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maxmannnn 03-16-2008 04:56 PM

Chance the tranny?
I've been experiencing the same issue with my 2000 outback legacy sedan. It is a bit random. I drove it to Texas (from colorado) which is a 850 mile trip, and while here, it seem to really do it (especially when cold). It took a good 30 seconds of revving to get it to go. I'm still in texas, but need to travel home ASAP... my quandry... do I get a tranny shop to do the job in texas, or chance the 750 mile trip back home. Has anyone had any problems after it warms up, or driving long distances?


nipper 03-16-2008 04:59 PM

AAA Gold is only good for a 100 mile tow. Its an internal seal that is faulty, so there is no way around this one aside from a rebuild.


cougar 03-22-2008 05:32 PM

Mine seems a little different. It acts like it engages in drive, but won't go until you rev it a little. It rolls forward like it is in gear, but won't immediately go.
I red a rather lengthy article (can't remember were, sorry) on the seal problem. It boiled down to people being ripped off for an overhaul when really all they needed was a 50 o-ring.

Axxell 04-10-2008 09:30 AM

Outback transmission delay
I have a 1999 Legacy Outback 2.5 Auto, which I bought with 200,000Km on it 3 years ago. It's had this problem with a delay in the transmission intermittently ever since 10 miles after we picked it up from the seller.

Exactly as everyone else on this thread has described, when shifting into Drive from Neutral or Park, there's often a few seconds delay before the car will move - occasionally, you have to increase engine revs to about 1,500/2,000 to persuade it to take up the drive. Sometimes it goes straight in with no delay, other times, I've wondered if it's finally broken compeletely ! There's absolutely no problem with with Reverse - that engages smoothly and immediately every time.

The car now has 300,000Km and nothing has changed ! The problem hasn't become any worse and, once in Drive, the transmission behaves perfectly with no hint of any malfunction.

As soon as I got the car home after buying it, I took it into the local Subaru dealership and had a full service on it, including a transmission oil and fiter change. This didn't really seem to make much difference and the dealership said they couldn't find anything wrong with the transmission.

I'm not a big fan of auto transmission additives, but I did put a half a bottle of some stuff I bought from Canadian Tire (can't remember the brand) into the trans and it did seem to improve things for a while. I might try some more additive one of these days.

So, I'm watching this thread with interest, waiting to see if someone comes up with a guaranteed, low cost fix for this - until then, I think I can live with it. The Outback is a great car and works perfectly in every other respect.

porcupine73 04-10-2008 11:21 AM

Hi Axxell and :welcome2: The low clutch outer piston seal is only like $6, unfortunately it is the labor that is the killer! Lucas transmission treatment is what some people say has helped with the delay. If your delay is only a few seconds no biggie It's when it starts taking like 10 seconds to shift or needs a little gas to enagage that it becomes troubleseome.

MUSASHI66 05-07-2008 01:01 PM

This thread had been around for years, and no cheap solutions yet :mad:

I joined this forum because I bought a '08 Outback, but now I am having this same problem with my wife's 2000 Legacy 2.5 with auto. It happens just when you first turn on the car, put it in reverse to get out from your parking spot, and try to put it in drive. She just broke 80,000 miles, and it has been happening for the last few months. She has no problems driving, just getting into drive when it's just started. I really don't want to spend $2-4000 on repairing this on a car with only 80K miles...

CNY_Dave 05-07-2008 01:24 PM


Originally posted by MUSASHI66
This thread had been around for years, and no cheap solutions yet :mad:

I joined this forum because I bought a '08 Outback, but now I am having this same problem with my wife's 2000 Legacy 2.5 with auto. It happens just when you first turn on the car, put it in reverse to get out from your parking spot, and try to put it in drive. She just broke 80,000 miles, and it has been happening for the last few months. She has no problems driving, just getting into drive when it's just started. I really don't want to spend $2-4000 on repairing this on a car with only 80K miles...

Fellow over at 'the other subaru forum' (USMB- can I say that here? ;) )

has tried an additive cocktail, worked but he's only a few weeks into the test.


geekthegreek 06-03-2008 10:45 AM

Hey all,
I had the same problem with my '99 OB (135k miles - American car originally), except that mine shifted ok when cold, but was very hard to get into drive when warm. It was getting so bad that it sometimes took 4-5 minutes of shenanigans before I could go anywhere! Forget about 3-pt turns or parallel parking in heavy traffic.

The other day, after reading this thread I went to Canadian Tire and picked up some Lucas Transmission fix, poured it slooooowly down the dipstick hole (there must be a better way to get fluid in there...?) while car was idling, and it seems better... I've only gone 70 km or so since then, but she's shifting just fine for now. Hoping to avoid the rebuild for another year or so. We'll see, but thanks for the tips so far!

maxxheadroom 09-02-2008 01:42 AM

I have this same problem in my 99 outback, I spoke with my very trusted tranny tech (he has built my race transmissions for the last 10 years) he told me what he has seen is the seal on the piston that engages 1st gear (drive) hardens and no longer seals. This causes fluid to pass by it rather than push it which causes 1st to not engage. By reving the engine a larger volume of fluid is passed by the piston forcing it to engage. Our transmission is getting really bad, sadly I have moved so my tranny guy is a ways away which means I am going to be rebuilding the transmission myself. I will take lots of pics and let you guys know what I find.

btoutback 09-02-2008 10:38 PM

I had this problem with my 1999 Outback until a month ago when I put in a can of Trans-X.

My troubles started 3 years ago (slipping in first gear) and progressively got worse over the last 6 months.
I tried Lucas slip and leak stop but it didn't seem to help.
Last month I drained a quart and added Trans-X and the problem immediately went away. Who knows for how long but it works for now.

good luck to all.

Axxell 09-02-2008 10:54 PM

Still no change on my '99 Outback - I've been trying to track down some of this Trans-X stuff, but none of my local auto parts stores stock it or have even heard of it ! Does anyone know where I can get it in Ontario ?

nanc107 09-09-2008 10:21 AM


I appreciate hearing about the stories of the 99 Subaru Outback. My 1999 Outback has had transmission problems for a year. The dealer said it was fine according to their machine but offered to replace. It is now a year later and the problems are more noticeable. After backing up the car has a delay in going forward. The transmission shop said it was low voltage in the forward drive and the fluid had metal filings in it even though it has been supposedly flushed by the dealer 4 times.

I would like to get a copy of the safety bulletin that has been talked about regarding the transmission problems. Did anyone get Subaru to pay for this? Is this a recall issue and has anyone reported the problem to the government?

I am trying to decide what to do. Fix it, sell it or trade it in. If any of you got the problem fixed successfully, did you end up having a transmission shop fix it, buy a rebuilt, get a new one, and who did you use to do the work?

I need to make a decision this week, please email me at for you comments.

Thank you!

porcupine73 09-09-2008 10:41 AM

Hi. See this bulletin:
Probably very little chance getting Subaru to cover it considering a model year 1999 was probably built 10 years ago at this point.

This is a tough situation. I would be very careful about getting a rebuild because a good transmission shop is very hard to find.

A used trans from a salvage yard of '99 or '00 years can very likely have the same problem your current trans is having.

Subaru offers OEM remanufactured transmissions but you could buy an entire different used soob for what they cost.

maxxheadroom 09-09-2008 11:06 AM

ok, so here is what I have done so far last weekend I drained the fluid in the trans (and front diff while I was down there) then I refilled with new fluid. The problem did not go away however it has improved considerably! Yesterday I picked up a can of trans-X (This is produced by a company called K&W recommended by my transmission guy, he has been my tranny guy for over 10 years the guy knows his stuff) I purchased the trans-x at Carquest. Dumped the stuff in haven't driven the car enough since then to really be able to tell the difference. I will keep you guys postes as to what I find.

JerryD 09-09-2008 07:44 PM

It's almost scary how many trans issues there are.

nanc107 09-13-2008 09:15 PM

Thanks for your advice about the tranny. I did try the product mentioned called TransX and it seemed to help. I have only driven the car a few miles. I called the dealer and reamed him out about not changing the transmission filter when I had routine maintenance and the many problems with these cars. They supposedly called the Subaru headquarters and offered me $1000 off in repairs. So the total cost for a factory rebuilt would be $2200 plus tax verses the $4200 they quoted me before. which is guaranteed for 3 years 36,000 miles.

Should I go ahead and pay the price? What other problems are people having with these cars? I hear the head gasket goes bad, has anyone had any problems with that or the air bag not deploying?

There is a new website that lists all the recalls and complaints about these cars sponsored by National Transportation Highway Board, at We should all write our complaints here, maybe they would make the manufacturer recall some of these issues and we wouldn't have to pay.

Any feed back to my questions would be appreciated. Nancy

porcupine73 09-13-2008 09:36 PM

Hm, well I will say that $2200 for a Subaru OEM remanufactured transmission installed at a dealer is a good price for that parts and work. That transmission, remanufactured from Subaru alone lists for $5,750. I would far trust the reman from Subaru vs any rebuilt from a typical transmission shop.

I guess what I am saying is if you want to get the transmission work done, I would go with that Subaru offer provided it includes labor and an original reman transmission from Subaru vs. having any work done at a transmission repair shop.

Now yes there can be potential head gasket issues on that engine too, so you might be able to complain about that too and see what kind of deal you can cut to get those replaced as well. Depends if they are removing the engine to replace the trans (delaer probably wouldn't), but if they are that would be not a ton more labor to do the HG's at that time. If you need timing belt that too and water pump.

Yes another used vehicle could probably be purchased for the cost of these repairs.

I haven't heard anything the airbag not deploying, and haven't had the opportunity to test it myself.

I doubt complaining about this issue to NHTSA is going to do much, since the typical slow/won't engage to drive issue is now on vehicles that are eight years old, and it isn't really a safety issue like a vehicle dying out in traffic or something like that would be. If the NHTSA hits Subaru for this trans issue, many of the domestic car makers who sell cars with weak poor quality transsmissions are going to be in way deeper first.

johnclarke58 09-19-2008 09:30 PM

I had this problem back in 1995............I posted this then

I received this from a Subaru dealer, regarding this problem with my 1999 Outback auto transmission delay shift R to D

"We use a Mopar product that you should be able to get from any Chrysler dealership. It is called Limited slip additive and its part number is 04318060AB. First I would add one bottle of it to your transmission fluid and see if that helps. Give it a day or two to work. If it doesn't help, add another bottle. If it helps, but then gets worse again after a month or so, then add two bottles.
Most of the time this fixes the problems. "

"Note".....I never tried it.........or recomment it

I had the transmission rebuilt under warranty after lots of bitching and letters and phone calls.....I was shown the Tech Bulletin by the rebuilder of my transmission......see below.....this is a very well known problem, that why Subaru offer a rebuilt transmission for only $5000 plus


For all those interested with Subaru automatic transmission problems......there is a Bulletin out regarding shrinkage of internal seals on the 1998 to 2001 Subaru outback / legacy / forester with the 4EAT transmission, this is not a recall because it's not a safety item........I also found out that Nissan use the same transmission and they also had the if yours is still under warranty ...
or has not been fixed will have the problem.....the Transmission repair shop that fixed mine showed me the Bulletin....there is an upgrade kit to correct this problem......Good Luck getting Subaru to pay for the fix........ these people supplied the info on the Tech Bulletin

zanne 10-25-2008 03:27 PM

Hi Everyone -

I've been a long time lurker but I recently purchased my very own '02 OBS thanks in part to the great info on this site. I love the car but ...

I think I'm having the same problem as mentioned above.

The car has 75K and I'm the third owner. I've owned the car for the past three months and the following has happened 8-10 times in both drive and reverse regardless of outside temp and engine temp.

Car is at full stop. I accelerate car goes to 5-10mph rpms are at 1000-1500. Then there is a 3-4 sec hesitation in acceleration (feels like the car is sluggish/ lacks power) but rpms go up to 3000 before the car continues to speed up. There is no jerking or noise just the high rpm.

Normally the car will accelerate smoothlyup to 30mps with only 2000-2500rpms.

I checked the nhtsa database and can't find anything for the '02 in either a TSB or recall.

I'm thinking of either getting the transmission fluid changed ( I have no records from the previous owner but the fluid looks and smells normal) or trying an additive.

Has anyone one else with the '02 obs had this problem? is it normal?

I'm driving to Seattle in a month and I 'd like to have a handle on any potential issues before the trip.

Any thoughts/suggestions would be helpful.


porcupine73 10-25-2008 04:11 PM

Do you have a flashing ATF temp light at all? Have you checked your ATF level? What you are describing I think could happen if ATF is low enough.

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