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ATF Flushing Questions

Old 06-16-2009, 09:15 AM
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Default ATF Flushing Questions

2004 S80 2.9L six-cylinder non-Turbo 61,000 miles

Tech or anyone who knows,
I want to flush the transmission fluid as it looks dirty. No problems as yet with the transmission and want to avoid future ones. I do not want to power flush (as the dealer recommends) and also would like to avoid dropping the pan. I plan to use the IPD kit that uses the transmission cooler line at the radiator to flush new ATF but I have a couple of questions.

What type of fluid is likely in my transmission? I have received conflicting answers from the dealer. Dextron III or IV ATF or Synthetic ATF. They said if I used the wrong one the transmission would be ruined. They are not too helpful as they want to do the job.

What is your opinion of this type of flush? I know the filter is not being replaced but most all of the fluid will be. This is not considered a “Power Flush” is it? I have had 2 other vehicles that had power flushes and soon after had transmission problems.

On the drivers side of the Radiator there are two hoses from the transmission. Does the ATF go in (to the radiator) the upper hose and out (back to the transmission) the lower one?

Any comments welcome.
Thanks for the answers
Old 06-16-2009, 05:50 PM
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Location: Tampa, FL
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Default procedure from someone whos been there done that

I guess I am the man to help you out on this as I just went through this entire process a a few weeks back..

Step 1. Yes the IPD kit has everything you need for the job, but I find it to be grossly overpriced... If you can jut pick up about 5 ft of 1/2" (i found 1/2" easier to work with than the 3/8") clear tubing at a hardware, thats all you techincally need. I had an order coming in from anyway so I added a radiator hose clip just to play it safe.. didnt need it for this particular job...

Step 2. Purchase a Magnefine in-line filter for the transmission cooler return line... if you are not dropping the pan you are going to want a means of ensuring that your fluid stays clean, this is the best and easiest solution...
This is the best place to buy it as Scott has been excellent in sending me these.. (purchased 4 so far between my 2 cars)...

Step 3. Decide on what ATF you are going to use for the job.. I personally dropped the pan and changed the pan filter (nightmare if you hit any snags in the process like I did... BUY THE OEM VOLVO FILTER WHERE POSSIBLE, AFTERMARKET HAD FITMENT ISSUES)...
Your car probably has "Volvo" fluid in it which is pretty much the same as any other Dex III fluid...
Considering the amount of trouble I went through I decided to go all out on the fluid and bought 15 qt's of Amsoil Synthetic ATF..

In your case, if you want to save money go with a good quality Dex VI ATF.. I personally recommend mobil but price is normally very indicative of quality in this sort of thing so you can choose the brand yourself.. VI offers numerous usage benefits in any prior GM spec transmission..
You can also consider a synthetic ATF such as mobil or amsoil but know that it will cost you more... Head down to your nearest Advance auto parts and see what they have.. very honest pricing I have found..

In terms of quantity, the trans takes about 12 qt, but your flush job will require more than that...
When I dropped the pan, I lost about 8 qt, so i topped that back up and still used an additional 6 qt's in the flushing procedure (kept 1 qt as a spare).. even at this I am not running 100% new fluid...
to get a little mathematical on you, the pan drop replaced about 66% of my fluid with clean fresh, but then that means that the mixture is 66 new 33 old.. this mixture was then diluted by doing three separate 2 qt flushes at the radiator hose, bringing me hopefully up to about 85-90% new fluid...

In your case when you are not dropping the pan, even if you manage to do the flush using 12 qt's in 2 qt increments you probably wont get over 70% new... to get closer to 90 you need A LOT more... talking 16+ qt's... its up to you to determine how badly off your fluid is, and how clean you want your final product to be...

STEP4 - Using the IPD website, use their guide as your guide to the procedure even if you are not using their equipment...

For this you can remove the plastic air scoop connecting to the airbox if you need a little more space to work with (I have HUGE hands.. I definitely needed it)

Unplug the LOWER hose, aka the line from the trans to the radiator, being very careful not to damage the clip... At this point, connect your flush hose to the radiator hose ..
Run the other end of the hose down to a collection bottle... I personally used bug wash and 5qt oil bottles because that way I could gague exactly how much fluid I took out on each try.. thus knowing how much should go back in...

Also, have a larger collection container.. for this I used old tide bottles .. after every 2 qt's you take out, empty your collection bottles so you know your reading next time...

STEP 5 - So basically, start the car in park (hand brake/parking brake up to play it safe) and watch that fluid run.. have someone in the car to shut down as soon as you say stop.. (definitely a 2 man job) .. Only take about 2 qt at a time because you never want the trans running with too little fluid... After you drain your 2qt top it up using a thin funnel into the trans dipstick..

IPD and some others claim you should drive the car between each 2 qt flush but then itl take many many more hours than it should.. I just give the car about 5 mins between each 2qt to let the fresh ATF I just put in drain down to the trans pan.

Keep doing this procedure until you use all your atf (leaving 1 qt behind in case of you needing to top up) so buying an odd number just makes it more simple..

After all your flushing is done, clip the ATF cooler line back into the radiator, ensuring that its secure.. At this point it is going to be HOT.. so please use gloves for this..

STEP 6 - After this, once again using gloves...I took measurements on the upper line or ATF return line. I cut the upper line using a pair of snips (you cant do it by knife because its a steel lined hose.. you need something to cut through it) and installed my Magnefine filter .


Next, using a 1/4" drive ratchet, secured the Magnefine with the provided clamps.. once again checking for leaks.. Seeing (hopefully) that you have nothing leaking...

STEP 7 - Take the car out for a 5 mile drive.. get the trans temp up...

Then, parking the car flat.. parking brake up, foot on the brakes, cycle slowly through the gears a few times. For the dipstick reading I have found no difference between neutral and park, park is just safer.

Pop the hood, take the dipstick out, wipe, and dip.. Whatever reading you get here is how much fluid you have down in your trans pan.. I can't remember the exact spec for the graded part of the stick but I think its mentioned in the manual..

If it is low, top up accordingly.. if it is slightly too high, don't stress about it, its a big pan.. If it is clearly far above the normal limit, drain a bit using your hose (don't see why you would have to.)

Inspect again for leaks... and if none are found.. you are good to go! The Magnefine filter can be changed every time you flush your ATF at low cost and labour hassle..

FINAL STEP - Dispose of your used ATF properly.. any jiffy lube or insty lube type places nearby have to accept used oil or car chemicals by law so you can drop it off there..

I hope that this guide helps, just wanted to share my experience and repay some of the favours done for me here..

If you need anything else, be sure to post, i check the forum multiple times a night..

PS. 1250 words.. i surprise myself!

UPDATE - PICS COURTESY placervillebob - Sorry I'm late but I honestly completely forgot!

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Removal of Transmission coolant hose from radiator

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IPD/ Any old 3/8" or 1/2" Hose connected

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Routing to collection Bottle


Last edited by nicolaselias; 02-19-2011 at 04:39 PM. Reason: UPDATE
Old 06-17-2009, 11:52 AM
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Default Thanks for the Outstanding Reply!!

Now that’s the kind of help I was looking for.
Thanks Nicolaselias for the great write-up and taking the time to do it.
After all that, I only have a couple of minor questions. When you disconnect the lower Trans line from the Radiator, how much fluid flows out when you break that connection?
I have already purchased the flush hose kit from IPD and just want to clarify when you disconnect the lower hose from the Transmission to the Radiator, you connect the IPD hose to the Transmission hose (not to the Radiator fitting). I think you mentioned the flow from the Transmission is in the lower hose and returned to the Transmission by the upper hose.
Thanks also for the filter recommendation on the upper hose – that sounds like a very good idea.
Your comment about where to dispose of the old fluid also answered another of my questions.
I plan to use the standard Dextron IV ATF. As was mentioned a complete flush is not possible and I am hesitant in mixing the two (standard and synthetic) because of the comments from the dealer I was talking to.
Thanks for your help.

Tech – I think Nicolaselias’ write-up deserves consideration for being made into a Sticky.

Old 06-17-2009, 04:07 PM
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No problem, always glad to help out.. Just wish I had a cam with me when doing the job, but I had MUCH bigger worries.. not worth going into because I dont want to scare you..

You will probably lose about 2 or 3 ounces of atf when you unplug the lower lose, the main loss not being from the radiator but actually from the hose.. which flows from the trans to the rad of course..
you connect your ipd hose to the hose you unplugged.. just be sure not to replace the clips.. RE: the IPD clips, of your clips or gasket seals aint broke, don't change them.. just another way to get it wrong..

As I mentioned, buy a good brand of ATF and buy extra, the more the merrier.. also be sure to leave 1qt as a spare because you WILL lose fluid no matter what you do when cutting the upper hose..

Also, its a common misconception that its called Dexron IV, but its really VI as in... 6
makes no sense as the previous spec is III but thats GM for ya!

If you want to repay the favour, can you please take pics of the procedure when you are doing it? That way you can add your pics to my writeup, make a few small edits and make a lovely sticky....

Last edited by nicolaselias; 02-19-2011 at 04:44 PM.
Old 06-17-2009, 06:01 PM
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Nicolaselias - Thanks again for the quick response.
I may not get to this job for a little while but I will take some pictures when I do. I want to get a couple of those filters and make the mess and clean it up one time.
Your write-up about the nightmare of removing the pan and filter is in part why I chose to leave mine in place. I would like to clean the magnets and replace the filter but at this point I think a fluid change is good enough.
Old 06-17-2009, 06:22 PM
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yea good call.... I actually put one of those magnefine's on my power steering return line when I did a flush there as well... its designed for both so I figure at $15 each, why not!

if everything goes to plan, dropping the pan can be smooth, but I hit many snags... the replacement filter wouldnt fit, cut my hand in the process, all the threads for the pan bolts were completely stripped so i couldnt torque them to spec, etc... Not to mention i took a bath in ATF.. unless you have some kind of hoist to work with, you WILL get down and dirty under there...

if you were wondering, this is the pan procedure

I honestly believe the magenfine does more filtration than that pan filter anyway..
I think castrol sells a synth blend ATF which could be a nice compromise... your call

Last edited by nicolaselias; 06-17-2009 at 06:25 PM.
Old 06-18-2009, 09:25 AM
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Sorry, but I have to disagree on the pan drop. Your filter could be clogged and you will have no way of knowing it by just doing a flush through the hose. It's not that difficult. Changing the filter is normally straightforward - I've done it twice on my car with no issues. Nicolaselias ran into an unusual problem on his filter change. Here is my writeup:

Last edited by vegasjetskier; 06-18-2009 at 09:29 AM.
Old 06-18-2009, 03:40 PM
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Well, vegas, your writeup is almost identical to the one I used.. its just I kept hitting problem after problem.. all of which were beyond my control.. manufacturing defects on the new filter, an idiotic prior owner, and other such fun surprises..
I assume I was just unlucky,

Its really up to him if he will drop the pan or not, but since putting my magnefine on, I never plan on taking it down again.. plus the threads the bolts screw into are so stripped, its very likely that if I dropped the pan again, it will not go back on..
Even the weather conspired against me, anytime i began to make progress, Tampa decided to give me one of those epic thunderstrorms..

Admittedly, assuming you run into no problems, dropping the pan isnt that bad, but if you do well things get complicated.

I still have to think the magnefine will do a better job filtering than the pan filter but I guess its open to interpretation..

PS. In case you were wondering, i had a replacement rubber gasket but decided to keep the original hard gasket, was just easier to set in place and I had very limited working space under there.. Either way works..

Last edited by nicolaselias; 06-18-2009 at 03:42 PM.
Old 06-20-2009, 08:52 PM
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Default I have a Happy Transmission

Well, I decided to go for it all. After reading Vegasjetskier's recommendations and knowing that was the right thing to do, I dropped the pan and replaced the filter. Am I glad I did. The magnet and pan were very dirty. Thanks for the tip about the 2000 Impala Trans Filter Vegas - our auto parts store did not have the cross reference to Volvo but they did have the Chevy one. As you said they look (even have the same numbers stamped into them) identical. I had a little trouble getting the filter installed - I finally used a hydraulic jack (don't laugh) and very carefully squeezed it into place.
After the pan was re-installed and filled with 7 quarts (closer to 8 came out but it was a little on the full side), I attacked the Lower Transmission Cooler Line. Because the car was jacked up, I decided access was easier from underneath. I removed the front splash shield (2 bolts and 2 clips) and had easy access to the Line (just above the Lower Radiator Hose). I was able to get the line to release without breaking the plastic clips. I did replace the O-Rings supplied with the kit from IPD but I have to agree with Nicolaselias, the kit is not really worth the cost and you can do the flush without it - just buy your own clear hose.
My Transmission is happy now with 16 quarts of new fluid and as soon as I get the In-line Filter I plan to install it.
Nicolaselias - I took a couple of pictures and need to do a little Photoshop work on them. I will send you a PM - maybe email them to you as I have not posted pictures here before. I didn't take very many because the Transmission Line Flush method is so easy there is little to take a picture of.
I want to thank both Vegasjetskier & Nicolaselias for their comments and guidance throughout this procedure. Hopefully this will help extend the life of the (GM) Transmission; I am surprised Volvo chose to put in their cars.
Old 06-20-2009, 10:17 PM
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why is everyone having trouble with that filter. i need to drop my pan and want to replace the filter but you guys are scaring me
Old 06-20-2009, 10:28 PM
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its not the filter thats the problem, its the seal/holder... No matter what I tried, I could not get it to fit.. eventually had to use the old one (serious PITA to get off the old filter).
Had to carry it to advance for them to get it off..
I didnt know about the impala at the time, would have helped quite a lot...

placervillebob, how long did all the work take for you to do? what brand ATF did you eventually decide to go with for the job?
Old 06-22-2009, 09:48 AM
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The "Drop the Pan" & "Flush" both took about 4 - 5 hours. I work kinda slow when I haven't done the job before. What took the longest was the filter. I tried both ways - having the seal holder installed into the Tranny first then installing the Filter as well as installing the seal holder onto the filter then into the Tranny. Had I to do it over again, I would block off the filter internals (to prevent contamination) and sand or file (just a little) on the OD of the Filter. You want a good fit but the fit you are given is way too much interference. The hose method flushing is a piece of cake - I had no idea how much ATC flows when the engine is just ideling, I can't immagine how much the flow is at higher RPM's.

The ATF I used was Castrol GTX Dextron III. On the back of the containers it mentions for use in Imports like Honda, Toyota & Volvo. I chose that because I have a non-turbo and that was the most common recommendation from Volvo. If I had a Turbo, I would have likely chosen the Synthetic. The cost of the Castrol was middle of the road - about $3.85 / QT if I remember correctly - $$ mount up fast whan you are buying 16+ quarts.

I can't imagine why Volvo doesn't recommend any service on this Transmission. After what I saw come out with the old ATF and what the pan & magnet looked like I'm glad I did the complete job. I only have 61,000 miles and now wish I had done this a few thousand miles ago.
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