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Hi, there,

Last night my fiance decided to be very nice and change the oil in my 2004 Subaru Forester. After accidentally draining the transmission instead of the oil pan, he then proceeded to refill the transmission...except it was actually the front differential.

We needed a large torx wrench to get the differential plug out to drain it, but of course there was no such tool to be had. And this was yesterday, a federal holiday, and after 5:00 pm to boot.

He consulted with some mechanics from his job by phone and was told that nothing bad would happen...the differential needs to be lubricated, and it was lubricated, just with four quarts too many of the wrong fluid.

It's driving fine, and he's happy to go buy the correct torx wrench so he can fix his mistake. However, he won't be able to get to it until tomorrow night at the earliest, but more likely this weekend.

Is this mistake likely to do damage to my car? Can we wait until this weekend to correct the problem, or am I better off taking it somewhere to have the differential drained and refilled?

Thanks for any info you may have...

Amy
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Is this mistake likely to do damage to my car? Can we wait until this weekend to correct the problem, or am I better off taking it somewhere to have the differential drained and refilled?

I don't know. But I do know that you should never let your fiance touch your car again.

Charles :-)
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The characteristics of ATF and Gear Oil are sufficiently different that I would be very concerned with the proper way of correcting this mistake.

I believe gear oil in the transmission would be a bigger problem than ATF in the diffential, but I would still be fairly concerned. A problem may not be appearant for many thousands of miles but still be a direct result of the wrong fluid in the wrong place.
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After accidentally draining the transmission instead of the oil pan, he then proceeded to refill the transmission...except it was actually the front differential.

I'm unclear on what fluids are where at this point. Did the engine oil ever get drained? Did the transmission get refilled? With what kind of oil?

Given your fiancee's demonstrated mechanical skills, I'd take the car to a shop and have the fluids changed in the engine, transmission, and front diff. And I'd do that today. Now. But don't give him a hard time - his heart was in the right place.

His consultants are probably roughly correct in that nothing bad is going to happen immediately. Assuming the transmission got refilled with something, of course. But the sooner the problem is corrected, the better. And bad things will definitely happen some time down the road if the situation isn't fixed.

--Peter
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I should add that depending on the individual the best way to learn auto repairs is to do it improperly the first time. I bet the next time around he'll be much better at it..
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Thanks all for your replies.

I should clarify:

He's actually pretty mechanical, just decided he didn't need to look at the owner's manual before taking plugs out and stuff. He definitely learned his lessons on that one. I normally take the car to Jiffy Lube, and may do so again in the future. :)

Apparently draining the transmission instead of the oil is pretty common with Subarus, because the plugs are so close together. They actually make it necessary to use a special torx wrench to drain the differential because that plug is right there, too, and was often mistakenly removed.

The car has a full transmission (Dexron III as specified) and new oil (4.5 quarts of 5W-30, as specified). It just also has three or four quarts of Dexron III in the differential (on top of the differential oil it already had). More fluids than my car probably knows what to do with...

I just discovered there's a Jiffy Lube right across the highway from work...I'll take it in this week.

Thanks again!
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Go to your fiance. Look at him with love in your eyes, reach up and gently touch his face while uttering, "honey, if you EVER take a tool to a vehicle of mine I will personally slice your manhood off with a pair of dull wire cutters."
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Hi, there,

Last night my fiance decided to be very nice and change the oil in my 2004 Subaru Forester. After accidentally draining the transmission instead of the oil pan, he then proceeded to refill the transmission...except it was actually the front differential.

We needed a large torx wrench to get the differential plug out to drain it, but of course there was no such tool to be had. And this was yesterday, a federal holiday, and after 5:00 pm to boot.

He consulted with some mechanics from his job by phone and was told that nothing bad would happen...the differential needs to be lubricated, and it was lubricated, just with four quarts too many of the wrong fluid.

It's driving fine, and he's happy to go buy the correct torx wrench so he can fix his mistake. However, he won't be able to get to it until tomorrow night at the earliest, but more likely this weekend.

Is this mistake likely to do damage to my car? Can we wait until this weekend to correct the problem, or am I better off taking it somewhere to have the differential drained and refilled?


Uh...wait...we have the oil - from the engine. Then the transmission. Then the differential. All these are different.

The front differential is how power gets transferred from the driveshaft to the axle. Its about the size of a pumpkin. I haven't seen a Subaru diff, but the ones I've seen don't have a drain. You actually have to pop the cover, drain it, get some rtv or other gasket and bolt it back up - then refill through a fill plug. But I haven't seen a diff drain plug.

Could he possibly mean the transfer case? My transfer case DOES have both a fill and drain plug. And my transfer case DOES get filled with transmission fluid. But the transfer case is often in the middle of the car - and would have 2 drive shafts coming out of it - one for the front, one for the rear.

I'm pretty confused here...and wait - if he drained the diff in the first place, whats the need for the torx wrench? So he drained the transmission, but refilled the diff? Very confused...
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But I haven't seen a diff drain plug...................................



I have and I'll bet many of the DIY types here probably have as well.



Pete
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The funny thing is, none of the confusion would have happened had he looked at the diagrams in the owner's manual in the first place.

All of the "pull dipstick here" or "take this cap off" items in the engine compartment are bright yellow.

The front and rear differentials do actually have drain plugs, and they require a torx wrench to remove them.

The oil drain plug thing is under a plastic cover that you have to unscrew and move out of the way. He didn't do that...he just pulled the plug he saw when under the car, which was for the transmission.

When we discovered that he'd pulled the wrong plug and we needed to add transmission fluid, he grabbed the dipstick thing on one side of the engine compartment (to a part that is down very deep in the compartment and is difficult to get to...probably so people don't make this mistake)...that part, which we subsequently added transmission fluid to, was the front differential. The transmission fill spot was on the other side of the engine compartment.

I'm going to Jiffy Lube today at lunch to have the differential drained and refilled.
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I'm going to Jiffy Lube today at lunch to have the differential drained and refilled.

NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Milligram46, why do you say that? An aversion to Jiffy Lube, or do you think it's a mistake to drain the transmission fluid out of the differential and replace it with the correct oil weight for the differential?

I'm about to leave for JL...if I'm about to make a mechanical mistake, please say so. Otherwise...
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An aversion to Jiffy Lube, ........................................




BINGO!








Pete
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Well, they're Jiffy and they're a lube place...and they're right across the highway...and in seven years I've yet to have a negative experience.

JL, here I come! ;)

Thanks for your advice, everyone.

Amy
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Jiffy Lube generally does not have the most competant people doing the work there. One thing that often happens at Jiffy Lube places is that the drain plugs are air gunned on and effectively destroy the bolt for draining oil etc.

I had a Penzoil place ride my car out of the bay without an air filter once.

In general, if you have never had a problem with your local Juffy Lube you should be fine. Just like any service place your results can vary.

There is another place in my area I use all the time that do good work and I've never had an issue.
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Service places are only as good at the employees and managers at the particular location.

Get the proper fluids in the proper containers as soon as possible. If JL has been doing right for you for seven years, I'd not hesitate to let them perform this relatively straightforward task for you today.
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I think what Milligram46 is implying is that the quality of repair at the Jiffy Lube could very easily be WORSE than the job your SO already botched.

Years ago my wife had a subaru forester and she told me of a similar experience to yours done by Jiffy lube on her car.
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I don't know. But I do know that you should never let your fiance touch your car again.

Charles :-)


My sister bought a used Saturn from one of my co-workers. I thought I would be nice and change the oil for her. I popped the hood and looked straight down and, tada, there was the oil filter, plain as day right next to the engine.

So, I get the oil wrench and start to remove the filter. SOB! The last person who changed the oil REALLY cranked down on that filter! I finally had to get a pipe wrench with a two foot breaker bar to get that bastard off.

The whole thing was covered in road grime and when I finally spun it off and had it in my hand I could read the label: ATF filter! DAMM!! I just removed the ATF filter. SO, I thought I could put it back on, teeth marks and all. I started the car and threw into reverse and SPRAYED ATF fluid all over my driveway. It took 4 months before the elements finally washed it away.

The moreal of the story? Be easy on her boyfriend, it could happen to anyone :)



p.s. why would Saturn design an ATF filter that looked exactly like an oil filter and place it in the engine bay next to the engine?
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Well...

Jiffy Lube didn't have the right tool, either. Internet searches verified that the T70 torx socket is very hard to come by, unless you're willing to buy it over the Internet or pick it up as part of a 17 piece torx kit.

I ended up calling the nearest Subaru dealer (who read me the riot act about needing to get my vehicle towed in immediately - "DO NOT DRIVE IT!") and (stubborn me) driving the car the eight miles to the service bay. They drained the differential, flushed it twice, verified there was no damage done (so my 60,000 powertrain warranty is still valid), refilled it and sent me on my way. Total cost: $127.72.

My fiance was mortified.

It won't happen again!

Thanks, all!
Amy
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I ended up calling the nearest Subaru dealer (who read me the riot act about needing to get my vehicle towed in immediately - "DO NOT DRIVE IT!") and (stubborn me) driving the car the eight miles to the service bay.

Honestly, my first reaction to your original story was to get it towed to the nearest Subaru dealer. It really wouldn't have been out of line for your warranty to be voided. Stubborn is one thing but how were you sure you weren't doing permanent damage to tha car ?

rad
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I wasn't. I didn't know any better. All the mechanics around us (granted, logging truck mechanics) said, "Hell, differentials need to be lubed, it's lubed, it'll be fine."

I also thought my warranties were already expired for some reason. They are, except for this one.

I'm lucky, basically.
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p.s. why would Saturn design an ATF filter that looked exactly like an oil filter and place it in the engine bay next to the engine?

Because they hate you.

Actually it's a really nice design. You can change the transmission fluid on a Saturn S series without dropping the pan. All you have to do is drain the pan by undoing the plug, spin the filter off, spin a new filter on and you're done. It's about as hard as doing an oil change.

On the other hand the oil filter is a bit annoying to reach. It's actually doable without raising the car up by turning the front wheels fully to the left, removing the splash guard from the passenger side wheel well and spinning the filter off that way. You sort of have to know what you're feeling for though so the first time you may want to lift the front end up. The only problem is the drip rail is only designed for a lift, not a jack that raises the car unevenly..
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I ended up calling the nearest Subaru dealer (who read me the riot act about needing to get my vehicle towed in immediately - "DO NOT DRIVE IT!") and (stubborn me) driving the car the eight miles to the service bay. They drained the differential, flushed it twice, verified there was no damage done (so my 60,000 powertrain warranty is still valid), refilled it and sent me on my way. Total cost: $127.72.

This is going to sound - well, harsh. You and your fiance deserve each other. You took a big chance at voiding your warranty when you drove your car after the dealer warned you not to. What would you have said if the dealer found significant damage to the car due to the mixture of fluids? Would you have reported that the dealer was trying to scam you?

You further risked damage to your car and a voiding of your warranty by taking the car to a mechanic (?) i.e. Jiffy Lube, instead of to your dealer. Said mechanic could not resolve your situation.

Please, if you ever experience the introduction of foreign fluids into your car, have it towed to your dealer at once (or do not drive it until it can be towed there). It could save you thousands of dollars.

Charles
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