent me a message asking if I had the letter specifying that an AR pistol can be built from an AR receiver that was transferred as a receiver and never assembled as a rifle.  It just so happens I did save that one back when I built a couple of AR pistols a few years back.  I like to have the letters of anything someone may ask about and keep them in my case with the weapon when I take it shooting.  At any rate, here is the ATF letter in case anyone else needs it:

Please note that I am not a lawyer and this should not be construed as legal advice.


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The actual March 2017 ATF letter approving stabilizing braces has a section about customization you need to know about

Yes, I am late to the game on actually reading the March 2017 ATF letter clarifying the use of stabilizing braces.   It’s been on my to-do list for some time and I finally did.   I do think this is very helpful – notably:

With respect to stabilizing braces, ATF has concluded that attaching the brace to a handgun as a forearm brace does not “make” a short-barreled rifle because in the configuration as submitted to and approved by FATD, it is not intended to be and cannot comfortably be fired from the shoulder.

With that said, folks need to bear in mind  the very next paragraph:

If, however, the shooter/possessor takes affirmative steps to configure the device for use as a shoulder-stock – for example, configuring the brace so as to permanently affix it to the end of a buffer tube (thereby creating a length that has no other purpose that to facilitate its use as a stock), removing the arm-strap, or otherwise undermining its ability to be used as a brace – and then in fact shoots the firearm from the shoulder using the accessory as a stock, that person has objectively “redesigned” the firearm for purposes of the NFA.

So what this means is if you put a brace on a pistol, use it as-is.  Do not remove the Velcro straps, stick foam in the brace to make it solid, and/or attach the brace in such a way that it is permanently so long that it could not connect to the forearm.

I always recommend that people read guidance directly for themselves.  Here is a link to a PDF copy of the letter so you can do so: Reversal of Stabilizing Braces – ATF-letter – March 2017 — please note I changed the file name when I saved it but the content is all original.

All in all, I think this is a much needed clarification overall.  Just bear the customization clause in mind when you are building, or modifying, your weapons.

Yes, for the record, I do not like the fact that short-barreled rifles or shotguns need special regulation per the NFA but the braces do provide an option for folks. Also, please note that I am not a lawyer and this should not be construed as legal advice.


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ATF Opinion Letter on AR Pistols – Some Key Considerations

In this ATF letter, the author asked the ATF’s opinion on a number of great AR pistol related questions.  I am paraphrasing a few points I found important to help folks doing full text searches for opinions:

1) An AR lower receiver is neither pistol nor rifle until it is built the first time.  If you want to make a pistol, a lower receiver must *never* have been built in a rifle configuration.

2) AR pistols do not have a barrel length restriction.

3) AR handguards can be used on an AR pistol

4) An AR rifle and pistol can be in the same household — note, and this is a personal comment, what got a guy in trouble years ago was that he had only an AR rifle and a pistol upper with no lower to mount it on.  I don’t remember all of the details but the main thing here is that you never want it to look like the only reason you have a pistol/SBR upper is to put in on your AR that is legally classified as a rifle.

5)  Magpul angled fore grips (AFGs) are permissible on the bottom accessory/picatinny rail.

AR_Pistol_1AR_Pistol_2AR_Pistol_3

 

I recommend people print and keep copies of letters just in case they need to show someone that some aspect of a weapon was “approved” by the ATF at some point.  Just bear in mind that ATF letters are not absolutes but it helps to have them handy if asked.  A state or local government may have their own more restrictive regulations as well so this may not mean AFGs are legal for everyone everywhere.

Legal Disclaimer:  I am not an attorney and am not giving legal advice.  I am just passing this information along and it is up to you to determine what you can/can’t do.

ATF letter stating that the Magpul AFG is legal for use on AR pistols

Folks, here is an ATF letter saying that an angled foregrip (AFG), such as Magpul’s models, can be used on an AR pistol.  This is the first time someone shared a definitive letter with me vs. hearsay.

12/14/2014 Update:  Here are scanned images of two different ATF letters saying AFGs can be used on AR pistols because they are not considered vertical grips:

atf-afg

This is a second letter wherein they answer a number of good questions about AR pistols in general.  On page three is another comment that the AFG is allowed:

AR_Pistol_1 AR_Pistol_2 AR_Pistol_3

The reason this matters is that a vertical foregrip is not legal without first registering the pistol as an “any other weapon” or AOW.  I recommend people print and keep copies of letters just in case they need to show someone that some aspect of a weapon was “approved” by the ATF at some point.  Just bear in mind that ATF letters are not absolutes but it helps to have them handy if asked.  A state or local government may have their own more restrictive regulations as well so this may not mean AFGs are legal for everyone everywhere.

Legal Disclaimer:  I am not an attorney and am not giving legal advice.  I am just passing this information along and it is up to you to determine what you can/can’t do.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


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