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2004 Outback Limited - Odd jerking/sputtering/slipping?

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Hi All...looking for a little help before I likely head to a mechanic soon. 


2004 Subaru Outback, Limited 2.5L 4 cylinder

185,000 Miles

Purchased at 75,000 in 2009...and I haven't touched the transmission or transmission fluid...I know, I know...



When I start the car...idle has a slight sputter.  For a split second, it seems it may think about dying...really a hair of a second, then continues on idling.  (I'm going to re-verify this tonight because it's the part that doesn't make sense to me).  


The primary issue is at highway speed.  Let's say you let off the gas at 40, 50, 60mph.  Coast for a second...then get on the gas again (light or hard), the car doesn't find a gear (assumption based on the feel) and just starts clunkering/jerking around until I manually move the shifter to 3rd.  The car rights itself instantly in 3rd...I move back to D and we're mostly ok again...until I let off the gas and get on the gas again.  Now today was the first time in drive, while consistently accelerating that it seemed to slip and couldn't maintain the gain, so I put it back in 3rd and all was good.  I also got the flashing check engine light today...moved down to 3rd and all was good...CEL went solid instead flashing.  This happens at lower speeds as well...just not as pronounced of a feel.  


I kind of feel I'm on borrowed time with the transmission, right?  or am I way off?




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Transmission is probably fine, the engine is missfiring under load and by dropping it down a gear you reduce the load on the engine to the point that it can keep running.


The flashing check engine light means that it's missfiring bad enough to potentially melt the catalytic converter. If you use a scanner to pull the stored check engine codes, you'll get a few P030x codes. Likely you have an ignition problem, so worn out spark plugs or a failing coil, but it could also be a fuel pressure problem.

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Thanks!  I checked and it miss fires at idle which is why it didn't add up to be transmission.  When I did the head gasket work in 2011 at 125,000, I replaced the spark plugs, but didn't replace the fuel injectors or seals.  I'll go do some more research in that direction and get the code detail. 




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