2005 Subaru Outback Transmission Issue

My 2005 Subaru Outback 2.5i has what I think is a transmission issue. After slowing down to take a corner or speed bump, when you hit the gas to speed back up, the engine revs for about 1 second before kicking into gear with a bit of a jolt. I first noticed the problem about two years ago and when I took the car in for its 30K service, I mentioned it. After performing the service, the dealer said their technicians were unable to repeat the problem. They thought the service took care of it but said that if it returned to get the transmission flushed for $200. For a few weeks, things seemed okay, but the problem returned and continued to get worse. I didn?t want to pay the $200 for the flush and didn?t feel that was going to solve the problem, so I sat on it. Today I took the car in to get an emissions inspection at Meineke, and it passed. They also took the car for a spin to see if they could feel the problem I was describing. The gentleman said he was able to reproduce it once, but since it seemed like a transmission problem, I would need to take it somewhere else. My powertrain warranty is up in less than two weeks, so I am accepting that I will need to go back to the dealer if I want to get the problem documented. They are simply going to tell me to get the transmission flushed. The car now has a little over 36K miles. My questions are these:

1. Is it normal for a car with less than 30K miles (when the problem initially arose) to need a transmission flush?

2. Should a flush be covered under my powertrain warranty if it?s an unusual problem on an otherwise healthy car (which I have serviced religiously and filled with only synthetic oil)?

3. Any recommendations for how to approach the dealer so that if the problem returns shortly after the flush but after my warranty expires, it will still be covered?

4. Any ideas about what?s wrong with the car?


Hopefully transman may come along and provide a few more insights.

I think the best approach here is to take the service advisor and, if possible, service tech, for a drive to illustrate the problem. Even if you can’t illustrate the problem, request that the visit/transmission complaint be written up and you need to retain a copy of the visit, for future reference. Purpose here is to document a concern that would allow a reasonable person to believe that a problem existed but was either overlooked or not duplicated at time of inspection under warranty.

I truly don’t think a full ATF fluid exchange will solve the problem, since there is only 36K on the car. Before you appointment, check the color of the current ATF. Cherry red is good; anything working towards brown indicates some level of issues.

If the fluid level is OK I don’t think a fluid change will make a difference one way or another. Have the Subaru dealer document the pre-existing problem for warranty purposes. I think you have a problem in the torque converter part of the transmission or the electronic controllers for the torque converter.

If the dealer can verify the trouble and they feel a flush will take care of the problem and you have a warranty still then it seems that the service should be covered. I also think they may be correct about the flush fixing this. It seems something like a valve may be sticking an flushing the system may correct it. It is the simplest first step at least. If that gets done and it doesn’t help you might try a product for transmissions called Slip-Stop & Leak Fix made by Trans-X. It has help folks with transmission problems.

What is the recommended service interval for the transmission in your car? The maintenance schedule that came with the car will tell you how often to replace the transmission fluid. This should be done as per the schedule (not what the dealer says) to keep the warranty in effect, and 30K might be the recommended interval.

Time to dig out the owner’s manual and look it up.

I also recommend you stay away from chain shops like the one that performed your emissions inspection. If you don’t want to go to the Subaru dealer find an independent mechanic who knows something about Subarus. Chain shops can be big trouble.

I did look in the manual, and it says that at 30K an “inspection” of the transmission fluid should be performed. I forgot to state in my original post, too, that when I told them the problem at that service, they charged me for four units of ATF, so I think they drained and replaced it. It’s only been 8K since that service, so the fluid should still be relatively new. I will check the fluid ASAP and make an appointment to take a ride with the service tech and/or advisor. I will make sure that the problem is well documented then follow the course of action the dealer recommends since it should be under warranty. I just really don’t want to pay $200 for the flush if it’s not necessary.

Oh, and I only went to the chain because it was my nearest emissions inspection location. Since they already had my car, I asked them to check it out, but I will heed your warning in the future : ) Thanks, everyone, for your help.

I doubt a flush is ever necessary. Subaru may recommend “replacement” of the transmission fluid at some point, but replacement and flush are two different things. Replacement involves draining the old fluid and refilling with clean fluid. A flush requires that the transmission be hooked up to a machine that circulates fluid through the transmission. Many consider a flush to be a profit generator.

I’d ask about the four units of transmission fluid at the 30K service. That may have been enough to satisfy the requirements for a fluid replacement.

The schedule for your car is here->>> http://www.subaru.com/content/downloads/pdf/maintsched/2005SchedCA.pdf

In reality the recommendation is only inspect the fluid not change nor flush.

Take it to the dealer ASAP and get this addressed/documented.

Your warranty for powertrain is 5yrs/60,000 miles. Not sure when purchased though.

They will argue fluid is bad and you can argue it is not due according to schedule. Not sure if fight is worth it though given fluid age. Flush is silly, it is simply a drain and replace.