daytonaer
daytonaer HalfDork
1/12/22 9:06 p.m.

My wife's lexus LS460 shifts funny, it seems to flare or slip occasionally on what I think is the 3-4 shift. I have changed the fluid with WS spec, synthetic and then WS approved, I have had a lexus master tech check the level and test drive and he seems to think it is fine. I want to check the level to be sure it is not a little low. Lexus forums alter in advice from "DON't TOUCH IT, toyota designed it to never need service" , to "they all slip, just ignore it."

 

Where I am running into trouble is I need to level the car (step 1) so I can get the transmission up to temp then open the overflow.  There is no stupid dipstick and I can't fit under the car with it sitting on all 4 wheels. 

 

I do not have a lift.  I am attempting to use jack stands etc.  My big hurdle is I can't seem to figure out where to check on the car a spot to see if I am nose down or nose up or level.

 

The pinch weld/jack points on the front are crushed, the underbody has plastic insulated sound/aero panels everywhere. If I just use the pinchwelds for jackstands the rear will be 3/4: higher than the front. The door jams seem angled, there is plastic body cladding on the rockers. 

 

If I measure the frame attachment point above the front k-frame I am showing about 3-5 degrees nose up, if I measure the transmission bottom flange (where the pan bolts to, not the pan bottom) I am showing 3-5 degrees nose down. It seems everywhere I measure contradicts somewhere else. I do know the car was in a small accident so it is possibly not straight. 

 

I'm taking a break now, I plan to simply slightly over fill the trans and see how it does.  Maybe the drivers floor/foot area is supposed to be level? perhaps the trunk floor? I'm not going to pull the plastic rocker cladding to check the pinch welds underneath.  I had thought this slight variance wouldn't matter but I think the trans is getting worse, my hope is it is just low in fluid, I just can't seem to check it!

 

Thanks

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
1/12/22 9:16 p.m.
daytonaer said:

My big hurdle is I can't seem to figure out where to check on the car a spot to see if I am nose down or nose up or level.

1. Jack up the car and place on jack stands.  
2. get a level like this:

3. place level on the side window sill above the door handle (looks to be a horizontal plane.)
4. adjust jack stand height or jacking locations to get close to level.  

Slippery
Slippery UberDork
1/12/22 9:17 p.m.

2x4 from the center of the front wheel to center of rear wheel and sit a level on top of it?

or just place the level on the floor to see if its level. 

I mean how level do you have to be? There has to be some tolerance allowance. 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
1/12/22 9:21 p.m.

Another way...

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) UltimaDork
1/12/22 9:25 p.m.

Measure from the top of each wheel well to the garage floor, then jack it up until you have the same dimensions plus "X", where "X" is enough to allow you to get under the car.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
1/12/22 9:44 p.m.
John Welsh said:

Another way...

This or wheel cribs.  Yup.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
1/12/22 9:54 p.m.
Slippery said:

2x4 from the center of the front wheel to center of rear wheel and sit a level on top of it?

or just place the level on the floor to see if its level. 

I mean how level do you have to be? There has to be some tolerance allowance. 

That won't work because we have no idea how far the front suspension droops compared to the rear.

Using the window sill won't work either... they aren't necessarily flat.

Just find something on the car that is level while it's sitting on level ground; a pinchweld, a sunroof, whatever and then re-check level while it's in the air and adjust.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
1/12/22 9:57 p.m.

We're also splitting hairs here.  The transmission can operate over a range of fill levels.  If it gets too low, it will start sucking air as it pumps all the fluid through the transmission, but if you're a tablespoon over or under it won't matter a hill of beans. You have to be pretty darn low to cause trouble.  Plus, if the problem were low fluid, it wouldn't only be a 3-4 flare, it would be all over the place.

Think about it, a shop would put it on a lift and check.  They don't level anything or check to see if the nose or tail is higher than it was on the ground.  It's not that critical.

glueguy (Forum Supporter)
glueguy (Forum Supporter) Dork
1/12/22 10:52 p.m.

Set a level on the sunroof glass and use shims to make the level, level and then raise in the air and keep the level, level. You don't need to have a natural level, you can force a level reading and then keep it the same when you raise the car.

 

daytonaer
daytonaer HalfDork
1/13/22 2:07 a.m.
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) said:
Slippery said:

2x4 from the center of the front wheel to center of rear wheel and sit a level on top of it?

or just place the level on the floor to see if its level. 

I mean how level do you have to be? There has to be some tolerance allowance. 

That won't work because we have no idea how far the front suspension droops compared to the rear.

Using the window sill won't work either... they aren't necessarily flat.

Just find something on the car that is level while it's sitting on level ground; a pinchweld, a sunroof, whatever and then re-check level while it's in the air and adjust.

I should have done this: establish something level while parked on flat ground (regardless of suspension droop this is how it will be driving....), then jack stands and recheck the "control." Whoops. I only have 1 ramp set and there is nothing flat on this car.

 

Either way, for those following along at home, I decided it was close enough (just like last time when I didn't fix it.) 

 

I added a half quart, got the techstream to display target temperature then opened the overflow. I got about 1/4 of a quart out before the 
"stream" changed so I then capped the drain. All this to added 1/4 quart of fluid after hours of setup and hours of deliberation. We shall see if its that simple. 

 

Wish I knew what a "dribble" is, would be much simpler if overflow = overfilled and no spillage = not enough or just enough.  Apparently these transmissions are very sensitive to fluid level, if this isn't it I'm guessing something is slipping with low line pressure. 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
1/13/22 5:36 a.m.

I think you should be able to just stand back and eyeball the car to get it close enough to level for your needs.

If you really need to get it exact - this would take two people, but buy a string level for about $4.00 at your local big box store, and have each person hold the string at the height of the hub center of the front and rear wheels.

 

Slippery
Slippery UberDork
1/13/22 6:46 a.m.
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) said:
Slippery said:

2x4 from the center of the front wheel to center of rear wheel and sit a level on top of it?

or just place the level on the floor to see if its level. 

I mean how level do you have to be? There has to be some tolerance allowance. 

That won't work because we have no idea how far the front suspension droops compared to the rear.

Using the window sill won't work either... they aren't necessarily flat.

Just find something on the car that is level while it's sitting on level ground; a pinchweld, a sunroof, whatever and then re-check level while it's in the air and adjust.

I was expecting it to be on the floor with zero droop. 

Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter)
Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
1/13/22 7:33 a.m.

Up on 4 ramps/cribs is the easy way. Checking the amount of "out of level" on a surface and replicating as best you can on jackstands is also fine. You aren't trying to land on mars.

When I had my Ram 1500 with the ZF 8 speed transmission, it had a very similar procedure to checking/changing the transmission fluid. The transmission had to be within a certain temp range and had to be level. Keep in mind that the transmission had to be level, despite what the suspension or body was doing. The preferred way was to get the truck in the air (lift, jack stands, etc) and then use a small torpedo level on the transmission pan rail and adjust the height using cribbing or adjusting the hight of the jack stands/lift until the transmission was level. Most people on the forums would change the transmission fluid using this method versus taking it to the dealer ($900-$1k!) with great results.

lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter)
lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
1/13/22 8:02 a.m.

Park the car on a level-ish surface(parking lot, street, driveway) and measure from the ground to the fender arch both front and back. Jack up the car and add however many inches your jackstands extend to comfortably get under the car to the original fender measurement. If the area where you are working on the car is unlevel side to side, open the hood and trunk and put a 2x4 and level across the opening and adjust a shim under the jackstand side-to-side. You really don't need to be watchmaker precise to check the fluid level but I applause your OCD in trying to do the right thing.

 

I had a 2005 Tundra which had the "lifetime transmission fluid" and no dipstick. I never bothered checking it as I assumed the Japanese engineers knew what they were doing/building. WRONG! A new transmission cost me $3200 when it started "shuttering" at times at very light throttle. 

mdshaw
mdshaw HalfDork
1/13/22 8:15 a.m.

A better level for this is the bubble level. Used in the rv & semiconductor equipment industries for many years. 
The challenge is initially finding something truly level in the car.  
Our allroad also had the "lifetime" fluid...until the fluid's lifetime was up. Changed it & shifting was much improved.

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane UltraDork
1/13/22 9:40 a.m.

I was under the impression that "lifetime" transmission fluid was exactly that.  The lifetime of the transmission.  Don't change it and when the fluid is dead your transmission will blow up.  Problem solved!

iansane
iansane Dork
1/13/22 10:13 a.m.

Is the trans pan not flat? Slap a bullet level against the bottom of the pan and adjust as neccesary. I just eyeball it. It's not THAT critical.

daytonaer
daytonaer HalfDork
1/13/22 12:50 p.m.
iansane said:

Is the trans pan not flat? Slap a bullet level against the bottom of the pan and adjust as neccesary. I just eyeball it. It's not THAT critical.

Trans pan not flat, has a slight angle. 

 

I used the trans case bottom (mounting flange for pan) as a guide with a bubble level. The check port is in the rear of the pan so I decided to err on "nose down" so my error will result in extra fluid. 

 

So far so good on a drive today. These zf8's are allegedly that picky. 

 

To those who think I'm being a little too particular: after draining the overflow into a pan I carefully funneled the fluid into an old quart bottle and set it aside. I did knock that quart bottle over with the cap sitting conventienly on the floor next to the growing puddle.

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