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Nuts & Bolts - Exchanging Transmission Fluid Without a Dipstick

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on June 2, 2016
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Photographers: Trenton McGee

Say No to Dipsticks
I'm sitting here catching up on my latest issue, June 2016. In regards to the late-model Ram that has a transmission with no dipstick, I was wondering if you ever considered transmission exchange machines for transmission maintenance. The machine we had in a former dealership job I had exchanged out the tranny fluid to the correct amount in the transmission. We always pushed a couple of extra quarts through to completely exchange all the old fluid out (this would include the torque converter). A sight gauge built into the machine showed the exchange of old dirty fluid being replaced by clean new fluid. Some machines come with flushing/additive kits that can be run through a transmission, too. I know a lot of shops from independents to dealerships use these machines with great success. Just wondering if you ever used them in maintaining a vehicle’s transmission.
Kurt S.
Via nuts@4wheeloffroad.com

Thanks for reading, Kurt, and you have a good point. Those transmission fluid exchange machines are pretty cool and are beneficial. Yes, we have used one, if by used you mean handing the keys over to a professional and sat in the lobby drinking coffee while the pro hooked up the machine and swapped the fluid out for us. They are a great way to service a transmission because as you mention, they swap the fluid out via pressurizing all the various fluid circuits inside the transmission, and that includes the torque convertor. This method displaces far more of the old fluid than simply dropping the transmission pan. However, it’s really only half of the transmission service equation because the original filter remains in place unless the tech drops the pan and swaps it. Granted, many factory service manuals recommend a simple fluid swap as opposed to changing the filter at certain service intervals, and this is one of the reasons those cool pressurized oil-swapping machines exist. But completely servicing a transmission involves dropping the pan and replacing the filter on most applications. Plus, one of those machines is not something your average shadetree mechanic is going to have or invest in, so servicing a dipstickless transmission like the one in Frank’s 2014 Ram still requires taking it somewhere for service, as opposed to performing the routine maintenance at home. It’s up to individual opinion as to whether or not that’s a good thing.

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