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Old 09-03-2013, 03:21 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default ATF and Differential Fluid Change

We just bought a new (to us) 08 Forester X, with an automatic tranny. This is the first automatic Subaru I've owned. The car has been extremely well-cared for, but there is one gap in the service history. We don't have specific records of any transmission or differential fluid changes. The dealership that did all the scheduled services just entered "performed recommended service" on every service record. We don't know what that includes in terms of fluid changes, unfortunately.

It just rolled over 100K on the way home from where we bought it, and I don't want to take any chances. I'm going to act is if the tranny and differential fluids have never been changed, and start fresh.

The differentials are easy enough; I did both the front and rear many times on my manual 01, and the only difference on the auto should be that when I refill the front diff, I'm using a lot less fluid. Right? I plan to use Motul Gear 300 75w90 on both the front and rear. Any reason to blend in some Redline Shockproof for the differentials? It's pretty hilly down here, so I do drive it hard sometimes.

As for the transmission, I ordered 20 quarts of Idemitsu ATF-HP, and plan to do 5 drain and fills. That should get me pretty close to 100%, and then I'll just keep up with it by doing another drain and fill every 15 k or so. But for this first one, how long of an interval should I wait before repeating the procedures? I'd have rather done a complete flush, but the only Subaru dealer within 100 miles doesn't have the equipment to do that, and the local repair shops only see one or two Subarus a year. I don't want them anywhere near my transmission.

Anything else I should know? I already crawled under and scoped out the drain plugs on the tranny and the oil pan, so I'm good there. Is there anything else I might be missing?

Thanks in advance, guys!
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Old 09-03-2013, 03:26 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Remember that the FRONT DIFF dipstick is on the PASSENGER SIDE of the engine bay, the ATF dipstick is on the DRIVER SIDE of the engine bay. I screwed this up last time; emptied the trans and drowned the front diff in 3 quarts of brand new HP-ATF. Thankfully I realized my mistake when the front diff dipstick was floating to the gills in ATF, so I didn't try to take the car for a spin with an empty ATF pan.

I just use Supertech 75W-90 synthetic in my rear diff, nothing special, just make sure it's API Service GL-5. Use Genuine Subaru HP-ATF in the transmission, though.

If your 4EAT has the exterior ATF filter, you might want to replace that too. Use a Genuine Subaru ATF filter for this, it filters differently than a standard engine oil filter. Some '08 Foresters have the exterior filter and some don't, so don't sweat it yours doesn't have it. Older 4EATs didn't have the exterior filter either.
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Old 09-03-2013, 03:49 PM   #3 (permalink)
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It just rolled over 100K... I'm going to act is if the tranny and differential fluids have never been changed, and start fresh.
Good idea!

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The differentials are easy enough; I did both the front and rear many times on my manual 01, and the only difference on the auto should be that when I refill the front diff, I'm using a lot less fluid. Right?
The front diff and the MT (a transaxle) share the same housing on the MT-equipped models. Changing the MT fluid includes changing the front diff fluid.

The front diff on the AT-equipped models is a separate unit. Check your MY2008 OM pages 11-21 through -23 for gear oil specs and page 12-4 for capacities.

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Is there anything else I might be missing?
The ideal tool for the rear diff plugs is a 13mm square drive. An alternative is the Laser #1578 13mm drain plug key. Loosen the differential fill plugs before you loosen the drain plugs.

HTH,
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Old 09-03-2013, 04:16 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Loosen the differential fill plugs before you loosen the drain plugs.
Yeah, that's for sure - it's a mistake I never made myself, but man, it's one you only have to make once to remind yourself that you ain't half so bright as you sometimes think! First thing I check when I'm under the back end of a car with a drain pan. The guy across the street does have an air wrench, though. I mean, I live in Kentucky now, so that's kind of a given. He'd bail me out if I screwed that one up.

I have my capacities down, so I'm good there. Have all the tools except the torx bit for the front differential. Haven't checked for sure yet, but I think it needs one.

What about the intervals between transmission drain and fills? Can I just take it out for a 10 mile spin on the bypass and come back and do it again?
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Old 09-03-2013, 04:17 PM   #5 (permalink)
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If your 4EAT has the exterior ATF filter, you might want to replace that too. Use a Genuine Subaru ATF filter for this, it filters differently than a standard engine oil filter. Some '08 Foresters have the exterior filter and some don't, so don't sweat it yours doesn't have it. Older 4EATs didn't have the exterior filter either.
I actually didn't even check because I assumed I have the interior filter. But yes, I will definitely look. Black can marked "ATF FILTER" or something like that, right?
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Old 09-03-2013, 04:19 PM   #6 (permalink)
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You can do a drain get it up to temp and then do another one. I would get it up to operating temp. It requires about 10 oz short of a gallonj if yhou drain it on the level.

Also (unless it has already been done.)... The gaskets in the spark plug tubes in the valve cover will all be leaking. You can pull the plug boots to verify that.

The rear diff takes a bit under 1 quart..the front diff a bit over. Two quarts does the job. I just squeeze as much as I can into the rear diff and then get the other bottle and squirt some in. I then combine the bottles and do the front.

You don't need to mix any shockproof in there. After an initial change there is almost no wear going on in the front or rear diff as evidenced by debris on the mag plug. The front diff is extremely easy on oil.
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Old 09-03-2013, 04:22 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Have all the tools except the torx bit for the front differential. Haven't checked for sure yet, but I think it needs one.
It's a Torx T70, IIRC. I got mine at Auto Zone.

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The guy across the street does have an air wrench,
My understanding is these don't go well with Subaru differential covers. Do it by hand, perhaps with a cheater bar.

HTH,
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Old 09-03-2013, 04:28 PM   #8 (permalink)
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My understanding is these don't go well with Subaru differential covers. Do it by hand, perhaps with a cheater bar.

HTH,
Jim / crewzer
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If you use an air hammer with a 1/2 inch drive you will round out the 13mm plug in the rear diff. If you raise the rear on ramps to get leverage you can undo the plugs with a 20" breaker bar and a 1/2" square instead of the 13 mm (preferred)
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Old 09-04-2013, 11:29 AM   #9 (permalink)
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IMHO, 5 drain and fills is overkill. The thing holds about 10 quarts and you get about 4.5 out each drain. I would do one, drive it 10 miles or so, then do a second, then depending on what that fluid looked like on that second drain/fill would decide from there.

I dont like doing flushes on older transmissions as I've had issues pop up on other cars before when I've done this.

And remember that if you drain hot ATF, you have to compensate the cold volume you put back in.
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Old 09-04-2013, 07:22 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I just did my 08 NA Sports this weekend at 60k. The trick that worked for me on the rear diff. waWas spray with good penetrating oil the night before, and then I used my MAPP gas torch to heat the cover for a while. The 1/2" craftsman flex ratchet was enough to crack them loose. I did spark plugs, oil n filter, front diff, 4eat, and rear differential. The worst part was changing oil=messy.
My car does not have an external filter.
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Old 09-05-2013, 05:44 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by crewzer View Post
My understanding is these don't go well with Subaru differential covers. Do it by hand, perhaps with a cheater bar.
Yes, use a cheater bar and perhaps a jack under the end of the cheater bar. Be patient - let the force be with you. This applies to both differentials.

Air impact wrenches might work but you risk rounding the fastener head and the aluminum housing doesn't like the impacts.
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Old 09-05-2013, 01:00 PM   #12 (permalink)
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These are all good suggestions; thank you all.

I did the tranny today, and wound up doing 5 drain and fills. The fluid on the dipstick really didn't look bad, but when I drained it the first time, it came out brownish-purple. It looked as though there was so much metal suspended in the fluid, it imparted a bluish tone to the brownish-red fluid, giving it almost a purple hue. I've never seen that before. I'm almost wondering if this really was the first time it's been done in the entire 100,000 miles. I saved out a quart from the first drain to send a sample to Blackstone. Not sure if it will tell me anything useful, but I'm curious.

So at any rate, each succeeding drain and fill got the fluid closer and closer to a healthier shade of red, and the car shifted a little better each time. I drove it 10 miles between each drain and fill. The color evolved through various shades of red - that brownish-purple thing, then rusty red, then blood red, and finally, on the last drain, a nice, bright, cherry red. By the time I'd completed the 4th procedure, the only way I could tell when the car was shifting was by watching the tach. It wasn't shifting badly before, but I could sometimes feel it, and now it's completely undetectable.

With one minor exception - on the last test drive, I thought I noticed a slight clunk as it shifted down from 2nd to 1st gear. I felt it two times, but it was so subtle and so unexpected that I didn't notice where I was on the tach or the speedometer when it happened. I'm guessing that it was roughly 15 MPH and maybe 1500 RPM, although I'm really not sure about the RPMs at all. Just guessing from the sound of the engine when it was happening, because both times I was approaching intersections and didn't have my eyes on the gauges. Just a very slight clunk, that I never noticed before. Does that mean anything?
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Old 09-05-2013, 01:25 PM   #13 (permalink)
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just a very slight clunk, that I never noticed before. Does that mean anything?
I don't think so. And depending on the temp of the oil, rpm, load, etc..shifts can feel and sound different. My 08 which has 113K miles will have very solid shifts whenb cold. Its always been that way. I do an ATF drain and fill about every 10K miles.

I will be interested in seeing your ATF UOA from Blackstone. Great idea.
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Old 09-05-2013, 01:41 PM   #14 (permalink)
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That 10,000 mile service interval sounds like an excellent plan. I was thinking somewhere like 15,000, but when I saw that fluid today, I realized this transmission may have been neglected more badly than I thought. Considering how hilly it is down here - and how brutally hot the summers are - I recalculated and decided on 10,000 going forward. We're just over 103,000 now, so I'll do it again at 110 and then use the "10k" benchmark for every succeeding drain and fill. I love this car, and fully intend to see it roll over 300,000 someday. 25 bucks and one hours work once or twice a year is a small price to pay.

I will bump the thread when I get the report back from Blackstone. I wonder if I should take a picture of the fluid, for the heck of it?

I hit the plugs on the differentials with some penetrating oil while I was under there, and am waiting for the 13MM tool to tackle those. None of the local auto parts stores carry them, although I might find one next time I make the trip to Lexington or Louisville. I don't want to delay it long, because I've got an uneasy feeling the differentials have never been done. The underside of the car is showroom spotless, and I literally can not see a scratch anywhere on the rear differential plugs. It looks as though they've never met a tool, although it's hard to believe a car can go 100,000 miles with original fluids and not be symptomatic. I want to get that done ASAP, and the idea of using a floor jack under the cheater was an excellent one. Can't wait to try it, and I expect it will probably come to that.
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Old 09-05-2013, 01:52 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I hit the plugs on the differentials with some penetrating oil while I was under there, and am waiting for the 13MM tool to tackle those. None of the local auto parts stores carry them, although I might find one next time I make the trip to Lexington or Louisville. .
You can use the 1/2 square as long as you don's use an impact hammer. It will be fine. Definately consider the Rhino Ramps. In addition to using them for the engine, front diff, and ATF...they give you leverage for getting the rear plugs loose.
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