How to Change Transmission Fluid
Changing transmission fluid shouldn’t be a difficult task. In fact, once you do it a few times it will become much easier, not to mention cheaper in the long run as well. A transmission fluid change is the the best service you can get on your transmission to make sure that it runs smoothly and efficiently. As fluid ages, it breaks down and attracts contaminants and dirt which can accelerate the life of your transmission. Old fluid becomes less effective at lubricating and cooling all the parts of the transmission which makes it vulnerable to heat.
Allowing your transmission to run on dirty fluid can lead to a number of problems, such as clutch problems, shaking, shifting issues, slipping, and worst of all failure. Need an idea of how much your transmission hates heat? It is estimated that 90 percent of transmission failures occur due to overheating. That’s no joke, so if your transmission fluid isn’t meeting specs, it might be causing more harm than good to your transmission. So what should you do? Changing transmission fluid on a routine basis can help get rid of old fluid and provide for more efficient cooling and lubrication, and you can do it yourself! So here’s how to change transmission fluid the right way.
How to Change Transmission Fluid
After you have checked the transmission fluid, you are going to need a couple of things to get started. Make sure that you purchase the transmission fluid that is recommended for your vehicle though, since using the wrong fluid can cause your transmission to run erratically. We also recommend replacing the filter every time you change the fluid as well as well. If you already have everything then we can begin.
What You Will Need:
- Ramps OR jacks stands with floor jack
- Specific transmission fluid recommended in the owner’s manual (and how many quarts you’ll need)
- The correct transmission filter (choose a high quality filter)
- Wrench or torque wrench with appropriate socket
- A large drain pan
- A good funnel for adding fluid
- Cleaning rags
- Lubegard Automatic Transmission Protectant (for optimum performance)
Step 1. Elevate the car and warm it up
The first thing you need to do is elevate your car. Since most people don’t have access to a hydraulic life, jacks stands or ramps are your best alternatives here. Ramps make the job easier although a lot of people already own jack stands. Either will get the job done. Below is a video on how to elevate your car on jack stands.
Once the car is elevated you are going to want to turn on the engine and have it idle for a few minutes before turning it off. This is to get the fluid to normal operating temperatures.
Step 2. Drain the fluid
Once the engine is turned off you are going to want to look under your car and locate the transmission pan. It should be held up by 6 or 8 bolts and you are going to have to remove them to drain the fluid. Have your catch pan or container underneath in order to catch the fluid. A good method to draining the fluid is to remove all of the bolts except for one side of the pan and let it hang in order to let the fluid drain gradually. Once the bulk of the fluid is in your drip pan you can then remove the rest of the bolts.
If your car is lucky enough to have a drain plug, simply remove it to drain the fluid, although if you want to replace the filter you are still going to have to remove the pan.
**Don’t throw the fluid out just yet though! We are going to need it later on to measure how much new fluid we will need.**
Step 3. Clean the transmission pan
The next step is to clean the transmission pan. You should check the pan for excessive metal shavings or particles which could indicate transmission problems, but if you have taken good care of your transmission that shouldn’t be a problem. If metal shavings are present this could mean worn clutches or some other symptom. If not, you can then clean the magnet that collects metal shavings and wipe down the entire pan.
Step 4. Replace the filter
After the pan is spick and span you can then change the filter. This is an important step because the filter helps to trap all the dirt and contaminants that your fluid comes into contact with. If left to cycle around your transmission, these contaminants can end up causing a lot of damage, which is why it’s the filter’s job to trap it all. But over time filters can accumulate a lot of unwanted materials which is why you need to replace it. So make sure you buy the right filter and hold it up to the old one to make sure it matches as well as the mounting holes. Afterwards you are going to:
- Remove any bolts, clips, or O-ring seals that are holding the filter in place and note where each one goes
- Loosen the old one. More fluid might come out at this point, so wait a little for all of it to drain
- Mount the new one in the same position and make sure it is secure and installed the same way as the last one
Step 5. Re-install the transmission pan
After the filter has been replaced you can then either re-apply the gasket or replace the gasket if it is old and worn. Make sure the gasket is aligned properly so that no fluid can escape! You can use a couple drops of grease to keep it in place. You can then re-attach the pan to the transmission body and put the bolts back in. Either tighten the bolts by hand until they are “screwdriver tight” or use a torque wrench to fasten them with ease. You can then lower the car and move on to adding the new fluid.
Step 6. How to Add Transmission Fluid
You’re almost there! The last step is to add the new transmission fluid, which you should have purchased beforehand. Make sure the fluid is the specific recommendation in the owner’s manual and you will need enough to match the fluid that you took out. So take some time to measure it right, you can pour out the old fluid into old ATF cartons in order to gauge how much you will need. After you have the correct amount, take out the transmission fluid dipstick and with a funnel, slowly add the new transmission fluid into the reservoir making sure not to splash. At this point you can also add Lubegard Automatic Transmission Protectant to help your transmission run more efficiently. You can then re-insert the dipstick and lower the hood.
Afterwards you will want to start your car and have it run for a few minutes. With the brakes applied you will want to move the gear selector through each position in order to get the fluid flowing through the entire transmission. If you want you can then check the fluid levels to make extra sure that there’s enough fluid. You can now experience the fruits of your labor (which is the cash you saved) and bask in your new-found knowledge on how to change transmission fluid.
If you are still confused, here’s a quick video that outlines how to change transmission fluid.