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Check Automatic Transmission/Transaxle Fluid Level and Condition
Automatic transmission or automatic transaxle fluid should be checked at regular mileage and time intervals as specified in the owner's manual. Anytime you are doing lubrication work on a car you should check the fluid level.
Make sure the engine and transmission are up to operating temperature. Locate the fluid level checking procedure in the owner's or shop service manual. Drive the car onto a level surface. Most cars must have the engine running to make a fluid level check. Some cars must have the transmission in NEUTRAL and others require that it be in PARK for testing. Set the selector in the correct mode. If the transmission is checked in NEUTRAL, block the wheels and set the parking brake.
WARNING: Failure to have the transmission in the correct gear when checking fluid level can cause a large error in the reading.
Raise the hood and locate the automatic transmission/transaxle dipstick. Typically you will find the dipstick near the transmission end of the engine at the opposite end of the drive belts.
WARNING: Never wipe a dipstick with a rag with lint. Lint from a rag could get into transmission control valves and cause them to stick. It could also plug up fluid passages. Use only lint-free rags or shop towels.
Remove the dipstick and wipe it with a clean, lint-free rag. Observe the markings on the dipstick. There is no standard marking system, so you may need to look up an explanation of the marks in the owner's manual. A typical marking system is shown below. This dipstick has a full hot level mark and an add 1 pt (pint) or 0.5 L. (liter) mark. The word hot means the fluid must be hot when checked. There can be a large difference in fluid level between hot and cold fluid levels. Some dipsticks have a cold reading on the dipstick, which should be used if the transmission is cold.
Insert the dipstick back into its housing and push it down until it seats. Pull it back out and observe the fluid level in relation to the dipstick markings. If fluid must be added, refer to the section on adding fluid.
While you have the fluid on the dipstick you should observe its color and condition. This information can help you decide if the fluid requires changing. Clean, uncontaminated fluid has a pinkish or reddish color. Fluid that has been overheated turns a darkish brown or black. A white milky appearance can mean that the engine coolant is leaking into the transmission.
Another fluid check to make is to wipe the fluid off the dipstick with a white absorbent paper. Look for foreign particles in the fluid. Silvery particles can mean there is wear on metallic parts. Dark particles can be friction material that has come off transmission parts. Also look for a dark gummy material on the dipstick. This is usually a varnish buildup in the fluid. Fluid that shows any of these problems should be changed, as explained in the following section. Replace the dipstick and make sure it is seated properly.
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