Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Subaru won't budge after huge clank

Not good. Most of the time, an automatic will read high when cold and engine off. This is due to the fluid that usually fill the torque converter, valves, and hydraulic circuit settling in the pan. The proper way to check the fluid level is with the fluid warm and engine running. If you saw no fluid, this does not bode well for the transmission.

This car has a manual transmission, but do you think I should go back and check it again, this time with the engine running?

The proper procedure for checking your transmission fluid is in your owner’s manual. It generally involves taking the car for a drive to warm the tranny up, then keeping the engine running while you run the shifter through its positions and checking the fluid while the engine is still operating.

However, I strongly recommend that you leave everything up to the shop that’s going to be checking this out for you. The situation is serious, and IMHO Jiffy Lube’s responsibility, and it’s important that everything now be done IAW proper protocols. If you were to, for example, fill the tranny, you might eliminate the evidence of their having NOT refilled the tranny.

Besides, you can’t take the car for a drive now anyway.

Keep us posted. We care. But I recommend that at this point you don’t attempt to check this out yourself.

Oh yes, absolutely, and I really appreciate the care from you and others on this forum.
I plan to get the car inspected tomorrow, and will let you know what they tell me.

Good luck Madeline

I’m no subaru guy, but I believe manual transmission fluid level is checked with the engine off

The protocols vary. Mine requires the engine running and the shifter to be run through the gears, to ensure that the fluid is all in its proper operating places engorging its operating hydraulics. For the purposes of this post, I’ll include the torque converter under the definition of “operating hydraulics”. But the various protocols are always defined in the owner’s manual.

With no oil on the stick the odds are more likely that the transmission has been wiped. That usually follows a clank sound and often instigated by someone botching an engine oil change when they removed the transmission plug instead of the engine oil drain plug.

Sometimes this is caught and the transmission refilled. In some cases it is not and the blissfully unaware lube tech may then add the proper amount of engine oil to the motor. This leads to an engine with too much oil in it.

At this point what you need to do is:
Check the transmission for any external oil leaks.
Check the engine oil level to see if it has too much oil in it.
Inspect the transmission drain plug for fresh wrench marks on it and note if the trans case is cracked.
After plug inspection it would be a good idea to remove that plug and note if there are more chunks of metal falling out of the hole instead of oil.

When a ring gear gives up with a clank sound due to no gear oil what often happens with Subarus is that the entire transmission case splits. The entire unit is scrap metal.

Again, and for what it’s worth, I’ve been in the middle of several of these fast lube vs customer episodes in which a transmission has been converted to junk because someone wasn’t thinking and removed the wrong drain plug.

The amusing part to me anyway was when a fast lube rep always insisted that I “patch it together as cheaply as possible”. Ha. Like that can be done with cracked cases and a broken ring and pinion gearset.

@the_same_mountainbike : I think you missed the part about this being a manual transmission.

Good list. I was going to mention that it is a manual trans. I think just check the oil level now to see if they drained the transmission and put more oil in the engine, then just have it towed to the dealer with the list that OK4450 gave. Good luck.

NYBo, you are absolutely correct. I did miss that. Sincere thanks for correcting me.

Madeline, you should know that my oversight does not change my recommendations.
And I still care, and I wish you sincere best with this problem. Let us know how you make out.


Hi again everyone,

Update: I had the car towed to the dealer for an inspection, and they confirmed that the differential fluid was drained out (instead of replaced, as was indicated on my receipt from Jiffy Lube). So with this official word, I called Jiffy Lube, and they had me then tow the car over to their shop, assuring me that they would fix the car free of charge–as long as they find that they have created the problem. Well, I really don’t see how they could come to any other conclusion! But we’ll see…

Thank you so much for your continuing help with this!


15 yr old car. Trashed diff. Diff value is higher than car value. Let’s see what happens next

A couple things I forgot to mention in my last post:

  1. I was surprised the dealer didn’t give more detailed info since I was paying for an hour of work (not cheap–and sounds like possibly easy money for them!). However I guess it made sense because they said that if they were to delve further, it would involve adding fluids to the car, which they obviously wouldn’t want to do given the Jiffy Lube question. And again, at least I got my official documentation re the missing differential fluid.
  2. According to the dealer, when the car was dropped off, they (the dealer technicians) somehow found it to be drivable! What?! Needless to say this made absolutely no sense because it certainly wasn’t drivable after the initial incident (and BTW I had tried several times over a period of several hours and even the next day). So how is it that a car could be undrivable following an alarming clanking sound and for a couple days subsequently, then sit in front of a house undisturbed for a few more days, then suddenly be drivable?

Oh well, anyway, I will just wait and see what Jiffy Lube has to say.

Madeline, I wish you all the best, but I think bring it back to JL was a mistake. Chances are that they’ll simply refill the tranny and disavow any and all responsibility for any and all damage.

A better approach would have been to have it repaired elsewhere, file a claim for the total cost with JL including a rental car if needed, and take them to small claims court if necessary.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong about JL. I hope they come through for you. Keep us posted.

the same mountainbike: I am sure you are correct! And if it were a newer car, I would be more inclined to do just that. But with it being so old, I’m reluctant to put out a lot of money up front to have it fixed (no doubt way more money than the car is worth) if there is any chance at all that I might not be able to prove a case and collect (and unfortunately I’m pretty sure that chance exists).
By the way, it was the dealer that told me it was time to call Jiffy Lube when I did. Also, I should mention that other independent repair places I had called in the area either didn’t seem to want to work with me, or said they doubted Jiffy Lube would have had anything to do with what happened. Maybe I was just unlucky with the places I happened to call, but the dealer was the only one that said they had seen problems after oil changes at Jiffy Lube or the like.

Theorizing without car in hand, there’s a few possibilities in regards to the car now moving.
The same oil that lubes the differential (or final drive) is the same oil that lubes the rest of the transmission on a manual.
One could be that lack of oil caused a mainshaft or countershaft bearing to seize from heat due to lack of lubricant and it freakishly broke loose at some point. I have repaired some Subaru manuals in which the large rear bearing on the mainshaft seized and even turned completely purple due to heat.

Another could be that a gear tooth on the ring gear or one of the spider gears broke off and wedged into place; locking the final drive and preventing the car from moving. Once bounced around on a tow truck it could be that the gear tooth dropped to the bottom of the case and allowed the car to move.

Any of the above means another transmission would be needed as it’s generally more cost effective to replace rather than rebuild. Rebuilding a Subaru transaxle (proper nomenclature) is expensive and highly technical in nature; more so as compared to other transmissions.

ok4450: Wonderful analysis–you clearly know what you are talking about. Sure wish I could show you the car! Anyway, at this point I’m losing hope of any really satisfactory outcome to this situation. And especially since the car will now move, I’m quite sure that just as the same mountainbike said, Jiffy Lube will simply fill up the differential fluid and tell me all is well.

If they fill the differential and send you on your way after stating everything will be fine, I will suggest this. (Other than the fact that you’re lucky the transaxle did not scatter.)

With radio and cabin fan off, find a quiet road and accelerate through the gears while also slowing down with the transaxle in gear and also in neutral. Listen for any whining, growling, or rumbling noises; even subtle ones.

You may hear a whine at low speed in reverse or 1st gear, maybe even 2nd to some degree, and that’s normal. You should not hear anything in the higher gears.
Post back about any noises.


I agree with the others . . . there is a pretty fair chance the differential has suffered irreparable damage, even if the car does seem normal right now. Engines suffer all kinds of damage if they’re allowed to run dry. I would expect a differential to be the same.

It would be a really ugly situation, if Jiffy Lube refills it and sends you on your way and calls it good . . . and 6 months later the thing fails completely, and Jiffy Lube is off the hook by then

A call to a lawyer might not hurt. Perhaps he could persuade Jiffy Lube to pay for the cost of a new/rebuilt transaxle