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How to Change Automatic Transmission Fluid in a Saturn S-Series

by Contributor

Your automatic Saturn S-Series has finally reached the 30,000, 60,000 or 90,000 mile mark. You know from your owner's manual that it's time to change the transmission (transaxle) fluid and filter. Some S-Series owners prefer to have this done professionally. You, on the other hand, enjoy doing your own car repairs and look forward to the challenge.

Prep the S-Series

Turn on the Saturn S-Series ignition. With the vehicle in park, run the engine for about 10 minutes to heat up the transmission fluid. Open the hood and put on your gloves to protect your hands. Check the transaxle fluid level with the dipstick to see if it's full.

Switch off the ignition to allow sufficient time for the fluid to cool down. You can only replace the fluid while it's warm or cold, not hot.

Jack up the car and put all four wheels on the jack stands. Make sure the car is level and there's enough room for you to comfortably work.

Change the Transaxle Filter and Fluid

Insert the funnel into the dipstick opening, once the fluid has cooled sufficiently. Remove the air cleaner box. Although not necessary, for better access to the transaxle filter, take out the battery and battery tray.

Place the two-gallon pan below the transmission drain plug, which is located underneath the car on the driver's side. Take off the Saturn S-Series drain plug and allow the old transaxle fluid to flow into the pan. Be aware that the fluid is warm and will rush out fast.

Remove the transaxle filter with the oil filter wrench. Because some fluid may leak out as you take the filter off, make sure it doesn't get on the two sensors near the mount area. Use the rag to clean off any fluid that does.

Apply a small amount of transaxle fluid on the replacement gasket before you install the new filter. Using the filter wrench, secure the Saturn S-Series filter with a half to a three-fourths clockwise turn.

Put the battery, battery tray and air cleaner box back safely. Clean off the drain plug and the area around it with the rag. Reinstall the drain plug.

Pour the appropriate amount of new fluid into the transmission through the funnel. When you're done, remove the funnel and replace the dipstick.

Close the hood. Carefully move the drain pan off to the side to allow the old fluid to cool. Once it has, pour it into an empty bottle and dispose of it safely. Remove the jack stands and lower the car.

Start the Saturn S-Series to warm up the new fluid. Check for leaks around the filter, and if there are none, let the car run for 10 minutes in park.

Re-open the hood. Use the dipstick to check the current level, which should be the same as it was before you replaced it. If it needs more, place the funnel on top of the transmission and slowly add more until at the right level.

Go for a short test drive as an extra precaution. Double check the transmission fluid one more time using the same process as before once you get back.

Tips

  • Check the fluid level up to five times repeatedly on the transaxle dipstick for an accurate reading, according to the owner's manual.
  • Use the transaxle fluid listed in your owner's manual and buy the replacement filter at a Saturn store or dealership for optimal performance. They both vary by model year.
  • Keep a spare bottle of transaxle fluid on hand in case of an unexpected leak.

Warnings

  • For S-Series with a theft deterrent stereo, don't disconnect the battery unless you also have the unlock code for the radio.
  • Don't touch the sensor wires as you install the new transmission filter.

Items you will need

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

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