Skip to main content
Fluid level checks Nissan Altima 1993 - 2006 Petrol 3.5 V6

OnDemand step-by-step maintenance & repair BETA

Nissan Altima 1993 - 2006  | 3.5 V6 Fluid level checks

  • time 5 to 30 minutes
  • difficulty 1
1 Fluids are an essential part of the lubrication, cooling, brake, clutch and other systems. Because these fluids gradually become depleted and/or contaminated during normal operation of the vehicle, they must be periodically replenished. See the recommended lubricants and fluids and capacities at the bottom of this Section before adding fluid to any of the following components
Note: The vehicle must be on level ground before fluid levels can be checked
2 The engine oil level is checked with a dipstick located at the front side of the engine. The dipstick extends through a metal tube from which it protrudes down into the engine oil pan
3 The oil level should be checked before the vehicle has been driven, or about 15 minutes after the engine has been shut off. If the oil is checked immediately after driving the vehicle, some of the oil will remain in the upper engine components, producing an inaccurate reading on the dipstick
4 Pull the dipstick from the tube and wipe all the oil from the end with a clean rag or paper towel. Insert the clean dipstick all the way back into its metal tube and pull it out again. Observe the oil at the end of the dipstick. At its highest point, the level should be between the L and H marks
5 It takes one quart of oil to raise the level from the L mark to the H mark on the dipstick. Do not allow the level to drop below the L mark or oil starvation may cause engine damage. Conversely, overfilling the engine (adding oil above the H mark) may cause oil fouled spark plugs, oil leaks or oil seal failures
6 Remove the threaded cap from the valve cover to add oil. Use a funnel to prevent spills. After adding the oil, install the filler cap hand tight. Start the engine and look carefully for any small leaks around the oil filter or drain plug. Stop the engine and check the oil level again after it has had sufficient time to drain from the upper block and cylinder head galleys
7 Checking the oil level is an important preventive maintenance step. A continually dropping oil level indicates oil leakage through damaged seals, from loose connections, or past worn rings or valve guides. If the oil looks milky in color or has water droplets in it, a cylinder head gasket may be leaking. The cylinder head should be checked immediately. The condition of the oil should also be checked. Each time you check the oil level, slide your thumb and index finger up the dipstick before wiping off the oil. If you see small dirt or metal particles clinging to the dipstick, the oil should be changed

Engine coolant

Warning: Do not allow antifreeze to come in contact with your skin or painted surfaces of the vehicle. Flush contaminated areas immediately with plenty of water. Don’t store new coolant or leave old coolant lying around where it’s accessible to children or pets - they’re attracted by its sweet smell. Ingestion of even a small amount of coolant can be fatal! Wipe up garage floor and drip pan spills immediately. Keep antifreeze containers covered and repair cooling system leaks as soon as they’re noticed
8 All vehicles covered by this manual are equipped with a pressurized coolant recovery system. A white coolant reservoir located in the right front corner of the engine compartment is connected by a hose to the base of the coolant filler cap. If the coolant gets too hot during engine operation, coolant can escape through a pressurized filler cap, then through a connecting hose into the reservoir. As the engine cools, the coolant is automatically drawn back into the cooling system to maintain the correct level
9 The coolant level should be checked regularly. It must be between the Max and Min lines on the tank. The level will vary with the temperature of the engine. When the engine is cold, the coolant level should be at or slightly above the Min mark on the tank. Once the engine has warmed up, the level should be at or near the Max mark. If it isn’t, allow the fluid in the tank to cool, then remove the cap from the reservoir and add coolant to bring the level up to the Max line. Use only ethylene/glycol type coolant and water in the mixture ratio recommended by your owner’s manual. Do not use supplemental inhibitor additives. If only a small amount of coolant is required to bring the system up to the proper level, water can be used. However, repeated additions of water will dilute the recommended antifreeze and water solution. In order to maintain the proper ratio of antifreeze and water, it is advisable to top up the coolant level with the correct mixture. Refer to your owner’s manual for the recommended ratio
10 If the coolant level drops within a short time after replenishment, there may be a leak in the system. Inspect the radiator, hoses, engine coolant filler cap, drain plugs, air bleeder plugs and water pump. If no leak is evident, have the radiator cap pressure tested by your dealer
Warning: Never remove the radiator cap or the coolant recovery reservoir cap when the engine is running or has just been shut down, because the cooling system is hot. Escaping steam and scalding liquid could cause serious injury
11 If it is necessary to open the radiator cap, wait until the system has cooled completely, then wrap a thick cloth around the cap and turn it to the first stop. If any steam escapes, wait until the system has cooled further, then remove the cap
12 When checking the coolant level, always note its condition. It should be relatively clear. If it is brown or rust colored, the system should be drained, flushed and refilled. Even if the coolant appears to be normal, the corrosion inhibitors wear out with use, so it must be replaced at the specified intervals
13 Do not allow antifreeze to come in contact with your skin or painted surfaces of the vehicle. Flush contacted areas immediately with plenty of water
14 Fluid for the windshield washer system is stored in a plastic reservoir which is located on the right (passenger) side of the engine compartment. In milder climates, plain water can be used to top up the reservoir, but the reservoir should be kept no more than two-thirds full to allow for expansion should the water freeze. In colder climates, the use of a specially designed windshield washer fluid, available at your dealer and any auto parts store, will help lower the freezing point of the fluid. Mix the solution with water in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions on the container. Do not use regular antifreeze. It will damage the vehicle’s paint

Battery electrolyte

15 On models not equipped with a sealed battery, check the electrolyte level(see illustration)of all six battery cells. It must be between the upper and lower levels. If the level is low, remove the filler/vent cap and add distilled water. Install and securely re-tighten the cap
Caution: Overfilling the cells may cause electrolyte to spill over during periods of heavy charging, causing corrosion or damage
15a Remove the cell caps to check the water level in the battery - if the level is low, add distilled water only

Brake and clutch fluid

16 The brake master cylinder is mounted on the front of the power booster unit in the engine compartment. The hydraulic clutch master cylinder used on manual transaxle vehicles is located next to the brake master cylinder
17 To check the fluid level of the brake and clutch master cylinders, simply look at the MAX and MIN marks on the reservoir. The level should be within the specified distance from the maximum fill line
17b The clutch fluid level should be kept between the MIN and MAX marks on the translucent plastic reservoir
18 If the level is low, wipe the top of the reservoir cover with a clean rag to prevent contamination of the brake system before lifting the cover
19 Add only the specified brake fluid to the brake and clutch reservoirs refer to Recommended lubricants and fluids at bottom of this Section. Mixing different types of brake fluid can damage the system. Fill the brake master cylinder reservoir only to the MAX line
Warning: Use caution when filling either reservoir - brake fluid can harm your eyes and damage painted surfaces. Do not use brake fluid that has been opened for more than one year or has been left open. Brake fluid absorbs moisture from the air. Excess moisture can cause a dangerous loss of braking
20 While the reservoir cap is removed, inspect the master cylinder reservoir for contamination. If deposits, dirt particles or water droplets are present, the system should be drained and refilled
21 After filling the reservoir to the proper level, make sure the lid is properly seated to prevent fluid leakage and/or system pressure loss
22 The fluid in the brake master cylinder will drop slightly as the brake pads at each wheel wear down during normal operation. If either master cylinder requires repeated replenishing to keep it at the proper level, this is an indication of leakage in the brake or clutch system, which should be corrected immediately. If the brake system shows an indication of leakage check all brake lines and connections, along with the calipers, wheel cylinders and booster. If the hydraulic clutch system shows an indication of leakage check all clutch lines and connections, along with the clutch slave cylinder
23 If, upon checking the brake or clutch master cylinder fluid level, you discover one or both reservoirs empty or nearly empty, the systems should be bled

Clutch system bleeding

24 The hydraulic system should be bled of all air whenever any part of the system has been removed or if the fluid level has been allowed to fall so low that air has been drawn into the master cylinder. The procedure is similar to bleeding a brake system
25 Fill the master cylinder with new brake fluid conforming to DOT 3 specifications
Caution: Do not re-use any of the fluid coming from the system during the bleeding operation or use fluid which has been inside an open container for an extended period of time
26 Raise the vehicle and place it securely on jackstands to gain access to the release cylinder
27 Locate the bleeder valve on the clutch release cylinder. Remove the dust cap which fits over the bleeder valve and push a length of plastic hose over the valve. Place the other end of the hose into a clear container with about two inches of brake fluid in it. The hose end must be submerged in the fluid
28 Have an assistant depress the clutch pedal and hold it. Open the bleeder valve on the release cylinder, allowing fluid to flow through the hose. Close the bleeder valve when fluid stops flowing from the hose. Once closed, have your assistant release the pedal
29 Continue this process until all air is evacuated from the system, indicated by a full, solid stream of fluid being ejected from the bleeder valve each time and no air bubbles in the hose or container. Keep a close watch on the fluid level inside the clutch master cylinder reservoir; if the level drops too low, air will be sucked back into the system and the process will have to be started over again
30 Install the dust cap and lower the vehicle. Check carefully for proper operation before placing the vehicle in normal service

Brake system bleeding

Warning: Wear eye protection when bleeding the brake system. If the fluid comes in contact with your eyes, immediately rinse them with water and seek medical attention
Note: Bleeding the hydraulic system is necessary to remove any air that manages to find its way into the system when it’s been opened during removal and installation of a hose, line, caliper or master cylinder
31 You’ll probably have to bleed the system at all four brakes if air has entered it due to low fluid level, or if the brake lines have been disconnected at the master cylinder
32 If a brake line was disconnected only at a wheel, then only that caliper or wheel cylinder must be bled
33 If a brake line is disconnected at a fitting located between the master cylinder and any of the brakes, that part of the system served by the disconnected line must be bled
34 Remove any residual vacuum from the brake power booster by applying the brake several times with the engine off
35 Remove the master cylinder reservoir cover and fill the reservoir with brake fluid. Reinstall the cover
Note: Check the fluid level often during the bleeding operation and add fluid as necessary to prevent the fluid level from falling low enough to allow air bubbles into the master cylinder
Note: If you’re working on a model equipped with ABS, turn the ignition switch off and disconnect the electrical connectors for the ABS actuator or detach the battery ground cable
36 Have an assistant on hand, as well as a supply of new brake fluid, a clear plastic container partially filled with clean brake fluid, a length of 3/16-inch plastic, rubber or vinyl tubing to fit over the bleeder valve and a wrench to open and close the bleeder valve
37 Beginning at the right rear wheel, loosen the bleeder valve slightly, then tighten it to a point where it’s snug but can still be loosened quickly and easily
38 Place one end of the tubing over the bleeder valve and submerge the other end in brake fluid in the container. When bleeding the brakes, a hose is connected to the bleed screw at the caliper or wheel cylinder and then submerged in brake fluid - air will be seen as bubbles in the tube and container (all air must be expelled before moving to the next wheel)
39 Have the assistant pump the brakes slowly a few times to get pressure in the system, then hold the pedal down firmly
40 While the pedal is held down, open the bleeder valve just enough to allow a flow of fluid to leave the valve. Watch for air bubbles to exit the submerged end of the tube. When the fluid flow slows after a couple of seconds, close the valve and have your assistant release the pedal
41 Repeat Steps 9 and 10 until no more air is seen leaving the tube, then tighten the bleeder valve and proceed to the left front wheel, the left rear wheel and the right front wheel, in that order, and perform the same procedure. Be sure to check the fluid in the master cylinder reservoir frequently
42 Never use old brake fluid. It contains moisture which will deteriorate the brake system components and could cause the fluid to boil, which could render the brake system inoperative
43 Refill the master cylinder with fluid at the end of the operation. If you’re working on a model with ABS, be sure to reconnect the electrical connectors to the ABS actuator or reconnect the battery
44 Check the operation of the brakes. The pedal should feel solid when depressed, with no sponginess. If necessary, repeat the entire process
Warning: Do not operate the vehicle if you’re in doubt about the effectiveness of the brake system

Recommended lubricants and fluids

Note: Listed here are manufacturer recommendations at the time this manual was written. Manufacturers occasionally upgrade their fluid and lubricant specifications, so check with your local auto parts store for current recommendations
Engine oil
  Type API “certified for gasoline engines”
  Viscosity See accompanying chart
Fuel Unleaded gasoline, 87 octane or higher
19.44a Recommended engine oil viscosity
Automatic transaxle fluid
  1993 through 2001 models DEXRON IIE or DEXRON III automatic transmission fluid
  2002 and later models
    4-speed Nissan Matic D or Dexron III automatic transmission fluid
    5-speed (2005 and later V6 models) Nissan Matic K automatic transmission fluid
Manual transaxle lubricant API GL-4 75W-90 gear oil
Brake and clutch fluid DOT 3 brake fluid or equivalent
Power steering fluid
  1993 through 1999 DEXRON IIE or DEXRON III automatic transmission fluid
  2000 and later Nissan PSF II power steering fluid
Wheel bearings NLGI no. 2 lithium-base grease


Engine oil (including filter)
  2.4L engine 4.1 quarts
  2.5L engine 4.5 quarts
  3.5L engine 4.5 quarts
Coolant (including reservoir tank) 8 to 8.5 quarts, depending on engine
  Automatic (including torque converter)
    4-speed 10 quarts
    5-speed 7 3/4 quarts
    1993 through 2001 9.5 pints
    2002 and later 4.9 pints
  Manual (with limited-slip differential) 9.1 pints
Note: *All capacities approximate. Add as necessary to bring up to appropriate level
All OnDemand jobs for your car
1 year subscription

Already purchased this job? Log into your account to view