Thursday, February 28, 2008

SAAB 9-5 Automatic Transmission Fluid Change

Let's see...

Loud "exhaust" sound when accelerating and no evidence of an exhaust leak exists? Check.
Rough gear changes, especially during spirited driving? Check.
"Engine" vibration when idling in gear, but the engine mounts are solid? Check.

Looks like it's time for me to change the transmission fluid.

I used an easy three-part process to service my transmission fluid. The fluid change takes a total of 30 minutes, divided in three ten minute parts.

First I used my vacuum pump to suck out the old transmission fluid.





I got almost three quarts out on my first pass. I had let the fluid get a little low because a little more than 3 quarts can be drained this way. I then refilled the sump with three quarts of Valvoline Max Life, but any quality Dextron III or compatible ATF fluid will do.



I then drove to work and back before draining/refilling the fluid for a second time. I drove to school and back before draining/refilling the fluid for a third and final time. This final time I added about 3.2 quarts instead of just 3, to top the sump off to the recommended level.

This gently replaces the bulk of the 7.5 quarts inside the transmission. I have read cautions against aggressively flushing the transmission on the 9-5. People have reported problems with valves sticking and seals leaking after having their transmission flushed. The process I used is supposed to prevent these possible issues.

Renewing the fluid made the car drive quieter, softened the shifting, and reduced vibration (especially when backing out of the garage and parking spaces).

17 comments:

  1. is your 9-5 an automatic? Where did you buy your vacuum pump and how much was it? And when you say draining/refilling, do you mean using the pump again? I'd like to change my transmission on my own too and really liked your approach and blog. Thanks.

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  2. @ johnston306

    Thank you for the kind words. I have an automatic in my 9-5 and I got the pump from Griots, the model I got was $75. I would bet cheaper pumps can be found at places like Harbor Freight or maybe Walmart.

    I really don't usually buy such pricey "specialty tools", but I have found more things to use that pump for in the past year than I ever expected and now recommend this type of pump to friends. Heck, I even sucked up water off the kitchen floor with it when we had a leak last fall.

    The draining was done with the pump each time. So I would suck as much fluid out as I could, add new fluid equal to the amount that was drained, miles/days later I would suck the fluid out again and repeat until I had done it three times.

    There is also a plug under the car that will drain the transmission fluid, so you don't even need a pump like mine if you want to get under the car and drain the fluid that way instead. I don't have an image of it at the moment or I would post where it is and what it looks like. The drain and refill cycle would still be the same.

    Good luck!

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  3. Thank you for the information. I have 2004 saab 9-5 aero and heard about the danger of flushing. I would appreciate if you can answer the following (ejmin57@hotmail.com)

    - Don't you have to change filter and gasket once in a while?

    - Wouldn't you have a danger of damaging any sensitive and rubbery parts (don't they have some non-metal components in automatic transmission by inserting the plastic pipe into the transmission chamber?

    Thanks for the response in advance.

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  4. I too have never heard anything positive about transmission flushes. This fluid change process is made to prevent the kind of damage that can occur with some of the flushing processes out there.

    There is no serviceable filter in the SAAB 9-5 automatic transmission.
    http://www.saabcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=121782

    And I'm not sure how the vacuum tube is going to cause damage if it's taking up the same space as the dipstick. I guess if someone really started to jam it in and out? But we're changing the fluid, not unstopping a toilet. Let me pose this question on SAABCentral and get back to you.

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  5. Thanks, Infocog. Let me ask you two more questions. The manual says, MINERAL based transmission oil should be used. You used Valvoline MaxLife. Are they same? Auto Zone says it's ok but Pepboy says you should use genuine Saab oil.

    What about sludge? If you use your method, how you take the sludge out without flushing? Thanks again.

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  6. Sure thing.

    Dexron III is mineral based. Personally, I won't worry about the brand as long as it is high quality.

    My impression is you don't want to suck up more than what is suspended in the fluid. I remember an episode of Car Talk where they warned against these aggressive flushes because they remove the sludge and the next thing people know they have a leaking transmission because the sludge was the only thing keeping the transmission sealed tight. This is in addition to the danger of sludge getting dislodged, but not removed, and forming a sort of transmission "blood clot" that starves sections of the works and ruins the transmission.

    Here is the thread I made on SAAB Central. So far one guy says it's ok and the other says not to vacuum at all, but I disagree with his reasoning that the vacuum moves the fluid enough to dislodge the gunk. So I guess you should use your best judgment. The drain on the transmission is always there if you are still uneasy about the vacuum method.

    http://www.saabcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1487104

    Good luck!

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  7. Intelligent advice... I agree with you but then I don't know anything about the velocity of oil while it is pumped. Drain can be economical but painful as I don't have to buy the extractor but go under the car. Where's the drain plug located? Can you show me the picture? Or describe it for me? I know the general area but there are so many bolts in the area. Thanks!

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  8. I've never drained from the plug, but I'm pretty sure this is the drain plug in the photos.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/infocog/3413006771/sizes/o/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/infocog/3413006621/sizes/o/

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  9. You've been very helpful. Thanks.

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  10. Thank you infocog, these are very helpful pictures for me.

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  11. Hi infocog,

    I just changed the transmission fluid through the drain plug yesterday. My car is 1999 saab 95 v6 SE. I couldn't finish this without your picture. Thanks again.

    One thing I want to mention is approximately 4 quarts will be drained through the drain plug instead of 3 quarts at a time. So I just did two cycle because I only bought 9 quarts fluid . After changing my car is much smooth than before.

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  12. I bought exactly the same you were using. Is it possible to suck up all the transmission fluid? I tried to out the tube into transmission, but it seems wont go all the way.

    If not, i guess i will have to do the three times cycle like you did.

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  13. The problem is the two-thirds of the fluid you can't suck out the tube is mainly trapped in the complex plumbing of the transmission. You can't really get to it even when using the drain plug. There's stuff that just stays inside the transmission regardless. The three part fluid change is also very gentle. I've read about people getting leaks after aggressive fluid flushes, like the ones offered as some shops. You might search SAABCentral's 9-5 forum if you're interested in reading about other owner's experiences with different ways of changing the transmission fluid. It's possible this technique has been improved upon since I did the post. Good Luck!

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  14. I just got done doing a T-Tech fluch on a 2004 9-5 and it works a bit better. its a costly machine but for around $100 its the best way to go!

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  15. I just bought the same for my heavy duty car!

    tHANKS for sharing your ideas, hopefully i could use them later on.

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  16. thanks much! I will say this, the tranny does "call" for 3309 Mineral based fluid. Dextron III has even been used. If everyone here is truly concerned about their transmissions, then you'd be well to flush it (yourself) and replace with full synthetic, like Amsoil's red cap product. Just my two cents. Dextron III is not synthetic and fact is, mineral oils don't hold up nearly as well as full synthetic (no, duh).

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