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subaru transmission problems

reriverarerivera Posts: 1
edited September 2014 in Subaru
My 98 forester kept overheating and was told the headgasket needed to be replaced. I took it in to the dealership and they said it would be ready in two days. Got a call from the service manager who wanted to know if I had had any problems with the transmission. Any hesitation, jerking, loss of acceleration. I said no, it's always had a smooth ride. Well when they put everything bakc together, it would not shift to drive or any gear. It's automatic. The manager said he had never seen this before, and that the only thing he could see was a dent on the transmission fluid pan, and has taken the car to a transmission specialist. I am very upset because I don't understand how the transmission could be messed up when they weren't even working on it. They also seem to be implying that I will be responsible for the repair cost. How could this have happened, any ideas?


  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Sounds suspicious - maybe they didn't handle their lift correctly, and jacked up the car under the transmission instead of using the jacking points.

    Seems likely they may have caused the damage themselves. :sick:
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,138
    I was thinking something similar. Did they remove the engine for the repair, or perform it in the engine bay? Removal would require that support be given to the transmission, so it could be damaged there as well.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    True...good point.
  • subarugurusubaruguru Posts: 18
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    yeah we re-installed an engine inproperly in my dad's AT subie and I bought him a new trans...

  • terrys5terrys5 Posts: 3
    Can any one tell me what the hold switch does to the auto transmission.. I no what the power does . to me it seems to take off in second gear.
  • Hello readers!!!!
    Hoping you can help me source solenoids 'C' & 'D' for the SG5 Forester models after 2003 in America.
    Also prices which I would expect to pay.
    Any address or e-mail address would be very helpful for me.
    Thanks in anticipation....Trinny ([email protected])
  • I have a 1999 forester with 180000 miles. Since 100000 miles, the transmission has had a delay when first putting it in drive. Now the delay is longer and sometimes may take 5 to 10 seconds and still will not engage until the rpms hit 2500. Since this is my first Subaru, I thought it might just be a problem due to the mileage. But recently I met another person who is having the same problem with the same year of forester with less miles. Any suggestions?
  • Recently, the turbocharger on my Forester scorched a bearing due to an oil seal that let loose. The dealer wanted $2380 for a stock turbocharger plus installation of $400. The car has 70000 miles and is out of warranty. Since I am a pretty good mechanic, I have decided now is the time to upgrade to a ball bearing turbocharger for better efficency and more HP. There are so many after market companies that I don't know which turbo charger to buy. I would like to keep the price under $1500 but am willing to spend more if someone convinces me that it is money well spent. Any suggestions?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Ask in the Subaru Crew - Modifications thread. People won't be looking here for questions like yours.
  • My 99 Forester is doing the exact same thing. It goes into reverse fine but has a delay going into any forward gear. Any help on this would be appreciated. Has only 77k miles.
  • phil39phil39 Posts: 1
    Hi, I have the exact same problem with my 2000 out back. Goes into reverse fine but delays going into any forward gear. Has about 125K miles. Just wondering if you came up with any solutions?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    If you drive backwards all the time, it feels like a Porsche. ;)
  • I had the same problem with my old 99 Forester at 78K miles. Dealer said I need a new tranny. So I traded that in with a new car.
  • robidobirobidobi Posts: 1
    I have the same problem with my 2000 Forester and it is very frustrating..I took it into a Subaru service place and they flushed the transmission fluid but that didn't help. It happens sporatically, but mostly when the engine is cold so I can't seem to get help with this problem.It is very annoying.My car has 78,000 miles.
  • ostrichostrich Posts: 1
    My mother-in-law has a 97 subaru. The last time she went to drive it she had trouble going from PARK to REVERSE. Once she got it into reverse and backed out of the driveway, she couldn't get it into DRIVE. She got rough on the gear shift and finally got it into drive and just pulled it back down the driveway. Now I can't get the engine to turn over. The gear shift will only move to NEUTRAL if I use a screwdriver and manually depress the safety switch. Any suggestions to why it won't turn over? Why it won't shift between all the gears? Car has 117K
  • wcwilliamswcwilliams Posts: 11
    I have a 2002 Forester, 60,000 miles, AT. Recently, while executing very sharp turns at very slow speeds, the car began to hesitate, almost as if the transmission was binding up or seizing.

    My mechanic has isolated the problem a bit, by taking the tranny out of "all wheel 4 wheel drive" and putting it in front wheel drive. Essentially, he said that there was too much pressure being applied while the car was in all wheel drive. He thinks the problem might be with the electric solanoid that is in the front transfer case, but he's gotten stalled because he didn't have the electronic specs diagram for 2002 models.

    Has anyone experienced this type of problem? Is it the solanoid that's failing to get the signal to transaxle to release pressure, or could it be a problem with entire transmission?

    Does he have to take out the whole transfer case to get to the transmission to repair or replace this solanoid, or is there a way to test it without unpacking thr tranny?

    Any thoughts or help would be appreciated!!!
    Thanks, :sick:
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    You can test his theory pretty easily - insert the FWD fuse and see if it behaves differently.
  • wcwilliamswcwilliams Posts: 11
    Forgive me for being thick about this--is there a direct link between each fuse and the solenoids??
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    No, what I mean is that there is a FWD mode, you insert the fuse pictured below, and is disengages the rear axle.

    Then drive it, and observe closely to see if you detect any difference.

    If you do, then it's definitely caused by the AWD system.
  • wcwilliamswcwilliams Posts: 11
    Thanks and yes, I have done that--I have been driving the car in FWD mode for the past few weeks, and the problem has completely disappeared. So we do know that its the AWD system that is the problem, but I still get conflicting advice from mechanics and dealers:
    some say it is the rear clutch that needs replacing; some say it is a solenoid that is failing to send the proper signal to the rear differential. How tough is it to isolate the proper solenoid (I now know there are about 8-9 of them) that we can test?
    Does testing the solenoid involve as much labor as unpacking the entire transmission to check or replace the clutch???
    Thank you!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Gotcha, I was just trying to help you narrow it down, but you're well past that now.
  • Hello,
    I have posted messages regarding a saga I'm in about my 2002 Forester transmission. The car was binding or seizing up on very slow and sharp turns. To isolate whether it was a tranny problem, we put in the FWD fuse and ran the car on FWD, and the problem went away. My mechanic and I were hoping that the problem was the solenoid for the rear wheel drive clutch--that it was an electrical problem of the rear clutch not getting the right signal, but he has ruled out that as the problem and says it probably means my rear-wheel clutch has failed.
    1) I rarely drive in very bad conditions, and live in a town where there are no freeways--even if the snow if deep, speed limit of 30 mph makes driving relatively sane. What is the harm in just keeping that fuse in and driving the car in FWD?

    2) Should I trust a dealer to replace the rear clutch and NOT tell me the car needs a whole new transmission?? Anyone out there who can give me an estimate on replacing the rear clutch? Any other Forester owners who have had this problem?

    THANKS! :confuse:
  • aathertonaatherton Posts: 617
    "... What is the harm in just keeping that fuse in and driving the car in FWD? "

    I think that fuse powers a solenoid that disengages the drive to the rear wheels. Keeping that solenoid permanently powered might burn it out.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,138
    That's a good thought. The FWD fuse is meant for temporary situations, such as running the spare tire for "less than 50 miles," etc.

    But, you are saying that the binding went away with the application of that fuse, yet the mechanic thinks the problem is in the rear differential? Why? If the rear differential was binding, it would bind any time there was a speed differential between the two rear tires (i.e., any time you turned). It sounds to me like the issue is with the rear drive system, but in the center differential. If so, it is likely an expensive fix. You might want to look at the possibility of a used or refurbished transaxle in cost-comparison to repairing yours.

    Good luck!
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • I have a 2002 Forester, 5 speed with 98,000 miles on it. Bought it used. Last month it started making a grinding noise first at high speeds and then it started to make sounds no matter what gear it was in. I brought it in, they said it was the ball bearings - they replaced them. Then this month I had to bring it in AGAIN for the same thing! Being a single young woman... what is going on here? They said they are going to have to take the transmission completely out, clean it and put it back in. Is it worth getting fixed for over $1,000 ? The kicker is too, at 90,000 I had a bunch of general maintainence done on the car (timing belt and the huge 90,000 mile tune-up).

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Wheel bearings were a weak spot on the 1998-2002 models. For the 2003 re-design they switched to beefier bearings from the Legacy.

    I believe they do have revised part numbers that are beefier, the key is to replace yours with that more robust design.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Your bearings have nothing to do with the transmission. I think that's a complete snow job on the "remove and clean trans".

    The bearings on a particular wheel could be bad and you could then have to replace another set but not the same set. Also there are no more of the "inferior" design bearings in circulation anymore, they've all been replaced with the new design.

    I'd get the bearings done and see what happens, that will probably clear up the problem.

  • p0926p0926 Posts: 4,423
    They said they are going to have to take the transmission completely out, clean it and put it back in.

    I don't think so. I agree with Mike, their trying to sell you a major snow job. Manual transmissions don't need "cleaning".

    The initial problem may very well have been bad wheel bearings and as Mike pointed out, another wheel could have since gone bad (although that would be a heck of a coincidence timing wise). I think it's also possible that they botched the first job and the replacement bearings are now bad.

    I'd take it to a different shop and ask them to tell you what's wrong (don't tell them what the other shop said or what they replaced). If the diagnosis is bad bearings on the same wheel, then I'd go back to the first shop and demand my money back and/or file a complaint with the BBB.


    P.S. Your post mentioned bad "ball bearings" and we're assuming that you're referring to the ones in the wheels
  • "... P.S. Your post mentioned bad "ball bearings" and we're assuming that you're referring to the ones in the wheels."

    Wheel bearings that I have seen are roller bearings. Wonder where he specifically got the word "ball"?
  • denn1denn1 Posts: 1
    I have a '91 legacy wagon with the same problem. Did you ever figure out the
    problem? I read about a control module for the center diff., but I'm not sure what
    models have it. The module locks and unlocks the center diff. I am now wondering
    if maybe it is locking when it should not be-eg. front wheels are not spinning.
    Please let me know. Thank You
  • shebayshebay Posts: 1
    I just wanted to check in to see if you were able to get to the bottom of your problem. I have an automatic 98 Outback with the same issue, have been driving it in FWD for about 5 months with no problems but now that winter is coming I need to deal with it. I have gotten 2 opinions; transmission vs. rear diff, I really cannot afford trial and error.
  • Thought you'd be interested in knowing my 2002 forester is in the shop now for a replacement transmission(automatic) at only 46,200 miles. I do not have enough technical knowledge to tell you much but they did say multiple bearings were bad.
  • I took the forester to the dealer and the work order was to do a "transfer clutch assembly overhaul." The cost of the parts and labor was roughly 1,000. I negotiated with the service manager to have Subaru pay 40%, on the basis that this is not a repair that a decent car at 60,000 should have to have.
    What was most disappointing in the whole thing was when I pressed the service manager about what MAKES this happen, he shook his head and said there really wasn't an answer to that, other than it was a design flaw that Subaru (let's hope) has corrected. I asked for the parts they replaced and took them to my local mechanic and asked him if he could see something that would suggest what caused it, and he said nothing looked suspicious.
    So if these are your symptoms, my guess would be it's the transfer clutch/transmission.
    hope this helps.
  • I did have my car fixed by Subaru dealer--it was transfer case/transmission. Cost was roughly 1,000, but Subaru agreed to pay 40% of that, so you might try and complain loudly that something like this should not have to be repaired at such low mileage. When I expressed my disappointment, one mechanic said, "hey, I've seen this happen at 35,000 miles."

    So my question to anyone who really knows about Subaru AT design: do you know whether this problem has indeed be fixed in later models of Subaru??? Overall, I've been satisfied with my forester, but this has given me major pause about whether I will buy one again.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Generally speaking, the auto is pretty robust and is not one of the problems that is mentioned routinely (read: head gaskets, wheel bearings).

    I think you just had some bad luck.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,138
    Yeah, not sure either. In my experience, the automatic transmission is robust. I heard many issues about 1999 Outback transmission failures, but few before and after that year. I had a 1996 Outback with the 4EAT, and never a lick of problems with the transmission, even after 220,000 miles.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • I too have been satisfied with my Forester, but needing transmission or differential work at such low mileages also has me wondering if I should trust buying another one if Subaru considers this normal wear(?). The Subaru Dealer is replacing my deteriorated transmission with a remanufactured one. Subaru headquarters negotiated to covering 1/2; while truly appreciated, means my cost is over $1870.
    How is it that a Forester properly maintained per their specs at one of their dealerships can need a automatic transmission replaced at 46,000 miles?
    Is it really just several of us with "bad luck"?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,138
    Subaru vehicles have a 60,000 mile drivetrain warranty. Has it been more than five years since its in-service date?

    The only typical reason I can think of for early transmission failure is prolonged towing. Even if the trailer is within manufacturer specifications, I have seen them fail. I had a friend who moved his Subaru (with a trailer that was about 1500#) from Maryland to Alaska, and his transmission failed a couple months after arriving here. Subaru replaced it, no questions asked. His vehicle was somewhere between 35 and 40 thousand miles, and was about three years old at that time.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • Purchase date was Oct 01 so that five year (aka end of warranty regardless of mileage) was Oct 06. For the record, never towed anything, never climbed anything, just standard basic driving on paved roads... but the transmission still reached the brink of failure.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,138
    Ah, okay, I had not caught the vehicle's year or age.

    Well, heck, that is a tough one. Yes, the transmission probably failed from some crazy manufacturing-related malady but, as it is outside of the warranty period, the company has no obligation to the car any longer. It is good that they are willing to offer some assistance in the case, which is indicative that they feel they are possibly not blameless in the failure. I doubt anyone would ever see Nissan, Chrysler, or many other companies ever make a good faith gesture like that.

    Wow. 46,000 miles and it is seven years old! Get out and drive that thing more! :P

    Of course I am joking there, but I cannot imagine putting that few miles on a car. I recently purchased a 1998 vehicle and it only had 108,000 miles on it. I thought, "Wohoo! A baby!" :D
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • aathertonaatherton Posts: 617
    "... 46,000 miles and it is seven years old! Get out and drive that thing more! Of course I am joking there, but I cannot imagine putting that few miles on a car..."

    My Forester will be a year old next month and has 7,100 miles. Easy if you don't commute to a school or job.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    I bought my 05 LGT in July 07 with 30k miles. I now have 70k on it. :)

    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Posts: 4,277
    My wife's business partner bought one of the first Mercedes CLS500's back in 2004 and just sold it with 190,000 miles on it. Even crazier is that the first 120,000 came in the first two years of owning it! Then he bought a second car to keep the miles off the Benz.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    All bad luck, no. This is a problems thread and those with bad luck seek it out, and complain here.

    We've had about 7 Subarus in my family and zero transmission problems. I just happen to subscribe to all the Subaru threads. No bad luck here, though.
  • chelleychelley Posts: 2
    My 99 Subaru Forrester is doing the same thing. When I shift it into first I have to rev the engine to get it to slip into gear. I have to come to a stop very carefully, almost let it glide to a stop on it's own (without using much break) or it will slip out of gear. I have been doing some research on line. Most say to try flushing the transmission fluid, but it does not seem to be working for most people. The only other option I have come across is to get a new transmission, which is not an option for most people as it's to expensive to have done. Clearly, this is a problem Subaru has seen and decided to ignore as it seems to happen to way to many of their cars to be a coincidence. If anyone has a less expensive fix than replacing the transmission or buying a new car, I would be interested in hearing it.
  • chelleychelley Posts: 2
    Most of these people went online to find an answer to a problem, not to complain. If we don't state our problem, how are we supposed to get an answer? This is one link of many for this exact problem. Kinda makes me believe there's more to it than just people complaining.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,138
    There was certainly a higher incidence of transmission issues on the '99 Outback, but I am not sure if the '99 Forester's transmission was similarly changed from previous years (or 'year', in the case of the Forester!). I am not sure of the cause of these increased failures, but from my time here over the years, I see most reports of failures on '99 models.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Hard to say but every other year or so we'd hear about enhancements made to the automatics. Usually in the programming, though, I'm not sure if the internals changed much.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,138
    I agree. I do know that they switched to an external transmission filter that year (on Outbacks, again not sure about Forester), but I do not know how long the external filter lasted or if that led to any other internal changes or reduced efficiency of fluid flow, etc. Do you recall the failures I mentioned, juice? Many claims of "transmission won't engage" or "transmission engagement is delayed," etc.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
This discussion has been closed.