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Old 01-12-2013, 02:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Trans fluid getting into my oil

I have an '04 legacy outback with 117K. I've only had this car for a few months now. Soon after I bought it I took it to our usual subaru mech. to check it out. He said the trans fluid was a little low so he did the drain, add, and new filter. Soon after that I gave it an oil change and thought to myself that a little more than usual came out. I just marked it up as the previous owner put too much in. Later on I checked the oil and saw the level was way higher than it should be, slightly thinner, and had a red tint. I know this isn't good at all and will do another oil change, but I'm in the process of moving and was wondering if anybody had any idea of what is causing this. I've read others mentioning this online but with different vehicles and only one mentioned a transmission vacuum diaphragm, or modulator valve. Any help will be welcome.
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Old 01-12-2013, 03:56 PM   #2 (permalink)
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have you checked the transmission fluid level too?
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Old 01-12-2013, 04:55 PM   #3 (permalink)
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It's possible for the ATF from the transmission to get into the front differential, but there's no open path I know of for it to get into the engine. The front-most ATF use is in the torque converter, and if it were to leak, which itself is rare, the ATF would drain out the bottom of the bell housing. Even if the bell housing were to fill with ATF, the fluid would have to get by the rear crank shaft seal. That's possible, but the filled-bell housing scenario is not likely.

If it was ATF in the engine, it would be more likely someone might have mixed up drains and/or fill tubes.
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Old 01-12-2013, 06:58 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Couple things:
Could be tranny fluid in the oil, in which case someone put it there.
Could be coolant, there are easy cheap tests for that at the auto store.
Could be someone before you is using an additive or a dye to convert up or find some other problem.

By the way, tranny fluid is oil with more "stuff" in it so if it's only been a little while and you get it cleaned out you should be okay. Over filling oil can be really bad though.

Again this emphasizes the high importance of always checking your fluid levels frequently.
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Old 01-17-2013, 07:49 PM   #5 (permalink)
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If there's a small internal head gasket leak, AND a small leak in the ATF line running through the engine coolant radiator, I suppose it's possible that ATF _could_ get into the engine oil. This route of entry would see coolant consumption (or even overflow tank level increase if the high-pressure tranny pushes fluid out of the radiator), and also coolant in the engine oil. I'm not AT ALL convinced this is happening, but I suppose it _could_ at least in theory.

How's fuel economy? Last time an engine (on the farm some years back) saw engine oil levels increasing over time, it was a leaking injector dumping fuel into the engine after shutoff (and during running).
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Old 01-17-2013, 08:20 PM   #6 (permalink)
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fresh oil and filter, drive for a couple hundred miles and repeat. better safe than sorry.

and check the trans fluid level. a drain and fill there can't hurt either. but the ATF dip stick is really hard to read correctly so be careful.

there is no way ATF got in the crank case unless someone put it there.
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Old 01-17-2013, 08:22 PM   #7 (permalink)
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can't happen (not including bulwnkl's awesome account above), so either what we're reading is wrong, someone is putting the wrong fluid in the wrong hole (happens) or something else is wonky.

the ATF and engine oil are completely separate systems and share nothing where mixing is possible.
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Old 01-17-2013, 10:15 PM   #8 (permalink)
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most likely scenario, mechanic handed the car over to an 'apprentice' who put trans fluid in the oil - realized part way thru he scr3wed up, properly filled the trans but was too frightened to mention the oil issue.
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Old 02-19-2014, 01:44 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Hello Guys,

I have a buddy at work that just asked me this same question today. He has an 03 Outback and is seeing the same issue. This guy does all his own servicing and recently found a trans filter leak so drained and replaced both the engine oil and trans oil's. He knows enough not to have put the wrong fluid in the wrong location.

Today he checked his engine oil and there is a slight tint of red and the trans fluid is low...

OP

Did you happen to find anything out on this issue?

Thanks,

Nate
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Old 02-19-2014, 01:48 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I think the red tint to the oil in the engine is totally unrelated to the ATF - no possible way for the Fluid in the Automatic to get into the engine.
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