How to Replace Automatic Transmission Fluid

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How to Replace Automatic Transmission Fluid

Many cars run on automatic transmission because it is easy to use in city driving.  Just because gear changes are automatic, however, maintenance should still be performed to ensure the best performance for your vehicle.  The most that you can do to preserve the lifespan and maximize the efficiency of your car is to replace the automatic transmission fluid regularly.  Here are the tools and steps you need for this routine task.

Automatic Transmission Fluid

Automatic transmission fluid (abbreviated as ATF) is a specially formulated lubricant used for the intricate mechanisms of a car’s transmission system.  ATF is not just regular oil; it also contains anti-corrosives and substances that prevent rust from long-term damage to moving parts.  It is not recommended to use motor oil, because the substance is not refined enough and may ruin your transmission system.


To replace automatic transmission fluid, you need the following tools:

  • Automatic transmission fluid
  • New transmission filter and gasket kit (check your owner’s manual for specifications)
  • Catch pan
  • Socket wrench and screwdriver set
  • Safety goggles
  • Clean rags


Follow these steps to replace transmission fluid:

  1. Set the car to “Park” mode, and check the dipstick.  The ATF dipstick is located at the back of the engine block, usually labeled “ATF.”
  2. The first thing you should check is if you’re running low on ATF.  Wipe the dipstick clean with a rag, and dip it again into the ATF receptacle.  The level should be on or near the “Full” mark.
  3. The second thing you should check is the quality of the ATF.  Wipe the dipstick clean, dip it again, and inspect the quality of the fluid.  The fluid should be clear and should smell like gasoline.  If it smells burned, you need to replace the fluid.
  4. Turn off the engine, and place a catch pan on the underside of the part of the vehicle that needs to be serviced.
  5. Remove the screws or bolts holding the ATF pan to the chassis.  Be careful not let the fluid spill completely when you drain it.  Make sure to drain the fluid in safe containers.
  6. Remove the old gasket and clean the surface completely.  Remove the old transmission filter with the appropriate wrench.
  7. Clean the transmission pan and get rid of debris and other dirt.
  8. Replace the transmission filter with a new one, and apply the gasket kit as recommended by the manufacturer.
  9. Secure the transmission pan.
  10. Add the new ATF to the level recommended by the manufacturer, or until the dipstick reaches “full” when you read it.

Auto maintenance can help preserve the lifespan of your vehicle.  With these steps, you can easily replace ATF on your automatic transmission car and add years to its life.