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We are having an issue with our 2008 2.5i Outback. Tranny drops out of drive (goes into neutral) while driving. 38,000 miles. Also, moving the shifter into drive feels... Muddy.. difficult... Not like other gears that pop in nicely.
Oh, here's the kicker: this problem was first detected on the first shift into drive when picking the car up from it's 30,000miles service (we had the service done at about 37,000).
Dealer blamed it on rust... They replaced linkages, etc... Not solved. I think the mechanic swapped my "young" 2008 tranny for an old tranny.
Are there Vin numbers on the transmission to match with car vin? It's my only hope to prove my theory.
 

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2005 OBXT Limited, VF37, STI intake, 5MT
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It's only a theory at the moment, but the data I'm gathering suggests it's true: The engine and transmission are VIN stamped IF original from the factory. If you don't have a VIN, it's a "factory" replacement. If you have a VIN that's not yours, it's obviously an original from another vehicle. The quickest ID is to match the last 6 digits (the production number).

I have run through at LEAST 100 EJ blocks, several dozen transmissions, and every one that I could confirm was original to the car (owner verified, very low mileage) had the matching VIN dimpled unto the case. All the confirmed replacement blocks/trans did not (blank). This is supported by the fact that Subaru doesn't rebuild transmissions or engines: they just ship service replacements (or contract with an outside company to provide rebuilt engines). The short blocks and transmissions are already assembled; they have no way to mark the blocks after it leaves the production facility.

Now, for the transmission, there's a rectangular "pad" cast into the side of the transmission, almost dead center. There's a pad on both sides (at least on the Phase 1 and Phase 2v1), and IIRC, it's stamped onto the driver's side (USDM). With corrosion, grime, and not in the easiest place to see, they can be hard to read. Little bit of brake cleaner and a brass bristle brush will tell you if it's there.

The engine's VIN is on a flat pad on the passenger's side lower bellhousing, right at the transmission-engine interface. I've found these on EJ22 motors from 1990 all the way up to 2017 STI EJ25 motors.
 

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2010 2.5 CVT Limited
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If the service department indeed swapped the entire transmission, they would have a record of it. That is multiple times more hours of work than a shifter repair. They would not do it for 'free'. Someone would have to pay for it. Either the dealer has to eat it or they charge it back to SOA if it was done as warranty work (and there would be a record of that or else there is some systemic fraud happening in that service department).

There is no way any tech could do a transmission swap and 'sweep it under the rug' without someone else in the service department knowing about it.

That said, your description of the problem still sounds like a shifter problem.
 
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