How to Drain Transmission Fluid

Lead Image
  • 1-2 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 25-50
What You'll Need
Allen wrench set for some models (check owners manual if possible)
Car jack stands or drive-on service ramp
4 gallon drain pan for catching fluids
Floor mat or creeperoptional
Hand protectionoptional
4-1 gallon milk containers with screw caps
Transmission fluid in quantity specified by your owners manual
Transmission funnel

Learning to change your transmission fluid can save money and keep your car properly maintained. It is not uncommon for this maintenance to be neglected but it should be done about every 30,000 miles.

Step 1 - Locate the Transmission Dip Stick

Open your hood and locate two dipsticks. One will be for motor oil and the other for transmission fluid. The transmission fluid dipstick will often be labeled “TRANS” or “ATF”. If it is not labeled it may be colored red as opposed to the yellow colored motor oil dipstick. If it is still not obvious then you should check the color of the fluid. The motor oil will be amber or brown and the transmission fluid will be reddish or gold. Your transmission pan will be located under the car on the same side and in proximity to the dipstick.

Step 2 - Raise Your Car

Using car jack stands or drive-on ramps raise the car to allow for easy access to the underside of your car. Follow all safety procedures for these products.

Step 3 - Locate the Transmission Pan and Drain Plug

Lay down your mat and slide under the car and locate the pan based on where the dipstick is located. Find the drain plug which will generally be a nut configuration that can be turned with a wrench. You may occasionally find that a particular model needs an allen wrench.

Step 4 - Drain the Fluid

Position the drain pan under the plug, remove the plug and lay it aside. Try not to allow the plug to fall in the pan. Be prepared for the fluid to come out immediately and position yourself to try to avoid fluid pouring down your arm. Allow the fluid to drain to a slow drip. Replace your plug, being sure to not over torque the nut. Lower your car and prepare to refill your transmission fluid.

Step 5 - Replace Fluid

Remove the transmission fluid dipstick and insert the transmission funnel. Transmission funnels have an extra long spout. Add 3 or 4 quarts of transmission fluid. Start your car and with your foot on the brake shift through all the gears including reverse and back to park. While car is idling in park, check the fluid level with the dipstick. Fill to the full line with additional fluid. This can be up to 12 quarts depending on your model.

Step 6 - Recycle

Do not pour or dispose of used transmission fluid by pouring it down any drains or into the street or soil. Transmission fluid must be taken to a recycle facility. Transfer the transmission fluid to your sealable gallon containers. Washed out plastic milk jugs are ideal.