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Discussion Starter #1
Hi Folks

Hoping to get PlainOM and some other gear/drivetrain experts to weigh in. I have 35K miles and just bought some Subaru ATF and the crush washer to do a drain and fill. Stupidly, I have not checked the ATF level until now. I have had it in a dealership 4-5 times for AC warranty and recall issues and each time they checked the ATF box as good.

Well, last night I checked the level hot - way up above the top hash hole. Eight hours later this morning with the fluid cold, the level is still above the HOT top hash hole. It is an awkward dipstick pull, but I checked it probably 5 times hot and 3 cold. I cannot imagine the dip tube having that much residual fluid eight hours later. Is there something I am missing or some trick I need to know? I have changed AT pans, AT filters, and fluid more than once on other vehicles and this high level is a first.

Not happy considering the miles driven and my use of the gears. Fluid doesn't look or smell burnt or dirty.

Not sure if I should take it in to a Dealer or just drain it and start with 2 or 3 quarts on the refill and checking it hot and cold to make sure that it is expanding and contracting within the proper hash holes. I believe that I read that the drain and fill only takes care of 4 of the 10.8 quarts in the AT.

Any advice would be appreciated. I know I should have been on the ATF since day one to set a baseline. Not sure anything can be done except the drain and measured re-fill in steps. Obviously my concern is that the increased pressure may decrease the operation of the tranny and life of the seals.

Been changing my oil since day one and checking its level religiously.

Also bought the proper gasket for the front diff and ready to change the fluid. The 1.5 quart gear oil in the front is at the proper level and appear pristine. Almost, seems a waste of money. The rear is probably in good shape too, but I will change that 75w-90 too. My thinking is an ounce of prevention beats the pound of cure despite my failure to check my AT dip.

Thanks in advance.
 

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Well I'm not the god PlainOm is but I'll say something anyway. (why not pm him ;) )

I'm going to assume for the moment you know how to check the fluid (level surface, engine hot, select all gears, then check the stick with the engine still running) but from you post it looks like you are saying you just checked the Trans fluid for the first time after 35k miles and it is above the top fill line.

How high above the line is it? If it's like an inch, it might be a problem. If it's only slightly high, it's most likely normal.
 

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Well, last night I checked the level hot - way up above the top hash hole. Eight hours later this morning with the fluid cold, the level is still above the HOT top hash hole.
It sure shouldn't be above the top mark, at least not by much when fully warmed up.

This is being done with the car on a level surface and the engine running, right?

I have the 4-speed whereas I believe your 3.6 has the 5-speed AT, so there might be some differences. In any event, I found that the most reliable, and repeatable, readings are after the dipstick is pulled out for a short while before inserting it for a measurement. (Remove the dipstick, wipe it down, wait about 30 seconds or more, insert and then remove. There should be a fairly clear demarcation between the ATF and the dry stick. The wait allows fluid in the dipstick tube to run down, thereby avoiding a "smudging" of ATF on the stick that obscures the actual level.)
 

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A bit of tag-team going on. Hopefully, together we can help.
 

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Once, I gave myself a scare right before a road trip by 'checking' the AT fluid without starting the car. I had about 2 minutes of panic before....DOH! head slap! lol!

I usually move the gear shift through each gear for a few seconds too - then just let it idle..

but that dipstick is terrible at times to get a good reading.
 

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It sure shouldn't be above the top mark, at least not by much when fully warmed up.

This is being done with the car on a level surface and the engine running, right?

I have the 4-speed whereas I believe your 3.6 has the 5-speed AT, so there might be some differences. In any event, I found that the most reliable, and repeatable, readings are after the dipstick is pulled out for a short while before inserting it for a measurement. (Remove the dipstick, wipe it down, wait about 30 seconds or more, insert and then remove. There should be a fairly clear demarcation between the ATF and the dry stick. The wait allows fluid in the dipstick tube to run down, thereby avoiding a "smudging" of ATF on the stick that obscures the actual level.)
Still way better explanation than mine and a good tip about waiting, I forgot about that. I guess not having a Tanny dipstick is making me rusty! :29:
 

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Yes, make sure you move through the gears and then return to park and engine running before checking.

A trick I've seen others mention because of the difficulty with checking the actual level of the ATF - Measure the amount of fluid you take out and put exactly that much back in. Assume it was the right amount from the factory and you don't have any leaks.

And don't use your wife's good measuring cups :)

Tom
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Well I'm not the god PlainOm is but I'll say something anyway. (why not pm him ;) )

I'm going to assume for the moment you know how to check the fluid (level surface, engine hot, select all gears, then check the stick with the engine still running) but from you post it looks like you are saying you just checked the Trans fluid for the first time after 35k miles and it is above the top fill line.

How high above the line is it? If it's like an inch, it might be a problem. If it's only slightly high, it's most likely normal.

About half an inch high. Yes, hot, level, running, check.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. Wasn't off color and smelled like fresh AT sauce.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
It sure shouldn't be above the top mark, at least not by much when fully warmed up.

This is being done with the car on a level surface and the engine running, right?

I have the 4-speed whereas I believe your 3.6 has the 5-speed AT, so there might be some differences. In any event, I found that the most reliable, and repeatable, readings are after the dipstick is pulled out for a short while before inserting it for a measurement. (Remove the dipstick, wipe it down, wait about 30 seconds or more, insert and then remove. There should be a fairly clear demarcation between the ATF and the dry stick. The wait allows fluid in the dipstick tube to run down, thereby avoiding a "smudging" of ATF on the stick that obscures the actual level.)
On the third or fourth reading I left the stick out for about 3-4 mins. I'll just go ahead and do my drain and fill after work to ease my mind.
 

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The engine on/engine off issue has caught a good number of people new to Subarus.

I wonder why Subaru (and perhaps others) don't calibrate (mark) the ATF dipstick for "engine off" levels, essentially the same as for the other dipsticks (engine, MT, and the front differential on the ATs pre-CVT).

In this regard, some time ago, after ensuring that the level was correct in my Subaru AT, I waited until the car was cool (parked overnight), and noted the "engine off, engine cool" level of the ATF on the dipstick. After repeating this over several days to be sure, I marked the dipstick at that point. It's just a small scratch on the flat surface about 7/8-inch above the upper HOT hole.

I use the engine off/ATF cool mark routinely, and the specified engine on/ATF hot markings periodically. I believe they will tend to follow each other, so the engine off/ATF cool mark should be a reasonable indicator of significant changes in the level (unless someone can demonstrate to the contrary).

But I digress from the original issue . . . .
 

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The engine on/engine off issue has caught a good number of people new to Subarus.

I wonder why Subaru (and perhaps others) don't calibrate (mark) the ATF dipstick for "engine off" levels, essentially the same as for the other dipsticks (engine, MT, and the front differential on the ATs pre-CVT).

In this regard, some time ago, after ensuring that the level was correct in my Subaru AT, I waited until the car was cool (parked overnight), and noted the "engine off, engine cool" level of the ATF on the dipstick. After repeating this over several days to be sure, I marked the dipstick at that point. It's just a small scratch on the flat surface about 7/8-inch above the upper HOT hole.

I use the engine off/ATF cool mark routinely, and the specified engine on/ATF hot markings periodically. I believe they will tend to follow each other, so the engine off/ATF cool mark should be a reasonable indicator of significant changes in the level (unless someone can demonstrate to the contrary).

But I digress from the original issue . . . .

I've had this same thought but never acted on it. Good to read it seems to work. At least it should be a good quick-check indicator.
 

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The engine on/engine off issue has caught a good number of people new to Subarus.

I wonder why Subaru (and perhaps others) don't calibrate (mark) the ATF dipstick for "engine off" levels, essentially the same as for the other dipsticks (engine, MT, and the front differential on the ATs pre-CVT).

In this regard, some time ago, after ensuring that the level was correct in my Subaru AT, I waited until the car was cool (parked overnight), and noted the "engine off, engine cool" level of the ATF on the dipstick. After repeating this over several days to be sure, I marked the dipstick at that point. It's just a small scratch on the flat surface about 7/8-inch above the upper HOT hole.

I use the engine off/ATF cool mark routinely, and the specified engine on/ATF hot markings periodically. I believe they will tend to follow each other, so the engine off/ATF cool mark should be a reasonable indicator of significant changes in the level (unless someone can demonstrate to the contrary).

But I digress from the original issue . . . .
I believe the engine running check for ATF is almost universal, and is necessary because fluid can drain from cavities in the trannie when shut down, giving false high readings (Which could give a false OK reading, when the fluid is actually low. Checking hot and running, after cycling through the gears, is the only true way to assure that the level is where is should be.

Engines are supposed to drain down to the pan when shut down, with the notable exception of inverted oil filters.......faulty drain back valves can give a incorrectly high level reading, if the drain back valve malfunctions.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The engine on/engine off issue has caught a good number of people new to Subarus.

I wonder why Subaru (and perhaps others) don't calibrate (mark) the ATF dipstick for "engine off" levels, essentially the same as for the other dipsticks (engine, MT, and the front differential on the ATs pre-CVT).

In this regard, some time ago, after ensuring that the level was correct in my Subaru AT, I waited until the car was cool (parked overnight), and noted the "engine off, engine cool" level of the ATF on the dipstick. After repeating this over several days to be sure, I marked the dipstick at that point. It's just a small scratch on the flat surface about 7/8-inch above the upper HOT hole.

I use the engine off/ATF cool mark routinely, and the specified engine on/ATF hot markings periodically. I believe they will tend to follow each other, so the engine off/ATF cool mark should be a reasonable indicator of significant changes in the level (unless someone can demonstrate to the contrary).

But I digress from the original issue . . . .

Excellent tip. Thanks for the patient advice here and on many other threads. I plan on making a similar notch after observing it after work and in the am for a few days. I will hold off on the drain and fill to set up a proper baseline. If it keeps reading high. I will drain it and try to set it between the hash holes on the stick.

Yes, make sure you move through the gears and then return to park and engine running before checking.

A trick I've seen others mention because of the difficulty with checking the actual level of the ATF - Measure the amount of fluid you take out and put exactly that much back in. Assume it was the right amount from the factory and you don't have any leaks.

And don't use your wife's good measuring cups :)

Tom
Roger that. I bought some cheapo 2 quart plastic containers from the .99 for the ATF and the 2 Differentials.

Not going to use the Pyrex. She's been trying to eat organic, and I am pretty sure the AT sauce and various heavy metals in suspension wouldn't be on the list.

[email protected]*# $4.49 organic eggs.

I am not sure if I can get a clean read on the dipstick period. Just pulling out between the two hose and tubing lines above it causes me to bang it on the side of the fill tube several times.

If I can't get a lower reading I am gonna hope in one hand while I drain and fill the AT with the other that I haven't been driving hard for 35K with the fluid over max capacity.
 

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Discussion Starter #16

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I believe the engine running check for ATF is almost universal, and is necessary because fluid can drain from cavities in the trannie when shut down, giving false high readings (Which could give a false OK reading, when the fluid is actually low. Checking hot and running, after cycling through the gears, is the only true way to assure that the level is where is should be.

Engines are supposed to drain down to the pan when shut down, with the notable exception of inverted oil filters.......faulty drain back valves can give a incorrectly high level reading, if the drain back valve malfunctions.
Agreed. That's why my "engine off/ATF cool" mark was set after an overnight "rest". In that time, pretty much all the fluid that will drain down will have done so, and even if there's any left "up above", it won't make a big difference. I've never had the level go up further after the first night. In fact, shortly after the engine is stopped, the level is very close to the "next morning" level -- close enough to be of little concern. The idea is as 1 Lucky Texan said: "a good quick-check indicator.". It's not for setting the level, but once it's understood, will indicate if there's been an unusual, and unexpected, change.

But I do recognize your point, and that's why I still do the "hot and running" check -- it's just that the added mark enables me to monitor more often without having to start the engine specifically for this.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
The ATF is still 3/8" (I overestimated when I wrote 1/2") over the Hot H hash hole tonight. Left the dipstick out for 5 minutes before checking several time. Identically high. Gonna check it in the morning again cold. Looks to have a tad much fluid in her.

Guess I should drain it, measure what comes out, and add a bit less back and check it everytime I drive it and every morning cold until I can set a level withing the corresponding correct marks on the stick.
 

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The ATF is still 3/8" (I overestimated when I wrote 1/2") over the Hot H hash hole tonight. Left the dipstick out for 5 minutes before checking several time. Identically high. Gonna check it in the morning again cold. Looks to have a tad much fluid in her.

Guess I should drain it, measure what comes out, and add a bit less back and check it everytime I drive it and every morning cold until I can set a level withing the corresponding correct marks on the stick.
The stick is 'more sensitive' (higher resolution???) than typical engine oil dipsticks.

that is to say, equivalent distances on the tranny stick is about a pint of fluid where on the engine stick it might be a quart.



did that make sense - yeah, reduce the amount you put back in and 'sneak up' on the correct level half-pint at a time.
 

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I don't think 3/8 too high can harm the tranny. You have noticed a problem by now anyway if you had. Agree, putting in less is a safe bet. It's also possible one of your friendly service people topped it off when they should not have... you just never know.
 
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