2005 Subaru Forester transmission question

I’m looking at a clean 2005 Subaru Forester 2.5x non turbo automatic with 180000. The car starts up great. However there is a transmission issue. The guy I’m buying it from said it has too much fluid in it and the filter needs to be replaced. What’s actually happening is it shifts really hard and when try to get the car rolling it seems to have no power. It will roll tho. My question is does this sound like it needs a new transmission or if the seller right and it’s just because the fluid is too high and filter needs replacing? Any comments are appreciated!

Tell him to change the filter and drain the excess fluid, if that fixes the problem, you’ll pay him what ever a local shop would have charged, if it doesn’t fix it, I’d pass on the car.

Unless it’s a low enough price you can put a rebuilt transmission in and still have a good deal…


Take whatever the seller says with a few kilos of salt!!! Why has the seller not simply drained some of that fluid himself before offering the car for sale?

I would steer away for any car with transmission problems, especially a Subaru.

It definitely sounds like major work needed and you should budget $5000 or so and deduct it from the asking price if you really want the car!

A friend some years back had to scrap a perfectly good Mazda 6 with only 70,00 miles on it because the transmission went out.

If the fix was really that simple why did they not do it before trying to sell it ? Call a local transmission shop and politely ask for a ball park price on a rebuilt transmission .

Frankly , when I look at used vehicles if there is even one thing that makes me wonder about it I just pass.


The seller is full of it. If it were really that simple and he claims to be in the know then why hasn’t he spent 10 minutes tops draining some of the fluid before sellling it.
The car is 15 years old with 180k miles and as with most cars, odds are the transmission has been seldom if ever serviced.

Chances are he’s been given some “transmission is bad” advice recently and he’s playing dumb.


Assume in your pricing it requires a replacement transmission repair and offer that subtracting from selling price of 2005 Forester with 180k.

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I would not buy a car that needed a transmission replacement unless the discount was substantially more than the cost of the transmission. Why go through the hassle. Besides it is a high mileage Subaru, how do you know it doesn’t need a head gasket?

As a general rule the cost of a major repair is always more than you think. There are always Taxes and incidentals to add. For example, I would never replace a transmission without changing the rear main seal on the engine.

EVERYONE trying to sell a used car says that it “runs well”, unless there is something glaringly obvious wrong, such as overheating/rough idle/stalling/transmission issues. In that case, they say “it just needs a [insert simple fix here]”. Let’s face it: if the car really only needed some simple fix, and then it would run properly, the seller would have done the simple fix, so he could get a better price.

In answer to your question, I can guarantee you the car needs a lot more than to just have the transmission fluid and filter changed. I can also guarantee you that if the transmission is indeed overfilled, the overfill was no accident–it was done to mask some other problem. It sounds like this transmission is slipping, and a fluid/filter change isn’t going to fix that.

Unless this car is being sold for $1000 or less, and unless you are willing and able to pay for a transmission replacement/rebuild in the near future, I’d run fast and far from this “deal”!

I have purchased many cars with failed transmissions but not recently. My last car purchase with a failed transmission was 11 years ago, a 15 year old Dodge for $600. I didn’t mind paying extra for the car, the interior and body were in great shape. I removed the transmission and gave it to my co-worker to rebuild, $100 later I installed the transmission. There are easier ways to obtain a cheap car but I don’t mind the work.

I think removing the transmission from a Subaru to rebuild will be very labor intensive, not something for the novice.

I agree with Nevada. They take several handfuls of specialty tools and there is also the issue of setting up the front ring and pinion gear in the transaxle. It’s time consuming.

I’ve also bought problem cars on the cheap, fixed them, and drove them forever.

When it comes to descriptive terms most people have an overinflated sense of what “excellent condition” or “good condition” means. There is no such thing as an excellent 5 year old car with 75k miles on it unless it was parked in storage at the moment of purchase.

I use to live in OK City. One weekend in the newspaper classifieds I saw an ad for a '55 Cameo pickup in “good condition”. After work I went by there and saw a Cameo with no rear axle, not a sign of suspension, steering, or brakes on it and also missing the motor and transmission. It was also missing the complete interior. There was nothing but a largely rusted body. The only positive was that all of the glass including the wrap around rear glass was there and that certainly wasn’t worth 1500 dollars.

400 bucks

I guess that picture is of the vehicle for sale with a bad transmission . There is only one person ( plus anyone else in the household ) whose opinion matters and that is yours. If you will not be really upset if you buy it for 400.00 , have a transmission put in plus what else shows up and you end up having more money in it then it is worth then go for it.

The guy doesnt know anything about cars. He bought it off a family who’s father owned it. He passed an no one wanted it is the story, so the guy I bought it from doesnt know the who story.

Find a good Subaru shop and find out what they’d charge to replace the transmission. If it’s still a bargain, go for it. But a 2005 Forester could have head gasket problems, very common, so a transmission might not be the only big $$ item you’d be facing.

The seller does not know the whole story , then why the too much fluid nonsense . I thought this thread was about if you should buy it. But since you have just have the transmission replaced and drive on.

Oh, you bought it? Then I’d have the fluid drained and filter replaced, and filled with Subaru factory fluid, see if that helps. If not, either have the transmission replaced or sell it.

Finally someone with some advice on fixing it and not whether I buy it or not!

(If any of this sounds wrong or you have any input on options or diagnoses please let me know!)

I’ve never worked on a subaru. My dad is a mechanic and we work on my junk together.
The car goes in all gears hard(think that the shifter needs lub). Reverse works but barely wants to go. Fluid smells burt.
I tried draining it at the plug and external filter and not much came out. Checked the dip stick and still over full. Called a part store and asked how much it takes and they said around 9qts. I probably got a half a qt out of it.
I’m also told that there is more than 1 dip sticks.

The seller could be right that the filter is clogged. The reason it appears over filled is that the fluid isn’t being drawn up into the valve body and torque converter as fast as it should be so the level in the pan is higher than it should be, but it might have the correct amount of fluid.

BUT, this also means that the transmission is being damaged while running in this condition so must be addressed immediately. The fact that you only got a little ATF out the drain may be due to sludge build up, another bad sign.

Drop the pan, clean the sludge and replace the filter and pan gasket. You MIGHT get a little more life out of it, but I’ll bet the valve body also has a lot of sludge or varnish in it by now. You will probably have the same symptoms at least at first, but the new ATF MIGHT clean out the valve body and make it work a little better, for awhile. Not too long but for a while, maybe.

BTW, you do know that you check the ATF with the engine running. It always reads high with the engine off.

Good luck.

Thankyou! Great advice! That’s what I’ve been thinking but I wanted to hear it from other people lol!

Yes. I do know that but I drained it this weekend at the plug and filter ( even ran the motor for a couple seconds to if it would push more out). The dipstick still is saying over full.