Changing your automatic transmission fluid isn"t the easiest job in the world, but you can do it in your own garage with enough time.

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This article applies to the Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ (1999-2004).

Changing your transmission fluid on your jeep is a bit involved process and quite messy, but you can do it yourself and save a lot of money in the long run. Changing the transmission fluid involves removing the pan from beneath your jeep, which gives access to your filters. Your 45RFE transmission has two distinct filters and while your have it opened up, you might as well change out these filters at the same time. It is not a difficult job, but it takes some patience and, again, it is quite messy. A professional is going to charge you a nice chunk of change to perform this job because of the labor hours it will take, so save yourself a good deal of money and get this job done yourself.

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Materials NeededRatchet and 8mm socket with extensionT25 Torx bitTwo filters and gasket, or a kit that includes all needed parts5-8 quarts of Mopar ATF +4 automatic transmission fluidCatch pan or basinPlenty of shop ragsTorque wrench capable of measure up to 150 foot pounds per inch

Step 1 – Jack up your jeep

Use a hydraulic floor jack and two jack stands to raise the front end of your jeep, and be sure to use the approved jack points.

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Figure 1. Be sure to raise and secure your Jeep by the approved jack points.
Pro Tip

Always use jack stands when working under your vehicle.


Step 2 – Locate transmission fluid pan and remove

The transmission fluid pan is located under the engine compartment and is mounted with about six 8mm bolts. Slide your catch pan or basin into position first and remove the bolts from one end of the pan. Fluid should start pouring out as soon as you remove the first few bolts from one end of the pan. Once the fluid drain subsides, remove the other bolts and prepare for a mess. Clean up any spills immediately, as the stuff is super slick. Set the pan aside.

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Figure 2. Locate the transmission fluid pan under your Jeep and remove the six 8mm mounting bolts.

Step 3 – Remove the internal ATF filter cartridge

Once the pan is removed, you"ll see the flat internal automatic transmission fluid cartridge. This is the first filter to replace. It is held in place by a single T25 Torx bit. Remove this bit, and twist the cartridge back and forth while pulling down to remove it. There will be fluid inside, so prepare for it to pour out into your catch basin. You will notice on the nozzle that pops out there is a plastic fitting. Remove this fitting, as you will have to re-use it. It seats up into the transmission fluid port from where you pulled the nozzle out.

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Figure 3. Remove the T25 bit and pull this cartridge out. Be prepared for a bunch of fluid to pour out.
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Figure 4. If your kit or replacement cartridge did not come with a replacement O-ring, you"ll need to save this one for re-use.

Step 4 – Remove the transmission fluid filter

This filter might be a real bear to remove. It looks like a standard oil filter and it"s best to use a special wrench designed for this filter. Mopar filter wrench 8321 will make this task much easier. Again, this filter will have plenty of fluid inside, so take care when removing.

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Figure 5. Remove this secondary ATF filter with the proper wrench to make it much easier.

Step 5 – Check condition of your used transmission fluid

Run a magnet through the old fluid that you captured in your catch basin. Make sure you aren"t picking up an excessive amount of metal particles. This could indicate a potential problem with your transmission. If you have no slippage or other shifting issues, it is likely okay. Check the condition of the fluid for smell and color. Use the chart below to help determine transmission condition.

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Figure 6. Use this chart to determine the condition of your transmission.

Step 6 – Clean up gasket residue on pan mounting plates

Around the edge of both the fluid pan and under the engine you will find a mess of old gasket residue. Both surfaces must be cleaned well in order to get a good seal and prevent any leaks. Use a plastic putty knife rather than metal to avoid gouging the metal surfaces. You can replace with a new gasket or some folks opt to use RTV sealant instead, or a combination of both.

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Figure 7. Be sure to thoroughly clean all the old gasket reside from this pan, as well as where it mounts under the engine.

Step 7 – Replace both filters

Replace the secondary filter first. Make sure that it is about 1/2 to 3/4 of a turn past snug. When replacing the primary filter cartridge, you MUST first seat the O-ring into the port. Do not attempt to re-install both as one unit, or you can damage your transmission. Seat the O-ring in place and then tap into place with the handle end of a screwdriver and a small hammer. Make sure it is seated flush in the port. Once you have that in place, re-install the primary filter cartridge and replace the T25 bit. You do not need to torque this bit, but make sure it is tightened securely.

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Figure 8. Replace both of these filters with your new ones after you have cleaned the gasket residue from the pan mounting surface.

Step 8 – Replace the transmission fluid pan

After you have cleaned the old gasket residue and replaced the pan gasket, or used RTV sealant, you can re-mount it to the engine. If you are using a new gasket, insert a few of the bolts into the pan first to make sure of accurate placement of the gasket. If you are using RTV, you will have to wait the specified curing time on the tube before running your engine. The six 8mm bolts will need to be torqued to 105 lbs/inch when reinstalling the fluid pan.

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Figure 9. Inserting a few bolts into the holes will ensure the correct gasket placement.

Step 9 – Add new ATF +4

Once the pan has been torqued to specification, you can add new ATF +4 fluid. Be sure not to overfill. It should take about 5 quarts, but maybe a little more, just be sure to continually check the level after you have used about the first 5 quarts. Let it set for a while and shift through the gears without starting the engine. This will make sure that the fluid has gone through and settled in place. Re-check the fluid levels and add more as needed. Be sure to wait the specified curing time if you used RTV before starting the engine and take it for a test spin.

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Figure 10. Shift through gears after adding the ATF +4 to make sure it gets worked in well.