Oldsmobile (1999)--no trans dip stick?!!

k8treedk8treed Member Posts: 1
edited March 2014 in Oldsmobile
How do you check the transmission fluid level on my 99 olds cutlass? The owners manual indicates a location to check and add every other fluid but directs you to take your car to a dealer to have the trans fluid checked (go figure). I found the cap which is under the air cleaner but there is no dipstick...Help!!!
thanks....Matt C


  • fowvayfowvay Member Posts: 29
    Many modern models no longer use dip sticks to check the transmission fluids. Normally, to check the fluid on GM "stickless" transmissions you would use the fill plug in a similar manner that you would use on a manual transmission. However, the reason that your owners manual directs you to take the vehicle to the dealership to have the fluid checked is because there is a specific procedure to follow. You MUST check the fluid when the fluid is at a certain temperature. Otherwise you will get a invalid reading which can result in incorrect fluid levels. The dealership will get a temperature reading by connecting their computer to your cars computer which will give the transmission fluid temperature. They then operate the vehicle to bring the temperature up to a specified range. Some vehicles are checked at a cool 30ºC and some as warm as 100ºC.

    The procedure must be followed or problems may occur.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    Drive the car approximately 15 miles to bring the transaxle to full operating temp. With the engine running, raise the car on a hoist. Remove the check plug and add Dexron III fluid through the filler hole in 1/2 quart intervals until it begins to run out of the check hole. Level is correct when even with the bottom of the hole's threads. Replace the check plug and lower the vehicle. Do not remove the plug with the transaxle cold, and do not shut the engine off with the plug removed.
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    Is that ridiculous, or am I just refusing to see the beauty of the "new wave" in GM engineering? I am literally shocked, but thankful to have read this thread. I am now alerted. I'll endeavor to avoid owning any vehicle that hard to service.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    never more will users overfill and foam a transmission to death! and never more will a GM dealer go without busywork at top rates! everybody wins, hooray!!!

    (mumble mumble glad I don't have to put up with that nonsense mumblemurmurmmmmm)
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    I am willing to reconsider my former hard line refusal to participate. (:oÞ
    What got me flying was Alcan saying you must get the car up on a lift, with the engine running, in order to top up the tranny. Does this mean that such applications cannot be reached from above? Refilling from below makes it a terrible task, including "pumping" the fluid, due to no clearance for pouring (?). Tell me it ain't so!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    no, wait, you have to put it on a lift, have the engine running, stand on one leg AND make a noise like a turkey.

    Let's see now...we save .63 cents by eliminating a dipstick X 4 million of that type of car = hey! Bonus for the CEO!
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    Now that is a succinct summation, steeped in reality, albeit rather cynical.
    If a person managed to somehow break off their dipstick sheath from the transmission, they would be left with what GM now offers at the outset. Of course, they conveniently thread the hole and tighten a threaded plug into it, in lieu of the extravagantly expensive dipstick no longer to be installed.
    NOW-- Does this give rise to after market dipsticks and sheaths appearing, for those stalwart owners too brain numbed to move on to other brands of vehicles?
  • 96_i30_5sp96_i30_5sp Member Posts: 127
    it gets better. Not only do you have to check the fluid level from underneath but the check plug is often located upside down. What this means is that you'll have to fill the ATF upwards, so a pump with a flexible hose is almost a requirement. Luckily, I can crawl under the Isuzu Trooper and drain/fill the tranny without jacking it up. To be fair to GM, their trannies are very well made and do not require frequent maintenance. My owner's manual does not recommend a fluid change under normal conditions for 120k miles.
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    Be thankful it isn't a BMW.
    Some of the newer Europeans require PCM relearning or a scantool to reset the trans oil level.
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    I need a new hobby...
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    Ha ha, believe me, I know how you feel.
    This is my living. When they do things like that, all I can do is shake my head.
    From the stand point of a mechanic, all it does is create headaches. From the stand point of a person who also supplies technical information, it makes it difficult to have to tell folks that to check their oil, they will have to basically go to a shop.
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    Is it reasonable for a do-it-yourselfer to consider using, say, a pair of garage floor jacks to boost up the undercarriage enough to crawl under the running car, and do the procedures? That sounds dangerous, doesn't it?
    Luckily, I don't have any such transmission in my overly abundant collection-- at present. I am worried for the future...
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    the dumbest thing I ever did in my life was to block the wheels on Dad's suburban, have a serious talk with him, lock the e-brake myself, and crawl underneath to find a rattle that occurred when he shifted into gear.

    now, you guys don't wanna be dumb like me, right? even the Jackass crew doesn't do that kind of thing.

    never, by God and all that stands good and true, put yourself in that sort of idiotic position. there are real good reasons that everybody says do >NOT!< put anything underneath a raised car, including your hands... and they are usually on page 4 of the local section of the newspaper, down near the bottom, with quotes such as, "according to Medical Examiner Q. Wack."

    IMHO, you shouldn't be having a cupfull in the customer lounge if it's not positioned so you can see the SIDE of the car as well. when stuff falls off a lift while running, I would bet dollars to donuts it usually falls forwards or backwards.
  • leadfoot4leadfoot4 Member Posts: 593
    I bought a Lincoln LS a couple of years ago, and it doesn't have a tranny dipstick either.
    One of the Lincoln transmission engineers praticipates in the Edmunds' discussion thread for the LS, and he said that it wasn't a cost thing... there wasn't enough room for a dipstick!!
    This really annoys me, as I like to do a lot of preventive maintenance, and changing the tranny oil/filter is one of those items I like to keep up on.
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    Ah feeeel yore pain!(:o]
    I not long ago bought a "monster" size Mityvac pump for just such (and many other) procedures.
  • leadfoot4leadfoot4 Member Posts: 593
    The problem here, is that ther's no place to insert any kind of vacuum tube, so the fluid can't just be drawn out of the tranny.

    Also, as someone mentioned a few posts up, the tranny oil level has to be checked when it's at a certain temperature. This isn't easy for an old, backyard mechanic like myself, since the car has to be up on a lift in order to access the "check hole".
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    You need a "friend" who has a big lift, or a grease pit to park over. It would seem that a hot engine, left running, on the lift or over the pit, would allow you to pump fluid in, until it oozes out. Maybe you could install a drain plug on the pan. It still has a pan, doesn't it?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Maybe he meant they didn't put a dipstick in so as to save weight.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    maybe they didn't put a dipstick in so they could sell more new cars a year or so after the warranty runs out.
  • atoyotdegedulsatoyotdegeduls Member Posts: 1
    I don't understand the concern.

    There's no dipstick on rear axles.

    There's no dipstick on most manual transmissions.

    There's no dipstick on these transmissions for a couple real good reasons. First off, the vast majority of people have zero idea of how, when or why you check trans fluid. Or most importantly with what. And it is much easier to avoid a leak if there is no hole to begin with. If you are so intent to check the level, all you do is take it up to operating temperature, lift the vehicle and be sure that it's level ( it's amazing how many people forget that ) and unscrew a 7/16 pipe plug on the final drive side of the transmission. Unlike a dipstick, there is no chance of somebody pouring motor oil in, there is less likelihood of leaks, less chance of water inhalation and yes, reduced costs. Unless you've gone over a hundred thousand miles, there's no reason to mess with this anyway but if you want to, go for it.
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    ...many of us do NOT share your optimism concerning the durability of an automatic transmission in most all recently constructed passenger vehicles.
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    atoyotdegeduls, automatics are prone to leaks, because the fluid in them is like hydraulic fluid, if it can find a way out, it will.
    Manual transmissions (at least up until a few years back) used gear lube(oil) and so do differentials. The likelyhood of a leak is far greater with the automatic transmission and is one of the reasons they were designed with a means to check the oil.
    Manual transmission do NOT have vacuum modulators that when the seal goes, sucks trans fluid into the engine.

    And you're theory regarding the water inhalation is flawed, beings that manual transmissions and differentials have vents, which by the way are usually lower then the opening of the dipstick tube. So if there is a chance of water inhalation on an automatic, there is just as great a chance on differentials and manual transmissions.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    a torqueflite or turbo-hydra-matic from the late 60s or early 70s was all hard steel, and you could tow until the frame pulled straight and never hurt the tranny if the fluid kept circulating and cooling.

    that changed in the late 70s when GM started putting overrunning clutch bodies of phenolic in the power train, and everybody's electronically-controlled trannies now have a bunch of tissue paper parts in them.

    you have to do things right and within the car's published specs or you don't have a chance to get out of the payment book on the original tranny.

    diffs are still all steel. there is a difference.

    there are a lot of AWD/4wd front transfer cases now, including mine, that are not checkable or fillable. and in fact, they're pretty darned small to be taking up to 110 HP in the case of my vehicle and moving it... shoot, the pulley you hang on a 50-HP electric motor to slip a belt on weighs more than that complete transfer case. guess what, they aren't serviceable items any more, they are replacement items, and you best be watching them for leaks, because that means you need to go to the bank.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Differentials used to have dipsticks too. You'd access it by lifting the back seat or from the trunk.

    Now they made it more convenient. All you have to do now is simply drive a few miles to a repair shop, have the car positioned on a hydraulic platform, lift it eight feet in the air, then remove the filler plug with a special wrench and then stick your finger in a tiny hole and see if there's any fluid without actually knowing how much full is.

    Certainly simpler than that diabolical dipstick!
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    Those old Chrysler Corporation automatic transmissions could take a dynamiting and laugh it off. I wonder if the car crushers could even handle them at the end of the line! (:o]
  • leadfoot4leadfoot4 Member Posts: 593
    says it all for me!
This discussion has been closed.