Thursday, January 4, 2007

Changed the Manual Transmission Fluid

mileage = 72267

My manual transmission fluid change was probably overdue.

Based on the write up below, I decided to try and change the manual transmission fluid in my 2003 Nissan Maxima SE.'s%20Garage/2002MaxSE/MT-90.htm

It is a good write-up, but I would start by testing to see if you can remove the fill plug with a 10mm hex wrench. Don't buy anything, besides a 10mm hex wrench until you can get the fill plug off. Here's what I got from Lowe's. The 10mm wrench is missing because I was cleaning it.

Here is how to find the manual transmission fluid fill and drain plugs. Check how nasty the undercarriage is after 72k miles. There is a something blocking the view so you need to get your head on the ground to see the drain plug. The fill plug is much harder to see because you need your head under the car.

I had to use all my strength to get it open. Maybe a hex bit, instead of a simple hex wrench, would have helped with torque, but either way I think it would be difficult. Also note that I did everything without jack stands or a lift. It took me about 20 to 30 minutes to remove the fill and drain plugs. There was a pretty loud crack when I got each plug lose. Remember this car has 72k miles on it with no real maintenance besides oil changes and no undercarriage cleanings.

Here is what I bought.

Redline MT-90 Manual Transmission Fluid (3 quarts) from at $7.95 a quart bottle, Total Price = $33.64
Kobalt 10 piece set of metric hex wrenches (10mm is the only one you need) Item#25490, $4.26 from Lowe's

Bag O' Gloves! (25 pack) by Hand Care Inc. ( Item#225, $2.98 from Lowe's

Create-A-Funnel by Legacy Manufacturing ( CDCV-K4, $12.99 from Pep Boys
Gear Oil Filler Spout (FloTool) by Hopkins Manurfacturing ( 10106, $4.49 from Pep Boys

8 quart Round Drain Pan, $4.99 from Pep Boys

This is the first time that I've done anything under the car and I was able to get the manual transmission fluid changed, but it was really messy. My first tip is to where gloves and safety glasses at all times, even when you're filling the fluid with a funnel. Have a lot of paper towels or rags to wipe your hands and the different parts that the fluid sprays on.

My second tip would, be to set up the funnel system before pouring anything in. The flexible clear hose was a disaster because any kind of bend puts a crease or fold in the tube and nothing flows. As a result, you have to bend and move things around until the fluid starts going again and this could lead the tip to fall out of the fill hole. My other problem with the funnel system was that not all of the "mix and match" pieces fit that well together and I had some leaks.

This is the procedure that I would use:
  1. Find the fill plug underneath the car near the driver's side tire. There is a some panel or plate that blocks your view.
  2. Make sure you can loosen the fill plug with a 10mm hex wrench.
  3. Leave the wrench in there and open the hood. You should be able to see the fill plug looking down behind the radiator at the front of the car and to the side of the battery.
  4. Create a funnel with an extension that can reach the fill hole. The hole is parallel with your tires, so you need to make a 90 degree bend to get the tip into the fill hole. Now the preparation is complete.
  5. Take the car out for some errands and then wait 5-10 minutes for the car to cool a little bit.
  6. Get a lot of newspaper, an old piece of carpet or a garage tray to catch all the oil that will spill. I wouldn't do this messy job without something to protect the ground.
  7. Find the fill plug and remove it with the 10mm hex wrench. Make sure to also get the gasket that can stick on the fill hole.
  8. Clean around the fill hole with a rag. The fill hole is hard to see so I had to do it by feel.
  9. Make sure you have latex gloves on and have your oil drain pan ready. Find the drain plug, which is easily seen by just looking under the car from the driver's side front tire to the back passenger side tire. Once the drain plug is loose, position the oil pan to catch fluid that shoots out about a foot or so, initially. Hand loosen the drain plug and be ready for dirty fluid to come shooting out.
  10. It probably takes 20 minutes or so for all of the fluid to drain out. Use this time to clean or replace the drain and fill plugs with their gaskets. I believe the drain plug was in worse shape because it is on the bottom and exposed to the elements more than the fill plug, so I used the fill plug, that was in better condition, as the drain plug replacement. The junky drain plug I used for the fill hole because its easier to change, since you don't have to lose any manual transmission fluid to replace.

  1. When all of the manual transmission fluid is drained, take the drain pan with a funnel and pour it into a proper container for recycling. Please dispose of the old manual transmission properly. Click this link to find your local recycling center.
  2. The drain hole is easier to see, so wipe around the drain hole and the bottom of your car to clean up all the gunk and old fluid.
  3. Take your new or cleanest plug with the gasket and hand tighten it back on the drain hole. I was told not to tighten it too much because the heat may cause the plug to be too tight to remove. What I read was hand tighten and then go another 3/4 of a turn. Also I think its supposed to be 20 ft/lbs, but I didn't use a torque wrench, so I hand tightened and added a quarter turn. So far there are no leaks and it has been about a week.
  4. Setup your funnel system to go into the fill hole and pour in two quarts of Redline MT-90. It takes about 2.5 quarts to fill up, depending on how much is fluid is spilled or leaked.
  5. Slowly add more fluid, little by little, until you see fluid coming out of the fill hole. Let the fluid stop coming out of the fill hole and screw the plug and gasket back in. Use the same tightening as the drain plug.
  6. Clean up the mess and you're done.
My clutch was running pretty smooth, but started squeaking a day later, so I'm going to have to look into the throw-out bearing. The car seemed to shift more smoothly, but the difference wasn't really that noticeable. After looking at my old manual transmission fluid, I'm sure it was necessary, even if it doesn't feel like its a new car.

With my mistakes it might have been better to pay the $19.99 to have the shop do it, but I know it will go smoother if I have to do it again. Plus, I would bet that the Redline fluid is better than whatever cheaper alternative the shop uses.


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