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First off, I know almost nothing about cars. I can fill them up with gas and drive them. That's about it. This car is a '99 Subaru Outback, automatic.

When I last took my car in for an oil change, the mechanic said that I was leaking transmission fluid and that he'd clamped it and refilled it. After the oil change, I noticed a burning oil smell after the car had been running for a while. I assumed that some of the leaking transmission fluid got on the engine and was burning off. Annoying, but probably not a problem, or so I thought.

I also didn't notice any puddles under where I parked my car, further causing me to believe that I wasn't leaking anything.

That was a few weeks ago. I don't drive very much, though, so not many miles ago.

Today I drove about 15 miles to pick someone up and go to an event. Everything seemed fine, except the burning smell, but even the burning smell wasn't as bad as it usually was. I also got the car washed.

The car sat in the parking lot for around 9 hours. When I went to take my friend home, I noted that the car seemed to be a bit sluggish. In particular, after a stop, it would go very slowly and the engine would rev very high before it would go from first to second. After dropping my friend off, it just got worse and worse. Before long, it was taking a while to change between every gear.

When I finally get home, there's a sharp turn, a relatively steep hill up, and a relatively steep hill down. Because of the turn, I needed to slow down, and I only made it half way up the hill before my car wouldn't move any more. I pushed the engine pretty hard, getting it up to 5 or 6k on the tachometer, and nothing. Eventually I had the bright idea to put it in first gear manually, and I was able to get it moving again up the hill and eventually to my parking space.

So... That's where I am now. So one big problem here is I don't know that I'll even be able to get the car to a mechanic, because just to leave my place I need to go up and down a hill. Based on the fact that the mechanic who changed my oil told me I was leaking transmission fluid, I'm assuming that he didn't actually fix the problem as he claimed he had.

Is it likely that I can refill the transmission fluid, to at least get the car into a state where I can get it to a mechanic without a tow truck?

But I'm doing a whole lot of assuming here, hence why I'm asking for advice. If it does turn out that refilling the transmission fluid is the best course of action, is there anything special I need to know about doing that? Like I said, I know pretty much nothing about cars.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It is actually really difficult to top this up yourself - the easiest route is in through the transmission dipstick, so you'll need a long funnel.

First, find the dipstick - it will be inwards and down below the fuel filter (your manual should show you where) - it will have a yellow circle at the end, for your finger to pull it out.

Then see how full the dipstick indicates your transmission fluid level - if it is fine, leave it alone - you may have something else wrong with your car, and should get it checked out at a garage.

If it is low, you can start to pour. Don't put too much in at first, until you have a good estimate of how full it is.

From an American site I learned that the Subaru Outback 4EAT transmission requires 9.8 quarts of ATF, but it is tricky to equate that with an indicator level on a dipstick.

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Thanks for the advice! –  Asmor Dec 17 '12 at 23:40
    
Generally, you check the fluid level on an automatic transmission with the engine running (gear selector in park). You might check it with the engine off, and if it's totally dry, add some fluid (not too much, maybe a half quart to a quart) before starting up to check it with the engine running. –  Mark Johnson Dec 18 '12 at 0:14
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If you can figure out how to check your transmission fluid level and top it off if it needs it, do so. It may already be too late to be able to drive it to a mechanic, that's a risk you'll need to assess.

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