DIY Transmission Full Fluid Exchange (Flush)

M4rk

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Since my 2003 LS V8 is over 10 years old with nearly 100k miles (160k km) on the clock, I decided to finally change my transmission fluid and filter. It's well known that dropping the pan only yields about 5qt of fluid, which is barely half of the full system capacity. To change all of the fluid (well, as much as possible), a full fluid exchange needs to be performed. As I do not trust the local Ford dealers, nor any mechanic, I decided to DIY this, especially in order to avoid having the car hooked up to a machine that forces the fluid through the system.


There is a great wealth of information online on how to DIY this, which will also apply to the LS as the basic procedure doesn't change. For that reason, this writeup is meant as a guideline-only, not a comprehensive DIY.

Here are some of the resources I studied before tackling this project:

http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=77507
http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/2nd-gen-tacomas/68462-diy-full-flush-automatic-transmission.html
http://www.toyotanation.com/forum/107-camry-solara-lounge/141381-diy-flush-transmission-fluid.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsdPAadc9fY

LS Service Manual: http://deneau.info/ls/ (includes all the procedures for dropping the pan, torque values, etc - courtesy of Owlman)


I did not take any pictures during the process.. who's got time for that? I unfortunately didn't. Do this at your own risk! It's not my fault if your transmission blows up :shifty:


Parts List:
15qt Mercon V (only ended up using 12.5qt) - $100 (dealer)
1 pan gasket (mine had a slight leak in two areas, but I suspect the bolts were simply loose - why risk it?) - $25 (dealer)
1 Motorcraft FT-142 filter - $20 (RockAuto)
1 fluid pump - $12 (Local store)
Hoses, fitting, tons towels, cardboard, gloves

Total cost: $160 (rounded)

Approx cost at dealer:
$199 for pan drop, filter and gasket change
$250 for flush



Note:
It has been mentioned on here that in order to fill the transmission via the fluid level check plug, the OTC 6604 fluid fill adapter is needed. I didn't feel like paying $10 for it, so I dug around and found out (courtesy of ExplorerForum.com) that a 1/8" NPT barb fitting will work perfectly. I used a 1/8" NPT to 1/4" Barb.

barb.jpg




Process:
*Prior to starting, I went for a quick drive to warm up the fluid a little - I am not sure that it's necessary to do this.

Part I:
1. Jack up the car/put it on a hoist and make it level. I did not have the luxury of having a lift, so 4 jack stands had to do. I only had about 14" of clearance to work under.
2. I first removed the inner level check plug to test fit my adapter, T30 torx in my case - about 2qt drained out
3. I then removed the large drain plug, 22mm wrench - another 2qt drained out
s6x~us~en~file=a0023861.gif~gen~ref.gif

4. Drop the pan (reference service manual) - front of pan needs to be lowered first to clear the crossmember. Careful! I still had about a quart of fluid left in the pan, it might spill. Aside from the service manual instructions, I also had to bend the shift cable bracket slightly out of the way, and the Transmission Range connector got in the way too.
5. Clean the pan, magnet, all mating surfaces, and inspect gasket for damage - replace if necessary
6. Remove transmission filter - more fluid will drain out
7. Lubricate seals on new filter, and install - I almost didn't notice one of the old seals stayed in the valve body, careful
8. Re-install pan+gasket, torque (reference service manual), and re-fill with the same amount of fluid (5qt in my case)
9. Keep the hand pump attached to the pan. I clamped the hose however.
Take a break :D

Part II:
1. FIND A HELPER!
2. Remove the front engine splash guard to access the cooler lines
3. The upper line is the cooler->transmission line. You can verify by tracking the metal line back to the transmission, it's the top one
s6x~us~en~file=n0037591.gif~gen~ref.gif

4. I loosened up the worm gear clamp, and pulled the rubber hose off the metal line
5. It's wise to plug the metal line, otherwise fluid will gush out once you start the engine
5. Direct the rubber hose into a measured out bucket/jug
6. Start the engine, drain 1qt
7. Add 1qt back to the pan
8. Repeat until clean fluid comes out - don't forget to add fluid after draining it!
*It took me 12qt until I was satisfied with the color of the fluid coming through the return line.
9. Remove the plug from step 5 - old fluid will flow out out of the line!
10. Re-connect rubber hose and tighten clamp

Part III:
1. Start car, shift through all gears, allowing each to engage, put back into Park once done
2. Remove the inner level check plug, or fill adapter - I still had my adapter connected in case the fluid was low
3. Allow the fluid to drain. When the fluid comes out as a thin stream or drip, the fluid is at the correct level.
s6x~us~en~file=a0028166.gif~gen~ref.gif

*In my case, nothing came out, so I shut the engine off, added 0.5qt, shifted through all gears for good measure, and re-checked the level. A little fluid rushed out, followed by a thin stream.
4. Re-install original fluid level indicator plug, check for leaks, re-install splash shield and you are done!
5. Reward yourself by going for a drive to enjoy all that hard work



I noticed my transmission shifts more accurately now, especially the 1-2 shift. Overall shifts also seem smoother, and reverse engages quicker.

The fluid I drained out was dark brown and smelled horrid, perhaps a little burned, I am not sure. The bad news is that I found a little bit of sludge on the inside of the pan, and even metal fragments :eek: Some dark, some gold in color. The magnet was relatively clean though.

DSC_3624.JPG


I wonder if this is related to the shudder I experienced last year?


This is the pump I used, and my fitting (couldn't find a 1/8" NPT 1/4" Barb):
DSC_3625.JPG

DSC_3626.JPG



And finally, the drained fluid, from the start to end of the process:
DSC_3631.JPG



My LS now has brand new fluids all around. :cool:
 

LS4me

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The flush machines don't force fluid through the trans. They use the transmission pump to pump the old fluid out and the new in.
 

M4rk

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The flush machines don't force fluid through the trans. They use the transmission pump to pump the old fluid out and the new in.

I believe there is another type of flush machine that actually forces the fluid through (with the engine off).
 

stugots

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What lines do the dealers usually tap into? My previous owner said he had it flushed but there is no record of it.
 

joegr

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They usually disconnect the return line at the transmission cooler. It's a connection that just uses a spring clamp. After they are done, you can't tell that they did anything because they just reconnect the hose.
 

stugots

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They usually disconnect the return line at the transmission cooler. It's a connection that just uses a spring clamp. After they are done, you can't tell that they did anything because they just reconnect the hose.

Thanks I figured, +1 to my infinite to-do list.
 

M4rk

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s6x~us~en~file=n0044080.gif~gen~ref.gif


Where #2 attaches to the radiator is difficult to access, so I unplugged mine at the metal line (just below where #2 is pointing).
 

M4rk

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Update: It has been around 5000 miles since I performed the tranny service. Zero issues, shifting is perfect.
 

lking

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what if the fluid coming out is the same colour as the fluid going in just drain and fill 12qt?

anyone know what was wrong with the fluid from the factory that made the solenoid packs go bad? my new solenoid pack is showing classic symptoms of failing (harsh engagment from park to reverse and from park to drive everyonce in a while) probably because i didn't flush out the bad fluid
 

lincolnelite

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the way honda made the trans flush easier than ford makes me wonder how stupid the ford engineers are.

luckily my continental has a dipstick and can be flushed easily by disconnecting the cooler lines.

my toyota's CVT is also very easy, it's like changing the differential fluid and requires only 2 quarts of fluid.
 

LS4me

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the way honda made the trans flush easier than ford makes me wonder how stupid the ford engineers are.

luckily my continental has a dipstick and can be flushed easily by disconnecting the cooler lines.

my toyota's CVT is also very easy, it's like changing the differential fluid and requires only 2 quarts of fluid.

Ford engineers aren't stupid at all. They put the largest V8 engine they could in the LS with the restriction that it be loaded FROM THE BOTTOM. The V8 with a dip stick wouldn't fit. There is a way to add one. IIRC, BMW doesn't have a trans dip stick either. It's not at all uncommon.

You're also comparing FWD appliances to a RWD driver's car.
 

lincolnelite

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any stupid engineer will make the drain and fill hole at the bottom location and use the stream of wasted fluid as an indicator if it's full. Yes BMWs and Mercedes don't have dipstick (and most cars nowadays) but they have separate fill and drain hole on the side (or the drain in the bottom) How hard is it to design that way?

btw it has a fill port on the top of the transmission but was designed at the very top where it's not accessible.

it's also the same transmission on my 02 Mountaineer, so I know it's a PITA. Now in this case the oil filter is directly above the frame so they devise a way to funnel the oil spill when removing the oil filter but it still leaves a mess on the frame (crappy design)

yes, the camry is an appliance but it's been 91k with just basic maintenance.

rwd or fwd, design matters.

I apologize if you're an engineer working for Ford.. at least the stupidity should stop, just look at replacing the battery on 2013 Ford escape..

http://www.carcarekiosk.com/video/2013_Ford_Escape_SE_1.6L_4_Cyl._Turbo/battery/replace_battery
 

LS4me

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I apologize if you're an engineer working for Ford.. at least the stupidity should stop, just look at replacing the battery on 2013 Ford escape..

http://www.carcarekiosk.com/video/2013_Ford_Escape_SE_1.6L_4_Cyl._Turbo/battery/replace_battery

No, I'm not. But I did get to have discussions with the various engineers that actually worked on the LS. We even got to see the offending needle valve responsible for the valve body problem in the early '03's. Also got to go watch them being assembled in Wixom, MI. and drive an '03 at the Michigan Proving Grounds.

There are assembly restrictions placed on the designers/engineers. When the FAA was building our new facility I was on the console design team. They gave us a blank slate our task was to design a console that was user-friendly to the controller with everything within easy reach. We came up with a pretty good design that allowed us easy access to the things we used regularly and put the other stuff at the periphery. Imagine our surprise when we actually moved to the new facility and everything was the same as the old console. We were told that our design wouldn't work due to space limitations.

The Chrysler LH cars needed to have the right front wheel removed as well as the inner fender lining. FWD makes pretty much every repair and maintenance item more difficult.
 

1LoudLS

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luxury cars are never designed with the end user doing maintenance in mind, cars are designed to be manufactured easy. I'd be willing to bet that 90%-95% of all original owners of $40k+ cars don't do the work themselves and have shops or dealers handle all the heavy lifting.

of course its easier to do a lot of jobs on little sh!t box cars with tiny motors that leave 10x more free room under the hood compared to a car like the LS




I still dont understand why everybody is acting like there is a problem that there is no dipstick. unless your car is leaking fluid, you shouldn't ever need to check the level of the fluid. change the fluid when your supposed to and you'll be fine. if your leaking fluid, then you shouldn't always be checking your fluid level and filling as needed, you should actually fix the problem and stop the leak...
 

lincolnelite

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luxury cars are never designed with the end user doing maintenance in mind, cars are designed to be manufactured easy. I'd be willing to bet that 90%-95% of all original owners of $40k+ cars don't do the work themselves and have shops or dealers handle all the heavy lifting.

of course its easier to do a lot of jobs on little sh!t box cars with tiny motors that leave 10x more free room under the hood compared to a car like the LS




I still dont understand why everybody is acting like there is a problem that there is no dipstick. unless your car is leaking fluid, you shouldn't ever need to check the level of the fluid. change the fluid when your supposed to and you'll be fine. if your leaking fluid, then you shouldn't always be checking your fluid level and filling as needed, you should actually fix the problem and stop the leak...

completely doesn't apply to BMWs or Mercedes. They are luxury sport cars yet they were designed to be service-friendly. In fact mechanics and DIY love to work on these cars. They are being run hotter and aggressively driven so that parts wear out faster, they were meant to last longer by proper maintenance. Sure most people who can afford a BMW or Mercedes doesn't even want to touch grease themselves or change a flat tire.

If you've work with other cars, you could tell how stupid Ford, Chrysler and GM designed their cars. It's true that what they care is on manufacturing and assembling only, the servicing is an after thought. They'll run out of business anyway if they make cars that lasts over 100k. The worst offender was Chrysler and followed by GM and Ford. I once worked on a Suzuki Forenza which is basically a GM/Daewoo product and it was a PITA just changing the CP sensor. It's a 4 cylinder car with lots of room to work on but the engineers were the same guys who designed the street of boston.

The dipstick is a non-issue, most car nowadays don't have it because they say transmission is sealed for life or not until you ran out of warranty. With Ford the transmission used on explorer/mountaineer/mustang/lincoln has a design issue where they use a steel servo bore rubbing against the aluminum casing. So depending on luck, the trans is toast before changing the fluid. Mine went out just before 80k (servo bore issue) luckily I purchased an extended warranty. Odd that it wasn't even used off-road or for towing.

I'm not lincoln-bashing, I still have the 98 continental running even better than 02 ls and mountaineer. It's also a PITA to work on and never been to a dealership. If I did it will cost me a fortune since the repairs will cost more than the car now.

I just recently works on other friend's car, honda accord/odessy, my camry hybrid, bmw m5/740il, mercedez SLK/C280 and yes they are cars that are wonderful to work with.
 

lking

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let me see if i got this right

6. Start the engine, drain 1qt
7. Add 1qt back to the pan
8. Repeat until clean fluid comes out - don't forget to add fluid after draining it!

so you start the engine drained 1 qt then turned engine off added 1 qt and then start engine again and repeated until clean fluid comes out?
 

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Telco

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On the whole dipstick thing... how would you know you were losing fluid, if you don't have a dipstick to check? Not all leaks puddle the driveway.
 

lking

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On the whole dipstick thing... how would you know you were losing fluid, if you don't have a dipstick to check? Not all leaks puddle the driveway.

transmission fluid stinks even a little bit of it i'm sure that smell would come through air vents
 

joegr

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On the whole dipstick thing... how would you know you were losing fluid, if you don't have a dipstick to check? Not all leaks puddle the driveway.

Transmission stops working.

How many people really check who do have transmission dipsticks? How many who do, do it correctly and often enough to be of use?
There's no dipstick for for the differential either.
 

lincolnelite

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Transmission stops working.

How many people really check who do have transmission dipsticks? How many who do, do it correctly and often enough to be of use?
There's no dipstick for for the differential either.

Most DIY people does, the rest just follow what is stated in the owners manual.

At least the differential has fill hole on the side.

Mercedes Benz has no dipstick, but there's a dipstick tool you stick from the top to check (and fill from the top) BMW has no dipstick but the hole is also on the side (you fill it until it overflows) similar to a differential.
 

lking

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Most DIY people does, the rest just follow what is stated in the owners manual.

At least the differential has fill hole on the side.

Mercedes Benz has no dipstick, but there's a dipstick tool you stick from the top to check (and fill from the top) BMW has no dipstick but the hole is also on the side (you fill it until it overflows) similar to a differential.

my 04 ls transmission has a fill hole on the side easy to get to once your under the car
 

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