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Bright1

AWD binding problem solved in '96 Legacy with transfer case solenoid replacement

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Re: '96 Subaru Legacy with only 59K miles

 

The problem started when I noticed that while making sharp turns into parking spaces, the front and rear axles would seem to bind (like my old standard 4WD Jeep on dry pavement). Not long thereafter, the AT OIL TEMP light began flashing 16 times after starting the engine.

 

First stop was to try AAMCO for their advertised $99 deal on a Power Flush and External Diagnostic test. They attempted to read the codes from the onboard diagnostics, but said they didn't have the right tools and/or software. They also wouldn't proceed with the trans flush alone, saying I probably had something seriously wrong with either the computer or the trans, and that flushing it could make it worse(?)

 

Second stop was an independent transmission shop that has a good reputation, especially with bigger vehicles (i.e., trucks). They also said they couldn't read the codes. They said I probably needed a new TCU (trans control unit) computer for at least $300-350, and wanted me to leave it with them so they could also remove the pan and look for internal damage.

 

Before I got around to going back for more of that, I happened to hear an episode of Cartalk on National Public Radio (with Tom and Ray M. a.k.a. Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers; www.cartalk.com -- a great show if you haven't already heard it) where this guy calls in with a trans problem with his Buick. Tom tells him that it's time to go to a dealer where people know the make of vehicle and have the right tools, not an independent shop, for the right diagnosis.

 

Third stop: Took the car to my local Subaru dealer (Farrish Subaru of Fairfax, VA) where the very helpful service advisor Mark Little predicted right away the problem was in the transfer case. Estimated cost: around $550. The symptom of "binding" is the primary clue.

 

The final text of my invoice reads, "Customer states AT oil temp light blinks 16 times after starting and binding noise at low speeds turning sharply. Upon diagnosis found code 24 stored. Code for transfer case solenoid. Removed T-case for inspection found normal wear no other defects. Clutch wear normal. Remove and reinstall t-case to replace t-case solenoid." (The part number of the valve is 31942AA090, which is priced at $105.)

 

They warned me that the exhaust needed to be dropped to do this, and if the rusty bolts at the cylinder heads broke, it could increase the cost by a couple hundred dollars. Fortunately, the penetrating oil worked, and they put new bolts back in. All told, including some gaskets, a ring seal, shop supplies, etc. plus $350 in labor, the total tab ran $515.

 

The car *definitely* rolls easily now, feels almost like a 2WD vehicle! I rarely go to dealers for service, but this time it seems like it worked out well.

 

Happy motoring, everybody!

 

B1

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Before I got around to going back for more of that, I happened to hear an episode of Cartalk on National Public Radio (with Tom and Ray M. a.k.a. Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers; www.cartalk.com -- a great show if you haven't already heard it) where this guy calls in with a trans problem with his Buick. Tom tells him that it's time to go to a dealer where people know the make of vehicle and have the right tools, not an independent shop, for the right diagnosis.

 

And an independent Subaru shop would have been able to diagnose the issue and fix it for about half the cost, fyi. When you hear people on the board reference independent shops rather than dealers, we are referring to independent specialty shops that specialize in Subarus. Not just random independent shops out there.

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For future reference, anybody know of such an independent Subaru shop in the DC area?

 

Preferably Maryland or DC, though Arlington/Alexandria (VA) might also work.

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I'm beginning to believe that the trick to dealing with this solenoid problem (cheaply) is recognizing and fixing it as soon as possible, before the clutch pack gets torn up.

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They attempted to read the codes from the onboard diagnostics, but said they didn't have the right tools and/or software.

B1

Ha Ha Ha, the codes can be read without tools/software by counting blinks after proper "handshake" procedure!

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Bright1, do you know if that Subaru dealer would sell a Duty Solenoid C (that is the transfer case solenoid) to an out of state customer for the quoted price of $105 plus reasonable shipping? I've been price shopping for that very solenoid (for my '96 Outback) and the best price I've seen so far is $257!! I'd sure like to get one at the price you paid, and I am able to do the replacement myself.

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...do you know if that Subaru dealer would sell a Duty Solenoid C (that is the transfer case solenoid) to an out of state customer for the quoted price of $105 plus reasonable shipping?
I don't know, but you can call Farrish Subaru at 703-273-0200 (main #) and find out. If the parts dept. is uncooperative, you could try calling Mark Little at 703-934-1600 (service dept. #) and tell him "Mr. Cooper with the green '96 Subaru sent you..." Maybe he'll be so impressed that he and his dealership got good press on an Internet web site for Subaru owners he'll help you out. ;-)

 

BTW, after picking up the car, I opted to go into the parts department to see what a new valve looked like. It's certainly not anything complicated enough to cost as much as you've been quoted -- even $105 seems more than generous.

 

...the codes can be read without tools/software by counting blinks after proper "handshake" procedure!
Please describe the "handshake" procedure. I looked for more information on the web on the 16 flashes code before taking the car to the dealer but didn't find what I needed.

 

...When you hear people on the board reference independent shops rather than dealers, we are referring to independent specialty shops that specialize in Subarus.
I wish I knew of a shop in my area that specializes in Subarus so I could have taken it there. I guess I'm fortunate that in the 3 years since I've owned this car, I haven't needed anything more than routine maintenance.

 

Turning sharp corners smoothly,

 

B1

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Bright1, the Handshake Procedure on any Subaru newer than 1994 actually requires that you find a test connector that is part of the harness just behind the lower dash panel on the driver's side of the passenger compartment. You'll need to patch a grounding pin (part of the existing harness -- when you find a connector that is not currently connected to anything, with two additional single-pin wires attached, you'll have the correct one) to the diagnostic test socket in that connector, you can then "count out" the error code from the Transmission COntrol Unit by the number of times the AT Temp light blinks. I was interested in this same thing about a month ago, and "avk" posted a lot of good data in answer to my questions, so you'll probably want to read the same thread. Just look for a thread titled "4EAT TCU Questions (96 Legacy Outback)," that I started back at the beginning of August. There is all that you ever wanted to know about interrogating your TCU included in that thread!

 

Thanks for the info about your local dealer. I didn't check my emails from Friday until just now, but I found that one of my internet price inquiries came back with a quote of $68 for the very same solenoid! Interesting spread of prices out there, huh?? :brow:

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