Transmission Fluid
Dodge Stratus

How do you drain the transmission fluid on a AT 1996 Dodge Stratus ES?

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2006-09-24 15:49:11

If there is no drain plug, then you have to remove the

transmission pan to drain the fluid. Going through the messy

operation of dropping the transmission pan and replacing the filter

is fine as far as it goes. The trouble is, it doesn't go far

enough. At least half of the old, burned-up ATF and its

contaminants remain in the torque converter (the days of those

convenient converter drain plugs are long gone), clutch drums,

valve body and elsewhere. If you want to get the full benefit from

this maintenance service, you've got to work a little harder.

Regardless of how far you're willing to go here, you still must

take the transmission pan off, and there are a couple of ways of

making this job a little neater. Start by putting the car on sturdy

jackstands or, better yet, ramps. Block the rear wheels. If you

have a gravel driveway, toss a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood down first to

prevent the stands from tunneling into the ground while you're

under the vehicle. If you just remove the pan (leave a few bolts

along one side partway in), ATF will flow out in a wave all around

the seam, probably splashing outside the radius of your catch pan.

If you've got a suitable pump, you can run the pickup hose down

into the dipstick tube until it bottoms out, then pump until you

stop getting fluid. This will vastly reduce spillage. To extract as

much of the old ATF as possible, leave the pan on, remove a trans

cooler line at the radiator, put a drain pan under it, then start

the engine for a few seconds to find out which way the fluid is

flowing. It doesn't matter whether you use the inlet or outlet line

except that you have to attach a small hose either to the line

connector or the radiator outlet in order to collect the ATF. Put

the hose into the largest jug you can find, and let the engine idle

until air starts spurting. Many professionals enhance this

procedure by pouring a few quarts of fresh fluid into the dipstick

tube at roughly the same rate that the old fluid is coming out,

thus adding flushing action. Now you can remove the pan. This is

not only necessary for changing the filter, but also allows

deposits and sediment to be washed out of the pan. There's another

important consideration: This operation provides the opportunity to

find out if failure is impending. You should see next to no swarf

or debris, and then only on the first change. "Subsequent changes

should be nearly dead clean. If a newer gearbox is making junk,

it's in trouble. You might find just a trace of aluminum shavings,

or other very minor debris, but the assembly process is so clean,

and the newer gearboxes so unforgiving of dirt, that any real

accumulation generally means a problem is in development. Now's the

time to replace the filter and its seal, which probably can be

purchased in the same kit as the transmission pan gasket. When

reinstalling the pan, start every pan bolt by hand for at least two

threads before tightening any of them. If the last person to

install your pan got overly enthusiastic with the wrench, you may

find the pan rail has dimples around the bolts. Use a hammer and

dolly to flatten them out. Otherwise, the pan gasket will leak. A

cork gasket often can benefit from a thin layer of gasket sealer or

adhesive, especially to keep it in place while you're trying to

start those first few bolts. Don't use a thick bead of silicone

sealant, as it will squish out between the mating surfaces into

little silicone worms, which will eventually break off and clog the

pump intake. Of course, you can go to your favorite auto service

facility and have a trans flush and refill done. Many shops today

have a machine for this purpose, but you've got to be sure of what

you're getting. Some quick-lube places will just attach the machine

to a cooler line, exchange the fluid, and call it done. I beg to

differ. The pan should be removed for cleaning. WARNING! Dexron is

not a universal fluid. Chrysler four-speed automatics only use

ATF+3 (ATF+4 for newer vehicles), regardless of what the dipstick,

owner's manual, or some mechanic says. Do not let anyone pour

anything except Chrysler ATF+3 or +4 in your transmission. They

will tell you that their universal fluid will work fine and save

you a few dollars. Be firm and insist on ATF+3/4 if you take it to

a shop. If they balk, then walk. Otherwise you will ruin your

Chrysler transmission to save a few dollars.

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