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2005 Forester
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5 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
My wife's car wouldn't start yesterday (made a nasty grinding sound), so I took a quick look at it, and noticed that the ATF temperature light was coming on right about when you'd expect it to start up (check engine and other lights were off at this point). So I checked the ATF dipstick, and noticed that it appeared to be WAY overfilled, about an inch higher than the Hot Full line. I drained the fluid to the Cold Full line, and the car started right up.

But I noticed that the ATF was brown, so I told my wife to take it to the dealer and get a flush (the car only has 45k miles on it, and it was last flushed by the dealer at 30k), and to have them check out the transmission.

We picked the car up last night, and they said everything was fine, and it just needed the flush, but I didn't get a very good feeling from them that they really checked it out. When we got home, I checked the dipstick again - it was bright red (good), but it appeared to be overfilled yet again to the same level.

And now again this morning from a cold start, the ATF temperature light came on for a few seconds again. My wife doesn't know if this was happening before.

So I have a few questions:

1. Is the ATF temp light anything to worry about? It was about 30 degrees this morning...

2. Are the ATF dipstick fill lines just not correct? (Would make sense, since I don't see how it could have been overfilled before), but why would it have started right up after I drained the "extra" fluid, then? Seems this should have messed things up more...

3. Isn't brown ATF a VERY bad sign, and why did it need a flush after just 15k more miles? It's Pittsburgh, so the driving's a bit rough here with all the hills, but not what I'd call extreme. The car does seem to be running fine, though.

There are probably stupid questions, but I've never worked with an automatic car before.

Thanks in advance,
Dave
 

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Premium Member
2008 2008 2.5i-2018 XT
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13,234 Posts
You need to check it with the engine running and the engine hot. If you checked it with the engine not running and drained you screwed up bigtime. You may have created a problem. You need to put in as much as you drained out. The manual is your friend. Not reading it is your enemy.
 

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Registered
2005 Forester
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5 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
I did read the manual, and Chiltons. But the car wouldn't start, so I couldn't check with the engine running...

I figured it should be somewhere around Cold Full, not WAY above Hot Full.
 

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Registered
1998 Forester
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602 Posts
When to turn the key to start the car the ATF light will flash for a second...that is normal....is that what is happening ?
 

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2005 Forester
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Discussion Starter #5
It stays on for a few seconds longer than the other lights (Check Engine, etc.), so I wasn't sure if it was an issue or not.
 

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1998 Forester
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602 Posts
It stays on for a few seconds longer than the other lights (Check Engine, etc.), so I wasn't sure if it was an issue or not.
Later on when I start my ride...I'll time how long the ATF light stays on and post it here. The issue is that your fluid was already burnt by your description...so there may be problems in that Trans waiting to surface..only time will tell.
 

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2005 Forester
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Discussion Starter #7
Later on when I start my ride...I'll time how long the ATF light stays on and post it here. The issue is that your fluid was already burnt by your description...so there may be problems in that Trans waiting to surface..only time will tell.
I was afraid of that. I'll time the light from a cold start as well, and see if my ScanGauge OBD-II reader can get the actual ATF temp. Thanks for your help, Hazmat.
 

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1998 Forester
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602 Posts
I was afraid of that. I'll time the light from a cold start as well, and see if my ScanGauge OBD-II reader can get the actual ATF temp. Thanks for your help, Hazmat.
Ok...I got 3 to 4 seconds before light goes off. Airbag light stays on for about 2 seconds longer. Maybe it's just system self test. I would be more concerned with how that fluid got burned in the fiirst place after only 15K miles.
 

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2005 Forester
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Discussion Starter #9
Ok...I got 3 to 4 seconds before light goes off. Airbag light stays on for about 2 seconds longer. Maybe it's just system self test. I would be more concerned with how that fluid got burned in the fiirst place after only 15K miles.
Thanks - I'll do my tests later tonight, but I think it's about the same. Yeah, I'm very concerned with how the fluid got burned. I'm going to keep a very close eye on the fluid and temp going forward. I'll get the transmission checked out by somebody else if either of these are off.

I'm also going to check the dipstick after the car is warmed up, just to double-check the levels. I'm still very puzzled about that, and how draining it a bit enabled the car to start.

Not sure what else to do.
 

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Premium Member
2008 2008 2.5i-2018 XT
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13,234 Posts
You can check it cold:

Car on Level
1. Start car
2. Move gear position through all positions slowly
3. Put in park
4. Pull dipstick and wipe off.
5. Insert and then pull out.
6. Oil level (cold) should be at least to the lower "Notch" on the edge of the dipstick.

Not this is not the best way to do it but its "Safe" til you can get the correct level with the engine fully warmed up.

BTW just bc the fluid is "brown" doesn't mean its burnt. But it is an indication that its time to change.
 

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Even cherry red, it may need change. To be honest, the ATF should be a regular maintenance item for every 15k if you want to keep the AT healthy.
 
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