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2013 Forester - Takes a few minutes before Drive will engage

Hello! This is my first post here, and thank you in advance for any info/advice. I have a 2013 Forester with 39k miles, and last week I was 200 miles from home, put it in Drive and it didn’t engage. After car was left running for a few minutes, and shifting between P, R, N, & D, it finally engaged. I was able to get it home and took to dealer the next day. They looked at the car, checked the computer logs, and told me nothing was wrong. Since then, it’s happened 3 more times, and now I’m noticing it’s not shifting smoothly from 1st to 2nd gear (engine will rev and then it’ll slip into gear).

To make matters worse, my wife couldn’t get it out of Park two days ago. She had to use the shift lock release button, and could only start it when it was in Neutral. She then couldn’t get it to back into Park and had to park it on a level surface with parking brake engaged. Heading back to dealer now, but would love to hear others’ input.

Whenever a dealership is unwilling or unable to resolve a problem, it is time to “kick things up a notch” by getting the manufacturer involved.
In your Owner’s Manual, you will find the contact info (both a toll-free phone number and a mailing address) for Subaru’s customer service department in Cherry Hill, NJ.
I would begin with a phone call, and perhaps follow that up with a letter, expressing your concerns regarding this warranty issue that the dealership seems to be unable to diagnose properly .

If I were you, I would request an appointment with Subaru’s regional service representative, for inspection of your vehicle the next time that he/she visits the dealership.
These folks can usually convince dealerships to do the right thing, and additionally they almost always have more technical knowledge than the mechanics at the dealership.

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If I’m understanding the situation correctly, the car’s problem(s) was/were quite intermittent when you went to the dealer the first time.

In defense of the dealer and technician, intermittent problems are very difficult to diagnose and nearly impossible to remedy. That was good that they scanned for a trouble code history.The car needed to be “acting up” when it was there or the technician would be trying to fix something that’s not broken.

Now it seems you’ve developed another symptom, “…and now I’m noticing it’s not shifting smoothly from 1st to 2nd gear (engine will rev and then it’ll slip into gear).”

If this latest symptom is present when you return to the dealer (I see no indication whether it is intermittent or not) then they should have a much better opportunity to diagnose and remedy the condition.

If it doesn’t present the problem(s) at the dealership then you may have to arrange for them to keep the car and drive it a few days until they can catch it in the act.

I know of your frustration, but try and be as patient and helpful as possible while you reach for a solution.

I can think of two things here. The transmission (ATF) fluid might be low and this model should have a dipstick so that it can be checked. See your owners manual for instructions.

The other thing is someone spilled a drink on the console and it got down into the switch contacts for the transmission.

I think that this second possibility is more likely to be related to the problem.
IMO, an electronic glitch it likely to be the source of all of these transmission problems.
Unfortunately, those types of gremlins can be difficult to diagnose if they are intermittent.

Concur, sounds like some combo of a trans fluid level, linkage switch, or brake pedal interlock switch problems. This is a problem any good transmission shop can likely diagnose w/out much problem. Note I’m not saying the solution will necessarily be a cheap fix though. For quickest resolution, suggest to leave the vehicle with the shop for several days so they can test-drive it and get the problem to repeat for them.

If the symptom doesn’t occur at the shop, about the best they can do is check the fluid level and hook up their scanner to see if there are any transmission codes being posted. I’m assuming they’ve already done that.

My first thought was has anyone bothered to check the fluid level and color of the fluid?

Another question might be whether this car has had the trans serviced at some point in the past?

Since this 3 year old vehicle–with only 39k miles on the odometer–is still covered by the manufacturer’s Powertrain Warranty, why would somebody pay a transmission shop to perform this repair?
Additionally, having repairs done by anyone other than a dealership will likely lead to cessation of the Powertrain Warranty, which is why I strongly recommend getting the manufacturer involved.

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I expect the OP already understands that point. But no harm to remind folks to always read and follow the terms of their warranties.