How to Check the Transmission Fluid on Cars

by Contributing Writer

Your Pontiac car Am's transmission is responsible for automatically changing gears as the vehicle moves. In order to preserve your transmission and keep it running smoothly, you must have ample transmission fluid. The transmission fluid is specialized oil that lubricates the gears and valve operation. You can easily check your ATF level in your Pontiac car AM yourself as the dipstick is labeled and the fluid is colored green or red to make it easily noticeable versus motor oil. Keeping the transmission fluid adequate is important to the life of your Pontiac car Am.

Under The Hood:

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid on a Jeep Patriot

Start the Jeep Patriot's engine.

Let the engine idle until the engine warms up to i's normal operating temperature. The water gauge on the dash indicates the engine temperature. The needle on the water temperature gauge should sit in the middle of the gauge.

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

Check the oil level. The oil on the end of the dipstick should sit between the upper and lower marks on the stick. If it does not, you'll need to have the transmission filled until the fluid level sits between the upper and lower marks on the dipstick. When you're done, put the dipstick back into the transmission filler neck where you pulled it out from.

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid in a Dodge Caravan

Park the Caravan on a level driveway and leave the engine running. Put the transmission in "Park."

Pull the hood release lever beneath the driver's side of the dashboard to open the hood.

Locate the transmission fluid dipstick, labelled "ATF" (for automatic transmission fluid), located on the right side of the engine.

Pull the dipstick from the transmission fluid reservoir and wipe the metal indicator strip clean with a towel. Return the dipstick to the reservoir and wait 3 minutes.

Pull the dipstick from the reservoir and read the value on the stick. The amount of fluid is read by seeing where the line of transmission fluid stops on the stick in relation to the notches on the stick. There are three dots toward the end of the metal strip. The dot closest to the end of the stick indicates an insufficient level of fluid. The middle dot is the lowest safe value and the upper dot (closest to the dipstick handle) is the "full" indicator. The fluid should be between the middle and uppermost dots.

Add transmission fluid if necessary. Place a funnel into the reservoir opening and pour the fluid into the reservoir. Replace the clean dipstick into the container and read the value again after 10 minutes. When the value shown on the dipstick is at an appropriate level, return the dipstick to the reservoir and close the hood.

Items you will need

  • Towel (paper or cloth)

  • Transmission fluid

  • Funnel

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid in a Harley

How to Check the Transmission Fluid in a Harley

Run the engine until it is warm, shifting through all the gears. Once the engine is sufficiently warmed, turn it off.

Loosen the transmission dipstick by unscrewing it, but do not remove it.

Straddle your Harley and hold it level, off the side stand, for 20 to 30 seconds. Remove the transmission dipstick and wipe it clean before reinserting it into the block. Do not screw it in. Insert the dipstick until the top of the threads is resting on top of the hole to check the transmission fluid in a Harley.

Withdraw the dipstick and read the amount of fluid in the transmission. Dipsticks are marked with what should be the proper level of fluid in the engine. If your fluid level is too low, add a little transmission fluid. Place the dipstick back into the engine block and screw it in. Start the engine again and shift through all the gears. Turn the engine off and let it stand for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat the rest of Step 3 to read the new levels. Repeat this until the proper amount of fluid has been achieved.

When your transmission level is reading correctly, screw the dipstick firmly back in place before starting the engine. Discard the rag you used to clean the dipstick. Make sure your container of transmission fluid is firmly capped and stored properly.

Items you will need

  • Clean rag

  • New Transmission Fluid (see owner's manual for type)

 How to Check Transmission Fluid in a Ml320 Benz

Look up your local Mercedes dealership in the phone directory and give their service department a call. Inquire about ordering your own transmission fluid dipstick for the ML320, and be sure to tell them your model year. They should be able to quote you a price and help you arrange the purchase over the phone.

Drive the car for about ten miles or 20 minutes. Be sure to take your dipstick and rag along with you for the ride. If possible, spend part of the drive on a high-speed road so that you can cycle through all of your gears during the trip. This is to warm up the engine and transmission, lubricate the entire transmission and bring the transmission fluid up to warm volume levels.

Park the car on a flat surface, put it in neutral and apply the parking break. Pull the hood release lever and leave the engine running.

Open the hood and prop it up with the support arm.

Look just to the right side of the air filter compartment, which is the long black plastic compartment just behind the engine. You should see a small plastic tube with a red plastic cap. This is the transmission fluid dipstick tube.

Move the red plastic cap to the side, then carefully feed the dipstick all the way into the tube. When it's all the way in, carefully pull it all the way out. Be careful of the tip, which should be covered in transmission fluid.

Check the reading on the dipstick. The proper line to read should be clearly marked as "WARM FULL."

Replace the red cap on the dipstick tube and close the hood.

Items you will need

  • ML320 transmission dipstick

  • Rag

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid in a 2006 Suzuki Forenza

Checking the Automatic Transmission Fluid Level

Drive the Suzuki for about three miles to circulate the fluid through the transmission, then park the vehicle on a level surface. Place the vehicle in "Park," engage the parking brake and leave the engine running.

Raise the front of the Forenza off the ground, using a floor jack, and position jack stands under the Forenza's subframe. Lower the Suzuki onto the jack stands.

Crawl under the vehicle and locate the transmission fill plug on the passenger's side of the transmission, under the drive axle.

Set a drain pan under the fill plug and remove the plug, using a ratchet and Suzuki tool No. DW260-070. If fluid flows from the hole, the level is correct. If fluid does not flow from the filler hole, add automatic transmission fluid ESSO LT71141, using a flex-neck funnel, until it flows from the filler hole.

Clean the fill plug with a clean, lint-free cloth and hand-tighten it into the filler hole. Tighten the fill plug to 33 foot-pounds, using a torque wrench and Suzuki tool No. DW260-070.

Raise the Suzuki off the jack stands, using a floor jack, and remove the jack stands. Lower the vehicle to the ground.

Checking the Manual Transmission Fluid Level

Park the Forenza on a flat surface and engage the parking brake. Raise the front of the vehicle, using a floor jack, and position jack stands under the subframe. Lower the Forenza onto the jack stands.

Crawl beneath the vehicle and locate the transmission check-and-fill plug on the driver's side of the transmission, just behind the drive axle.

Position a drain pan under the check-and-fill plug and remove it, using a ratchet and socket. Insert your finger in the hole and feel for the transmission oil. The correct level of the oil is at the base of the check-and-fill hole.

Cut the end of the nozzle off a bottle of SAE 80 transmission oil, using a utility knife, and insert the nozzle into the check-and-fill hole, if the level is low. Squeeze the bottle to start the flow of oil into the transmission. Repeat this step until oil flows from the check-and-fill hole.

Clean the check-and-fill plug with a clean, lint-free cloth and hand-tighten it into the transmission. Tighten the check-and-fill plug with a ratchet and socket -- take care not to over-tighten the plug.

Raise the Forenza off the jack stands, using a floor jack, and remove the jack stands. Lower the vehicle to the ground.

Items you will need

  • Floor jack

  • Jack stands

  • Drain pan

  • Ratchet

  • Suzuki tool No. DW260-070

  • Automatic transmission fluid ESSO LT71141 (amount varies)

  • Flex-neck funnel

  • Clean, lint-free cloths

  • Torque wrench

  • Socket set

  • SAE 80 transmission oil (amount varies)

  • Utility knife

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid in a Jeep Liberty

Park your Liberty on flat ground. You must check the transmission fluid when the car is level.

Apply the parking brake and start your Jeep. Let it run at an idle for at least 60 seconds before checking the fluid level.

Place the transmission shifter into park. The transmission fluid level will not be accurate if the Jeep is in any other gear.

Locate the dipstick for the transmission fluid in the engine compartment. It's near the firewall, close to the back of the engine. On most Jeep vehicles, the transmission dipstick is labeled and has a yellow or red "T" handle.

Pull out the dipstick and wipe it clean with a rag or paper towel. The dipstick is very long—it runs all the way down along the engine and into the transmission pan. Insert the dipstick back into the tube until it is fully seated in the tube.

Pull out the dipstick again and read the level off the stick. Marks on the dipstick will indicate low, full, and over full. Verify that the level is near the full mark.

Items you will need

  • Clean rag or paper towel

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid in a Mustang

Park the vehicle on a level surface. Apply the parking brake.

Run the engine until it reaches normal operating temperature.

Shift the gear selector lever through all of the gears while maintaining pressure on the brake pedal.

Place the transmission in the "Park" position.

Wipe away all dirt and debris from the top of the transmission dipstick, using a clean rag. Pull the transmission dipstick from its tube. On a Mustang, the transmission dipstick is located on the passenger side of the engine, between the engine and the transmission. The top of the dipstick will be curled into a circle.

Locate the transmission fluid level marks towards the tip of the dipstick. The fluid level should be above the "add" mark and just below the "full" mark.

If required, add Ford automatic transmission fluid (Ford specification #ESW-M2C33-F / Type F) by pouring new fluid into the dipstick tube. Take care not to overfill the transmission.

Items you will need

  • Clean rag

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid on a Honda Passport

Drive the Passport long enough to allow the engine to reach operating temperature.

Drive the SUV up onto a four-post drive-on lift so it is level. Place the Passport in neutral and apply the parking brake. Leave the engine running.

Place a wheel chock on each side of one rear tire.

Lift and level the vehicle lift, if applicable.

Locate the transmission pan under the Passport and align the drip pan beneath the fill-plug.

Remove the fill plug with a box-end wrench.

Insert and activate the temperature sensor gauge into the transmission fluid fill-plug port. Be sure it reads between 100 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If not, wait until the fluid warms up. Remove the gauge when the desired temperature is achieved.

Add fluid if necessary by using a hand pump with a 3/8-inch extension tube. Insert the tube into the fill-plug and pump the hand pump into the fill-plug until transmission fluid trickles down the side of the plug hole.

Replace the fill-plug, but only tighten it hand tight.

Use a stepladder to get up onto the lift and into the Passport and then switch through all the gears including park. Do this three or four times.

Recheck the fluid again through the port hole. Add more fluid if necessary and perform Step 10 again. When you no longer have to add any more fluid, replace and tighten the fill-plug.

Items you will need

  • Four-post drive-on lift

  • Two wheel chocks

  • Drip pan

  • Automatic transmission fluid

  • Box-end wrench set

  • Fluid temperature gauge tool

  • Hand pump with 3/8-inch hose extension

  • Stepladder

 How to Check Transmission Fluid in a Jeep

Turn motor on and run your jeep until it reaches normal operating temperature. If needed, drive the vehicle around or check the fluid just after returning from an errand in your vehicle.

Apply the parking break and leave the engine running. The vehicle should be parked on even ground to give an accurate reading of your fluid level. Put the shift lever in park position.

Locate transmission dipstick on driver's side on the back of the engine block.

Remove any dirt or debris from the top of the dipstick before checking to prevent anything from falling into transmission fluid.

Pull the dipstick out of engine and check fluid level. The transmission fluid should be showing in the crosshatched area between "cold" and "hot."

Add transmission fluid if level is below "cold" line. Make sure you do not overfill the transmission.

Items you will need

  • Clean dry cloth Transmission fluid Funnel

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid on a 2003 Oldsmobile Alero

Run the Alero's engine and shift it into each gear while driving it for approximately 5 minutes. This ensures that the transmission fluid is running through the system and not sitting stagnant, in order to produce a more accurate level reading.

Turn the engine off and remove the key as a safety precaution.

Elevate the front end of the Alero using the car jack and place it on two jack stands, one on each side by the front tires.

Shake your car to be sure that it is stable on the stands and will not fall while you are under it.

Locate the transmission check plug on the side of the transmission pan in the center front end of the car.

Unbolt the cap on your check plug, using the socket wrench.

Press the Alero's emergency brake completely to the floor so that the car will not roll off the jack stands when you take it out of gear.

Shift the gear stick to "neutral." This pushes the transmission fluid through the transmission system and into the check plug for an accurate reading.

Stick the screwdriver into the check plug hole. If the transmission fluid does not reach the top of the screwdriver near the handle, or if it appears thick, red, sticky or corroded, it's probably time for a transmission fluid change. If the fluid is thin, clear or light orange, clean and reaches the top of the screwdriver (near the check plug opening), it is likely fine.

Items you will need

  • Long screwdriver (for use as dipstick)

  • Socket wrench

  • Car jack

  • Jack stands

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid in a Pontiac Grand Am

Place the Grand Am in park and turn the ignition key to begin the engine. Allow the vehicle to warm up for ten minutes. It's best to have your vehicle running and warmed up to get the most accurate reading on your fluid levels.

Open the hood of the Grand Am. Locate the automatic transmission fluid container on the driver side of the engine. The container has a red cap, which is the dipstick, and is labeled "ATF."

Remove the ATF dipstick by pulling it out of the container. Clean the dipstick with a rag and replace into the container.

Remove the dipstick once again and read the measurement. The dipstick is labeled "full" and "add." When the fluid hits below the "add" line, transmission fluid is needed.

Items you will need

  • Rag

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid on a Saturn SL2

Drive the Saturn SL2 for at least 10 minutes to warm the engine and the transmission fluid.

Park the vehicle and leave the engine running. Pull the hood release lever under the dashboard on the driver's side of the Saturn. Move to the engine compartment.

Pull the transmission fluid dipstick from the slot on the left side of the engine. The slot is near the windshield, angled toward the left side of the Saturn.

Wipe the thin metal stick clean with the shop towel. Replace the dipstick into the slot.

Wait at least 10 seconds and remove the stick from the slot once more.

Evaluate the transmission fluid level on the stick. There are two notches on the side of the stick. The fluid should be visible near the top notch (closest to the handle).

Place a funnel in the dipstick slot's opening and fill the transmission fluid reservoir as needed, if the fluid is at or below the bottom notch.

Replace the dipstick into the slot and close the hood of the Saturn SL2.

Items you will need

  • Shop towel

  • Funnel

  • Transmission fluid

 How to Check Transmission Fluid on a 1999 Oldsmobile Alero

Park the car on a level surface and pop the hood.

Jack the front of the car up and place jack stands under the jack supports behind each front tire. There is a groove behind each front tire on the frame of the car that is designed to hold the weight of the car while the car is being jacked up Then lower the jack so that the front axle is resting securely on the jack stands.

Crawl under the car and locate the fluid check plug on the driver side of the transmission. The check plug is where you check the transmission fluid level.

Remove the check plug with a ratchet and a socket.

Set the emergency brake and crank the engine. Put the transmission in neutral.

Stick your finger inside of the transmission fluid check hole. The fluid should be to the top of the check hole while the engine is running in neutral. If the fluid is not near the top, then the transmission fluid is low.

Put the check plug back in and tighten it back down.

Items you will need

  • Jack

  • jack stands

  • ratchet

  • Socket set

  • Drain pan

  • Funnel

  • Automatic transmission fluid

 How to Check Transmission Fluid in an Isuzu Trooper

Start the engine and wait for the Trooper to reach normal operating temperature. The needle on the water temperature gauge should sit between the upper and lower marks on the gauge (it should be at or near the center of the gauge).

Pull the transmission dip stick from the engine. There are two dipsticks, one in the front of the engine and one in the back. The transmission dipstick sits in the back of the engine and has a looped handle.

Wipe off the dip stick with a rag and put it back into the transmission filler neck until it bottoms out.

Pull the transmission dip stick out once more and check the oil level. It should be between the upper and lower marks on the end of the dip stick.

Items you will need

  • Shop rag

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid on a 2010 Altima

Drive the Altima until it reaches operating temperature --- about halfway up the temperature gauge. Park the Altima on a level surface. Hold the brake pedal and shift the gear shifter through every gear. Place the gear shifter back in park.

Open the Altima's hood and locate the transmission dipstick cap --- the black cap on the right of the engine that reads "Caution" in red.

Insert a small flat-head screwdriver under the L-shaped tab on the front of the transmission dipstick cap. Press the screwdriver upward to disengage the lock on the underside of the dipstick cap. Pull the dipstick upward and out of the transmission dipstick tube.

Wipe the dipstick off with a clean, lint-free cloth. Reinsert the dipstick into the tube with the L-shaped tab positioned 180 degrees from where it originally was. Press the dipstick into the tube until it stops moving.

Pull the dipstick out, and check that the level is between the "Min" and "Max" lines near the bottom of the dipstick. Add Nissan CVT NS-2 transmission fluid through the dipstick tube, if needed. Reinsert the dipstick into the dipstick tube in its original position to lock it in place.

Close the Altima's hood and turn the engine off.

Items you will need

  • Small flat-head screwdriver

  • Clean, lint-free cloth

  • Nissan CVT NS-2 transmission fluid (optional)