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Hey, Kevin Tetz here. Changing your transmission fluid is an easy job that most people can do themselves. It just takes a little time and a few tools. But first I wanna explain the difference between the two types of automatic transmission fluid changes, a total fluid change and a service change, which is what we're gonna show you how to do.
A service change is a new filter with a partial fluid change, and if you follow this procedure as recommended by your manufacturer you're gonna extend the life of your automatic transmission. With a total fluid change a machine is used to pump the old fluid out while pumping new fluid in. This could be on the expensive side, and require specialty equipment and is fairly complicated. As always you should consult your manual for component locations, type and quantity of automatic transmission fluid, and replacement intervals. If you don't have a manual no problem, the folks at your neighborhood AutoZone can look that information up for you.
To do this job you're gonna need transmission fluid, for this particular vehicle the dry capacity is 18 quarts. However, for just doing a filter and fluid change we only require about 12 quarts. Your transmission might be different, for supplies and tools to do the job it's pretty simple. We got some safety glasses because we're gonna be under the truck. Some gloves to keep our hands clean. We got some brake clean and shock towels to make sure we got a clean mating surface for the new gasket and the pan. And a long funnel, the long funnel is gonna work better for you because sometimes a transmission fill tube is farther back and farther down on the firewall. The only other tools you're gonna require is a socket wrench with a 10 millimeter socket for the size bolts on this transmission pan. Now the filter and gasket come in the same box, so there's no need to worry about ordering these components separately. It all comes in one shot, and that's about all you need.
The first thing you wanna do before you get your vehicle up in the air is check the status of your transmission fluid. Before you check it, you wanna sure your vehicle has run for a couple of minutes to get the fluid warm and circulating. Now if your transmission fluid looks brown or smells kind of burnt, well that's a sign of a larger problem and you need to take it to a professional. You want the fluid to have a reddish, pinkish look and not have any burnt smell. Ours is obviously low, but it's got that reddish, pinkish look, and it smells pretty good. Or as good as transmission fluid can smell, I think we're in good shape.
We've let our engine cool, and got our vehicle up on jack stands. You can do this job on ramps, just make sure that you got the vehicle fully engaged in park, your emergency brake set, and your wheels chalked. Now under here, this that's my engine oil pan. This is my transmission pan, now some transmissions are gonna be more difficult than others to drain. Some you might even have to move exhaust components out of the way, so take a look around. Make sure you got access to all the bolts, and that you got a clear shot dropping the pan when you do unbolt it. You may have already noticed that we have a drain plug, this is kind of a luxury. All you do is unbolt the plug, let the fluid drain out, then you take the rest of the pan bolts off, drop the pan and you're done. A lot of transmissions don't have a drain plug, so we're gonna show you how to properly drain the fluid out without making a mess without the luxury of a plug.
Place a large catch pan under the transmission. Decide which end or corner of the pan that you want the fluid to drain from, and start loosening the bolts at that point. Working your way towards the opposite end of the transmission pan. After the pan is dropped on one end, allow the fluid to drain as much as it will. Then carefully remove the bolt to lower the pan to drain the remaining fluid. There we go. That is done.
This is your old filter, you're gonna wanna pop this out now. Now keep in mind there's gonna be a little bit of fluid in this, so make sure your catch can or your drain pan is underneath. Some of these filters are held place with screws, some with clips, this one there's an o-ring seal at the top of the spout, and you just kind of pry it out. Oh there we go, there's some fluid. You're gonna let that drain a little bit, and just make sure the old gasket and the old seal is out of the way and doesn't interfere with the new one being installed.
All right, let's get this pan cleaned up. Get rid of the gasket, and here we can see that our fluid is nice and red, but it's a little bit dark. But here's what you wanna look for, you wanna check for debris. Down at the bottom of the transmission pan you typically find a magnet. This is designed to pick up any metallic debris or particles that might be floating around inside the transmission. Now you're gonna find what looks like wet dust, and that's normal. If you see any big chunks or larger particles you wanna have your transmission checked out by a certified transmission tech, or somebody that you really trust. Ours looks good, pan's clean, just a little bit of normal debris. We can just wipe that out.
You wanna make sure that all the old fluid and debris is cleaned out of the pan, and most importantly you wanna make sure that any old pan gasket material has been thoroughly cleaned off of the pan flange. Now we go lucky, we got a rubber gasket, it didn't leave any of itself behind. A lot of times the cork gaskets will come apart, or some will get stuck on the pan, you wanna make sure you scrape them off. However, use a plastic scraper, you don't wanna scrape the metal, you don't wanna damage the metal surface. Once you got it completely clean then you can use some brake cleaner and wipe off any residual transmission fluid.
Last step is do a nice final wipe of the pan gasket surface area, that we've got a clean, dry contact patch. By the way make sure you don't have any paper towel debris or lint leftover in the pan. That's not good. The magnet goes back in place, now a lot of transmission pans have a cork gasket. We got lucky, ours is a rubber gasket, but it's a flat flange. I'm gonna put a little bit of RTV, some silicone adhesive in the corners to hold it in place while we reinstall it on the vehicle. Make sure our holes are lined up, and we are ready to reinstall this pan. Before we get any further I wanna make sure I've got the correct filter. So I got my new one out of the box, everything looks the same, we're good to go on the new filter. That's the next step.
Put the pan in place and hand tighten all of the bolts. Once the pan is hand snug, you wanna go around it and tighten the bolts with a torque wrench. Check your service manual for proper torque and tightening sequence. Make sure that you don't over tighten the bolts and ruin the new gasket. Since foot pound torque wrenches are not very accurate than the lower numbers, it's best to use an inch pound torque wrench. If the specification is listed in foot pounds, just convert the number to inch pounds. One foot pound equals twelve inch pounds. If you don't have a manual you can check for torque specs online or got to your neighborhood AutoZone and they can look that information up for you.
So with the transmission pan secured and placed in the truck, now we gotta add fluid. Our friends at Castrol recommended this TransMax Dex/Merc blend which is gonna be perfect for our truck.
We think it's gonna take twelve quarts, but we stopped at eight because we never wanna overfill. You wanna get an accurate reading on the transmission fluid. The best way to do that is to engage your parking brake, fully engage your brake, and run through the gears. Now you check the fluid with the engine running and warm to get an accurate dipstick reading. Now most dipsticks have a marked area for an operating range, along with a low and a full mark. If the fluid level is within the operating range you're good, if the fluid level is low, well you need to add more. Keep in mind that from the low mark to the full mark is usually about a half a quart, so make sure you don't overfill. We're at the max mark so we're good to go.
Now we got one last thing to do before we're completely finished, and that's look underneath the vehicle and make sure there's no leaks. You also wanna keep an eye on it for a couple of days, but if you don't see any leaks right away you're good. Also remember that you can take your old transmission fluid, put it in your empty jugs, take it to your local recycling center or to your neighborhood AutoZone. I hope this takes a little bit of the mystery out of changing your transmission fluid and filter. Remember you can do this yourself, see you in the zone.