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1998 Forester Auto
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49 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hi there. Just had something funny happen toward the end of a long road trip and suspect it might be indicative of a larger problem, so I'd love to get your advice.

Car is a 1998 Forester with 204,000 mi. I've owned it and had it serviced regularly for the last 70,000 miles, and have thorough repair records for the rest.

We were driving back from Lake Tahoe to Palo Alto at the end of a weekend ski trip, carrying four people plus gear and a roof box with our skis, so loaded pretty heavily. The trip is about 200 mi, ascends & descends 9000 feet. On the way out on Friday we noticed that occasionally the car would shudder -- the same feeling that you get when a car is about to run out of gas, as if it's losing power temporarily -- but no warning lights.

On the way back today, after about 150 miles, we noticed the same thing increasingly bad. Then the AT Oil Temp light (no other lights) started flashing; at this point the shuddering seemed to happen pretty frequently. We stopped the car to check the AT fluid level -- OK -- and let the oil cool down. After starting again it was fine, but the shuddering came back in about 20 miles along with the light. Stopped again near home to let it cool down and drove carefully back with no more shuddering or flashing light.

Any idea what might be wrong? I think I'm going to try to take it in to my local dealer this week, but it would be great to know what the problem might be. Also, is this likely to indicate a bigger problem with the tranny? I've noticed the same shuddering before, infrequently, and didn't know what it was, but it didn't happen often enough to worry about.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Mike
 

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2010 Forester
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173 Posts
Does the tranny fluid have a burnt smell? The first thing I would try is replacing the tranny fluid. When was the last time that was done?
 

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1998 Forester Auto
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49 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Does the tranny fluid have a burnt smell? The first thing I would try is replacing the tranny fluid. When was the last time that was done?
Hmm, I don't know when it was last flushed. I'll check my records; I'll also check the smell of the fluid.

I thought I'd heard somewhere that flushing the tranny fluid runs a risk of damaging the tranny itself -- is that true?

thanks for your advice!
 

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Premium Member
98 GM67 + 03 SG
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357 Posts
A flush could pull deposits out of the tight spaces and clog other areas and ruin your transmission, yes, but continuing to run the transmission on old and burnt fluid will lead to the same thing.

The ATF might have just been too hot. Just keep an eye on things and see if it does it again. In the mean time, get the fluid flushed.
 

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1998 Forester Auto
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49 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
OK, makes sense. Thanks for the advice!
 

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2005 Forester XT 4eat
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4,583 Posts
Just drain and fill the ATF to the proper level. No need to flush it.
 

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2014 CVT
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824 Posts
look into when the trans was last flushed, as AJ711 said if it has been more then 100k i wouldnt do it, just do the DIY drain and fill, a couple times
 

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1998 Forester Auto
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49 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
OK, a couple more updates to my case for anyone still interested.

The last transmission service and flush was at 150K miles. So, it hasn't been serviced as frequently as it should have been, but that's at least relatively recently.

Also checked the front diff oil level, and it was low. I've refilled that, and it seems to be behaving better, but I didn't drive it very far. Couldn't check the rear diff because I don't have the right driver.

I'm taking it in to a local transmission shop tomorrow morning to have the pros look at it and scan it for codes; will report back on how many thousands of dollars the rebuild will cost. :(
 

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OK, a couple more updates to my case for anyone still interested.

The last transmission service and flush was at 150K miles. So, it hasn't been serviced as frequently as it should have been, but that's at least relatively recently.

Also checked the front diff oil level, and it was low. I've refilled that, and it seems to be behaving better, but I didn't drive it very far. Couldn't check the rear diff because I don't have the right driver.

I'm taking it in to a local transmission shop tomorrow morning to have the pros look at it and scan it for codes; will report back on how many thousands of dollars the rebuild will cost. :(
I don't think there are many "transmission shops" that would really give you any sort of good estimate. A dealer would probably even be better. Please say its not aamco. You can find a used working trans pretty cheap used, usually a better bet than a rebuild.
 

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2005 Forester XT 4eat
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4,583 Posts
Rebuild? I don't understand why you are reluctant to just drain and fill the ATF. It costs $30 and takes 20 minutes. The owner's manual explains exactly how to do it. I've seen shops botch rebuilds costing over $2000, and they usually will over no kind of guarantee.
 

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2001 Forester
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6 Posts
I'd do a couple drain and fills over the next week or so, since only about 40% gets replaced per draining evolution. Use a synthetic since it may be running hot, this is where their extra durability is good. Recommend Mobil 1 ATF, mostly because of it's availability.
 

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1998 Forester Auto
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49 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for all the suggestions -- I appreciate your taking an interest!

In reply to a couple of your posts...

I don't think there are many "transmission shops" that would really give you any sort of good estimate. A dealer would probably even be better. Please say its not aamco. You can find a used working trans pretty cheap used, usually a better bet than a rebuild.
It's a local guy, Ron Gates Transmission in case anyone reading lives in the Sunnyvale/Mountain View (CA) area and has any experience with this shop. He quoted me about $3000 (not held) for a rebuild, or $1200 (+ $700 labor) for a used transmission with 6mo warranty, but couldn't tell me how many miles it has, which smells a little funny to me. I found some used 98 trannies listed on automotix.com for around $800-$1000 with 1yr/12K warranty and anywhere from 50K to 170K miles. I don't know how to shop for used transmissions -- is that a reputable site?

Rebuild? I don't understand why you are reluctant to just drain and fill the ATF. It costs $30 and takes 20 minutes. The owner's manual explains exactly how to do it. I've seen shops botch rebuilds costing over $2000, and they usually will over no kind of guarantee.
I'm not really reluctant to just drain and fill the ATF, but do you think that would really make a difference, or is that just postponing the inevitable? If it has serious wear, which it sounds like it does, I guess it seems like it might be better to just deal with the big problem up front.

In any case I appreciate all your advice. Thanks a lot.
 

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2005 Forester XT 4eat
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I'm not really reluctant to just drain and fill the ATF, but do you think that would really make a difference, or is that just postponing the inevitable? If it has serious wear, which it sounds like it does, I guess it seems like it might be better to just deal with the big problem up front.

In any case I appreciate all your advice. Thanks a lot.
My thoughts on the ATF, is like any maintenance, like changing your oil. You can see it as postponing the inevitable, but death is inevitable, but going to the doctor, and eating and breathing are postponing that. I do think it would make a difference, and there may not be anything else wrong with the transmission. The fluid in an auto is part of the transmission. It makes the car go. No fluid = no go. Yes, change it. Yes, it will make a difference. No, a rebuild is not inevitable.
 

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1998 Forester Auto
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49 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
My thoughts on the ATF, is like any maintenance, like changing your oil. You can see it as postponing the inevitable, but death is inevitable, but going to the doctor, and eating and breathing are postponing that.
Made me smile. That's a useful perspective.

I do think it would make a difference, and there may not be anything else wrong with the transmission. The fluid in an auto is part of the transmission. It makes the car go. No fluid = no go. Yes, change it. Yes, it will make a difference. No, a rebuild is not inevitable.
I'm starting to agree with you; glad you are persistent. Thanks.
 

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I'd bring it to a shop that knows subarus. The AT light flashes in a specific pattern to show what code it is and whats actually wrong with it. It could be the valve body or one of the duty solenoids failing rather than something like the bands or clutches.

Fluid is one of the most important parts of the functioning of the AT, it is both for lube and for the hydraulics. It controls all the shifts, and all functions of the transmission.

Most shops doing rebuilds I wouldn't trust. They are going to try to push a rebuild for just about anything, even though it might not be the actual internals that are failing (its more likely a solenoid or something).
 

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99 Forester
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AT OIL TEMP Light Flashing

Hi All. Need some opinions...

The AT OIL TEMP light on my '99 Forester (120K miles) started flashing today after driving for just a few mins. Any ideas what this could mean in a well-maintained "vintage" Forester?

Tranny was replaced under warranty around 50K and no probs since then.

My records show I haven't had the trans fluid flushed (receipt says "replaced" -- is that different?) for about 3 years/30K miles. Had a trans pan leak fixed about a year and a half ago. Assuming when I take to dealer for oil changes that "topped off fluids" includes trans fluid (yes?).

Was just wondering what this could be? I drove the car home about a mile and have another couple miles to drive it to the dealer on Mon. Safe to drive? Don't want to hurt my engine, car has to last me another couple years.

Want to be prepared for the worst but hope for best. :icon_eek:

Thanks!
 

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2004 Forester XT Premium 4EAT
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99 Forester
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2 Posts
Hi, thanks for your insight pleiad7. Dealer says the transfer case needs to be rebuilt (if I got that right). Big repair where I live (over $1,500) and safety issue as they told me wheels could lock up. sigh.
 

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1998 Forester AWD
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5 Posts
Same issue but no shudders

I know this post was 2 years ago, but I have the same car with the same problem. I love this site. I am going to do the drain and refill first before doing a flush. Thanks to all who responded to that original post. It helped me out too. :).
 
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