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My car ('96 Ford Taurus) developed a transmission fluid leak and lost an unknown amount of fluid. I fixed the leak and began replacing transmission fluid but this has proved to be extremely tedious. This is my current process:

  1. Add half a pint of fluid
  2. Wait twenty minutes for all the fluid to drain from the filler tube so I can get an accurate reading on the dipstick
  3. Run the car for ten minutes so the fluid gets hot and I can get an accurate reading on the dipstick
  4. Go back to step one and repeat endlessly

Surely there is a better way to do this that is less time consuming, allows me to fill it up quickly and accurately, and saves me from having to spend my entire evening doing this. I am ready to be embarrassed, someone please tell me what I'm doing wrong.

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Here's what you should be doing:

  1. Place your vehicle on a level area like a driveway.
  2. Ensure your vehicle is up to operating temperature and running.
  3. Pull the dipstick and with a clean cloth, wipe it off.
  4. Stick the dipstick back into the tube down to the bottom, then pull it out again immediately and check the level.
  5. Add an appropriate amount of fluid (half a pint is a good measure).
  6. Replace the dipstick back into the tube (if you don't you'll more than likely push fluid back up through the tube in the next step).
  7. Get back into the vehicle, with foot on the brake pedal and run the transmission slowly through the gears (Reverse, wait a second; neutral, wait a second; drive, wait a second), then back up through the gears the same way.
  8. Start over at step 3 until the desired level is reached.

Once the vehicle is up to operating temperature, you don't need to wait 20 minutes between each time you add fluid ... the temperature of the fluid in the transmission will bring it up to temp rather quickly. Also, and this is imperative, DO NOT OVERFILL YOUR TRANSMISSION. This will cause your transmission to spring another leak which will not fix itself.

EDIT NOTE: Check both sides of the dipstick for the proper level. Many times, due to a bend in the tube, the bottom side (whichever side that is at the time) of the dipstick will run down the sloped part of the tube and pick up residual fluid which resides on there. If you check the other side of the dipstick, you should see a distinct line of fluid (this should be the top side) which will give you a more accurate reading of fluid level.

  • This is what I tried but, when I replaced the dipstick at step 6, there would still be fluid coating the inside of the filler tube making it impossible to get a reading on the dipstick (since the whole thing is covered in residual fluid). That's why I started waiting 20 minutes. Is there a good way to avoid the residual fluid problem? – sirdank Feb 25 '15 at 13:38
  • @sirdank ... You cannot get around the residual fluid, but is it actually residual, or is it higher than it should be? Running it through the gears should bring it down to the proper level. Something else to consider, some vehicles require you to check the fluid with the transmission in park, while others require it be in neutral. You never specified which model of vehicle you have, so cannot give you further instructions. Also, see edited note in the answer. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Feb 25 '15 at 13:47
  • Your edit is very helpful. After work, I'll try examining both sides of the dipstick to see if I can get a good reading. The vehicle in question is a '96 Ford Taurus. Owner's manual says to check it in park which I have been doing. – sirdank Feb 25 '15 at 14:27
  • Making sure to keep one side away from the bend (rather than allowing the dipstick to twist as I insert it) and checking the clean side worked great. Thank you! – sirdank Feb 25 '15 at 19:03

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