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Guest Message by DevFuse

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Subaru Hesitation Problems

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81 replies to this topic

#1 Guest_bjelko_*

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 08:40 AM

I am looking for any information regarding the hesitation problems with Subarus. I have discovered that many others are experiencing the same problems. I am in the process of going head to head with Subaru/Dealership and could use some help finding some better sources than just the newsgroups.

I own a 1999 Subaru Legacy Outback - this is actually the second Subaru I have owned, both of which have had the same problem. I bought the first one (an Impreza L 1994) used, and just assumed that I was having problems as the result of buying a used vehicle. However, when my 1999 started acting up at 12,000 (10 Months) I knew then that this was a big problem.

Simply put, I have a major hesitation problem in the engine. It seems to be most tempormental in the rain, but doesn't discrimante the rainy weather only. 1st and 2nd gear are the worst, although 3rd and 4th cause problems also. The RPMs get to about 2000 and then the engine more or less feels like it needs the choke ripped out and then at about 2700 - 3000 the thing takes off like a jet engine. At the moment, I refuse to put my toddler (daughter) in the car, nor will I let my wife drive it. Not being sexist - I just don't think the vehicle is safe to drive.

I cannot seem to get the problem to reproduce itself regularly, hence I have never been able to get the dealership to reproduce while under warranty. Well here I am at 40,000 miles and it has become exponentially worse, I needed to tow it to the dealership...

I have seen information regarding the 1.4 million Subarus recalled in Japan, but I cannot seem to find anything documenting this recall. Also, I understand that there was a Lemon Law hearing in the state of New Hampshire regarding this, but again, was hoping someone may have some insight as to where I can access these records, I believe they would be public. I also understand that numerous people in Connecticut have sued under the Lemon Law over this issue.

I would greatly appreciate any information that you all may be able to provide.

Best Regards,

#2 Guest_Gus_*

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 09:03 AM

Yeah, you're right, this IS a safety issue. I have a '98 GT wagon and I've noticed the problem ever since I bought it, but being a 5-speed, it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal, but this problem almost caused a serious and potentially fatal accident in my friend's '97 GT sedan automatic last Saturday. He turned left in front of oncoming traffic -with plenty of room to do so- and the car hesitated so much that we were sitting ducks in the path of 45mph traffic for a good four seconds. It all but stalled. Fortunately, it decided to get out of the way a split second before I had a Cadillac in my lap, but I heard the Caddy lock up the breaks and hopefully the driver behind him was alert. That could have been ugly.

I believe there is a TSB on this, but no recall. I think it's time to campaign for a recall with the NHTSA. I'll go hit their website now...

#3 Guest_Gus_*

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 09:11 AM

All later model Subaru owners experiencing acceleration hesitation should fill out the NHTSA Complaint Form at the following link:


Let's get a recall!

#4 Guest_bjelko_*

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 09:12 AM

Thanks for the repsonse...

My Subaru is a 5 speed manual also, and I have found that the problem seems to be more prevalent in the manuals, although I have found other automatics to have problems as well, such as in the case with your friends...

Waiting to hear from the dealership, will keep posted.

#5 Guest_Gus_*

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 09:36 AM

The dealership is NOT going to do anything for you. Fill out the NHTSA complaint form and cite TSB numbers 115899 & 115398. Since the NHTSA has a TSB on it, it's a known issue, but they have not yet deemed it a safety issue. After almost being killed last weekend, I now believe it's a safety issue. Almost getting killed kind of pisses me off, now that I think about it.

I think Subaru may have designed a new knock sensor that's less sensative to correct this problem and I know that there are homebrewed fixes out there, but Subaru should be responsible for correcting this issue on all Subarus that are on the road today.

#6 Guest_bjelko_*

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 10:07 AM

I have already completed the complaint form, but thanks for the link.

I looked for the 2 TSB numbers that you cited but I was unable to find them in the database, could you provide the links to these.

Here's the latest from the dealership.

Apparently, I had corroded spark plug wires and two pistons were missfiring as a result of corroded cylinder coils. The guy at the dealership actually said to me when I asked him how these parts could be corroded "Well, you see, this car has 40K miles on it, it is rather old."

Excuse me, but this car isn't even 3 years old. Corrosion is a factor of time NOT miles, and since when is 40K old. I have another car with 90K+ that can run circles around my Subaru. Personally, I think the car is junk. They want me to pay for all the repairs. What burns my britches is that the problem began at 12K (10 Months) - so, I guess they are telling me that since this "corrosion" is the problem that this type of wear is normal for a car that is less than a year old.

Because my car is over the 36K they don't think that it should be covered. I have a maitenance record that states that I had them look at it at 28K and of course they couldn't find a problem. That was April 2000, and I brought the car in because of the brake recall (which I might add, that compared to my other car, the Subaru's breaks stink). They are stating that because it has been over a year, that it must not have been a problem. They conveniently seem to be forgetting the numerous calls that I have been making indicating that there is a problem, but if I can't reproduce it - they can't fix it. Not too mention the same problem with my previous Subaru (separate story).

If I hear "We can only fix what we see" one more time, someone is going to get smacked....

Whew, Sorry, venting a bit...

It's really quite a shame, if I didn't have this problem, I would really like the car, and of course the dealership doesn't help the situation much either. I'm actually the type of person that remains quite calm when faced with these issues, but since it is now endangering my daughter (which incidentlly was purchased to be "the family car") and the lack of ethical behavior from the dealership, I'm ready to become the squeeky wheel.

#7 Guest_Legacy777_*

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 10:43 AM

The Subaru hesitation thing goes all the way back to the very first legacy introduced.

I have a 90 Legacy, which was the first year, and I do notice every now and then a slight hesitation, sometimes it's worse then others. But honestly my transmission is such crap I really don't know if it is tranny or engine.

I have replaced the knock sensor with a new one....no real change. The ECU is also the culprit. The knock sensor is only half the problem.

I have tried gary's electrical fix and really did not like how it felt. I've been trying to find acoustical data on different materials, to make sorta an insulating washer between the knock sensor and engine, but have come up short in finding data that is actually helpful.

What I would suggest doing is contacting SOA, you need to blow in their ear now. The dealer obviously does not want to cooperate. You do some talking with them, and the dealer will cooperate if SOA is willing to listen to what you have to say.

I have one further comment to make....some may not like it....but it is how I feel. The early legacies, 90-91 and some others were made in Japan, at fuji heavy industrys' plant. From 92 on or some sorts the legacies were made here in the US. I have more complaints about recalls and problems on the later model legacies then I ever heard about the first gen legacy, and the first gen legacy was the FIRST, they developed it from prototype and so on.....so had to work any bugs out. Subaru has continued to refine the legacy platform, and I understand that they do this and SOA gets the designs an manufacturing specs, all that good stuff. But do the legacies that are made in japan have this much problems? or do we just not hear about them.

Take a look at the impreza's They are made in japan, they have their problems every now and then too, but on a statistical stand point, I hear less complaining about problems with them.

Alright....I guess the bottom line what I'm trying to say is....if America can manufacture and make good quality automobiles, GREAT....I'll buy one. If not...I'll stick with stuff that is made in japan.

#8 Guest_Gus_*

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 11:01 AM

Ditto on Josh's suggestion of contacting SOA. What's that number, 1-800-SUBARU? I think that's it. Tell them what you just told us. That's obvious B.S. Complaints that SOA gets from customers about dealerships impacts the amount of new cars that dealership receives. You might even want to run this buy the service manager first. I think all the signs say "If you are not COMPLETELY SATISFIED, please let us know". I have won several battles with one of our local dealerships by either threatening to call SOA or actually doing so. Subaru makes a damn good car and it's a shame that their dealerships are typically run by incompetent *ssholes. Just bitch alot. It works for me. Besides, it can be fun :)

Here's the TSB info from the NHTSA website:

Year: 1998
Service Bulletin Number: 115398
Bulletin Sequence Number: 450
Date of Bulletin: 01/99
NHTSA Item Number: SB604484
Component: ENGINE



Year: All years
Service Bulletin Number: 115899
Bulletin Sequence Number: 105
Date of Bulletin: 01/00
NHTSA Item Number: SB610539



And Josh, I wouldn't be surprised if cars manufactured in the States are of lesser quality. I mean, come on, look at the track record.

#9 Guest_bjelko_*

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 01:08 PM

Found them, thanks...

#10 Guest_Itzik93_*

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 02:00 PM

I have/had such a problem (very little) with my impreza (manual) and i Discovered an unsuall thing:

When i drive VERY GENTLY (let the rpm come up to 1100-1200) and release slowly the cluch, The hesitation Shows up in the way up (around 2500-3000 rpm).

BUT - when i give the engine 1500-1700 rpm's and GENTLY release the clutch, It run's like a champ.

I've already cleaned the Air-Sensor (there was alot of dirt on it after 80K k"m) and RESET the ECU - It helped alot but only when the car is cold.

The car has a New set of Spark Plugs (NGK) and New Set of Ignition wires.

On the Other way, Its defenetly ECU/Sensor Problem.
If i've had the same BIG hesitation like other tells, i would have try to Clean the Throttle Position Sensor and Check carfully for the Air-Sensor AND Co2 sensor (A bad one can slow-down ecu "performance" - > hesitation).

Good Luck


#11 Guest_SmashPDX_*

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 12:47 AM

You know, I've heard about the hesitation thing before, but this is the first I've heard of it with such volume, with so many voices, and in reference to late '90s Legacies. I knew about Gary Hobie's whole gig but I was always under the impression that that tied to the Legacy I vehicles. But that was 3 years ago (wow I've had my Subie awhile) and it sounds to me like as the Legacy II ages, this is starting to show up again in force.

Curious that there seems to be some link between this and having a manual tranny, at least in terms of frequency. I don't know if my '95 auto does this or not, I have bogging problems tied to my intake, but I've always encountered my 'hesitation' to climbing uphill and having a comparatively wimpy 2.2L 135-HP on a wagon engine.

But I will say this-- I *have* noticed hesitation on our '00 Impreza, which also sports an EJ22 engine (145HP, smaller car, vroooom!) And I do NOT like it one bit. Based on when it's showing up I speculate that it's the ECU overcompensating for my acceleration style, which would explain why it's becoming more frequent. But that's just a hunch.

#12 Guest_Bagheera85_*

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 01:34 AM

I stomp on mine(quite a bit, I might add) and haven't noticed any hesitation in it. I do have a problem with the tranny sometimes.. if I accelerate hard, then decide I don't want to keep accelerating, the computer has already determined it wants to shift high. So, when I let off the gas, it gets confused and waits a second, then THROWS the tranny into the next gear, resulting in a nice jerk. I've also noticed.. (how to explain it...)I guess the best I can describe it is a hestitaion, but if feels more like the tranny trying to figure out which gear it wants. It seems to occur AFTER the hard acceleration, and feels like it's not sure to shift 1 or 2 times. I've been wanting to get some synthetic ATF and see if that helps it at all. But, as far as I can tell, I've NEVER experienced hesitaion problems. Maybe it's an EJ22 and not an EJ20 problem?

#13 Guest_SmashPDX_*

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 02:03 AM

Could be an EJ22 thing. Also, I should point out that our hesitating Impreza was picked up in late '99 and it has taken this long (1) for me to drive the car with any frequency and (2) for it to finally ante up and start kibitzing with me.

I would also describe the feeling that I'm terming hesitation as 'confused.' It's almost like the thing is in a situation where it should downshift, but it changes its mind and doesn't, and while it's figuring out all this you're left at the bottom of a 'dip' that usually accompanies a downshift anyway.

#14 Guest_Itzik93_*

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 03:40 AM

I had a legacy once (93 automatic) - once i opened the throttle position sensor and cleaned it.
After cleaning It, the Transmission Started to shift MUCH better (softer) and there was a huge diffrence in the throttle reaction (even before cleaning, CE light NEVER came on).
I think that this sensor is pritty important to the system and its pritty easy to clean (contacts spray) and could not harm a thing.

This sensor delivers information to the ECU and the TRANNY (especially Automatic's - for Kick-Down's and stuff) and if it has some dirt (coming with the age), it "delaying" the outgoing Value to the computer and the tranny+ecu gets the information LATER then expected, then - the tranny and the engine usually "jerk" alittle and shifting starts developing vibrates.

From my Expirience with these cars, it helped alot - you should at least give it a try and maybe even thank me after that ;-)


#15 Guest_Bagheera85_*

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 05:27 AM

Hmmm... I think I'll go check that out right now.. :)

#16 Guest_Legacy777_*

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 07:40 AM

me thinks I have a project to do along with changin the fluids :) Stupid TPS keepin the car from shiftin right...hehehe.

#17 Guest_Itzik93_*

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 07:49 AM

Josh, you should try it before laughing - in some cases, you might be VERY suprised - especially when we talking about computerized system's.


#18 Guest_SmashPDX_*

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 01:23 PM

/kick TPS

guess I have a project to tackle too. :)

#19 Guest_Legacy777_*

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 06:40 PM

oh I'm not laughin at it......I will seriously attempt this project. I need to go over my records see what I've sorta neglected....I know the cooling system fluid and hoses could be replaced.

I know the diff oil hasn't been changed....at least by me....but that **** is like glue.....so don't know if I should or not....I guess i'll check it.....It probably won't hurt to do it. You think it's worth puttin synthetic in it.....this late in it's life....I've got a 151k on the clock. Also I just replaced tranny fluid around april-may....don't know if I should bother with that again.....or possibly use synthetic....I know if you put synthetic in an engine this old, you're askin for problems with seals....could be true with tranny too....the dirt and grime inside is holding it together....hahaha. Don't know if I want to disturb it too much. I was told by my mom's friend, who is a tranny expert, has his own shop. that if you have tranny probs, and get one of those flush thingies, likelyhood that they will be worse afterwards is pretty good. So not sure if I should just stick with what I've used, and get by, until it's time to get it rebuilt or swap in a 5spd ;)

#20 Guest_Gus_*

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Posted 06 December 2001 - 07:47 AM

Josh, FWIW, I switched my turbo over to Mobil 1 when I bought the car at 95k and the car was dry up until recently at around 130k. There is a small leak now and I think I inflicted it on a hose or something while I was replacing one of the valve cover gaskets (can't find it). I also converted my old 944 over to Mobil 1 when I bought it at 49k. After owning it for around three years and putting around 20k on it, it never developed a leak either. I don't know where the theory that switching over to synthetic will 'shrink the seals' and cause leaks came from, but I don't buy it. It's probably something a service manager made up :)

#21 Guest_st2eelpot_*

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Posted 06 December 2001 - 12:51 PM

Well, as far as I recall there is *some* truth to this.. but generally it's if you go from synthetic and then try to switch back to non-synthetic. That does shrink the seals b/c there is something in the synthetic that gets into the seals. Once you put the organic oil back in, it diffuses out of the seals and hence they shrink.
However, I don't know about the seals shrinking from the metal surfaces when synthetic fluid is added. Though, if you look at what Josh said he wasn't specifying (spelling?) that the old transmission would necessarily leak, just that it would "be worse afterwards." Maybe the flushing causes so much junk to break loose that it starts tearing things up or something.

#22 Guest_Legacy777_*

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Posted 06 December 2001 - 04:42 PM

Well, I have heard that the synthetic doesn't really shrink the seals. What I have heard is that synthetic oil is an amazing detergent oil, and if you add synthetic to an engine/tranny that has run normal oil for it's whole life, the synthetic is goin to go in there and scrub that engine/tranny clean. With normal oil you get varnish and some build up around seals and what not. As the engine/seals age that build helps seals things up. You go in there and clean up that gunk, you loose that helping gunk that is sealing things. I do have a little oil in a couple places. It's more like oozing or just normal I guess. I don't leave spots, my oil level doesn't change and so on. I think I'll just stick with my non-synthetic mobil 10w-30. I burn absolutely ZERO, NOTTA, NUN, ZILCH oil with that oil. I have 151k on the motor. Back in my earlier years of tryin all sorts of stuff on the car. I burned oil with penzoil, castrol...not sure if I tried anything else....but I always keep goin back to the mobil 10w-30.

#23 Guest_Commuter_*

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Posted 06 December 2001 - 10:01 PM

Just a comment, which I have shared before.

If you have an old tranny, you are probably fine changing out the oil in it (I'll stay out of the synthetic argument for the moment). Putting fresh ATF in for old should only be a good thing. However, I would not flush it. I too have had a trusted source tell me to avoid flushing, on any tranny for that matter (in his opinion). You will loosen up crud and varnish etc and if you flush or circulate that into the valve body and some other sensitive parts of your auto tranny, you can kiss it good bye.

The best approach is to not let the crud build up in the first place by performing routine ATF changes on the tranny.

I've read that 90% of transmission failures are due to heat. ATF breaks down at an accelerated rate as temperatures rise. Once you are over a certain temperature, it's breakdown occurs at an exponential rate.


#24 Guest_Bagheera85_*

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Posted 07 December 2001 - 01:23 AM

I had heard that the leaking from synthetics is because it's thinner than regular oil. So, in a well worn engine, it can get in those worn spots where the reg stuff won't get to. But only in a WELL worn engine.

#25 Guest_joerodcan_*

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Posted 11 December 2001 - 12:08 AM

Referring to the hesitation when you stomp on the gas pedal and the transmission takes a while to downshift - especially when you are travelling at anything over 100KMPH (60MPH). That has been happening in my 90 Legacy LS AWD Wagon. It can be quite unnerving on the highway when you need to get out of a tight situation and are not sure if the car is going to downshift and speed up or keep going at the same speed.

Took it to the dealer and checked for fault codes and all the rest but could not find a thing. Yet even the mechanic was able to get a 3 - 4 second hesitation before the tranny downshifted. The fluid has been changed every year as I tow a Jayco Pop-Up camping trailer in the summer. Rest of the time the car runs fine and has no hesitation problems.

The comments made by Itzik93 regarding cleaning the throttle position sensor are valid and I think I will try it out. Where is the throttle position sensor located and are any special tools needed to open it? Any info and advice will be appreciated.


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