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Subaru doesn't move

The vehicle is a 2005 Subaru Forester Long story short, my sister didn’t change her oil for a long time, so I came home and did it today in my “free time”. After finally finishing up (stuck drain plug and filter), I went to move it out of the driveway, and lo and behold it wouldn’t move. I disengaged the emergency brake and tried it again. The vehicle moved, but only when it passed 2000 RPMs. What happened?

Can you feel the transmission engage when you put it into gear?

Does the vehicle lurch and freeze when you increase RPM or is it more like a gradual slide into movement?

Are there any noises?

You drained the automatic transmission fluid.

Make sure to refill it ASAP.

Hey Metalhead,

It is a smooth transition from being stationary to moving, and once moving, it feels as if the car is sliding. It is an automatic, but I would equate the sensation to a badly slipping clutch.

There is no lurching or freezing, and the only noise that I discern is a whining noise, but for all I know since the car isn’t mine, it could very well be a normal sound.

Is the transmission fluid plug right beneath the oil filter?

Also, if I had drained the tranny fluid instead of the oil, it wouldn’t have held 4 4/5 quarts of 5w 30…

Also, if I had drained the tranny fluid instead of the oil, the filter would have gushed oil for who knows how long when I removed it. Instead, it simply drizzled down from the filter spout for a minute or so.

Your points are very good. Check the tranny fluid to be sure and oil. If all is well there then looks like the tranny is going

That’s what I was getting at. Subarus have an external Transmission filter that looks just like an engine oil filter and it’s easy and common to confuse the transmission plug with the engine oil plug.

Did it look like this?

hmm… yes. The oil drain plug is on the bottom of the pan in the picture, yes? So I changed the ATF filter and put a FRAM tough duty filter where the ATF filter was. Is that a part that’s universal, or do I HAVE to use a special transmission fluid filter?

iirc the oil and trans filters are the same size. The oil filter is about 2 feet forward of that and hangs down in a vertical position.

Well, I do appreciate the help metalhead. I’ll refill the tranny and check the other fluids. Dang Subaru’s. Why can’t they be the same, or at least somewhat normal…

Andrew- My apologies for assuming you were incorrect. I will say though, perhaps next time instead of just stating what was done wrong (which you were right about, so I thank you), maybe explain why you came to that conclusion.

After mulling it over, the fact that hardly anything drained from the transmission filter would mean that there wasn’t much tranny fluid in the first place, correct?

The design makes it easier for the techs… so long as you know what to look for. Certainly not helpful for someone who isn’t familiar with the design. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “why’s this oil so red?” from across the shop. Believe me, it’s an easy mistake to make.

You were probably low in the first place, yes. It’s also likely your oil is now over-filled.

I’ll check the oil level, but I’m fairly certain the oil is what I drained. Do you have a photograph of where the oil plug is located?

The oil is much closer to the front of the engine. The filter and plug hang Vertically as opposed to the trans filter and plug that come out horizontally.

Picture from directly below looking up: