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2001 subaru forester drive shaft or viscous coupler? Help!

This is the third time the dealership has removed and replaced the drive shaft in my 2001 subaru forester (manual transmission - 150K miles); I still have the same symptoms.

Somewhat over year ago, my car developed a notable clunking (that felt like someone with hard-toed boots was kicking the underside of the car right in the middle) whenever I started out in first gear, and especially obvious when starting out under torque conditions, such as at a slight incline or turning.

The dealer (this has been a dealer-maintained vehicle) diagnosed a failed drive shaft, which was pulled, rebuilt and replaced. The symptoms continued and the process was repeated (no charge to me the second time). Still, the symptoms remained. They seemed baffled and tightened someing - a bearing (?) which didn't seem to help. They wanted to wait until another 2001 forester showed up on their lot to compare it with mine - but this never came to be. Finally, the car developed a servere wobble (when starting out, and especially when turning), and then a scary wobble / vibration at higher speeds (40-60 mph). I took it back, wondering if perhaps it had been misdiagnosed to begin with. They tightend something and sent me on my way. But the wobble and vibration (and clunking) remained. Again, they pulled the drive shaft and replaced it with a new driveshaft. They explained it a failure of something to do with the U-joint.

The severity of the wobble is greatly diminished, but still there. The clunking is definitely still there (starting out in first gear, and accentuated by incline or turning), and the higher speed vibration seems to be abated at the moment.

Another subaru mechanic drove it with the severe wobble and, vibration and clunking and diagnosed it as a failure of the viscous coupler (about $1400 to repair). But since the drive shaft was still under warrenty, they suggested going back to the dealership.

The dealer has replaced drive shaft three times! I am wondering if the dealership misdiagnosed the problem to begin with. Or if the drive shaft problem caused or contributed to the failure of the viscous coupler (if that's what it is), or if these were two separate, but co-occurring problems.

The dealership is obviously tired of dealing me - but they never have fixed the original problem, it seems.

I'm not an aggressive driver and try to take really good care of the car - maintenance, etc.

Any ideas?

Thank you thank you thank thank you thank you



  • edited February 2008
    Time to read up on the lemon law for your state.


  • edited February 2008

    "Time to read up on the lemon law for your state."

    Joseph--Re-read the OP's message. The vehicle is now at least 7 years old!

    Lemon Law? I don't think so.
  • edited February 2008
    Read the fine-print on your extended maintenance contract. You may be able to get the "Home Office" involved (constructively).
    A suspension and alignment shop may be able to diagnose the problem. Check your contract to see if they can repair the car, under the contract.
  • edited February 2008
    Thanks for the posts - What extended maintenance contract? Yes, the car was purchased seven years ago. It has had drive train issues from the beginning - from a pressure plate that made of defective materials (and beyond warrenty), to a big bad rear differential problem and now this. Any thoughts about the vicous coupler diagnosis? Thank you - sue
  • edited February 2008
    The viscous coupler could produce most of the symptoms that you describe, but I am not sure that it would produce a clunking noise. That is the one part that has me stumped, but I do think that the diagnosis of a bad viscous coupler certainly has some merit.

    I would suggest that you pre-arrange with your mechanic that, if the installation of a new coupler doesn't fix the problem, he would remove it and put the old one back in--and only charge you for labor.
  • edited February 2008
    Thank you - Although, I asuume the labor is majority of the cost of the viscous couple. Thanks for confirming the symptoms related to that. The thunking seems to be play in the drive shaft knocking against the frame of the vehicle - or that's what I've been told.
  • edited February 2008
    Sounds like they're referring to a center carrier bearing on the driveshaft. At 150k miles it's entirely possible this is the problem.
    A quick look at several parts sites do not show this carrier bearing, or U-joints as being available. This could mean either going to the dealer or an independent driveline shop. The latter is preferred because it will be much cheaper for them to repair it rather than replace the entire unit.
    If you live near a major metro area look in the Yellow Pages under "drivelines".

    Regarding the bit about a bad pressure plate due to defective materials, I would take that with a large grain of salt.
  • edited February 2008
    Thank you for the recommendation. There is a dedicated subaru shop (not the dealer) in town. If there is an entirely new drive shaft installed now, wouldn't that mean that there is a new carrier bearing (it's part of the drive shaft?)? Right now the dealer is telling me that I have 6 months warranty on this drive shaft.
  • edited February 2008
    The word "rebuilt" can mean many things on a driveshaft. To me, it means all U-joints and the center carrier bearing was replaced. Some may consider the replacement of 1 U-joint a "rebuild" job. I had forgotten some things in your original post and they raise a red flag over what has allegedly been done and what you have been told.

    First point is the drive shaft being rebuilt and allegedly replaced THREE times? Anyone who would do this is doing nothing more than wild guessing; and guessing very badly.

    The second point involves a question. They claimed to have replaced this driveshaft 3 times. So who in the world is paying for all of these allegedly defective driveshafts?
    I hope you're not going to tell me that the dealer claims these genuine Subaru driveshafts are defective and the parent company (distributor) Subaru of America is covering this under a parts warranty.
  • edited February 2008
    I assume the shaft that has been redone 3 times is the one going from viscous coupler to the rear differential? Seems that if they ran the thing while it was on the lift, that they would be able to see the shaft wobble, or whatever wobble.

    Have they ruled out wheel bearings, poor struts (which can result in wheel hop when taking off), and the front top strut bearings?
This discussion has been closed.