How to Change Automatic Transmission Fluid in Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

Mitsubishi car recommends that you use Mercon automatic transmission fluid. Check the owner's manual to confirm the recommended transmission maintenance schedule. If you drive the Mitsubishi car under severe service, you should change the automatic transmission fluid twice as often as you would if you drove the car under normal service.

Under The Hood:

 How to Change Automatic Transmission Fluid in a Chevy Silverado

Drain the Automatic Transmission Fluid

Drive your Chevy Silverado for 10 minutes to warm up the transmission fluid. Park on a level spot. Turn off the engine. Engage the emergency parking brake. Open the hood and secure it using the safety bar.

Check the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) level and quality. The dipstick is toward the rear of the engine. It is marked ATF Engine Oil. Pull this dipstick out. Wipe it off with a clean paper towel. Look at the fluid on the paper towel. Transmission fluid needs replacing if it is brown. Fresh transmission fluid is translucent red. Replace the dipstick. Pull it out again and look at the level. It should be between the MIN and MAX lines. On certain Silverado engines, mostly modified engines, there is no dipstick. This is a closed system. In this case, you will have to proceed with changing the ATF without checking the level and quality.

Jack the front of your vehicle up with a floor jack. Use jack stands placed under the lift notch about six inches behind the front wheel well on either side of the vehicle. Lock the jack stands in place by lowering the security bar.

Locate the fluid line that connects the transmission to the radiator. Remove it by loosening the clamp with an adjustable wrench and then pulling on the line gently. The ATF will be hot, so be careful that you don't burn yourself. The transmission attaches to the dipstick well. Place the open end of this line into an empty container, such as an engine oil drain pan.

Turn on the engine. Make sure that you leave the emergency parking brake engaged. Watch the ATF line for fluid pumping out. Turn off the engine as soon as the flow of ATF stops. Reattach the line to the transmission.

Install a New Filter

Detach the drain pan. You will have to get under the vehicle to do this. You will see a solid plate with bolts all around the edges directly under the transmission. Remove the bolts using a 6mm hex socket. Some additional ATF may spill when you do this. Remember that it will be hot. Peel the gasket from the rim of the drain pan.

Remove any debris from the bottom of the drain pan with a clean paper towel. If it is really dirty, you may need to pour a little transmission fluid on it to help remove some of the sludge. Using water to clean the pan is bad, as water will damage the transmission.

Look for the 18mm lock nut on the bottom of the transmission filter. This is in opening which became visible when you removed the drain pan. Remove the lock nut using 18mm box end socket. Pull the filter down to remove it.

Install a new filter. To do this, you have to slide it into the filter port and tighten the lock nut until it is secure.

Position a new gasket on the drain pan rim and position the drain pan under the transmission so you can replace the bolts. Tighten these by hand until all of the bolts are holding the drain pan. Moving in criss cross pattern, tighten the bolts using the 6mm hex socket until they are secure. Keep in mind that over tightening will dent the drain pain.

Unlock and remove the jack stands. Lower the vehicle with the floor jack.

Refill the Transmission Fluid

Locate the Engine specification sticker on the interior of the hood for the ATF specifications and check the ATF specifications. The sticker should tell you the type of ATF (see Resources) and the amount needed for your vehicle. This varies according to year model and engine size. If you are unable to find the sticker, the information is also in the owner's manual.

Find the ATF fill port. This is beside the dipstick. Remove the black cap marked ATF or Transmission Engine Oil.

Put a funnel into the fill port. Pour the appropriate amount of ATF into the funnel. Check the level again. If it is low, add a little more ATF and recheck.

Replace the black cap and tighten it. Close the hood. Start the vehicle and allow it to idle for 10 minutes to circulate the ATF.

Items you will need

  • Paper towels

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands

  • Adjustable wrench

  • Container

  • 6mm hex socket

  • 18mm box end socket

  • Filter

  • Gasket

  • Funnel

  • Automatic transmission fluid

 How to Change Automatic Transmission Fluid in a Toyota Corolla

Remove the Old Transmission Fluid, Strainer and Gaskets

Park the car on level ground. You can raise it with ramps or jacks to gain easier access to the transmission. Ensure that you safely support the car.

Clean the outside of the oil pan and the surrounding areas thoroughly to remove all dirt and grease. This prevents contamination when you remove the pan. Remove the dipstick from the filler tube and replace it with a funnel.

Place a drain pan beneath the fluid pan, remove the drain plug with a socket wrench and allow the old transmission fluid to drain. If the drain plug has a metal gasket, you can clean and reuse it. Otherwise, if it has a fiber gasket, you need to discard it and replace it with a new one. Set the drain plug aside where it won't get dirty.

Loosen all but two of the fluid pan retaining bolts in a crisscross fashion. You will need a socket wrench for this step. When only two bolts are left, hold the pan with one hand while you remove the remaining bolts with the other. Be very careful when removing the pan, as some fluid will remain. Place the pan on a clean surface.

Remove the strainer by taking off the retaining bolts. Pay attention if some of these bolts are different lengths, so that you can replace them in their correct locations. Remove the strainer and discard the gasket. You may need to scrape remaining pieces of the gasket from the valve body.

Find the magnets on the bottom of the fluid pan, remove, and clean them. Don't be alarmed if you find metal shavings attached to the magnets. The magnets are there to collect this debris so that it doesn't clog up the delicate workings of the transmission.

Drain the rest of the transmission fluid from the pan and wipe the pan with a clean rag. Remove the old gasket from the pan and transmission. You may have to scrape off some of the material. Wash the pan and the drain plug thoroughly and allow them to air dry. Don't dry the pan with a rag, as lint can damage the transmission.

Replace the New Strainer Assembly, Gaskets and Fluid Pan

Install a new strainer assembly. Remember to replace all the bolts in the original locations.

Put the magnets in their original locations. Make sure that they don't interfere with any tubes.

Hold the fluid pan and gasket in position and hand tighten the retaining bolts in a crisscross fashion. Tighten them progressively to 45 to 60 inch pounds.

Replace the drain plug and gasket by hand. Then, tighten them with a socket wrench.

Add New Transmission Fluid

Find the type of transmission fluid you should buy written on the dipstick. You can also find this information in your owner's manual. You will likely find that the recommended transmission fluid is Dexron III.

Add the new automatic transmission fluid through the dipstick tube with the engine off. Some fluid will remain in the transmission, so add about half of the recommend dry refill amount to start. Check the level, add a little more fluid and check again until the fluid reaches the correct level on the dipstick.

Replace the dipstick, start the engine and let it idle for a few minutes without pressing the gas pedal. Shift your car through the gears and then back to Park.

Check the fluid level on the dipstick while the car is idling. If the dipstick indicates that the transmission needs more fluid, add a little more until the level reaches the full mark on the dipstick.

Items you will need

  • Ramps or jacks

  • Funnel

  • Drain pan

  • Socket wrench

  • Clean rags

  • New strainer assembly

  • New gaskets

  • Torque wrench

  • New transmission fluid

 How to Change Automatic Transmission Fluid on a Honda Pilot

Drive the Honda Pilot for 10-15 minutes to heat up the transmission fluid. Park it in a safe and cool work area and open the hood.

Jack up the front of the vehicle and place jack stands on both sides under the designated jacking points. Lower the jack so that the Pilot comes to a secure rest on the stands. Leave the jack under the Pilot in the upright position.

Locate the transmission fluid drain plug. This is on the lower driver side of the transmission. The drain plug has a big bolt head with a square hole in the center.

Position the fluid catch pan under the drain plug. Insert the square end of the 3/8 inch drive ratchet in the drain plug. Turn the drain plug counterclockwise to remove it. Pull the drain plug out and allow all of the transmission fluid to drain out. Put the plug back in and tighten it with the ratchet.

Crawl out from under the Pilot and go to the front of the engine. Raise the hood and secure it in place. Locate the transmission dipstick on the driver side of the engine. The transmission dipstick has a yellow handle. Pull the dipstick out of the tube and set it to the side.

Slide the 1/4-inch plastic tubing onto the long neck of the funnel. Slide the tubing inside of the dipstick hole.

Slowly pour in all four quarts of automatic transmission fluid through the funnel. Remove the funnel and the tubing from the dipstick tube. Reinsert the dipstick.

Crank the engine and let it run for about two minutes. Turn off the engine and wait two minutes. Check the transmission fluid. The fluid level should be on the full mark. Close the hood.

Jack the front of the Honda Pilot back up and remove the jack stands. Lower the Pilot back to the ground.

Items you will need

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • Fluid catch pan

  • 3/8-inch drive ratchet

  • Long neck funnel

  • 1/4-inch plastic tube

  • 4 quarts of Honda Genuine ATF-Z1

 How to Change Automatic Transmission Fluid in a Chrysler Sebring

Remove the Transmission Fluid and Replace the Filter

Drive the Sebring about 10 miles to warm the transmission fluid. Raise and support the car with ramps or jack stands. Make sure the car is level. Place a drain pan beneath the transmission. If there is a splash shield on the transmission pan, remove it by pulling down on the fasteners.

Loosen the retaining bolts on the transmission pan with a socket wrench. Use care not to damage the pan, the transmission or the bolts. Gently tap the pan loose with a rubber hammer.

Allow the pan to hang down just enough so the fluid can drain out into your drain pan. It should come out along one side of the transmission pan where it meets the transmission itself.

Finish removing the retaining bolts and take the pan off the transmission. Remove the old sealant with a scraping tool. Clean the areas on the pan and the transmission where the sealant was.

Remove the transmission fluid filter. You may find that it's necessary to remove screws or clips to get the filter off. Install a new filter and a O ring gasket on the valve body.

Clean the oil pan and the magnet inside. You can use an appropriate solvent and lint free cloth. Rinse them thoroughly and allow them to air dry. Remember to replace the magnet in its original location.

Install the Transmission Pan the New Transmission Fluid

Apply a thin, 1/8 inch bead of MOPAR RTV sealant along the edge of the transmission pan. Replace the pan and use a socket wrench to secure it with the retaining bolts. Lower the Sebring.

Pour 4 quarts of MOPARĀ® ATF Plus 3 type 7176 into the dipstick filler tube using a funnel. If this fluid isn't available, use Mopar Dexron III automatic transmission fluid or its equivalent. Start the engine and let it idle for one or two minutes. Move the gear selector through each gear, ending in "Park" or "Neutral."

Check the fluid level. If needed, add just enough fluid to bring the level about 1/8 inch below the "Add" mark.

Let the engine run long enough to bring the transmission fluid up the normal operating temperature. Check the fluid level again. The level should be in the "Hot" range. If it isn't, add enough fluid to get to the correct level. When the fluid level is correct, replace the dipstick fully in to the refill tube and turn off the engine.

Items you will need

  • Ramps or jack stands

  • Drain pan

  • Socket wrench

  • Rubber hammer

  • Scraping tool

  • New filter and O ring gasket

  • Solvent for cleaning

  • Clean, lint free cloth

  • MOPAR RTV sealant

  • New transmission fluid

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

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.

Items you will need

  • 7 qt. automatic transaxle fluid

  • Transaxle filter and gasket

  • Jack

  • 4 jack stands

  • Gloves

  • 2 gallon drain pan

  • Funnel

  • Metric wrenches

  • Oil filter wrench

  • Rags

  • Owner's manual

 How to Change Automatic Transmission Fluid in a Mercury Villager

Drive the car or let it run for 15 minutes to warm the engine and transmission. Turn the engine off, raise and support the front of the van with jack stands. Remove the splash shields for the transmission and engine.

Clean the area around the drain plug on the transmission. Position a large drain pan beneath the drain plug. Use a wrench to loosen the drain plug. Push in the plug while you unscrew it to prevent fluid from escaping until you fully remove it.

Wait for the fluid to finish draining. Clean the drain plug and inspect it for damage. If you need to replace it, do so. Otherwise, dry it with a clean lint free cloth and reinstall it onto the transmission.

Use a socket wrench to remove the transmission fluid pan retaining bolts and remove the pan from the transmission. Clean the pan and the magnets inside with a safe solvent. Replace the magnets in their original locations and set the pan and magnets aside to air dry. Remove the bolts that hold on the fluid filter, take off the filter and filter gasket and discard them.

Install a new filter, filter gasket and tighten the filter bolts to 62 to 79 inch pounds with a torque wrench. Position a new gasket onto the fluid pan, making sure the bolt holes line up. Reinstall the pan onto the transmission, installing the bolts finger tight. Use a wrench to tighten the bolts a little tighter, tightening every other bolt until you tightened each one. Finally, torque the bolts to 62 to 79 inch pounds.

Reinstall the splash shields and return the Villager to level ground. Remove the transmission dipstick from beneath the hood and replace it with a funnel. Measure the amount of fluid that you drained from the transmission and pour the same amount of new fluid into the transmission through the funnel into the filler tube.

Take the funnel out of the filler tube. Start the engine and check the fluid level with the dipstick. If needed, add more automatic transmission fluid to bring the level to the proper position on the dipstick. Replace the dipstick, shut the hood and turn off the engine.

Items you will need

  • Jack stands

  • Drain pan

  • Wrench

  • New drain plug (if needed)

  • Lint free cloth

  • Socket wrench

  • Solvent

  • New filter assembly

  • Torque wrench

  • New fluid pan gasket

  • Funnel

  • New transmission fluid

 How to Change Automatic Transmission Fluid in a Mitsubishi Galant

Drive the Galant for 20 minutes to heat up the transmission fluid. Park the car on level ground, raise and support it with jack stands. Place a large drain pan beneath the transmission. If there is a drain plug on the fluid pan, remove it and allow the fluid to drain. Use an appropriately sized socket wrench to remove the fluid pan retaining bolts.

Lower the fluid pan from the transmission. Remove the gasket from the fluid pan, clean the pan with a safe solvent and set it aside to air dry. Discard the gasket. Use the socket wrench to remove the fluid filter retaining bolts and pull the filter from the valve body.

Install a new fluid filter and tighten the retaining bolts to 5 ft-lbs with a torque wrench. Position a new gasket onto the fluid pan and reinstall the pan onto the transmission. Tighten the bolts evenly to 8 to 9 ft-lb. Use care not to overtighten them. Return the vehicle to the ground.

Measure the amount of fluid that you drained from the transmission. Pour the same amount of new automatic transmission fluid into the transmission through the dipstick filler tube. You will need a funnel with a long neck for this step.

Move the gear selector to "Park," apply the parking brake, put wheel blocks on the front wheels and start the engine. Let the car idle for a few minutes. Check the fluid level with the dipstick. Add more fluid if needed. If not, take the Galant for a short drive. Return the car to a level surface and recheck the fluid level. If needed, add more fluid to bring the fluid level to the correct position on the dipstick. Depending on your vehicle, the dipstick may read "Hot" and "Add" or "Min" and "Max." Either way, the fluid level should fall between the two indicators.

Items you will need

  • Jack stands

  • Drain pan

  • Socket wrench

  • Solvent

  • New fluid filter

  • Torque wrench

  • New fluid pan gasket

  • New transmission fluid

  • Long neck funnel

  • Wheel blocks

 How to Change Automatic Transmission Fluid in a Chevy Camaro

Drain the Transmission Fluid and Replace the Filter

Support the car above the ground with ramps or jackstands. Make sure the car is level. Place a drain pan beneath the transmission fluid pan. Remove the dipstick from beneath the hood and replace it with a funnel.

Loosen and remove the retaining bolts on the front and sides of the oil pan with a socket wrench. Using four turns each, loosen each of the rear retaining bolts.

Pull down on the front of the pan gently so that the transmission fluid may drain out. Take care not to bend the pan. When the fluid stops draining, finish removing the rear retaining bolts.

Take the oil pan off the transmission and drain the rest of the fluid into the drain pan. Take the gasket off the oil pan and discard it.

Remove the transmission filter and seal from the transmission. Clean the pan and the mating surfaces of the transmission pan and gasket surfaces with a solvent. Allow them to air dry. If there is a magnet in the transmission pan, remove it, clean it and replace it as well.

Coat the new O ring seal for the filter with a coat of Transgel, which is the recommended product for this vehicle. Install the new seal onto the filter and put the new filter into the case.

Install the oil pan with the new gasket onto the transmission. Replace the screws and the conical washer as they were originally to ensure a proper fit. Tighten the bolts with a torque wrench to 12 foot pounds for 1993 to 1995 Camaros. Tighten the bolts to 9 foot pounds on 1996 to 1998 Camaros. Return the car to the ground.

Replace the Transmission Fluid

Fill the transmission to the proper level with the engine cold. Use Dexron IIE or III automatic transmission fluid. Alternate adding a little at a time through the funnel and checking the until the fluid reaches the "Cold" mark on the dipstick.

Engage the parking brake on the car, turn the engine on and let it idle for 15 minutes. Apply the brake and slowly move the transmission through the gears and back to "Park."

Remove the dipstick and carefully check the temperature of the fluid. Wipe it with a clean cloth and reinsert it into the filler tube for three seconds. Remove the dipstick again and read the fluid level.

Know that if the fluid is cold, the level should be about 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch below the "Add/Cold" mark. If the fluid is warm, the level should be right around the "Add" mark. Finally, if the fluid is hot, the level should be at the "Full/Hot" mark.

Use the funnel to add more transmission fluid if it's low. When filling the transmission, always remember to check the fluid level often, as overfilling can cause serious damage. When the level is right, replace the dipstick and turn off the engine.

Items you will need

  • Ramps or jackstands

  • Drain pan

  • Funnel

  • Socket wrench

  • Solvent

  • Transgel

  • New filter assembly

  • Torque wrench

  • New transmission fluid

  • Clean cloth

About the Author

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