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Old 02-16-2003, 11:49 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Jackson, WY
Posts: 18
bad front differential?

I have a 1990 300TE 4matic wagon I purchased for a good price 6 months ago with 102,000 in immaculate condition, but no records. My local mechanic gave it the thumbs up. Had I found this forum before I bought the car, I probably wouldn't have...that said, I love this car, the handling combined with the four wheel drive is amazing. I had all the fluids flushed at the dealer when I was in Salt Lake about a month after buying the car. They found no major problems.

When I had my most recent oil change 2 weeks ago, my local mechanic found that my front differential fluid was burnt black. I had noticed that after driving over the Pass for the second day in a row the front end would jump while sitting at a stop light( problem goes away in neutral). mechanic thought I had overheated the front diff. possibly due to unmatched snow tires. He replaced the fluid and I bought 4 new snow tires (which I was going to do soon anyway).

However, my problem is back. Is my front differential toast? Or has my transfer case gone south? All other fluids are normal. The hydraulic fluid leaks slightly, but nothing major. The 4matic functions normally. The other thing I notice is a little lag time between stepping on the gas pedal and power being engaged. I'm going to take it in on Monday but would like to know what I may be getting into. Also, should I disengage the 4matic before driving? Any help would be appreciated, sorry for excessive detail and length. Thanks!
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Old 02-17-2003, 01:46 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Jackson, WY
Posts: 18
Anyone? 4matic owners? I shut off the 4matic & my probem went away, so the front differential is bad? Are these the symptoms of a bad transfer case? Thanks in advance...
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Old 02-17-2003, 08:42 AM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Tucker, Ga USA
Posts: 12,153
Have replaced 7-10 transfer cases & repaired several others, but never even heard of a bad front diff.
Most common problem is the clutch pack in the transfer case going bad & allowing hydraulic fluid into the transfer case.

Iwould check the transfer case fluid level & also see if the 4-matic fluid level is going down.
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Old 02-18-2003, 10:42 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Jackson, WY
Posts: 18
Thanks, I will have my mechanic check those. I do have a very slight leak in the hydraulic fluid. The transfer case fluid level has been fine when checked.

The weird thing is, my problem is back, even with the 4matic shut off. The front end/transmission jumps like it's trying to shift while stopped after being driven for 30 plus minutes ... I'm beginning to suspect something in the transmission? If I shift into neutral or park or reverse, it goes away. Transmission seems fine otherwise. Will search forum for this problem.
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Old 02-28-2003, 01:39 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Jackson, WY
Posts: 18
Just thought I'd follow up...Bad Transfer Case! My transfer case has developed the dreaded internal leak and was an overfull mess of mixed hydraulic fluid and ATF causing it to 'jump' once warm. I guess I'll replace the transfer case, since the rest of the car is in excellent condition and here in western Wyoming, 4wdrive is a good thing about 6months of the year. Dealer quoted me $1500 for part, $525 for labour. Not great, but doesn't sound too unreasonable, cheaper than a new Subaru...
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