This simple guide will show you how to check your transmission fluid in just a few easy steps. If you take care of your Ford truck"s transmission, your Ford truck will take care of you!

This article applies to the Ford F-150 (2004-2014) and the F-250, F-350 Super Duty (2005-2014).

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Are you a weekend warrior, or love a good day off-roading? Your Ford-150 or Super Duty transmission needs extra attention at least every 2 years or every 30,000 miles. Dirty fluid can cause issues ranging from a check engine light to damaged transmission internals. Heat and broken parts will shorten the life of your fluid, but in general, your transmission fluid will last the life of your truck. It"s also the first thing your should check if the transmission is misbehaving.


Step 1 - Locate the transmission dipstick

Always use caution when opening and securing the hood of your truck. If the truck has recently been in use, the engine will be warm and could possibly cause a minor burn. Use the lever inside the vehicle, pop the hood and secure the hood with the interior prop.

Figure 1. "04 - "08 F-150 engine bay. The transmission fluid dipstick is circled in red.

Most Ford F-150 trucks have the transmission dipstick located to the immediate left, or on the passenger side. It looks like a bright yellow ring. However, newer truck models with the 6R80 will have a hidden dipstick located on the actual transmission body.

Figure 2. Late model F-150"s with the 6R80 have a short dipstick accessible on the transmission. 19mm wrench required.
Pro Tip

Before you decide to fill up on transmission fluid, make sure you"re checking while the transmission is up to temperature. You can check when it"s cold, but transmission fluid will expand with heat, making the warmer reading a more accurate one.

Step 2 - Check your transmission fluid level

A warm engine check is essential to determine the quality of your transmission fluid. Your dipstick will have both cold and hot level indicators. You"ll want to test the fluid while it"s warm if your truck is in driveable condition. Transmission fluid expands as it heats up, so a "HOT" reading is more accurate.

To get the transmission up to the correct temperature, drive around until the engine is warm. Then drive another mile or so to be sure the transmission is up to temperature too.

Figure 4. Your transmission fluid should be in this range when warm (approx 150°F to 170°F)
Figure 5. Your transmission fluid should be in this range when cold.

Step 3 - Visually check transmission fluid quality

Make sure your vehicle is parked on a level surface and pull out the dipstick. Look at both the color and the consistency of the fluid. It should be either bright red, or in some cases, nearly clear. If it is dark red, brown or black, you need a fluid and filter change.

Don’t forget to replace the dipstick in your vehicle when finished.

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Figure 3. Check your transmission fluid"s color against this chart.

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