'96 Subaru Legacy

I drive an automatic '96 Subaru Legacy sedan and actually have a few issues with this car. The first part of this has more to do with simple repair questions and how to go about fixing those and secondly, I have a problem with how the car is shifting.

My first question is how to replace the light in the shifting box. I hope you’ll pardon my lack of vocabulary. My ignorance to car terms will probably make any knowledgeable person cringe, but I am referring to the lettering next to the transmission shifter. I am fairly certain those letters should light up. How can I replace that bulb?

My parking brake release just broke as well. More specifically, the little button at the end of the handle just popped off with the spring and all. Can that simply be repaired at home or am I going to have to take it to a mechanic?

My gas gauge also malfunctions. It still works, but not accurately. It will suggest that the tank is empty well before the tank actually is. I can guage it pretty well just using the odometer and having a fair sense of my MPG. Any suggestions on how to fix that, if it is even fixable or something that can be done at home?

My last issues are two that I have attempted to explain to a number of mechanics and have never had solved. The first is that the car seems to have problems shifting between 1st & 2nd gear everyday, warm or cold. Sometimes it will even exhibit this problem between other gears as well. What happens is that the car will either not shift when it should be and will hold out at a higher RPM for a while and then shift hard into the next gear. This is very discernable and often results in a noticable lurch. Often times I can let up on the gas and then the car will shift, but still it will shift very hard.

The second problem happens very rarely, but when I start the car, it seems to start in a high gear. It will idle at a high RPM, but not move. The parking brake is not on in these instances. I can press on the gas and the car will very slowly gain momentum, but as soon as it picks up to about 25 mph, it will run just fine, which leads me to suspect that it is simply in a higher gear. When I brake, the car will fight slowing down and shutter, presumably because it can’t down shift or disengage the engine? I am curious if that is even the case and if so, what causes it and how to fix it.

I know this is a lot for one discussion, but I am really hoping to get some answers because no body seems to make sense of it.

Thank you,


I will go from the last to first. You have serious transmission problems, which may be the result of something as simple as low fluid levels to a dirty transmission fluid screen.
There is an easy test. Pull your transmission fluid dipstick. Usually the owner’s manual or even the dipstick will tell you whether you should check the fluid when the car is hot or cool. Make sure the level is full, hot or cold according to the manual, just full and not overfull.
Next smell the fluid. It should smell like nothing, and it should be pink and pretty clear.
If you smell a burnt smell, or the fluid is brown, change the fluid and screen. It will cost you about a hundred dollars, but it might solve your problem.
If not, sorry to say, the burnt out light to your gearshift is the least of your problems. Ditto the gas gauge. You may have a cooked tranny.
You can’t fix either of the first two anyway. Especially not the gas gauge. I mean you can if you are willing to spend much more money than either problem is worth.

But to the transmission problems, if you replace the tranny fluid and screen, and there is no improvement, give up on the car. It is truly not worth the investment of even a used transmission. Spend the money on a reliable used car. I suggest used Corollas. Much better than Subaru.