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Regularly changing the transmission fluid and filter is the most important thing you can do to prolong its life. Nevertheless, it is a messy job, especially the first time around. To make it easier in the future, I installed a B&M Transmission Drain Plug Kit at 29,000 miles on my AX4N. It's a shame that Detroit doesn't do this, but very few cars in the world come with automatic transmission drain plugs from the factory. I located the plug where it would not interfere with anything inside the transmission. As it turned out, Ford had already stamped a 1/2" circle on the pan in the same location, which must indicate where they want it to be located.

The amount of crud in the bottom of the pan surprised me at 29,000 miles. I cleaned the pan, replaced the filter, and used the original gasket to reinstall the pan with the new drain plug. These new Ford gaskets are awesome. At that time, I refilled the pan with 7 quarts of Pennzoil Mercon V ATF. At 39,000 miles, I drained the transmission, using the new plug, and replaced 7 more quarts of ATF with Pennzoil Mercon V. I might add that the plug has not leaked a drop since I installed it.

At 50,000 miles, I changed the transmission fluid and filter again. This time there was almost nothing in the bottom of the pan. When I refilled the transmission, however, I had done my research and used Amsoil ATF. I have used synthetics ever since my days in the Air Force, circa 1978, and Amsoil was the only synthetic Mercon V-rated transmission fluid I'm aware of. Besides, several ex-Air Force jet engine mechanics I'm aware of, from Seguin, TX, use only Amsoil products period. I know from my engineering school days that synthetics have a higher coefficient of heat and allow bearings to run cooler, which is exactly what you're looking for in an automatic transmission. Automatic transmissions today are sophisticated, electro-mechanical marvels, but they demand proper maintenance for peak performance.
 

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My ex-gf's Saturn has a built in drain and external transmission fluid filter (looks just like an oil filter). When I saw that, I was amazed with it and wondered why this design wasn't more commonplace...

On another note, my understanding is that the Navy uses Mobil 1 in its radar pedestals (the thing on the ships that are constantly rotating around and around).
 
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