GM Cavalier/Sunbird/Skyhawk/Firenza 1982-1994

Automatic Transaxle

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FLUID RECOMMENDATION



When adding to or refilling the automatic transaxle, always use Dexron® III, IIE or latest superceding equivalent transaxle fluid.

LEVEL CHECK



The fluid level in the automatic transaxle should be checked every 12 months or 7,500 miles (12,000 km), whichever comes first. Most of the automatic transaxles have a dipstick for fluid level checks.

Except 4T40E Automatic Transaxle

See Figure 1

  1. Drive the car until it is at normal operating temperature. The level should not be checked immediately after the car has been driven for a long time at high speed, or in city traffic in hot weather; in those cases, the transaxle should be given a half hour to cool down.
  2.  



Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 1: The transaxle fluid level is acceptable if it is anywhere within the crosshatch area on the dipstick. Do NOT add oil unless the fluid level is below the crosshatch area

  1. Stop the car, apply the parking brake, then shift slowly through all gear positions, ending in Park. Let the engine idle for about five minutes with the selector in Park. The car should be on a level surface.
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  3. With the engine still running, remove the dipstick, wipe it clean, then reinsert it, pushing it fully home.
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  5. Wait three seconds, then pull the dipstick out again and, holding it horizontally, read the fluid level. It should be within the cross-hatch area between "ADD" and "FULL".
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  7. Cautiously feel the end of the dipstick to determine the temperature. Note that on the J-cars the cool and warm level dimples are above the hot level area. If the fluid level is not in the correct area, more will have to be added.
  8.  
  9. Fluid is added through the dipstick tube. You will probably need the aid of a spout or a long-necked funnel. Be sure that whatever you pour through is perfectly clean and dry. Use an automatic transmission fluid marked DEXRON®III, IIE or equivalent. Add fluid slowly, and in small amounts, checking the level frequently between additions. Do not overfill, which will cause foaming, fluid loss, slippage, and possible transaxle damage. It takes only one pint to raise the level from ADD to FULL when the transaxle is hot.
  10.  

4T40E Automatic Transaxle

See Figure 2


CAUTION
Removal of the fluid level screw when the transaxle fluid is hot may cause injury. Use care to avoid contact of the transaxle fluid to exhaust pipe.

The fluid level screw is intended to be used for diagnosing a transaxle fluid leak or resetting the transaxle fluid level after service that involves a loss of fluid.

  1. The fluid level should be checked when the transaxle is near room temperature or at 104°F (40°C). To acquire this, left the car idle for 3-5 minutes with all of the accessories off.
  2.  



Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 2: Location of the fluid level screw and the fill/vent cap needed to check the fluid for the 4T40E automatic transaxle.

  1. Apply the brake, then move the gear shift selector through all gear ranges, pausing three seconds in each range. Shift the lever into "Park".
  2.  
  3. Raise and safely support the vehicle.
  4.  
  5. Place a suitable drain pan under the check plug to catch any fluid that may drip out.
  6.  
  7. Remove the oil check plug. The oil level should be at the bottom of the oil check hole. Because the transaxle operates correctly over a range of fluid levels, fluid may or may not drain out of the screw hole when the screw is removed.
  8.  
  9. If fluid drains through the screw hole, the transaxle may have been overfilled. When fluid stops draining, then fluid level is correct and the check plug may be installed. If fluid does not drain through the screw hole, the transaxle fluid may have been low. Add fluid at the vent cap location in 1 pint increments until the oil level is at the bottom of the oil check hole.
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  11. Install the oil check plug/fluid level screw and tighten to 10 ft. lbs. (14 Nm).
  12.  
  13. Carefully lower the vehicle.
  14.  

DRAIN & REFILL (INCLUDES PAN & FILTER SERVICE)



See Figure 3

The fluid should be changed according to the schedule in the Maintenance Intervals chart. If the car is normally used in severe service, such as stop and start driving, trailer towing, or the like, the interval should be halved. If the car is driven under especially nasty conditions, such as in heavy city traffic where the temperature normally reaches 90°F (32°C), or in very hilly or mountainous areas, or in police, taxi, or delivery service, the fluid should be changed every 15,000 miles (24,000 km.).



Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 3: When removing the transaxle pan and filter, always replace the gasket and O-ring with a new one before installation

The fluid must be hot before it is drained; a 20 minute drive should accomplish this.

  1. To drain the automatic transaxle fluid, the fluid pan must be removed. Raise and safely support the vehicle. Place a drain pan underneath the transaxle pan, then remove the pan attaching bolts at the front and sides of the pan.
  2.  
  3. Loosen the rear pan attaching bolts approximately four turns each.
  4.  
  5. Very carefully pry the pan loose. You can use a small prybar for this if you work CAREFULLY. Do not distort the pan flange, or score the mating surface of the transaxle case. You'll be very sorry later if you do. As the pan is pried loose, all of the fluid is going to come pouring out.
  6.  
  7. Remove the remaining bolts and remove the pan and gasket. Throw away the gasket.
  8.  
  9. Clean the pan with solvent and allow it to air dry. If you use a rag to wipe out the pan, you risk leaving bits of lint behind, which will clog the dinky hydraulic passages in the transaxle.
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  11. Remove and discard the filter and the O-ring seal.
  12.  

To install:
  1. Install a new filter and O-ring, locating the filter against the dipstick stop.
  2.  
  3. Position a new gasket on the pan, then install the pan. Tighten the bolts evenly and in rotation to 8 ft. lbs. (11 Nm.). Do not overtighten.
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  5. Add approximately 4 qts. (3.8 L) of DEXRON®III or IIE automatic transmission fluid to the transaxle through the dipstick tube. You will need a long necked funnel, or a funnel and tube to do this.
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  7. With the transaxle in Park, put on the parking brake, block the front wheels, start the engine and let it idle. DO NOT RACE THE ENGINE. DO NOT MOVE THE LEVER THROUGH ITS RANGES.
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  9. With the lever in Park, check the fluid level. If it's OK, take the car out for a short drive, park on a level surface, and check the level again, as outlined earlier in this section. Add more fluid if necessary. Be careful not to overfill, which will cause foaming and fluid loss.
  10.  

If the drained fluid is discolored (brown or black), thick, or smells burnt, serious transmission troubles, probably due to overheating, should be suspected. Your car's transaxle should be inspected by a reliable transmission specialist to determine the problem.

 
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