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94 FWD AT not engaging properly


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17 replies to this topic

#1 808Legacy

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 06:09 AM

*need help ! I just replaced transmission fluid hoses coming out of radiator, the lower one was badly cracked where tiny plastic one way valve sits. Forward not working right: it's not engaging fully. Reverse works.

Background: While I was away, my wife was driving my 94 AT FWD Legacy and it was losing power, the gears weren't engaging fully, it could go in reverse, but would only go forward slowly (or slipped?). So, I told her to check oil and trans fluid. She added a quart of trans fluid (it was near the bottom of dip stick) and it seemed to help for that day, but then the next day it was having the same problem, and leaked a bunch

When I returned, I checked the trans fluid, and it wasn't too low, it was in the middle. It was toward the tan/brown end rather than red color when she checked. It did not smell burnt or unusual. I looked underneath for a leak, only found a tiny amount on what I think is the differential pan & bolt (the smaller one with fins between engine oil pan and tranny oil pan). Nothing else seemed to show any

I added some Lucas transfix stuff (several people recommended). That's when i discovered the leaking hose, so i replaced it after re-inserting the one way valve. Doesn't yet seem to be the cure. I drove it around block and it seemed like it would only go in first or not at all on slight incline. Going to high rpm doesn't help.

Is there anything I might be missing or am I about to jump down the transmission rabbit hole? I was so hopeful that replacing the leaking hose would be the charm, but maybe I'm out of luck. Definitely can't afford a new or even rebuild. I've read a couple threads where the manual button sometimes helped (I thought that button was just a pretend button, it didn't seem to actually do anything but turn on a yellow light to tell you it was "in manual").

Thanks in advance for any help!

Edited by 808Legacy, 24 January 2013 - 06:12 AM.
More info


#2 AdventureSubaru

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 10:01 AM

is your fluid topped off? having it at the exact level will make a difference.

#3 MilesFox

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 10:09 AM

You may have to add more fluid.

My car got so bad that it would hang in first all day, hunt gears at slow speed, and then start to slip. It has always had a slight leak in the pan. But by the time i serviced it, it literally took a whole gallon of fluids.

The torque converter itself holds several quarts. Although it may appear there is a proper level in the pan by the dipstick, the TC can be partially dry. Make sure the car is running when adding and checking fluid.

Give the dipstick some time between readings to allow the fluid to wash down the walls of the tube so it is not a false reading.

#4 AdventureSubaru

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 04:12 PM

Especially with the Lucas in there. That stuff is thicker so it will take a while for everything to spread out.

#5 808Legacy

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 04:33 PM

Thanks everyone. I love this site.

I will also shift b/w drive and reverse while idling a bunch (40 times at least) per my mechanic friend (who got that from a transmission specialist). I did shift it some last night, but not that much.

Kept looking at dipstick level and it seemed to stay in the middle.

Should I stay with adding Lucas or mix with regular Dexron 3?

#6 808Legacy

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 04:35 PM

is your fluid topped off? having it at the exact level will make a difference.


Do you mean as close to full as possible? I am really hesitant to overfill.

#7 AdventureSubaru

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 06:46 PM

Kept looking at dipstick level and it seemed to stay in the middle.

Should I stay with adding Lucas or mix with regular Dexron 3?


If it's in the middle and still acting that way, I would add more until you're at the full level.

Use dex3. How much lucas is in there? I think it's only supposed to run as a mix of about a quart along with the regular tranny fluid.

#8 WoodsWagon

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:28 AM

You are checking the red handled dipstick with the 2' long floppy blade rather than the yellow handled one with the 8" long stick on it, right?

#9 808Legacy

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 03:42 AM

Ah yes, that is the question. Well, thank the stars that mercury is not that far in retrograde and today I discovered that I was only checking and adding to the 8" yellow handled DIFFERENTIAL dipstick until I recalled late last night when my friend, an actual mechanic who loves to sleuth out problems, mentioned that there were probably two dipsticks. I assured him that I had not seen this second dipstick, that it did not exist...and today, after remaining in my state of willful ignorance while shifting drive-reverse, drive-reverse forty times... I decided to reverify my contention about this myth of a second dipstick... and lo ad behold! A TRANSMISSION DIPSTICK! On the drivers side, ensconced below some tubes and wires.

It is yellow too, at least in my Legacy, and yes, about 2' long and flat (as opposed to the cylindrical differential dipstick). The darn Haynes manual is really rather vague about this, as it is about most of the transaxle. And it was very low, only about an eighth of an inch of yellowish fluid. I added about half a quart of Lucas and a quart of dex3, shifted a bunch, then drove it. Marked improvement, yet still was hesitating going uphill (not being able to go uphill is pointless on Maui's north shore) and at higher RPM. So, I brought it home, checked it again. Still way low, so I added another quart of Dex 3. This time it drove close to perfect. I checked it once more and it is still reading very low, so tomorrow I will go over to Pukalani Napa and get a few more quarts.

Can you say "whew" ?

#10 808Legacy

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 03:49 AM

I think I overfilled the differential case, just slightly. It was at halfway, now bleeding over full after I shot less than half a quart of fluid today, obviously before I had the tyranny dipstick epiphany (sounds like a Zappa song, eh?).

Is this going to mess me up? Should I drain a half a quart out? I'm hesitant to crack any bolts underneath there, but I'll certainly do so if it is warranted.

Edited by 808Legacy, 25 January 2013 - 03:51 AM.


#11 MilesFox

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 11:12 AM

If you drain any fluids, be sure to replace the copper washer on the drain plug or it may drip. You do not wnt to overtighten the drain plug trying to stop the drip.

#12 WoodsWagon

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:05 PM

Yeah, I would drain and re-fill. Front diff takes 80-90 gear oil and you were pouring lucas ATF into it right?

Transmission fluid is probably a bit burnt from running low and slipping, so it would be good to replace that too. The big drainplug at the front that threads into aluminum is the diff, the 17mm plug on the sheetmetal pan is the transmission.

I tend not to use miracle cure products like Lucas unless the component is truely shot and I need it to last long enough to make it another month. Where you just had a low fluid problem, I would hesitate to use anything but the right ATF, which is Dex/Merc III. Get a gallon plus an extra quart and change out at least the fluid that's in the pan.

#13 808Legacy

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 03:13 PM

Good to know, thanks.

Yep, I put ATF + Lucas in the differential, thinking that was the transmission.

How many quarts 80 90 gear oil?

#14 MilesFox

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 06:05 PM

The ATF in the diff will not hurt it as it will act as a detergent to help clen it up if you are changing it again. I believe the front diff holds just over a quart.

#15 808Legacy

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 08:59 PM

Thanks for that. I was able to suck out just enough to get the differential back to full with a tube and syringe. Really didn't want to drain 350 degree oil.

#16 NorthWet

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 10:26 PM

If you added ATF into the gear oil of the differential, I would think that you really need to totally drain the diff and refill with proper gear oil. Some might even suggest a refill and drain. High-load gear-tooth contacts need different stuff than ATF.

#17 808Legacy

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 01:22 AM

Ok, so we have conflicting advice over pure 80-90 gear oil vs that mixed with ATF and Lucas Transfix.

I guess I'll drain it just to be sure. But I'll wait to see if anyone else chimes in.

#18 NorthWet

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 02:49 AM

Milesfox is generally right.

My concern is that "diffs" usually use extreme-pressure gear lube, ones that include high sulfur content (kind of why gear lube smells so strongly) to handle the high point-pressures in hypoid gear sets. My view is that anything that dilutes that is likely to cause long-term issues with ring/pinion wear. Short term, there is unlikely to be any issue.




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