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2015 - CVT - front differential had no fluid now ring/pinion damaged

4000 Views 11 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  slothman
2 weeks ago (at 120,000 miles), I had service done on the suspension -- new control arm, wheel bearing, and stabilizer bars/bushings. The mechanic recommended changing the differential fluid as well, front and rear, so we did that. After the car was done, it was stalling after start and at idle. Fixed that by disconnecting the battery for 10 minutes and having it 'relearn how to idle'. MPG on the highway had also dropped down to 28 from 33, but the car seemed to be running fine.

The other night, I'm driving 60 MPH on the Turnpike, I hear a PING, and the car starts skidding roughly, first for 1 second, then 2 seconds, then 4 seconds, and it comes to a complete stop. I couldn't turn the vehicle to the shoulder and after stopped, couldn't move it whatsoever. Hazards on, left the vehicle, called 911, and tried to warn other motorists with a flash light. Eventually the police came and they had to ram the car over to the shoulder as the front wheels had locked up. Had it towed to a nearby shop and spent the entire night in the boonies.

Right away, I suspect the differential service but there was no noise before the seizure. Found one of the only similar cases here on SubaruForester.org (can't link). In the morning, the shop diagnoses the car; "Found front differential locked up and had no fluid. Ring and pinions damaged". The mechanic also told me there was no fluid sprayed underneath. He wanted $7000 to install a new dealer transmission and transfer case, but told me flatly that it's not worth it and I should tow it back to the original mechanic who most likely made a mistake.

The vehicle has been driven 1500 miles since the differential service 2 weeks ago. I doubt the differential lasted that long dry (?), so it must've been a leak. How could this have happened during the service? Should I expect the mechanic to fix it... should I get a lawyer?
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Subaru dealer or independent mechanic?


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@Conk - Lawyer should be your last resort and probably isn't necessary..
If you paid someone to change the diff oil and it is dry, the repair/replacement should be on their dime.
If there was a leak that bad they should have told you about it.
I doubt that. Most likely, the oil was drained and while 3 other things were being done, they forgot to add oil back in.
It happens more often than you would think.
Get a repair estimate that details what needs to be done.
With your paperwork from your service visit and your estimate handy, call the shop or dealer and talk to a manager and explain what happened, and what you expect; That they repair or replace the component that was damaged due to their negligence. If you get the "we're not responsible" routine, tell them you doubt a judge will agree and they will also get to pay court costs.
Small claims court is easy to do and depending on your state you should be able to cover the expense of the repair.
It only costs you a filing fee, and the case looks like a slam dunk to me.
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Man that really sucks. I suppose with no fluid it could go till it totally dried up.
Hard to trust anyone doing your maintenance.
I paid dearly to have the Ford dealer service do a flush on my Expedition and they screwed me by never dropping the pan or changing the inside filter, the next day I could not move as the tranny was a gallon shy of fluid! The dealer sent a mechanic with a gallon to add and it took it all. Suspecting abuse I checked underneath and saw that my exhaust guard had bent over the pan some and that there was no way they dropped the pan to service it. I know how to service it correctly and they just took my money. I sent a nasty letter to them stating I would never bring my Expedition back to the and that I just bought a new car and it wasn't even a ford. Welcome to Subaru and learning to do as much maintenance I can myself.
Even Subaru service is not perfect. I found out early with Subaru, won't be back for service there either.
My dealer service has a big plate glass window to see in the bays.
And I do watch.
“Trust but verify” the hest I can anyway.


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I have to drive 30min. each way to get decent service, when I do get something done, which is rare. I discuss the work with the service manager first. I even bring print outs of TSB and FSM pages. They don’t like be told how to do the job, but I want to know that they know. I do most of the maintenance on our Subaru’s myself. No one is going to be as thorough as you. DIY.
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From Conk's description it sounds as though the front diff was drained and never got refilled, so the way it died would tend to confirm as some residual oil is left in there, but eventually it overheats and bearings and gears self destruct. Lawyer would be last resort, work with the shop, document everything first including pictures! Then if needed, twist the shops' arm, then small claims, but hopefully it's resolved before this point.
Hi all, sorry I didn't follow up, wasn't expecting this pandemic. Ultimately, I paid for the original mechanic to replace the transmission. It's basically he-said-she-said, one mechanic claims it wasn't filled up with fluid, another claims the transmission just simply broke, but considering the timing -- I'm just happy to get my Subaru functional.

But I'm certainly not buying another Subaru after this ordeal. If Subaru would like to investigate, I have all the documents saved and scanned. But as far as I'm concerned, the transmission suddenly gave out with no warning and almost got me killed. If Subaru gave a damn, they would cover their transmissions.
Thanks for the follow-up. Obviously it's not the fault of the vehicle if the diff fluid was not replaced ;-) I'm surprised you had the original mechanic do the repair work though!
Well one mechanic said it was and one said it wasn't. Hence why I'm inviting Subaru to investigate. I'm already out thousands. But there's known problems with Niss-err-Subaru's CVT transmissions. No need to defend them when we all know otherwise.
@Conk I'm not trying to defend anything - you said

Found front differential locked up and had no fluid. Ring and pinions damaged"
which is the diff not the CVT?
But I'm certainly not buying another Subaru after this ordeal
How is this Subaru's fault? They didn't service, or probably more correctly failed to service the differential. Clearly the cause of it failing was a lack of lubricant. Given there is no evidence of leaks the most likely explanation is that someone forgot to refill the diff.
But there's known problems with Niss-err-Subaru's CVT
The Jatco CVT used in Nissans is a completely different transmission to Subaru's. There is little evidence of systemic problems with Subaru differentials.

If Subaru gave a damn, they would cover their transmissions.
What was Subaru's response?
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