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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello Outback friends,

Main Question: Can a bad torque converter and/or valve body damage the main CVT? ( 4th Gen 2012 Outback 2.5 with 130k miles) My symptoms are hesitation / lurching from a stop to drive.

I've read through many posts about torque converters and CVTs but none quite answer my question above.

Detailed Background story:
My Outback has had one "meltdown" where it got really unhappy on the highway flashed all the instrument control panel lights, disabled cruise control, and posted error codes P0456, P0700, and P2762. Since then, and a little before that point, the only other symptom is the hesitation or lurching from a stop to drive. I haven't seen any of the stalling / almost stalling at a stop that others with torque converter problems see. I took it to one Subaru dealer and the original diagnosis was just replace the valve body. I have a third party warranty on my vehicle, and after that Subaru dealer discussed the case with the warranty company, they changed the diagnosis to whole transmission replacement. I didn't like that, so I've been driving it for a few months with no repairs. No more error codes have occurred since the first time, but the hesitation/lurching continues. A few weeks ago I took it to my more trusted Subaru dealer to get to the bottom of the problem. They have been taking several weeks to diagnosis it. They have not opened it up, but have done all other possible diagnostics on it. Their conclusion is that the torque converter has gone bad, and caused something else inside the CVT to fail too. They also recommend a complete CVT replacement. I've fought this up a few levels with SOA support, but since I'm out of warranty, the most they will offer is 2k towards repairs, and they were pretty rigid on that offer. Maybe I need to keep trying? I've seen others post that Subaru has covered the entire CVT replacement, even out warranty. I'm sure most of them are original owners (I'm not), and got their claims started during Subaru's warranty extension period (through July 2018). My third party warranty is of course not paying anything since at least part of the issue is covered by a TSB.

Additional questions that accompany my main question:
-Can lurching/hesitation from stop to drive be caused by torque converter?
-I'm contemplating replacing just the valve body ($1200, actual subaru quote) and torque converter ($1000-1500??? based on internet estimates), and seeing if that solves the problem before a complete CVT replacement (7k). What else should I be asking them to do (CVT internal filter change)? I assume with the valve body and torque converter, all the fluid will be changed by default.
-If I replace torque converter and valve body, and symptoms go away, what are the chances that there really is something else in the CVT damaged? And how soon will I begin to see symptoms again?


Any advice / stories / links to other posts are greatly appreciated (probably seen the posts already, but it can't hurt)!

F.W. Friend
 

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yes, if metal from the converter got into the main unit, very real possibility...ditto for improper valve body operations causing damage. Subaru dealer is saying replace trans, yeah it's done.
 

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Hello Outback friends,

Main Question: Can a bad torque converter and/or valve body damage the main CVT? ( 4th Gen 2012 Outback 2.5 with 130k miles) My symptoms are hesitation / lurching from a stop to drive.
Yes, a bad torque converter can damage the CVT! I just went through this exact situation. Car started to shudder/stall out upon coming to a stop. Dealer had to drain the CVT fluid and examine for potential metal flakes that a faulty torque converter might have caused. They didn't find any so just replace the torque converter. It's a costly fix either way.

This is part of the CVT and torque converter problem plaguing Subarus that they have addressed. Unfortunately, if you are past the 100k mile mark so it's no longer covered under the extended warranty.

 

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I had to have the valve body replaced on my '11 2.5L @ approximately 113k miles. I had no CVT issues prior. I had very similar symptoms as you, the car started lurching from a stop, and was difficult to get up to cruising speed. The CELs lit up also. I had to keep driving it because I was in a relatively remote RGV area in S.Texas. The trans also felt like it was "slipping" when at cruising speed, meaning, higher RPMs than normal for given speed.

I drove it about 100 miles to the nearest dealership. Still lurching/bucking from a stop, ok on highway, just trying not to stop as much as possible. Basically limped it into the dealership. Diagnosis by dealer was: needed new CVT valve body. I was past the extended part warranty for 2010-2012 outback CVTs (was it 100k? if so, I was 13k over). Subaru contributed some money towards the $1,400 (or was it 1,500? I forget) repair, enough to pacify me mostly, I had to really complain to corporate to get consideration. My out of pocket expense ended up being less than finding a used valve body and putting it in myself, so I was happy with Subie kicking in some $$$. They could have told me to fly a kite like BMW recently did on a failed fuel tank at 70k miles. Being 400+ miles from home, I didn't have a non-dealer option anyway!

Dealership said the torque converted tested OK, just needed valve body and they completed the valve body replacement. I'm not sure how they determined torque converter was OK, but I asked them to check and they said only the valve body needed replacement. I took their word. Had me in/out of the dealership in about 4 hours on a Saturday. Thankful, as I could have been stuck for a whole weekend or overnight.

I've put 25k miles on the car since the valve body replacement without any CVT related issues (knocks on wood). No leaks either. If your torque converter is OK I wouldn't worry about it. Its a lot more work/labor/$ to open up the trans for the converter, the valve body is a bolt on affair more or less without dropping the trans. I guess if you're getting a whole new trans somehow under warranty, I wouldn't argue. Yes, they will have to drain the CVT and refill it to do the valve body. You should see the CVT fluid cost on your repair bill.

Some say there is a specific bushing prone to wear/failure on 10-12, that could contaminate your CVT fluid and take out the valve body. (wasn't the bushing the reason for the extended CVT warranty?. Really not sure.) I drained/refilled my CVT fluid at 94k miles, and still had the valve body fail 19k miles later.

Hopefully this helps, like I said, I just had the valve body replaced and have had no trans issues since (knocking on wood). I'm sure both can fail simultaneously but wasn't the case for me. I would have had issues in the last 25k if there was a torque converter issue...
 

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yes, if metal from the converter got into the main unit, very real possibility...ditto for improper valve body operations causing damage. Subaru dealer is saying replace trans, yeah it's done.
+1.... if a part fails and debris from that failure starts pumping through the system, the system is going to fail.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I appreciate all great information! Thank you!

It sounds like both Subaru dealers that I've been to have lots of good information on what could be wrong with my car (especially considering that both had an initial diagnosis that changed over a few weeks), but don't really know the exact problem and extent of it in my car. I mean how could you without opening it up and at least looking at the fluid? I've decided I'm definitely going to do some repair on it at the dealer who has it now, I'm just waiting for the dealer to open it up and get back to me on condition of the fluid before I decide which path to take.

F.W. Friend
 

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After some more diagnosis and discussion and prodding from me on whether it's really the whole transmission, my service advisor at the dealer informed me that "his technician definitely thinks it's the torque converter that is the main culprit, and very probably also the valve body, and in fact they definitely need to replace the valve body anyway so they can guarantee that it will work right after the torque converter has gone bad and probably messed up the valve body too." Still seemed like lots of guessing to me. When they finally looked at the fluid, they said the fluid looked bad and dark and could have some metal in it, but no big shavings or chunks. But they also could see dark fluid like this on any vehicle with over 100k miles. So no definite answers from the fluid either. My background as an engineer would definitely not be able to accept this type of experiment and guess work (from 2 dealers) if this were my job. As a side note to all the discussions on whether it's lifetime fluid, he recommended to definitely get it changed way before 100k miles.

The one thing I'm still surprised at was the relenting on needing to replace the entire CVT after a certain point in time. Either they just got sick of me and wanted to get me and the car off their books. Or I almost feel like the first few weeks they had it, they put the symptoms in system and it spit out the answer of needing a new CVT. Then after lots of discussion with me, they went back and reread the answer and further down somewhere it said, could also be solved by replacing torque converter and possibly valve body if replacing complete cvt is not an option.

They wanted $4100 for the combined torque converter and valve body replacement. He explained that 2600 of it was for the torque converter. I negotiated it down to 3600 total based on a quote from another dealer to do the torque converter alone for 2100 (still way too much based on what an independent shop can do it for). I will still try and submit a claim to SOA since the repair ended up matching the TSB 16-90-13 exactly, which was the cause for the extended warranty ( https://allwheeldriveauto.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/TSB169013.pdf ). Even if they don't reimburse any more, i'm out the door for less than 2k. I'm not happy about it, considering it's a Subaru quality issue, but I can live with it.

I've only had it back for 8 hours, but I've been driving it a good bit, and even a couple of 6-7 minute stretches at 70mph and the issue seems to be gone. Granted it's only one day, and no long highway stretches, but normally I would have felt the lurching and hesitating by now. Seems to be fixed.

I did ask for and get the old valve body and torque converter to take with me, so I know they swapped them out. We can assume it was mainly the torque converter but we'll never know for sure. Could have been any one of or combination of several things: torque converter, valve body, new fluid, or reprogramming of the transmission module (required after valve body replacement).

If I have any more issues down the road with it, I'll report back here, otherwise consider it inconclusively solved.

Thanks for all the help!

F.W. Friend
 
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