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Subaru Legacy/Outback Transmission Problems



  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I guess it could be a very slow leak that had just started. Not even a drop?

    Funny thing is the price actually sounds sort of low for a bad seal. They'll have to replace all the ATF when they are done.
  • I have a 2000 with the same problem have you had any luck solving this issue?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,507
    While it seems to be far more rare for other model years, I have read many instances of this exact problem in the '99 models. I am not sure if it was a (temporary) change in design or what, but there is a definite trend.

    I think the problem is that the internal seals in the transmission are wearing out. Basically, the transmission is leaking inside and is having difficulty building up the proper operating pressure to shift into gear. Unfortunately, transmissions with this issue are headed for a rebuild....
  • Background info:
    I bought a 2007 Subaru outback 2.5i with automatic with about 78,000 miles on it on 9/9/09. the test drive was perfect (though i was excited so i may have missed something) but later that same night, my car was dead so it had to be started using jumper cables and it happened again the next morning. I though i had a dud, but it turns out that stupid parking light switch on the steering column was turned on and had been on for some time (i didn't even know it existed until i called the dealer). I have a new battery and that problem is solved. but now, i have a new one. I don't know if this was occurring before the battery problem or not, but now when i'm driving most shifts feel perfect but every so often it feel like i ran over a speed bump when there is nothing there. it happens a lot on the highways and in the mountains but doesn't necessarily happen every time it shifts or for a certain gear but seems to happen most when i'm accelerating or decelerating. Any ideas?

    I'm getting the ATF changed this week and will reset the computer to make sure it's not one of these "learned" behaviors.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    It isn't necessarly the trans. Could be a bad wheel bearing or something, anything creating artificial resistance while it's moving.

    I say wheel bearings because those are a common failure at that high mileage.
  • The dealer said he replaced the back ones. i guess maybe the front ones should be done next?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    They can inspect the front to see if they're bad. There would be some "play" in the wheels.
  • ok, so i was driving my new-used 2007 Subaru outback 2.5i a good deal this past weekend and tried to localize whatever is going on with it a bit more. I had the ATF changed at the Subaru dealer here in asheville but the problem is still occurring. it seems to occur most at higher speeds (between 60-70 mph) and not necessarily during a shift but more when i'm changing speeds. and it feels like i'm driving over one of those strips along the road meant to wake you up if you fall asleep. it only lasts about a second and goes away. it also seems to happen more during inclines. oh and the ball bearings are all fine. any ideas?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    That's a mystery because I would have guess wheel bearings next, and you say those are OK.

    I would look at the front diff fluid and the rear diff fluid. Maybe drain and fill, and check the magnetic drain plug to see if any metal shavings came off. Basically looking for other symptoms.

    Can you tell from which side of the car the noise is coming? Try to narrow it down to front vs. back, or the side.
  • saedavesaedave Chicago, ILPosts: 683
    it only lasts about a second and goes away. it also seems to happen more during inclines. oh and the ball bearings are all fine. any ideas?

    Is there anything loose under the car that could touch the drive shaft? exhaust pipe, muffler heat shield? Also anything that could touch a wheel...brake line, etc.

    Could it be the cooling fan or something driven by the serpentine belt?
  • are the diff fluids easy to change by yourself?
    it actually doesn't make a sound really, it just feels like i'm going over one of those strips along the side of the road and i would say it feels like it's coming from the front, but i'll try to localize it a bit more.
  • I'll check this, but i don't think so. and it doesn't happen all the time, just those times mentioned.

    there are zero rattles or shakes anywhere in the car that i can hear. i hate when things rattle or squeak so i'm pretty quick to act when i do hear something.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,507
    No real sound, but you can feel it and it only happens when the gears shift. Perhaps I am way off base here, but I almost think there is an issue with the torque converter - perhaps the lock-up clutch? It would be an uncommon failure if this is the case, but it just seems like it has something to do with the operation of the transmission.
  • it doesn't actually just happen when the gears shift, just when i change speeds. could that be the problem if it's occurring at times it's not shifting? most shifts are good, it seems that it only happens when i'm rapidly speeding up. like if i was going up an incline on the highway and have to floor it (since it's the 2.5) to keep a constant speed, it'll happen. then after it does it, it might shift and some times it happens a couple times in a row.

    Sorry if it's confusing, i really dont know much about cars and i don't want to go into the dealer to get them to check it out without having some idea. they will charge me a bunch of hours to figure it out.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Rear is easy but you said the you thought the noise was coming from the front.

    I've only done the front diff fluid on models with a manual trans, which shares fluid with the diff. I'm pretty sure AT models are different.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,507
    Oh..... but this is all very confusing. :D

    Here was your first account of the situation: but now when i'm driving most shifts feel perfect but every so often it feel like i ran over a speed bump when there is nothing there. it happens a lot on the highways and in the mountains but doesn't necessarily happen every time it shifts or for a certain gear but seems to happen most when i'm accelerating or decelerating. Any ideas?

    We have now moved past the "speed bump" scenario (which I must say is quite different) to rumble strips. But, still no sound, just a feel.

    I must say it seems like engine hesitation, with all things considered. Do you know the maintenance history of the vehicle? Is this the one that was a dealer demo (I get my stories confused)? This may be something as simple as worn spark plugs, but without knowing if they were replaced yet, it is hard to say. Also, no codes in the system would likely steer away from that theory as well.

  • to make it even more interesting, i think it's doing both now. but it was first feeling like i hit a speed hump but after resetting the computer and getting ATF changed, now it's doing the rumble strips with a few speed bumps thrown in there (though they could be the same thing, i may just be paying more attention some times) and again neither of these happen all the time or very often and almost never during city driving.

    Nope, no service records. its an 07 with 80k miles on it. i know i should just take the thing in to a dealer, but i really don't want to spend too much on the diagnosing part of it as it's $90 an hour. If there are no engine lights on, would it make any sense to hook a reader up to it? i have access to one if it would help at all.
  • Hi all, newbie on edmonds. im a gm tech but it does sound like torque convrter clutch. try driving steady at 50 mph for a bit and just touch brake pedal enough to light the brake lights but not enough to slow the vehicle and the tcc should release and when you let off brake the tcc should lock up again. if this what we call "shudder" returns on re apply then your problem is torque converter. hope this helps
  • great, thanks.
    I will try that tonight
  • so i tried that last night and it didn't really do it. do you all think it could be a spark plug missing?
  • So i think the last cheap thing i can do to fix whatever is happening with my subaru is change the spark plugs. My friend and i are going to do it and have found the correct plugs. Does anyone know what the torque should be for them? again, it's a 2007 subaru outback 2.5i.

  • well, new spark plugs are in and the problem is still there so it's most likely the torque converter...sounds expensive
  • I have a 1998 Subaru Legacy outback, and I recently changed the transmission fluid, and filter... unfortunately for me, it now will not drive at all!!! :(

    I called a mechanic and he says I should have just cleaned the filter in place, and not removed it. Does anyone know how I can fix this!? my car is stuck up on ramps and wont drive.

    I was sure that all the electrical connections were still pluged in when I put the pan back on.

    Please HELP!
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,507
    So what is not working? Is the transmission just not engaging when you select a gear?

    First off... make sure you put enough fluid in it! If the fluid is very low, it will not build the hydraulic pressure needed to engage the gears. If the level shows fine, it may be that something is not aligned properly on the filter and the fluid is not able to flow through it as it should.
  • 1 year ago the trans started binding during tight turns. I adjusted my driving to avoid sharp turns. The engine/trans would also have a lot of torque when I put it into park to turn it off, and would lurch backward once that torque was shut off. I applied the brake before shutting it off so that lurch would not occur. I operated under hope that the trans would decline linearly over time rather than fail all at once.

    So when I took it in recently I had them replace front axles and CV boots, valve cover gaskets, crankshaft seal and timing belt. Now that these new parts were on, an intermittent clattering noise began to come from the trans. If I start it up, the engine is fine and has all power. Acceleration is fine and smooth. There's no bucking. There is still the old binding problem and high torque while in park. The mechanic mentioned something about having too high a pressure in the trans, and that it was throwing a code.

    I drove it slowly a few times and the intermittent loud clatter eventually 'spun' and settled down into a light, constant clatter coming from the trans.

    1) Is it possible that the front axles which went bad were over-stressed by the binding problem?
    2) Is it possible that the valve cover gaskets and crakshaft seals were worn out and leaking due to some over pressure caused by the trans?
    3) If I baby it on level, low-speed, A-to-B streets, do I have a good hope the trans will last a while longer?

    Repairing my own trans is quoted at $1800 minimum, so I'm wondering about a junkyard replacement trans.

    4) What year and model range of Subaru trans will work on a 97 Outback AWD? Any horror stories about a junkyard trans replacement turning out to be crap?

    Thank you!
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,507
    I would say no to points 1 and 2 above. For 3, I don't know. It sounds like it is nearing its end, to me. Have you changed out the transmission fluid to observe its condition?

    As for 4, you should be able to use a 95 through 98 transmission in this car without any compatibility issues. There were some changes in 99, and I think those tend to be less reliable (based on empirical evidence), so you may want to keep your search capped at 98. It is always a gamble when you head to a junk yard. That said, I had 220,000 on my '96 Outback and were you to claim its transmission, I bet it would take you many more trouble-free miles. In other words, you never know but you should also pay accordingly. ;)
  • Just picked up a 95 Legacy Wagon AWD at an auction, sold "as is" and when we pulled away to drive home, the car wouldn't shift into 2nd or 3rd gear on an automatic tranny. The engine revved up to 3500 rpm and just would not go over 35 mph. Any know if this is going to require a full transmission swap or do they make a tranny kit that might be an easier fix...don't want to stick a ton of money in it. Just needs to be able to get to and from work on a daily basis. Thanks for any advice.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    No idea, sorry, but paisan might know if he's around.
  • bigdadi118bigdadi118 Posts: 1,207
    if you want to locate a used tranny, you can visit

    I checked MA on 95 Legacy AWD auto ... Price range $200 - $400
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