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subaru transmission problems



  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    Yes, you should check it with the engine running, after engaging reverse and drive a couple times each. It will not be a perfectly clean dip, but it should show solid below the point where top of the fluid pool rests. What is the color of the fluid? Is it a bright red or a dull red / brown color?

    I agree with you on the vote of no-confidence in the shop. If they did not get an oil change right, don't trust them with anything else! There should be a good independent shop in the area that can properly diagnose your car.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • The fluid level was fine...

    So I dropped the fluid and spun a new filter on and did not make a difference.So I went for the "strainer" inside the pan and it was a mess lots of little black debris that I could only describe as looking like abrasive clutch type material...This bebris had to have benn slowing the fluid flow at the least and I would guess even enough to cavitate the pump...Put it back together and still the same performance wise.She is just gonna baby it along... Any other input would be appreciated as I appreciate your previous comments...Good stuff,great resource this site is! Lawrence
  • Its a good color. I did drive it, and left it sit for hours, but the stick still does not give a good indication, there is fluid up to a point above the top mark, but it is not solid. There are gaps in the fluid. There is only a small part of the lower stick that shows a good color and I think that is because the fluid drained down while I was pulling the stick out. As if there was fluid all down the tube from when I filled it.
    I still have the problem, the engine rpm will drop and no amount of throttle will bring it up. As if the engine is losing power or the gear is too high. If I manually select first gear it runs OK, accelerates and the rpm goes up to 6000 or whatever, but when I move the lever to second gear or higher the rpm drops and the car stops accelerating, as if the gear is going to 4th immediately. Once or twice it stalled out going up the drive even with first gear selected so i am not sure of the problem. I hope it is fluid loss or low level of fluid but am afraid it is worse.
    No gear noises, and engine appears to be normal.
  • aathertonaatherton Posts: 617
    "... Gearbox seems to change up but not down... I have checked the fluid but it is hard to do; it does not show a positive level, but seems to be reading only the fluid in the filler pipe that is draining down, not a solid red fluid level like engine oil. I have put 3 quarts in already and it still does not show a solid color, although there is oil showing way above the top mark, with gaps in the oil as shown on the stick..."

    Check after some driving to warm up the transmission. Park with engine running, shift through all the gears a few times, put in P and check the stick. The stick should show solid fluid.
    The transmission holds about 10 quarts, but a simple drain only removes just under 4 quarts. If your shop drained and forgot to refill the transmission, it could account for the poor shifting, and the fact that your adding 3 quarts did not show any solid fluid on the stick. The two marks on the stick are only about 1 pint apart, so if your transmission was still 1 quart low after you added fluid, solid fluid was still below the bottom of the stick.
  • I am thinking the problem is actually a blocked cat. The symptoms are similar to a problem I had last month with my Kia. They use the same source of gas and might have become contaminated the same way. I tried to get the cat off but could not, the nuts are way too tight for any tools I have. I also see 2 cats?
    I have towed the car to the shop and hope they can diagnose it better than I can.
  • A few people over the years have asked about upshift flare problems with the Forester. Mine occur on a 2001 Forester S when upshifting from 2 to 3 at hard acceleration (on ramp accel).

    Has anyone ever considered that it might be oxidized contacts on the shifter lever switch since it is an electronic not mechanical setup?
  • I like the "upshift flair" term...accurately descriptive imho.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    So, what exactly is upshift flare?
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • saedavesaedave Chicago, ILPosts: 694
    Is that reference to reving very briefly before the next gear engages? If so, the clutches won't like it!
  • Yes there is a spike in engine rpm when shifting from second gear to third gear with hard acceleration both when the gear selector is left in "D" or shifting the gear selector by hand from 2 to 3 during hard acceleration (on ramp getting on highway).

    In a purely mechanical transmission this usually occurs when there is a delay in the third gear band engaging after the second gear band has released.

    But the 2001 Forester Auto Tranny is computer controlled like many automatic transmissions nowadays. So it can be a computer glitch / bad software, oxidized contacts on the gear selector switch, sticky band apply solenoids, clogged / sticky accumulator valves, leaky servo pistons, etc.

    I have always heard a "clack" noise from my Forester transmissions when going from second to third gear. On my higher mileage one the engagement of third gear is rough when the tranny is cool, but smoothes out when it is warm or hot.

    Has anyone had any strange transmission behavior based on which brand of transmission fluid / oil they use ?
  • Whoops, found this here... ml#post149559

    But still does not explain my occasional delay / shudder when going from 2 to 3 when tranny is cold.

    4EAT=4 speed electronically (controlled) automatic transmission
    phase II=4EAT style that started in 1999
    TSB=technical service bulletin

    The 4EAT phase II has a few 'characteristics' that were different than the previous gen; enough so that soob issued some notes about it. For yours I was thinking maybe #6 at the bottom:

    A/T - Phase 2 4EAT Transmission Characteristics SOURCE: Subaru Tech Tips

    TITLE: Phase 2 4EAT Transmission Characteristics

    APPLIES TO: All models with 4EAT A/T


    Phase 2 4EAT transmissions have been used in Subaru vehicles since the 1999 Model Year. They can most readily be identified by the external ATF oil filter located on the driver's side of the transmission case. Be advised that H6 equipped vehicles use a remotely located ATF oil filter. This filter is located in the Left front fender well area.

    SOA and FHI have been investigating returned OEM transmissions for the last several years. We have been concentrating on units returned that were tested and found not to have any problem during the Dyno testing and disassembly inspection of the unit. Based on the paperwork comments, we have identified several different symptoms that would be considered normal operation for the unit. These characteristic symptoms will not be corrected by replacement of the unit or any components within the system.

    It is important to understand that many decisions are made in the designing of the transmission. Items like fuel economy and emissions play a big part in the design. The design of the new 4EAT considerably increases the fuel economy and reduces the overall emissions of the vehicle. To accomplish this, the design incorporates fewer parts than its predecessor. This not only reduces the total friction, but also the overall weight of the unit. Because of this, the unit functions differently than the older 4EAT.

    The purpose of this article is to make you aware of these characteristics, so when you receive a concern from a customer, it can be identified and explained to them quickly. Repairing of a vehicle starts with detailed questioning by the Service Adviser as to how, when, and where the condition occurs. Duplicating the how, when, and where by the technician should enable the concern to be identified. If the concern is similar to one listed below it should be explained to the customer it is a characteristic of this model and is not an indication of reliability or future concern. No repairs should be made to the vehicle. If you are unsure, we recommend you road test a 'like' vehicle. If both vehicles are similar, chances are it is a characteristic of the unit.

    1. Delayed Engagement or Judder felt when shifting into Reverse or Drive.

    Symptom When the driver shifts the select lever into reverse or drive and applies the accelerator too quickly delayed movement or a judder can be felt.

    Mechanism It takes approximately 1.5 seconds to engage the internal clutch(s) after the select lever gear is chosen. If engine torque is increased before the clutch is fully engaged, the clutch will slip and make the judder feeling.

    Recommendation To determine there is an internal problem with the unit, perform a 'TIME LAG TEST'. If the average is less than 1.5 seconds the unit is operating normally. If it is more than 1.5 seconds then an internal problem exists and repair/replacement should be preformed.

    Explain to the customer the mechanism and function of the system and that it is not a defect in the unit. Also, recommend that the customer wait a second before applying the accelerator pedal.

    2. Shock felt during light acceleration with the Lockup clutch applied.

    Symptom When the driver tries to lightly accelerate the vehicle, when driving at a constant speed in 4th gear and the Lockup clutch is engaged, they may feel a slight shock through the body of the vehicle. Some customers may compare it to a Manual Transmission vehicle.

    Mechanism When the accelerator is pressed lightly (approximately 20% or less), the lockup clutch is not released. This causes a direct coupling between the engine and the drive train of the vehicle. The slight shock is from the small clearances in the drive train gears, axle splines, etc. If the lockup clutch is not applied then, the shock is absorbed by the fluid coupling in the torque converter. Under certain conditions, this same shock can also be felt when activating the cruise control.

    Recommendation Explain to the customer what they are feeling is a normal operation. Basically, the lockup clutch is kept on as much as possible to increase fuel economy of the vehicle. Increasing the engine load (driving on hills or pushing the accelerator more) will disengage the lockup clutch sooner.

    We recommend you try duplicating this during some of your road testing (PDI) so you are familiar with the sensation. To do this, drive at a constant speed around 40 mph. Confirm that the lockup clutch is applied (use Select Monitor) and accelerate using light throttle. You will feel a slight shock throughout the body of the vehicle.

    3. Click noise when transmission shifts from 2nd to 3rd.

    Symptom When the transmission upshifts from 2nd to 3rd gear under light acceleration, a click can be heard from under the vehicle. Most customers will only notice this noise when they have the driver's window opened and are driving close to some structure that will reflect the noise back into the vehicle.

    Mechanism The noise is created when the 2-4 brake is released during the 2nd to 3rd gear upshift. At this time, the clutch steel plates that are located into groves on the internal wall of transmission case shift creating the metallic click noise.

    4. 2nd to 3rd shift flare after vehicle is parked.

    Symptom After a vehicle is parked and it sits typically overnight, when it is started and the transmission upshifts into 3rd gear for the first time, the RPMs may flare slightly. This can be an intermittent condition depending on how the vehicle is positioned when parked, temperature of the transmission when parked, and ambient temperature.

    Mechanism The shift flare occurs because the hydraulic circuit for high clutch in the transmission occasionally drains. When the transmission upshifts for the first time into 3rd gear, the hydraulic circuit must fill before it will apply the high clutch. The time needed to fill the circuit slightly delays the applying of the clutch causing the RPMs to rise slightly. The transmission will function normally for the rest of the driving cycle.

    Recommendation Explain to the customer how and why they are experiencing this symptom. Also, make sure they understand it is not causing any damage or excessive wear to their transmission or vehicle.

    5. Transmis
  • 5. Transmission delays downshifting during low to middle speed acceleration.

    Symptom The driver wants to accelerate quickly and starts applying the throttle, but the transmission will not downshift to a lower gear ratio until almost full throttle.

    Mechanism Basically, the logic (normal shift map) that controls gear selection is trying to keep the transmission in the highest gear possible for fuel economy. Subaru vehicles utilize a microcomputer (TCM) for accurate control of the gearshift timing, engine braking, lock-up clutch operation and other functions. It directly corresponds to throttle opening, vehicle speed, engine speed, and gear selector position. Various sensors and switches located on the vehicle feed information to the TCM. The TCM will make calculations based on all these inputs. The throttle position sensor provides electrical signals corresponding to the accelerator pedal position. The TCM not only can calculate how far the accelerator pedal has been depressed, but how fast it was depressed. In other words, the system detects and based on the driver's direct input from the accelerator pedal will shift the transmission.

    Depending on the vehicle speed, if the accelerator pedal is slowly pushed down even to the floor, the TCM may not downshift the transmission. If, however, you quickly depress the accelerator pedal to the floor, it certainly will downshift into whatever the TCM determines to give the driver the best gear range for power and acceleration. This is a direct driver input and depending how far and fast the accelerator pedal is depressed will determine the vehicle power and acceleration. This gives the driver some ability to operate their vehicle based on power or economy.

    Another item to consider is the internal operation of the transmission. In most cases, the TCM must turn off one clutch and apply another to change gears. If a clutch is turned on or off too soon it would cause a harsh shift. It also could cause premature wearing of the clutches. The logic was chosen to provide a balance of shift feel and wear characteristics. Fluid temperature is also a consideration. Cooler thicker fluid takes longer to move though a given passage than warmer thinner fluid.

    Recommendation Explain to the customer the mechanism of the system.

    6. High Frequency noise driving at 65-70mph.

    Symptom The driver hears a high frequency noise (whine) between 65-70mph during a steady throttle or coasting. Noise can only be heard driving on a smooth flat road with the windows up and radio off.

    Mechanism The noise is being generated by the reduction gear teeth in the rear of the transmission. The noise will only be heard on slight acceleration or coasting not both. Noise is not an indication of an internal problem and will not create any.
  • Car has 113k and it makes a low grade clunking sound in first and revers in tight turns with a sensation that the front wheels are lurching. Mechanic suggested changing fluid and then giving it a series of hard figure 8 turns which was done and it seemed to improve temporarily but is now worse. Any ideas or suggestion swould be appreciated. Only other trans symptom is weak first gear synchro. Thanks.
  • exchngcarinfoexchngcarinfo Posts: 12
    edited September 2010
    Pull out the four wheel drive fuse and try driving with front wheel drive only to see if it is the transfer case section of the power train that is causing the problem. Also check cv joints on front axles.
  • Hello,
    These symptoms do sound similar to what happened with my 2002 Forester. I had to have the transfer case replaced and the transmission rebuilt. I would take it to a Subaru dealer and drive it with a mechanic who knows transmissions--ask him/her if it could be the transfer case/transmission. My experience was changing the fluids did not help at all. One solution I also tried was taking it out of "all wheel drive" and putting it into two-wheel drive. That solved the problem but I didn't want to leave it that way. Good luck.
  • What was the cost to replace the transfer case? Thanks for the thought and wmcwillams suggestion.
  • In looking at the engine compartment fuse box layout there is a FWD socket listed but no fuse in the box. The only other fuse is one for the "Automatic transmission control unit" and "ABS unit" is there something I am missing?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    The FWD socket is the one you want. With the AWD system operating, there is no fuse there. If you want to switch to FWD mode, you insert a fuse.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • Thanks so much for posting that information on the operating characteristics of the 4EAT. It explains many things that I had noticed and wondered about.
  • Our trusty sube recently started making a knocking sound when making slow turns, and just driving poorly. At 180K we were thinking it was an axle issue. Took it in to local mechanic yesterday, and today he said it needs a new trans, to the tune of $3,500. After picking my jaw up off the floor, I decided to do some research. Any pointers on what to do from here? Should we get a second opinion at a dealership? Haven't had the trans fluid flushed, and there's a head gasket leak that we've been living with. Most maintenance we do is the oil change every 3-5 k. Any help appreciated. :cry:
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    edited September 2010
    It's really hard to diagnose from that description, but 180,000 is not an unreasonable age to have a major component failure, especially given past maintenance of drivetrain components (or lack thereof) such as transmission and differentials.

    Without further description of "knocking when making slow turns" and "just driving poorly," I don't think there is a way to accurately pinpoint the cause. The knocking could be a bad CV joint or center differential.

    A second opinion is never a bad idea - just make sure you don't tell the second place what the first place said! :P
    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
    Ask for a rebuilt trans, I bet you can cut that cost in half.

    I would not put in a brand new trans when the HG have a slow leak already.

    180,000 is a ripe, old age. I'm not saying the car is done, but I would not invest in a new trans, either.
  • I would search out used...I am not sure what other models share the same unit but I would be curious. Maybe help widen your search.
  • I would check at a local wrecking yard. I have found Subaru manual trans. with less than 50k for $750.
  • I have an '01 forester with the same problem. I have found that the output shafts in the trans. are loose. Mine started with clunking in turns and moved to clunking when accelerating. Unless you know about the Sube trans. inside and out, I would seek a different one.
  • Sounds like it's not uncommon for Foreseter's to have some transmission issues, and mine certainly has the mileage to justify some problems (190k mi). The transmission makes a humming sound–louder when I'm in 1, 2, and 3 gear, softer when 4 or 5, and very softly when I'm in neutral. So the humming sound really kicks in when I'm in those low gears. And you can feel it a bit, like a subtle lurching. The sound first started back in August, then it went away for two months or so, and now it's come back just a few weeks ago. When I took it in back in August, they said they couldn't tell what was going on without taking the transmission out and opening it up, in which case I just oughtta buy a replacement.

    You guys seem knowledgeable on the subject–any words of wisdom?

    Also, I should note that I'm driving cross country in a few weeks. I really appreciate all the advice you can give me. Thanks!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    No real trans experience, but at 190k it's due for a rebuild at the very least, no?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    Have you replaced the fluid recently? How did it look? If you haven't, you might consider flushing the transmission to clean any debris out and get new fluid in there. That could help.

    As for the cross-country trip, I am certainly not one to shy away from one of those! That said, if the noise sounds loud or is getting progressively worse as the weeks go by, a long trip might just do it in. :sick:
    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 1998 Subaru Forrester with 160,000 miles on it, automatic transmission. In the last few weeks the car slips out of gear when I am driving at lower speeds or in stop and go traffic. On the highway going 60+ it stays in gear but once off the highway and driving in town suddenly the RPM jumps up the gears slips down and I have to either rev the the car or take my foot ff the gas and reapply or I have begun just shifting down to 2nd or 3rd on the gear shift to match what the car seems to want to do on its own and then moving up to drive once I've got my speed up.
    Anyone else have this issue? Also in the for what its worth category I had the head gasket blow on this car and replaced several years ago. I see the HG getting lots of press in these forums.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Yep, sounds like the trans slips out of gear.

    Oddly enough I had a clutch go out on an ancient Datsun and it felt the same way you described.
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