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5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello Internet!

Sorry for long post!

I am a happy owner of a 2012 Subaru Outback 2.5L with CVT at 195k km / ~121k miles - as mentioned in my signature (yes, I read the "New users, read this first" :) ).
Some time ago I was driving at reasonably low speeds 50kph / 30mph when I had to avoid collision and do an emergency stop - knowing Subaru I got stopped just in time with a bit to spare, but the engine stalled. Since it was a hard brake I thought this is some kind of safety feature (new car, who this?).

Few months later, rocking about -25 C / -13F I started the drive and at about 4th intersection when I braked, the car stalled again. Since I had heated seats, radio, heater, rear window heater etc on and the ABS started working I thought that it might be because of bad spark plugs - it was replacement time for them anyways (felt like 1 or 2 cylinders misfired and the engine just couldn't keep going).

With changing the plugs I also changed air filters - car started to move much better, but the stalling kept happening.
Side note - as I will mention my local dealerships later - 2 of the plugs were Denso and 2 of them were NGK (I put in 4 NGK-s). The plugs were previously changed in my local dealership (looking at them - seemed like they changed only 2).
I jumped head on into forums and started reading (including this one).
The information I found made me sad.
1) To get a new torque converter to the place I live - it cost's about 1k Eur part + about 600 Eur shipping + around 600 Eur taxes. So all in all I would be looking at 2200Eur / 2650Usd bill.
2) Local dealerships are known to have low work quality + they don't change only torque converters but only full gearboxes (that would make this even more expensive). And the price for that job would hit around 10k Eur / 12k Usd (2012 Outback market price here is around 4k-5k Eur).
3) Since I need to use my car basically daily - I am afraid that if the gearbox currently is as healthy as it can be with such mileage I will hurt it even more.

Question number 1 - about point 3) If I keep driving with possibly a bad thrust washer in the torque converter that causes restriction of the oil passage to bleed off lock-up clutch, can I possibly harm my gearbox?

I haven't been able to properly log gearbox's temperature when the stalling happens, but it seems to be right between it being cold and on working temperature.
Meaning that the stalling is only a problem from about 4th to 10th minute of driving. During that time I've started to shift into neutral before stopping - since I have huge amounts of snow here, it's not the best solution since I like my 4wd working not all 4 wheels doing basically what they want.
What has happened for a few times - I shift into neutral, push the brake pedal maybe a bit harder than usual and then the engine starts to stutter / sputter (sorry, English is not my mother tongue).

Although the sun set somewhere in November and is going to rise in March, there was sunshine all of a sudden - "It has to be the throttle valve" I thought. Since it's reasonably chilly here and at the time the stalling happens, the car might still be running a little rich - meaning if the valve is dirty, the drive by wire system might start flapping it, making the engine to stall?

On the same day I was going for a longer ride - at some point with cruise control on at about 100kph / 60mph my car started to act weird for about 6 to 10 seconds.
It felt like one foot was kept on the gas (steadily) and with the other foot tapped brakes about once in a second. Since the roads are slippery and icy, I didn't have time to inspect the rpms unfortunately.
At that point it was even colder outside so I though of two possible reasons - throttle valve is dirty or getting stuck (cruise control was over compensating and the cold has had negative impact) or one of my ignition coil packs are going bad (bad ignition coil should give me a fault code tho) - this would make sense since I was driving for quite some time with possibly really bad spark plugs. As far as I know bad torque converter shouldn't be able to start stopping the engine / drivetrain. Am I right?

Note to reader who has made it this far - check engine light has never been on and never came on.
Also no weird noises are coming from the gearbox or engine area.
Shifting from P-R-N-D takes about 1 to 1.5 seconds for the gear to engage.
When driving in D, the gearbox sometimes prefers higher rpms for gear change (3 - 3.5k) - lowers rpm as soon as I stop accelerating tho.
When driving in "manual", gearbox shifts as fast as it has ever shifted, no problems there.

I even suspected that the check engine light has been "disabled" and tried to read fault codes with an old and cheap OBD reader, but no active, deleted or pending codes came up.

My action plan at the moment:
1) Clean throttle body / throttle valve - how ever you call it, I hope reader understands
2) Perform stall test. What I read from the manual, it should be 2400 - 3100 rpm
3) Get proper logging tools for gearbox temp, engine rpm
4) Check and possibly replace CVT fluid

Question number 2 - am I going to the right direction? Is there anything else I should test or do before going to give my savings to Subaru parts dealer?
Question number 3 - (pointing up to the whole post) does this sound more like torque converter issue or something else?
Question number 4 - when looking for cheaper solutions on the internet I found 16-90-13R service bulletin that states that some lucky people got their torque converters replaced by Subaru themselves - since I have an older model (still in the problematic range tho) and I'm long overdue on all of the powertrain warranties and I live in a far-far away land it's just a bright dream that I could use it in my case. Are there any suggestions / ideas how could I get or with whom should I speak to possibly get discount or some warm helping words at least?
Question number 5 - The sticker on my gearbox states TR690JHBBA, 569962-36 and since the "countermeasure torque converter" was first installed in gearbox with serial 633208 meaning mine should be built with the problematic 31100AB170 torque converter.
The replacement part should be 31100AB171, but when looking at it from I see that it's no longer available and the supersession is 31100AB172 - does this mean that I can go with part 172 with no problems? It seems that often with torque converter replacement the valve body should be replaced as well with CVT lines being pressure tested - is there something MORE I should worry about 馃槺?

One might be thinking - the part and replacement costs more than Outbacks cost here on the market, why not just buy a new one? I just finished with a total chassis rebuild (not including diffs and gearbox) and I do really love my car + the body is still in an amazing shape and I've taken a lot of care of it + left some of my blood and knuckles in the car so the worst has happened and I'm emotionally connected to it :)

Also it's the first car I have ever owned that was made in this century.

+ the good part is that when I have to take the engine out to replace the torque converter, then I have decided that I will do the basic maintenance to the engine as well.
Gaskets, rod bearings etc, so I would get more enjoyable kilometers / miles out of it.

Sorry for the long post. Hope you all stay negative.

Premium Member
01 VDC, 05 R Sedan, 06 BAJA EJ257
16,253 Posts
You are on the correct path. Clean the Throttle, check your grounding. Carbon on the TB will prevent proper management from the ECM. Like you said, it's sticking and the ECM is fighting it.

Changing the CVT fluid is something I recommend every 50-60k miles. Yours is probably fairly poor considering where you are now.

The CVT valve body fails more often than the torque converter. You get the shudder and bad fuel economy. Sometimes the AT Temp light will be on.

Considering you don't have any codes, the AT Temp light does not come one, no other warning lights, then maintenance is where you start.

If it comes to a torque converter, which I doubt, then the 172 would be the correct one.

You shouldn't have to replace any of the engine interior components, bearings and what not. Upgrading to MLS head gaskets is always a good thing, though. Doing the interior would be an individual choice, but as long as oil is kept above minimum the block should last you quite a few hundred thousand miles.

5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Updates time.
Unfortunately I have not had much time to go out, test and debug.
Today I finally managed to check how long it takes for the gearbox to go from N to R and from N to D and the times are between 1 and 2 seconds (Time Lag Test). According to the manual, the standard from N to D is 1.2 seconds or less and N to R is 1.5 seconds or less.
I would say that my results are "close enough" looking at the mileage + there might have been some reaction time issues on my side.

According to those results I can mostly cross of
1) Line pressure too low
2) Forward brake worn
3) One way clutch issues
4) Reverse brake worn

I also plugged in an obd adapter, but to my surprise all the programs that used to be free now cost a ton and trial versions don't give out much information. Also there is no way to get the data out in json / csv format

馃憜 As you can see Auto Doctor trial is not much of a use.

I decided to dig out my old code and take a look with it instead. Unfortunately Subaru's PIDs look a bit different and I have to do a lot of adjustments in my software to get gearbox info- this might take some time.

5 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
More updates.
I finally had a safe space and warm engine to do the stall test.
(safe as in - nothing in front of me + a place where I could leave my car in case the transmission blows up).
Here is an image / graph of one of the tests:

Looking at the graph - idle looks normal (about 680rpm), but it wobbles a bit afterwards might still be a dirty throttle valve (still haven't had a chance to take a look at it).
Stall max rpm - between 2750 and 2850rpm. According to the manual, it should be between 2400-3100rpm, so I'm in the right ballpark.

NB! If you do stall tests, let the engine and gearbox cool off between tests and also don't shut down your car 5 seconds after the end of the test like I accidentally did on the shown graph. :)

About diagnostics part. I have some problems connecting to my OBD device over bluetooth from my computer (works fine with some trial software, but problems establishing a connection from terminal, might have to connect to a specific MAC with password instead of paired bluetooth device).

I'm also thinking that I have to switch from ELM reader to a more "proper" one. Also preferably to a device that has bluetooth + USB connection capabilities.

In the meantime also thinking about live monitoring voltage and resistance on valve body's solenoids. Should give a good overview when something is switched and does it actually move.

Edit: > Does it actually move isn't a correct term here.
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