So I went for it. My first pan drop and as with most first time jobs I was sweating bullets that I wouldn't get it back together properly, but I pulled it off.
Preface: My Stang only has 20k miles, but I have had some louder than normal clanking coming from my transmission on occasion so I wanted to drop the pan mostly to make sure there was no signs of serious wear/malfunction. But, I also wanted to start mixing in Royal Purple ATF so my plan is to drop the pan, clean it good and add RP every 2 years. I figure $70 for peace of mind and increasing the odds that my car shifts like new for years to come was well worth it (though I know some on here will disagree).
So I got home from work at 6:00 and got started. Put my Pony on the ramps and jacked up the back end to put stands under her. I will say that no matter how much time I spend under a car I never shake that creepy feeling of being crushed, but luckily that was the worst part of my night.
I located the plug/dipstick and tried 4 times to get an accurate reading. It's nearly impossible the way the stick is setup and it says to remove it from the lug cap, but that makes it even more difficult and it's easy to drop it all the way into the pan, so don't waste much time messing with that. There is a nice bonus to the plug, it's recessed enough into the metal to help with a trick I figured out to add the new fluid, bit I'll get into that later.
I got my oil pan centered and started removing bolts. They are small and come off very easily with a power drill. I started with the back (closet to the trunk) and got the entire side of bolts removed with no fluid coming out yet... impressive. Then I worked back on the driver side, where the fluid finally started to slowly rain out. I removed the passenger side and it came out pretty fast, but wasn't messy and didn't get all over the adjacent parts like I thought it would. I went down to ONE bolt - the front middle - and let the rest of the pan drain before I eased the pan off. I wanted to make sure to keep some fluid in it so I could inspect. This was all much easier than I anticipated and went pretty quick (30 mins).
I slid the pan out and inspected. The fluid was browner than I expected but smelled fresh still, so no issues there IMO. The magnet however was coated with a healthy amount a black metallic sludge. It was not large metal shavings (I know what that looks like), just normal gunk that builds up and is the reason the magnet is there. However, this is only at 20k miles, so I say to those that think it's fine to go 100k+ without changing the ATF... can you imagine how built up this crap would be by then?
I then cleaned the pan good first, easy enough. I went to clean the magnet and that black sludge was smearing everywhere. It is definitely NOT something I would be comfortable with cycling and mixing with my fluids. And yes, it's on the magnet, but it was slimy enough that it would be impossible for it not to be contaminating the oil. I took about 5 big hands of paper towel to finally get it spotless.
Then I put the new filter in and reinstalled the pan. Very very easy. Just get one bolt through the pan and reusable gasket and hand tighten. Then repeat at all 4 corners. then you can use your power drill (I set my torque to 10) and zip it up.
Now comes the challenge... getting the new fluid in. It's a tight space to work in and a weird angle, but I figured out how to use that to my advantage. I went to Menards and bought a 10 foot clear tube. I got under my car and snaked it so that the tube hooked into the space and got the end of the tube to sit in the recess of the plug filler hole. Then I used tie wraps to secure the tube in place under the car. I took the tube up the side of the car and wrapped a clean towel around my side mirror and used the side mirror/towel to keep the top end of the hose elevated. I put a small funnel in the end and started pouring in the new ATF. I had to laugh because it looked like my Stang was donating blood. lol
This is where if you don't smoke, you might want to start. It was cold out so that didn't help, but the ATF moves slow through the tube due to the air inside. But the good news is you are on your feet and after the first 3 quarts it starts to flow better. All in all it took me about an hour to get just under 7 qts in, BUT it was no mess and the easiest car work I've ever done.
Once it starts to spill out I stopped so I could start my car and cycled through reverse - neutral - drive - repeat. This pulled the fluid through so I added more while doing this until it was full and level (which again is almost impossible to tell). The manual says to fill to the bottom of the plug hole, so basically fill until spill (WITH YOUR CAR RUNNING) and you're good to go.
I then shut her down, put the plug back in tight and cycled through a few more times, then off for a test run. It could be in my head, but I listened very closely for that same noise and while I could still here it on some shifts, it was much quieter. Today I monitored my transmission temp and the top was 173. Before I was usually at 178-185, so I will be keeping an eye on it to see what the highest it will get.
In the end, 3 hrs of my time and just under $100 and I get her done. It felt pretty good knowing that I did it myself and I know what's protecting a very expensive part of my Pony.