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How To Change Your Transmission Fluid

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On: Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 9:04AM | By: Peter C Sessler

How To Change Your Transmission Fluid

If you do your own car maintenance, eventually you’ll get around to changing your transmission fluid. How hard could that be? Actually, it is quite easy.

First, you must know what type and how much fluid you’ll need, so you should have you car’s manual handy. With that information in hand, go to the nearest parts store and purchase the fluid and a gasket for the transmission oil pan. While you at it, you might as well get a transmission oil filter as well, since it is really easy to change.

And while you’re at it, why not get an oil plug drain kit and install it in your pan? It will make future changes much easier. Most transmission oil pans do not have an oil pan drain plug. I would also purchase a magnet that is specifically made for transmission oil pans. The magnet will capture and stop magnetic debris from circulating with the fluid. Also purchase two or three containers of brake fluid cleaner.

If you know where your car’s transmission is, then place a catch pan beneath the transmission to catch the fluid. If your car is front-wheel drive, then the transmission oil pan will be up front, and for a rear-wheel drive car, it will be more towards the center, behind the engine.

Jack the car up, and make sure you install a safety jack—you don’t want to have the car slip on you while you’re under it. Once the car is high enough, use your ratchet wrench to remove the bolts that mount the pan. Carefully, remove the last bolts, and support the pan as you release it. Fluid is now going to come out. Let the fluid drain out—I would say leave the pan to drain for a good hour.

Inspect the transmission oil pan carefully. More often than not, you’ll find debris that has collected on the pan bottom. Clean the pan out completely and let it dry. Now, look at the old filter. You should be able to see how it is connected. Disconnect it and let any fluid that is left drain out.

Then spray the bottom of the transmission with the brake cleaner. Spray it good. Let the transmission dry, and then you are ready to install the new oil filter, drain plug, and the magnets. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions, and then let the car down.

Fill the fluid pan through the transmission oil tube. Run the engine, and then check again the fluid level.

You’ll notice that the amount of fluid that exited from the transmission is not the total amount (the torque converter holds at least half), so in reality you don’t change the total amount, unless you change the torque converter, which is very difficult. If this is the case with your car, you should change the fluid again within 1000 miles. This way you’ll remove the old fluid as well.

Of course, there are ways to beat the “system”, as it were. You can disconnect the fluid return line from the radiator, let the engine run until it drains out, and then shut it off. You are taking a risk here since you can burn the transmission innards out, but, on the other hand, you have managed to drain the whole transmission! Then proceed with the regular fluid change.


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