The filter location problem and dipstick location is not a new issue. Having owned a 1955 Desoto Fireflite with the 265 Firedome hemi, this was a disaster to change the oil. It was a canister that faced up. You would remove the center bolt (convientently pointed up so you did not have to go under the car) and the oil in the canister would spill all over the side of the engine and exhaust manifolds. I suppose the idea is you do not care and just change out the cartridge filter and let the warm engine 'burn' off the oil. However, you still had to go under the car to drain the oil pan. So the order of operation was important if you wanted to stay somewhat clean!
The transmission was OK but it was impossible to change the fluid or flush it without some crossmember disassembly. The point is, even in the 50's maintenance was not an engineered feature.
Many cars don't seem to be designed for maintenance. I (or my kids) have had several GM cars where the oil filter is placed up behind the engine or covers that make it impossible to remove the filte and not dump oil all over the engine, your are and the ground. Why would you place the oil filter on the back of the engine with the rotation axis horizontal? Or on the right side of the engine(front wheel drive) where you WILL spill oil on the belts when removing the filter.(you had to turn the wheel hard to the right and remove a plastic flap to get at the filter) It was a throw away car.
Its not too hard to put the filter in a more accessable location - my Dodge and Fords cars have the filter behind, and slightly above the back of the oil pan and the axis of rotation is vertical so there is very little spillage and one can actually see the filter without mirrors.
Common theme here? Cadillac... Pontiac... both GM vehicles. I used to be a strong GM buyer but have moved away because of poor engineering of their products. Over the years I have seen on my vehicles: Problems with noisy lifters on most of their engines. Problems with oil leaking from the valve cover gaskets because the oil drains were too small and clogged easily (yes, I religiously changed the oil at the recommended intervals). The spot welds that fastened the door closure mechanisms broke on both driver and passenger doors (which I repaired with pop-rivets that held much longer). The metal used for the water pump pulley for the 302 Vortec engine cracked around the mounting bolts and ultimately fell off. An oil filter that should be replaced every 3K miles on a Buick Skyhawk that you had to remove a wheel well panel to get to, but yet the thermostat was easily accessible under a pressure cap at the top of the engine. Given more time, I could come up with more, but I'll just say that I now own Chrysler and Subaru products and have been much happier with the maintenance.
I used to use mechanics gloves in these situations. Then again, I usually work on cars when they were off, don't want my gloved hand to be ripped off.
I am surprised that a 2001 car did not have some sort of indication for low transmission fluid. That right there might be the worst offense in the car's design. If it was there, a simple stop at the jiffy lube would have sufficed.
I remember the day I stopped working on cars, it was a good day.
I'm not an auto geek by any stretch of the imagination but that has to be one of the most poorly designed ways to check a car's transmission fluid level if I've ever heard one! I guess modern transmissions are pretty reliable generally, and it's a tricky thing for someone to play with at home. But still, it shouldn't require practically taking the engine apart to check something so simple and critical to the car's health. Hope your hand fully heals.
I think it has become fairly common for manufacturers to omit dipsticks on automatic transmissions because it keeps warranty costs down by preventing less than knowledgeable owners from installing incorrect fluids. Having helped some people flush misplaced engine oil out of a power steering system at one time, it's easy to imagine that quarts of engine oil or any other fluid might get put into the transmission as well. When operating correctly the transmission should not consume or lose any fluid. A transmission being pressurized sounds unlikely.
I completely agree that it can be frustrating. I had an '06 Cadillac STS with no way to fill or check the fluid other than a bolt on the side of the transmission that was nearly inaccessible in the center tunnel and way close to the exhaust. Needless to say, a fluid change was a job for the flushing machine and not suitable to do at home.
Glad to hear that the sale of the car at least covered the cost of the parts, Naperlou. That's not always the case, which is why so many people (me included) have thrown good money after bad to justify the previous repair of car that probably should be sitting at the salvage yard.
My 96 caddy has the dipstick/fill port located on top, but you do have to move the air intake horn out of the way to get to it. Not the most ideal thing to do, but I take it Cadillac doesn't really expect the car to ever need any fluid added to it and thank fully it doesn't. But it is a pain to check the fluid level during maintenance. I tend to check fluid levels when the engine is cold. If I spill a little, it is a lot easier to clean up, but sometimes that can't be done and heavy cotton gloves are my tool of choice when around hot engines.
Wow, this beats even my previous experience. In the Japanese cars I buy, the tranny fluid dipstick/filler cap has never been in the same place from one make and model to the next. My previous car's dipstick was buried deeply in the center of several other engine components a few inches below the surface and had a black tip. You could only find it with a powerful flashlight even in bright daylight. And yeah, I burned my hand too a few times. But--no dipstick? A tiny screw under the car? Ouch.
Rich, you mention using the Internet to get information and, if there is a video, to see how it is done. Seems like a good idea. A little while ago my wife's minivan needed new automatic door actuators in both sliding doors. We bought one unit. I looked on the Internet and there was a video for that. It was for the driver side door. My wife wanted to do the passenger side door first becuase she could not reach that. Makes sense. The video indicated that the other side would be thes same. WRONG! It was not even close to being the same. We figured it out by ourselves (I had lots of experience with cars and she is a Mechanical Engineer). Fortunately we had the tools as well. It was a lot harder, though.
We decided to do the other side that day. Ironically, a few weeks later the transmission gave out. She got a new car and we ended up getting a couple of hundred dollars for the minivan (it was ten years old). That just about covered the parts.
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