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Discussion Starter #1
I changed the trans fluid and filter on my '96 3.8 liter 100K miles ago. It now has 215K miles on it The manual says to use "Mopar ATF Plus Automatic Transmission Fluid Type 7176", which is what I must have put in, and from an internet search I understand it to be an ATF+3 type.

The fluid looks and smells fine and I haven't had any problems. Manual says "no service required" for normal use, but change after 15K for "severe usage", meaning stop and go for over 45 minutes at a time, which I don't do.

a) Should I change it?

b) If so, I want to upgrade to ATF+4, but as you know 50% of the fluid can't be changed by dropping the pan, so you have to drain it about three times at intervals to get all the old stuff out. In the meantime, I'd be running ATF+3 and ATF+4 mixed. Is this bad? I would install a drain plug in the pan so the fluid could be changed without dropping the pan.

c) the manual also mentions adjusting the "bands" at the same time. What is this and can an amateur do it?

Thanks.
 

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I changed the trans fluid and filter on my '96 3.8 liter 100K miles ago. It now has 215K miles on it The manual says to use "Mopar ATF Plus Automatic Transmission Fluid Type 7176", which is what I must have put in, and from an internet search I understand it to be an ATF+3 type.

The fluid looks and smells fine and I haven't had any problems. Manual says "no service required" for normal use, but change after 15K for "severe usage", meaning stop and go for over 45 minutes at a time, which I don't do.

a) Should I change it?

b) If so, I want to upgrade to ATF+4, but as you know 50% of the fluid can't be changed by dropping the pan, so you have to drain it about three times at intervals to get all the old stuff out. In the meantime, I'd be running ATF+3 and ATF+4 mixed. Is this bad? I would install a drain plug in the pan so the fluid could be changed without dropping the pan.

c) the manual also mentions adjusting the "bands" at the same time. What is this and can an amateur do it?

Thanks.
A few things:
  1. There are no bands in any 41TE transmissions used with the 3.8 liter engine (the bands were only used in the 3-Speed transmissions).
  2. ATF+4 is backward compatible with ATF+3 so you can use it with no issues.
  3. The factory recommendation for your 1996 van is to have the fluid serviced every 30,000 miles; 100,000 is way-WAY too long.
 
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Ditto. Mixing the fluid is fine. No bands on the 4 speed tranny. The gear indication on a 4 speed 41TE tranny says PRND3L, three speed 31TH tranny says PRND21. Yes, change it regardless of fluid condition.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I was going to do this myself but due to time constraints have decided to hire it out. Now the only question is whether they'll put in a synthetic ATF+4 or non-synthetic, and can I mix either synthetic or non-synthetic with whatever they put in when I drain with the drain plug and top it off again, which of course will mix whatever I put in with the 50% that can't be drained. There's a thread on here that discusses Class III oils, which can say "synthetic" but are actually oil-based, as opposed to Class IV, which are actually synthetic. Question is, should they be mixed.
 

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I was going to do this myself but due to time constraints have decided to hire it out. Now the only question is whether they'll put in a synthetic ATF+4 or non-synthetic, and can I mix either synthetic or non-synthetic with whatever they put in when I drain with the drain plug and top it off again, which of course will mix whatever I put in with the 50% that can't be drained. There's a thread on here that discusses Class III oils, which can say "synthetic" but are actually oil-based, as opposed to Class IV, which are actually synthetic. Question is, should they be mixed.
There is no such a thing as non-synthetic ATF+4, so as long as they do in fact use ATF+4, you'll be good to go. However, some shops try and use generic fluid which is "supposed" to be good for all transmissions (which to me means it is good for no transmissions). If you're at all concerned, buy the ATF+4 from Walmart and have them use the fluid you bought.
 

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I was going to do this myself but due to time constraints have decided to hire it out. Now the only question is whether they'll put in a synthetic ATF+4 or non-synthetic, and can I mix either synthetic or non-synthetic with whatever they put in when I drain with the drain plug and top it off again, which of course will mix whatever I put in with the 50% that can't be drained. There's a thread on here that discusses Class III oils, which can say "synthetic" but are actually oil-based, as opposed to Class IV, which are actually synthetic. Question is, should they be mixed.
ATF+4 is ATF+3 for long drain intervals if you wish, it has "all" the same properties as ATF+3 but in a group III carrier, extending the lifespan of the fluid. Buy yourself the ATF+4 and have them change it, look for some things before leaving your tranny in their hands to be destroyed, first they "must" drop the pan and change the filter, period, buy the filter at a dealer, no machines that flush or reverse flush here. More tips, Advance Auto parts have or had until 2 weeks ago an offer of 2 Qts. of any Castrol ATF for $8.00, I bought 12 Qts. to change it in our vans, cheaper than WM check it out ; the dealer sells a gasket for the pan that can be reused for 3 times, and Dorman sells a pan with a drain plug for ~$25.00; Some transmission places use the mentioned universal fluid or they fill it with Dexron III and add a "converter" to "change it" into ATF+4, right......., the additive is from Lubeguard, great company and their products I use and recommend, but how can you change Pepsi into Mountain Dew with a sirup?, I'm not buying it. Good luck!
 
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Discussion Starter #8
ATF+4 is ATF+3 for long drain intervals if you wish, it has "all" the same properties as ATF+3 but in a group III carrier, extending the lifespan of the fluid. Buy yourself the ATF+4 and have them change it, look for some things before leaving your tranny in their hands to be destroyed, first they "must" drop the pan and change the filter, period, buy the filter at a dealer, no machines that flush or reverse flush here. More tips, Advance Auto parts have or had until 2 weeks ago an offer of 2 Qts. of any Castrol ATF for $8.00, I bought 12 Qts. to change it in our vans, cheaper than WM check it out ; the dealer sells a gasket for the pan that can be reused for 3 times, and Dorman sells a pan with a drain plug for ~$25.00; Some transmission places use the mentioned universal fluid or they fill it with Dexron III and add a "converter" to "change it" into ATF+4, right......., the additive is from Lubeguard, great company and their products I use and recommend, but how can you change Pepsi into Mountain Dew with a sirup?, I'm not buying it. Good luck!
I went to two mechanics today. One said he would do it, but with a signed disclaimer in case the transmission acted up after having different fluid at 216K miles. The second recommended against putting in the drain plug, saying that the most important part of a change was cleaning out the gunk at the bottom of the pan, and a drain plug just drains the fluid, but you don't get the gunk, partly because an after market plug necessarily isn't flush with the bottom. (I know Dorman also makes them integrated with the pan, maybe differently.)

He looked at the fluid on the dipstick and said it looked and smelled fine, still pink. He recommended changing it, but not the 2 or 3 times necessary to get all the old fluid out, but just once every 30K miles, with a clean up of the pan.

My question: why does the owner's manual say no service needed at all if you're not doing severe driving, and it defines what "severe" is? Yet people say to change it. My inclination is to change it, but still...

Other comments on what the mechanics said?
 

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He looked at the fluid on the dipstick and said it looked and smelled fine, still pink. He recommended changing it, but not the 2 or 3 times necessary to get all the old fluid out, but just once every 30K miles, with a clean up of the pan.
Do what this tech says, change fluid and filter at 30Kmi intervals, if you baby it and don't experience any 'severe' conditions than you might be OK with up to 60Kmi for 3rd gen with ATF+4.
Any trans with 216K on it can start to "act up" at any time, correctly changing fluid will not cause any additional problems.

Make sure the fluid that goes in the trans is Chrysler certified!

Forget drain plugs, they're nothing but extra liability - if you want to exchange the fluid buy a vacuum extractor (and siphon ATF out via dipstick tube).
 

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I went to two mechanics today. One said he would do it, but with a signed disclaimer in case the transmission acted up after having different fluid at 216K miles. The second recommended against putting in the drain plug, saying that the most important part of a change was cleaning out the gunk at the bottom of the pan, and a drain plug just drains the fluid, but you don't get the gunk, partly because an after market plug necessarily isn't flush with the bottom. (I know Dorman also makes them integrated with the pan, maybe differently.)

He looked at the fluid on the dipstick and said it looked and smelled fine, still pink. He recommended changing it, but not the 2 or 3 times necessary to get all the old fluid out, but just once every 30K miles, with a clean up of the pan.

My question: why does the owner's manual say no service needed at all if you're not doing severe driving, and it defines what "severe" is? Yet people say to change it. My inclination is to change it, but still...

Other comments on what the mechanics said?
Sorry for the super late answer. Follow the second tech he is in the right track, he is also right about cleaning the pan but it is mostly now, once you get into the 30K intervals changing the filter every 100K should do it, so drain and refill would be enough but he is definitely right. Well about the service intervals or lack thereof from Chrysler I don't have an official answer but my personal believe is that they know the transmission will last in normal duty for 100K miles and the people that buy new cars which "are" their customers will trade at that milage or before.
 

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Before these last two threads I already had it done. Put in the drain plug so i could do the refills. He showed me the pan. 1/8 inch or so of metal filings on the magnet, but no sludge to speak of. Put in a Wix filter and ATF+4 and tranny is working fine.

Thanks, everyone! This forum is a lifesaver.
 

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Great answers, I'll just add a few thoughts. I think the advantage of a pan w/ drain plug is that you can drain the fluid easier without it sloshing out of the pan making a mess. More important to the home mechanic. I have a really big catch pan, so no issue. You should still always remove the pan to inspect and change the filter. In the older 3 spd Torq-flite transmissions you always did this anyway to adjust one of the bands (no bands in yours).

I used to buy Autozone's store-brand Coastal ATF+4 because it said "fully synthetic" on the label, and I figured it might be from the same plant for $1/qt less. Last time, it didn't say synthetic, so I bought Valvoline or such that did. Maybe they changed suppliers. Also, start using ATF+4 in your power steering, especially when you do major work (new pump, etc). That is a Chrysler TSB. I use ATF+4 in my old Mopars and my Mercedes power steering now.
 

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Great answers, I'll just add a few thoughts. I think the advantage of a pan w/ drain plug is that you can drain the fluid easier without it sloshing out of the pan making a mess. More important to the home mechanic. I have a really big catch pan, so no issue. You should still always remove the pan to inspect and change the filter. In the older 3 spd Torq-flite transmissions you always did this anyway to adjust one of the bands (no bands in yours).

I used to buy Autozone's store-brand Coastal ATF+4 because it said "fully synthetic" on the label, and I figured it might be from the same plant for $1/qt less. Last time, it didn't say synthetic, so I bought Valvoline or such that did. Maybe they changed suppliers. Also, start using ATF+4 in your power steering, especially when you do major work (new pump, etc). That is a Chrysler TSB. I use ATF+4 in my old Mopars and my Mercedes power steering now.
If a non-Mopar brand of ATF+4 is certified to be ATF+4, then by definition it is "fully synthetic". FWIW, ATF+3 was semi-synthetic.
 

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Regarding "severe service" -- a mechanic friend of mine once told me that most people should be using the "severe service" schedule - that the "normal" schedule really applies only to a minority of vehicles. So, default to the severe schedule unless you're pretty sure it doesn't apply to you.

- G
 

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Regarding "severe service" -- a mechanic friend of mine once told me that most people should be using the "severe service" schedule - that the "normal" schedule really applies only to a minority of vehicles. So, default to the severe schedule unless you're pretty sure it doesn't apply to you.

- G
I disagree with your mechanic friend; what with the advent of synthetic transmission fluids and a fairly high synthetic component to even Group II "Conventional" oils, the only time someone should adhere to the severe service schedule is if they're doing lots of very short trips or towing a heavy trailer in hot summer weather.
 

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A service schedule is not a doctors' prescription for a specific patient.. It is meant as a guide for what should usually be done under described conditions (it's not the law, it's more of a guideline)
One persons driving usually does not equal that of another.

With that said, it's a safer bet to go with the severe schedule as the basis and exceed mileage marks by a degree which represents your "babying" the vehicle, not exceeding the 'normal' schedule..
Unless, there's specific warranty requirement for proof or timely service.
 

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I disagree with your mechanic friend; what with the advent of synthetic transmission fluids and a fairly high synthetic component to even Group II "Conventional" oils, the only time someone should adhere to the severe service schedule is if they're doing lots of very short trips or towing a heavy trailer in hot summer weather.
Other support for the "most people should use the severe service schedule" idea: http://newsroom.aaa.com/2009/10/aaa...ve-under-severe-conditions-do-not-realize-it/

- G
 

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Other support for the "most people should use the severe service schedule" idea: http://newsroom.aaa.com/2009/10/aaa...ve-under-severe-conditions-do-not-realize-it/

- G
The problem with that article is that the definition of "Severe Service" hasn't changed in decades, however, lubrication technologies have improved by leaps and bounds. I know most folks here in North America have a difficult time wrapping their brain around extended service intervals, but over in Europe, where if anything the driving is even more demanding, oil change intervals of upwards of 50,000 kilometers are the factory recommendation.

The fact is, if one who drives within an environment which qualifies as "Severe Service" were to send out their used oil and transmission fluid for analysis, even after a "Normal Service" interval, the odds are upwards of 100% that the results would show the lubrication fluids still had life in them.
 

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Shipo, I hear you on the durability of the base oils in transmission fluid and engine oil -- and I agree with that. I consider myself a "severe service" driver, since my commute is only 2.5 miles on hilly terrain (I like to bicycle anyhow when the weather's good), and due to the amount of mountain driving done. I use full synthetic (Valvoline Synpower) motor oil, and do extended oil changes of about 8,000 miles or so.

But for the transmission, my concern is that as the fluid ages, it also becomes more abrasive. The base oil will hold up well, but minute clutch and gear wear particles become suspended in the fluid and tend to accumulate on anything ferrous.

I run ATF+4 and do fluid changes roughly annually (every 25,000 miles or so). So that's not quite a severe service 15,000 mile interval, but (as you said) the fluid is full synthetic, I have an external trans cooler, and I do a fluid exchange (via disconnected cooler hose) roughly every third time.

- G
 

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The problem with that article is that the definition of "Severe Service" hasn't changed in decades, however, lubrication technologies have improved by leaps and bounds. I know most folks here in North America have a difficult time wrapping their brain around extended service intervals, but over in Europe, where if anything the driving is even more demanding, oil change intervals of upwards of 50,000 kilometers are the factory recommendation.

The fact is, if one who drives within an environment which qualifies as "Severe Service" were to send out their used oil and transmission fluid for analysis, even after a "Normal Service" interval, the odds are upwards of 100% that the results would show the lubrication fluids still had life in them.
When you say: "oil change intervals of upwards of 50,000 kilometers are the factory recommendation." Do you mean engine oil?, Non of our family cars over there recommend 50K Km. intervals, the most is 25K and when they tried and sent a sample to me to send to Blackstone it came back with "0" TBN and TAN was 4 IIRC, If your reference is about tranny fluid 50K Km. is more or less 30K miles so we are there. It is not only the fluid itself, when you replace the fluid you are also draining a lot of particles that can't be filtered by the crude filter, perhaps installing an external by-pass quality filter we could extend the service safely, besides tranny fluid is cheap, transmission rebuilding is not, so I rather err in the side of caution at least that is the way I see it. On the other hand I have never seen an ultradrive slipping it is always a broken planetary gear or a sheared 4th. gear or other metal part so you might be right about fluid changes.
 
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