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Thoughts on Various Fluids?

Hey everyone, first time posting here and I could use some advice. I drive an '08 Outback with 65,000 miles on it. I’m due for an oil change and I did a search the forums here on transmission fluid changes and it’s probably time to get one done. My mechanic also suggested that I look at replacing the radiator fluid as well. However I just sank $900 into the car for various maintenance repairs last month and I’m having a hard time deciding what to do with this car.

I called around and have been hearing some really high prices. The Subaru dealership wants $235 for just the transmission fluid change plus $69 for the oil and that sounds ridiculously high to me. One shop I called quoted me on $275 for transmission fluid! People have been telling me that transmission fluid changes usually run less than $100. Midas offers a full fluid service that includes oil, transmission, radiator, brakes, etc for $289.

Should I get just the oil and transmission fluid change, or should I do the full fluid service? Any ideas what I should expect to pay and for some of these services or recommendations on where to get them done?

I urge you to NOT let Midas or anyone else flush that transmission. Regular fluid and filter service, using the Subaru fluid called for in the owner’s manual only. No substitutes.

Brake fluid should be flushed every 2 years.

I’m not sure what Subaru’s coolant replacement interval is, but most manufacturers advise you to change it every 5 years, if not sooner.

I advise you to have the transmission fluid and filter serviced at either a Subaru dealer or an independent shop that specializes in Subarus. Make absolutely sure they will replace the filter and use only the correct fluid, NOT a generic ATF. If they don’t give you a straight answer, walk away.

Go for the Midas deal. That’s the best bang for the buck.

All fluids in a vehicle eventually break down or become oxidized/contaminated during use. The tranny fluid service should be cheap because the transmission has a spin-on tranny filter. Just like the engine oil filter.


Find an independent mechanic that knows Subarus (see ‘Mechanics Files’ above) and have them replace the transmission and cooling system fluids with SUBARU factory fluids. The head gasket issue has me using only Subaru coolant in my '07 Forester, and transmissions are expensive enough that I use only factory fluid there, too.

As for oil and filter, use whatever weight/type is recommended in the owners manual - it’s not synthetic, is it?

So far you’ve only looked at the Dealer (prices are usually very very high) and the Midas (who I wouldn’t let add air to my tires).

Find a good independent for your oil changes and radiator flush. The tranny fluid…some independents can do it…but I found a good tranny shop not too far away. They will ALWAYS use the right fluid…no substitutes. They drain the fluid…change the filter and refill with the proper fluid. Dealer price to change the fluid on my 4runner is about $250…the local tanny guy ( who by the way…my local dealer sends them all of their tranny rebuilds)…charges me $175…and he uses the Toyota WS fluid.

@Tester I believe OP’s transmission has a pan AND a spin-on ATF filter. I’m inclined to believe that Midas will NOT drop the pan and will talk OP into a trans flush using generic ATF.

@db4690 That’s when the owner of the vehicle has a discussion with the shop as to what will be done and what fluids will be used. That’s how you build a relationship with the owner of the vehicle.


@Tester not all owners are savvy enough to ask all the right questions. I’m not defending any owner’s ignorance. I’m just stating the facts.

My local Midas took a beating for a couple of years as they tried to play the franchise games but when the original owner went bust a new owner recognized the problem and seems to run a legit shop. His labor and parts markup is somewhat pricey to cover the location and franchise expenses but the work is straight up and they seem to have few complaints so maybe the OP’s Midas shop is OK… Maybe. Personally I duck and run when any shop recommends flushing a transmission due to the sales pitch that the flushing machine distributors gave me. Flushing machines, like nitrogen in tires, is mostly flim-flam.

@RodKnox I know this is kind of off topic, but IMO nitrogen is the most useless upsell out there.
If you regularly check and correct your tire pressures, you don’t need nitrogen.
From what I hear (and I’m not even sure about this), nitrogen prevents tires from rotting on the INSIDE.
But what’s the point of that? The sun and heat is going to dry the tires on the outside anyway.
Last year I had to replace a set of 7 year old tires which had plenty of tread because they were dry rotted on the outside.
Nitrogen would NOT have prevented that.

Lots of bs about nitrogen. How many tires wear out from the inside? About zero.

I got my nitrogen for free with a new tire purchase, they put on green valve stem caps and will topoff pressure for free for forever. It was suggested to only have nitrogen put in, but really? it is a scam if you have to pay for it I believe.

@Barkydog if a shop wants to charge you to put in nitrogen, take your business elsewhere.

Barkydog, you’re paying for the nitrogen and those green valve stem caps. It’s a cost of doing business and figured into the price of the tires.

Oklahoma, I hear what you are saying, but even after tire rack +shipping mounting and balancing, these guys provided the lowest price, and it was a surprise to me, but I cannot do a better deal, much less free nitrogen, which I care not.

That is highway robbery. For most fluid changes, even the Toyota dealership I go to charges very little more then a chain. You know, there is absolutely no reason you can’t go to a dealership with other cars to get a Subaru fluid change. They all have that capability. If you are lucky enough to have an independent or two around with a good reputation, that woukd be my first recommendation. It’s not rocket science and they are for the most part more reasonable then your Subaru ripoff dealer.

Btw , nitrogen in tires is an absolute MUST for safety. Fortunately you can get it from some KMart air compressors, but only if you own the right type. Some have the added feature of using outside air. If your’s doesn’t, I will loan you my 25 year old Air Station. They were way ahead of it’s time in offering this feature. I think the new ones, even the standard hand pumps use that air source. Normally, nitrogen extraction was too hard to do in older times and cars had to resort to solid rubber tires. Since nitrogen extraction became common place, pneumatic tirs really took off. Now, there is a movement afoot to go back to pneumatic free tires. I think it might be cause there are so many nitrogen users, we may be using it up. We are down to only 78% nitrogen left in the atmosphere. It would be really helpful if we could do away with that darn O2 in the atmosphere. So, be considerate and only use that which you really need. There may be precious little left and the control of climate change depends upon your altruism. Enough said about nitrogen and tires. Another example of too much free time…

@dagosa thanks for the info, but I’ll stick with old fashioned air in my tires. Haven’t had any problems yet.

I bought a nice set of Michelins last year at a big name tire retailer. They didn’t give me green caps, didn’t mention nitrogen and didn’t charge me for it (I carefully looked at my invoice). If they had tried to sell it, I would have taken my business elsewhere, probably to the tire shop right next door!