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Old 05-28-2008, 02:40 PM   #1
blentz
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Default Transmission fluid & filter change

Greetings!
I have a 2000 LS (base) with an automatic transmission and 134k miles on it. I purchased it a year ago with 119k miles so I don't know the detailed service history... but, I suspect it's time (or well overdue) to change the transmission fluid and filter.

Since I've never done this before (I've otherwise changed the fluid in 5 speeds), I have read several posts here about the procedure and had a couple questions.

I understand that it's best to get an OEM filter from Saturn, as opposed to an aftermarket one. I was also planning on getting the pan gasket, too, so that I don't end up with a monster leak on my hands. But is that necessary? There has been much discussion over the "flush" versus "change" since the change requires breaking the seal. I'm not sure what the clear answer is.

I understand the pan bolts should be 108 in-lbs... I think my 3/8" torque ratchet only goes down to 120 in-lbs... how tolerant are the bolts, assuming I don't want a leak?

Also, from hilco5's post at http://saturnfans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=80824, I'm not totally sure what the issue is with removing the "filter gasket"... it sounds as though it's a less than straightforward... I would've expected a rubber seal, not something that has to be hammered in and out?

I'm trying to prepare as much as possible so that we don't lose the car to a mistake I make while trying to perform routing maintenance.

Thanks in advance to any and all input anyone has to offer.
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Old 05-28-2008, 02:45 PM   #2
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Default Re: Transmission fluid & filter change

In terms of driveability, the transmission doesn't exhibit a "reverse slam" symptom and otherwise shifts smoothly at all times. The only minor issue I've ever noticed is that sometimes when it hasn't been warmed up, it is a little slow to back out of the garage. It shifts nicely into reverse, but requires a bit of patience before it starts to move at a normal speed. Once warmed up, it's very responsive in reverse.

Thanks for any thoughts
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Old 05-31-2008, 02:15 PM   #3
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2001 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
1995 SL2
Default Re: Transmission fluid & filter change

Changing the ATF on this transaxle is straightforward. Changed mine last year at about 55,000 miles - glad I did, it shifted smoother after the change.

The OEM pan gasket "can" be reused, but when I changed mine I bought a new one from Saturn. Also bought the filter from Saturn. The old gasket actually looked okay. Yes, the torque on the pan bolts is 108 inch/pounds or 9 ft/lbs. That is plenty enough to compress the pan gasket evenly so no leaks will occur. Too much torque and you risk stripping the threads on the soft aluminum case.

There is a seal inside the transaxle case that the filter plugs into. The seal is a press fit into the aluminum case. It can be a little tricky to remove. I used a seal puller to get mine out, a screwdriver will probably work also. Care needs to taken so you do not scratch the soft aluminum case when you pry the seal out. To install the seal, just square it up to the hole and gently tap it in, no rocket science here at all.

Clean up the pan and the magnet in the pan. Make sure both gasket surfaces are clean and the pan gasket surface is straight. No sealer is required on the gasket. Bolt it up evenly to 108 in/lbs and add about 7 quarts of ATF.

To check the ATF level, the car needs to be reasonably level and warmed up. Remove the fluid check bolt on the passenger side, the ATF should be at the bottom of the hole.

Hope this helps.
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Old 06-01-2008, 07:26 PM   #4
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Default Re: Transmission fluid & filter change

Hey Greg,
Thanks for the response, I appreciate the information, especially about the filter seal. I've got the filter and gasket on order and should be here in a couple days.

Does the engine just need to be warmed up and level to have the transmission fluid checked, or does the engine also need to be running, too?
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Old 06-01-2008, 11:15 PM   #5
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2001 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
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Default Re: Transmission fluid & filter change

^^Yes indeed and I apologize for not making that point clear. The motor needs to be running at idle, the ATF fluid warmed up, the transmission in the park position after slowing shifting through all the shift points. For safety, engage the emergency brake before going under the car to remove the check fluid bolt.

I will also emphasize, check all the threads on the transaxle pan steel bolts for cleaniness before retorquing back into the aluminum case - lube the steel bolt threads with ATF before installing. A speck of dirt on the steel pan bolt threads could cause the soft aluminum transaxle case threads to strip and not hold torque, a leak is therefore possible. Also NO cross threading allowed. I have seen both happen before in other steel bolt to aluminum casting interfaces.

If stripping of the aluminum threads occurs then you are faced with installing a HeliCoil insert. Lets not go there

You CAN do it successfully

If you are careful and use common sense you and your transaxle will be just fine
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Old 06-15-2008, 10:18 PM   #6
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Default Re: Transmission fluid & filter change

Thank you for all the helpful advice. I'm pleased to report that everything went off without a hitch. I got the pan so clean, you could eat off it. All the bolt threads were cleaned and lubed before going back in. And, there was only a little sludge on the magnet. The fluid was a dark red/brownish color, which was consistent with what I've read it should look like under normal conditions. I couldn't really find a good way to remove the seal... tried prying at it with a pick set and a couple screw drivers, and couldn't get it out. Ended up collapsing it by tapping a screwdriver with a hammer on the edge... of course, it came right out once I ruined the old one.
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