Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Subaru transmission

My 2008 Subaru Outback 2.5 limited, sometimes but not always has a sloppy transmission, shifting when it shouldn’t. Other times when approaching a stop, it downshifts hard like it is banging in. At 57,000 miles the drivetrain is barely still warranted. The dealer did not detect a problem with the computer diagnostic and suggested an expensive transmission fluid change. Another deaker suggested and even more expensive fluid change differential fluid change and transmission relearning, as a maintenance neccessity. Is it? I’ve driven many cars many high miles for close to fifyears and have never changed transmission fluid on any of them. I had one mechanic tell me a fluid change would make it drive better for a while, but would not solve any defect.

Wow. " I’ve driven many cars many high miles for close to fifty years and have never changed transmission fluid on any of them."

You are the luckiest car owner ever. Do you ever change the oil in the engine? What other maintenance in the owners manual do you skip and ignore?

First, you can do a fluid change yourself on Subarus. Check and make sure you have a drain plug and whether you have the spin on filter or not. That would cut the cost down considerably. Secondly I would recommend that you start changing the ATF every 30K miles. If you don’t do a full fluid exchange, changing the filter, and then changing the fluid three or four times after driving for a few days between changes gets you quite a bit of new fluid into the system. Make sure you used the proper spec fluid for this car.

I have done this with our 2003 Subaru (over 130K miles) and the AT shifts as well as new.

Hopefully one of our transmission experts will help out here, but you might want to do the ATF change and put in an additive like Lubegard red bottle to see if that helps out with the shifting. I don’t normally like putting in an additives, but this is worth a shot, given the problems you may be having.

On my Subarus, I change the trans fluid and the differential fluid every 30k miles, and I have never had a trans or differential or AWD problem–even with over 145k miles on the odometer.

I strongly suggest that you begin to get into the habit of changing your trans fluid every 3 years or 30k miles, whichever comes first. As most transmission experts will tell you, failure to do that type of maintenance will usually lead to trans problems any time after 90k miles.

While 57k is definitely early for trans problems, you should change the trans fluid at this point, and again at 90k, and again at 120k, and…

Fluid change is very prudent at 60k miles for longevity. In your mileage accrued(likely pure highway) every 60k-75k is a good interval.

The rear diff fluid should be changed periodically also and again for longevity.

If you only plan on driving this car 100k-125k miles you may continue your lucky streak with no diff and transmission fluid changes.

An automatic should be serviced about every 30k miles no matter what the car makers say and your policy of never servicing a transmission at all may be running you out of luck this time.

If you think fluid changes are expensive price a new transmission.