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How to Change the Transmission Fluid in the 2001 Chevy Prizm

by Tammy Bronson; Updated November 07, 2017

Items you will need

  • Transmission fluid & filter

  • Gasket maker

  • Fluid pan

  • Clean cloths

  • Socket wrench set

  • Screwdriver set

  • Safety disposal container

  • Rubber mallet

  • Hoist (mechanical lift)

  • Transmission fluid dipstick

  • Utility knife

  • Spray brake cleaner

All motor vehicles need transmission fluid along with other lubricants such as oil. Transmission fluid helps the parts in the gearbox cool off during driving. Transmission repairs are some of the cheapest on a 2001 Chevy Prizm. When you purchase the Prizm, be sure to check the fluid routinely and the transmission will last for a very long time. Transmission fluid in a 2001 Chevy Prizm should be changed every 30,000 miles. It is best to lift the vehicle on a hoist to change the transmission fluid.

Check the level and color of the transmission fluid in the 2001 Chevy Prizm before adding new or changing out the old fluid. In a healthy transmission, the fluid is bright pink or red. The transmission fluid dipstick is under the hood of the Prizm. It is toward the back of the engine and has a dipstick with a ring at the end to use to pull the stick out.

Set the car in park and let the Prizm idle until the engine gets hot and the transmission fluid is warm. Find the transmission dipstick and brush off any dirt and grime in the area. Pull the dipstick out and wipe it off with a clean cloth. Reinsert the dipstick and pull it out again.

Look to see if the color of the fluid is pinkish red or a dark, burnt color. Pinkish red is good; a dark, burnt color means the transmission fluid is old and there might be other problems.

Read the level of transmission fluid by looking for the mark indicating the right level of transmission fluid when the vehicle is running hot. Ring and gasket cracks can make the fluid low in the transmission. Too much fluid is just as dangerous, because overfilling adds pressure on the gaskets and rings. It is good to know what the level is before you change the fluid so you can look for other issues while the fluid pan is off during changing.

Hoist the vehicle off the ground with a mechanical lift if one is available.This way, you can stand in the service pit and the transmission fluid can drain completely into a safety container without a messy spill. If a hoist is not available, use drive-up metal ramps. Block off the back tires so the Prizm doesn't roll backward. Set the emergency brake by pushing it all the way to the floorboard.

Find the transmission drain pan under the Prizm. There is an oil drain pan underneath the vehicle also. The transmission oil pan is on the same side of the vehicle as the transmission dipstick and directly underneath the dipstick.

Push a large safety container designed for fluid disposal under the drain pan. Loosen the bolt on the pan, one side at a time. The drain pan will drop sideways and hold the transmission fluid so it doesn’t gush out. After removing all bolts, tap the edge of the drain pan with a rubber mallet. This tapping breaks the seal around the pan. Half of the transmission fluid pours out after the seal is broken.

Hold the drain pan level and dump the pan into the safety container. Wipe the drain pan out with a clean cloth. Pick out any old gasket material stuck to the edges of the pan from the seal. You might have to scrape the gasket material off with a utility knife. Spray brake cleaner on the drain pan and bolts; wipe them off with a clean cloth. Do not use soap and water.

Twist the screws off the old filter. This filter is round and designed to keep out debris from the transmission fluid. Do not try to clean it and reuse it. A new filter costs less than $10 and is well worth the cost. Search for the O-ring and make sure it is seated properly. The O-ring is under the filter on the suction side. The ring sits in place and the oil filter keeps it there. Screw on a new filter.

Rub gasket maker on the edge of the drain pan and place the gasket on top. Slide the bolts in the holes of the drain pan and wait 15 minutes for the gasket maker to dry. Gasket maker comes in a 6- to 8-inch tube. Squeeze the glue out of the tube with hand pressure.

Jump down into the service pit with the drain pan and lift the pan up to the bottom of the vehicle, aligning the bolts with the holes. Screw the bolts in by hand and then tighten with a wrench. The gasket will stick to the metal of the car, creating a tight fit devoid of any leaks of fluid. The bolts are made of aluminum, so do not overtighten or they will break off.

Fill the transmission back up with fluid from under the hood. Lower the Prizm off the hoist first, lift the hood and pour 3 to 4 quarts of transmission fluid into the dipstick hole. Insert the dipstick and read how close the fluid is to the cold line. Keep pouring transmission fluid into the dipstick holder until the cold level line is covered. Start the car, let it idle in park until the engine is warm and then recheck the transmission fluid. Add fluid as needed until the hot level line and the transmission fluid are equal. Recheck the transmission fluid after 24 hours and before driving.

Tips

It is easier to drain the transmission fluid and remove the drain pan while you are standing, which requires a hoist.

Warnings

Do not rely solely on a cold-fill reading. Damage to the transmission and gearbox will occur if the transmission fluid level is too low.

About the Author

Tammy Bronson has been a freelance writer since 1994. As a writer for Thompson Gale Publishing she wrote autobiographies and legal reviews. With Remilon.com Bronson wrote innovative informative articles about colleges and universities nationwide. She lives in the Greater Boston Area and has a Master of Arts degree in literature and writing from the State University of New York.

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