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Old 03-21-2009, 09:20 PM   #1
jzambon
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Default Auto Tranny Fluid color

I changed my girlfriend's automatic transmission fluid/filter this afternoon, after much pleading by me to her to let me do it. She has had her vehicle for the last 20K miles, here're the vitals:
2002 Saturn SL2
75K miles
Auto

I've been doing her oil changes regularly with synthetic Mobil 1 (every 3K miles). I finally was able to convince her today that she needed to spend $50 on a filter/5 qts of Mobil 1 Synthetic ATF. I did the fluid change as per the Wolfman's How-to (using the Saturn filter, keeping the magnet on).

First off, she bought the car retail from a Saturn dealer (Saturn of Clarence in NY). Is it common practice for a vehicle that is sold as retail to have the fluids changed (specifically the tranny fluid). I have no idea if the tranny fluid has *ever* been changed. She's had the car for a little over a year, and unless done by the dealer/previous owner, I know it hasn't been changed.

Second, judging from the picture, I apologize as to the quality available from my cell phone, please let me know what you think of the color of the fluid. Its a pretty dark red, bordering brown. I changed the fluid in my 33K SL2 (first time that one had its tranny fluid changed) the day before and the color was much redder. Is there anything I should be aware/cautious of based on the darkness of the color and having just made the change. I heard somewhere that changing the tranny fluid if it hasn't been changed in a while could actually be a bad thing.

Thanks for any advice! Sorry for the newb question.
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Last edited by jzambon; 03-21-2009 at 09:27 PM.
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Old 03-21-2009, 09:24 PM   #2
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

Sorry, it may be obvious, but with regard to the picture...

The fluid on the left is clean ATF from the bottle
The fluid on the right was pulled from the drain plug of her transmission

I also poured a little on the towel to give a sense of color.

The amount of fluid (level) inside of the caps are the same, so that you can judge the diffusivity of light against the white cap backing. The fluid from her tranny is *very* opaque.

Again, sorry for the crappy pic, its the best I could do at my g/f's place.

Thanks again!
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Old 03-21-2009, 09:32 PM   #3
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Happy Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

I would change it. Its cheap insurance.

30K miles MAX in between fluid changes.

Valve body's need clean fluid, and if you do not change the fluid, they get gunked up over time, you WILL start having problems with the transmission, (valve body esp, then input shaft nut) then delayed reverse, will not stay in 4th on the highway, etc..
My saturn only had 89K miles on it before the transmission went out on it.(thanks prev. owner!) That was 89K miles of no transmission fluid changes, and mostly highway driving, so im sold on the every 30K miles max fluid changes with saturns.

P.s. The magnet may actually reduce fluid flow, and is not necessary, after the break in period of the transmission. If you still had the magnet, chances are the fluid has not been changed, ever...
Hope this helps!
...
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Last edited by 1994Saturn; 03-21-2009 at 09:37 PM.
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Old 03-21-2009, 09:35 PM   #4
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

Without actually having the sample in hand it just looks dirty. Does it smell burnt? There isn't one dealer out of 100,000 who changes any fluids unless its empty. You probably did a 75k mile fluid change.
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Old 03-21-2009, 09:43 PM   #5
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

Thanks for the input so far!!!

The fluid doesn't have a "burnt" smell. If i had to describe it, I would say stale/metallic.

I have the fluid sitting on my coffee table, and just handed it to the first roommate to walk in the room for an opinion, he said "not burnt, but not far off." I had him smell the clean fluid for comparison he said it smelled more "fresh". Sorry, thats the best I could do on that sensory organ.

The magnet had a pretty nice layer of metal on it, which I wiped off and put back on (Saturn filter, as per the Wolfman). Thanks again to the contributors! Please let me know if there is anything I should tell her to look out for the in the next few post-fluid change days.
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Old 03-21-2009, 09:44 PM   #6
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

A second drain and refill is probably a good idea, the filter should be OK.
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Old 03-22-2009, 12:02 AM   #7
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

At 30,001 miles, ATF will probably look as pink and smell as rosy as when it was new. It's still overdue. If it's actually to the point where it looks or smells different, overdue is an understatement. The only fluid color that's relevant is blue or black, namely, ink on paper in the glove box indicating when the fluid and filter were changed.
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Old 03-22-2009, 01:31 AM   #8
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

If not burnt, it looks well past used.
Your girl owes you a nice sized hug. I think you saved her a good bit of money.

A question that might help the OP some:

Is there a flush or treatment we can use just prior to a fluid change that will help to keep the valve body cleaned out?
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Old 03-22-2009, 03:29 AM   #9
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

Please keep all additives out of the transmission. They are destructive and waste money. The dark stuff in the oil is the clutch disk facing material. Also, the fact the magnet was still on a Saturn filter is strong evidence that the fluid is genuine Saturn transmission fluid straight from the factory as the magnet is supposed to go away on the first change.

I would run it until the next oil change and do a drain and refill. When she howls about an other 50.00 for ATF you can point out that a good rebuilt valve body is 200.00 and they start gong bad at 80,000 or so if not well cared for.
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Old 03-22-2009, 05:19 PM   #10
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

my old 96 SL2 has synthetic ATF in it. over 50k miles old and still smells like new.
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Old 03-22-2009, 11:50 PM   #11
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

Quote:
Originally Posted by mr18436572 View Post
my old 96 SL2 has synthetic ATF in it. over 50k miles old and still smells like new.
Which just demonstrates that severely overdue fluid can still smell fine.
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Old 03-23-2009, 09:34 AM   #12
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

I change the atf and filter in my daughter's 1997 SL2 once a year. It is too easy to do to ignore it. Easiest car I have ever worked on. She actully noticed how much smoother the transmission shifted after I changed it yesterday. I went to synthetic this time.
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Old 03-24-2009, 06:51 AM   #13
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

Quote:
Originally Posted by jzambon View Post
I heard somewhere that changing the tranny fluid if it hasn't been changed in a while could actually be a bad thing.
Changing the fluid usually isn't a problem. Flushing it, which is what most shops will do when you take it in can be. I've seen it stir up stuff that was better left where it was.

I'm going to disagree with OldNuc on additives. Adding a little Seafoam Trans Tune and running the car in reverse against a tree for 20 mins or so before a change, can keep the dreaded reverse slam at bay a little longer.

I'll also recommend installing a transmission cooler. These trannies are prone to heat problems. There are instructions for installation here.
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Old 03-24-2009, 11:06 AM   #14
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

A solvent cleaner right before a change is not the additive that I oppose. Those products do help maintain internal cleanliness. The fluid additives that you dump in and run for 30,000 miles can cause more problems than they fix and usually do nothing beneficial.

An oil cooler is a good idea also.
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Old 03-24-2009, 11:30 AM   #15
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

Quote:
Originally Posted by BarnOwl View Post
Changing the fluid usually isn't a problem. Flushing it, which is what most shops will do when you take it in can be. I've seen it stir up stuff that was better left where it was.
here.
I agree.

Newer cars I don't see a problem with this procedure. But I don't do it on any of my cars.

Coincidence? I had an older vehicle and had the 'flush' and the reverse went. Right after a flush. Was it the flush? Maybe not.

I have read in old car magazines never to have a flush. Well, of course, what is an 'old' car?

From what I have seen, all these 'shops' have purchased this expensive 'flush' machine and they have to get their money back. So with the machine is the 'hype'. The hype is that these machines get 'all' the old fluid removed. True.

But I only use the gravity method. And change fluid every two years.
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Old 03-24-2009, 02:27 PM   #16
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Default Re: Auto Tranny Fluid color

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
Which just demonstrates that severely overdue fluid can still smell fine.
its amsoil synthetic. i trust it
...
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