2005 Subaru Outback Manual Transmission Failure

My wife and I own a 2005 Subaru Outback (~$80k miles on the clock) that began exhibiting transmission issues about 18 months ago. Initially this was simply that the transmission would ‘pop’ out of 5th gear, but it progressed to having difficulty getting into 1st and reverse. My regular mechanic, who specializes in Subarus but does not work on transmission issues, said that the problem would not cause permanent damage but that I was likely to reach a point where the issues became sufficiently annoying that I would need to have the transmission rebuilt. This point came earlier this year so on May 3rd I took it to a transmission specialist who rebuilt the transmission in a couple of days. However, since then I have had major problems. Three times now (June 5th, July 26th and yesterday, September 29th) I have ended up being stuck in 1st gear, and the stick will only go into reverse. In fact, while the stick is in neutral or reverse if I take my foot off the clutch I always go forward. I am unable to put the stick in to any other gear position. When this happened the second time, the transmission specialist said they had never encountered the problem (apart from the 1st time with my car obviously) and that they had been online with Subaru technicians, who said that it shouldn’t even be possible for this to happen in a Subaru transmission.

I am writing to get some advice about what the problem might be and what my course of action could be? I am obviously reluctant to take the car back (or, more accurately, have it towed back) to the original shop that carried out the rebuild, since I’m not sure they know how to fix the problem, but that work cost $2,230 and I would like the problem resolved once a for all, ideally without any further expense on my part. Do you feel that I am within my rights to ask for a full refund and what is the likelihood that they will give me one?

On June 5th, did you take it back to the shop that did the rebuild? What about 7/26 or 9/29? Or is this the first time they have seen you since May 3?

Unless there is a lot more to the story, you need to take the car back to them and give them a chance to fix it right. They do not owe you a refund (yet).


Thanks for your response!

My apologies for not being clear in my original post. On both June 5th and July 26th the car went back to the same shop. The symptom (getting stuck in 1st gear) was identical on both occasions. In light of this information do you suggest giving them a third strike? I’m reluctant to do so, since they haven’t fixed the problem on two previous occasions.

You don’t have a teenager driving this car , do you ?

@oldtimer 11,

No, why do you ask?

They ask because they think if you have a teenager driving the car, it is obviously their fault.

I think it’s an issue with the linkage between the trans and the shifter.
Maybe a cracked bushing.


Would this be an issue they should have spotted in the original rebuild or the two subsequent repairs to solve the problem of getting stuck in 1st?


I looked up prices for 05 outback manual transmission (I am guessing you don’t have the turbo)

and it looks like you way, way, way overpaid to have that transmission rebuilt. I can find a used transmission for less than $700. And labor would probably bring that up to $1500

I’ve repaired a large number of Subaru manual transmissions and there are so many unknowns here it’s almost impossible to narrow it down. Offhand, sounds like a problem in the 1/2 synchronizer hub assembly.

Jumping out of gear is most often due to a worn shift fork, synchronizer hub problem, or excessive mainshaft endplay; in that order and possibly involving all of them.

Did you get a bill that stated 2230 only or was there any kind of parts breakdown?

Regarding the unknowns I mentioned, the price is reasonable if done correctly. Subaru manual transaxles (the correct name as opposed to transmission) are pretty technical to overhaul, there are specialty tools and techniques involved, many selective parts such as shift forks, countershaft shims, mainshaft collars, and so on; and that does not include the issues involved in setting up the ring and pinion gears. They are not a wham bam, done quickly repair.

I say they owe you money back or a properly repaired transmission.


Thanks for the comprehensive response. I spoke with the transmission specialists and they were reluctant to give me a refund without one last opportunity to repair the transmission. However, this is absolutely their last chance. Given that I know very little about the inner workings of the transmission (or transaxle) I don’t want to be too harsh on them - as you said it’s not a straightforward job - but I think three strikes and out is fair enough.

Does anyone have any advice about how I approach asking for a refund if the issue happens again? Hopefully I’m only being pessimistic and this will be the last time I get stuck somewhere in 1st gear!