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Lag accelerating up hills, hissing A/C, and a serious oil leak

I drive a 99 Subaru Legacy Outback, automatic transmission. I’ve owned the car for three years, and it had one owner before that. About three weeks after we purchased it (still under warranty, thank god), we had to have the transmission rebuilt because the car wouldn’t go forward when in Drive (I don’t remember what caused the problem).

Now we’ve moved across the country from MI to CO and I’ve noticed three things:

1) When I’m accelerating, especially up hills, the car lags at around 2200 rpms and then jumps to 3000 rpms before settling back to 2500 rpms. It used to accelerate much more smoothly, and I’m wondering if the change is just a function of the fact that we’re at a higher elevation with more hills, or if something’s wrong with the car. I’m hoping it’s not the transmission. That would suck.

2) I’ve noticed that the A/C is running warmer than it used to, and when it’s on there’s a metalic hissing noise which seems to be coming from the vents.

3) I know my car leaks some fluids, being 11 years old that’s sort of expected, and I thought it was mostly power steering fluid (which I check regularly), but yesterday when I was checking the power steering levels I also checked the oil, and the oil level was WAY down, despite the fact that I’ve still got 1,000 miles until my next recommended oil change. Should I put more oil in, or get an oil change early, or what?

Thank you for your help.


Your oil needs to be maintained at the proper level at all times, otherwise engine damage could result. How low was it?

About 1/4" above the bottom hole in the dip stick. The car was hot at the time, as I just turned it off.

I’d try the simplest things first. If you’re in the higher-ups, an adjustment to gasoline/air mixture might be in order or even a tune-up. If your transmission is having difficulty changing gears that might need bands adjusted or tightened. A three year old trans. shouldn’t be toasted but if it was a “used” one, it could be problematic, especially if you towed anything to Colorado, cars, trailers, mothers in law, etc. Also check the fluid level. There’s a dip stick for that in the engine compartment. Use your owners manual on how to do that properly if you don’t already know.

The low oil is an easy fix. Add the proper amount to get it to the proper level and keep checking it frequently w/ the engine cold so the pan is full. If you’re burning oil, check your exhaust for (blue) smoke. Check for oil leaks when the car is sitting at night by putting clean newspaper under the engine compartment. See if you’ve got any puddles or drips in the A.M. especially near the filter or bottom of the engine oil pan. It might be leaking around a gasket. These things can be checked usually for free at a local service station or garage.

Older hoses tend to leak. Low or no fluid can toast the bearings and cause pump failure. See if you can spot leaks around the P.S. pump, clamps on hoses and hoses themselves may be cracked and worn. Trace the hoses to the pump cooler and look for leaks there as well. Pumps aren’t too pricey. To find a good mechanic near your new digs, use the “Find a Mechanic” feature on the home page of this site. Hope this helps.

The transmission was a complete rebuild, which I’ve been told is better than used. I’m hopeful. :smiley: Didn’t tow anything anyway, but I’ll definitely have it checked out by a mechanic as soon as I find a job.

The last time I changed the oil, there were obvious signs of leakage all over the passenger side of the undercarriage, back to the front axle. My friend who was helping me said it was normal for the leaking fluid to splatter everywhere like that, but we couldn’t find any source of a leak.

I’ll have to get it checked out by a professional nearby; thanks for tips on what to check and how. I appreciate it.

Did you wait a few minutes after turning of the engine to check the oil? This gives the oil time to drain back into the pan. I pull the dipstick out, wipe off the oil, and reinsert to get a proper reading. Get into the habit of checking the oil level on a regular basis and keep it topped off between oil changes.

Yeah, I waited about five minutes after turning the engine off. I will definitely check the oil more often now that I know how much it leaks. Thank you.