mystery red fluid leak - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-04-2013, 06:59 PM Thread Starter
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mystery red fluid leak

I own a 1998 2.2 liter Legacy station wagon. 190k miles. About a week ago I smelled something coming through the vents, not oil smell but kinda a sweet smell. So, I checked my fluids, and my power steering fluid was quite low...though I have not checked it for several months, so not sure it was low recently or over a period of time. There is red residue fluid on the right passenger side in the front of engine block..mid-lower part..kinda above the oil filter on front of engine. Is this power steering fluid? Or something else? Thus far, oil and tranny fluid full. The red residue indeed looks like PW fluid, but not sure. Also, small red spot in the snow. I did top off the anti freeze two weeks ago in the reserve...but it is still at same level. Oh yes, also a pool of red power steering fluid under the filling container on top of engine too...but has been wet in it that area awhile and never thought much of it until now. Could this built up pool drain down to the engine block and this may be a slow leak that eventually could smell?
I am watching it closely, as obviously will need fixing if leaks bad. I heard this area leaks over time from old PW seals, etc?? It did get VERY cold here in the Northeast past week......but probably no connection. Any possibility this is
an external head gasket issue on the 2.2 liter......still why the red color? Any insight appreciated.

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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-04-2013, 08:07 PM
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Red fluid indicates either powersteering fluid (which uses ATF fluid) or the ATF fluid (for automatic transmission). If the car is automatic you can check with dip stick on drivers side near the back of the engine for the level of the tranmission fluid. If that isn't low then it would be the powersteering leaking, it could be multiple things leaking such as the powersteering rack which is expensive to replace or just a tube.

The 2.2L engine doesn't have headgasket failure, it is the 2.5L that is notorious for that. Even if it was leaking it would be either oil (brown, black or yellow) or coolant (greenish blue).

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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-04-2013, 09:20 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info......I will keep a watch on the power steering fluid level
and the tranny. I wonder where the tubes are located in the PS area? Are they
rubber type? Could check for a leak if can get access to them.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-04-2013, 10:50 PM
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Sandyscamper--you have several tubes that are attached to the power steering rack itself. you have two hoses that lead from the power steering pump along the passenger side (attached to the top of passenger side valve cover) that lead down to the steering rack. The steering rack is under the cross member. The two hoses attach to the steering rack using high pressure hydraulic fittings. To access any of the pipes, you look up from under the car. There are two smaller steel pipes (labeled pipe A and pipe B on service manual) that come out of the steering rack and go towards the driver side. Leaks occur because the o-ring deteriorates under compression and leaks.

In the repairs that I did on a my steering rack leak, I had to replace pipe A because the fitting was bad and I replaced o-rings. I also used high tempt thread sealer. O-rings I bought from McMaster and Carr.

the url below shows you a service manual for the 98 Outback. go to page 106 for a diagram of power steering components and page 116 for procedures and torque specs.

the o-rings that I used were the following part numbers:
9262k422 metric buna-n o-ring 1.5mm width, 4mm ID
9262k102 metric buna-n o-ring 1mm width, 4mm ID

they come in packs of 100 and are in-expensive. I forget which o-ring I used, but I test fit for best diameter.


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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-05-2013, 06:01 PM
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for late 90s power steering fluid leaks:

usually it is the o-ring in between the reservoir on top and the pump underneath.

suck all the fluid out of the reservoir.
disconnect the return hose, or maybe not.
unscrew the one bolt INSIDE the reservoir on the bottom. ( i left the bolt in side.)
replace the o-ring.
re-install the bolt.
reconnect the hose if needed.
fill with fluid to the proper level. (the proper level is not all the way to the top. i'm not sure why, but perhaps to allow for fluid expansion when hot.)

happy motoring.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-06-2013, 12:12 PM Thread Starter
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Lucas power steering sealer work?

Yes, it appears this is likely the leak area. I put in a refill of power steering fluid
and checked the next day. Looks like a slow leak, but I did notice a small pool
of red fluid below the fill tank.....likely the o-ring issue.
I read of several reviews that Lucas power steering anti-leak conditioner stuff works well to seal leaks. Anyone try this stuff? Does it work, and is it safe to use? I was thinking about using it until inspection time in a few months to get by.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-06-2013, 12:26 PM
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i have used ''trans-X'' stop leak / fix for power steering. it worked great and had no bad side effects. i chose this brand because they have one that works like magic for the ''slow to engage'' 00 auto trans issue.

but the repair only takes about 30 minutes.
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