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2013 Outback transmission failure

After 10 trips to the dealer to fix shaking and stumbling when accelerating while cold, the dealer finally decided to replace the torque converter. After I got it back 2 weeks ago, the problems are now MUCH WORSE. When accelerating at any engine temp, the car makes a whine that sounds like someone sticking a flexible metal blade in a high-speed fan between 15 and 30 mph, the car makes several loud thunks when the trans shifts that feel like I’ve hit a large pothole, and there is a prominent clatter that sounds like pre-ignition or pistons hitting the valves when starting cold and a various speeds when accelerating up to around 60 mph.

I took the car back to day and was able to demonstrate the problem to the mechanic. They are replacing the transmission now. Only 42k miles and the trans is blown? My opinion of Subaru is taking a serious nose-dive. It’s required a dozen trips to the mechanic to get this far.

Anyone else experience similar problems? Is this car a lemon?


What year is your Subaru? Have you been the only owner? Automatic Transmission or CVT? Have you followed the Maintenance schedule in your manual? As far as qualifying for a Lemon, you’ll have to check your states Lemon Law requirements as they vary from state to state

Yes, but I seriously doubt if any of those statutes cover a vehicle that is–at a minimum–4 years old.

The header says 2013. 42k is too soon for ANY transmission in any passenger car. CVT should not need anything for 90000 miles if the rest of the industry is any indication where hydraulic and CVT boxes are sealed to keep air and incorrect fluids out. Your dealer techs are demonstrating a severe ignorance of the product and an apparent unwillingness to correct. I have had two Subaru cars 1999 and 2001. Cars OK, dealers no.


Find out from your owners manual how to contact Subaru corporate and how to appeal for their assistance.

It is not (yet) a common problem, but at a few 2013 Outback owners have reported transmission failures. Sorry to hear about the problem. As a fellow Subie addict, I have concerns about the product too.

I have seen and experienced failures in new and almost new vehicles. I bought a 1990 Ford Aerostar minivan in 1991 that only had 20,000 miles and had the balance of the factory warranty. After I had the van about 2 months, the transmission wouldn’t shift out of first gear until I had driven a couple of miles when the vehicle was cold. I also noticed when I would start the engine when it was cold, it would run roughly for a minute before smoothing out. The dealer rebuilt the transmission and replaced the head gaskets. After six months, the engine problem reoccurred. The dealer stripped off the cylinder head on one bank and found a hairline crack in the head. The dealer said that enough coolant had leaked into one of the cylinders that the cylinder wall was scored. The entire engine was replaced under warranty. I had no more problems in the 100,000 additional miles I drove that Aerostar. I didn’t lose confidence in Ford products. Any vehicle, from any manufacturer, including Toyota, can have a factory defect. The new Toyota 4Runner I bought in 2003, developed a chirp in the engine. The serpentine belt was replaced and the noise went away for a week and then returned. The belt was replaced again. The repair only lasted a week and not only did the chirp return, but the engine leaked oil. It turned out that the technician who installed the second belt didn’t put it on correctly and the front crankshaft oil seal was damaged. The oil seal was replaced and a third new serpentine belt was installed. A week later, the chirp returned. I returned to the dealer and insisted on a loaner car and said that if the vehicle couldn’t be fixed properly, I would invoke the lemon law and get my money back. The dealer found that the spring in the belt tensioner was weak. The tensioner was replaced and s fourth new serpentine belt installed. The 4Runner has been perfect since that time. I didn’t lose confidence in Toyota products as I have purchased two new Sienna minivans since that time. I did lose confidence in the dealer because I would have thought the belt tensioner would have been checked immediately. My next Toyota products were purchased from a different dealer. I also replaced the Aerostar with a Ford Windstar which was satisfactory from day one. I probably would have bought a third Ford minivan but Ford quit making minivans and I need a minivan. The point is that any manufacturer can turn out a vehicle with a defect.

Since Subarus are not known for transmission failures, I always wonder if someone in the past has inadvertently removed the transmission final drive drain plug while performing an engine oil change…

That is not exactly a rarity…

1 Like

And then filled it with the wrong stuff. 'Nother post on here with exactly that.

Radioflyer, where did you get your last oil change?


If you have the 2.5L engine with the CVT, Subaru is covering those for 100k miles. Usually the problem is with the valve body, a solenoid that controls the torque converter. You should get a check engine light for that.

Make sure the shop is aware of TSB’s 16-102-16 & 16-97-15.

Well, it says in the title it’s a 2013 and I don’t think you’ll find a Subaru w/ a standard trany and a torque converter. Since this problem started when the car had less than 30k miles, it might qualify as a lemon. Anyway, the main reason for this post is to open a topic for discussion and see if anyone else out there has had similar problems.

Karl - I’ve had the oil changed and all service done by Subaru since the car was new. Never had a check engine light come on. I’d be surprised if the Subaru wrench-turner drained the transmission and put the wrong stuff in it but these days, it’s hard to really know what they do in the shop. After they put in the new torque converter 2 weeks ago, I was expecting things would be just fine. Sure was wrong about that one. The fact that a new torque converter made matters worse has me wondering if they really replaced anything.

I have a feeling the tech was not qualified AND was over his head with that transmission. Your is not the first Subaru that had the trans drain plug mistaken for the engine drain. Shops these days ain’t what they used to be.


was another poster here with a 14’ outback and bad trans but their issue was leaky drain plug due to an unknown tech touching it. i do not know specifically how different a cvt trans is vs a non cvt trans but i do know that proper fluid is important. does a cvt trans have clutches/steels or is the guts totally different? i assume proper fluid used is very important? i mean IF the wrong fluid is added will replacing the proper fluid restore performance? or is the damage done?

This is opinion! I have a scooter with a “rubber” belt CVT and have ridden it and another for a combined 25000 miles. CVT is great since it is always in the right gear. This 300 cc scoot will safely keep up with freeway traffic. The CVT in our Chevy Spark also has a two-speed hydraulic in series. The manual is very specific about the type of fluid including warnings. The thing that looks like a dipstick tube is sealed. Takes some kind of release technique or tool to get the cap off. I get the impression from posts elsewhere once you contaminate the fluid you are screwed by the time shift and slip problems show up.


Is your Outback the 2.5L four cylinder with the CVT or the 3.6L six cylinder with the 6-speed automatic?

The CVT has the extended warranty because of a faulty solenoid in the valve body and this solenoid controls the torque converter. It is possible that your dealer’s mechanic replaced the torque converter unnecessarily when he should have replaced the valve body instead. But this only applies to the 4 cylinder with the CVT.

You might check this site, these guys are Subaru fanatics and have a lot of information.

Find a consumer fraud lawyer and let him check to see if it’s a recall. And ask if he can sue for punitive damages as well as reasonable legal fees. Since there’s no other way to control the fraud, it should not be an out of pocket thing. The NHTSA has millions of cases and can’t deal with everyone (It’s a free service)

You are suggesting to hire a lawyer to oversee a warranty repair? At this point it doesn’t matter if this is a recall or warranty repair, it is free to the vehicle owner. The money would be better spent on a better vehicle, money spent on a lawyer would go towards his or her new car.

Well, I’ve been in the same boat looking for a car and just found out 2 things:

  1. the law protects dealerships from being responsible for used car recalls
  2. The good news is Carmax will have any recall that’s sold on their lot fixed for free. Why don’t you call them and verify this.