Where’s the Dipstick?

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For newer vehicles, particularly German makes, manufacturers are increasingly ditching the transmission dipstick in favor of electronic oil level monitoring. Others may employ a fluid level plug hole on the bottom of the pan.

Check transmission fluid level at oil leveling plug hole

2013 Ford Fusion transmission oil leveling plug hole. (Courtesy Ford Motor Co.)

In other cases, such as the 2009 Suzuki Equator, the transmission oil dipstick exists but it’s not easy to find! First, it is not a traditional dipstick, sticking out where you can see it. It is a plug with a mounting bolt — you’d never know it is there. Often the owner’s manual will show the location of the dipstick, if one exists.

Today’s vehicles have longer maintenance intervals, and the emphasis is on keeping the system sealed to avoid the damage that debris, the wrong oil, and even air and moisture can wreak. In exchange, with electronic oil level monitoring, issues may arise when varnishing reduces the effectiveness of an in-sump sensor, for example.

5 Vehicle Manufacturer Recommendations:

1. Use the correct fluid – Non-recommended fluids can cause erratic shifts, slippage, abnormal wear, and eventual failure, due to fluid breakdown and sludge formation.
2. Cleanliness – Wipe the dipstick cap and fill tube clean before checking fluid level. Dirt, grease, and other foreign material on the cap and tube could fall into the tube, if not removed beforehand. Use a clean funnel when adding fluid.
3. Incorrect fluid level – A low fluid level allows the pump to take in air along with the fluid. Air in the fluid will cause fluid pressures to be low and develop slower than normal. If the transmission is overfilled, the gears churn the fluid into foam. This aerates the fluid and causes the same conditions occurring with a low level. In either case, air bubbles cause fluid overheating, oxidation, and varnish buildup which interferes with valve and clutch operation. Foaming also causes fluid expansion which can result in fluid overflow from the transmission vent or fill tube. Fluid overflow can easily be mistaken for a leak if inspection is not careful. (via Chrysler)
4. Transmission fluid additives, treatments or cleaning agents – may affect transmission operation and can result in damage to internal transmission components.
5. When to check – Your transmission is not designed to consume fluid. However, check the fluid level if the transmission is not working properly, (eg, if the transmission slips or shifts slowly) or if you notice some sign of fluid leakage.

Planning to service or repair your vehicle? Chilton can help! Access procedures, specifications, tips, and more at ChiltonDIY.com.

One response to “Where’s the Dipstick?”

  1. michael hinderliter says:

    Man this is some good info, You for sure really need to make sure you check all your fluids of a vehicle because if not you could end up being in for a major disaster and ruin your auto in a matter of time and you do not want that because then expenses start adding up for things such as getting your vehicle towed, a mechanic to look at it and let you know what is wrong and then to have repairs completed too as well so make sure you always maintain your vehicle properly so you do not have to go thru the same things yourself.

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