'98 outback transmission, coolant change or flush? - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums

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Old 08-12-2010, 09:54 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default '98 outback transmission, coolant change or flush?

I've been working on the '98 outback with auto transmission we just got and so far it's a lot better, no more missing and it's got more power. The car currently has 210k, so this weekend I'll be changing the oil and hopefully getting the spark plugs replaced with NGK platinums.

The next area I'm looking at is the transmission. It frequently shifts a little hard from 1st to 2nd and the fluid is in need of a change. It is browish and there appears to be metal flakes on the dip stick. I know this is a bad sign, but I'm hoping to be able to save it, or at least run it until it dies .

I figure I have two options.
1. Bring it to the dealer for a flush. This will cost me about $200 plus tax. Alternatively I could see how much my local shop wants to do the same.
2. I can drop the pan, hopefully getting most of the metal and worn fluid out and replace with new fluid. I figure this will likely run me about $50-75 (fluid and new gasket) I looked under the car from the side and I didn't see an external filter. Does anyone know if the '98 transmission has an external filter or the internal screen? If I pull the pan will I be able to see and clean the screen too?
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Old 08-12-2010, 10:57 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Dont drop the pan, as they may leak afterwards. the filter is a screen so let it be.

If you can drop a pan why in heck are you going to a dealer for a flush? Just drain, fill, in the driveway run the car through all the gears then drive it down the block and repeat. Do this 4 times. That will get 90% of the fluid.

BTW soobies shift hard on the 1-2 so you may never get it to go away. Sometimes the dropping resistor under the battery is fried and make for hard shifting, but it has no effect on the life of the tranny.
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Old 08-12-2010, 11:11 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Well to be perfectly honest I've never replaced tranny fluid before. I've changed oil, replaced spark plugs and rotated tires... Other stuff has been to the mechanic. I've been trying to do more to save money since it's been pretty tight the last year or so. Looking at this it doesn't seem much more difficult than an oil change though so I figure its worth a shot.

My concern is not getting all the bad fluid and shavings out of the tranny doing it myself, but am willing to give it a go. How many quarts of fluid should I buy? And the Haynes manual says to use Dextron II, is this correct?
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Old 08-12-2010, 11:32 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Its easy, one case of oil. Hydraulice fluid gets refreshed with the addition of new fluid. You never get all the engine oil out in an oil change, and never in a transmission. There is nothing wrong with 1 qt floating around out of 16. Dextron II

After this do what I do, every other oil change just drain the tranny fluid and refill it. This way you never really have to do a flush.
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Old 08-13-2010, 01:47 AM   #5 (permalink)
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There is no external AT filter on the GEN 1 cars. My 97 owner's manual says use Dexron II or Dexron III ATF ... just about any ATF labeled DEX/MERC should work just fine ... and don't sweat it: changing the ATF is easier than changing the engine oil.

Each drain-and-fill will need 4.25 to 4.5 quarts, so doing four of them will require 18 quarts. If you drop the pan, add another 2 quarts.

I'll disagree with Nipper on dropping the pan ... IMO, it's good to clean it out and it's sort of a rite of passage. Be sure to put the magnet back in the pan after cleaning. If you get a gasket and use a little RTV as a gasket dressing (Permatex Ultra-Gray works well), it should not leak ... at least mine never has. It won't hurt to change the filter, but probably not necessary.

The factory used only RTV to seal the pan (no gasket), so plan on a couple of hours for the job as cleaning off the old RTV material is time consuming and tedious.

One other potential gotcha: the torque spec on the pan bolts is only 3.6 +/- .4 ft-lbs ... do NOT over tighten them as they will snap off ... ask me how I know this! One other tip: the higher you can SAFELY raise the car, the easier the pan job will be. Ramps and/or jack stands are useful.
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Old 08-13-2010, 06:09 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I think I'll probably just drain the fluid first and see how that goes. I can always drop the pan later if I don't feel like I've gotten enough garbage out.
What is RTV? I'll probably just buy a gasket if I drop the pan, where is the beat place to get one of those?
I do have a 3 ton jack and a pair of jack stands, but plan on buying or building a pair if ramps soon as I'd feel better about being under the car for with ramps. I may have to build a pair as my LHS is too low for rhino ramps. The harbor freight sales flier had some ramps and they looked like theyoght work from the pic so maybe I'll go there and check them out. I want to stop and get a hand pump anyway to change the differential fluid.
One somewhat non-related question: I haven't really looked under to be sure but does this car have both front and rear differentials that need gear oil?
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Old 08-13-2010, 06:59 AM   #7 (permalink)
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One other question. I have a 1/2" torque wrench, but don't want to use that for the transmission pan. My neighbor has a 3/8" torque wrench so I can probably borrow that... but still for 3.6 lbs I don't think either is sensitive enough and I can't afford to go get a really good 1/4" one... maybe a $22 one from HF. Is it worth it to get a 1/4" one from HF or just be careful and use the 1/4" ratchet I already have?
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Old 08-13-2010, 12:13 PM   #8 (permalink)
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RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) is a sealant, usually in the form of a paste. The Permatex brand is one of the most popular and can be found at any auto-parts store. When I did my pan, I used a gasket with a light coating of Permatex Ultra-Gray RTV on both sides of the gasket ... no leaks. I bought a Fram filter that came with a gasket and they fit perfectly.

As far as torquing the pan bolts, you could buy/borrow an inch-pound wrench (3.6 ft-lbs = 43 inch-lbs.) The pan bolts have a hex head and are also slotted for a Phillips screwdriver, which is what I used ... I tightened them up as much as I could with the screwdriver knowing there was no way I was going to break one without the leverage of a ratchet wrench ... then checked them again a few days later and all were well. Once the RTV sets up (24 hrs?), the pan and screws aren't going anywhere.

Yes, there are front and rear differentials. For each one, Subaru specs a GL-5 rated gear oil ... an 80W-90 oil will cover all temperature ranges. The front diff capacity is 1.3 qts and the rear is .8 qts ... which of course means you'll need to buy 3 qts and have a lot left over. A pump is very useful for the rear diff ... you'll need a funnel for the front diff as it fills from the top.

Search the DIY section of the forum for articles on both the trans and the diffs.
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Old 08-13-2010, 12:37 PM   #9 (permalink)
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If you drop the pan, which I am 100% against for someone who has never done it before.. DO NOT PRY THE PAN OFF! This is where people bend the sealing surface of the pan and do not have the proper flat surface (and not a wooden block or work bench, that can make it worse) to get it correct. It always leaks after this.

If the pan does not come off within a reasonable amount of time of reasonable hammering with a rubber mallet, do not sweat it. The material in the bottom of the pan is where it would normally collect. I call this the pile of lies. This is because this is the pile of (normal) material that every transmission shop uses to to sell someone a new transmission. If it was really important to get out, a dealer would charge you to change that. Dealers will do anything to make a buck, and oddly this is one area they do not fool people into.

Don't get me tsrated on fuel injector cleaners though.

I have had many many cars including customers where I have not had to drop the pan, unless the "filter" is an actual filter and not a screen as in subarus. My own cars I do not drop them, and it is not out of lazyness, trust me. Just no need to do it and I would if I was afraid it would kill a tranny.

You can add an external filter, but even those have long service intervals. They are more apt to do a real filtering then the screen. Subaru does not call for this screen change ever.
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Old 08-13-2010, 12:42 PM   #10 (permalink)
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OK, I'm going shopping tomorrow for all the stuff I'll need. Hopefully I'll have time to get everything done, but I highly don't that ad my to-do list is looong. Thanks for the help thus far, I'll post when I have an update
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