1996 450hp n/a
Z28 Camaro SS
1995 Trans Am
4th Gen Appearance
F-Body Install & Fix-it Guides
My Previous F-Bodies
My Favorite F-Body
1995 Ninja ZX6
Generation Maintenance Page!
Today was Maintenance Day for me and my 1996 Z28 Camaro SS. I've made up a number of install and fix it type pages for different F-Body items and thought this type of page might be useful. Many of us die hard F-Body fanatics (that's me!) know how to change transmission fluid, engine oil, and rear differential oil, but there are also many out there who don't and instead take it to a shop and pay sometimes big $$$ to do an easy task simply because they've never been shown how or think it's too difficult. Wouldn't that labor money be better spent on go fast goodies instead?!?! :-) Well, I think so and that's the reason I'm making up this page! So, if you know how to do all this type stuff, you might as well skip this page. I'll try to make this so even if you've never even thought you could change, for example, your rear differential fluid on your own, you won't hesitate to tackle this project after reading this page!
The above is my choice of lubricants... yours may vary :)
On this page I'll describe how to do the following three maintenance items on your 4th Generation F-Body:
ENGINE OIL CHANGE
I use Mobil 1 synthetic 10W-30 weight oil. I've heard nothing but good about this oil and it's readily available at the local autoparts store. For the filter, I'll use the the Mobil 1 filter when AutoZone runs a special on them, but since I change my oil every 3,000 to 4,000 miles, I don't see the need to spend $10 on the filter and the regular AutoZone filter (D432) has always worked well for me.
First off, you'll notice in the following pictures that I'm doing all this using a lift... my buddy allows me to use his lift when it's not booked for his shop work :-) If you're not so lucky, a set of ramps for about $20 from Wal-Mart will work. In some cases, you may need to also go to the local lumber yard and buy a few feet of 2" x 10" or or 2" x 12". Depending on the type of ramp you get, it may or may not be suited for the low F-Body. I've heard Rhino ramps work well but don't have a set myself. I use a regular set of ramps and a couple 2" x 10" or a jack and jack stands when I don't have access to the lift.
For this project, you'll need the following:
1. Position your drain pan under the drain plug. Using a 15mm wrench or socket, slowly remove the drain plug. Note: It is best to do all of these fluid changes listed on this page after you've been driving the car for a period of time. This allows the oils to come up to temperature and will allow them to drain more quickly. Also note that this will mean the oil will be warm and maybe even HOT so be careful! Also, I've seen some drain plugs with washers and some without. Just be aware of this and take note before you completely remove the plug. These are easily lost if you forget about them and leave them in your used oil!
2. With the engine oil draining out the plug, you can now either just remove the oil filter or punch a hole in your filter, drain it, then remove it. In the picture to the right, you'll see that I punched a hole in the filter. Sometimes I do this and sometimes I don't... it really doesn't matter but the mess is a little less if you punch a small hole into it with an awl. The only thing with this is that if you punch a hole in your filter, you best be sure you can get it off! Most of the time, you won't be able to remove the filter with your bare hands. You'll need some type of tool to do this. There are a couple different kinds that work well. One is a cup type tool that fits on a socket wrench and "grasps" the filter so you can turn it. The other is a tool that has a metal band. Depending on which way you place this tool on the filter will determine if you tighten or loosen the filter. With the Mobil 1 filter pictured above, the band clamp type tool works much better since this filter has no ridges for the other type tool to "grab."
3. Once all the oil has drained, reinstall the drain plug. Be sure to wipe off any dirt/debris that may be on the threads. Tighten the drain plug so it is snug. The "by the book" torque spec is 15 ft-lbs but not even I am anal enough to torque my drain plug using a torque wrench :-)
4. Get ready to reinstall the filter. First of all, check to make sure that the old gasket isn't still seated up on the engine! This can cause an oil leak at the filter if you install your filter and gasket on top of the old gasket. Although it doesn't happen often, I've seen the old gasket stick up there so it's always best to check up there and on the old filter to ensure the gasket came down with the filter. Now take a little bit of the engine oil and, with your finger, wet the new filter's gasket. This is the black ring on top of the filter in the picture to the right. Now take a quart of your oil and fill the filter prior to screwing it on. While the oil pump is filling the filter, it's not sending oil to the engine. Filling the filter first will help in your car building up pressure quicker after the initial start. I've done many oil changes in my days and never used to do this. Does it really help a lot? Who knows... Does it hurt? NOPE! So, might as well do it!
5. Screw your filter back on. It should go on easily until the gasket meets the surface. There will most likely be tightening instructions on your filter. I normally just hand tighten my filters and do not use a wrench. I've never had any leaks doing this. But, if my hands are oily, I'll snug up the filter with a wrench "just to make sure." These filters don't have to be super tight and over tightening them just makes them more difficult to remove.
You're now ready to fill her back up! I use an even 5 quarts. If you use an oversized filter, you'll need a bit more. The oil fill is located on the passenger side valve cover. Sometimes the plastic tube that connects to the valve cover will become loose or might even break. Don't worry because the cap that is on this tube will screw directly into the valve cover and take the place of the filler tube. You can try to be the Mr. Quaker State Man and dump the quart of oil directly into the valve cover, but I myself am not quite that good so I use a funnel :-)
You're all set now! Just remember to do a quick check for leaks after you start it.
REAR DIFFERENTIAL OIL CHANGE
For this project, you'll need the following:
This is a picture of the rear differential in my 96SS. Yours will most likely look a little different because this is SLP upgraded Torsen rear that was offered on some of the SS Camaros. The concept is the same though. Notice the oil "seepage?" This isn't from the gasket area but from the axle area. I don't particularly "like" this, but it happens on almost every F-Body I've seen so I actually consider it "normal."
1. First thing you have to do is remove the rear differential cover. In GM's infinite wisdom, they FORGOT to engineer in a drain plug... DOH! Because of this, you pretty much have to remove the rear cover to change the oil. This is the reason for the new gasket if you chose the gasket method over the RTV method. It is easiest to use a 1/2" socket to remove the bolts you can get to, but some of them near the sway bar will require the use of a 1/2" wrench. Before beginning, get your oil drain pan aligned under the differential as it will start to leak out as you loosen the bolts. Note: You may need to use a pry bar to slightly pry the rear sway bar out of the way. Mine wasn't in the way by much but I did have to pry it about 1/4" away from the differential in order to remove two of the bolts. I found this to be MUCH easier than removing the entire sway bar! There will also be two wire brackets on two of the top bolts. Just move these out of the way when you take out these bolts. Once all the bolts are removed, you'll probably have to take your flat headed screwdriver and slightly pry the cover away... they usually stick a little. Doing this will complete the draining.
2. Now you need to remove the old gasket or liquid gasket RTV from the differential cover. Use a sharp razor blade to do this. Also, this cover may, again, look a bit different than yours. If I remember correctly, the standard F-Body cover has a hunk of magnet in it to catch any metal filings. Once you get the mating surface cleaned up with the razor blade, you can clean it up a bit with either brake or carb cleaner. These can be bought at an autoparts store for around $1.50 a can.
You can even use the carb/brake cleaner to clean the outside of the cover. This stuff works great to easily blast away even caked on gunk and grime!
3. Now scrape away and clean the surface of the differential mating surface like you did the cover above. This picture shows the sealer still on the surface.
Nice Torsen, eh? :-)
4. You're now ready to put the cover back on. Here is where you can learn from my mistake! Remember above where I said the use of this red RTV sealant is completely optional? Well, I hadn't used it before and did so this time just as a precautionary measure... even though I've never had any leaks on my 94Z. Anyway, the way I did it was to place two bands around the edge of the gasket as shown in the picture to the right. I then flipped the gasket (placed gasket with RTV on the cover) and did the same thing. Well, I neglected to remember that when I took the cover off, it bumped into the sway bar and a couple other things under there while I was pulling it down... basically it was a tight fit. Soooo, when I went to re-install the cover (as shown above) I smeared this RTV on my sway bar and some other stuff while getting it in place. It would have been better (if you choose to use the RTV) to apply the RTV to one side of the gasket, stick the gasket on the differential itself, apply the RTV again to the other side of the gasket (while it's in place on the differential) THEN put the cover in place. So, do yours like that :-) NOTE: You'll notice above I covered up two holes in the differential cover (see earlier picture). This is a Torsen rear end but I do believe even the non Torsen rear end 4th gens also have these holes in the rear end and cover. This picture shows them covered up but at the moment I am not using a gasket and only RTV and did not cover these holes. There is some controversy on if you should or should not cover these holes. Take a look here for some info... http://www.socalss.com/special/holes.htm and you can decide for yourself what you want to do. I chose not to cover up the holes since this picture was taken.
5. Take your ten bolts and snug them up finger tight. Don't forget to re-install the two wire brackets on the bolts on the upper half of the differential! If you don't have a good feel for tightening things, you should tighten these to 22 ft-lbs in a crosswise pattern. I didn't use a torque wrench... I just tightened them snug in a crosswise pattern.
Now that everything is buttoned back up, it's time to refill the rear differential with oil. Once again, the GM engineers made something that should be easy a bit difficult as the fill port is not in an easily accessible area... oh well :-)
6. Remove the fill plug. I don't have a picture of the plug, but it was obviously located where the black tube in this picture is sticking into the differential. To remove this plug, all you need is a 3/8" ratchet. You may find it a bit easier to use an extension but it isn't required. Note: No special attachment is required on your ratchet, the 3/8" ratchet itself fits into this plug to allow you to remove it.
7. Now that you have the plug out, grab 1 quart of your gear lube. Even with the spout on most gear lube bottles, it is still a pain to "pour" it into this hole. I find it much easier to attach some kind of tube or hose like pictured above. Now, "squeeze" this quart of oil into the rear differential. NOTE: Ensure your car is mostly level while filing. Since you are filling to "overflow" (see below) the angle of the car will determine exactly how much fluid you are able to get in there.
8. Once you've emptied 1 bottle of gear lube, take your GM Limited Slip Differential Additive and squeeze it in there too.
9. Position your drain pan under the rear differential in preparation for spillage :) Take your second quart of gear lube and begin squeezing it in. Once you get a little more than half of it in, slow down a bit. The idea here is to fill it up until it starts coming out the hole... this means it's full :-) I got in all but 450ml of the 2nd quart. Not sure if yours will be exactly this amount or not but I do remember it taking about 1.5 to 1.75 quarts the last time I changed this fluid in an F-Body with the regular rear differential. Also, if you aren't able to completely level your car while filing, if you use about the same amount as I did, you'll be just fine... I did mine on a lift with everything completely level so my volumes should be accurate (+/- a little possibly due to the Torsen rear).
10. Now that you have oil slowly running out the fill hole, it's time to re-install the plug. I used a dab of the RTV sealant on the plug's threads. This probably isn't actually required, but I highly recommend it... just more added protection against a leak developing.
If you wish to torque this plug, the torque value is 26 ft-lbs. Again, I didn't torque it... just snugged it up :-)
That's it! Start it up, drive it around for a few minutes, then check for leaks!
M6 TRANSMISSION OIL CHANGE
For this project, you'll need the following:
1. Drain the oil. This is an easy project because GM actually gave us a drain plug this time! The A4 guys aren't so lucky! :) To remove the drain plug, use your 3/8" ratchet. Be prepared for a large GUSH of oil. This oil isn't too thick and the drain hole is quite large. The oil will shoot out the drain hole horizontally about one foot! You've been warned :)
2. Re-install the drain plug. Again, like the above rear differential fluid change, I used RTV silicone to ensure no leakage. If you wish to torque this one to spec, it's 20 ft-lbs. But, like the others I did, I only snugged mine up.
3. Remove the fill plug. Like the drain plug, this will require a 3/8" ratchet.
4. Fill with transmission fluid. Note: This picture is used only for illustration of a good fill mechanism :-) Also, ensure your car is mostly level while filing. Since you are filling to "overflow" (see below) the angle of the car will determine exactly how much fluid you are able to get in there. If you are not able to get your car perfectly level, using the same amount of fluid as I did (see below again) will ensure you don't have too much or too little oil in your transmission.
Once again, the GM engineers did a number on us by making it a slight pain to fill the M6 transmission. Notice how the rear differential fluid change section came before this one? I did that for a reason :) I used the Mobil 1 ATF and if you haven't noticed, this oil has a larger than normal cap. For this reason, I couldn't just easily screw on the cap and hose pictured to the right. What I did was poured my ATF fluid into one of the empty rear gear lube bottles. A little residual gear lube won't hurt anything here in case you're worried about that. If you're not doing all these at the same time like I did and don't have a gear lube bottle to use, you can try an empty shampoo bottle or something that can be squeezed to add the oil.
Squeeze your first 3 quarts of ATF into the tranny. This works the same way as the rear differential lube change... you fill until oil runs out the fill hole. Because of this, get your drain pan in place prior to adding the 4th quart. When you get about 1/2 of this last quart in, slow down. I was able to get all but the last 300ml of oil from the 4th quart in.
5. Once you have a small amount of oil running out the fill hole, place a small dab of RTV (like above) on the fill plug and install it. Again, if you wish to torque it using a torque wrench, the correct value is 20 ft-lbs. And again, I didn't torque mine... just snugged it up!
That's it! Start it up and drive around for a few minutes then check to ensure no leaks!
Well, that does it for the 4th Gen Lube Change Page! :-)
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please send me an email!