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98 Ouback sticks in first gear (automatic)


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7 replies to this topic

#1 bb13

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Posted 06 November 2003 - 08:17 PM

This is driving us nuts! Our 98 Legacy Outback has been a great car...we even drove it 6000 miles on vacation in the spring with no problems. But during the past few months, some days after as little as 20 minutes behind the wheel, it just refuses to shift to second. (Until this week, you could count on 45 problem-free minutes.) The problems seem to happen regardless of the weather. You're driving along fine and come to a stop. When you hit the gas to go, it does ... up to maybe 20 MPH... and the RPMs soar but no shifting.

Turning off the engine and letting it rest sometimes helps, but only if you rest at least 30 minutes. This happens rain or shine, although today, with the 20-minute record, it was wet and around 50-60 degrees F.

We've taken it to our local Subaru dealer twice in the past six weeks or so. The first time, the car performed its little trick and the mechanic decided it must be the speed sensor, which he cleaned. But that didn't help. The second time the dealer kept it two days, drove it around quite a bit, and decided nothing was wrong. Then they took a couple hundred more bucks!

Besides a new mechanic, anyone have any ideas?

Thanks.

#2 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 06 November 2003 - 11:10 PM

You didn't mention several things that MAY assist folks in at least pointing to some good possibilties.
'98 is old enough to have a history - what is it? mileage, maintainence, how many owners before you, typical driving, towing, etc.

Also, do you get any warning lights when this occurs?

#3 ScoobySchmitty

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Posted 07 November 2003 - 07:45 AM

when was the last time the transmission fluid was changed??? I had a 87 Olds that had a similar problem, though it would only stick in a gear, THEN shift. I changed the fluid, problem gone. Yours might go a little deeper than a fluid change, but when you find what the real problem is, I would do this as well. Just my $.02

ScoobySchmitty:banana:

#4 bb13

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Posted 07 November 2003 - 05:29 PM

We are the original owners. It has 74,000 miles, and the transmission fluid was changed, as recommended, in September 2003. In general, it gets its all of its maintenance according the schedule in the owner's manual. It is usually driven on surface streets and highways to work and home (10-20 miles each way) a couple of days a week, errands on the weekend, and occasional weekend and vacation trips.

This car's never been wrecked, bumped, or towed, nor has it ever been used to tow anything else. I can't say "not a scratch" because it does have a small "parking lot" door dent. The tires are all the same age and get rotated when and how the owner's manual suggests. The battery is only a year or two old -- a Die Hard, I think -- I remember buying it at a Sears, but not exactly when. This was before the proper diagnosis of #1, below.

The only troubles it's ever given us before are small:

1. A keyless entry problem, which caused the parking lights to blink continuously for a couple of days. This was corrected by resetting something near the driver's knees. We'd remember what we did if it happened again.

2. A a broken cup holder, on the dashboard. Hoping to fix it (impossible), I took it apart, cleaned it, and re-assembled it. We decided to just use it carefully.

3. Thre's a light or two out near the radio. After dark, we remember if the AC or heat is on and choose radio stations by sound alone. The dealer quoted a really high labor charge to replace the bulb(s) ... and we decided not to bother.

Again, thanks for any ideas.

#5 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 07 November 2003 - 06:08 PM

Septemebr of THIS year huh? Was that done at a Subaru dealership? Did you have the problem before that? maybe they underfilled it or something? have you checked the fluid level?

I hope someone else chimes in but it may be that you will need to insist hat the dealership keep the car overnight as long as they need to, hook you up with a loaner and apply your wasted $200 dollars to the the REAL repair.

Sounds like a clean vehicle with a careful owner. I don't suppose you ever drove it a lengthy time with the donut spare on? or a flat tire? That can be rough on Subies.

#6 bb13

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Posted 07 November 2003 - 07:56 PM

OK.. after a look at the records... the transmission fluid change and speed sensor pin-cleaning were done AFTER the problem appeared -- I think we had them throw in an oil-change while they were under the hood. It was the dealer's first attempt at fixing it. This was under $150. The second visit, we were only charged a half-hour technician fee, while he checked for other problems, like loose wires, etc. He did use our car for a couple of days to see if he could spot the problem, but that's not uncommon with an intermittent situation like this one.

We've never had the donut spare on the car. Early on we had a nail in the sidewall, but got it to a garage while it was just low and still ok for driving. The tire tread was still within range that a single tire replacement was ok. Later, as I recall, we got a whole new set, because it was time.

One other thing, on another site, I saw where another 98 Outback owner had a very similar complaint, only his was sticking in 2nd... this was in 1999. Nobody on that board responded. I sent him an email... so far no reply.

Thanks yet again.

#7 paladin_w

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Posted 08 November 2003 - 12:23 PM

Hey bb13 welcome and sorry to hear you are having this problem. I can understand the frustration as I am dealing with an EGR problem right now but my 97 still runs ok. I know I am going to get yelled at for this one and I kind of get from your posts that you are not a DIYer... but...if you have the nerve block your sub all up and brace sides front and back this will provide the car with as close to zero load as can get. Two people are good for this when you *slowly* rev in park listen for sounds, hopefully there won't be any, then in drive *slowly* one of the primary wheels might not be spinning caused by many things, but that could be something. I am one of the only people crazy enough to have done this myself so I really don't think you will go for this.
However I would think this would be a problem with an electrical connecter linked to the speed sensor or shifter, if you do not have a good connection it will not shift. This could be a loose wire or a parially broken connection, or even a loose connecter on the other end away from where the mechanic checked. Don't know but good luck and others just be nice with your responces, I am a bit crazy :lol:

#8 paladin_w

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Posted 08 November 2003 - 12:59 PM

OH sorry I forgot to add the light things, I just finished changing the lights on my stock stereo head unit couple of weeks ago. I did not have lcd display light, or preset numbers. I could walk you through the procedure, but it will take a soldering iron and a couple of 2.5 mm incand. bulbs they are not LEDs. Anyway let me know if you want to know a novice electronics person could do it, but it is up to you.




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