Change your vehicle transmission fluid like a pro

Last updated 07/07/2021

When it comes to owning a car, staying up-to-date with routine maintenance should be well… routine. Not only does consistent TLC keep your car roadworthy and running smoothly, it may help you avoid breaking the bank on car repairs and part replacements down the line. While you might have your tyre pressure down, it’s time to test your automatic transmission know-how.

The good news? Maintaining a healthy automatic transmission is fairly straight forward. And now the better news… we’re going to tell you how to check and change your automatic transmission fluid step by step. But first, a transmission refresher so you understand what you’re dealing with before diving in.

What is vehicle transmission fluid and why is it important?

Vehicle transmission fluid ensures the components of a car’s transmission perform at an optimal level, cleaning and lubricating the various parts of the transmission and preventing wear and tear.

If transmission fluid is too low, wear can become a big problem, making changing gears difficult and impacting your car’s roadworthiness. Sure, it’s one thing in a long list of processes going on beneath the body of your car, but old transmission fluid often leads to breakdown as a best case scenario and a whole new transmission system as the worst. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you by checking and replacing your auto transmission fluid regularly.

How to check transmission fluid

The first step in maintaining your automatic transmission is completing a transmission fluid check.

1. While checking transmission fluid, it is important to keep your car engine warm for the most accurate results. Start your engine and stay in Park on a level surface.

2. Locate the transmission dipstick under the hood in the engine compartment (you can refer to the car manual if you are having trouble locating it).

3. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean, slowly place it back in all the way, then pull it out again and check the fluid level against the markers on the dipstick.

4. Lay the dipstick on a white surface, such as a paper towel, so you can inspect the condition of the fluid. The colour of the fluid indicates the health of the transmission fluid:

  • Reddish-pink indicates healthy fluid, meaning you can simply add more if needed.
  • Brownish-red indicates that the fluid needs replacing.
  • Dark brown or black indicates some possible damage to the transmission, meaning you should bring it into your local mycar shop for inspection.

How to change transmission fluid

Is your transmission fluid a brown-red colour? It’s time for a change! While you can do this yourself at home, we recommend dropping in to mycar if you’re not really a car, tools or jack stand person. But if you’re good to go and you have the right gear, get your hands dirty with this fast and factual how-to guide.

You’ll need:

  • Jack stands or ramps
  • Spanner
  • Torque wrench
  • Drain pan
  • Fresh auto transmission fluid
  • Automatic transmission filter kit, including oil pan gasket
  • Rags

Getting started:

1. Warm up the transmission fluid by taking your car for a short drive or idling it through the gears. Once it is warm, turn off the car.

2. Use the jack stands or ramps to raise the vehicle so you can get under it. Be sure your car is in a level and stable location when doing this.

3. Inspect the car’s transmission for any possible leaks (see below for what to do if you find one).

 

Changing the fluid:

1. Locate the drain plug of the transmission and remove any guards that may be in the way. You can check your owners manual if needed. Be careful as the lubricant can be dangerously hot, so use a rag to guard you.

2. Position the drain pan under the transmission before removing the drain plug. Then use the pan to catch the old fluid, draining it completely.

3. Check the fluid for any metal particles as this can indicate some serious issues with the transmission and will require a mycar technician to look into it.

4. Carefully remove the old gasket.

5. Clean the oil pan.

6. Remove the transmission filter - if you have a metal filter it can be cleaned and reused after drying; if you have a paper or cotton filter it will need to be replaced every time the transmission fluid is replaced (be sure to check this before getting started in case you need to buy a new one); then reinstall the filter.

7. Install the new gasket and reattach the oil pan.

8. Wipe down the drain plug, then reattach it with a new washer and tighten using the torque wrench.

9. Refill the transmission with fresh transmission fluid. Be sure to check the owners manual for the correct amount and type required.

10. Turn the car on again, apply the foot break and move the transmission through the gears to allow the fluid to flow throughout.

11. Put it back in park and do a final check that the level is correct using the dipstick method.

What to do when there is a transmission leak

There are a few signs that indicate a transmission fluid leak. For example, you may find a puddle of reddish, oily transmission fluid collecting underneath your car or notice a leak when inspecting the underside of the vehicle. Additionally, if you notice your transmission is playing up while driving or not running as smoothly it could be due to a transmission leak.

If you experience any of these signs or suspect a transmission leak, the best thing to do is bring your car in for an experienced car mechanic to look at. We can inspect the overall transmission, the source of the leak and repair it accordingly.

 

Knowing how to change automatic transmission fluid can keep your car in tip top shape. But of course if you have any questions or need an expert to take a look, mycar has you covered. Contact us on 13 13 28 or head down to your nearest mycar store today.

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