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2012 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited, with custom-added always-on auxillary power for an inverter, 3x DC jacks, and a radio transciever.
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Bang in transfer-case (misdiagnosed Broken driveshaft universal joint)

In my searching I only see info about early 2000 models nothing really about the 2012 3.6R Outback for driveshaft problems
Yesterday I was on my way into town and as I got off the highway my car started making a clunk/buck and then hesitating when I tried to accelerate from a traffic light but I limped the last few miles to my parents house.

Checked the oil, transmission fluid, visually looked at what I could see, ran OBD code scan...everything looked perfectly normal. Engine ran smooth as can be both idling, revving up slightly, and goosing the throttle while stationary. I tried putting it in drive with the brake on and seeing if it did anything...seemed normal. Went to take it to the shop to have it looked at and when I put it in reverse I got some clanking/clicking that reminded me of gears skipping badly.

Anyway, I determined if I drove it so I let the engine-idle bring the car up to speed (most of it is 25mph all the way to the shop) I could drive without any unusual noises and trying not to come to a complete stop helped reduce my need to touch the gas. That was enough to limp a mile or so to the shop.

Long story short, the shop says they determined the universal joint on the driveshaft is broken which is part of the driveshaft has broken and requires replacement. They could not give me an exact quote yet (but he thinks "around $1000") nor estimate on time because the places they would call for parts are closed thru Monday. In the meantime it's sitting in their lot because I gather continuing to drive could cause it to break completely lose and tear up lots of other important/expensive things that are physically near to the driveshaft. Sucky weekend with trees down, no power, no water, broken car but that's murphy's law.

Is this still an issue with the Gen4 Outbacks having these fail? Or am I just unlucky? Is there something I might have done (or didn't do) that would have caused this?

I admit I don't clean my car as often as I'd like and I sometimes drive in snow/salt (if they bother to salt, this is Virginia) and sometimes I like to accelerate fairly hard. I almost never tow although once I have probably ~2000lbs (load+trailer) once to move a lawn tractor.

So...any thoughts why this happened, how to avoid it, or anyone else who has been thru this on a gen4?
 

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2005 XT, Mildly Modified...2006 XT Limited, Highly Modifed
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I think it's very rare, but new models are getting older. It was probably just a poorly lubricated joint when manufactured originally. Parts wear out.
 

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2011 Outback Limited 2.5i/2018 Crosstrek limited
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4,676 Posts
...yup parts wear out...I replaced the propeller shaft in November...about 14,000km + ago...car had a wicked shake between 85-95kmh...feathered out some over 100kmh. New prop shaft...no shakey. This Thursday it’s the timing belt and related parts.
 

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I simply cannot abide useless people.
2006 2.5i and 2002 3.0 wagons.
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Not a common issue on Gen 4 that I'm aware of.
 

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OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
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Very uncommon, but it happens.

Most common option is a used driveshaft - they fail so rarely that used is a good option and you can verify the joints are smooth before installing them. Ask - and make sure they're not lump when moved. They also fail rarely enough that parts prices should be cheap - although sometimes the prices on newer vehicles like this are high just based on the market - people wanting fast parts, now, local, limited newer models, etc.

Find one on ebay or:
Car-Part.com--Used Auto Parts Market

You can have the shaft rebuilt by a driveshaft shop and they can install greaseable and replaceable ujoints. Grease it probably almost certainly the main failure mode. Protecting the rotating, articulating joint with tiny needle bearings isn't easy - a few are going to fail.

I'm sure there's even mail in places that do Subaru driveshafts. Local places can do them and install ujoints as well - the joints are $20-$30 each plus labor - about $100 each. Been a few years but I think it was $100-$150 at the machine shop to install 3 ujoints last time i did it.

Having greaseable joints is a rose - beautiful you can grease them but the thorn in the side is that you now have a greaseable joint on a car that otherwise doens't require anything to be greased in the traditional sense.
 

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2010 Subaru Outback Premium 2.5i w/AWP 6MT
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You've got the same driveshaft & u joint parts as me... and I abuse the heck out of my Outback. Just hitting 215,000 not-so-gentle miles, and though I've went through a clutch, 3 different wheel hubs (different wheels) and a viscous coupling (I have a manual), my driveshafts and CV joints are still in perfect shape.


So, bad part or maybe road debris? But, as everyone else said, not normal.
 

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2005 OBXT Limited, VF37, STI intake, 5MT
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$1000 sounds about right for a full retail new driveshaft and by-the-book labor (which calls for removing the exhaust).

Call around for a quote, and with used parts. Should be under $200 for a good, used driveshaft. An experienced shop can replace the DS without dropping the exhaust, which should save you some labor.
 

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2011 Outback Limited 2.5i/2018 Crosstrek limited
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$1000 sounds about right for a full retail new driveshaft and by-the-book labor (which calls for removing the exhaust)..
That’s about what it cost to replace ours...only took about an hour labour...
 

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2012 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited, with custom-added always-on auxillary power for an inverter, 3x DC jacks, and a radio transciever.
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Discussion Starter #9
Bang in transfer-case (misdiagnosed Broken driveshaft universal joint)

Well I got some bad news...parts finally came in and apparently the driveshaft while it looked like it was a problem wasn't the problem. Seems to be coming from the transfer case...so my mechanic is going to refund me fully for his work (and taking longer than he thought) and sending me to the dealership.

I can only imagine how bad this will be :(
 

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2012 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited, with custom-added always-on auxillary power for an inverter, 3x DC jacks, and a radio transciever.
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Discussion Starter #10
And just heard from the dealership...apparently it's the transmission - nearly $7000 between parts and labor to replace it or even more to use a rebuild because of the time, and it sounds like they don't want to talk about used at all.

And once again, painfully reminded why you only go to the dealership when all other possible options have been exhausted and nowhere else wants to work on it. :crying::crying::crying:
 

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2010 Subaru Outback Premium 2.5i w/AWP 6MT
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This is a 3.6R with CVT? I'd pull a CVT from a junkyard and replace it with that. This is the first 3.6R CVT I've heard of failing. They're not the same as the ones mated to the 2.5 engines. There are two generations of CVTs mated to the 2.5i, and one generation of heavy duty CVT mated to the 3.6 engine.

As an FYI, I got a transmission rebuilt quote that was about the same for my 2.5i 6MT (it wasn't the tranny, but my viscous coupling, so I had someone else do it). Point being I found that a highly reputable outside repair shop charges a lot less than a Subaru dealership, which seems to have relatively flat rates that usually involve swapping the tranny with a rebuilt and shipping yours back. So, you may want to find a highly reputable transmission shop that can quote you an actual parts/labor price.
 

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2012 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited, with custom-added always-on auxillary power for an inverter, 3x DC jacks, and a radio transciever.
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Discussion Starter #12
This is a 3.6R with CVT? I'd pull a CVT from a junkyard and replace it with that. This is the first 3.6R CVT I've heard of failing. They're not the same as the ones mated to the 2.5 engines. There are two generations of CVTs mated to the 2.5i, and one generation of heavy duty CVT mated to the 3.6 engine.

As an FYI, I got a transmission rebuilt quote that was about the same for my 2.5i 6MT (it wasn't the tranny, but my viscous coupling, so I had someone else do it). Point being I found that a highly reputable outside repair shop charges a lot less than a Subaru dealership, which seems to have relatively flat rates that usually involve swapping the tranny with a rebuilt and shipping yours back. So, you may want to find a highly reputable transmission shop that can quote you an actual parts/labor price.
No CVT, it's a 5EAT in my 2012 3.6R.

I don't know of anyone in the area who has had "reputable" experiences with transmission shops here...I do know of a few people who have had bad experiences with a couple of them (including fraud one place putting in used junk and claiming it was new). The manager at my local trusted shop I go to for "normal" scheduled service recommended that he thought based on looking at my car it was best to have a dealership work on over other places in the area. Based on his past track record I'm tempted to believe he has a good reason - he has recommended other places for other things but specifically said to go to the dealer on this one.
 

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. . . .Checked the oil, transmission fluid, visually looked at what I could see, ran OBD code scan...everything looked perfectly normal. Engine ran smooth as can be both idling, revving up slightly, and goosing the throttle while stationary. I tried putting it in drive with the brake on and seeing if it did anything...seemed normal. Went to take it to the shop to have it looked at and when I put it in reverse I got some clanking/clicking that reminded me of gears skipping badly. . .
And just heard from the dealership...apparently it's the transmission - nearly $7000 between parts and labor to replace it or even more to use a rebuild because of the time, and it sounds like they don't want to talk about used at all.
It's a big investment and a symptom that I don't recall being mentioned in regard to the 5EAT itself. Any idea what the dealership did to conclude the transmission would have to be replaced? Did they actually identify the problem, or did they just try to drive it, as you did, heard the noise and decided it's easier to just replace the whole thing?

I'm not meaning to be critical of the dealership, but I wonder if other possibilities were looked at, such as a broken CV joint in one of the four axles, or an axle that has pulled out a bit from its respective differential.

In any event, I'd be asking the dealership to explain their findings in more detail before approving a replacement . . .
 

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2012 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited, with custom-added always-on auxillary power for an inverter, 3x DC jacks, and a radio transciever.
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Discussion Starter #14
It's a big investment and a symptom that I don't recall being mentioned in regard to the 5EAT itself. Any idea what the dealership did to conclude the transmission would have to be replaced? Did they actually identify the problem, or did they just try to drive it, as you did, heard the noise and decided it's easier to just replace the whole thing?

In any event, I'd be asking the dealership to explain their findings in more detail before approving a replacement . . .
I pressed for more information but they seemed to be not willing to disassemble it any further since the car would be stuck in their bay if they take too much apart and I guess it takes 3-5 business days to actually get the parts and I'd be paying the labor (which sounds like a $100+ an hour) for them to poke and prod at it and probably tell me nothing more plus to put it back together enough to move out of their garage and again to take it apart to actually replace stuff. They said after replacing it they might be able to take a cover off and look if anything looks too bad inside but can't do any more because they wouldn't be able to send it back for the core charge if its too taken apart or something?

They also mentioned something about the "front shaft" being broken as a result of the failed transmission and is part of this expense when I pushed for details but didn't elaborate on what that part is, I gather it's different from a driveshaft to the rear.

I'm told the labor alone on the swap when they get a new one is ~$1700 to simply take out the broken one and install a working one. Anything else I press for them to do will be paying more hours on top of that.

I'm not meaning to be critical of the dealership, but I wonder if other possibilities were looked at, such as a broken CV joint in one of the four axles, or an axle that has pulled out a bit from its respective differential.
Ok - I'll happily be critical of the dealership for both of us.

I wish dealers were more willing to share information about what exactly was going on, that's one reason I like my "regular" guy for maintenance he's happy to bring you into the bay and point out what exactly is busted or give you the old parts if you want. Dealers like to operate in a vacuum.

And I can't even blame the poor dealer experience on Subaru as a brand, it's like this with every make of car we've had - Ford, GM...all dealers seem to run you thru the ringer and then squeeze you some more. I have a friend with a Ford Fiesta that has a failing transmission too...his car they "already fixed" for some TSB so the Ford dealers don't want to do anything more other than replace his whole thing at his expense...but in his case it's just slipping the clutches in low gears so he's driving it until it blows up or won't go at all. Dealers suck.
 

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Thanks for that.

So, going on the basis that the fault is in the transmission/front differential assembly (it's essentially all one), and that the dealer is suggesting a replacement, would your regular shop not be willing to do that? In other words, did they send you to the dealer because they don't do transmission repairs, or was it because they don't work on transmissions, including not swapping them? Just wondering if there could be a cost benefit, as well as perhaps the satisfaction of working with a familiar and trusted shop.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks for that.

So, going on the basis that the fault is in the transmission/front differential assembly (it's essentially all one), and that the dealer is suggesting a replacement, would your regular shop not be willing to do that? In other words, did they send you to the dealer because they don't do transmission repairs, or was it because they don't work on transmissions, including not swapping them? Just wondering if there could be a cost benefit, as well as perhaps the satisfaction of working with a familiar and trusted shop.
The place I normally go is actually more of a tire shop so they don't do more than just fluids for a transmission/differential, they got bought out by Tires Plus but it's the same manager who has been there a long time. We've had them do some other work on other cars like we had a "camshaft synchronizer shaft" in an older Ford Taurus that was making noise they found and fixed tho it was 1 tooth out of alignment and set a check-engine light even tho the car ran fine...for that one they fully covered the cost of a dealership fixing that to make good on it.

The manager at my shop flat out said he was not willing to mess with anything past a simple driveshaft or axle swap (which he tried a new driveshaft and didn't fix it so they put the original back) - probably just too many things might go wrong depending what they find. But he did comp me the full cost of his shop's work as well as volunteering to arrange and cover the expenses and logistics for a flat-bed to take it to the dealership for me before I even asked what I owed him. In this whole sucky experience that is at least one really nice thing.

I know they also have some rule he has to order parts thru "his suppliers" so he may know that all he can do is get a whole new unit and that's still throwing parts at it hoping for a solution which is a poor way to do repairs.

I can appreciate if they know the limits of their mechanics and don't want to get in over their head and risk more damage or something. I can definitely respect that because that's how I feel about the kinds of maintenance I do myself.
 

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2012 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited, with custom-added always-on auxillary power for an inverter, 3x DC jacks, and a radio transciever.
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Discussion Starter #17
It's a big investment and a symptom that I don't recall being mentioned in regard to the 5EAT itself. Any idea what the dealership did to conclude the transmission would have to be replaced? Did they actually identify the problem, or did they just try to drive it, as you did, heard the noise and decided it's easier to just replace the whole thing?

I'm not meaning to be critical of the dealership, but I wonder if other possibilities were looked at, such as a broken CV joint in one of the four axles, or an axle that has pulled out a bit from its respective differential.

In any event, I'd be asking the dealership to explain their findings in more detail before approving a replacement . . .
So apparently they finished fixing it already and they did give me a bit more information after they got the old assembly out of the car. Sounds like they think the front differential got low on oil (odd, I swear I had it checked/changed within the last 15K miles) which they think caused something to overheat and seize/bind which in turn caused the front and rear to be fighting each other until a gear broke (unclear if this is a transmission or differential gear but either would be bad). Then obviously once there's a hunk of gear floating around things start tearing up worse.

So my next question...I don't have jack-stands, garage, lift, or anything other than a driveway. Is there any way I can easily check the level of the differentials periodically myself? Or is this something I'd be better off to just take it to my shop every 5-10K and ask them to check the levels of the diff oil while they have it in for other service?
 

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2011 Outback 3.6R Limited, Red
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So my next question...I don't have jack-stands, garage, lift, or anything other than a driveway. Is there any way I can easily check the level of the differentials periodically myself? Or is this something I'd be better off to just take it to my shop every 5-10K and ask them to check the levels of the diff oil while they have it in for other service?
There is a dipstick in the engine bay for the front diff, and another one for the transmission. Super easy to check front diff. Rear diff does not have a dip stick.
 

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Yes, being the 5EAT, as Brainanator said, there's dipsticks for the ATF and front differential gear oil. They're both described in Section 11 (Maintenance and Service) in the Owners Manual (pages 11-21 and 11-23).
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Yes, being the 5EAT, as Brainanator said, there's dipsticks for the ATF and front differential gear oil. They're both described in Section 11 (Maintenance and Service) in the Owners Manual (pages 11-21 and 11-23).
Ah, ok. I have been aware of the one for the ATF and check it periodically but I still haven't found the one for the differential. Based on my Google searches until now I was under the impression it was a bolt rather than a dipstick and I still can't locate the one referenced in the manual. When I got home I looked around with a flashlight but all I could see was a rat's nest of wires which I presume is all the electronic control brains for the transmission systems and sensors.

My previous assumption was it was an error - it wouldn't be the first time a manual was wrong (e.g. my roomate's Mazda the oil filter is in a completely different place than it says, my parents Taurus the manual only said to remove half the clips that locked in for the cabin air filter).

Maybe one of these days when it's sunny and the engine bay isn't 900 degrees from driving I can try and dig deeper and hunt for it harder.
 
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