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Jonathon Welsh of Wall St. Journal has me a bit nervous.

In April 3 issue, someone wrote in regarding a recent conversation they
had with their dealer about service for their Outback CVT.

Dealer stated:

1) You NEVER change transmission oil.
2) Dealers are UNABLE to fix ANY trouble with CVT.
3) When problems exist, ONLY dealer action is to FULLY REPLACE CVT.

Welch wrote back saying that this sounds highly unlikely that Subaru dealers
can't repair the CVT, or any other Subie transmission.

So......can anyone here tell me what you know about this ? If it's true, am realizing that it may be necessary to get an extended warranty. CVT replacement could be super expensive.
 

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CVT fluid is noted as life time however in harsh use cases the dealer can drain and replace it a couple of regular posters have noted that they have had the CVT serviced by their dealer not a big deal.

Can the dealer physically work on the transmission? No actually even normal transmissions more often than not get sent to a specialist to be fixed. Dealers can't afford to keep a transmission expert on staff when they only see a couple of odd ball transmission issues a year.

I met one of the top Transmission experts on the west coast for Mercedes a few years back. He owns his own business and Mercedes contracts him to work on cars that they do not want their dealers messing with. He knew the Mercedes AT like the back of his hand the guy was printing his own money basically.

I would actually say that Subaru not having their basic techs at dealers work on the CVT or possibly even the 5spd AT would be a step in the direction of preventing lots of problems for customers. Dealer Techs the really really good one's generally are contractors hired in by the dealer for a special job. The every day Tech's are sort of the general practice doc. When you crack an AT your talking specialist territory. Heck even back in 1997 Toyota flew in a engine specialist to make sure the engine the dealer had to tear down to a bare block and rebuild was done correctly.
 

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Never change the CVT fluid? If I'm not mistaken the manual has intervals for towing and non towing, plus why would it hurt to change it every so often?
 

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Dealers are UNABLE to fix ANY trouble with CVT.
When problems exist, ONLY dealer action is to FULLY REPLACE CVT.
Welch wrote back saying that this sounds highly unlikely that Subaru dealers can't repair the CVT, or any other Subie transmission.
LoL, le’me guess… at the dealer Finance Office, right?
The question is should you buy the Ext, which is not specific to the CVT alone.
 

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I've been having an intermittant issue with my 2011's CVT for the better part of 1.5 years. It does this shudder when in reverse, sometimes 2-3 times a month, sometimes not for months. Basically when the car has sat like say over night or for a few hours, start it then put in reverse, apply normal throttle pressure. The result is what feels like a manual trans when you are slipping the clutch out, or first learning how to start out with a manual transmission. There is a grunt and shudder felt through the entire car when it happens, something inside the CVT "feel" like it is severely slipping as the engine RPM raises higher than what is normally needed for the amount of reverse momentum that is actually taking place (Imagine just barely creeping backward but the RPM's are raised).

Car has just over 30K miles YTD and it has done this since about 10-11K miles, we purchased this car new. Aside from that it drives well and doesn't cause any other issues. Car still returns an average of 27 mpg on my wifes weekly commute of 58 miles ea. way all highway, and that is with her idling for a few minutes in the morning (touching up makeup etc..) we also have bike racks on the roof.

Anyway I've had the car looked at on three different occasions with Subaru regarding the shuddering CVT in reverse, even left the car with the dealer for a week to duplicate the issue only to be told the car didn't do it for them.

For poops and giggles I called the Subaru parts dept and asked how much a new CVT goes for and the parts guy told me $8K before labor and after core. Lol what. I seriously hope this **** thing doesn't fail on my dime. I was also told by my SA that there is nothing inside the CVT that can be fixed, when it fails it must be entirely replaced.
 

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I've been having an intermittant issue with my 2011's CVT for the better part of 1.5 years. It does this shudder when in reverse, sometimes 2-3 times a month, sometimes not for months. Basically when the car has sat like say over night or for a few hours, start it then put in reverse, apply normal throttle pressure. The result is what feels like a manual trans when you are slipping the clutch out, or first learning how to start out with a manual transmission. There is a grunt and shudder felt through the entire car when it happens, something inside the CVT "feel" like it is severely slipping as the engine RPM raises higher than what is normally needed for the amount of reverse momentum that is actually taking place (Imagine just barely creeping backward but the RPM's are raised).

Car has just over 30K miles YTD and it has done this since about 10-11K miles, we purchased this car new. Aside from that it drives well and doesn't cause any other issues. Car still returns an average of 27 mpg on my wifes weekly commute of 58 miles ea. way all highway, and that is with her idling for a few minutes in the morning (touching up makeup etc..) we also have bike racks on the roof.

Anyway I've had the car looked at on three different occasions with Subaru regarding the shuddering CVT in reverse, even left the car with the dealer for a week to duplicate the issue only to be told the car didn't do it for them.

For poops and giggles I called the Subaru parts dept and asked how much a new CVT goes for and the parts guy told me $8K before labor and after core. Lol what. I seriously hope this **** thing doesn't fail on my dime. I was also told by my SA that there is nothing inside the CVT that can be fixed, when it fails it must be entirely replaced.
I hear you, The CVT in my early built 10 was replaced at 7K for a front diff leak. Yea the front diff if part of the CVT. On a positive note I think some folks have high miles(80-90k) on there 10's. I think overall they are a well built unit, expensive though.
 

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Wait, so a leaking diff was fixed by replacing the entire transmission?!? Was it just a seal that was leaking?

I hear you, The CVT in my early built 10 was replaced at 7K for a front diff leak. Yea the front diff if part of the CVT. On a positive note I think some folks have high miles(80-90k) on there 10's. I think overall they are a well built unit, expensive though.
 

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With few exceptions, auto dealerships stopped having real mechanical technicians many years ago. Today's dealership has a service department full of "parts changers" who R&R the defective part. While computer technology has made diagnosis of many issues a much easier process, the real "nuts & bolts" guys are fewer and farther between.

Before some mechanic flames me, there are some of the old breed left - they are just harder to find.

As for the CVT, my dealer also said "lifetime fluid", but they will do a drain & fill. Apparently the fluid is super expensive.
 

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Never change the CVT fluid? If I'm not mistaken the manual has intervals for towing and non towing, plus why would it hurt to change it every so often?
There's no change interval for CVT fluid unless driven under servere conditions which Subaru specifies as trailer towing. There are only inspections of the level at 30,000 mile intervals.

It probably wouldn't hurt to change more often but it takes about 13 quarts. Subaru only sells it's CVT Fluid in a 5 gallon pail for which they want about $320 so 13 quarts would run about $200 and you'd have 7 quarts left over - not enought for another change. Of course you could always have a dealer do it but I'm sure there would be an additional $100 to $200 in labor. To do it by the book they would have to connect the special service computer to read the correct temperature of the fluid. There are some aftermarket fluids that might bring the costs down to the $100 range but are they really doing the job that the Subaru CVT needs?
 

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Honda does the replacement only thing with their CVT too. I had one fail in a Civic Hybrid and the dealership told me that any DTC indicating a mechanical failure, they just pull and replace completely; no disassembly or internal repair at a dealership. It cost Honda around $5K to replace mine.
 

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Wait, so a leaking diff was fixed by replacing the entire transmission?!? Was it just a seal that was leaking?
It was leaking diff fluid. I'm not sure if it was seal. I found it by peeking around the underneath one day. You would think they would of caught it during the last oil change before I found it, but they did give me a brand new CVT and gave me a gold 7/100 warranty.
 

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I've been having an intermittant issue with my 2011's CVT for the better part of 1.5 years. It does this shudder when in reverse, sometimes 2-3 times a month, sometimes not for months. Basically when the car has sat like say over night or for a few hours, start it then put in reverse, apply normal throttle pressure. The result is what feels like a manual trans when you are slipping the clutch out, or first learning how to start out with a manual transmission. There is a grunt and shudder felt through the entire car when it happens, something inside the CVT "feel" like it is severely slipping as the engine RPM raises higher than what is normally needed for the amount of reverse momentum that is actually taking place (Imagine just barely creeping backward but the RPM's are raised).
Pool Runner-

Your note reminded me of some stuff I saw in a Subaru training guide for the CVT. I've scanned three pages of it and attached it here; perhaps there might be something here that helps. The way I read it, there are several failure modes that can cause the CVT not to drop into the lowest gear ratio at startup and give the "slipping feeling". It can be a lack of speed sensor info, a solenoid failure, or the ATF temperature sensor failure. I'm going to guess you have an intermittent failure with one of these... and the ATF temperature sensor might be first on my suspect list. Anyway, I throw this up just in case it can help somehow.
 

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Pool Runner-

Your note reminded me of some stuff I saw in a Subaru training guide for the CVT. I've scanned three pages of it and attached it here; perhaps there might be something here that helps. The way I read it, there are several failure modes that can cause the CVT not to drop into the lowest gear ratio at startup and give the "slipping feeling". It can be a lack of speed sensor info, a solenoid failure, or the ATF temperature sensor failure. I'm going to guess you have an intermittent failure with one of these... and the ATF temperature sensor might be first on my suspect list. Anyway, I throw this up just in case it can help somehow.
Thanks:29:, I will give it a look. I started a thread about my issue about a year ago and a handfull of other Outback owners had chimed in to say they were experiencing the same. My dealer told me of the hundreds of 4th gen Outbacks they see and service he had only replaced a CVT once and it was a completley random failure.

I wonder if the ATF temp sensor is a replaceamble part I could DIY? I would be willing to give it a shot if the part was under $300 at the very least. Weird thing is that when my CVT does the shudder thing it's useually after a cold start.

Service advisor also said it could have something to do with the CVT not have fully pumped fluid into the unit (Not sure what he is reffering too?) if it happens only during a "cold start" scenario. He said the CVT requires a substantial amount of fluid to properly do it's thing for lack of better terms.
 

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Pool Runner-

Please don't buy an expensive part based on my guess... it is just a guess. But a Diagnostic Trouble Code reader might be worth getting if you don't already have one. They can be had fairly cheaply... I've gotten my money's worth out of mine over the years with other cars. If you can plug the DTC reader into the OBDII port and catch a code when it happens, you might be able to nail the source of the problem. I've attached the code list for the CVT here.
 

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Thanks again for the valuable info on the CVT, I do own a code reader but have yet to find any codes stored on the Outback. The problem is also hard to predict as it's so random or intermittant.

On a side note, when I first got the car for my wife. She had a terrible habbit of not waiting till the car had come to a complete stop after backing out of our driveway (Many people I know and see do this everyday) before shifting from reverse to drive. It was never more than a few inches at best, but still I wonder if that abuse has done any damage to the CVT?
 

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The best way to wreck the CVT is going from drive to Reverse while the car is moving.

The CVT works different for sure and there is a longer delay than most people are accustomed too when making a selection Park to drive - Park to Reverse, reverse to Drive etc given the CVT has some stuff going on to make that happen. Catching the cvt before it makes the full transition will cause it to slip and can damage some expensive parts. I've caught mine once really good very early on and make sure I give it plenty of time to get its self sorted out now. I chalk it up to proper use of a mechanical thing that simply works differently than the old school AT's.
 

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This was the other thread on the slipping CVT's I'm not an expert but I would wager that Subaru made the 2013 CVT's more bulletproof seing that it's an entirely new unit.

http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/104-gen-4-2010-present/48951-what-could-slippin.html
My reading some time ago about it. The CVT uses a high pressure system that tensions the belt to avoid slipping. If the system that generates this tension is caught with throttle load before it has tensioned the belt you can slip it. You DO NOT WANT to slip the belt!

The updated 13 CVT Subaru may have altered a few simple things limiting throttle response till the CVT has sorted its self out and is ready to go - and possibly updated how fast the system gets the CVT ready to go to reduce the chances of an operator catching the CVT during the transition.
 

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My reading some time ago about it. The CVT uses a high pressure system that tensions the belt to avoid slipping. If the system that generates this tension is caught with throttle load before it has tensioned the belt you can slip it. You DO NOT WANT to slip the belt!

The updated 13 CVT Subaru may have altered a few simple things limiting throttle response till the CVT has sorted its self out and is ready to go - and possibly updated how fast the system gets the CVT ready to go to reduce the chances of an operator catching the CVT during the transition.
I had a '13 2.5i loaner from the dealer while I was getting some warranty work done on my car. I can tell you the '13 unit was much more precise in every way. As far as my car goes 99% of the time the CVT works like it was intended. It's that 1% where it feels like it's going to drop from out of the car, so frustrating.
 

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Thanks again for the valuable info on the CVT, I do own a code reader but have yet to find any codes stored on the Outback. The problem is also hard to predict as it's so random or intermittant.

On a side note, when I first got the car for my wife. She had a terrible habbit of not waiting till the car had come to a complete stop after backing out of our driveway (Many people I know and see do this everyday) before shifting from reverse to drive. It was never more than a few inches at best, but still I wonder if that abuse has done any damage to the CVT?
Pool Runner-

I doubt your wife’s early shifting has caused any harm. Shifting while backing up at a crawling speed isn’t too terrible because the torque converter isn’t locked up; it acts like a shock absorber. The CVT is just like any other automatic with a torque converter in this way. As you say, many people have the bad habit of doing this and I think we would have heard about many, many CVT failures if this transmission were somehow especially susceptible in this regard. (I don’t want to be misunderstood here; I think it is a good idea to stop completely before shifting… I just don’t think this is the cause of your issue.)

I also don’t think the “slipping” sensation you occasionally feel has anything at all to do with the CVT chain slipping. If the chain slipped at all, your transmission would be ruined in short order. Instead, I think what you are experiencing is the CVT going into the “fail safe” mode described in the training manual. That is, the CVT gear ratio is not setting itself properly to the lowest gear ratio possible for moving from a parked position. Since it is in a high gear ratio, the torque converter quickly hits the stall speed and yet it still can’t get enough torque to the wheels to move the car normally. You get a “slipping” sensation with high revs, noise, and a barely creeping car movement.

Intermittent problems like this one are especially frustrating to diagnose. Does it only happen from a cold startup and only while backing up?
 
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