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1998 Forester L AWD Automatic
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 1998 Subaru Forester with auto transmission. It has about 80k miles on it. When I start the car the light turns off, normal stuff, but after it heats up, the AT oil temp light starts to flash. I checked the level while it's running, cold check, and it is under the L (for cold). The fluid is a tanned color. I have a few questions:
1. Am I checking it the right way?
2. Should it be that color?
3. Should I do a drain and fill or a flush? I've read that flushes aren't recommended for foresters.
4. I took it to a so for diagnosis and they indicted that it could be the solenoid/sensor but the only way to tell is by flushing and then checking the solenoid.

When I drive it, there is slight hesitation especially when turning but after a few seconds it goes back to feeling "normal". I don't know if that may be related to the AT or the differential.

The trans had never been drained or flushed.

Thanks in advance!

Will
 

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1998 Forester L AWD Automatic
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks! I'll have to attempt this as soon as I get my plates and such. What about the color of the ATF? I know subaru uses synthetic, should it be a pinkish color or a brown color?
 

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2015 Highlander AWD XLE 6AT
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When I start the car the light turns off, normal stuff, but after it heats up, the AT oil temp light starts to flash.
I believe this means that that the ATF has overheated. There's a range of possible causes:

  • Heavy traffic and/or load
  • Old / low / weak ATF
  • AT torque converter not locking
Tan ATF is not a good thing; fresh ATF is deep red. It's time for a complete drain and refill; total capacity is 9.8 U.S. qts. Subaru recommend Dexron II or Dexron III in the MY2000 owner's manual; I don't have access to the '98 OM at the moment.

Are you planning to try this yourself?

Regards,
Jim / crewzer
 

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1998 Forester L AWD Automatic
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I was thinking about doing the drain and refill myself. I was going to purchase mobil 1 synthetic ATF for the job. I've seen a bunch of instructional videos online specifically for the forester and I also purchased the PDF version of the service manual.

The vehicle was driven by my mother in law, she purchased a new car and gave us the forester. She did quite a bit of local driving, but only to the tune of 80k miles since they pruchased the car brand new ('98).

My wife wants to use it now, because it's small enough for her but I'm concerned with the light flashing.

I'm open to any opinions in the matter and the approach I should take.
 

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2015 Highlander AWD XLE 6AT
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OK. I don't know if there's any benefit to using M1 ATF... it might be worth waiting for a few more comments (both of our Foresters have been manuals).

Make sure you identify the various drain plugs under the car (AT, front diff, engine oil) and the two filler tubes in the engine compartment (ATF and front diff) before starting work. These have been mixed up more than once, shall we say, with messy results.

Whay else do you know about the 15-year-old car's maintenance history?

Best of luck!
Jim / crewzer
 

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2019 Crosstrek 2018 Forester XT
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Don't waste your money on the Mobil 1. Just go with 3 drain and fills with regular Dexron III. Or maybe with the Subaru HP (better than Mobil 1). Make sure the ATF filter wasn't replaced with an aftermarket one. It should actually say ATF on the bottom.

Check the fluid hot, running and on the level. One sid of the dipstick is for jcold and the other hot. The hot measurement is more accurate.
 

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1999 Forester 5MT
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Check the fluid hot, running and on the level. One sid of the dipstick is for jcold and the other hot. The hot measurement is more accurate.
An extra tip, pull the shifter through each selection once warmed up, then back to P, pausing about two seconds in each both directions. This assures all channels of the valve body and clutch packs are flooded to give an always consistent level.
 

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1998 Forester L AWD Automatic
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Make sure you identify the various drain plugs under the car (AT, front diff, engine oil) and the two filler tubes in the engine compartment (ATF and front diff) before starting work. These have been mixed up more than once, shall we say, with messy results.
When I do the drain for the trans, should I change the differential fluids and the filters as well? I was thinking about changing the differential fluids as well.

Whay else do you know about the 15-year-old car's maintenance history
The car had the head gasket replaced, radiator, regular oil changes, and I think the water pump. Except the oil changes the other services were performed @ Subaru.

This issue popped up about 2 months ago after an oil change.
 

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1998 Forester L AWD Automatic
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
An extra tip, pull the shifter through each selection once warmed up, then back to P, pausing about two seconds in each both directions. This assures all channels of the valve body and clutch packs are flooded to give an always consistent level.
Thanks for the tip! Should I run through the shifting procedures before checking the level?
 

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2019 Crosstrek 2018 Forester XT
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Thanks for the tip! Should I run through the shifting procedures before checking the level?
Yes
You really need to chang differential fluids..especially the back. Doubt its been done. Lots of tips here on doing the rear. Check before doing.
Wouldn't be bad to change the AT spin on filter..it needs to be genuine Subaru. Don't bother with the in-pan one. Check that the AT spin on filter is a Subaru one. Make sure youy drain the AT pan (flat one)
 

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1998 Forester L AWD Automatic
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
@adc... Thanks! I'll do my rounds around the car and check the manual for fluid insight.
 

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2015 Highlander AWD XLE 6AT
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Yeah, I'd do the front and rear diffs as well. The rear diff's drain plugs require a 13mm square drive, although some get by with a 1/2" (12.7mm) drive. Loosen the top plug before removing the bottom plug.

And, while you're at it, the engine coolant, the brake fluid, and perhaps even the power steering fluid should be all be changed as well. I'd also check the accessory drive belts and the engine air filter.

It would be worth checking the date codes on the tires as well, including the spare. If they're ~10 years old or more, then it may be a good idea to replace 'em, regardless of mileage or apparent condition.

HTH,
Jim / crewzer
 

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1998 Forester L AWD Automatic
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Yeah, I'd do the front and rear diffs as well. The rear diff's drain plugs require a 13mm square drive, although some get by with a 1/2" (12.7mm) drive. Loosen the top plug before removing the bottom plug.

And, while you're at it, the engine coolant, the brake fluid, and perhaps even the power steering fluid should be all be changed as well. I'd also check the accessory drive belts and the engine air filter.

It would be worth checking the date codes on the tires as well, including the spare. If they're ~10 years old or more, then it may be a good idea to replace 'em, regardless of mileage or apparent condition.

HTH,
Jim / crewzer
Jim - all great pieces of information! I'm going to start with the AT, my first milestone is to get the light to go away and reduce any shuddering. Should I put in a trans conditioner when I do the fill?
 

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2015 Highlander AWD XLE 6AT
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Will,

There's already an "oil-to-water" (OTW) ATF cooler in the main radiator. I would think that that should be enough for most driving conditions as long as the radiator cooling fans operate correctly.

Unless you're going to use the Forester to tow or to climb long steep grades in the summer, then the OTW cooler should be sufficient.

Just my $0.02...

Best of luck, and I hope you keep us posted on your progress!
Jim / crewzer
 

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2019 Crosstrek 2018 Forester XT
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Will,

There's already an "oil-to-water" (OTW) ATF cooler in the main radiator. I would think that that should be enough for most driving conditions as long as the radiator cooling fans operate correctly.
I believe he was talking about a tranny "conditioner"
I jwould only recommend LubeGuard
Stay awayf rom Lucas products. Before spending the bucks on that though just do all your drain and fills with the Subaru HP.

And as Jim has said..you don't need a tranny cooler..just in case you wondered.
 

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2015 Highlander AWD XLE 6AT
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"...conditioner..."
You're right... I misread the question!

I'm not familiar with any AT conditioner, and I'm generally not a fan of "fixes in a bottle".

Thanks for the correction,
Jim / crewzer
 

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1998 Forester L AWD Automatic
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks guys! I'll do the normal maintenance prior to adding any conditioner. I should do a drain and fill every few thousand miles?
 

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2019 Crosstrek 2018 Forester XT
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Thanks guys! I'll do the normal maintenance prior to adding any conditioner. I should do a drain and fill every few thousand miles?
I would do 3 drain and fills in short order. You only drain about 40+ % every time so 3 drain and fills gets you in the high 80% changeout as I recall. You will get about 8oz short of a gallon out. You don't even need to check that's real close.

If you change the filter add another 1.5 quarts (approx only). Thereafter change every 8 to 12 K miles (IMHO)
 
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