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Old 04-01-2013, 09:47 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 35
Location: North Carolina
Car Year: 2003
Car Model: Forester
Transmission: Automatic
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Default 2003 Forester Differential Issue

Hey guys I'm a bit lost, so I thought perhaps I could get some guidance from the experts here on the forums!


I'll start from the top:

Bought the car about 4 months ago and have put about 7,000 miles on it. It has always shifted into reverse a bit stronger than when it engages Drive. (When brakes were applied, it felt smooth like normal, but when not on the brakes, the car would ever so gently shudder into reverse)
Had the transmission fluid changed after replacing the pan gasket when I bought it.
Was playing around one day and checked the Transmission and Differential fluid levels - they were both normal.
About two weeks later, took her in for recall work on the front lower control arms (They were rusting out).
Get a call from the Service Adviser saying that my differential seems to have ATF in it, and recommends a flush / fluid change, which they could do for $120. I figure I've driven 7k miles with it like that - shouldn't hurt to drive it home and change the fluid myself.
I go in to pick it up, and they tell me they replaced an axle also, which was included in the warranty as well, and that was why they noticed the Differential fluid.
Drive it home (about 50 miles or so), and immediately after parking, I smell ATF. Open the hood and am greeted with an ominous and oderous cloud of white. Made me sick to my stomach the smell was so strong.. Tried to pinpoint where it was coming from but didn't really see anything out of the ordinary except for smoke billowing out of seemingly nowhere.. It seemed to be coming from the back half of the transmission or something, but I can't be more specific than that..
Checked the Differential fluid level, and it was well above the Full line.. I would guess at least a half-quart too much fluid in there
Also checked the Transmission fluid, and it too was over-filled.. Slightly over the Fill line
Drained & filled the Differential with 75-90 gear oil to the proper level.
Now, the shudder into Reverse is much more pronounced.. It doesn't matter if I'm on the brakes or not, you can feel the car clunk into R. Seems to shift a bit stronger into D, as well. A couple times while backing up & turning, or accelerating while turning out, I have felt the car vibrate a bit - like I'm driving over pencils, but there aren't any. Also, once after driving on the highway I again smelt what seemed to be atf, but no smoke this time.


I really feel like the dealership tried to take me for a differential flush, but when I said no they added atf. I still don't understand why they would replace the axle "under warranty", when the axle was no part of the recall..? The axle wasn't even bad. (No popping around turns) What does an axle have to do with replacing the lower control arms?

I understand the seal between the differential and transmission can sometimes go bad, causing the tranny to pump atf into the differential assembly. I also have fluid leaking around the steering rack, but haven't identified where it is coming from yet. I put some UV dye in the ATF to help with diagnosis in a week or so, but I'm trying to pin-point this as soon as possible..

Does anyone have any idea? The car is still running, but I really feel like something is about to fail, and if there is anything I can do about it before it does, that would be great.

So anyways, sorry about the long post but I believe in being thorough.. Does anybody have any ideas or suggestions? Thanks in advance!
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