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Transmission Repair Shops not honest about Front Differential Whine?

Question: Is there such a thing as a “transmission differential” ? My dealership is telling me I’ve had problems with my Front Differential. They’ve confused me by first saying the two things were different, then saying they were the same thing.
I understand what the F. Dif. does, but not how it works with the transmission. If I were having a problem with “bearings and seals” in the F. Dif, should I expect a massive transmission failure?

If you’re curious about the background to this question, this is my sad story:

I have a 2001 Forester (automatic) that I bought used from this dealership in 2004. It’s been in fine shape, considering its current 130K miles. It’s a basic country commuter car that’s made a lot of 3-5 hour trips.

Since last August, any pressure on the accelerator resulted in a whine that grew in pitch as the car sped up. Three separate sources said “it might be your front differential, it’ll just get louder, don’t worry about it.” Three!

The sound did indeed become louder, until a new deceleration sound developed. Again, we were told by mechanics that this wasn’t a great concern. It’s just the front differential bearings wearing out. They suggested cutting the AWD for the summer to quiet the noise. They suggested the following repair eventually:

“Will need to remove to remove transmission to determine if front differential bearing are the cause. Estimate $975 P/L to remove transmission. R & R needed bearings and seals in front differential.”

Two weeks ago, this was the advice we were given by our dealership. We took one long trip with complete success and commuted 50 miles daily for two weeks.
On our last trip, we hit slow traffic, and while in those lower speeds (30-40), the car began to buck and shudder. While scrambling to get off the interstate, the front end began to bang viciously, and the front wheels periodically locked. Thus, the “exploded transmission” (their words).

What’s got my goat is that until now, my dealership mechanic has only expressed modest concern. After towing the car back to them, they expressed great surprise and said it was “incredibly rare.” Now that we’re taking our repair elsewhere, they say it was what they expected all along. (Naturally.)

We’ve only been given information concerning the front differential. No warnings concerning actual transmission. I’m not a car person. Was I expected to understand they are the same thing?

From my limited readings and conversations, it did not appear that a modest problem with a front end differential could result in an exploded transmission.
Was I horribly naive?

My Comment: It sounds like you needed to be better prepared and educated. It sounds also like the service folks were not so sure what was going on either. Every thing you mentioned in your question should have been explained to you better, no matter how long it takes. You got a bunch of gaga from people who want your money more than they want you as long term customer.

Educated customers understand the situation they are in better when the service people take the time to present the problems in terms you understand, no matter how long it takes.

In certain situations, I supposed a bad front differential could cause a transmission to explode. If you were in AWD (all wheel drive) mode and the differential locked up, it is possible to damage the transmission. In order to achieve AWD, which is the same as a 4×4 (four wheel drive) for all practical purposes, the vehicle has to have a transfer case of some sort or a power splitter that splits the output generated by the transmission to the rear differential and the front differential at the same time.

I can’t see the vehicle so I really can’t comment on what the problem is and why it happened. What you need is an honest shop that will locate the problem and why it occured. The next time someone says not to take a problem to seriously, get another opinion. Never sign an estimate before the vehicle has the offending component removed and torn down and can see what is wrong. Telling you it will cost $ is a setup to allow them to remove your transmission and charge you more after they ‘got you’. No way you can fix a differential or transmission for $975.00.

Obviously you would have saved a bunch of money, time and aggravation if the dealer had told you up front that making the repairs now will save you a bunch of time, money and aggravation. At least you would have had a choice.

My suggestion is to buy the component/s that failed from a reputable transmission supplier that will give a nationwide guarantee on the products. You can take my word for it and save a bunch of headaches by purchasing your rebuilt Subaru transmission or whatever driveline component from a well established business. has the transmission or driveline component in inventory to ship immediately from one of their many networked locations. Every transmission that leaves their store is pre-tested for guaranteed satisfaction.

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