Extending the life of a car’s transmission always starts with changing the transmission fluid out periodically. Changing the transmission fluid in your vehicle is just as important as changing the oil; neglecting to do so can lead to overheating and damage to the internal parts of the engine. Before getting started, make sure you have a handful of tools on hand including socket wrenches, screwdrivers, a funnel, a mallet, car jacks, a large collection pan for catching the drained fluid, and clean rags.
1. Elevate the vehicle. In a perfect world, it would be easy to just use a hydraulic lift to elevate your vehicle. However, not many people have access to this kind of equipment to perform car repairs. Because of this, you should use jack stands to lift and support the car while you work under it.
2. Crawl underneath the car and search for the transmission fluid pan. If you’ve never been underneath a vehicle, you might be clueless about what this even looks like. A transmission pan is generally shaped like a square bowl, and it is attached to the vehicle via several bolts around the edges. You’ll also likely notice a small hole on the bottom of it; this is where the fluid drains from. Note that some models do not have transmission fluid pans with drain holes on them.
3. Drain the fluid. You have two choices when it comes to draining your transmission fluid. The method that you choose will heavily rely on whether your transmission fluid pan has a drain hole.
If the pan is equipped with a drain hole, the first option for draining the fluid is placing the collection pan underneath the pan and removing the plug that seals the drain hole. Allow the fluid to drain into the pan until it has completely stopped running.
The second option for draining the transmission fluid is to drain it by unscrewing the pan. This method is useful if the pan doesn’t have a drain hole. It’s also a viable method if you plan on changing the filter as well. Begin by placing the collection pan below the transmission and locating the two highest bolts that fasten the drain pan to the car. Loosen them, but be sure not to completely remove them. Remove the remaining bolts around the edges of the pan. Doing this will cause the pan to drop somewhat, and the fluid should begin to drain. If it does not drop after following the prior instructions, use the mallet to force it down.
Because the second method tends to be more messy, it might help to find a bigger collection pan for collecting the fluid. This would also be the point at which you could change the transmission filter if you were planning on doing so. This is because it should be completely visible now that the transmission fluid pan has been removed. You can easily pull the filter off and put another one on.
Once the transmission fluid pan has completely finished draining, be sure to clean out any excess fluid left at the bottom. You might also notice metal shavings collected in the pan. Clean all of this out before replacing it. Reattach the pan once it has been completely cleaned out.
4. Add the new fluid. Now that the transmission fluid pan has been reattached, it’s time to add the new transmission fluid. Lower the vehicle down off of the car jacks and place them aside. Additionally, ensure before you begin that you have the right kind of transmission fluid on hand for your type of vehicle. The owner’s manual will generally outline the type that is recommended for the vehicle in question.
Pop the hood of your vehicle and locate the transmission fluid dip stick. Pull this stick out, and place it aside. You will add the new fluid for the transmission via this spout. Place the funnel’s spout into the hole of the transmission fluid spout. Begin by slowly pouring a quart at a time. After each quart, replace the dip stick and check the level of the transmission fluid. Keep adding fluid until the stick indicates that it is full.
5. Check the fluid. After you’re finished adding the new transmission fluid, you’re ready to allow the car to run for a few moments. Turn the car off after running it for a few minutes to check if the fluid is still at a full level per the dip stick. In some cases, the fluid might decrease a bit in level due to drawing some of it into the engine. Add more if the dip stick indicates that the fluid level has lowered. Continue to run the vehicle and check the fluid level until it is right.