Transmission Pan: The Definitive Guide

transmission panAs you know, automatic transmissions need a transmission pan in order to hold all of the ATF (automatic transmission fluid). That ATF is needed for fluid pressure, lubrication, and cooling. But did you know they do more than just act as a container? Besides playing an important role for your vehicle, there are also many different types of transmission pans you can install besides the stock pan. Some can actually help to improve the transmission’s performance. For example, deep pans can help tremendously with cooling since your transmission is able to contain more ATF. So today, we’ll be going over more of what you should know about the transmission pan as well as the different types of transmission pans you can find.

Basics of an Automatic Transmission Pan

Function

As we’ve explained, your transmission requires ATF in order to provide necessary fluid pressure, lubrication, and cooling capabilities. Other functions include cleaning metal surfaces, preventing rust, extending temperature range, preventing fluid oxidation, and conditioning gaskets. But all of that ATF has to be held somewhere though, which is exactly what the transmission pan is for. Besides holding ATF, they are also meant to:

  • Protect the ATF from foreign contaminants
  • Collect any dirt or particles in the ATF through the pan’s magnet
  • Prevent objects on the road such as rocks from springing a leak
  • Help cool the ATF before it goes back into the transmission
  • The transmission pan gasket prevents any fluid from leaking out

Capacity

The average automatic transmission holds about 12 quarts of transmission fluid, but larger or more powerful vehicles have transmissions that can hold up to 36 quarts! A transmission oil pan holds about half of the total amount of transmission fluid, while the rest remains in the torque converter and transmission itself. As you can guess, transmissions that require more ATF means that these transmissions work harder in order to handle the vehicle’s engine power. Transmissions that hold more ATF also provides more cooling capability.

Common problems

You know automatic transmissions have their fair share of problems, and transmission pans are no exception. Although a transmission oil pan might seem too simple to develop any problems, they actually can and they are more common than you might think. Problems that can occur with transmission pans include:

  • Large objects can strike the transmission oil pan, potentially causing a puncture that will have ATF leaking out. A big enough hole can cause a large amount of fluid loss in a small amount of time. This results in very erratic transmission behavior
  • Pan gaskets can slip out of position or crack from age, which will also cause fluid to leak out
  • Loose transmission pan bolts or drain plugs can also cause a leak
  • Using a floor jack to lift a vehicle by the pan can cause a large dent that results in reduced fluid capacity

How to take care of a transmission pan

There are some basic maintenance steps we can take to make sure our transmission pan keeps working as it should. Some best practices to keep in mind include:

  • Avoid using RTV sealants and cork-based gaskets to seal the pan. Cork gaskets are made of a very cheap material that cracks easily over time. Sealants on the other hand, not only creates residue that can contaminate the ATF and stick to the pan, but it also makes the pan difficult to remove the next time you need to. Stick with a reusable rubber transmission pan gasket as it prevents leaks better, lasts longer, is made of higher quality, and makes fluid changes just plain easier
  • Inspect the pan gasket each time you have a fluid change performed. If it’s warped, cracked, or broken in any way, replace it immediately with another
  • Inspect the transmission oil pan periodically for any signs of leaks or damage
  • When you have a fluid change performed, always have the pan cleaned as well as the magnet that collects metal shavings
  • Always have the transmission pan tightened to manufacturer specifications. This ensures that the pan doesn’t get damaged, the gasket doesn’t get crushed, and the bolts are tight enough to prevent any leaks
  • When tightening pan bolts, start from the center bolts and continue out in a criss-cross pattern. This ensures even pressure on all sides
automatic transmission pan identification

How to identify a transmission model by its pan

The Different Types of Automatic Transmission Pans

Now that we’ve covered what the transmission pan does, common problem that can occur, and how to take take care of it, let’s move on to the different types of pans. As you can guess, there are other transmission pans you can find besides the stock transmission oil pan. Pans can come in different varieties, depending on transmission type, material used, fluid capacity, and cooling options. If you aren’t sure what transmission your vehicle has or what pans can fit, you can use this useful tool to find out.

Stock Pans

Stock pans are what most vehicles come equipped with. Stock pans also remain closer to the transmission, which is better for vehicles that sit lower to the ground. This prevents scraping and road debris from coming into contact with it.

stock-transmission-pan-comparison

A variety of stock GM transmission pans

Stock steel – The majority of car manufacturers provide a transmission with a stock steel pan. Steel is very durable and prevents rust well, and they are often the least expensive option. If you are looking for a replacement transmission pan, you can almost always find your car’s make and model in stock steel.

Model NameTransmission TypeMaterialDeep/Stock?Price
Dorman 265-801 41AE, 41TE, 40TE, 40TES, 41TES
SteelStock$
Dorman 265-803 4F50N, AX4NSteelStock$
Dorman 265-805E40D, 4R100SteelStock$
Dorman 265-808THM440, 4T60, ME9SteelStock$
Dorman 265-8094T40-E, 4T45-ESteelStock$
Dorman 265-8104L80E, 4L85ESteelStock$
Dorman 265-8114L60E, 4L65E, 4L70ESteelStock$
Dorman 265-8144T60E, 4T65ESteelStock$
Dorman 265-815F4E-K, A4CF2, F4A42SteelStock$
Dorman 265-817545RFE, 68RFE, 45RFESteelStock$
Dorman 265-819RE4F04A, RE4F03A, RE4F04B, RE4F04WSteelStock$
Dorman 265-8225R110WSteelStock$
Dorman 265-82746RE, 47RE, 48RESteelStock$
Summit Racing SUM-G3885BTH350SteelStock$
Summit Racing SUM-G3884BTH400SteelStock$
Summit Racing SUM-G3886B
700R4, 4L60SteelStock$

Stock chrome – Stock chrome pans are often made of steel with a chrome plating. Besides being extra shiny (for those who like the appearance), chrome pans are easier to clean and prevents corrosion better than steel pans. Chrome pans are often a little more expensive than steel pans.

Model NameTransmission TypeMaterialDeep/Stock?Price
Spectre 5450TH350ChromeStock$
Spectre 5451TH400ChromeStock$
Spectre 5452PowerglideChromeStock$
Spectre 5454700R4ChromeStock$
Spectre 5455C4ChromeStock$
Spectre 5456C6ChromeStock$
Spectre 5457TF727ChromeStock$
TCI 3780114L60, 4L60E, 4L65EChromeStock$
JEGS 60185AODChromeStock$

Stock aluminum – An aluminum transmission pan is highly regarded as the best type of transmission pan. That’s because pans made of aluminum helps to dissipate heat better, which ultimately cools ATF more. Aluminum pans are also sturdier and makes sealing an easier process. Aluminum pans are often more expensive though and harder to find in stock depth.

Model NameTransmission TypeMaterialDeep/Stock?Price
Spectre 5460TH350AluminumStock$
Spectre 5461TH400AluminumStock$$
JEGS 60183700R4, 4L60AluminumStock$$
TCI 528300PowerglideAluminumStock$$
TCI 12800146RH, 48REAluminumStock$$$$

Deep Pans

A deep transmission pan allows the transmission to hold an extra 2 to 3 quarts of transmission fluid. Although it might not seem like much at first, 2 to 3 quarts can actually help a lot in the long run and is highly recommended for larger vehicles or towing/hauling. Besides allowing more time between transmission services, the extra transmission fluid helps to cool ATF even more. Combined with an external transmission cooler and your transmission’s lifespan will be significantly lengthened.

deep transmission pan vs stock transmission pan

Deep vs stock transmission pan

Deep chrome – A chrome pan has a shinier appearance, prevents corrosion better than steel pans, and makes cleaning it easier. They are also a little more expensive than steel pans.

Model NameTransmission TypeMaterialDeep/Stock?Price
Spectre 5453700R4ChromeDeep$
Spectre 5458TH350ChromeDeep$
Spectre 5459 TH400ChromeDeep$
Spectre 5463C4ChromeDeep$
Spectre 5464C6ChromeDeep$
Spectre 5465TF727ChromeDeep$
B&M 70289700R4, 4L60ChromeDeep$

Deep aluminum – The best transmission pan award definitely has to go to the deep aluminum transmission pan. Not only does aluminum help to dissipate heat better, the extra fluid capacity helps to maximize cooling power. Besides that, many people prefer an aluminum cast transmission pan because they are more durable and it makes sealing a breeze. However, deep aluminum pans are often the most expensive.

Model NameTransmission TypeMaterialDeep/Stock?Price
B&M 30280TH250, TH350AluminumDeep$$$
B&M 20280TH400AluminumDeep$$$
B&M 702604L60E, 4L60AluminumDeep$$$$
B&M 702954L80EAluminumDeep$$$$
B&M 703916L80AluminumDeep$$$$
B&M 70280PowerglideAluminumDeep$$$
B&M 40281C6AluminumDeep$$$
B&M 50281C4AluminumDeep$$$
B&M 40291AOD, AODE, 4R70WAluminumDeep$$$$
B&M 10280A727, A518, A618AluminumDeep$$$

Pans with Cooling Options

Some pans are built to cool ATF better than stock pans can, with options such as cooling fins or cooling tubes. Pans with extra cooling features like these are often pricier than regular stock and deep pans however.

cooling-fin-vs-cooling-tube-transmission-pans

Pans with cooling fins – Some pans come with built in cooling fins, or ridges, which help to dissipate heat better by allowing more air to come in contact with the pan. You can usually find cooling fins on aluminum pans.

Model NameTransmission TypeMaterialDeep/Stock?Price
B&M 30280
TH250, TH350AluminumDeep$$$
B&M 20280
TH400AluminumDeep$$$
B&M 70260
4L60E, 4L60AluminumDeep$$$$
B&M 70295
4L80EAluminumDeep$$$$
B&M 70391
6L80AluminumDeep$$$$
B&M 70280
PowerglideAluminumDeep$$$
B&M 40281
C6AluminumDeep$$$
B&M 50281
C4AluminumDeep$$$
B&M 40291
AOD, AODE, 4R70WAluminumDeep$$$$
B&M 10280
A727, A518, A618AluminumDeep$$$

Pans with cooling tubes – Some pans also come with cooling tubes that run right through the bottom of the transmission pan. This allows air to travel through the tubes while driving, which helps to cool ATF significantly more. Derale makes a great cooling tube pan that helps to reduce fluid temperatures anywhere from 20-50 degrees F and is installed so that the tubes run parallel with your car, allowing cool air to enter through the front and exit the back.

Model NameTransmission TypeMaterialDeep/Stock?Price
Derale 14200
TH350SteelDeep$$
Derale 14201 Standard (+3 qts. 8 oz)
TH400SteelDeep$$
Derale 14202 X-Deep (+4 qts. 11 oz)
TH400SteelDeep$$
Derale 14204
700R4, 4L60, 4L60ESteelDeep$$
Derale 14207
4L80, 4L80ESteelDeep$$
Derale 14208
E4OD, 4R100, 5R110, 5R110WSteelDeep$$
Derale 14210
A518, A618, A727, A904SteelDeep$$

Find out what transmission model your vehicle has here