February 27

2010 Subaru Outback – Radiator Replacement



Mark: Hello, it's Mark from Remarkable Speaking. I'm here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience, and we're talking cars. How you doing Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing good. Doing good. 

Mark: Today's victim is a 2010 Subaru Outback that had a cooling issue. What was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: Yeah, so this vehicle came to our shop with a few concerns actually. It actually didn't have a cooling issue. So we did replace the radiator, but it actually came to our shop with a couple concerns that there was some noises or some feel the vehicle didn't quite feel right while driving it at higher speeds.

And when the owner had had some tire changeover done. They'd noticed that there's a transmission fluid leak. And this was a regular client of ours, we'd done a transmission service a while back. You know, they said it was a transmission fluid leak. They didn't say where from, but I thought, oh, okay, well maybe the pan gasket's leaking cuz once in a blue moon that kind of thing happens. So we basically, you know, had a couple concerns we're looking at on the vehicle. But transmission fluid leak was one of them.

Mark: So what testing and diagnosis did you do on the car? 

Bernie: Yeah, so for the suspension issue, a good long road test was done. And I won't get too much into the details other than we found a couple of bad wheel bearings on the vehicle, which is not uncommon for Subarus. Rear wheel bearings they seem to go quite frequently and I could have done a podcast on that. We could be doing the one, but I think we've already probably done one or two on them. If not, we can do one in the future. But anyways, that was one of the concerns. And then of course, you know, part of that is to bring the vehicle back in the shop, do a hoist inspection and had a look for the transmission leak and found it was actually leaking from the radiator.

You know, every vehicle with an automatic transmission has a cooler. The fluid has to be cooled and kept at a proper temperature so the transmission doesn't overheat. And the cooler had a leak. So that's what we found. And fortunately, you know, I hate having to do a job twice. The transmission pan seal that we did was impeccably good, which always makes me happy, as it should be. But sometimes things have issues. We can start with some pictures. 

2010 Subaru Outback - Radiator Replacement

Mark: So where is the transmission radiator on a Subaru? 

Bernie: Well, it's basically right in the, so the transmission radiator's actually inside the cooling system radiator. And you know what, I'll actually change to a different picture here. This is the leak right here. 

2010 Subaru Outback - Radiator Replacement

This is the complete radiator here, lying on the ground. This is the old one. So this silvery part here, which is all aluminum. This is the radiator core, and this is where all the cooling system heat exchange happens between the cooling system and the outside air. There are fans that bolt up here. You can see a couple of bolts on the top. There are two fans for the radiator that sit up here and of course, as you're driving it forces air through the radiator or the fans will kick on and suck air in there, if you're sitting at a light and idling and it needs more airflow. 

The cooling system hoses, one goes here, that's the upper outlet, and then the lower outlet is down here. These pipes here are where the transmission cooler flows, and inside the bottom of this tank here, that's what these ends are, the upper tank, lower tank, inside here is another heat exchanger, and that transfers the heat of the transmission into the coolant of the engine. So the radiator actually is multipurpose. It actually cools the engine. It also keeps the transmission at operating temperature. So these pipes here, they're fitted in and we'll look at some closer shots here. Basically it was leaking from this pipe here. 

2010 Subaru Outback - Radiator Replacement

And there's another closeup view. You can see it's moist with fluid. I also noticed too, that actually there's a slight, we didn't really notice any coolant leaking, but you can see a slight trace of, it's like a sort of a whiteish look. I'd say that that would be the radiator that's actually starting to just very barely seep coolant. Not even a drip, but there's some that has come out over time. So this seal on the radiator between the core and the tank is breaking down. So, you know, a good time to change the radiator. 

And here's the radiator in the vehicle where we found the coolant leak in the first place. You can see that reddish fluid right there. That's the fluid leak. And it did, you know, left some fluid leaking down on the crossmember. 

Mark: How difficult a job is this replacing this radiator? 

Bernie: It's not very difficult on a Subaru. Yeah, it's a pretty straightforward in and out type of replacement as opposed to a lot of other vehicles I can think of that where it's, you know, many hours worth of work. This is not too difficult. It's fairly straightforward. 

Mark: And is this a fairly common issue with Subarus or is this, you work on a lot of 'em. Is is this something you've seen before? 

Bernie: Can't think of any other time we've actually had a transmission cooler fitting leak like this in a Subaru. We see 'em from time to time in other cars. It's you know, of all the radiators we replace, it's probably about 5% of the time we replace a radiator because of this.

Mark: So I guess you flushed the cooling system when you're replacing the radiator?

Bernie: Well, normally we would, but in the case of this vehicle, we didn't because, at least within the last year, we did the head gaskets on this vehicle and flushed the cooling system back then. So we did put new antifreeze in it. It gets contaminated once you drain it out, but yeah, we basically didn't flush the cooling system. There was no need to cuz the antifreeze and coolant that was left in there was still good and fresh and in good condition. We just topped it up with new coolant. 

Mark: So how did the car run after the repair? 

Bernie: Yeah, it was good. Yeah, ran really well. And we did wheel bearings and a couple other issues. You know, so it was nice and quiet driving down the road. But, you know, of course, with this issue with the transmission cooler, you wouldn't really notice a problem until you would actually run the fluid so low on the transmission it would start to mis-shift. But the fluid level wasn't really appreciably low at all. It probably lost maybe a quarter of a litre of fluid. 

So the owner caught this at the right time. It was a good time to change it. When you find fluid leaks like that, the best thing you can do is fix 'em before they become problematic.

Mark: Because you might ruin the whole transmission.

Bernie: Exactly. Yeah, I'm always, you know, concerned for people's budgets, cuz you never know how, you know, sometimes you can have a fluid leak and it's like, well, you know what? It's so expensive to fix it, maybe you're better to top the fluid up. But you know, the thing that's always in the back of my mind is when does a fluid leak go from being a seep to a gusher?

You know, cuz that's when your car is gonna be unreliable. And, you know, something like this probably isn't gonna go into being a gusher. It'll probably be something that'll just, it'll just drip worse. And then when you notice that it's like, okay, this is the absolute drop dead time to do the replacement. But you really wanna catch things early. 

Mark: How are 2010 Subaru Outbacks for reliability? 

Bernie: Well, they're excellent. But these are getting near the end of the timing belt era, 2.5 litre engines. So along with that timing belt replacement, head gaskets go on these, it's just a kind of part of the design unfortunately. And it's kind of a cost you have to bear if you own one of these, but they are an excellent vehicle. Pretty predictable. I say it's interesting that, and I was talking about wheel bearings earlier. Those are another kind of predictable repair on these vehicles too. We work on so many of them. But you know, generally things like the transmissions, the four-wheel drive system pretty much bulletproof, that drive axles are good.

You know, it's a good car and it's a good multipurpose useful car if you're going slight off-roading or, you know, off to the mountains kind of thing, which is why they're so popular around here. 

Mark: If you're looking for service for your Subaru Outback, or doesn't matter which model the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can book online at pawlikautomotive.com. They'll call you back. They'll get ready for your appointment, or you can phone and book your appointment, (604) 327-7112. You have the book ahead. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC. Thanks so much for watching and listening. Thank you Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

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Bernie Pawlik

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