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Subaru Legacy/Outback Transmission Problems



  • I just recently moved from Colorado to Oregon. Prior to this move I had the trans fluid flushed for a regular scheduled maint. early and before it was due for the first time at about 60k+ miles, the car now has just turned 90k this past year.

    After the flush and still in Colorado, I drove up to the ski resorts many times prior without any issues. After the flush I took my vehicle up and seemed to have issues? The trans spued its fluid out of the dip stick which then onto the exhaust causing some smoke. I am car sauvy at most and know my vehicles well, but knew something wasn't right after. I took it back to a well known mechanic who told me that it may have been over filled (who originally did the flush). This persisted for a while until it cleared up and after I brought it in to have it double checked as well.

    I then moved from Colorado to Oregon pulling my racing bike and trailer, and a Thule rack and bag on top, and with the car with just about empty exept for me and my dog. Another trip to Colorado a month or so after my initial move, I heard a weired noise and felt some odd shifting issues fron 4th to 3rd and back and forth agressively while hitting the high passes on Hwy70
    near Vail.
    With concern i brought my car back to my well known and highly trusted mechanic who refered me to a trans specialist who took a look at my car.
    I don't trust many people with my vehicles, but I trust this shop over any dealership at most and their referal! These guys are master mechanics.
    The guy stated to me after his evaluation, said the the fluid is burnt and that there may be a problem with the torque converter rather than internally in the transmission?
    With that in mind I decided to get a second opinion and dropped it off to the Subaru dealership who then, after evaluation told me that not only is my trans fluid burnt but my line pressure is reading "Zero" and that no codes are being pulled up from the ECU. The service rep proceeded to tell me I needed a new trans and that it would cost me 6k. ( I just about chocked!) Then the price lowered to 2500 to 3k to rebuild or replaced with a remanufactured one.

    The car seems to drive fine! I have been told to never replacing the trans filter...??? I'm not sure if there is damage to my trans or if I should just wait until something major happens? At this point I have trust issues with most shops trying to clean me out of excuses. I am smart enough to know who is telling me the truth or who isn't with a load of garbage to make some money on verbal fabrication.

    Heres some questions I have...

    1) I was thinking of another trans flush and adding Lucas as an additive to regain the life of the bands etc. Thoughts for adding Lucas trans treatment?

    2) Subaru says never to replace the trans filter? When a transmission breaks down with metal "Sludge" or "Breakdown" who is to say that my filter isn't congested with such breakdown that filtering right now may be dificult?... Change the filter?

    3)Torque Converter issues? I'm interested in knowing more!

  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    If your fluid is burnt then you have either internal clutch issues or torque converter issues. Unfortunately it isn't cheap or pretty to replace either of them.

    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • Mike,

    I appreciate your reply.
    I know this isn't going to be cheap to have this taken care of should either or both be the cause. I'm also wondering if I managed to burn the fluid on one of my long drives possibly pulling my race bike? The car doesn't slip nor does it seem to pose any additional problems when driving it that I have noticed.

    Any body have any responses to my other questions that I had?

  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    It is strange for it not to slip with the burnt fluid. Perhaps it wasn't burnt completely and didn't damage the clutches or torque converter. In general, and I've burned up many an AT, once it starts to slip it'll continue to get worse and worse even with a proper fluid change.

    Sorry for not having a better answer for yah.

    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • Mike
    We brought the car back to the Subaru dealer and they made some calls to Subaru. Apparently there is nothing that can be done at this time, however it seems to be a problem with the 2008's right now. They expect something to be done about it as soon as Subaru can figure the cause. We are to call back in two weeks to see if they have received anything on this problem. Will keep you updated.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    The only thing similar I had was when I hooked up an Ecutek to my car and changed the idle on my 05 LGT. Whenever I'd hit the clutch it would race to 1500 rpms. My guess is that it might be an ECU programming problem.

    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • ok here is the deal i was trying to put in a cd player in my 96 subaru legacy L and well i was doing the stuff that has to be done well here is the flip of it all ok i start to connect all the stuff and i had it all done well the back speaker didn't work and i noticed that have i turned the car on the doors would try and lock and then i noticed the overhead light wasn't on have the doors was open and then i was just bout to take my friend home and the dash light didn't come on so i unhook everything and then the doors stop trying to lock have i started the car and the overhead light works but the dash light still dont work what do i do
  • I am having the exact same problem with my 08 Legacy GT. Only the 2-3 upshift is harsh, all other gear changes are fine. I've had it to the dealer 3 times already and opened a "subaru case" with the customer service line, but all they can do is tell me it's normal. It seems to be something wrong with the "learning" function because every time I take it in, they would "reset" the TCU and it's fine for a while, but comes back in 3,000 miles or so. I'm getting pretty frustrated at this point because it goes away when they reset the TCU, so I think it's a programming issue and not a problem with the hardware. Therefore it should be easy to fix without having to tear open the transmission. If only they could just "turn off" the learning function then I would be happy.
  • That is unbelievable! It sounds like we have the same issue. I have brought my 08 2.5 XT Outback in 4 times now and I was referred to a Subaru "Field Representative" and he told me the same stuff about that it is a "learned behavior". I was very upset with his conclusion, so I wrote Subaru Corp. and got a response from someone who read my letter. I am now being presented with two options: (1) an extended warranty (7 years or 100K miles on Power train) or a possible trade-in with "financing help" from Subaru Corp. I am going to bring up the fact that other customers are experiencing the same thing with the field service guy I met with. I agree that it is a software issue and I tried to explain that to them but they were not listening. There definitely seems to be something wrong with the S/W code. Let me know if you find anything else out and I will do the same.
  • Hi Shabe1, I bought a 2005 Subaru Outback Limited Wagon with automatic and sport shift transmission in July 2007 with about 26,000 miles. I've put 12,000 miles on it. This winter (my first winter owning it) it started downshifting very hard when cold and approaching a stop sign. The transmission also slips sometimes going from third to second (around a corner for example). I took it to a reputable transmission shop. They said a complete rebuild would be around 3,000 and they wouldn't recommend it, just wait and see. Yesterday, the check engine light came on and the Cruise light is flashing so it is going back in tomorrow. I'll let you know what happens. I'm thinking of trading it back in at the dealer where I bought it. I love the car and it does everything else great, but the transmission makes me very nervous.
  • Downshifting hard when cold is a "known" problem. There's a Technical Service Bulletin out. If your transmission is slipping when cold, it may be related.

    Ask your dealer about TSB 16-69-07.
  • 1995 Subaru Legacy Wagon with 156k miles has always had problems shifting into reverse. On and off over several weeks have been smelling a burnt plastic smell, but had a garbage sack fly under the car and thought it was bits of the bag although never could find evidence of it. Two days ago could not put in R unless engine was off and started having difficulty shifting up/down in 1st and 3rd. Adjusted the clutch and had no problems for a couple days, but now has gotten to the point that it will barely shift at all. Do you think this is a clutch or a transmission problem? Need to get an idea of cost to eval options for fixing or retiring our Subie for a newer vehicle. :sick:

  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    hmm, burning plastic could have been the reverse gear, IIRC they use plastic gears for R.

    When did you have the clutch last replaced? If it's original at 156k miles I'd say it may be the clutch.

    Also have you drained/filld the transmission to see if there is any evidence of metal etc in there?

  • cmccartcmccart Posts: 9
    Clutch is not original...had a lemon that SOA covered under warranty just a few months after we got it brand new. Clutch replaced again at about 90k miles and our mechanic said shaft/plate was dinged up from first replacement.

    We haven't drained/filled the transmission. Hubby says that he has no doubt there will be metal in there due to the grind we've always had with R gear and the little bit of grinding from the recent issue prior to parking it. We haven't moved it since.

  • cmccartcmccart Posts: 9
    The fan that blows heat/air inside our 1995 Subaru Legacy only runs on high. It just quits blowing when the knob is turned to low or medium.

    Is this fan under the dash or under the hood? I would like to replace it because I have lived with the high setting for almost a year and cannot take it any longer. :mad:
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Fluid should be changed every 30-60k miles and certainly by the milage you have on it now should have been changed several times!

    Are you at a complete stop when putting it into R? R sometimes needs you to put it in 1 and then R to get into R because it's a straight cut gear.

    I wouldn't be suprised if you need a trans replacement, luckily they are about $500-600.

    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • cmccartcmccart Posts: 9
    Husband says the trans fluid has been changed.

    We have always had problems with R...even when it was brand new. Must be at a complete stop and shifts into R easiest if engine is off. Now recently have had a hard time shifting into 1st unless motor is off and VERY hard shifting into other gears over a week ago when I quit driving it.

    The mechanic who replaced our clutch last time...about 8 years ago believes it is the clutch again and husband does not want to attempt to change it out, so we are taking it in to a shop tomorrow. This mechanic said that part of the clutch mechanism...pressure plate or shaft got dinged up when SOA replaced the original clutch under warranty less than a year after we bought it new.

    We will ask the shop we are taking it to to check out the trans prior to replacing the clutch.

    Thanks for the reply.

    Do you know anything about the fan that blows A/C and heat into the car? Is this under the dash or the hood with the engine?
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    8 years and how many miles since the clutch was replaced? They only last about 80k miles so it may be due anyway. Whenever we do a clutch we do the whole "kit" which is the clutch plate, pressure plate, pilot and throwout bearings.

    Reverse you always have to be at a stop to engage, on any stick subaru. 1st gear you also need to be stopped as well to engage it smoothly.

    I believe the blower is under the dash for the HVAC.

    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,267
    I believe the blower is under the dash for the HVAC.

    Yes, that is the case. It is located above and behind the glove box.
  • cmccartcmccart Posts: 9
    Do you have to pull the dash off or can you go through the glove box?

    Car is at the shop for the clutch so I cannot go out and look.

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