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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, I am having issues with my atx level. About two weeks ago I cleaned the pan and replaced the filter. I also measured how much fluid came out and made sure to add the same amount of new fluid back in. After I finished with the pan, I removed the transmission cooler return hose and drained about 6 quarts, i.e. remove 1 old quart and replace with 1 new quart 6 times.

I live in southern Texas where it's in the 100s just about every day now, and so it shouldn't take long to get up to operating temperature, which according to the manual is 120-140 F, just by driving maybe 10-15 minutes. Well, I've driven 20 miles as the manual says, most of it on highways, and according to the manual it says if you've driven at high speed for a long period, to let the car sit for about 30 minutes before checking. Fine. I do that and then check the atx level, first shifting through the gears and then leaving it to idle on park. For the past two weeks, I've been adding more fluid, probably at least half a quart by now, and it still is low when I check the dipstick. I put the dipstick in after it's been cleaned, pull it out and there's no fluid visible. If I put the dipstick in the tube all the way and then rotate it a few times by twisting the handle, and pull it out, then I see it's at about half-way between min and max. Of course, rotating the handle might be causing the yellow dipstick measure thingy to splash into the pan, thus skewing the results and showing a higher level than there actually is. I don't know. Does it?

Here are my questions:

1. The manual says to check it at 120 -140 F. Completely useless information unless you tell me HOW to check the temperature properly. Am I supposed to aim an infrared thermometer at the transmission pan to check the temperature or do I just look at my dashboard and see the thermometer needle in the middle and say okee dokee derrrrrr?

2. Since it's already about 100 degrees outside where I live, how long should it really take the transmission to get up to operating temperature? I mean I can understand if you live in alaska, then it makes sense to drive 20 miles like the manual says, but is this really necessary when it's already baking outside?

3. Has anyone else had problems with judging the atx level using this wonky annoyingly long wiry dipstick? The engine oil dipstick seems much better designed and doesn't take turns as it goes down the tube.

My ultimate gripe is with the way the fluid is measured itself. Let's say I did a really bad job and there's only 3 quarts of fluid in my transmission. How am I supposed to know how much to add once I check the level and see that it's low on the dipstick? If I pour in a whole quart, I COULD be overfilling it. I wouldn't know since I have no idea what the level is. I just know it's not showing up on the dipstick. Also, once I do add new fluid, I can't take an accurate measurement with the dipstick right away anyway because the tube is coated in fluid, which rubs onto the yellow part of the dipstick and gives false results. Is it really that difficult for a company to design a dipstick with an actual gauge on it, from 0 to 10 quarts, and then put a min and max line so people know HOW MUCH to add if it's low? Maybe I'm just boneheaded, but couldn't this be engineered better? I don't want to destroy my transmission by under or overfilling it, but it's a PITA to constantly add small amounts, about 8oz at a time, and continue to see low or ambiguous results.

Also, there aren't any leaks just to make that clear.

Thank you!
 

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C2H5OH
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11,867 Posts
From min to max is 1 quart ... which is standard for most all dipsticks.

What was the fluid level on the dipstick prior to?
There's nothing saying it wasn't low to begin with, that you've told us.

Ignore the temp thing. All that is is to account for expansion of the fluid. If it's in the middle cold it shouldn't reach full even if overheating. The fluid doesn't expand that much 1/2 qt.).

Are you checking while the trans in in Neutral?
I assume you are being you have the owners manual handy.

How long do you let the dipstick sit before pulling and checking?
Maybe leave it longer.


Also, just because you don't see a leak doesn't mean you don't have one. The Trans cooler is part of the radiator. It is possible for trans fluid to enter the coolant if the radiator fails.
So has your coolant level gone up or look dirty/contaminated?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you for the quick reply! I didn't know that it was 1 quart between min and max, very useful.

Prior to filling, when I checked, it was slightly above the min line.

I have the transmission in Park and idling, which is what my manual says.

I leave the dipstick in for about 5 seconds before checking. I am even careful to pull it out slowly.

You're right there could be a leak somewhere that I haven't noticed, but prior to changing the fluid, I never noticed the level change in the year that I've owned the car. I've rubbed paper towel around the pan's edge to check for oil and there isn't any, and I've also rubbed paper towel around the cooler line and I haven't noticed any oil. The only thing that bothered me when doing the fluid change was when I had to remove the hose from the transcooler pipe. That was much more difficult than it should have been, as if the connector was seized up. I did what the manual says, to push it in, press the release clips and pull out. I've driven the car and have left it idling, with paper towels duct taped below the cooler and hose and I haven't seen any drops of oil on them, which leads me to believe there's no leak.

Would it be okay to drive the car around just 5 mins to let it go through the gears, then do the atx level check? Right after adding a small amount, such as 8 oz, shoudl I then drive the car around again, or leave it to idle for 5-10 mins before checking? It seems like right after adding new fluid, you can't get an accurate measurement.
 

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C2H5OH
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11,867 Posts
I'd just fill 'til it hits the mark as is.
It could very well be that debris/etc gave a false fluid level prior to the change. Now with newer fluid you see the true level and that it was low previously, though not indicated.
 
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