1 March 2024
Learn the steps for changing the transmission fluid & filter in an automatic transmission. Get all the info you need to tackle this task confidently.

If you’ve ever wondered about the steps for changing the transmission fluid and filter in an automatic transmission, look no further! In this article, we will guide you through the process step by step, ensuring that you have all the necessary information to tackle this task with confidence. From the importance of regular transmission fluid changes to the tools and materials required, we’ve got you covered. So, grab your toolbox and let’s get started on maintaining your automatic transmission for optimal performance and longevity!

Gathering the necessary tools and materials

Gather the necessary tools

Before you begin changing the transmission fluid and filter in your automatic transmission, it’s important to gather all the necessary tools. The tools you’ll need may vary depending on your specific vehicle, but here are some common tools you may need:

  • Socket set
  • Ratchet
  • Torque wrench
  • Screwdrivers (flathead and Phillips)
  • Pliers
  • Drain pan
  • Funnel
  • Jack and jack stands

By having all these tools ready, you’ll be fully prepared for the transmission fluid and filter change process.

Acquire the required transmission fluid and filter

In addition to the tools, you’ll also need to acquire the proper transmission fluid and filter for your vehicle. It’s essential to use the manufacturer-recommended fluid and filter to ensure optimal performance and compatibility with your transmission. You can find this information in your vehicle’s owner’s manual or by contacting the manufacturer. Once you know the specific fluid and filter required, you can purchase them from an auto parts store or online. Make sure to buy the correct type and quantity of transmission fluid for your vehicle.

Preparing the vehicle

Park the vehicle on a level surface

To begin the transmission fluid and filter change, it’s crucial to park your vehicle on a level surface. This will ensure that the fluid drains properly and that the fluid level is accurately measured when refilling. Find a flat area, such as a concrete driveway or parking lot, where your vehicle can be safely parked and remain level throughout the process.

Warm up the engine

Next, you’ll want to warm up your engine for a few minutes. By allowing the engine to reach operating temperature, the transmission fluid will become thinner, making it easier to drain. Simply start the engine and let it idle for approximately 5 to 10 minutes.

Locate the transmission fluid dipstick

Once the engine is warmed up, you’ll need to locate the transmission fluid dipstick. The dipstick is usually located near the back of the engine bay and is typically labeled “Transmission” or “ATF.” Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual if you’re having trouble finding it. Once located, remove the dipstick and set it aside for later use.

Prepare the drain pan and other necessary equipment

Before draining the old transmission fluid, it’s essential to have a drain pan ready to collect the fluid. Place the drain pan underneath the transmission fluid drain plug to catch the fluid as it drains. Additionally, make sure you have all the necessary equipment nearby, such as gloves, rags, and a container to store the old fluid.

Draining the old transmission fluid

Remove the transmission fluid drain plug

To drain the old transmission fluid, you’ll need to locate the drain plug. The drain plug is typically located at the bottom of the transmission pan. Use a socket or wrench to loosen and remove the drain plug, allowing the old fluid to drain into the drain pan. Be cautious as the fluid may still be hot. Ensure that the drain pan is positioned correctly to catch all the fluid.

Allow the old fluid to drain completely

Once the drain plug is removed, allow the old transmission fluid to drain completely into the drain pan. The draining process may take a few minutes, so be patient and let gravity do its job. It’s important to wait until the fluid stops flowing before proceeding to the next step.

Replace the drain plug

After the old fluid has drained completely, it’s time to replace the drain plug. Ensure that the drain plug is clean and free of any debris. Apply a small amount of transmission fluid to the drain plug threads to lubricate them, then tighten the drain plug back into place. Use a torque wrench if necessary to ensure the drain plug is tightened to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Replacing the transmission filter

Locate the transmission filter

After draining the old fluid, it’s important to replace the transmission filter. The filter is usually located inside the transmission pan, so you’ll need to remove the pan to access it. Consult your vehicle’s service manual for the specific location of the transmission filter in your vehicle.

Remove the old filter

Carefully remove the old transmission filter by loosening the bolts or clips that secure it in place. Once the bolts or clips are removed, the filter should easily come out. Be prepared for some fluid to spill out when removing the old filter, so it’s a good idea to have a rag or a tray underneath to catch any drips.

Install the new filter

Before installing the new filter, make sure to clean the transmission pan and inspect it for any debris or signs of damage. Once the pan is clean, place the new filter into position, ensuring it is properly aligned. Use the bolts or clips to secure the new filter in place, making sure they are tightened securely but not overly tightened.

Refilling the transmission with new fluid

Locate the transmission fluid fill plug

After replacing the filter, it’s time to refill the transmission with new fluid. Locate the transmission fluid fill plug, which is typically located on the side of the transmission. Refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the exact location if needed.

Use a funnel to add the new fluid

Attach a funnel to the transmission fluid fill plug and slowly pour the new transmission fluid into the transmission. It’s important to add the fluid slowly to prevent overfilling. Refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the recommended fluid capacity and type. Keep adding fluid until the fluid level reaches the appropriate level on the dipstick.

Check the fluid level and condition

Once you’ve added the new transmission fluid, use the dipstick to check the fluid level and condition. Insert the dipstick into the transmission fluid fill tube, then remove it and inspect the fluid level and color. The fluid should be within the designated “full” range and have a bright red color. If the fluid level is low, add more fluid to reach the correct level. If the fluid appears dark or has a burnt smell, it may be an indication of a separate issue, and you should consult a professional for further inspection.

Checking for leaks and performing final checks

Start the engine and check for leaks

With the transmission fluid filled to the proper level, start the engine and let it run for a few minutes. While the engine is running, closely inspect the transmission and pan for any signs of leaks. Pay attention to any fluid dripping or pooling underneath the vehicle. If you notice any leaks, immediately turn off the engine and address the issue before proceeding.

Verify proper fluid level

Once you’ve confirmed that there are no leaks, turn off the engine and allow it to cool down. After a few minutes, reinsert the dipstick into the transmission fluid fill tube and check the fluid level again. The level should still be within the designated “full” range. If necessary, add more fluid to reach the proper level.

Test the transmission for smooth shifting

To ensure that the transmission fluid and filter change was successful, take your vehicle for a test drive. Pay attention to how the transmission shifts through the gears and if there are any unusual noises or vibrations. If everything feels and sounds normal, then congratulations! You’ve successfully changed the transmission fluid and filter in your automatic transmission.

Remember, it’s crucial to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual or a professional mechanic for specific instructions and recommendations tailored to your vehicle. Regular maintenance of your transmission is essential for its longevity and optimal performance. Following the steps outlined in this article will help keep your transmission in excellent condition.

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