How to change transmission fluid properly (Part 1)

All vehicles with automatic transmission have the fluid which helps the gears to operate smoothly and cools off the whole gearbox. From time to time the transmission fluid (TF) should be checked and changed if necessary. Although any auto service shop could do it, some people prefer to deal with their vehicles themselves. In the very beginning it might be hard to locate all the places, but after a few tries, the vehicle owner will see that it is really not as hard as it sounds.

Before starting any actions on the auto, it is important to check the level and the color of the transmission fluid. New fluid is bright pink or red. If it is dark, something is wrong or the fluid is too old and it should be changed. Very old transmission fluid is almost black. The level should always be checked when the car is running. The measurements will be inaccurate if the engine is off. So, open the hood and start the car while leaving the clutch in Park. Find the TF dipstick, brush off the dirt or grease that might have messed it up and remove the dipstick. The checkmarks on the stick help to indicate the right level of the fluid. Low level is a bad sign because it means a leak either in the gasket or in the cooling lines that go to the radiator.

The transmission fluid does not wear out or get old as quickly as engine oil. It is usually recommended to change the TF after every 30,000 to 40,000 miles. The car owner manual will give the specific instructions about the particular model you have. However, checking the fluid more often will be helpful too. Many vehicle owners take the maintenance of their automatic transmission for granted, which results in the failure of the whole gearbox. If you waited till the transmission began to slip or it shifted poorly, the detailed check-up of the clutch has to be done immediately.

If you came to the conclusion that the transmission fluid should be changed, go to a store and purchase the proper kind which would fit the vehicle model. Car owner’s manual should be helpful in this too. If there are still some questions on which TF is best, the store assistant in an auto service shop should be qualified enough to answer all the questions.

During the change of the TF the person will have to slide underneath the vehicle, so place the auto high enough off the ground. If there is no access to a service pit, the owner can jack up the vehicle and set it on strong jack-stands. It is important to set them underneath very sturdy surface: it can be a piece of sub-frame or solid piece of engine. Be sure that the vehicle stands well and it is not going to move while you are working on the transmission fluid.

The next step is to find the drain pan. Since you already know on what side of the engine is the transmission fluid dipstick, you will have a slight idea where the drain pan should be because it sits right underneath it.

Set a large container under the drain pan which could catch all the liquid even if it splatters. Loosen the bolts of the pan, but then remove the bolts from one side only. This will allow the pan to drop sideways and let out only part of the fluid without dropping the pan into the container. After the bolts are removed, take a rubber mallet and hit the edge of the drain pan to break the seal. About 50% of the fluid leaks out during this procedure.
After all possible transmission fluid leaks out; you can remove the drain pan. Hold the pan in the place with one hand while removing the rest of the bolts. After this the pan will come out easily. Be careful, because there is still a lot of fluid in the pan. After the fluid is dumped into the container and the drain pan comes off, you can come out from underneath the vehicle for the cleaning procedure.

How to Change Transmission Fluid Properly (Part 2)
Healthy transmission