CVT and Off-Road - Page 2 - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-24-2016, 04:21 PM
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Hello, this will be my first post on the forum. I have tried researching an answer to this question through google and searches on here, but I couldn't find a straight up answer to my question. I apologize if this has been covered in other threads.

Short version of question:
Does off-roading impact the life expectancy of the transmission valve body?

Long version of question:
I have a stock 2011 Outback (2.5i Premium) and recently had to get the transmissions valve body replaced (still at the dealer waiting on the part to arrive). The subi has just north of 90k miles on it, this week we were going to bring it in for the 90k maintenance. My question is, could off-roading have been the cause for the valve body failure? My wife and I make pretty frequent trips to Big Bend National Park and pretty much keep it in the dirt the whole time. We found that with some technical driving you can bring it pretty much anywhere in the park (yes even Black Gap Road/Old Ore Road/Christmas Mountain). On the way home from our last trip the the lights came on for the AT Oil Temp along with all of the usual lights that come on with the check engine light. This was after a few hundred miles on the highway and not on the trail. This trip wasn't any different than our trips in the past, so it wasn't any more/less rugged than others. From what I've read there are really only two reasons for the valve body to break, defective part or low trans fluid levels. Looking at other valve body failures online the defective body generally fails before 60k miles and I asked about the level when they started looking at it yesterday and they said it was fine. I don't fully understand it's role in the transmission so I'm wondering if the strain from off-roading or excessive dust could have caused the issue. The dealer said every time he has seen one fail it was due to not maintaining it, I assume not changing the fluid at 30k mile intervals. Since we got the car we just put 30k miles on it coming back from our last trip. So the maintenance issue would have been from the previous owner. It's a pretty expensive fix so I want to avoid it happening again, so if laying off the trails will prevent it I'm hoping to find that out. However I would hate for that to happen since it does so well. This is coming from someone who had a Jeep with 5+ inches lift, 35" tires, lockers, etc. My only complaint with it off-road is the limited approach/depart angles with the stock bumpers.
No. Fluid quality/debri in the fluid is what mucks up a working valve body. There is always the chance of a flawed part too.

Off roading the only major risk is boogering the torque converter, resulting in metal debri in the fluid. Over heat in the cvt with just the car no trailer would take some pretty extreme efforts. Especially given several have done black bear pass with no major heat issues.

With the torque converter you simply dont sit there mashing the go pedal if you've stalled it and come to a stop on a ledge or rock etc. Back it up and run it with more momentum etc.

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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-24-2016, 05:39 PM Thread Starter
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No. Fluid quality/debri in the fluid is what mucks up a working valve body. There is always the chance of a flawed part too.

Off roading the only major risk is boogering the torque converter, resulting in metal debri in the fluid. Over heat in the cvt with just the car no trailer would take some pretty extreme efforts. Especially given several have done black bear pass with no major heat issues.

With the torque converter you simply dont sit there mashing the go pedal if you've stalled it and come to a stop on a ledge or rock etc. Back it up and run it with more momentum etc.
Thanks for the input. I'm pretty light on the gas due to the slower/easier you are on things the less of a chance there is break stuff. I used to go off-roading in upstate NY with a guy where everything was make it or break it. That is also some cool news about people doing Black Bear. I'm looking to do a trip to Colorado to hit up Engineer, Imogene, and Black Bear pass at some point next year. I'm currently looking at ditching my MDX for a more off-road worthy (built up Land Cruiser/Tacoma/Disco2) vehicle before that trip. I didn't think the Subaru would would make them. However just because a Subaru has made it, doesn't mean I really want to try to make it with mine...

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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-24-2016, 05:50 PM
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Same here. I have a Sequoia for the tough stuff. It replaced the cherry 93 J80. We needed a more modern rig with a little more seating ability. Its the local minivan mostly. Trying to decide if the OB gets the Yellowstone trip or the Sequoia. Normally we do our big trips in the OB. But I could stow our camp gear in the truck vs on the trailer. We'll have one hotel overnight midway to and from. Which case gear outa sight in the truck might work better. But the drive its self the OB is the top choice.

The old LC was cool but **** 12mpg got old quick.The Sequoia does a solid 15-16mpg trip average. Which was a big deal after living with a 12mpg rig.
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-24-2016, 06:20 PM
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Climbing the Black Bear on the east side is not exactly a feat (though an OB front bumper can let you down anywhere). Now, climbing the downhill-only west side during a special event would indeed be one but I doubt it has been attempted in a Subaru (yet). I think Brucey's AT light did come on once on one of the passes (mine has never been on yet).

I have had my fair share of false lights though (oil, due to inclines and windshield washer, after undercarriage hits).

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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-28-2016, 09:18 PM
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Brucey,
If you do put a trans cooler on your outback, can you let me know which one you used?

Last edited by nene503; 12-28-2016 at 09:19 PM. Reason: Stupid Apple Autocorrect
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post #16 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-28-2016, 10:43 PM
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Brucey,
If you do put a trans cooler on your outback, can you let me know which one you used?
Of course. I will likely do a write up as well.
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post #17 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-29-2016, 09:17 AM
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Thanks! Looking at my 3.6R there is small cvt cooler in place (not sure if the 2.5 has it). Maybe it is possible to just add a larger cooler while utilizing the stock mounting location (upper driver side of the front grill).
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post #18 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-29-2016, 12:37 PM
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I would be reactive: monitor ATF and if you see excessive temps too often, then worry about a cooler. I am not worried about mine though I have learned that giving it a break on very long unpaved climbs is a good idea. I do not think this would be a worry east of Denver.

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post #19 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-29-2016, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by nene503 View Post
Thanks! Looking at my 3.6R there is small cvt cooler in place (not sure if the 2.5 has it). Maybe it is possible to just add a larger cooler while utilizing the stock mounting location (upper driver side of the front grill).
There is a cooler of some type on the 2.5. I am not sure if it is for the CVT or not (just never investigated) though I would guess it is.

I have overheated the CVT (gotten the warning light), though this has only happened on one trip (near the top of a 5700' sustained steep climb). So it can be done, though maybe with better driving I could have avoided it.

Definitely interested to know the outcomes of adding a larger cooler (and I can obviously recommend a test piece, though it's a bit remote). Coming up on 30k so I'm going to get the fluid checked and see how it's doing.
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