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'03 Subaru Baja - New Noise Help!

My car:
Subaru Baja ’03, only 51k miles on it, manual transmission – I love my car.
Pretty much used for only short trips.

I was driving home on a longer trip, and when I turned the music off, I noticed a new noise.
At first I thought my transmission was going! But when I shifted into neutral, I noticed the noise did not go away.
And the pitch gets higher at higher speeds, and lower at low speeds. It is hardly noticeable over the engine noise, but I can definitely hear it – my mechanic (the next day) who was in a rush did not hear it. I’ve driven it on grass, and still hear it, so it isn’t the tires.

The best way to describe it is- it sounds like:

  • a winding gyro
    -one of those toy cars you push and push to get going, then it goes.
    -When you’re in a jet airliner, and the engines are powering down (of course not that loud).
    The sound does not occur in a sitting position, revving up the engine, etc. It is dependend on the tires or axle rotationg.

Initially, I was thinking transmission, wheels, wheel bearing, or maybe something to do with the front AWD mechanism? But since I hear it on grass or pavement, and in neutral, I think we can rule out tires and transmission - right? Any help would be appreciated. I have another appt next week with my mechanic (he’s going on vacation)

Without actually hearing it, my best guess would be a bad wheel bearing or two.
Hopefully your mechanic agrees before you lose a wheel while driving at high speed.

Have you checked the transmission fluid level?

Putting a manual transmission in “neutral” only separates the transmission from the engine. The transmission is still in motion if the car is in motion. Hence, the noise still could be the transmission. Hence.

Subaru? Noise could also be a center differential or another part of its complex AWD system. Have you ever had the AWD system serviced or checked?

Have you ever used a spare tire or a non-matched tire without removing the AWD system fuse? These vehicles are very sensitive to tire diameter.

Don’t worry–help is on the way. There are numerous Subaru fans and experts on this board who know far more than I do.

I recently had the manual transmission fluid changed, I will double check the level today at lunch.

…since I hear it on grass or pavement, and in neutral…

When you say “in neutral”…do you mean moving or sitting still? That point is unclear (to me, at least). Seems like you’re implying moving (like with the clutch in), but I’d rather be sure.

Coasting along, but shifting the gear into neutral, and then releasing the clutch. Engine basically idles at that point. But the car is still moving.

Road Trip Experiment: Round A Fairly Decent Curve In The Road. Go Back And Take It In The Opposite Direction, Too.

Listening to that sound while approaching the curve, see if the volume or pitch of the sound changes when taking the curve one way or the other. If this changes the sound then chances are good that it is a wheel bearing.

This can be done by swerving or changing lanes quickly, but I wouldn’t want you to cause an accident. A curve in the road is safer for the experiment.

See if you can tell (not always reliable) whether it’s coming from front or rear.

By the way, mechanics work around loud noises almost daily, sometimes for years. It’s not surprising that many of them can’t hear all frequencies well.

Let us know what you find.


You had the manual transmission fluid changed, which also took care of the front differential.

What about the rear differential? Did you have its fluid changed, too?

Chase, How’d You Get The Yellow Coloring ? That’s Classy.


Just to follow up a few questions, I’ve never had the rear differential changed. I’ve never had the AWD components serviced either.

Also, I believe the sound is coming from the front of the car, it seems to be coming from the center of the engine compartment, if I had to guess. But it could also be coming from the wheel too, it isn’t super loud and the engine often drowns it out.

Now I’m back to being worried about my transmission!

I will run check the fluids, and run the road test later today and post a follow up. I really appreciate all of your help.

I used the “code” and “/code” commands, surrounded by the <>.

Those are the standard HTML tag indicators. There’s a bunch of them:
and - Indicate italics
and - Indicate Bold
and - Indicate Bold and Italics


Gives the same kind of out you used to get if you quoted someone’s post, as if you had inserted an indented paragraph. I’m only putting more text so you can see the formatting. This text has no other meaning nor purpose. I’m only putting more text so you can see the formatting. This text has no other meaning nor purpose. I’m only putting more text so you can see the formatting.

My favorite is the “a” tag. I use it for my links…
Your text
Like this: Massive list of HTML tags

Have a blast. Like playing with colors? Navy blue?
Like playing with colors? Navy blue?

You just have to remember to close every tag with the / and the tag name.

I could go on for pages, and show you a bunch of different tags, but you get the idea. Write some up, and hit the preview button to see how it would look posted.

Sorry Navarath!! I’m done hijacking your post. :slight_smile: I was going to ask you to perform some of the same tests CSA did, but by the time I got back to it, he’d already done it. AND…silly man…he asked me a question I could answer. :wink:


I hate to say it, but you may need to get to a tranny specialist, someone very familiar with or specializing in Subaru’s. It sounds to me like the AWD system is having issues, but at this early stage, it may be an easy fix. (yeah, right). But we can hope.

no problem! i wanted to know how to do the yellow background

Ok, checked the fluids at lunch. Everything looked fine. Went out for a spin around a driving circle - didn’t hear anything. So then I went out on the highway - it is really difficult to hear over the normal transmission/engince noises, but I seem to be able to do it when I put it in neutral. I also think it might get louder the longer I run, hotter it gets.
I couldn’t tell a different from turning left, turning right, or going straight.

When I got back, I did another experiment. I got going really fast then shifted into neutral and coasted - I could definitely hear it then. I then did the same thing, but in reverse. When the car is coasting in reverse, I didn’t hear anything…

I’m sticking with the Subaru tranny specialist. Maybe someone else has a better idea.

Unfortunately, I live in the middle of nowhere, so I think my options will be a Subaru Dealer, or my trusted mechanic who can pretty much do anything, even rebuild a engine if need be.

While rebuilding an engine isn’t anything I’d sniff at, it’s not quite the same as the AWD system on your car, which is a pretty complicated beast. Ask him about it, and see what he says. Any honest mechanic will tell you whether or not he can do it. He may direct you to the dealer.

Transmission noise, which your car should not have at this low mileage, would come from the transmission, not from under the hood or from a wheel.

Wheel bearing noise would come from a wheel. You can often feel a bad front wheel bearing through the steering wheel while negotiating a curve at highway speed.

Is your mechanic using the correct fluids for the Subaru AWD system?