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How To Replace Your Transmission Filter

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Replacing the transmission filter is something that must be done but is all too often forgotten. A dirty or clogged transmission filter will cause a transmission to go bad before it's time and give erratic transmission shifts and performance.

Most car makers recommend the transmission filter be replaced every 30,000 miles. I would recommend 30,000 miles or every two years. It is a simple and cheap job and it will pay off with added transmission life and top transmission performance.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 60 - 90 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Before You Start:
    • Follow these instructions carefully. Read and be sure you understand them before you begin.
    • Gather together all of your tools and supplies before you begin.
    • Remember that these are general instructions. For detailed instructions for your specific vehicle, consult an appropriate repair manual.
    • Never work on a vehicle that is only supported by a jack. Use jack stands to support the vehicle while you work. Work on a solid, level surface. Never jack a car up on dirt or grass.
  2. Remove the transmission dip stick and lay it aside for now. Jack up the vehicle and support it with jack stands.
  3. Some transmissions have a drain plug either in the transmission pan or on the case. Check to if yours has a drain plug and place your drain pan underneath it.
  4. If it does not have a drain plug, place the transmission drain pan under the transmission pan and remove every other transmission pan bolt.
  5. Leaving two pan bolts on each side, remove the rest of the pan bolts. Transmission fluid will start running out at this point.
  6. Remove the two bolts on one side carefully, allowing the transmission fluid to run out. Then loosen the other two slowly. When they are three or four threads from coming out, push the pan up, hold it with your hand and remove the last two pan bolts. Once the bolts are out, lower the pan and drain it into your drain pan.
  7. Look inside the pan. A grayish dust and some very small pieces are normal. If there are any big pieces or chunks, you have a problem. If this is the first time you have the pan down and it is a Ford product, you will see a small plastic plug. This is normal and not needed any more. Just throw it away. It is used in the building of the transmission only.
  8. Use the scrapper to remove the old gasket from the pan and the mating surface of the transmission. Don't put in any gouges or deep scratches. A wire wheel in a drill also does a very good job of removing the gasket.

    Most transmission pans have a magnet that collects the steel dust. Clean it off well and make sure you put it back in. I stick it on the mating surface of the transmission to be sure I don't forget to replace it. Clean the inside of the transmission pan as well.

  9. When the pan is clean and dry, get the new pan gasket out. You did match it up before you dropped the pan to make sure it is the right one, didn't you?

    Take the weatherstrip cement and run a bead around the mating surface of the pan going completely around the bolt holes. Carefully lay the gasket on the pan and press it into the cement. Lift one corner at a time and let some of the solvent evaporate and stick it back on. When it is on good, turn it over and place it on a flat surface to set.

  10. Now for the filter itself. This is where you have to be careful. Before anything, hold up the new filter and make sure it is the same as the old one. Depending on brand they may be some slight differences, but the mounting holes have to be exactly the same.

    Using the new filter as a guide, remove the mounting bolt(s) from the old filter. The bolts may have different lengths so make a note of the hole it came out of so you can be sure to put it back in the same hole.

  11. When it is loose some more fluid will drain out so watch for it. Remove the filter and put it in a plastic bag so it can be disposed of properly.
  12. Climb out from under the car and let the fluid drain for an hour or so if you want. I let it go as long as I can just to get whatever I can out. Now some cars have a drain plug on the torque converter that will allow you to drain the transmission fluid from it. If your converter has one, remove it and drain the converter as well.
  13. Now, install the new filter and reinstall the drain plug into the converter, if you took one out. Take the pan and apply a layer of wheel bearing grease on the top of the pan gasket. The grease will seal the gasket and yet allow it to come off easily at the next filter change.
  14. Tighten every other pan bolt until they are properly torqued, usually 15 to 20 inch pounds. If they are over tightened the gasket will squash out and leak. When It's tight, clean the area and lower the car.
  15. Put in two quarts of transmission fluid, in Chrysler products I highly recommend using Chrysler ATF. Start the engine and let it reach normal operating temperature. Check the fluid level and add ATF until it is just below the FULL mark. With your foot on the brake shift it from reverse to drive 3 or 4 times. Recheck the fluid level and top off as needed. Drive the car for 3 or 4 miles and recheck the ATF level again and adjust as necessary. Check for leaks and you are done. You did a great job!!

Tips:

  1. If you don't have weatherstrip cement you can take a piece of electrical wire about 4" long, strip off the insulation and use the individual strands to put through the bolt holes of the pan and gasket to hold the gasket in place. After the bolts are installed and tightened, they can be pulled out with pliers.
  2. Use the weatherstrip cement on the pan side of the gasket only! Never on the transmission side.
  3. When using cleaning solvents, make sure the room is well ventilated or work out doors. If you are working in the garage and start feeling light headed or dizzy, go outside and get plenty of fresh air immediately!
  4. I prefer rubber or neoprene gasket over cork gaskets. They hold up a lot better and less prone to installation damage. ie overtightening.
  5. Never, EVER, get a transmission flush unless you have the money to buy a new transmission.

What You Need:

  • New transmission filter
  • New transmission pan gasket.
  • 1/4" drive ratchet and socket set
  • Transmission drain pan
  • Flat scrappers
  • Clean rags
  • Latex or rubber gloves.
  • 3M Weatherstrip cement
  • Wheel bearing, or other thick, grease
  • Cleaning solvent

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