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How far can I drive without fluid in auto transmission? (shop screwed up)-Correction


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12 replies to this topic

#1 kentrichards

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Posted 15 May 2004 - 09:57 PM

Surely you're about ask: "Why in the hell would you want to do that???"

Well, I didn't want to. I brought it home from the shop that supposedly changed the ATF (about a mile of driving), and right near home, it started lurching upon acceleration.

So I parked it and opend the door. I heard a new, fast ticking noise from under the car. I opend the hood and the first thing I saw was the ATF dipstick laying on the side of the engine compartment. I went to put it back in the tube, and then heard a new metalic clunking (rythmic) from down near the bottom rear of the engine. So I cut of the engine right away.

I pulled out the dipstick to find only a tiny wisp of fluid on the very tip.

IIRC, there's supposed to be some fluid on the stick even with the engine off, right?

[correction: Apparently I checked the fluid with the engine running the first time. When I checked it again with the engine off, there was a little fluid there. So, it wasn't completely dry]

So, is my tranny munched, or will it revive happily when it gets fluid? If it's munched (or its life has been shortened significantly), any suggestions on how I should approach the shop to get them to make reparations -- and what exactly I should ask them to do?

By the way, the shop was closed by the time I discovered the problem, and since it's Saturday I won't be able to contact them tomorrow.

Before I posted, I searched the board and didn't find it, so sorry if this has been covered

The car has 153K miles. It's a '95 Legacy L wagon (2.2L engine).

Thank-you,
Kent

#2 Impreza_WRX_STi

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 12:02 AM

Well I have 93 Impreza, after I first started driving it of course it was time to get an oil change. I'm 24 now, but when I just got the car, (16 y/o) the dealership which was not even Subaru (some domestic stealership) they would do the 1st 3 oil changes free. Well I take it home and it seemed to act funny. I had the same thing your describing. My dumb arse runs the car harder, trying to see if I can't pinpoint the problem. When I got home, I checked the engine fluid... WOW, the dipstick was up about 8-10 inches. I thought, maybe I should let the engine set a few minutes to let the oil drip all the way down into the pan. checked again, it was bad. Then I checked ATF, and got nothing. WTF...

I called the dealership, and said they change oil several times daily. I drive it down in manual to minimize gear changes. using 1st and 2nd gears.

Shortly after, they apologized, they were used to having engine oil pans close to the front driveline (which is where Subaru's tranny plug IS).

So I got DOUBLE the engine oil, and ZERO ATF. I was pissed!

But, if I could recommend to you, call first on Monday. You should ask, but they probably won't send a wrecker, but drive like I did, very slowly, keep temperatures low!!!

Like I just wrote, I had this problem with low or no ATF, (and of course 2X the engine oil) my 93 Impreza has 215,000 miles on it. You should be okay if your are gentle at this time. But when I had this problem it had 40K on it then.

Max

#3 tcspeer

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 12:57 AM

You need to go back Monday with a witness and talk to them, make sure you keep the receipt for the work that was done. If they make no effort to fix the problem and be responsible for any other damage they may have caused then you can send them a certified letter (return receipt) and explain in detail what they failed to do and let them know that you are going to hold them liable for the damage they may have caused, tell them if they dont take responsibility you will seek to get the damages in small claims court. You can start that action for around 50.00 dollars see the county clerk and they can get you going in the right place. This really works well when they get the notice from the court they are being sued they will probaly take care of it. If not then follow through with the court action it is a great tool when you learn to use it. If you need more help you can probaly find a book for small claims court for your State at Amazon.

#4 wrxsubaru

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 01:07 AM

I remeber some one posting that this happened with a jiffy lube, then jiffy lube said they had to sign a waiver syaing that is the trannie fails its not there fault, for them to change the fluids and add some to the trannie for free. The person talked to the sube dealer and the dealer said it should be O.K. if the person just drove a couple miles home, so they signed the waiver and had the work done, then 500 miles later the trannie puked :-\ . Driving any thing with out lubercation when it is spose to will significantly sorten the life.

#5 Chip Hedrick

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 08:27 AM

(1) I agree with the suggestion that you take a witness with you to the shop. That person should be able to say that he/she personally checked the ATF fluid on such and such a date and there was little or none. Otherwise, the shop could try and play hardball with you and claim that they had properly refilled the transmision.

(2) Do not drive the car back to the shop without refilling the ATF. Have someone witness that it wasn't properly filled, then refill it yourself. Keep the receipt and demand reimbursement from the shop.

(3) This gentleman appears to be writing from outside the US, so I'm not sure he has small claims court (you don't need a lawyer/cheap to file/greatly simplified rules of evidence/relatively fast) or the equivalent available to him. Threatening suit may be worthwhile, but I'm not sure that actually suing would be.

Unless the tranny promptly dies, what is the measure of damages the court would award? The cost of the ATF that the shop didn't put in? If the tranny doesn't immediate die, I doubt a court would award much for wear and tear on a car with 153,000 mi that was driven a mile without ATF. But that said--go ahead and threaten suit if you think that would gain you leverage with the shop.

#6 kentrichards

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 12:22 PM

Thanks for the replies so far! Still would love to hear others' opinions and advice, if different.

Max (Impreza_WRX_STi): you're saying that after your similar incident you've put ~180,000 miles on the same tranny with no apparent problems?

Chip: I'm in the US (California), so I do have access to small claims court.

My friend advised that I should demand a new transmission, that there is no question that the shop is liable (even though I drove it dry, it's not my responsibility to verify that the shop did what they said they did. So it's their fault that it was dry when I drove it home). Opinions?

Kent

#7 Strakes

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 12:45 PM

They didn't put ATF in your front differential did they? I'd check that also because I've seen it almost happen at a quick oil change place on somebody else's subaru. Running any of the components very low on their fluid damages the internals very quickly. The only way to tell how much damage is by a tear down and rebuild. Some people get lucky and refill it (like a guy I know's leased Honda Accord) and it keeps working...but I wouldn't want to be the person who'd be buying this car used later this year after he turns the lease in.

#8 timn29

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 12:48 PM

I have no suggestions, but feel your pain. I had my rear main seal replaced last year and just found that the shop lost my AT dipstick altogether. Of course I made them replace it for free, but the moral is..."double-check the shop's work no matter what, before the drive home." Good luck.

#9 cookie

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 01:22 PM

and add it before you drive back. On the good side most trannies will survive this if it had fluid enough to move. Also most shops have insurance for this.

#10 Impreza_WRX_STi

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 01:32 PM

I know before I can get a tech to work on my car, I have to sign a paper, and it states: there is no warranty on labor. That comes from my local shop, maybe not for you, but in a court case that would give them support because of my signature. Check on that.
YES, I have the stock 4EAT with 215,000 miles on it, and I have shifted it manually since day one. The day I had no ATF I literally drove the car hard. It was a jerky ride. I probably put 5 in-town miles on it.

One thing I can say, is back in 1996 Subaru's were pretty rare around my area in Illinois. Even today, the nearest dealership is 55 miles away. Also, back in 1996 There was no one else my age driving the kind of car I drove, so I had no one to really gather more knowledge with on subaru's back then. The internet and message boards like this make more possible to gain the understanding of information of our cars, and also people's mistakes (like mine). I wish in 1996 there were the options of enthusiast message boards like today,and maybe I could have just posted a thread and the answer could have been answered in a couple hours instead of me running around making things worse. Even though I have been fortunate to be able to continue driving my 4EAT.

My point is take all the info in you recieve from these message boards, it will always help you. Especially in a situation like this.

I have also used Trick Shift ATF since day one. Maybe that why it is still going?

Keep us posted

Max

#11 kentrichards

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 03:47 PM

Apparently I checked the fluid with the engine running the first time (only a tiny dab of fluid on the tippy tip of the diptstick). When I checked it again with the engine off, there was a little fluid there - came up almost up to the "Low-cold" mark. So, it wasn't completely dry.

Sorry for the misinformation.

So this might increase the chance that the tranny will be ok?

Kent

#12 ccrinc

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 10:19 PM

No, you're supposed to check the tranny with the engine running.

Emily
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#13 Impreza_WRX_STi

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Posted 16 May 2004 - 11:19 PM

I usually use both cold and hot to indicate the ATF level. I do generally give the 'HOT' more pull though.

Max




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