Making automatic transmissions with NO dipstick seems like a strange thing for manufacturers to do, but looking at it from their point of view might make sense. If a vehicle that’s under warranty is damaged internally because the owner or a mechanic overfills the transmission, the manufacturer may end up having to pay for the repair. Limiting access by eliminating old style filler tubes makes sense to reduce their liability.
Here’s a quick list of some vehicle models that could have a transmission without a dipstick and require a “no-dipstick” fluid level check:
- Cadillac Catera
- Saturn ION and Vue
- Lincoln Navigator
- Chevrolet Aveo
- Chevrolet Equinox
- Chrysler 300
- Ford Cars
- Mazda MPV
- Mazda Miata
Some vehicles in this category actually have a special tool that is used like a dipstick to check the fluid level but then is removed. Year 2005 and up Chrysler models with a NAG-1 transmission are an example.
There are some “DIY” (do it yourselfers) who have been checking transmission fluid levels on their own for years. With the newer “no dipstick” style transmissions, there are quite a few different procedures that will be involved. If you still want to “do it yourself”, you’ll have to be very careful to follow the manufacturer procedures exactly to avoid damage to your car and reduce the risk of personal injury.
Here are some of the reasons why it’s going to be more difficult, more risky, and therefore not such a good idea to check fluid levels yourself on these newer style transmissions:
- You may need to put your car up on jack stands to gain access to the checking point
- The vehicle has to be level to get an accurate measurement of the fluid level
- Leveling your car on 4 jack stands in your garage instead of on a hoist is very difficult at best
- Temperature of the fluid is critical to getting the fluid level correct; fluid at this temperature can burn skin
- If the fluid level is low, adding the correct fluid type in the correct amount is critical
- Specialized tools, like scan tools and special wrenches, are often required to do the steps correctly
Here’s an example of what is involved to check the fluid level for a 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier with a 4T40-E automatic transaxle:
- fluid temp must be at 104 degrees F. when checking
- engine must be running with transaxle in Park
- an oil pan should be placed under the removal plug area; then remove plug
- if fluid doesn’t come out when plug is removed, add fluid until it starts to come out; then stop adding
- allow level to stabilize even with the bottom of the check plug hole
- replace plug when fluid no longer comes out of check plug hole
- tighten plug to the correct torque specification
You can see it’s no longer a simple matter of lifting the hood, pulling out the dipstick and looking to see where the fluid level is on vehicles with these newer style transmissions. Give Wayne’s Transmissions a call. They have the right tools and the skill necessary to maintain or fix your transmission.
Wayne’s Transmissions, Boise Idaho (208) 322-1236