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'93 Legacy Turbo auto shift problem


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17 replies to this topic

#1 DAlgie

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 01:43 AM

Hello, new poster here. As the aforementioned car, it has a hard time shifting from 1st to 2nd on it's first shift, hot or cold. You can drive it through it by feathering the throttle a bit and it will then upshift, and then it's fine. Pull over, shut it off, restart it and it does the same thing, strange. Anyone have any ideas, it has 126 K miles, I just bought it a week ago, I don't know that much about the car, it has clean tranny fluid, and it's topped off correctly. Thanks to all.

#2 Legacy777

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 08:57 AM

can you be more descriptive as to exactly what it's doing during the shift. What happens if you just floor it and let the computer shift on its own?

What's the procedure you're doing to check the fluid level?

may want to check out www.bbs.legacycentral.org as well....

#3 DAlgie

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 11:20 AM

Well, if I just hold the accelerator down it might never shift, or at least it hits over 5500 rpm, way too high for a cold engine! The car is a '93 turbo, everything seems to be ok otherwise, the transmission oil is nice red in colour and doesen't smell burnt. I check the oil with the engine running, warm, and in park.

#4 Legacy777

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 02:10 PM

so it only does this when cold?

What happens when everything is up to temp....what happens if you hold the accelerater to the floor?

To properly check the level, you should slowly cylce from park to 1st gear and back to park. leave engine running and then check level.

more then likely the level is fine, but the proper way is to cycle through the gears.

#5 DAlgie

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 05:06 PM

Cold or hot, it doesen't seem to matter. it may be slightly better when hot, but still does it. If I hold the accelerator donw, it revs to the limiter pretty much. To me it seems like it's electronic based, not a hydraulic problem.

#6 Legacy777

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 06:18 PM

what I'm trying to get is how the shift is happening.

When you hold the accelerator to the floor it will go to redline.....no biggy. But when it does shift......does it seem to lag, what exactly happens.

#7 DAlgie

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Posted 22 November 2003 - 12:33 AM

No, it shifts fine the first time, like every other time after that. I rechecked the oil level after you mentioned it, it was slightly low, I added a little to top it off, but no change.

#8 Legacy777

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Posted 22 November 2003 - 12:48 AM

I'm sorry if I'm totally missing something here.....but I read in your last post that you said the tranny shifts fine.......if that's the case.....what's wrong?

#9 alias20035

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Posted 22 November 2003 - 01:29 AM

Please confirm the following:

The first shift from first to second gear after the engine is started is always slow. And that the second and all following shifts from first to second seem to be ok.

By clean fluid, did you dump it all out or just look at it on the dipstick?

It is possible that the dipstick fluid is clean, but the fluid in the tranny mechanism is not.....

There are a couple of things you can do:

Reset the ECU by disconnecting the negative battery cable for fifteen minutes. The ECU will relearn the sensors when reconnected, sometimes this takes care of gremlins, sometimes it doesn't.

If it has not been done recently I would change the ATF fluid and filter, and BE SURE to flush the fluid from the transmission cooler within the radiator and its associated lines (pump fresh fluid through to get the old fluid and sludge out). There should also be a second external ATF filter between the radiator and transmission on the return line (added as part of a recall campaign and stock on 92-94 models I think?). Change this filter too.

Since it does it only on its first shift it is rather puzzling. Perhaps the hydraulic solenoid for second gear is empty on the first shift, at which point it fills up and stays full as long as the engine is running. If this is the case, new ATF fluid and filters may correct the problem, or you could need a new solenoid and/or seal (not too expensive). When you remove the transmission pan to change the filter, the solenoids are right there, no need to remove the transmisison (if I recall correctly).

The bands on the transmission can be adjusted buy turning bolts on the upper left side of the transmission case (?), but I am not sure what affect this has (I have never needed to adjust these). I think the adjustments are more for adjusting the quality of shift (firm or soft), not the shift point (which is electronically controlled).

As long as the transmission seems to shift firmly into each gear and not slip as well as properly lock the torque convertor, your problem should be quite minor (<$500).

I would inquire at your local Subaru dealer, odds are they have seen this before. I know that Legacy Turbo 4EAT's do have some unique problems, and do require very regular fluid changes to stay alive.

#10 DAlgie

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 01:26 AM

Sorry for the confusion, the trans shifts fine EVERY time after the first upshift from first to second, AFTER you start the engine and drive off. Something tells me it's not a hydraulic problem, you can pull over and shut the engine off for seconds, restart it and it does it again, this tells me that it should have warm fluid everywhere, like it shouldn't have time to drain back, if you know what I mean. It only shifts up from first to second if you rev it a bit, then let off the throttle and sort of feather it a bit, it will then shift up, and for the rest of the drive, it's very normal, no wierd sounds, no funny shifts, nothing, quite a nice trans I must say! I might have said this before, I only bought the car a week ago, don't know much at all about it, it has 125k miles on it, the trans fluid smells ok, from the dipstick sniff test and the oil on the dipstick looks nice and red. I haven't been any deeper into it than that. Hey, thanks for your help so far!! I'll try the ECU relearn and see if that cures it.

#11 alias20035

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 02:06 AM

Originally posted by DAlgie
Sorry for the confusion, the trans shifts fine EVERY time after the first upshift from first to second, AFTER you start the engine and drive off. Something tells me it's not a hydraulic problem, you can pull over and shut the engine off for seconds, restart it and it does it again, this tells me that it should have warm fluid everywhere, like it shouldn't have time to drain back, if you know what I mean. It only shifts up from first to second if you rev it a bit, then let off the throttle and sort of feather it a bit, it will then shift up, and for the rest of the drive, it's very normal, no wierd sounds, no funny shifts, nothing, quite a nice trans I must say! I might have said this before, I only bought the car a week ago, don't know much at all about it, it has 125k miles on it, the trans fluid smells ok, from the dipstick sniff test and the oil on the dipstick looks nice and red. I haven't been any deeper into it than that. Hey, thanks for your help so far!! I'll try the ECU relearn and see if that cures it.



I would make an inquiry at the dealer, but they may be as confused as us.

Since it only does it on the first shift, it sound like it is a problem you can live with until something more substantial occurs (hopefully it does not). It is not the usual Turbo Legacy 4EAT problems which are burnt torque convertors, and brake bands.

I do suspect a drain back problem though. It may be taking the first shift to fill the hydraulics for second gear, and so long as there is fluid pressure the leak is sealed or controlled. Then as soon as the fluid pressure falls off (engine off), the second gear hydraulic drains completely. Perhaps its behaving like a defective hydraulic lash adjuster, where it will clack for minutes and then stop, but if you stop and restart the engiine it will clack again for a few minutes.

It is VERY important to change the transmission fluid and its two filters (internal pan filter and external canister filter) ever 30,000 miles on cars with severe usage (any turbo car would qualify). The reason for this is that Subaru transmissions incorporate AWD and the front differential within the transmission case, which causes the transmission to run hot. Heed my warning to flush the old fluid out of the transmission cooler and lines, many 4EAT transmissions have died because of not doing this simple procedure (mainly on the SVX though). If you don't know when the ATF was changed, or if it is nearing the 30,000 mile interval have it changed. I strongly recommend that the ATF fluid be changed at a dealer or by an expert Subaru mechanic since Subaru 4EAT's are somewhat different.

#12 DAlgie

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 02:09 PM

Hmm, VERY good advice, the fluid just might be draining when you shut the engine off, it might only take a minute for that to happen, so it would make sense. I wasn't going to change the trans fluid but will now you have said that. Will blowing air through the cooler lines flush them out ok? Again, thanks for the help with this.

#13 alias20035

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 04:17 PM

Originally posted by DAlgie
Hmm, VERY good advice, the fluid just might be draining when you shut the engine off, it might only take a minute for that to happen, so it would make sense. I wasn't going to change the trans fluid but will now you have said that. Will blowing air through the cooler lines flush them out ok? Again, thanks for the help with this.



I don't know if blowing air through the lines could do any damage, low pressure would probably not hurt. Just don't blow the lines out with the external filter in place, as the air pressure could cause the filter to disintegrate. And after blowing the lines flush them out with new fluid (and reconnect them in an almost full state.

Here is what I usually do:

After I drain the transmission, I disconnect the two lines (outlet and return) to the transmission cooler and remove the external fluid filter. I then use a hand pump (I use one that is used to refill outboard motor bottom ends) to flush new ATF fluid through the lines twice, once for the line from the transmission through the cooler to the filter, and once from the filter line back to the transmission. You just dont want any of the "crud" getting into the transmission.

BTW I also use my hand pump to refill the differentials, as the rear one is hard to fill by squeezing a bottle of gear oil into it. I flush the hand pump out with the new fluid that I need to reduce cross contamination between the different fluids that I pump, but my pump also comes completely apart for cleaning.

Since you will likely need the filters from a Subaru dealer (I can't find them anywhere else, maybe you can) I would consult with the dealer on your problem, as they might know exactly what it is (this is such a unique problem that they will remember seeing it before). I did fix a GM hydramatic with a shifting problem (it would not shift at all) with a $5 seal (and a $20 filter and like 14 quarts of ATF...).

#14 Legacy777

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 09:33 AM

There was some issues with the early legacy 90-91's with fluid draining out of the torque converter (drain-back valve issues) possible you have a similar issue. In the morning do you let the car warm up, or do you just start it up and go?

Re the filters on these trannies. They are merely nothing but metal screens, so you really don't need to replace them. The internal screen, just take it out and back flush it with a solvent of some kind. More then likely it will be clean. I've got 174k on my car/tranny and had the thing apart several times after 100k for misc maintenance and the screen was clean, no debris, no nothing.

The external filter kit was added to the early legacies again 90-91 to help alleviate issues they were having with production crud getting in the trans and mucking it up. It was an add-on retro fit kit that I'm not sure if all the later first gen legacies got. The kit is like 15 bucks (filter only is considerably more) Dealer said you don't need to replace the filter ever.....while I don't agree with that, I think every 100k would be fine. I replaced mine around 140k.

#15 DAlgie

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 12:42 PM

If it's cold out I let the car warm up, but it has been nice here for the last week. Remember, this problem is hot or cold, no difference. I'll try to get to the fluid change this week, for now it's driveable if you know how to make it upshift the first time. Thanks.

#16 Legacy777

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 01:19 PM

Try this......in the morning on when you first start it up......move the gear selector in neutral, let the car idle for a minute, then go.....and let us know if it still does it.

#17 cookie

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 01:34 PM

but no subies.
Usually it is caused by band wear or pump or seal wear.
I would try cycleing the car through to second and third gear on the warmup allowing a second or two for pump up at each position.
I had a Mercedes do this for nearly 100,00 miles before I needed to redo the tranny.

#18 DAlgie

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 06:21 PM

OK, this makes sense, I'll try it tomorow morning, let you know if it was any different. Thanks.




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