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I have a 2010 Subaru Outback 2.4L with about 144,000 miles. I was doing an oil change on Monday and saw some fluid leaking. The area I've circled had fluid on it with it 'pooling' on the bolt near the middle of the circle. It appears to be coming from the front differential but I am by no means an expert and was wondering if I was right. I'm only guessing this because of the 'Diff Oil'  label to the right.

Last winter as part of some scheduled maintenance I had a Subaru dealer replace the differential oil since it was -40c out and a couple of the things were beyond my comfort level. Over the summer the Subaru is our second vehicle so it didn't get driven much but I started noticing some small spots of fluid on the driveway. I wasn't too worried and was going to check next time I was under there as there wasn't any major spots and I couldn't see anything from the top.

If it is the a differential seal/gasket, it seems like something that needs replacing before it destroys itself from what I'm read but I wanted to get some thoughts before running ahead and doing something. Thanks!

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smell it - diff lube is distinctly foul compared to engine oil - you can confirm that by smelling the 2 dipsticks.

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Looks like the gasket to me. Changing the gear oil will break up the gunk at the seals causing leaks. Is this the first oil change in 144,000 miles? That's got to be the problem I'm thinking. 

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Bring it back to the dealership and see if they will give you a deal since they replaced the gear oil and now there's a leak. They might do a deal.

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What is the scheduled maintenance of this car? I race mine (Subaru and Evo) and have changed my dif oil frequently. 144,00 miles seems to be very high for a Subaru basic maintenance, but that said I don't do basic.

Edited by coryl

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Thanks for the replies. It's Thanksgiving weekend up here in Canada so I've been away/busy for the last few days.
 

On 10/5/2018 at 6:23 AM, 1 Lucky Texan said:

smell it - diff lube is distinctly foul compared to engine oil - you can confirm that by smelling the 2 dipsticks.

I got under there today and checked the fluid as 1 Lucky Texan mentioned since when I initially noticed it I just wiped it up. It hadn't been driven much in the past week so there wasn't as much dripping as before but what I could get was, minus the dirt, honey coloured and had a smell of grease/glue stick/bit of exhaust. From searching I'm thinking this is differential fluid? I only had a few drops to go on but didn't smell like oil to me.
 

On 10/6/2018 at 11:39 PM, coryl said:

Looks like the gasket to me. Changing the gear oil will break up the gunk at the seals causing leaks. Is this the first oil change in 144,000 miles? That's got to be the problem I'm thinking. 

With regards to Coryl, we bought the vehicle almost two years ago from the second owner. He was an independant mechanic and Subaru fan. From my knowledge everything was up to date on the maintenance prior to the purchase. I keep up with the minor stuff like oil changes myself but brought it in last winter for a few things that were due since we were going to be in a City with a dealership and I didn't feel like messing around outside at -40. I'm assuming everything they did was done decently well and probably as you say it just loosened things up. I'd probably follow up with the dealership, even though it has been ~6 months since who knows what they'd say, but it's a seven hour round trip so may not be worth it.
 

On 10/7/2018 at 2:07 AM, GeneralDisorder said:

DS axle seal. Who replaced or rebooted the DS CV axle assembly?

GD

We had a bunch of front end stuff last fall and winter needing to be replaced, practically new under there. I had some noise from the inner joint when driving and had a local mechanic change the axle since I was on the fence if I'd be able to do it myself, never done it before. Lots of people speak highly of him. It is a non-Subaru axle as the mounting repair costs were getting up there and it was a bit out of our budget at that time. I fully understand that it'll probably go earlier that a Subaru one but I knew that going in. I didn't reboot it as the joint was making noise. When I looked today the inner joint area isn't 'wet' but it isn't dry either. I figured it was whatever was leaking getting up there but maybe it's the grease coming down?


You can probably see based on the differential, or so I've read, that this has a CVT if that makes a difference.

Any thoughts as to the two possibilities? Thanks again everyone.

Edited by potter2010
Added information.

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They popped the spring out of the axle seal or cut the seal when they were removing or installing the axle from the front diff. You are slowly losing gear oil due to a lack of seal lip spring tension. The mechanic that installed the axle owes you a seal. 

GD

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Damn. I was hoping for a easier/cheaper fix.

Everyone here seems to agree that it's gear oil leaking and the axle seal seems like it might be where the leak is coming from versus the gasket since the inner cv joint isn't dry and that side of the differential is wet.

I'm guessing the procedure for putting in a new seal would be very similar to replacing a half axle, a butt load of work, though I still need to check my Haynes manual. Is there any chance of the non-Subaru axle causing damage or needing to be replaced at the same time as the seal?

About how long do these seals last? I'm wondering if the axle change damaged it or it could have just gone on its own.

Edited by potter2010
Extra question.

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They last forever if some wingnut doesn't damage them when changing the axle. Axle swap is about 15 minutes on that car. Seal is going to add about 5 minutes. Axle and seal both fall under the hour minimum at my shop. I will do both front axles for 1.5 hours. 

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use a Subaru seal, they are directional and therefore right/left dependent. 

correct, seal replacement is similar labor to axle job, as GD said it's not hard or long, certainly not a "butt load" of work.  they're rather easy.

get a free FSM online rather than the haynes manual.   your front axle job will be identical to any outback since 2005 so you can also google axle job and probably find a video.

as much as i hate aftermarket axles, it's unlikely to do damage if it's currently asymptomatic.  i've only seen two new aftermarket axles blow to pieces while driving (one on the interstate)...they're trash but not much chance of damage.

 

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6 hours ago, GeneralDisorder said:

They last forever if some wingnut doesn't damage them when changing the axle. Axle swap is about 15 minutes on that car. Seal is going to add about 5 minutes. Axle and seal both fall under the hour minimum at my shop. I will do both front axles for 1.5 hours. 

Sounds like some wingnut did. I've looked at some image tutorials online and seems like I could theoretically do it myself, though I'll guarantee it'll be longer than an hour for me. I'm still in the learning stage. It looks like I can get enough play on the axle by unbolting a few other things to get it out so I may get away without having to get an alignment after since everything doesn't need to be disassembled. Wish I had your shop nearby!
 

2 hours ago, idosubaru said:

use a Subaru seal, they are directional and therefore right/left dependent. 

correct, seal replacement is similar labor to axle job, as GD said it's not hard or long, certainly not a "butt load" of work.  they're rather easy.

get a free FSM online rather than the haynes manual.   your front axle job will be identical to any outback since 2005 so you can also google axle job and probably find a video.

as much as i hate aftermarket axles, it's unlikely to do damage if it's currently asymptomatic.  i've only seen two new aftermarket axles blow to pieces while driving (one on the interstate)...they're trash but not much chance of damage.

 

There's some things I'll take the gamble on but a seal like this certainly makes sense to go Subaru brand. I figured the axles were probably similar to other but if I'm not mistaken the 2010 was the first year of that generation so it's good to know that even going back to 2005 will be the same/similar. When we replace them I'll get Subaru ones, and I wanted to last time, but just couldn't do it with the other repairs and buying a second vehicle. My wife also gets parts through NAPA at cost +10% so it was hard to pass up!

I've played around with digital FSM before but how the heck does anyone ever find anything in them? I'm assuming a true physical copy is a easier but I seem to spend longer going through the files than what it'd take to do the repair.

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All you have to do besides take off the wheel is remove the ball joint pinch bolt on the knuckle and pry the ball joint out of the knuckle. Zip off the axle nut and the axle will come out of the knuckle. Then pry it out of the trans. Install is reverse. 

As for aftermarket... we won't even go there with axles. At one point about three years ago I got 8 bad front axles in a row. Unfortunately 2007/8 is the last year for Subaru reman axles so far. So on a 2010 they are $399 each. Either that or reboot some used ones. 

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GD - does the swaybar endlink come off too?

 

axle;

new or re-booting a used OEM axle is best

new aftermarket is a coin toss (FEQ, EMPI, etc.)

typical rebuilts from a parts store is a roullette wheel spin! - don't get suckered by the lifetime warranty.

Edited by 1 Lucky Texan

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7 hours ago, GeneralDisorder said:

All you have to do besides take off the wheel is remove the ball joint pinch bolt on the knuckle and pry the ball joint out of the knuckle. Zip off the axle nut and the axle will come out of the knuckle. Then pry it out of the trans. Install is reverse. 

As for aftermarket... we won't even go there with axles. At one point about three years ago I got 8 bad front axles in a row. Unfortunately 2007/8 is the last year for Subaru reman axles so far. So on a 2010 they are $399 each. Either that or reboot some used ones. 

That is a big unknown here in the NE rust belt. Be prepared to have to drill that sucker out.

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7 hours ago, GeneralDisorder said:

All you have to do besides take off the wheel is remove the ball joint pinch bolt on the knuckle and pry the ball joint out of the knuckle.. 

 

1 minute ago, brus brother said:

That is a big unknown here in the NE rust belt. Be prepared to have to drill that sucker out.

In the rust belt - just remove the top strut mount bolt after marking it for alignment, loosen the lower one.  No rust issues there.  I've done it on a some 2005+ legacy/outbacks but I don't think it worked on the tribeca due to not enough clearance from the stubby shaft that now slides into the trans being apart of the axle.  so i guess it's model dependent. 

But yeah - avoid the pinch bolt at all costs.  The lower ball joint bolt might be easier if that's a possibility.  

 

20 minutes ago, 1 Lucky Texan said:

GD - does the swaybar endlink come off too?

new or re-booting a used OEM axle is best.

Maybe it's model dependent but the swaybar link doesn't need to come off on the few 2005+ I've done. 

 

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I'll have to take a look at the specifics to my year/model as there have been a few different ways posted on here and on Youtube and see which is the easiest. It seems as long as you can create enough give there's no one specific way. Thanks everyone for the advice, I probably wouldn't have made my way to the seal until I'd replaced a few other things. It might take be a bit of time to get the part and do it but as long as the snow doesn't get too deep and the temperature not too far below zero it looks like something I could take on. I'll post the update once it's done.

 

Thanks again!

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