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Subaru Forester Transmission Questions



  • I am looking to buy a forester. It seem that there are two different a-wheel drive systems. I am not really bias eighter way on auto or stick shift but could someone explain the difference in the auto All-wheel drive and the stick shift all-wheel drive system? Which is better? Thanks in advance.
  • p0926p0926 Posts: 4,423
    The MT uses a mechanical system while the AT's is computerized. I'm sure someone can post a link to a description of the two but the end result is that both systems do an excellent job of directing power to the wheels that need it. I personally wouldn't use the AWD system as a deciding factor for which model to buy.

  • thank you for your help. The MT they say uses a locking differental while the AT uses a limited slip differental,I don't think those are the same. anyway thanks for your help, I have never owned a subaru so this is all new to me
  • p0926p0926 Posts: 4,423
    Subarus don't have locking differentals. In regards to limited slip differentals, a LSD works by varying power from side to side and is not transmission specific.

    The biggest difference between the AT and the MT AWD systems is that the MT has a 50/50 (front/rear) power split under normal conditions. Meanwhile, the AT begins with a 80/20 split (rear/front) and adjusts power delivery from there.

    Hope this helps :)

  • thanks for the help frank. let me read this to you straight from the brochure and you can sort it out for me "2.5x and 2.5xt models equipped with a 5-speed manual tansmission utilize a viscous-type locking center differential and limited slip differential" I am not saying you are wrong but the way they word this is very hard for a new comer, you are probably right. it seems the MT to be more of a true all-wheel drive than the AT... frank have you driven a MT and a AT? I think that under normal driving the power split will not be a big difference but how about when you are in snow or mudd?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Basically, the viscous coupling acts as the center differential. When the axles spin at different speeds, the fluid-filled coupling heats up and the fluid thickens and locks the axles together temporarily.

    The AT uses what they call Auto AWD, basically electronically controlled variable transfer clutches. Simple yet effective.

    Here is a cool video - you see a basic Forester X auto having no trouble transferring power from axle to axle, front to rear and rear to front. Note how little wheelspin there is on the Forester:

    Both systems are very capable.

    The 2009 models adds traction/stability control, so it will only improve.
  • "... could someone explain the difference in the auto All-wheel drive and the stick shift all-wheel drive system?"

    Here are some bits and pieces I have picked up about Forester drive trains:

    The X Sports model (either manual or auto) and the LL Bean model (comes auto only) have X model drive trains.
    All the Forester drive trains have viscous limited slip rear differentials.

    The printed catalog lists the drive trains as follows:

    Manual X and XT = Continuous AWD:
    Viscous locking center differential and limited slip rear differential.

    Automatic X = Active AWD:
    Electronically controlled variable multiplate transfer clutch and viscous limited slip rear differential.

    Automatic XT = VDC (engine management and traction control system) and VTD (Variable Torque Distribution) AWD:
    Electronically controlled variable multiplate transfer clutch, planetary center differential, and viscous limited slip rear differential.

    If you have the automatic transmission, power in Drive and 3rd is biased 80/20 toward the front. There is 50/50 power distribution front and rear if you place the selector lever in 2nd or 1st. If you have a manual transmission the split is 50/50 in all gears.
    If you have Limited Slip Differential (optional in non-X models, standard in XT models), you'll have at least three of four wheels available. If you don't, you could have two wheels of four available, one front and one rear.

    No forester in the US has a front LSD unfortunately (apparently only the forester STI ever got one). The nonvdc foresters have a front open diff with a clutch pack in the center of the car to distribute power f-r and either an open rear diff in the X model or viscous limited slip in the rear on XS and XT models. The forester vlsd is very loose though. A US Forester will act the same as any awd or 4wd that has open diffs. A non-Rubicon Jeep Wrangler will do the exact same thing. You will always have at least 2 wheels spinning, and you can drive through the brakes to get power to transfer.
  • Another bit of info just copied:
    In the non-X models, when there are LSDs, both automatic and manual models use the rear mechanical LSD. The difference comes at the fore/aft transfer case... Automatic goes electronic (the E in 4EAT) and while in 4 or 3 shifter location, varies the ratio from 80/20 to 50/50 based on "sensed need".
    When shifter location is in 2 or 1, the 4EAT locks the center differential at 50/50 power distribution.
    When shifter location is in 2, the 4EAT locks second gear. First gear can't be accessed while shifter is in 2, so take-offs are in second gear. Sounds stupid on pavement, but in wintry locations, where snow and ice are common, it seems a lot smarter.

    Why are 3 and 4 different from 1 and 2? For reasons of economy having power distributed mostly up front makes a lot of gas mileage sense, with power only going to front by the time you're in third and fourth gears, you shouldn't be having traction problems (certainly possible with turbo models, but not advisable in normal, above speed limit). Wonder why the automatic has traditionally gotten better mileage than the manual?'s the E in 4EAT.
  • thanks everyone for your help. i think the XT trim sounds like it is the best.
  • Which trim? The XT is fabric, with a slightly better seat fabric than the X. The XT Limited is leather. But to get a turbo just because of better seat fabric does not make sense, so it must be the leather trim of the XT Limited that you like best. But if leather is best, you can get it without the turbo in the LL Bean. Unless you want a manual transmission, which is not offered in the LL Bean, so you are back to the XT Limited.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Check out the video, though.

    When they say 50/50, I wonder if they mean the power split, or the fact that axles are locked somehow.

    In the video, notice the front axles doesn't spin at all when it's on rollers. The rear axle also does not spin when it's on rollers.

    If the front axle were actually getting 50% of the power at a minimum, they would be spinning like mad. Yet they remain still, implying zero power to that axle. Remember there was no traction control on that model (2006-7 X automatic).

    Theory is great, but in practice, that front axle gets no power at all, hence it does not spin when it's on rollers.

    Suffice it to say, it just works.
  • I want turbo, and I want leather. I always have dealers do aftermarket leather. it saves me money. I will do a XT auto and add aftermarket leather
  • firstsubfirstsub Posts: 11
    I have 2009 forester 2.5 X w/ premium and a day later i started to hear a "rolling noise" from the fron drivers side.. I took back to dealer & they suggested I change tires. (road noise). Called yokohama & they replaced N/C . I put on Avid H4S yokohama and same noise still there. I'm not sure this is the same noise as you're having. Started a case with SOA and subaru rep will look at car on 5/12. test drove another 2009 forester and same noise but les evident. Dealer also confirmed same after driving another vehicle. I love the car but hate this noise. Hoping for a resolve. Dealer said bearing were ok. Maybe axe. who knows.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I thought bearings, too, they're OK, eh?

    Drive in a figure 8 in an empty parking lot. See if that does anything. This is advice SoA techs shared with us in the past.
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Posts: 1,798
    Good to know as I am hearing some different, odd rumbling sounds from vehicle that show up at higher speeds. When I get chance I will try figure 8 in our lot to better understand.
    Then again, it could be because our roads have been dry lately, and most of my driving up to now has been on wet roads/in rainy weather.
  • aathertonaatherton Posts: 617
    "... I put on Avid H4S yokohama and same noise still there."

    The EOM Yokahoma Geolandars on my 08 were very noisy. I think the same tires are used for 09. The tread sang and whined on smooth surfaces, and the stiff sidewalls transmitted roar from coarse surfaces. They have good handling, snow and off-road traction and tread life, but I did not like them for my general driving.

    After 3,500 miles I sold the Geolandars and put on Michelin Primacy MXV4's, which have a tread pattern similar to your new Avid H4S. All the tire noise disappeared.

    1. I selected the Primacy because it was advertised and reviewed as being a very quiet tire, like the TripleTread and the Pilot Exalto. I don't see the same thing for the AVID, so it may be another noisy tire.
    2. I would not describe any of my tire noise as "rolling". Singing, whining, roaring, but not rolling. Perhaps Yokohama gave you new tires for a mechanical problem.
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Posts: 1,798
    took longer drive on freeway last night and didn't hear any odd sounds from drivetrain.
    Anyone else have a chirping headliner/headliner light box? Am still hearing this in some temperatures so I have some more sleuthing to do. ;)
  • I have a 2003 forester with a 5 speed manual and 65000 mi. It's been running great, until this morning. Tried to accelerate and it sounds like the clutch is slipping. Its very difficult to get it above 30 miles per hour. 1st , 2nd, and 3rd grears really slip while accelerating. Once in 4th and 5th gears there is no slipping and I'm able to maintain 40 plus miles per hour with no problem. Gears don't grind and no leaking fluid. I have about 3/4 to 1 inch of freeplay in clutch pedal. Clutch pressure feels the same as it always has. Is this a clutch problem or a viscous coupling problem? What will this type of repair possibly cost.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Sounds about right for the clutch. They only last about 80k miles so 67k could be possible. I'd say it's the clutch based on your observations. Typically you'll get slipping in the lower gears first.

  • Thanks for the help! I've replaced a clutch on an old 1958 VW Bug and a 1968 Squareback before. Is a Subaru clutch job something a shade tree mechanic could handle or is it best left for the pros. I've found several web sites with clutch kits for about $250. What do you figure the labor for the job would run.
  • aathertonaatherton Posts: 617
    "... Typically you'll get slipping in the lower gears first. "

    My experience is that clutch slip is first evidenced in top gear when applying heavy throttle at highway speed, per this quote:

    "... When a clutch starts to slip, the slippage will be most noticeable when the engine is under load... in a high gear, when driving up a hill, when accelerating to pass another vehicle..."

    That is why clutch slip is also tested by using the top gear, per this quote:

    "... Depress the clutch pedal and put the transmission in fourth gear. Slowly let up on the clutch while stepping on the gas pedal. If you are able to completely release the clutch pedal without the engine stalling (or the car moving), your clutch is history..."
  • mortemorte Posts: 1
    I had the same "pause before shifting into drive "problem with my 1999 Subaru Forester (94,000 miles). I took the car to a transmission repair shop (Croteau's in Johnson City, NY) and they said it was "defective low clutch seals" which they replaced for a grand total of $1028.74.

    Here's the cost breakdown if you're considering having this repair done on your car: Labor ($690) + Parts ($262.54) + Tax ($76.20) = $1028.74

    The parts include: Gasket/Seal Kit ($196.55) + Internal Filter ($15.43) + Spin-On Filter ($10) + Transmission Fluid ($40.56) = $262.54

    The shop owner said that except for the seals, the transmission was in great shape. Furthermore, he said he has seen enough 1999 Subaru Foresters come in to his shop with this problem that he knew exactly what was going on as soon as I described the "pause before shifting into drive" problem to him over the phone.

    By the way, before I took my car to Croteau's, I called my local Subaru dealer. The Subaru dealer gave me the following quotes: $6000 to rebuild the transmission, or $4000 to replace the transmission with a new, remanufactured transmission, or $2200 to install a used transmission from a junk yard.

    Before Croteau's did any work on my car, they estimated that the replacement of the seals would cost about $1000. Or, in the worst case scenario, once they opened up the transmission and saw that it had to be rebuilt, they could rebuild it for about $2300. The $1028.74 I spent to replace the seals was a lot of money, but compared to the prices the Subaru dealer quoted, I'm not complaining.

    Based on my limited experience, my advice is: if your Forester goes in reverse with no problem, but hesitates when put in drive, it's probably the seals that need to be replaced. If you want to have the seals replaced, find a reputable transmission repair shop. Avoid the Subaru dealer and their outrageous prices.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    I generally drive my cars hard so I will notice the slip in 1st and 2nd on hard starts from traffic lights or accelerating onto the highway. In 4th and 5th I am rarely mashing the pedal or really getting to higher RPMs, whereas I usually wind out 1st and 2nd more than 4th and 5th.

    The letting out the clutch slowly w/o giving it gas is also a proceedure I use as well.

    I have seen where a faulty master or slave cylinder has caused what appeared to be slippage in the non-turbo cars (RS most notably).

  • onoffroadonoffroad Posts: 17
    When I shift gears,the clutch makes a clump you can hear and feel ! Especially going in to 2nd and 3rd ! 08 Forester !
  • grahampetersgrahampeters AustraliaPosts: 1,783

    If the vehicle has reasonable wear, it sounds like brake master cylinder on its way out. Not a hugely expensive repair but necessary after about 80,000 miles if clutch has been heavily used.


  • Hi, sporadically the automatic transmission will not down shift while going up a grade or hill. There is also a sporadic issue with the check engine light going on. It seems that the transmission has downshifting issues when the check engine light is on. Sometimes the check engine light comes on at start up and other times it can come on while driving but it is not on all the time. Both issues are sporadic but atleast once a day.

    Can you offer any guidance?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,911
    Get a code reader.... It would pay for itself in no-time at all! If you can get the codes, you would have a much better idea of what is happening.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • Just joining the forum. I see a bunch of people with same issue here and curious how much "time" I have left on my clutch, if that is indeed what's up. Just did the 4th gear start trick: she rolled forward about 1/2 way up the clutch and then started to stall, as one would expect so she's not totally toast yet. I'm having the infamous clutch shudder in 1st when starting out, much worse when going uphill than flat (obviously) AND she really hates to go into reverse (grinds and then drops in - I start the car AFTER she's in reverse now!). The rest of the gears are flawless. Is there a possibility it's something OTHER than a full clutch replacement that's needed????
    I just bought the car private party ($2000 so I'm not bitching- she's leather & loaded + the head gaskets, timing belt, etc done in the last 1000 miles) so I don't know what her history is but she rides GREAT other than the clutch issue. All help and ideas MUCH appreciated!!! :confuse:
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    How many miles on the clutch? Reverse is always an issue especially on the subies, but shouldn't be that bad to get into.

    Clutches go about 60-80k miles on the subies, so you are probably due.

    Subaru Guru and Track Instructor
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