How to Read the Maxima Transmission Dipstick

by Joshua Smyth
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under the hood image by Lucy Cherniak from

Transmission fluid lubricates the components of a car's automatic transmission and works as a hydraulic fluid in many manual transmission cars. Insufficient fluid can do a lot of damage to the complex systems of a transmission as the components grind and overheat. However, many car owners don't check their transmission fluid levels on a regular basis. The procedure for doing so is very similar to checking a car's oil, i.e., immersing a dipstick in the fluid reservoir, pulling it out and reading the results. The dipstick on a Nissan Maxima can be read in the same manner as any other transmission dipstick.

Step 1

Drive your Maxima for a short while, and then park the car and shift through every gear while idling the car. This will fully warm up and circulate the transmission fluid.

Step 2

Leave the engine running with the car in park, and then pop the hood of your Maxima. Locate the transmission fluid dipstick. It will be marked with a colored cap that says "transmission fluid" on it. The exact location varies depending on the model year of your Maxima. To find it quickly, consult your owner's manual.

Step 3

Unscrew the dipstick cap and pull out the dipstick. Wipe the dipstick clean with a rag, and then reinsert it and smoothly pull it out again.

Step 4

Look for crosshatched areas on the dipstick. One will be marked "Cold" and the other "Hot." If the engine is cool--which it may be if you just started it to test the fluid--then the fluid should have reached somewhere in the "Cold" zone on the dipstick. If your engine is warmed up from driving, it should register between the marks. If the engine is hot, it should register in the "Hot" zone.

Step 5

Look for marks on the dipstick that say "Add 1 pint" and "Full." These marks mean that you should only add fluid to the system if it is sitting below the "Add" line. Never let the fluid get above the "Full" line.

Step 6

Examine the fluid on the dipstick for consistency. Good transmission fluid should be translucent, although color varies from product to product. There shouldn't be any grit or metal shavings in it. If there is, it is time to change the fluid and have the car examined by a mechanic. If the fluid is black or smells at all burnt, your transmission is about to fail.

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