Chevy Cavalier Transmission Fluid Information

by Steve Brachmann
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The moving parts of a vehicle’s engine system require a variety of lubricants and oils to keep parts operational. The transmission, which transfers an engine’s power from the engine through different gears, is one of the most important and expensive parts. Regularly checking and changing the transmission fluid in your Chevy Cavalier is one of the most important tasks for prolonging your vehicle’s service life.


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Providing your Chevy Cavalier with both the proper amount and type of transmission fluid is especially critical for Cavaliers that utilize an automatic transmission, which contains more parts than a manual transmission, breaks down easier and can be thousands of dollars to fix or replace. Transmission fluid lubricates the many moving parts of an automatic transmission and can absorb some environmental irritants, such as dirt or metal shavings, that would otherwise scratch and wear down the transmission.


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All years of Chevy Cavalier are compatible with a transmission fluid called Dexron. The original Dexron transmission fluid formula was designed by General Motors for use in GM cars with automatic transmissions. Dexron II and Dexron IIE, specially formulated for electric transmissions, contained additives for better oxidation inhibition and viscosity control. Dexron III was released in the early 2000s, along with special formulas Dexron III (H) and Dexron III/Saturn, designed to specifications for Saturn transmissions. Dexron VI is the latest version of GM’s transmission fluid brand and is backwards compatible with all years of Chevy Cavalier.


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Many models of Chevy Cavalier do not have dipsticks for automatic transmission fluid (ATF). An oil level control plug found on the transmission’s torque conversion side for these models will let an owner view the level of transmission fluid in the vehicle. Leave the engine running when checking transmission fluid levels in Cavaliers with an oil level control plugs; this will prevent the transmission fluid, which is often extremely hot, from pouring out from the plug. Transmission fluid levels should be flush with the screw-like threads found on the oil level control plug.


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Darkness or opaqueness in the transmission fluid does not necessarily mean that the fluid must be changed. A better indication that transmission fluid should be changed is if the fluid gives off a burning odor when checked, which may be evidence of the presence of environmental irritants. Do not overfill your Cavalier’s transmission fluid to excess; having too much transmission fluid in your vehicle can cause transmission problems.

Time Frame

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Automatic transmission fluid should be changed every 30,000 miles or 3 years, but cars operating at high temperatures, due either to extreme weather or usage, should have transmission fluid replaced every 15,000 miles, or every year. Extreme heat causes many of the automatic transmission fluid additives, especially those involved in enhancing lubrication, to break down quicker. Transmission fluid additives begin to break down under temperatures in excess of 220 degrees Fahrenheit; temperatures in excess of 400 degrees Fahrenheit can cause most transmission fluids to break down completely in 20 minutes.

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