CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Transmission fluid change on a "No Dipstick" vehicle

2009 Ford Explorer - 6cyl - 4L - auto trans - 35K miles. I’d like to change the automatic transmission fluid, but as some may already know, there is no dipstick on these vehicles. I have one of those hand pumps which will fit on the quart bottles and I’d be able to pump new fluid in (through where the drain torx bolt is). My question is: How do you know when the fluid level is correct when re-filling and then checking ? Also, I’m assuming that this has to be checked while the vehicle is running and in park ?

What do think of measuring the fluid you take out, and replace with same amount of fresh fluid? That should get you in the ball park.

I thought of doing that and still may end up doing that. I was wondering if anyone had secrets of checking the levels in these vehicles

The factory service manual should state how much fluid is used when do a trans fluid change, and it may also specify how to check the level. If you don’t have a Ford factory service manual, I think that it would be a good investment.

Not only is there a drain plug, there will be a fill-plug on the side of the transmission someplace. If you are going to service your own vehicle, you need to obtain a service manual which will explain how to perform these tasks…

Our vue with aisin af33 trans has dipstick but it is held in place with retaining bolt. But it’s old. 2003. Drain plug too. There may even be a pan on trans but I get conflicting reports. Everyone says we have Honda trans but we have the 3.0 motor, not the Honda 3.5

If your drain bolt is a bolt in a bolt, then you pull the inner bolt first, nothing should drain out, then you remove the outer bolt and the fluid will drain. The outer bolt will have a tube on it extending a couple of inches.

When it is completely drained, you replace the outer bolt. Then you use a special pump adapter to fill the transmission until it begins to flow over the top of the tube and drain through the center hole. There should be a written procedure as to how much you add initially, then you add a little more at a time until it spills over. You let it finish spilling over and then replace the center bolt.

This is only for transmission that use this system. I don’t think it applies to all transmissions that do not have a dipstick.

Most of these require a gadget to check the fluid temp while filling it up and there is a hole/bolt that the dealer would put the dipstick through. One way to do it is to refill based on the amount specified by the owner’s manual, then go in to the dealer and ask for a transmission fluid level check. The labor on this should be much cheaper than the whole fluid change.

@keith Benzes use this same principle. I believe some of the newer Toyotas use the same idea.

Are these “lifetime” lubricated transmissions with no fluid change recommended? No internal filter?

I don’t know about Ford but I ran into this with my Pontiac. I wanted the pan dropped and to fill it, it has to be on the level and filled through an access hole by the axle. Because that meant it had to be up in the air for access and level, I just took it to a shop and paid the $100 instead. Check your service manual though. Don’t let them flush it.