How to Check the Transmission Fluid Level in Cars

by Contributing Writer

The transmission fluid in the Dodge car is responsible for maintaining the proper function of the vehicle's transmission. The automatic transmission changes gears based on the speed of the vehicle and the strain on the engine, represented in RPMs (revolutions per minute). The transmission regulates the RPMs by switching to a higher gear to keep the RPMs low at higher vehicle speeds, while switching to a lower gear while driving slowly for better power and efficiency. Having an insufficient amount of transmission fluid will impede the operation of the transmission and can lead to damage of the component and a degraded driving experience.

Under The Hood:

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid Level in a Dodge Caliber

Drive the Caliber for 10 minutes or allow the engine to idle for 20 minutes. Park the vehicle on a level surface for an accurate reading. Open the hood and move to the engine compartment with the engine still running.

Remove the transmission fluid level indicator (dipstick) from the slot on the right side of the engine. The dipstick is located mid-way between the front and rear of the engine compartment. The handle of the dipstick is labeled "ATF" for automatic transmission fluid.

Wipe the dipstick clean with a paper or cloth towel. Slide the indicator back into the transmission fluid reservoir.

Pull the dipstick from the reservoir and read the transmission fluid level on the stick. There are two lines and a cross-scored section of shading toward the end of the dipstick. A fluid reading in the shaded area indicates that the Caliber is in need of transmission fluid. Fluid levels indicated by the lower line denote that the fluid is at the lowest acceptable level (the cold line--for when the engine has not been running). The uppermost line is the full line.

Replenish the fluid as needed using Dodge automatic transmission fluid. Use a funnel to pour the fluid into the slot from which the dipstick was pulled.

Items you will need

  • Paper or cloth towel

  • Funnel

  • Transmission fluid.

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid Level in a Dodge Dakota

Start the engine and let it run until your Dakota is at normal operating temperature. Make sure the truck is sitting on level ground so that the fluid level is accurate.

Apply the parking brake and with your foot on the brake cycle the transmission through all of the gears on the selector. Return the transmission to park and leave it running.

Open the hood of the truck and locate the transmission dipstick. It is located at the back of the engine on the passenger's side near the firewall. In most newer vehicles it will have a yellow T-handle on the top of the dipstick.

Pull the dipstick out of the dipstick tube and wipe the transmission fluid off of it with a clean rag. Insert the dipstick back into the tube, making sure it is fully seated in the tube.

Pull the dipstick out of the tube again and read the level by looking for the fluid on the dipstick. The level should be at the full mark on the dipstick. If it is below the full mark, transmission fluid should be added to bring it to full.

Items you will need

  • Clean rag

 How do I Check Transmission Fluid Levels in a Sportster 883?

Place the motorcycle in an upright position. If no stand is available, have another person hold the bike upright.

Remove the six bolts from the left side of the engine's primary housing with a socket or crescent wrench. Lift the cover off the motor and set it aside.

Look through the derby cover port, located under the primary housing you just pulled off. Take note of the transmission fluid level. It should be level with the bottom of the clutch assembly. Add transmission fluid if the level is below this. Also look for the condition of the fluid. It should be translucent red. If it is dark or has debris in it, change it immediately.

Replace the primary housing cover back over the motor. Re-attach the bolts and tighten them with the crescent wrench.

Items you will need

  • Bike stand

  • Socket or crescent wrench

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid Level on a 2007 Jeep

Park your Jeep on level ground. Engage the parking brake for safety. Leave the engine running at its idle speed. Let it run for 10 to 15 minutes to allow it to reach the normal operating temperature before beginning. Leave it running throughout the procedure.

Change the gear shifter through each of the gears ("Reverse", "Drive," "Neutral," "1," "2") with your foot on the brake. Leave the gear shifter in each gear for a couple of seconds, and then return the shifter to "Park."

Open the hood. Locate the dipstick labeled "ATF" or "Transmission Fluid." Pull the dipstick out. Wipe the end of the dipstick, and then reinsert it into the dipstick tube.

Remove the dipstick again. Examine the indicator on the end of it. You should see a healthy coating of transmission fluid between the two holes marked "Hot."

Items you will need

  • Towel

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid Level in a Nissan Pathfinder

Park your Pathfinder on a level surface and apply the parking brake.

Start the engine and shift the transmission selector through every gear and back to Park (P).

Let the engine reach operating temperature or continue with the next step if the outside temperature is warm (transmission oil between 86 and 122 degrees F [30 to 50 degrees C]). Do not turn off the engine.

Open the hood and locate the transmission dipstick tube by the transmission.

Pull the transmission dipstick from the tube and wipe off the oil from the tip using a clean, lint-free piece of cloth or paper.

Insert the dipstick into its tube completely. Then pull the dipstick out again.

Rest the tip of the dipstick on the clean piece of cloth or paper on your hand in a horizontal position.

Read the oil level on the dipstick. If you let the engine warm up to operating temperature, read the side of the dipstick with the “Hot” range scale. Otherwise, read the “Cold” range scale on the other side of the dipstick. Then make sure the oil is within the appropriate range on the scale.

Add oil, if necessary, through the dipstick using a small funnel. Be careful not to overfill the transmission. It normally takes about one pint to bring the level up from "Add" to "Full" on the dipstick. Add only oil recommended for your particular model. If necessary, consult your car owner’s manual.

Insert the dipstick again and read the level again, if necessary.

Drive your vehicle for about five minutes and follow steps 5 through 8 to read the oil level once more. Add more oil, if necessary, and turn off the engine.

Items you will need

  • Clean, free-lint piece of cloth or paper

  • Transmission oil, if necessary

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid Level in an FJ Cruiser

Prop open the hood of the FJ Cruiser.

Look for the transmission fluid dip stick, which is yellow and located below the master cylinder. Peer below some other cables to see it, as it is somewhat hidden.

Turn on the FJ Cruiser, and, while it's running, reach for the dipstick and pull it out.

Verify that the transmission fluid is at the right level. Note the two marks at the bottom of the dipstick head and the two marks at the top of the head. Read the transmission fluid level from the top two marks. Your transmission fluid level should be between those two marks. If it's below, add more transmission fluid.

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid Level on a Ford Van

Automatic Transmission Equipped Vehicles

Park the vehicle on a level surface and set the parking brake.

Turn on the engine, and allow it to warm up to normal operating temperature.

Move the gear selector through the all of the gears ending in "Park".

Open the hood.

Pull the transmission fluid dipstick from the dipstick tube, using your hand. The dipstick will be located near the firewall. Be careful not to confuse the transmission dipstick with the engine oil dipstick.

Clean the transmission dipstick with a clean rag. Then reinsert it into the dipstick tube.

Pull the transmission dipstick from the tube and examine the fluid level on the dipstick. The fluid level should be between the "Add" and "Don’t Add" marks.

Add fluid to the transmission by pouring it through the dipstick tube, if necessary.

Manual Transmission Equipped Vehicles

Park the engine on a level surface, and set the parking brake. The engine must be completely cold before performing this procedure.

Locate the check plug on the driver’s side of the transmission.

Clean the check plug and the area around it with a clean rag.

Loosen the check plug with a wrench. If oil begins to seep out, immediately tighten the check plug. The oil level is correct.

Unscrew the check plug if oil does not begin to seep out.

Insert your little finger into the plug hole. You should be able to feel the oil level even with the bottom of the plug hole.

Add fluid to the transmission through the check plug hole, using a squeeze bottle if any is needed.

Screw the check plug into the plug hole and tighten using a wrench.

Items you will need

  • Clean rags

  • Wrench set

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid Level on a 1999 Alero

Drive the car around for about 10 minutes to heat up the transmission fluid and thin it. This will give you a more accurate fluid level reading.

Park the car on a level surface and turn the engine off. Pop the hood. Locate the transmission fill cap, on the the passenger side of the transmission housing. Standing in front of the car on the passenger side, look down through the rear of the engine compartment near the air filter housing, and you will see the red transmission filler plug on the side. You can reach this plug with your hands and the ratchet from the top of the engine.

Put the ratchet and socket onto the transmission fill plug. Turn the fill plug counter-clockwise to loosen and remove the fill plug. Stick your finger inside the fill hole. If you can feel the transmission fluid on your finger, proceed to step 4.

Crank the engine while the filler plug is off. Stick your finger inside the filler plug and check the fluid level. The fluid level should be directly below the filler hole while the engine is running to be considered full. If the fluid is not directly below the filler hole, add fluid until it starts to come out of the hole.

Screw the fill plug back in and tighten the plug.

Items you will need

  • 3/8-inch ratchet

  • Socket set

  • Automatic transmission fluid

 How do I Check Transmission Fluid Levels on a 2001 Mercedes E320?

Purchase or borrow a Mercedes automatic transmission dipstick. The car does not come equipped with one. Purchase the dipstick online or at a Mercedes dealership or specialty automotive supply store.

Park the car on a level surface.

Pull the hood lock release located under the dash to the left of the steering wheel. Open the hood.

Remove the transmission fluid reservoir cap by unscrewing counterclockwise. It is located in the rear and to the right of the engine area, opposite the driver's seat. The cap usually is red or black and is labeled "transmission."

Insert the dipstick into the reservoir up to the dipstick's handle. Remove and check the dipstick. The dipstick is marked by equal-sized areas or "notches." You can gauge the amount of fluid by how many notches are covered by the fluid. For normal fluid levels, all except the last two upper notches on the dipstick should be covered.

Wipe the transmission fluid off the dipstick with a paper towel or a work rag. Firmly reattach the transmission cap by screwing clockwise. Close the hood.

Items you will need

  • Mercedes automatic transmission dipstick

  • Heavy duty paper towels or work rag

 How to Check Transmission Fluid Levels in a 2008 Saturn Aura XE 3.5 Engine

Park the vehicle on a level surface and set the parking brake. Lift the front of the vehicle into the air with a floor jack and place two jack stands under the front sub-frame rails. Lower the front of the vehicle until it rests securely on the jack stands. Lift the rear of the vehicle into the air and place the remaining two jack stands under the rear suspension. Lower the rear of the vehicle until it rests securely on the jack stands; the vehicle should sit completely level to accurately check the transmission fluid. Shake the vehicle to make sure it is safe to work under.

Lay down under the vehicle and position your self below the engine and transmission mating area. Remove and under engine splash shield, if equipped. Look to the left of the bottom most transmission to engine mounting bolt to locate the transmission fill plug.

Start the engine and allow it to reach operating temperature, the transmission fluid must reach a minimum of 104 degrees to accurately check the fluid level. Shit the transmission through each gear from park to low range and back, pausing for 3 seconds in each position. Position yourself under the vehicle with the engine running and locate the fill plug again. Place a drain pan under the transmission and remove the transmission fill plug with a socket and ratchet.

Inspect the transmission fluid color by sticking your finger or a small screwdriver into the fill plug hole and removing it. If the transmission is a dark brown color, milky or smells burnt the transmission fluid and filter should be changed. If the transmission fluid level is not at the base of the transmission fill plug hole, you will need to add transmission fluid.

Place a transmission funnel into the fill plug hole and slowly add Dexron-VI automatic transmission fluid in half quart increments until fluid begins to pour from the fill hole. This step is only necessary, if the transmission fluid checks low.

Clean the threads of the fill plug with a wire brush and apply a small amount of thread sealer to the threads of the fill plug. Install the fill plug hand tight, one the fluid has finished running from the fill plug hole. Tighten the fill plug to 9 foot-pounds with a torque wrench. Remove the drain pan and store the transmission fluid in a safe place until it can be disposed of properly. Shut of the engine and remove the ignition key.

Lift the front of the vehicle off the jack stands with a floor jack and remove the jack stands from under the front of the vehicle. Lower the front of the vehicle to the ground. Lift the rear of the vehicle off the jack stands and remove the jack stands. Lower the rear of the vehicle to the ground.

Items you will need

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands

  • Socket set

  • Ratchet

  • Drain pan

  • Transmission funnel

  • 1 quart Dexron-VI transmission fluid

  • Thread sealer

  • Torque wrench

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid Level in a 1998 Audi A6

Park the 1998 Audi A6 in a safe and level work environment. Set the emergency brake.

Jack up the front of the 1998 Audi A6 and put the jack stands under the designated front jacking points on both sides of the car. Then, lower the Audi onto the jack stands. Pull the jack out.

Move the jack to the rear of the Audi and jack it up in the air. Place the jack stands under the designated rear jacking points on both sides of the Audi. Then lower the car onto the jack stands. The whole car has to be on jack stands so that you will be able to get an accurate transmission fluid reading.

Crawl under the driver side of the Audi near the driver side door. Locate the transmission pan on the bottom of the transmission. Then, locate the transmission fluid fill plug on the very front of the transmission pan.

Slide the fluid catch pan under the transmission fluid fill plug on the front of the transmission pan. Then, remove the fill plug with the 1/2 inch drive ratchet and socket by turning the fill plug counter clockwise. Pull the fill plug out of the pan.

Crank the engine and let it run for about two minutes to heat up the transmission fluid. Keep the engine running while checking the transmission fluid level.

Stick you finger inside the fill hole and locate the fluid level. The transmission fluid should be either coming out of the fill hole when you remove the fill plug or the fluid level should be at or near the plug hole with the engine running.

Put the fill plug back into the pan and tighten down with the ratchet and socket. Remove the fluid catch pan from under the car. Turn the engine off and reverse the steps for jacking up the Audi to remove the jack stands.

Items you will need

  • Jack

  • Jack stands

  • Fluid catch pan

  • 1/2-inch drive ratchet

  • 1/2-inch drive socket set

  • Clean rag