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Auto transmission slippage - 2001 Outback


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10 replies to this topic

#1 Semmes

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 11:52 AM

First, let me say that this looks like a really nice forum! It's good to see the level of activity and information that you have here.

I'm trying to deal with an interesting problem, and after checking out the previous posts, I don't recall seeing anything precisely like this. But with some similar problems, I think I have an idea on what's going on here, and would like some feedback.

On Thursday, I took my vehicle (2001 Outback, auto transmission, 87,000 miles/139,200 km) in to my favorite local independent garage for an oil change, tire rotation, and to have the transmission fluid changed as well. This was the first time for trans fluid change. After having all of this work done, I noticed that the transmission was slipping. I immediately returned and spoke to the mechanic about this. He stated that the service materials indicated that it would take a little while for the circuitry to reset and it would then stop. That didn't happen, and I returned on Friday morning to speak with them about this. After test driving the vehicle several times, the mechanic stated that it appeared to be improving. We discussed this further, and thought that it might be a case where the reset process simply took longer than we originally thought. Driving to the office wasn't too bad, although it still slipped to some degree. Well, that was a nice theory, but events would prove us wrong.

I stopped by my girlfriend's house last night for dinner, and when driving home, noticed that the level of slippage was just terrible. It really bogged down on a hill next to her house. The same thing happened when driving in to the office this morning. Since her house and my office are both about two miles away from my home, and with temperatures very low in this area right now, the car didn't really warm up to speak of, either last night or this morning.

I've spoken to the mechanics this morning, and they don't have a ready explanation, either, but are willing to do what's necessary to make it right. When the transmission fluid was changed, the exterior filter was not replaced. With the miles on the car, I have the suspicion that the fluid change disturbed some of the sludge that built up on the bottom of the pan so that there are some partial blockages within the various passages in the transmission. Due to those, pressure is not what it should be, and the transmission slips badly until things warm up and the problem eases at that point but does not go away. I am not aware of any leaks or problems with the seals. From previous posts, I think what needs to be done is for the transmission to be power flushed, and for the external transmission filter to be replaced.

So far, this has been a fairly trouble free car, and it has been a good choice all the way around. What are your thoughts on this attempt at diagnosis?

Thanks,

Semmes

#2 The Dude

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Posted 22 January 2005 - 07:53 PM

First, the really obvious things. You have checked the ATF level, right? Second, I would drain the transmission and refill it with the proper ATF fluid (Dextron III, I think, but check). An AT is not like an engine. There are no combustion by-products and carbon particles floating around in an AT. The TCU doesn't have to reset after a fluid change, that's pure BS.
I had one quickie oil change place drain my AT instead of the crankcase, so watch out! Fortunately, I always check the oil and AT whenever ANYONE works on my car.

#3 howards11

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Posted 23 January 2005 - 12:59 AM

How about changing the ATF again and put on a new filter this time. I'd also add some of this Lubegard.


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#4 friendly_jacek

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Posted 23 January 2005 - 11:52 PM


On Thursday, I took my vehicle (2001 Outback, auto transmission, 87,000 miles/139,200 km) in to my favorite local independent garage for an oil change, tire rotation, and to have the transmission fluid changed as well. This was the first time for trans fluid change.

Here is the problem, the ATF is supposed to be changes every 30000 miles in subarus. You problem is a classical example of AT failing after fluid change after long time of neglect. Either change regularly or not at all. Try adding additives increasing friction. Dirt in your old fluid served as this "friction modifier" proping worn clutches.
Good luck!

#5 Semmes

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Posted 24 January 2005 - 02:15 PM

Here's the latest update on the transmission issues.

First, I have checked the transmission fluid levels, and it does appear to be low. In fact, other than some trace amounts along the edge of the dipstick, it doesn't even register on the stick. I called the garage, and they stated that they put around 2.5 quarts in the transmission, since their data indicates that unless the pan is dropped, that is all that is needed when the drain plug is removed and it's drained that way. I can't find anything that says that, even though they claim that it came from the owner's information, so color me skeptical.

Second, on page 7-14 of my owner's manual, it states:
"Immediately after a disconnected battery is reconnected or ATF is replaced, you may feel that the automatic transmission operation is somewhat unusual.
This results from erasure or invalidation of data the on-board computer has collected and stored in memory to allow the transmission to shift at the most appropriate times for the current condition of your vehicle. Optimized shifting will be restored as the vehicle continues to be driven for a while."

I'm going to put some ATF fluid (Dexron III) in this afternoon on the way home. I have a two mile commute, thankfully. From checking things out, I believe that this has to be done through the dipstick tube.

I've told the garage that I HOPE that there's no transmission damage, hinting that they will have to pony up some money for a transmission shop to replace/repair the transmission if they've screwed this up.

I am planning on taking this back to them and standing in the service bay to have them do a complete pan out draining and external filter replacement.

Thanks for the feedback.

Semmes

#6 The Dude

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Posted 24 January 2005 - 02:28 PM

At this point I would operate on the assumption that the AT was not properly filled with AT fluid. OR that the drain plug was not properly tightened. Check the AT oil pan for evidence of AT having leaked from a loose drain plug.

#7 sea#3

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Posted 24 January 2005 - 03:37 PM

I would be a little worried that there is probably some damage as a result of the low fluid and driving the vehichle . Normaly it take 4 litres (4 US quarts ) to fill to the proper level after draining the pan
That should have been the first thing they checked when you brought it back the first time
By any chance is this "garage " one of those LUBE places?

SEA#3

#8 Semmes

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Posted 24 January 2005 - 03:59 PM

The garage is a full service independent shop that I've used for well over 12 years. They handle most repairs, other than really large scale stuff like engine swaps, etc.

I'm kind of concerned about the condition of the transmission, also. I'm wondering if it might be advisable to have it checked out either at the local Subaru dealership, or an independent transmission repair facility. I'm inclined to go with the transmission shop, since that's all that they do. We'll find out. I'm going to leave the office early and top off the transmission and see just how many quarts low we're talking about.

This drives home the fact that this is the only vehicle that I have, and should it be down for any period of time, I'm stuck, unless I either walk to work or use my bicycle. Here in the Midwest, that's not always fun in the winter. I've been toying with the idea of a second car, and this might be time to check into that. A late model low mileage WRX might be a fun second vehicle.

Thanks,

Semmes

#9 The Dude

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Posted 24 January 2005 - 05:12 PM

A number of things:
1. When you went back to the mechanic with a slipping tranny, he didn't even check the ATF level. Very, very bad. For anyone with the intelligence of a tapeworm checking the AT fluid level would be a no brainer.
2. You didn't check the ATF level. Get used to checking the fluid levels on YOUR car. BTW, have you checked the front diff oil level? ALWAYS check the oil and ATF when anyone has worked on YOUR car.
3. Given the short distance, you PROBABLY didn't damage the AT. Anyway, it would be very hard to prove that any damage was caused by this particular shop.

I like Subarus. But I will tell you this. It is very easy to do a lot of expensive damage to these cars through ignorance or neglect. Read and understand the owner's manual. Know how to have the car towed. And always check the fluid levels when anyone, including a Subaru dealership, work on your car. Nuff said.

#10 Semmes

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 11:43 AM

Well, here's how things finally worked out.

I purchased some Dexron III and put 2 quarts in before I hit the low indicator mark for a cold engine.

Secondly, I made an immediate appointment for a very well-regarded local transmission shop to do an inspection and complete fluid replacement.

They did so, and mentioned that the front differential was full of transmission fluid. The transmission and the differential appeared to be alright, and they felt confident in clearing the codes.

Clearly, the local garage was used to working with Detroit designs, where the auto transmission dipstick and filler are on the passenger side of the engine. They've done various oil changes, balancing, alignment, tire changes, and brake rotor machining on my Outback, with no problems. This has been the first real glitch I've encountered with them.

I've spoken to them about this, and they were properly apologetic. I will get a refund of what I paid them for the transmission fluid change, as well as what I paid for the differential fluid change.

I would say that Dude has given some good advice, albeit in somewhat stern fashion. :D It's been a good learning experience, and hopefully others will get something out of this, too.

Thanks for all the advice!

Semmes

#11 richierich

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 05:36 PM

The Dude, also forgot to tell you to change your fluids every 30,000. You got off luck this time, might not be so luck next time. I have a customer that used his car in his job as a ski instructor, he has me change his fluid every fall. This may be excessive, but it is his opinion that the service is way cheaper than a transmission, and he knows he drives it hard up to the mountain.




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