How to Change the Transmission Filter in Ford Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

The Ford car uses a transmission filter only in the models with automatic transmissions. It is relatively easy to complete this task on a Ford car as the vehicle has a drain plug installed on its fluid pan; however, you still need to remove the pan to access the filter. It is best to do this procedure when the fluid is warm.

Under The Hood:

 How to Change the Transmission Filter in a 1996 Ford Explorer

Removal

Park the Explorer on firm, level ground. Apply the parking brake. Jack the SUV up and support it on jack stands.

Place a drain pan capable of holding at least a gallon of fluid under the transmission pan. The drain pan must be of a larger outside dimension than the transmission pan in order to capture all of the fluid. Wipe around the perimeter of the pan lip and transmission with a lint-free shop rag to remove loose road grime and grit that could contaminate the pan. Have spare rags handy.

Using a ratchet and socket, loosen all of the transmission pan bolts, about one-half to three-quarters of the way out. Do not remove any bolts all the way at this time.

Starting with the side of the pan that is farthest away from you, pull the pan down. Allow the fluid to spill over the lip of the pan away from your body and give it a few minutes to drain down. In the event that the pan remains stuck to the gasket, you may gently rap on the pan with a rubber or leather hammer to encourage it to break free. Use caution to not deform the pan while using the hammer, and avoid prying the pan off as this can deform the pan's sealing surface and cause a leak.

Begin removing the pan bolts, starting with the ones farthest away from you. Allow the pan to sag to pour off as much fluid as possible, then hold the pan in place against the transmission and remove the rest of the bolts all the way. Grasp the pan with both hands and lower it away from the transmission. As you lower it, be aware that sometimes the gasket will stick to the transmission and the pan unequally. This may cause you to tip and dump the pan when you are lowering it. Pour any remaining fluid out of the pan.

Remove the transmission pan gasket from the pan and transmission, using a gasket scraper. Be careful not to gouge the mating surfaces. Wipe up any gasket shavings with a clean, lint-free shop rag. Inspect the pan for metal shavings that may indicate a mechanical problem in the transmission, though metal salt is normal. Clean the transmission pan with a little solvent and a clean, lint-free rag to remove any residual sludge.

Pull the filter down from the transmission. Inspect the filter and transmission intake port for the filter seal and remove it. You may need to stick a finger or a ratchet extension into the intake port to remove the O-ring seal.

Installation

Lightly lube the O-ring seal on the new filter with clean ATF. Insert the filter tube into the transmission pickup port and ensure that the O-ring does not deform during installation. Push the filter fully into place on the transmission.

Place the new gasket on the transmission pan. Do not apply any sealant; this gasket must be applied clean and dry. With the pan still off the vehicle, stick a pan bolt through the pan holes at each corner until the threads engage in the gasket and any other places necessary to keep the gasket in place during installation. Hold the pan in position on the transmission, and start the bolts by hand until they are engaged. Install the remaining bolts and tighten them finger-tight. Torque the pan bolts to 71 to 119 inch-pounds, using a crisscross pattern. Don't overtighten the bolts -- they break easily.

Pull the transmission dipstick and install a clean funnel into the dipstick tube. Pour three quarts of Mercon Automatic Transmission Fluid into the transmission. Look under the vehicle and check for leaks around the transmission pan.

Lower the vehicle to the ground. Start the engine, put your foot on the brake and slowly cycle through the gears, pausing for a moment in each, then return it to Park. Allow the engine to reach full operating temperature. Check the transmission fluid level with the engine idling and the transmission in Park. Add fluid if necessary to reach the "Full Hot" mark. Do not overfill.

Items you will need

  • Jack

  • 4 jack stands

  • Large drain pan

  • Lint-free shop rags

  • Ratchet

  • Socket set

  • Rubber or leather mallet

  • Gasket scraper

  • Solvent

  • Inch-pound torque wrench

 How to Change the Transmission Filter on a 2003 Ford Focus

Removal

Raise the car with the floor jack and support it on jack stands. Place a six-quart drain pan directly under the transmission.

Remove all of the bolts for the transmission fluid pan except the three in the front of the pan near the driver's side. Loosen those bolts with the wrench by two full turns without removing them.

Separate the transmission pan from the transmission using a plastic scraper to break the sealant. Let the old transmission fluid drain into the drain pan, then remove the remaining three bolts and disconnect the pan.

Disconnect the electrical connector for the fluid temperature sensor on the transmission.

Remove the mounting bolts for the transmission filter with your wrench and remove the filter. Discard it with its seal.

Scrape the gasket material off the transmission pan with the scraper and then clean all traces of old fluid from the pan using solvent and compressed air to dry it; don't wipe the pan with a rag.

Installation

Connect a new seal to the replacement filter and bolt the filter in place on the transmission with the wrench.

Apply RTV sealant to the transmission pan's flange.

Press the pan in place on the transmission and apply the bolts. Tighten the bolts with your wrench in a criss-cross pattern, starting with the middle bolts and then working your way one bolt at a time at different ends of the pan, installing the four corner bolts last.

Lower the car off the jack stands and let the RTV sealant cure; the amount of time needed will be on the sealant's container.

Fill the transmission with fresh Mercon V transmission fluid (specifically made by Ford) through the filler tube near the battery--add a little at a time, using a funnel and allowing it to drain into the transmission, and check the level with the dipstick.

Items you will need

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands

  • Wrench

  • 6-quart drain pan

  • Solvent

  • Compressed air

  • Transmission filter

  • Transmission filter seal

  • RTV sealant

  • Mercon V automatic transmission fluid (or equivalent)

 How to Change the Transmission Filter on a Ford Focus

Drive the front wheels of the Focus onto the ramps carefully. Set the parking brake and place the chocks behind the rear wheels to prevent the car from rolling.

Climb underneath with the drop pan and socket set. Place the drop pan directly under the transmission pan.

Loosen the transmission pan bolts until you can pull the pan down far enough to allow the transmission fluid to pour out, into the drop pan. You may need to gently pry the pan away from the transmission with a screwdriver; use care in doing this so you don’t damage the pan or transmission with the tip of the screwdriver.

Remove the pan bolts completely with the socket set and take the pan down. Note the position and orientation of the transmission filter. Grab the transmission filter firmly with both hands and pull it straight down until it disengages from the transmission.

Take the transmission pan and filter out from under the Focus. Clean the transmission pan, especially the sealing surface, with brake cleaner and rags.

Climb back under the Focus with the transmission pan, gasket and new filter. Push the new filter back into place until it seats in the same position and orientation you noted from the old one.

Place the pan gasket on the transmission pan and hold them both up against the transmission. While holding the pan in place, thread the pan bolts back in by hand. Make sure the pan bolts go through the pan, as well as the gasket holes.

Tighten the bolts with the socket set in a crossing pattern. Climb out with the drop pan and socket set.

Open the hood and remove the transmission dipstick. Insert the funnel into the dipstick tube and pour five quarts of Mercon V transmission fluid into the funnel.

Start the engine, shift the transmission through all the gears and back to "Park." Check the transmission fluid level and top off as needed until the fluid is in the cross hatch on the dipstick. Move the wheel chocks and drive the Focus off the ramps.

Items you will need

  • 2 ramps

  • 2 wheel chocks

  • Drop pan

  • Socket set

  • Screwdriver (optional)

  • Brake cleaner

  • Rags

  • New filter and gasket kit

  • Funnel

  • 6 quarts Mercon V transmission fluid

 How to Change the Transmission Filter in a 1998 Ford Escort

Removal Procedure

Raise the Escort and support it on jack stands after driving it for a few miles. Place a 6-quart drain pan under the transmission fluid pan.

Unscrew and remove the drain plug located on the bottom of the fluid pan with a wrench, and let the fluid drain into the drain pan.

Remove all of the transmission pan's bolts and pry the pan off the transmission case. The bolt located at the front corner, near the passenger's side, requires a 10 mm wrench, while the ones located above the crossmember need a 10 mm universal socket.

Scrape away all remnants of the old gasket from the transmission case and the pan flange with a gasket scraper. Clean the inside of the pan with solvent and dry it with compressed air.

Remove the three bolts that secure the transmission filter with your wrench and 10 mm socket and remove the filter. Discard the filter and its seal.

Installation Procedure

Connect a new seal to the replacement filter, then connect the filter to the transmission with its connecting bolts.

Place a new gasket on the flange of the transmission fluid pan, and connect the pan to the transmission with all its connecting bolts.

Tighten the bolts with your wrench/socket in a criss-cross pattern. If you have a torque wrench, tighten the bolts to 69 to 95 foot-pounds of pressure.

Lower the car off the jack stands.

Fill the transmission with MERCON automatic transmission fluid at the filler neck, using a funnel to aid you. It's best to pour it a little at a time, allowing it to drain into the transmission, while constantly checking the level with the dipstick.

Items you will need

  • Non-porous gloves

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands

  • Drain pan

  • Wrench

  • 10 mm universal socket

  • Gasket scraper

  • Solvent

  • Compressed air

  • Transmission pan gasket

  • MERCON automatic transmission fluid

  • Funnel