Allow the vehicle to cool until the transmission is no hotter than room temperature. Start the Cavalier’s engine and allow it to idle for three to five minutes. Shift the gear shifter through all of the gears, pausing for about three seconds in each gear. Return the gear shift to “Park.”
By 2004, the 22-year-old Cavalier was getting a little long in the tooth and quickly approaching its final year. The 2004 Cavalier LS came standard with a 140-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. Chevrolet also offered an optional four-speed automatic transmission on the LS trim level. Chevrolet expressly states that both transmissions are sealed units with no need for inspection or fluid changes. For those that prefer to check it regardless of Chevy’s statements, there are access points to check and refill the transmission oil on both transmissions.
- Floor jack
- Jack stands
- Drain pan
- Clean funnel
- Dexron-III fluid
- Clean, lint-free cloth
- Inch-pound torque wrench
- Allen key socket set
- torque wrench
Park the vehicle on a flat surface and set the parking brake. Raise the front of the Cavalier with a floor jack and slide jack stands under the vehicle’s subframe. Lower the Cavalier onto the jack stands. Raise the rear of the Cavalier with a floor jack and set jack stands under the rear suspension cross-member. Lower the rear of the vehicle onto the jack stands. Adjust the height of the jack stands, as needed, so the vehicle sits level.
Crawl under the vehicle and find the transmission fluid inspection screw just under the driver’s side CV axle.
Position a drain pan directly under the fluid inspection screw. Remove the screw with a ratchet. If fluid flows from the inspection hole, the transmission is overfull and you must allow the fluid to spill out into the drain pan until it stops flowing. The correct level for this transmission is right at the base of the inspection hole.
If the fluid is low, crawl out from under the vehicle and pull the vent cap from the top, center of the transmission. Insert a clean funnel into the vent hole and add new Dexron-III fluid in quarter-quart intervals into the vent hole until fluid starts running from the inspection hole. Press the vent cap back into the vent hole on the transmission.
Crawl back under the vehicle, wipe the threads of the inspection screw with a clean, lint-free cloth, then hand-thread the screw back into the transmission. Tighten the screw to 106 inch-pounds with an inch-pound torque wrench.
Raise the front of the cavalier from the jack stands, using a floor jack, and remove the jack stands. Lower the front of the Cavalier to the ground. Repeat this step to lower the rear of the Cavalier.
Take the old transmission fluid to a local used automotive fluid recycling center for disposal. Some auto parts stores take old transmission fluid free of charge.
Raise the front of the vehicle with a floor jack and slide jack stands under the Cavalier’s subframe. Lower the vehicle onto the jack stands.
Find the transmission oil level check plug on the transmission’s case, just above the serial number sticker. Slide a drain pan under the oil level check plug. Remove the plug with a ratchet and Allen key socket.
Insert your finger into the oil level check hole and feel for the fluid level right at the base of the oil level check hole. If the fluid is at the correct level, proceed directly to step 6.
Leave the drain pan under the Cavalier, if the fluid level is low, and raise the vehicle off the jack stands. Remove the jack stands and lower the Cavalier to the ground. Find the transmission filler cap on the top, rear of the transmission and unscrew it. Insert a clean funnel into the transmission filler hole and add new Dexron-III transmission fluid and watch for fluid to flow from the oil level check hole. Once fluid flows from the check hole, remove the funnel and tighten the filler cap.
Raise the vehicle again and place in jack stands. Clean the threads of the oil level check plug with a clean, lint-free cloth and hand-thread it back into the transmission. Tighten the plug to 28 foot-pounds with a torque wrench and Allen key socket.
Raise the vehicle off the jack stands, using a floor jack, and remove the jack stands. Lower the Cavalier to the ground.
Take any old transmission oil to a local used automotive fluid recycling center. Some auto parts stores take old fluids free of charge.
- Alldata: 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier L4-2.2L VIN F, Automatic Transmission/Transaxle, Service and Repair, Procedures: 4T40-E/4T45-E, Automatic Transaxle Fluid Checking Procedure
- Mitchell1 OnDemand 5: 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier Manual Transmission Servicing, Checking Fluid Levels
- Cars.com: 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier Specs and Features
- Edmunds.com: Chevrolet Cobalt History
- Photo Credit Tim Boyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images