2011 Subaru Outback Torque Converter

I’ve got a Subaru Dealer telling me that I need a new torque converter on my 2011 Outback, which has just under 80K miles. Does this sound reasonable? (The original problem we took it in for was that the engine cuts off if we stop abruptly.) They want about $1500 to replace it. A friend of mine thinks a car this new with so few miles shouldn’t need a new torque converter this early, and that I should complain straight to Subaru. Is he right? (Trying to call Subaru leads into an eternal menu system. If I pay for this repair, can I still take it up with Subaru later?) I need the car back soon for a trip. How does one proceed in a situation like this? Any advice?

Get a second opinion and a third if necessary. Dealerships make mistakes quite often and throwing parts at a problem only benefits the seller…namely the dealer. What would you do if the torque converter did not fix the problem?

Agreed with missleman; get another opinion. Torque converters are not a problem with Subarus and I suspect there’s a misdiagnosis involved. Anything is possible but odds are against this one.

Ask these guys if they’re willing to put it in writing about refunding your 1500 bucks if the problem still exists after the converter replacement. I would suspect the tone of the conversation would change.

It is possible that the thrust washer inside the torque converter is worn, if your vehicle has the 4 cylinder/CVT transmission.

Contact Subaru corporate, they might provide assistance with this.

Bulletin number 16-90-13R;

DATE: 01/06/14
REVISED: 05/07/14
2010-12 MY Legacy and Outback Models Equipped with CVT Transmission
Design Change to Lock-Up Type Torque Converter
This bulletin announces the availability of a countermeasure torque converter assembly to address a customer concern of very low engine RPM when coming to a stop. The condition is similar to coming to a stop in a manual transmission equipped vehicle without depressing the clutch pedal. Thrust washer wear inside the torque converter can cause restriction of the oil passage used to bleed off lock-up clutch application pressure. The result is either a delayed (momentary low engine rpm) or no lock-up pressure release. The thrust washer has been changed from a solid bushing-type to a needle bearing type.

What was the end result of this? My 2011 Subaru Outback has been shuddering and almost stalling on occasion. I’ve seen the TSB and other posts out on the web concerning this issue.

As noted in the earlier post, there is a Technical Service Bulletin issued by Subaru which covers this. However this should be a recall and you should not have to pay $1,500 to fix it. Subaru is avoiding its responsibility by not properly dealing with a hazardous situation since this torque converter manufacturer defect causes the vehicle to suddenly and unexpectedly stall when coming to a rapid stop. If your vehicle suddenly stalls at an intersection (which has happened to me numerous times) it can easily result in an accident. Subaru needs to make this an official recall, remedying this hazard. I urge other Subaru owners who have experienced this issue to file a Vehicle Safety Complaint with the NHTSA. You can do so here: https://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/VehicleComplaint/. If enough people voice their concerns, perhaps Subaru will do the right thing and issue a recall.

Thanks for posting that link rocktheworld. I just had the same diagnosis in my 2010 Outback with 89,000 miles. I filed a report on the NHTSA site and I’m going to call Subaru and try to get them to fix it. The estimate I got was close to $1,600, and the dealer did not mention to me that there is a service bulletin out on the issue. When I said I wasn’t going to have the repair done that day, they suggested I call Subaru to see if they’d cover any of it. I guess they were hoping I’d just tell them to do it.

I’ll post an update to let everyone know what happens, I’ve read online elsewhere that Subaru has actually ponied up and paid for this repair for people who complained.

Subaru is giving me $500 toward the repair, so that’s something. It’s still over $1,000 out of my pocket though, which sucks. Hopefully I’ll get another 89,000 miles out of the car and it will be worth it.

Good for you. $500 is definitely better than nothing. I expect Subie isn’t required to pay you anything since it is covered by a TSB, not a recall or customer interest bulletin. Since they are helping you out anyway on this, I say good on Subaru.

Here’s a simple diagnose to see if the converter is the issue. Take the vehicle for a drive and depress the brake pedal just a little first then slam on the brakes. If the engine still dies, it’s not the torque converter clutch. It’s an electronic problem. Let me explain, When you depress the brake pedal, the ECM detects brake application and disengages the TCC (torque converter clutch) so there’s no lock-up in the converter. Since the torque converter is a hydraulic couple, there’s no mechanical hookup except for when the clutch is applies.

I got the car fixed, planning on keeping it for a while. But a mechanic friend of mine had suggested I get an additive for the problem, it’s specifically for shudder control issues. I was thinking he suggested this as a temporary fix – after I told him I had the repair done, he said that he thought the additive might have fixed the problem for good! I didn’t understand that when he first suggested it. In any case, getting $500 toward the fix seemed pretty good, and I figured I should take them up on the offer.

I had figured out how to drive the car without it stalling, by only coming to a stop very gradually, and just rolling through stop signs whenever I could. I do a lot of small town driving without much traffic, so that’s actually manageable. But it’s fixed, and I’ve had no problems since then.

Your mechanic is talking about an additive to smooth out torque converter engagement that occurs at 45 MPH and up. The additive prevents the unwanted chatter during torque converter engagement.

Subaru has acknowledged a mechanical fault with the CVT transmission, it is better to have had the repair done ratter than to try additives.

Hey! I’m having the same issue. Is there any chance you still have any of your complaint and resolution paperwork? I’m contacting subaru corporate and I’m sure it’d help if I have evidence from another case. Anything you could provide me would be great! Thanks

Hi there. My torque converter was just repaired and I picked up my car yesterday. My car also shuddered and I feared it would stall on me at the worst time. I paid $2000 and talked them down from $2100. I did not realize there was an issue with other 2011 Subaru’s. My co-workers were surprised because that happens rarely, and my car has under 80,000 miles. I shall definitely file that complaint. Thank you everyone for propelling me toward my next action.

I own a 2011 Outback and began having the engine shudder in the 40-50K mile range. Extensive research pointed to the common torque converter issue. I finally had it replaced however the issue persisted. Apparently the throttle body was really dirty, and following that cleaning, no engine shudder. Not even a hint of a RPM change at idle. I’m hopeful this is the fix. For those having sudden RPM drops at full stop, I suggest having the throttle body cleaned, as a first step before torque converter.

i also have a 2011 Legacy with 2.5. out of warranty now. i have not had the problem…yet. will all of these cars have the issue and should i try to get Subaru to fix it now before the car gets older with higher mileage? also have a 2016 Outback 3.6 and really love that guy!

no, only a small percentage fail. If it were higher, there would be a recall.

Just keep driving and keep up with the specified maintenance.

Important update! Subaru has extended the warrantee in part because of complaints about this issue: