2000 Outback frostbitten Transmission?

My 2000 Subaru Outback (75,000 miles) runs well almost all of the time. Every so often, especially when the weather is cold and I have been making many short trips, the transmission will refuse to engage into any of the forward gears (Auto-Trans). It will do reverse, no trouble, but not the forward ones. It does not do this with any sort of regularity or consistency. I have had it checked by my mechanic and he said that although it did this it sounded fine and was not shifting roughly. Thinking it might be a fluid pressure problem, he put in fluid additive to soften the seals and this helped for about a week, then back to square one. I saw enough notes posted on other forums by other Subaru owners to know that this might be an issue with this year’s model–maybe some sort of quirk that I hope can be fixed without a new trans. Please oh please help me save this car. It was a real peach that came up from Florida with low miles and my dad bought it for me. I really want to keep it around a while but do not think I can afford a new trans.

When this exact symptom happened to my 70’s Ford truck automatic, it was soon to be in the shop for a transmission rebuild. You may get lucky and it only needs a proper service, maybe a solenoid is on the fritz. But suggest to save up some money too. And asking around for which is the best inde transmission shop in town.

This isn’t something to loose much sleep about. It’s normal. Automatic transmissions have wearing components, clutches, seals, etc, and they do wear out, and the wearing components are designed to be replaceable. Not sure if it applies to Subies, but on certain transmissions good transmission shops will give you the option of putting in super-duper parts during the rebuild, so at that point you’d have an even better than new transmission.

I agree with George, but I want to add some advice that should be helpful for the OP in regard to this vehicle and to all of her subsequent vehicles:

Even though this car has logged only 75,000 miles in 15 years, I wonder if the transmission has been serviced as it should have been.
How should it have been serviced?
It should have had the trans fluid (and filter) changed every 3 years!

Even when mfr’s maintenance schedules fail to mention this detail, if you expect your transmission to function properly for the life of the car, then you need to have this service done every 30k miles–or in the case of low-usage vehicles, every 3 years.

This is the regimen that I have followed with all of my cars, and I have never had the need for a transmission rebuild–even at odometer mileages as high as 160k miles. By contrast, I know several maintenance-averse people who have had to rebuild/replace their transmissions by 90k miles.

I would be willing to bet at least a cup of coffee that this vehicle didn’t have at least 4 fluid & filter changes over its lifespan, and that is why the trans is now failing.

Compatible synthetic tranny fluid is best for cold weather. I’d try 3 drain-and-refills a few days apart to see if there’s hope of a avoiding a rebuild.

The car has very low miles but the rubber seals and O-rings in the clutch drums, valve body, servos, and so on are 15 years old. It could be that age and heat has gotten them to the point where they can’t do their job anymore even with an additive.

Subaru automatics hold up pretty well over the last few decades and the ones that do fail generally do so because the failure was inflicted upon them; meaning neglect or an error during the maintenance.

As mentioned, try servicing the transmisson and go from there. Drop the pan first. If the pan is full of metal particles or a brownish-black grunge that can be wiped off the bottom of the pan in lumps then the transmission is done for and any further attempts at service is an exercise in futility.

Thinking it might be a fluid pressure problem, he put in fluid additive to soften the seals and this helped for about a week, then back to square one.

Did he say anything about the appearance of the transmission fluid?