How to Check the Automatic Transmission Fluid in Vehicles

by Contributing Writer

The Vehicles automatic transmission consists of a three-element torque converter and a hydraulically operated gearbox. This gearbox contains a planetary gear set that provides three forward gears and a reverse gear. The differential is incorporated into the transmission and the entire unit is bolted up beneath the transmission. The automatic transmission dipstick is located on the right-hand side of the engine, in the front of the engine compartment and just in front of the air filter housing tube. Part of the transmission case serves as the engine oil sump.

Under The Hood:

 How to Check the Automatic Transmission Fluid in a 2006 Nissan Xterra

Park the Xterra on level ground. Open the hood and locate the transmission dip stick, on the passenger side by the firewall. It is low and is partially obscured by the main wiring harness. Remove the 10 mm bolt securing the dipstick to the filler tube using a wrench.

Lift the harness as necessary and extract the dip stick. Start the engine and allow it to warm up to normal operating temperature.

Keep the engine running and insert the dipstick all the way and withdraw it.

Fill the transmission as needed with either Nissan Matic "D," Castrol Import Multi-car Transmission Fluid or Amsoil. Look at the dipstick and fill accordingly. Once filled to the full line, sit in the truck and run it through all the gears. Place it back into park. Recheck the transmission fluid level.

Insert the dipstick fully, lay the head over to align the hole to secure the dipstick and insert the 10 mm bolt and tighten it.

Items you will need

  • 10 mm wrench

  • Rag

 How to Check the Automatic Transmission Fluid in a Subaru Legacy

Start the engine and let it warm up to normal operating temperature. Normal operating temperature is reached when the needle on the water gauge sits in the middle of the gauge between the upper and lower marks.

Open the hood and pull out the looped handle in the back of the engine. This is the transmission dipstick.

Check the oil level on the end of the dipstick. The oil level needs to be between the upper and lower marks on the end of the dipstick. If the fluid level is low, place a funnel in the filler neck and fill the transmission until the fluid level sits between the marks on the end of the dipstick. Use a rag to wipe up any oil you spill.

Smell the oil on the dipstick. If it smells burned, you need to replace the fluid or have it replaced for you.

Items you will need

  • Transmission fluid (if necessary)

  • Funnel (if necessary)

  • Shop rag

 How to Check the Automatic Transmission Fluid in a Honda Odyssey

Start the Honda Odyssey, and move it to a level surface. The surface must be level so you can get an accurate fluid reading.

Warm the vehicle to a normal operating temperature by allowing the engine to idle. Once it is warmed up, turn off the vehicle.

Lift the engine hood, and secure it with the hood prop.

Pull the transmission dipstick out of the tube, and clean the fluid off with a rag. The dipstick has a yellow loop on the top and is on the driver's side of the vehicle.

Slide the dipstick back into the tube, ensuring that it is pushed in completely so you can obtain an accurate reading.

Pull the dipstick back out of the tube. Examine the location of the fluid level on the dipstick. The fluid level should be between the two holes at the end of the dipstick. According to the 2000 Honda Odyssey owner's manual, "If the level is below the lower mark, add fluid to bring it to the upper mark."

Remove the transmission fluid fill plug, and pour fluid a small amount of fluid into the reservoir.

Repeat Steps 5 and 6 to ensure the fluid level is adequate. If not, repeat Step 7 and then recheck until the fluid is at the proper level.

Insert the dipstick back into the tube, and close the engine hood.

Items you will need

  • Rag

  • Honda transmission fluid

 How to Check the Automatic Transmission Fluid in a 2002 Ford Focus

Drive the vehicle at least 20 miles to warm up the transmission fluid to operating temperature. Park on a level area and set the parking brake. Leave the engine running.

Press down on the brake pedal and move the transmission shift lever through each gear. Leave the shifter in each position long enough for the gear to fully engage before going to the next position. Place the shifter in park and release the brake.

Open the hood and locate the transmission dipstick near the front of the engine compartment, in-between the battery and engine block.

Pull the dipstick from the dipstick tube and wipe the end with a clean, lint-free cloth. Insert the dipstick back into the tube until it is fully seated.

Pull the dipstick back out of the tube and ensure the fluid level is between the minimum ("Min") and maximum ("Max") marks on the end of the dipstick. Insert the dipstick back into the tube until it is fully seated.

Items you will need

  • Lint-free cloth

  • Mercon V automatic transmission fluid (optional)

 How to Check the Automatic Transmission Fluid on a 2005 Toyota Tundra

Park the Toyota Tundra on a level surface and apply the emergency brake. Let the truck idle with the AC off so that the transmission fluid is heated between 115 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Shift the vehicle through all of the gears to distribute the fluid evenly. Leave the truck idling while checking the fluid.

Slide under the Toyota Tundra's undercarriage and locate the transmission, which is beneath the front portion of the truck cab.

Locate the overflow plug at the bottom of the transmission oil pan. Next, find the refill plug, located midway up on the side of the transmission body. The plug is a hex bolt with the word “check” etched into it.

Remove the overflow plug from the transmission oil pan. If oil comes out of the overflow hole, the transmission has enough fluid in it and you can finish the task by replacing the plug. If no oil comes out of the overflow hole, proceed to Step 5.

Replace the overflow plug and turn the Toyota Tundra engine off. Remove the check plug with a hex key wrench and add about 0.4 liters of Toyota Genuine ATF WS fluid to the transmission. Use a funnel to prevent spillage. Replace the plug and start the Tundra engine.

Shift the truck through the gears while it is idling to distribute the transmission fluid that you added. Remove the overflow plug located at the bottom of the transmission pan while the truck is idling. If oil drips out of the hole, there is enough oil in the transmission and you are finished. Turn the Tundra engine off and replace both plugs.

If no oil drips out of the overflow, repeat Steps 5 and 6 again until oil does appear.

Items you will need

  • Level work area

  • Drip pan

  • Hex key wrenches

  • Toyota Genuine ATF WS transmission fluid

  • Funnel

 How to Check the Automatic Transmission Fluid of a 2010 Honda Civic

Checking the Automatic Transmission Fluid

Park the Civic on a level surface and open the hood. Leave the vehicle running and listen for the radiator fan to turn on --- this indicates the vehicle has reached operating temperature.

Turn the engine off. Wait for at least 60 seconds, but no more than 90 seconds and remove the transmission dipstick --- the yellow-handled stick between the air intake tube and the battery.

Wipe the old oil off the dipstick, using a clean, lint-free cloth, and reinsert the dipstick. Remove the dipstick again and check the transmission fluid level on the end of the dipstick. The correct fluid level on the 2010 Civic is between the upper and lower marks on the end of the dipstick.

Adding Transmission Fluid

Remove the dipstick and insert a funnel into the dipstick hole.

Add Honda Genuine ATF-Z1 transmission fluid through the funnel and recheck the transmission fluid following the process outlined in the section titled "Checking the Automatic Transmission Fluid."

Repeat Step 2 until the transmission level is between the upper and lower marks on the transmission dipstick.

Items you will need

  • Clean, lint-free cloth

  • Honda Genuine ATF-Z1 transmission fluid

 How to Check the Automatic Transmission Fluid in a Saab

Set the handbrake and run the engine for at least 15 seconds at idling speed with the gear selector in the D position. Then run the engine at idling speed for 15 seconds in the R position and then finally for 15 seconds in the P position. The fluid check is performed with the selector lever in the P position (engine running).

Pull the dipstick out of the transmission dipstick tube and wipe it off with a shop rag. Reinsert the dipstick back into the dipstick tube and pull it out again. Some transmissions will give a false reading the first time the dipstick is pulled; always reinsert and pull again to get an accurate reading.

Read the marks on the dipstick to determine the current level of transmission fluid. There are min and max marks on the dipstick to indicate the target level.

Top off the transmission by inserting a funnel into the dipstick tube and pouring the fluid in the funnel; do not overfill the transmission. Overfilling the transmission can cause slippage, overheating, and transmission failure.

Check the transmission fluid in the final drive, the second part of the transmission that is the differential gear and axle assembly that turns the wheels. To check, remove the filler hole plug on the side of the transmission case at the right gear. Fill with transmission fluid to at or just below the bottom of the filler hole.

Items you will need

  • Metric wrench set

  • Allen wrench set

  • Flat tip screwdriver

  • Funnel

  • Automatic transmission fluid

  • Shop rags