Sons New Truck

My son purchased a very used 2000 Chevy Silverado 1500 v6 for his first truck. I suggested that he knock out a quick oil change and proceeded to explain what he needed to do. We work on other projects together so I wasn’t really worried about it. He finished the oil change, cleaned up his mess and drove off.
He came back at the end of the day and complained that his truck was running funny, so I went out and checked the oil. Way too much. I instructed him that he needed to drain some out and make sure it was good to go before he took off. He gets done in about 30 min and takes off again. This time he returns and states that the truck is running really bad (white smoke), and he cannot shift into reverse.
I have him show me what he did exactly and he proceeded to show me that he had drained his transmission fluid (bone dry), and over serviced the engine oil by an estimated 8 quarts!! I couldn’t get even the slightest bit upset because I knew better than to let him work on it without showing me what he was doing. He was totally into “I can do it by myself Dad” mode, and didn’t want to start stirring his Cool Aid on his first job on his new truck.

So now my plan is to drain the oil, replace the oil filter, drop the transmission pan, replace the filter and seal, then refill the fluids and go from there.

My questions are; Just how bad could the damage be? and What do I need to be on the lookout for as far as future problems arising from this mistake?

Auto trannies do not do well with no fluid. I would not at all be surprised if that one is toast. Maybe not right now, but if not, it’s on borrowed time before you need to rebuild or replace it. Doing so may well exceed what he paid for the truck in the first place.

No transmission fluid is a bad thing but continue with the required maintenance and hope for the best. I once knocked a hole in a transmission pan while traveling on an old logging road. The transmission stopped pulling and I had to have it towed home. I replaced the pan, filter and refilled with transmission fluid. I drove the car for another 2 years after that. It was a 94’ Nissan Sentra GXE. Good luck.

Start planning for another transmission as an automatic can be damaged in seconds with little or no fluid.

Odds are the bottom of the transmission pan will be full of metallic debris and brownish/black gunk.

The debris will be from various bushings, etc and the gunk will be friction material from the clutch packs.

Transmission is probably toast, better start looking for a new/used/rebuilt one now. He might’ve blown a head gasket as well from the sounds of things. There’s very good chance this truck is now worth scrap value.

This is your opportunity to…not rub his nose in it…but to explain that sometimes it’s good to have some help with these jobs until he’s more experienced.

I also agree with everyone that he may have to replace that tranny in the near future.


Might as well try a can of whatever miracle in a can if not right after new fluid, not lucas per transman if needed, but it is a band aid that will buy time but not a cure. I think transmedic is what he used to recommend.

Go with your plan and hope for the best.
It’s true that automatics commit suicide very quickly without fluid, but your plan is the only really prudent way to go. Your son just might get lucky.

Be sure to let him know that he’s not the first person to drain a tranny thinking he’s draining the oil and then overfill the engine. We have another current thread by someone who made the same error. Whatever the outcome, consider this the cost of a course in careful maintenance practices. He just might learn more about good practices from this than he would in a college course about good practices.

The plan you propose seems good. Be sure to thoroughly clean the bottom of the transmission pan and check for metal debris. Use a magnet if necessary to pick it out of the transmission fluid. That will give you a good clue how much, if any, damage was done to the tranny.

I have to agree with you OP about the need to make this kind of job a father-son job at first, no matter you son’s opinion on the matter. Until he fully understands how to do it, what needs to be double-checked before starting the engine, checked before driving the car, what gauges need to be monitored immediately after doing this job, and what needs to be re-double checked after the first few miles of driving, etc. This isn’t stuff taught in high school courses, so you are his main source of training and information. Most driveway diy’ers , before doing any car repair or maintenance job they haven’t done before, they’ll at the very minimum read through the procedure as stated in a Chilton’s or Haynes manual. Suggest you secure one of these for your son’s truck, and give it to him to study up.

Edit: TSM post above reminds me, this same thing happened to me when I was a teenager. Not on my car, but my parent’s new car!! Fortunately my dad insisted after I said the job was complete, to check both the oil and transmission level on the dipsticks before he started the engine.

Pulled the pan and put a magnet on a string in the used fluid container. Nothing except for some alien gray matter around the magnet at the bottom of the pan. It seems as though the over pressure in the oil pan forced it out of the dipstick tube, but the rest of the seals look good. Ordered a new pan, filter, and gasket to put on tomorrow morning so we will see.

Thanks for the advise folks. Hopefully all is not lost. He saved up for a long time for this truck and I would hate to see it turn out poorly.

Let us know how you make out. We do care.

If the transmission was even close to completely dry, the truck would not have moved. As others have pointed out many times you can only drain out half or less. It doesn’t sound like he drove it until it wouldn’t move. If the fluid is still red on the dipstick after the truck is still red, you may be good to go. If it turns brown I would either change it adain or have a fluid exchange done. Good luck.

Just change the fluids and drive on.

It may puke but I would not put any money in this tired and abused now relic. Take 2 in life :slight_smile: with another truck and lessons learned by all in care and maintenance.

my only advice is to buy an old ford next time.

I know from experience that they can be run dry of oil and transmission fluid and still go for years and years afterwords :slight_smile:

Too funny Wes. If I ever buy another Ford, it would be the Concept Bronco (if they ever decide to release it). I had an 85 full size and loved that thing! But, I was just a pup and didn’t know any better and drove it on the beach all summer long the first year I had it, and she rusted out within the next two years.

they do rust…, and rust…, and rust…

Status Update (just in case anybody was wondering) :wink:

All fluids at appropriate levels after replacing the filter and pan for the transmission, and a filter change for the oil. Day three with no leaks, and I actually think the truck is running better than before if that’s even possible.

I’m pretty sure we dodged a bullet with this one. Thanks again for all of the comments fellas. I will definitely be checking back in here for answers for my next project (restoration of my Grandmothers one owner 71 Dart).

In his book, “What You Should Know About Cars”, written in the early 1960s, Tom McCahill had some tips for the hot rodder. One suggestion he made was to drain some of the fluid from the automatic transmission. He claimed that this would shave a couple of seconds off the 0 to 60 acceleration time because the torque converter wouldn’t have the push as much fluid. He didn’t think it was the best practice, but it wouldn’t do too much damage in a drag race in f you had money on the outcome and replaced the fluid right away. If McCahill is right, your son’s truck probably wasn’t damaged very much.

If I’m reading this correctly he wanted to do this himself with minimal help from pop. After a botched job you didn’t get wigged out?
I’d like to say you are dad of the month. If you would have jumped his case that could have driven a wedge between you two. Let people learn by mistakes and its a lesson they will remember.
As a rock in a stream becomes smooth or a board gets sanded smooth, friction makes us better if we allow it.

And the tranny might be smoked.

McCahill was right, I used to drain a quart of fluid directly from the torque converter plug, and loosen the fan belt before I raced someone with my Desoto.