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Automatic Transmission

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Knowledge Center, Articles
June 25, 2013    Updated June 4, 2014, October 21, 2014

An automatic transmission service is normally described as a fluid and filter change.  A fluid and filter change involves the following procedures:

1. Removing, emptying and cleaning the transmission fluid pan.
Replacing the transmission filter - except Honda vehicles
3. Replacing the clean fluid pan using a new pan gasket.
4. Replacing the old fluid that was emptied from the pan with clean fresh fluid (ATF).

Consult your Vehicle Owner's Manual for the specific transmission service recommendation, i.e., service interval and type of ATF used.  Don't have your Owner's Manual?  It may be available free of charge here.  Vehicle Owner Manuals

NOTE: Following the manufacturer's recommended transmission service intervals will not only save you money on costly repairs but you'll enjoy better performance, better gas mileage, peace of mind and a higher resale value if and when you ever sell or trade your vehicle.

Transmission Service Cost

For most vehicles, the cost for an an automatic transmission service (fluid and filter change) costs between $110 and $200.  For high end vehicles and many imports, a transmission service can be considerably more expensive, typically costing in excess of $350.

Average Costs for Automatic Transmission Service: "Fluid/Filter Change"

Vehicle Year, Make, Model

Shop Cost Dealership Cost DIY Cost*

2002 Honda Odyssey

$135 to $200 $175 - $225 $65 to $90  

2005 BMW 745Li

$550 to $800 $625 - $875 $225 to $300  

2004 Ford Mustang

$200 to $265 $275 - $325 $85 to $125  

2002 Chevrolet Suburban

$200 to $265 $230 - $294 $65 to $90  

2000 Mazda 626

$235 to $290 $275 - $330 $75 to $100  

1999 Toyota Camry

$280 to $330 $335 - $390 $75 to $100  
  *The DIY Cost column represents the cost for a transmission filter kit and replacement fluid (ATF).  

  Need a reputable shop in your area to service your transmission?  We have one

  Save Money - Do-it-Yourself.  Free DIY Transmission Service Instructions   

Checking Automatic Transmission Fluid Level

Of all the different automotive do-it-yourself projects that can save vehicle owners hundreds or even thousands of dollars, checking the automatic transmission fluid level and condition is at the top of the list.  According to ATRA (Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association), 90% of all transmission failures are fluid related.

Note: Auto repair shops and car dealerships will normally check your transmission fluid level free of charge.  However, when fluid is needed, you'll pay a much higher price for the fluid than you could purchase it for a your local auto parts store or online.

Checking Automatic Transmission Fluid Level
DIY Instructions Begin Here

Note: These DIY instructions are for checking the fluid level in automatic transmissions that have a dipstick.  Some newer vehicles have "Sealed Automatic Transmissions", which do not have a fluid dipstick.  Refer to your Vehicle's Owner's Manual or click here to see which transmission you have.


> Paper Towel or "Lint-free" Rag
> Funnel  ($2.49 at AutoZone)
> Automatic Transmission Fluid "ATF"

Check your Vehicle Owner's Manual for the recommended type of ATF used in your vehicle.
transmission maintenance tools needed

1In order to get an accurate reading, park your vehicle on level ground and allow the engine to warm up to its normal operating temperature.  While the engine is warming, shift the transmission through all the gears before returning the shifter to Park.  (Leave the shifter in each gear for a few seconds before shifting to the next gear).

Note: If your vehicle's engine and transmission are already warm, you can skip the warm up procedures, but you still need to start the engine before checking the fluid level.check transmission fluid

With the engine idling and the transmission in the "P" Park position, open the hood and locate the transmission dipstick.  (There are two dipsticks; one is for checking the engine oil and the other is for checking the transmission fluid – double check to be sure you have the right dipstick).

Pull the dipstick out of the tube and look closely at the end of the dipstick - make a mental note of the fluid level.  Wipe the dipstick clean with a lint-free rag or paper towel and re-insert it back into the dipstick tube.  Pull the dipstick out again and check the fluid level a second time to confirm the first reading.  (If the two readings are different - check the fluid level a third time).  If the fluid is at the "Full Line" or in the "Full Range" (see illustration below) no fluid is needed.  Insert the dipstick back into the tube and close the hood.  If the fluid level is low, you will need to add fluid.

dipstickNumber 3To add transmission fluid, insert a funnel into the dipstick tube and slowly poor a small amount (maximum of quart) of ATF into the transmission.  Re-insert the dipstick into the tube, wait a few seconds then pull the dipstick back out and check the fluid level again.  If it is still low, add a little more fluid and recheck.  Repeat these steps until full.  Do not overfill.

Note: Automatic transmissions do not use (or "burn") transmission fluid as an engine uses/burns motor oil.  Therefore, if your transmission fluid level is low, you probably have a fluid leak.  How to find and repair transmission fluid leaks.

> When checking the transmission fluid, be sure the dipstick is pushed all the way down into the dipstick tube before pulling it out to check the level.  If it is not, you will get a false “low” reading, which will prompt you to add fluid.  If you overfill the transmission, you will need to drain some fluid out to get it back into the “Full Range”.

> To help avoid overfilling the transmission, add only a small amount of ATF before rechecking the level.

keep readingHow to properly check transmission fluid condition


Transmission Resource Library
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Automatic Transmission Maintenance
How to Check Transmission Fluid Level
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Automatic Transmission Fluid/Filter Change
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Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)
Transmission Fluid Color
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Transmission Failure - What Are My Options?
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How to Flush an Automatic Transmission
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