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2000 Subaru Outback automatic. Fluids check fine. Started driving and heard a loud metal sounding bang, bang, bang. Does the same in forward and reverse. At very low acceleration there is a pause like its a delayed catch in the driveline or something. I really don't know how to explain it well. I've had problems with the driveaxle on other cars but this seems different. Not turning or anything during the sound. Its not loud unless you are driving normal speed but there's definitely something I'd describe as "loose". I've only been able to look at the welds and bolts below and haven't seen anything that looks like its broken yet but its begun to rain so I've had to come in. I'm thinking driveshaft/driveline or ujoints. Can anybody steer me into a troubleshooting procedure? My manual isn't much help here but I haven't really gotten greasy enough yet I guess to know anything.
 

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Could be a very bad inner CV joint. Maybe a blown diff.

If you put in the FWD fuse, and the FWD light comes on, and the noise stops, it's the driveshaft or rear pumpkin/axles.

I wouldn't drive it except to diagnose it, it's fixing to strand you.
 

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There's no way to drive it.

The noise is too disturbing. I had it towed home as soon as I heard it. I pushed it back to a parking area as soon as I heard it. The noise occurred out of nowhere. I was parked, started the subie and reversed then started driving and thought I was dragging a piece of metal. Of course it was raining too. So I pushed it and didn't hear the sound. But after starting it again, I rolled it a few feet slowly and there was a grasping of something like a gear tooth had broken, a pause , then catch on something, whether in forward or reverse. The tow guy said definitely the axle, "let me take it to my shop". I like to at least diagnose things myself so plan to raise it onto jack stands today. I did crawl under there. All the boots are intact. Checked the differential and AT fluids. Then more rain stopped me.
Thanks Dave. I'll proceed with your suggestions and will post if I see anything. BTW, the motor does also shake from the vibration this is causing.
 

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Also

I will say that just by the sound I'm thinking the differential since it was a clanging sound like metal inside of metal. How to diagnose the differential? Could I roll the tires jacked up and be under there to hear it?
 

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A drive axle (half-shaft) can make that noise if it's separated. Similarly, the rear drive shaft can sound like metal-on-metal if a u-joint has separated and the shaft is flopping around.

If you can raise the car safely, try turning the wheels to see if the sound can be repeated. At both the front and rear, you could do this two ways: turn one wheel and the opposite will usually turn in the opposite direction. Then have someone hold the opposite wheel while you turn the first one. This will force the drive system (front pinion shaft or rear drive shaft) to turn. (Transmission in neutral.) See if the noise appears.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Correct on the broken axle

I was finally able to get under the car and diagnose this problem. Sure enough the inner CV boot had separated exposing the whole knuckle there. With the rain it probably immediately washed out any lubrication, causing the loud noise.
Now my issue is with the towing.
The AWD was towed via AAA with the rear wheels down. I have complained and created an incident report with AAA and the towing company who also have a AAA certified shop. AAA did respond immediately and the shop has acknowledged the car should not have been towed like that and I've had it towed to them on a flatbed with the axle repair requested and have told them I want the transmission checked out. I decided to make them entirely responsible for everything knowing that the transmission problems can develop later.
Anybody have suggestions on what I should request of them or look for down the road from the 1 mile tow with rear wheels down?
 

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I imagine it would be the center differential that would be potentially damaged - if it was really just a mile, and wasn't high speed or anything like that, odds are it's fine.

Why did you let them take the car that way? If it was only a mile, you could have driven it there and probably have been just fine... (think of how many miles you drove without knowing what the noise was vs. 1 mile after you did know...) hindsight is always 20-20, and what's done is done, I suppose...
 

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A mile, likely fine. It would be like rolling a motorcycle in gear with the clutch held in, the awd clutch plates are pretty tough.

If you test drive it and it doesn't bind doing circles and the AWD works, it's fine.
 

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I had never heard a noise until this incident happened. There was no warning and I immediately parked the car for tow to my house so I could get under it and diagnose it. Its not my usual practice to drive a car when I know something is wrong with it. That is why I have AAA.
As for why I let them tow it. The TTdriver told me he was going to use dollies. I was aware and he was aware it should not be towed wheels down. It was only when he arrived at my home that I saw he had towed it like that.
The shop states yes, the cv axle is broken but also that the transmission, probably front differential is broken but as he described it to me on the phone - " a chain in the transmission broke and it seized causing the cv axle to break" - $1995.00.
A chain in the transmission? He's not talking about the timing chain which I'd replaced myself not too long ago. He says there is a chain in the transmission. I explained that I feel the cv axle was broken which the TTdriver confirmed with me when he picked it up and I feel that the front differential is probably blown due to the tow. Waiting until Monday now to discuss the issue with the owner of the shop/towing company.
Does anyone know of a chain in the transmission?
 

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Let me add that when I had the shop pick up the car from my house (the 2nd tow). This TTdriver drove the subaru up onto the flatbed. It sound awful and I couldn't believe he didn't just pull it up with his winch.
 

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No chain that I know of in the trans or diff. If the diff had seized while driving you would be looking for the antitank shell that you were sure had been fired into the front of the car, it would have been quite dramatic unless it happen at only 2 mph.

It's possible, but I think that diagnosis came from someone who didn't know these cars.

If they towed it front wheels up, back wheels on the ground, there's no way that would damage the front diff.
 

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Thanks for that Dave

Yes, I don't see anything like that you've described. I want a better examination than what I've been given. The usual, you need a new transmission just doesn't seem right. I would think the driveshaft damaged maybe. The car goes through all the gears from Neutral, drive and reverse. I've just not tried to drive it knowing that axle is shot. I can clearly see the inner boot torn wide open. The service manager said my broken transmission caused the boot to tear.
 

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Is that a front axle or rear? And, is it only one axle, or more than one?

Torn boots are a common issue, and the connection with a fault in the transmission is a puzzle. You do need a better explanation of what has happened to the transmission (and it's not a chain!), and how that would have caused the CV joint failure.
 

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A few things:

One, make sure to document the tow error.

Two, NO Chain in the transmission. Get away from that shop. He is either ignorant of Subaru transmissions or he is trying to sway you into a transmission swap.

Three, When a front axle breaks, there is no sound warning. Just all the sudden a lot of wacking around and loud banging with very slow forward motion. A lot of people think the transmission went when an axle breaks.

Four, If the boot is broken/ripped, and given the noise you have, it is 95% just an axle issue and nothing else.

Five, the TT driver pulled it up on the truck. Its AWD so the lost torque to the front wheel didn't matter, the others picked up the slack.

When a broken joint is verified, all you will need is a new axle. I speak from experience. The transmission did not cause the axle to break. The differential didn't cause the axle to break. It happens after 1,000s of miles of use and wear.

If it was the differential, majority of the time you would have a vibration and noise prior to the break because something would have been loose allowing for slop in the gearing leading up to the failure.
 

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Really appreciate the feedback

This just re-enforces my thoughts. I knew it sounded and seemed just like an axle which I would have taken care of myself until I witnessed that tow. I will say that AAA and the towing company have documented everything. If I had comprehensive Insurance I'd just file a claim and let them go after the tow company. This is a towing company referred by AAA and the same company is the shop which is AAA certified and recommended by them for repair.
I'm ready and waiting for the owner to contact me tomorrow and will proceed from there. I'd asked for a complete transmission inspection by AAA and there it went to the same shop. I am glad I hadn't touched the vehicle or test drove it during any of this episode. I'll let you know how it turns out. I'd pay for the axle and let them put in the new transmission if they're sure it need one. Only they'll buy that transmission.
 
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