How to Check the Transmission Fluid on Ford Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

Transmission fluid is one of the most important consumables in your automotive system. It is the durable lubricant that coats all moving parts of your Ford car transmission, and when it runs low or becomes too dirty, it can cause accelerated wear on transmission parts and make shifting gears feel rougher than usual. It's a good idea to check the level of transmission fluid whenever you stop to get a tank of gas. If it's low, you can add more yourself, but if it's dirty, take the car to a mechanic to get the fluid changed.

Under The Hood:

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid on a C4

Park the car on a level surface. Checking the fluids while its on an incline leads to improper readings. Make sure the engine is cool. If the car has been driven recently, wait at least 30 minutes before checking the fluid levels. Heat causes the transmission fluid to expand, which also causes incorrect readings.

Pop the hood by pulling the hood-release lever under the steering panel. Push the hood up the rest of the way and raise the tension bar to hold it in place.

Locate the transmission dipstick in the engine. The location varies from vehicle to vehicle, but it is generally located between the battery and the air intake. Look in the owner's manual or contact the dealer for more specific information on location of the dipstick.

Remove the transmission dipstick by pulling it straight up. Wipe off the dipstick with a rag. Place it back in the tube and pull it out again. Look at the transmission level on the metal stick. It should be at least midway between the MIN and MAX lines. If it is below the halfway point, it needs to be refilled. Add 1/2 a quart at a time into the tube with a funnel.

Items you will need

  • Rag

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid in a Ford Explorer

Start the Explorer, depress the parking brake and open the hood. Locate the transmission dipstick and pull it out. The transmission dipstick should have the words “transmission” or the abbreviation “trans” written on the handle. Wipe the fluid completely off the dipstick and reinsert it completely into the transmission dipstick tube.

Get into the Explorer’s driver seat and put your foot firmly on the brake pedal, pushing it down as far as possible. Shift the transmission from park, down through all the gears, allowing it to fully shift into each gear before moving to the next. Shift back to park, stopping in each gear briefly on the way back.

Get out and pull the transmission dipstick out once again and look for the fluid level on the stick. It should land in the crosshatched area. If it is below this area, put the funnel in the dipstick tube and add transmission fluid, no more than a pint at a time, until the fluid comes up into the crosshatch. Make sure the fluid you add is the proper kind for your year and model Explorer. Do not mix transmission fluid types.

Items you will need

  • Ignition key

  • Rag

  • Funnel

  • Transmission fluid

 How Do I Check the Transmission Fluid in a 2002 Ford Taurus?

Drive the car for several miles or until the engine has reached its normal temperature, as indicated by the temperature gauge.

Position the vehicle on a flat surface, shift the transmission to the “Park” position and apply the parking brake.

Raise the hood and allow the vehicle to idle.

Withdraw the transmission’s dipstick. The dipstick features a T-shaped handle with the words “Trans. Fluid” stamped into the top of the handle.

Wipe the dipstick clean of any transmission fluid with a clean shop rag. As the vehicle is driven, transmission fluid may splash onto the dipstick, resulting in a false fluid level reading.

Insert the dipstick into its tube until the handle rests securely against the top of the tube, then withdraw the dipstick and note the fluid level. The fluid level should be at or just below the “Warm Full” mark stamped into the dipstick. If the level is low, fluid must be added.

Add Mercon V transmission fluid in small increments to avoid overfilling the transmission. Insert a funnel into the top of the dipstick tube, then pour the transmission fluid into the funnel, periodically checking the fluid level on the dipstick.

Items you will need

  • Clean shop rag

  • Mercon V transmission fluid

  • Funnel

 How to Check the Transmission Fluid in a 2000 Ford F250 Powerstroke Diesel

Automatic Transmission

Drive the truck until it reaches operating temperature -- approximately 20 miles.

Park on a level area and apply the emergency brake. Place your foot on the brake pedal and move the shift lever though each gear. Allow ample time to permit the gear to engage in each position on the quadrant.

Place the gear selector in park and leave the motor running.

Open the hood and locate the transmission dipstick tube on the passenger side of the engine near the firewall. Pull the dipstick from the tube and wipe the end of it clean with a lint-free cloth. Insert the dipstick back into the tube until it fully seats.

Pull the dipstick back out of the tube and observe the fluid level. Note that the transmission fluid level should be between the two marks on the "Hot" section of the dipstick.

Manual Transmission

Turn the engine off and apply the emergency brake.

Slide under the truck and locate the filler plug on the side of the transmission case.

Clean the filler plug and the surrounding transmission case with a rag to prevent dirt particles from entering the case when you remove the plug.

Remove the plug with a wrench. Peer into the hole. Note that the transmission fluid level should come up to the bottom of the hole.

Replace the filler plug and tighten it with a wrench.

 How to Check Transmission Fluid on a Ford Taurus

Check your owner's manual to find out what grade of transmission fluid is recommended for your Taurus. Tauruses of different model years and options packages call for different grades of lubricant. Also note in the manual the under-hood diagram, which identifies the dipstick for transmission fluid on the rear left side of the engine.

Start the car and drive it around for at least 10 miles or 20 minutes to get it fully warmed up and lubricated. Combine this task with other errands so you don't waste gas. If you don't already have transmission fluid or a funnel, drive to an auto-supply store to run in and get some.

Park the car on as level a surface as you can find and leave it running. Pull the hood-release lever, open the hood and prop it up with the support arm. Be careful not to touch the engine, which will be hot, as you look closely at the rear left corner of the engine block. You should see a plastic ring atop a thin metal pipe. This is the transmission-fluid dipstick. Don't confuse it with the oil dipstick, which is at the front center of the engine.

Carefully pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean with a rag and reinsert it. Make sure it's pushed in all the way, then pull it out again to look at it.

Look for the line marked "Warm full." If your Taurus has an after-market transmission-fluid dipstick, it may not be marked with separate full lines for warm or cold engines, but most of these dipsticks do. If your transmission-fluid level is not up to this line, you need to add more. You should also take note of its color and smell. If it looks very dark or smells like it's burnt, it should be changed. In this event, don't bother adding more unless it's very low, and take it to a mechanic soon for a transmission-fluid flush and change.

Add more transmission fluid if necessary. You must use a funnel with a long, flexible tube to pour the fluid in through the dipstick hole. You should only do this with the engine running, and you must be careful to add the fluid just a little at a time. About an ounce at once is good. After adding some, wait a minute or so for it to cycle through the transmission, then check the level with the dipstick again. It's important to do it this way because it's hard to bleed out transmission fluid if you add too much, and adding too much can cause serious transmission problems.

Items you will need

  • Rag

  • Long plastic funnel

  • Owner's manual

  • Transmission fluid indicated in your owner's manual