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Guest Message by DevFuse

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Best transmission fluid for 2003 outback

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10 replies to this topic

#1 olivia123


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Posted 10 March 2011 - 09:09 AM

I just purchased a 2003 outback limited with 109,000 from a dealer. The car seems to be in excellent condition. I don’t really have any service records other than the carfax.
It is an automatic, and I think I should just go ahead and change the transmission fluid although it looks and smells OK. I have read numerous posts about the 3 change method and will do that. Since I don’t know what type of fluid is in it, syn or reg, what type of fluid would you recommend I use?

Also on the carfax report the last entry is timing belt and tensioner inspected and OK.
Do you think I can trust that in terms of belt replacement since I have no idea when it was done last if at all?

#2 Rooster2


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Posted 10 March 2011 - 11:18 AM

Whenever I buy a used car with no maintenance records, I begin changing the "wear" items on the car. I change the spark plugs, check, maybe replace the air filter, change oil/filter, and trany fluid. That way, I know they are good. Check your owner's manual.......it prolly will say Dextron quality ATF. To me, there isn't any company selling poor ATF, though others here may disagree. I really don't know of any great advantage using synthetic ATF, verses regular ATF. Prolly, the synthetic type has higher test (lube) values that would perform better in heavy duty application like racing or heavy towing, but for every day driver use, I would recommend the non synthetic ATF. It works just fine. On your car, there is an external ATF filter. I would replace the filter, when replacing the fluid. Don't recommend dropping the pan to change the screen filter. That is just a waste of time.

You may want to pull the road wheels to check the wear on the brake pads.

I think you will prolly need to change the timing belt and pulleys. Subaru says to change the belt at around 100K miles. Saying they were inspected, means they were not changed. At 109K miles, I am betting the timing belt is the original. It is important to change the belt, because if it breaks, you get stranded, and the motor gets bent valves. Bad valves are expensive to repair.

Check for weeping coolant from the heads. Subaru sells an additive to the cooling system to fix this.

Good luck and have fun with your new Subie!



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Posted 11 March 2011 - 05:08 PM

The timing belt, pulleys, waterpump, etc were due at 105k if they have not been done.

ATF is any good Dex III, bang for the buck Maxlife is good in my area.

#4 idosubaru


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Posted 11 March 2011 - 07:48 PM

As for the timing belt - does the car-fax show who did the work? If it does, call them up, or stop in, and have them print or tell you all the work that was done to it. I've done that numerous times. I usually find a sticker on the windshield, receipt or card in the center console or mixed in with paper work/owners manual in the glove compartment box. I haven't called a place yet that wouldn't give or tell me their records.

A call to a local Subaru dealer might pull up some info to if they can search via your VIN and they're willing to help, but i've never actually tried that except twice when i knew for certain a car had been to a particular dealer.

What mileage was the belt replaced at? The passengers side timing belt cover is really easy to remove - it's only like 3 10mm bolts and a few minutes. If you can replace the trans fluid you can remove that cover. Once it's removed you can look at the timing belt and see if it's been replaced or not by looking at the printing on the belt. You may have to start/stop it a few times, or turn the engine over by hand with a 22mm socket to get the part of the belt with writing to come through that side of the cover.

You might find the ATF was done already by checking for records but if not:

Use any ATF that meets the standards in the owners manual, there's no need for anything special. I generally stick with name brand stuff rather than the el-cheapo generic stuff, but I would never say that stuff is bad either.

Frequency is far more important than what brand you get. Your car should also have a trans filter as well.

Good luck with the new car.

#5 olivia123


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Posted 12 March 2011 - 09:32 AM

Thanks for all the advice. I looked at my car fax and have the name of the dealer that did the timing belt inspection. I will contact them.

I like the idea of looking at the timing belt by removing the pass side cover but I’m not sure what the printing on the belt would say to indicate if it had been replaced recently. If anyone could clarify that I would appreciate it.

#6 idosubaru


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Posted 14 March 2011 - 08:27 AM

I looked at my car fax and have the name of the dealer that did the timing belt inspection. I will contact them.

yep, start there.

I’m not sure what the printing on the belt would say to indicate if it had been replaced recently. If anyone could clarify that I would appreciate it.

belts are typically labeled with writing "SUBARU", a part number, or lines to help install. it's just a visual aid, not a hard science and the writing i'm referring to isn't meant to tell if it's replaced or not, just something easy to check. a 9 year old belt with a 100,000 miles should look different than one recently replaced. post a picture if you're not sure. you can run the car without that cover, it's just a piece of plastic, while you try to determine this.

in reply to your PM - yes 3 change method is the best bet for ATF. do not replace the internal screen, complete waste of time. it's called a "filter", but it is not a filter it's just a screen. replace the screw on joker.

#7 porcupine73


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Posted 14 March 2011 - 09:11 AM

I'd run a quality Dexron III rated ATF in there. You won't of course specifically find that anymore since GM stopped renewing license to blenders for Dexron III years ago. Some of the 'multi vehicle' formulations still list it on the bottle and can be a good choice for ATF for a Subaru. Personally I would not use Dexron VI in there. I think they claim it is backwards compatible but it is thinner and has some different dynamic friction characteristics.

Right on, there's no need to drop the pan to replace the screen; that's really more of a suction strainer to keep the pump from pulling in metal chunks. You could replace the spin on filter if desired.

#8 olivia123


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Posted 14 March 2011 - 05:51 PM

Thank for the response Gary. I called the dealer that the carfax said had “inspected the belt” and turns out it was replaced according to the dealer in December 2010. That’s good news. Also found out some other good things like brakes were done not too long ago. So thanks for the tip to contact the dealers on the carfax. I will do the ATF change as there was no record of that being done. Will use three change method, replace the screw on filter and no pan drop. I plan to use Valvoline Dex/ Merc. Thanks to all for the solid advice.

#9 bulwnkl


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Posted 15 March 2011 - 09:51 PM

Since the thread title asks about ATF...
In my '05 Baja turbo, I've had factory-fill Dex III, Schaeffer's 204SAT, the Bio-Synthetic ATF from Renewable Lube, and now the new Subaru HP-ATF from the local Subaru dealer. Personally, I had the best shift feel/performance with the Schaeffer 204SAT. YMMV.

Oh, and...
I used the cooler line home 'flush' method, but 3 changes in a row is a lot less messy. :)

#10 caribeso



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Posted 04 November 2013 - 03:57 PM

I am a newbie Outback owner, 2003 H6.  I bought the car with 265,000 (yes) miles on it, but in my research it sounds like the 6 cylinders don't have the head gasket problem of the 4C and they have a timing chain that is supposed to never be changed and lasts forever. at least that's what they say.


i also had very limited access to any records, so i have flushed out the brake fluid, coolant, and done an oil change of course.  and then found out that it needed brakes and rotors, and upon taking apart one side, saw that the wheel bearing was bad, which turned into needing a hub too... etc.


anyway, the atf fluid looks pretty gloomy and smells bad.  so i have read above about the 3 change method, but nobody described it.  could someone tell me what it is (do you drain and replace the fluid 3 times?), and where the heck is the spin on filter?. i bought one, but can't find the old one crawling under the car.  do you need a lift to get at it?



#11 CNY_Dave


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Posted 04 November 2013 - 05:05 PM

Drain and replace 3x is just 3 fluid changes (drain and fill) with some driving in between the changes.


On the H6 the filter is above the drivers-side fog light, inside the fenderwell.


It really doesn't need to be changed. I had just shy 200k on mine and changed it when I swapped the trans due to a bad front diff.


I cut it open and there was no 'crud' in it.

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