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Guest Message by DevFuse

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2002 Outback, transmission input bearing grinding (likely): Expected life left?

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8 replies to this topic

#1 Syonyk


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Posted 16 January 2011 - 05:35 PM

I've got a fairly annoying 2002 Outback (2.5, 5MT) that's demanding yet more money from me.

I don't drive it terribly often, and lately, when I do, it has a rather loud grinding bearing noise from the transmission when it's cold. Clutch in, no noise, clutch out in neutral, unhappy bearings.

It usually shuts up after a few miles of driving when things warm up.

I really don't want to pay the $3500+ to have the transmission rebuilt right now. Is it likely that this will last at least another 10k miles given that it's quiet when it warms up? And is there anything I can do to help it survive longer without rebuilding the transmission? Sadly, I use this car for long trips, so I'd rather my transmission not destroy itsself in the middle of nowhere.

I'm going to try doing a fluid swap and see if it helps any, but I'm guessing the damage is already done.

Ideas? Expected life?

#2 idosubaru


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Posted 16 January 2011 - 10:45 PM

friend of mine changed fluid and his quieted down or went away completely for now or some of the time. he's put a ton of miles on his in one or two years since it started making noise. he also put quite a few miles...maybe roughly a year (he drives a lot too) while it was making the noise before ever changing the fluid. of course it could grenade tomorrow as well but i'd guess 10k easily.

lostinthe202 (will) drove his for awhile that way as well...he mentioned the mileage in one of his threads somewhere.

#3 Suba9792


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Posted 17 January 2011 - 12:04 AM

this is funny because I was just talking to GD today about how many tranny problems have been posted lately, seems to be a trend:banghead: I thought I had a bad input shaft bearing, but today we pulled it out and there was basically no play and all, GD thinks its most likely a failing center diff. I have some grinding in mine but its(was) most likely gear damage and not bearing related. I'm just glad its getting a new(used) one :clap:

#4 SchwarzeEwigkt


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Posted 19 January 2011 - 01:53 PM

It could just be the release bearing. I had one on a '96 Legacy that did the exact same thing. It'd make kind of a whooshing/light grinding sound until it got loaded against the diaphragm. Ended up identifying it by playing with the release fork, specifically pushing against it with a 2x4 or something to slightly load the bearing. You could also do the same thing by pressing the clutch pedal a bit. Once we pulled it all apart, the throwout bearing was wiggly and rough compared to a known good new one.

On the bright side, if that's the problem, it's a cheapish part. If you pull it out, you can check it for play and roughness. However, you've got to pull the tranny to get to it. Might as well do the clutch and have the flywheel resurfaced if need be. This isn't a hard job, it's just a lot of work and the tranny is pretty heavy.

I also find it hard to believe that it'd cost $3500 to get the tranny rebuilt. That sounds more like a remanufactured tranny. Here's what I would do, for what it's worth:
  • Pull the tranny and replace the clutch, pilot bearing and throwout bearing.
  • Inspect the flywheel and pull it to have it resurfaced at a machine shop if need be
  • Put it all back together and try it, especially if the throwout bearing was screwed up
  • If it's fixed, rejoice. If not find an independent shop that is comfortable with Subaru 5MT's and ask for a quote to have the just the tranny rebuilt, not removed and reinstalled. I was quoted $1200 a while back to have my 4EAT rebuilt, so I'd expect a similar quote for the 5MT. Alternatively, source a used one.
  • Take the tranny out, have them rebuild it or turn in your core, put it/the replacement back in.

It's a bunch of physical work, but it's not hard, especially once you get comfortable with the way it goes together. It took me and my friend about eight hours end to end to replace his clutch, me having a fair bit of home-mechanic's experience but never disassembling a Subaru drivetrain before and him never having worked on a car before. You'll be sore, but it'll save you a boatload on labor.

#5 Syonyk


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Posted 22 January 2011 - 09:04 PM

Replaced the fluid, still sounds like crap.

Also, I had a nice selection of metal on the magnet - some particles as large as 0.25x0.5mm (ish) and then a bunch of smaller stuff that was just sort of a metallic paste. Is that normal at 120k, or is that my bearings disassembling themselves into my transmission fluid?

The noise is any time the input shaft is spinning - as soon as the clutch makes any sort of contact with the flywheel, it makes noise, and continues regardless of what else the clutch is doing. So I'm thinking it's something internal to the transmission, and it sounds like this transmission has input shaft bearing issues.

Another question: What is normal clutch life for an EJ25 5MT driven in traffic? The car was a Chicago car, and when I got it at 99k miles, the clutch was fried - I had slippage on the highway trip home (drove fine when the clutch was cold...), took it in, and $1700 later I had a new clutch and flywheel (the old one was badly cracked from overheating, apparently).

Is this normal clutch life for these, or does this indicate that the previous driver was hard on the transmission? And if they were hard on the transmission, would that have any impact on the bearings?

Out of curiosity, what's the likely failure mode? Is this going to be something that lets go without warning and leaves me stranded in the middle of nowhere, or will it just get louder and louder?


And anyone know what full 5MT rebuilds are going for lately? Is it worth having the dealership do it, or can aftermarket shops do it decently? If I drop the transmission, I have no way to get it anywhere - I seriously, seriously doubt my gf would let me haul an oily transmission in her brand new Mazda2.

Shouldn't have purchased this car... should have stuck with my Loyale. Gutless wonder, but at least it didn't have much wrong with it.

#6 hankosolder2


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Posted 22 January 2011 - 09:32 PM

Why not go for a used manual trans? I don't think they're particularly failure prone... of course, there's more risk, but there's also a huge savings.

In lieu of borrowing the GF's car, why not rent a truck for a day?


#7 idosubaru


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Posted 22 January 2011 - 09:35 PM

Also, I had a nice selection of metal on the magnet - some particles as large as 0.25x0.5mm (ish) and then a bunch of smaller stuff that was just sort of a metallic paste.

i've never seen chunks, it's always been the thick paste like stuff you mentioned.

sounds like you're confident it's bearings but i would make sure it's not the clutch, it sounds like it could go either way.

i don't think any assumptions can be made about previous ownership and problems you're having now. clutches can easily last 99k and they can easily fail then too without being "abused"...citing driving, first time clutch drivers, etc.

how many times was the oil changed in the trans during the life of the vehicle? often times that answer isn't very many.

#8 GeneralDisorder


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Posted 22 January 2011 - 10:32 PM

When changing gear oil after 120k - there will be metal. Always. Some on the magnet (anywhere from 1/8" to 1/4" accumulation) is normal. You may even see some swirl in the gear oil when you drain it.

If, when you drain the oil, it looks like metallic paint.... that's real bad. If it's just a little swirl and the gear oil is mostly amber colored and relatively clear.... that's better (not great but not horrible).

The input shaft bearings are a pretty common failure. No reason to have it rebuilt though - just install a used tranny. It's not that hard to find them with low miles for $500 or less. Has the clutch ever been done? May want to get out the inspection mirror and see if the alignment pins were reinstalled when the clutch was done. If not - you could have a damage claim against whoever did the clutch.

As far as the gear oil ever having been changed.... I haven't seen that this makes a hell of a lot of difference with respect to input shaft bearing life. What kills them is "spirited" driving and possibly the lack of alignment pins in the bell-housing. From what I have seen - they will last a LONG time if driven like grandma - I have a customer with 265k on one and I recently changed the gear oil that had been in there since 90k.... it looked perfect - clear, amber, not even a hint of metal. If driven like a mad-man I have seen them fail at 120k. It's all down to how you drive - each time you take off in first you put a significant side load on the rear input shaft bearing. That's why it's a big sucker with a double-row bearing arrangement. The harder you take off and the more you slip the clutch - the worse the side load becomes. This is only made worse by lack of alignment pins.....


Edited by GeneralDisorder, 22 January 2011 - 10:40 PM.

#9 Syonyk


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Posted 22 January 2011 - 11:11 PM

Ah, thanks. That's a lot of information I hadn't found before! Looking at the teardown pictures someone posted, the only bearing that made sense was the one at the rear of the input shaft. I sort of expected there to be some closer to the engine side as well...

The 1/8" is about right for what was on there. If that's normal, then I'm not too worried. I was under the impression there should not be any metal on the magnetic plug, and that metal there was a bad sign.

As far as the clutch, it was done at a Subaru dealership, so I'd be surprised if the pins are missing. Where would I look to find them? It only had 100k on it, which seems to imply "driven like a madman" - I thought they usually would last 150-170k on the NA motors if driven sanely.

What's the failure mode on this bearing? Does it just get louder and louder, and eventually put out such a din that you can't ignore it? Or does it suddenly fail and kill the transmission completely in the middle of the road?

If nothing else, it sounds like babying the transmission should help it last longer.

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