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Old 03-12-2011, 06:18 PM   #1
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Did Castrol Synthetic Ruin My Toyota?

Yesterday, I went outside to change the oil of my recently purchased 2004 Corolla LE for the first time. From what I could read off of the sticker from the last oil change, the next scheduled interval was supposed to have happen at 85,000 miles, whereas by the time that I got it, I changed the oil at 93,000, utilizing Castrol's 5w30 Full Synthetic.
As per usual routine, I had drained the oil until the pan was completely empty, followed by installing a new Fram oil filter, prior to refilling the crank case with 4quarts of new synthetic motor oil. That's when I first noticed that something weird appeared to be happening.

Just when I had filled the crank case up to about 2.5 quarts, the dipstick appeared to have read as "FULL". This confounded me, due to that fact that the manufacture specs for a 2004 Corolla indicates that the car takes 3.7 quarts of oil. I'd even confirmed this by information off of the internet along with calling several auto parts stores to be certain. In addition, I was told to run the engine for a couple of minutes, before adding more oil. At this point, I had added another 1/2 quart of oil, ran the engine, and then added in the remaining last quart. From this point onward, everything appeared to be functioning normally.

I work 3rd shift, so later, I took my car to work, which is about a 45 minutes drive each way without any incident. The next day as I was leaving work, I noticed that the car appeared to be running a little sluggish. At this point, I had driven roughly the length of three houses from work, when I'd notice the needle from the RPM gauge hovered slightly as I was on the accelerator. The other thing that I'd noticed, was that the car was not getting the usual amount of power that I would expect, for the amount of pedal that I was applying on the accelerator.

Eventually, everything appeared to level off, and the car began to operate normally, until about 1.5 miles later. That's when the car appeared to become sluggish again, at which point, I decided to turn the car around towards work. Shortly after wards, the "check engine" light came on, whereas I immediately pulled over to the shoulder and turned the car off. I then popped the hood, checked the dipstick, whereas the level still read as full. I then got back in the car and turned the engine over, just before looking at the end of the tail pipe. The car turned over fine without any struggle, knocks or hesitation, whereas there wasn't any ominous smoke coming out of the tailpipe. Like before, the needle on the RPM gauge, did hover up ever so slightly; but not past 1000 RPM's, before leveling off again.

Given the circumstance, I had to pull the car further over to the shoulder. So then, I tried to put the car in drive and pressed down slightly onto the accelerator and that's when the car behaved as though it was set into neutral. Simply put, the car would not move, despite the fact that the engine engaged normally, and with the exception, that the "Check Engine" light was on. The car only moved when I had half of the pedal down, with the RPM gauge reading at about 4-5000 RPM's. In addition to checking for leaks on the ground, I once again checked the tailpipe for any smoke. There was no smoke coming out , nor any leaks on the ground. Finally, I had a co-worker pick me, and had the car towed to the nearest garage. At this point, I won't know what's wrong until Monday. Any theories out there?
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Old 03-12-2011, 07:06 PM   #2
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Re: Did Castrol Synthetic Ruin My Toyota?

My guess is a transmission failure, unrelated to the oil change. You've changed oil before, so you'd know if you accidentally drained your transmission, right? That bit about adding 2.5 qts of oil & seeing full on the dipstick concerns me a little, but might be normal.
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Old 03-12-2011, 11:31 PM   #3
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Re: Did Castrol Synthetic Ruin My Toyota?

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Originally Posted by SentraSE-R View Post
My guess is a transmission failure, unrelated to the oil change. You've changed oil before, so you'd know if you accidentally drained your transmission, right? That bit about adding 2.5 qts of oil & seeing full on the dipstick concerns me a little, but might be normal.
On my FJ cruiser, I was looking under the car and while I wasn't changing the oil, I could see how one could confuse the drain plug for the engine and for the transmission. It's very possible OP drained the wrong part. I have no idea, OP needs to check his transmission fluid asap.
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Old 03-13-2011, 12:41 AM   #4
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Re: Did Castrol Synthetic Ruin My Toyota?

Three 45 minute drives on no tranny oil without major malfunction? I doubt it. I don't think you'd make it 10 miles on no transmission fluid. Additionally, this is an auto. Which pretty much guarantees red fluid, as opposed to brown. It would be hard to mistake even very dirty (not likely at 85k 2004 anyway) tranny fluid for oil.
Further, even 1/2 a quart extra would show way over full. 4 quarts extra probably wouldn't even fit in the crankcase. There'd be oil spewing out of the dipstick, among other places.


So, the oil change is very likely unrelated. At least the oil part of it anyway.
I'd say transmission failure is very likely. Perhaps not complete failure, maybe a solenoid or something. I used to own a Sierra pickup, auto. I pulled the pan to do an oil change in the tranny one day. The exhaust pipe runs just below it. Apparently the mechanics said you were supposed to use a small "jack" or pry bar to hold the exhaust down while you pulled the pan. I didn't, and damaged a solenoid. The truck wouldn't leave 3rd or 4th. It was a big motor, so it wasn't hard to get it to go in 3rd or 4th gear. However, if this was the case with your car, it would be a big strain on the motor just to move. After you got above say 30 mph, it would seem normal. Then you'd brake at a stoplight, try and take off, and it would feel broken again.
The "limp home mode" comes into effect and gives you any gears that will work so you can drive it to the nearest shop.
Let's assume that you lost 1st gear, maybe second too. (the sierra had two solenoids, one for two gears) Then, you'd be trying to move from 3rd gear. Try that in a manual and you know how hard it is on the clutch. It would let the rpm get to 4k before the car moved. It would be much worse on a hill.
Assuming this is a 4 speed, you'd have very little torque in this scenario. If it's a 3 speed, you'd have even less torque.

That's my guess, anyway. Let us know how you make out..
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Old 03-13-2011, 03:43 AM   #5
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Re: Did Castrol Synthetic Ruin My Toyota?

For all involved, I just want to say thank you, and to assure everyone that it was without a doubt oil that was drained out of the pan. To alleviate any doubt, I had oil on hands from the drain plug, as well as a small spill on the ground. Plus, I'm very familiar with the smell of tranny fluid, along with its red tinged color as mentioned earlier. What I can't understand, is how incidential this appears to be.
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Old 03-13-2011, 03:57 AM   #6
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Re: Did Castrol Synthetic Ruin My Toyota?

Alright, let's presume that it is the tranny for a moment. What would be worst case scenario as well as a possible repair cost. Just remember everyone, I'm just looking for a ball park scenario.
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Old 03-13-2011, 07:45 AM   #7
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Re: Did Castrol Synthetic Ruin My Toyota?

Quote:
Originally Posted by benfrogg View Post
Three 45 minute drives on no tranny oil without major malfunction? I doubt it. I don't think you'd make it 10 miles on no transmission fluid. Additionally, this is an auto. Which pretty much guarantees red fluid, as opposed to brown. It would be hard to mistake even very dirty (not likely at 85k 2004 anyway) tranny fluid for oil.
Further, even 1/2 a quart extra would show way over full. 4 quarts extra probably wouldn't even fit in the crankcase. There'd be oil spewing out of the dipstick, among other places.


So, the oil change is very likely unrelated. At least the oil part of it anyway.
I'd say transmission failure is very likely. Perhaps not complete failure, maybe a solenoid or something. I used to own a Sierra pickup, auto. I pulled the pan to do an oil change in the tranny one day. The exhaust pipe runs just below it. Apparently the mechanics said you were supposed to use a small "jack" or pry bar to hold the exhaust down while you pulled the pan. I didn't, and damaged a solenoid. The truck wouldn't leave 3rd or 4th. It was a big motor, so it wasn't hard to get it to go in 3rd or 4th gear. However, if this was the case with your car, it would be a big strain on the motor just to move. After you got above say 30 mph, it would seem normal. Then you'd brake at a stoplight, try and take off, and it would feel broken again.
The "limp home mode" comes into effect and gives you any gears that will work so you can drive it to the nearest shop.
Let's assume that you lost 1st gear, maybe second too. (the sierra had two solenoids, one for two gears) Then, you'd be trying to move from 3rd gear. Try that in a manual and you know how hard it is on the clutch. It would let the rpm get to 4k before the car moved. It would be much worse on a hill.
Assuming this is a 4 speed, you'd have very little torque in this scenario. If it's a 3 speed, you'd have even less torque.

That's my guess, anyway. Let us know how you make out..
B
No unfortunately, it's an automatic.
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Old 03-13-2011, 07:59 AM   #8
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Re: Did Castrol Synthetic Ruin My Toyota?

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Originally Posted by SentraSE-R View Post
My guess is a transmission failure, unrelated to the oil change. You've changed oil before, so you'd know if you accidentally drained your transmission, right? That bit about adding 2.5 qts of oil & seeing full on the dipstick concerns me a little, but might be normal.
Yes sir, I've been changing my own oil for well over a decade now. Also, as well I'm sure you already know, the smell of tranny fluid has very distinct odor, seperate from oil. I even had to clean the oil off of my hands. Initially, I saw this whole process as a "business as usual oil chainge" unlike any other car that I've worked on int the past; but afterwards, I was starting to second guess myself, whereby thinking that there was something quirky about Toyota's that I should have perhaps known ahead of time.
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Old 03-13-2011, 08:12 AM   #9
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Re: Did Castrol Synthetic Ruin My Toyota?

How does the transmission fluid look and smell? Red or brown/burned?

You may be able to find another transmission on car-part.com Installation would probably be around $400-$600.

Hopefully it is just a $200 solenoid.
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Old 03-13-2011, 09:40 AM   #10
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Re: Did Castrol Synthetic Ruin My Toyota?

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Originally Posted by Erik View Post
How does the transmission fluid look and smell? Red or brown/burned?

You may be able to find another transmission on car-part.com Installation would probably be around $400-$600.

Hopefully it is just a $200 solenoid.
I did not have a change to check it, so I can't tell you what it looks or smells like presently. At any rate, it got towed to the repair shop, which was convieinently located close to my work. Hopefully you're right in that is a cheap fix. I should know by Monday, and If not, I appreciate the link.

Also I was wondering, can you get reliable used transmission from a bone yard? If so, then the prices from this site are ranging around $300 at 38,000 miles.
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