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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Replaced the transmission in my 1999 Subaru Outback... now I get no power. [SOLVED]

  • [UPDATE 1 - 21 August 2012 2229 GMT-7]
  • [SOLUTION - 23 August 2012 0521 GMT-7]

My Car:


  • 1999 Subaru Legacy Outback
  • 2.5L DOHC H4 motor
  • Automatic 4-speed Transmission

My Car Skill Level:
Average... getting there. I've replaced my rear wheel before. I can change my oil. After doing all this work, I think I could do my brakes, my starter, my exhaust, and a few other things comfortably.

In March of this year, I was contacted by a friend of mine to pick him up. About two miles from my home, I was stopped by a red light -- so I shifted into neutral and stopped. When it turned green, I began to accelerate and then heard a horrible noise. After calling my friends to rescue me, calling a tow truck, and getting the car diagnosed by my family's chosen mechanic... I was told that my transmission was dead.

The mechanic was dumbing it down for me, because I'm about 99% certain that it was actually my front differential that made that noise. The car would shift just fine, and it would even move in the appropriate direction (IE, forward, for gears 1-D, reverse for R, and nowhere for P and N)... just, the front right wheel didn't want to. It would roll for a bit, then sieze up and get dragged along the road, then roll for a bit, then sieze up... etc. It was painful to watch.

Anyways. I got a transmission from some parts store and put it in over the course of the past three days, with the help of a much more car-saavy friend of mine. We cleaned a bunch of stuff, and had a Haynes Repair Manual guiding us through the whole way. We also took care of some minor TLC as we worked -- for example, we had to drop the exhaust in order to be able to drop the transmission, and we noticed my exhaust gaskets were in terrible shape, so I got some new ones and put them in.

Also, my battery. The terminals on my battery were in terrible shape, and I've just never had access to one of them fancy wire-brush terminal cleaners until we were at his place, fixing my car. We cleaned my terminals, and we replaced the positive connector on the battery cable since it was rusted to ****. We simply cleaned the existing negative connector, and tightened them snug against my battery. I was excited -- seriously, my battery's terminals were soooo bad that I couldn't even give myself or someone else a jump without messing with 'em for a good while. Too much rust and crap between the leads and the clamps.

We had gotten the car all buttoned back up and bolted back together, so we lowered it off the jackstands. We poured new transmission fluid into the newly-installed tranny. We poured new gear oil into the front differential. Then...

...it was time. After months of waiting, it was time to see if our three days of efforts had paid off. I opened my driver's side door, and sat on the seat. I put the keys into the ignition.

I clicked them over once. Some of the usual car warning lights and stuff flashed at the bottom of the gauges.

I clicked them over to accessory. My head unit tried turning on (turned back off because of a "DC ERROR" problem it has). There was a beeping noise to inform me that my door was open, yet my keys were still in the ignition. I could now grab the shift lever, and shift from gear to gear. I could hear the actual hardware that we had JUST installed moving around down there.

Then I tried to start it. I heard a click, and everything went dark. It's been that way ever since. We checked all the fuses... both the fusebox in the engine compartment, as well as the fusebox at the foot of the driver's seat. I tried to visually inspect some of the other elements in there, too, but the relays in my car are opaque -- I can only see the contact pads and have no way to test them otherwise.

I have no idea what's going on.

Update #1 (21 Aug 2012 10:29 PM MST): I've had both the battery and the starter tested by Advance Auto Parts, and they report that both are functioning. I'm planning on taking a multimeter to my battery cables and my ground cables in the engine compartment tomorrow, an update confirming this will follow.

Solution (23 Aug 2012 5:07 AM MST): So, you guys will never believe this, but here goes: While we were working on my car, we noticed some things as we got deeper that bore looking at. Among those things, as I said above, was my battery. We replaced the positive terminal with one that was similar in design, but identical in function to this one. However, you'll note that these battery connectors are the type that mash raw copper wire between two pieces of metal using a couple bolts and nuts. Well, we didn't have any raw copper wire from my battery cables. Instead, my positive battery cables (one running from + to the starter, one running from + to the fusebox in my engine compartment) had eyelets on the ends of them. Rather than removing these, I simply sprayed them with electrical contact cleaner, brushed 'em off with a wire brush, and attached them to the bolts at the back of the new connector.

There was an unforseen problem with this approach, you see, because there was no electrical continuity between those bolts and the actual positive terminal of the battery -- because there was a thin layer of red paint separating them. We figured it out after getting some odd readings from my multimeter on the positive battery cable -- so we pulled the connector, and using a drill and wire brush spinner, removed the paint from beneath so that electrical continuity could be established.
 

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recharge the battery.

i'm a little lost on all the stuff that happened when you turned the key on, but when you try to start it and every thing goes dark that is usually a battery. at least mine was.

does the trans match the one you removed?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Well, the thing is, the battery was fully charged when we put it in. It had been sitting on a car battery charger for probably eight hours, charging. The charger reported it at full charge and what's more is, we couldn't even get the car to show us anything electrical even with the charger hooked up to the terminals with them hooked to the car.

So, quick recap:

  1. I put the dipsticks back into the transmission and the front differential.
  2. I get in my car.
  3. I turn the key to the first notch, and get lights from my instrument panel.
  4. I turn the key another notch, and continue to get lights and begin getting sound from my instrument panel.
  5. I turn the key to start the car, and the whole thing dies.
  6. I no longer get lights from my instrument panel when I turn the key one notch.
  7. I no longer get lights from my instrument panel when I turn the key another notch.
  8. Nothing happens when I try to start my car.
Bwuh?

does the trans match the one you removed?
Yes. There were two different automatic transmissions that came with the 1999 Outback (to my knowledge) -- one with a screw-on filter (like an oil filter) on the side, and one without that. Mine was the type that had such a filter, the type whose serial numbers end in "EBA" (as opposed to those without a filter, whose serial numbers end in "DBA").

Mine was bolt-for-bolt identical to that transmission. My torque convert fit right on it.
 

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The charger reported it at full charge and what's more is, we couldn't even get the car to show us anything electrical even with the charger hooked up to the terminals with them hooked to the car.
The ceiling light, the brake lights, and the driver power seat (if so equipped) will all normally work when the key is out. Are you saying that now, with the battery connected and fully charged, nothing electrical works?

Do you have a multi-meter/Voltmeter? If so, what's the Voltage at the battery posts? Should be around 12.7 Volts.

There's a number of large fuses in the main fuse panel -- they're identified as "SBF" or "slow blow fuses". They're in black or dark cases, so you can't see the fuse elements inside, but they should be checked for continuity (pull out and measure between the pins) using the resistance (Ohms) range on the multi-meter. The meter should read close to zero Ohms across each.

If one (or more) of the SBFs is blown, then there's a major short somewhere. Identify which SBFs are bad, and perhaps we can narrow down the possibilities.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The ceiling light, the brake lights, and the driver power seat (if so equipped) will all normally work when the key is out. Are you saying that now, with the battery connected and fully charged, nothing electrical works?
That's correct.

I will reiterate, that the first time I clicked my key over to auxiliary and then accessory mode -- I did indeed get normal behavior. It was only after I tried to start the car that it entirely went dead... and remained dead even in auxiliary and accessory mode (even with battery charger cables attached).

Do you have a multi-meter/Voltmeter? If so, what's the Voltage at the battery posts? Should be around 12.7 Volts.
I do have a multimeter, but I have a question before I prod a few battery posts with metal. I know what happens when you drop a wrench between the two posts, and it doesn't look pretty. I should just touch the black (negative) lead of my multimeter to the negative post, and the red (positive) lead of my multimeter to the positive post? Or should I touch my multimeter's black lead to the body of my car?

There's a number of large fuses in the main fuse panel -- they're identified as "SBF" or "slow blow fuses". They're in black or dark cases, so you can't see the fuse elements inside, but they should be checked for continuity (pull out and measure between the pins) using the resistance (Ohms) range on the multi-meter. The meter should read close to zero Ohms across each.
I will test them, however, the SBF's in my fusebox are not black nor opaque. They're variously green and red, and the tops of them are made of transparent plastic so I can see inside of them. They all look fine, but I'll meter them out nonetheless.

The relays, however, are all black and grey and opaque. Can't see inside them, and they have four leads... so I have no idea how to test them.
 

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Sounds like you blew a slow blow fuse, but maybe it's just a connection that you didn't tighten down, and drawing the current to try to get the starter to move cause the loose connection to go fully open. Is there a ground strap on the transmission somewhere?

If you did blow a fuse, could it be because the transmission is locked up with the engine, and you couldn't turn over the engine? I don't know how that could be. In a manual you would get a jump forward, but not sure what would happen with the transmission in park but locked up to the engine somehow. That seems an unlikely scenario. I'm curious now...

Tom
 

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I should just touch the black (negative) lead of my multimeter to the negative post, and the red (positive) lead of my multimeter to the positive post? Or should I touch my multimeter's black lead to the body of my car?
The first -- with the multi-meter set to the 20 or so Volts range, black (negative) test probe to the negative battery post, red (positive) test probe to the positive battery post. The idea here is to measure the Voltage of the battery at its posts, without involving the cable clamps, cables, ground connections etc. Once the battery Voltage is confirmed then, yes, connect the black probe to a good body ground, and then to the engine block, and you should have the same Voltage. Finally, with the black probe on the battery negative terminal, carefully connect the red positive meter probe to the large (usually red boot covered) main post on the alternator. Again, the same battery Voltage should appear.

the SBF's in my fusebox are not black nor opaque. They're variously green and red,
Attached is a diagram of what I believe is the main fuse panel in the 1999. The SBFs are clearly marked. So they're see through? Okay. Also check the F/L 1.25 -- it's also a "fuse".

If it's not faulty fuses or SBFs, then there's a defective connection or defective cable/wire. It sure sounds as if soemthing blew or burned out when the ignition switch was turned from ON to start. When the transmission was replaced, was any wiring disconnected/connected other than the cables going to the transmission.

Also, given that the battery cable clamps were in such bad shape, it's possible that the wires under the cable insulation are corroded. But first do the Voltage measurements suggested and let us know the results.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Guys! I really appreciate all the help you gave me!

We figured it out, no thanks in part to your expert tutelage in where to put my multimeter probes. I've updated the main post and the post title, so that others may learn from my experience if they suffer from similar problems. :)

Thanks a bunch! Read the solution if you're up for a good laugh.
 
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