CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

New noise after pushed by CHP

2005 Subaru Outback Wagon just had 60,000 mi service, O-ring replaced. running fine
ran out of gas on HWY. CHP arrived 2 min before AAA and insisted on pushing me to next exit, at least 5 mi.
Per copper’s instructions, automatic transmission in neutral, brakes off. Now there is a steady new high-pitch to the background engine noise that doesn’t change with speed.
What happened and do I need to take it to the shop?

My best guess is that this genius from the CHP destroyed your transmission.
When the engine is not running, the pump in the transmission is not turning.
By pushing the car, the driveshaft to the rear wheels was causing the transmission to engage, albeit without proper lubrication.

Also–it is very likely that the AWD mechanism has been damaged.
This misguided copper may have caused several thousand $$ worth of damage to your car.

Yes, you need to take it to a shop that is VERY familiar with Subarus.
I suggest that you stop driving it, other than to drive it directly to a qualified Subaru mechanic.
Hopefully he can document the damage properly so that you can file a claim against the state of California.

Good luck!

Check your owners manual to see if your car is flat towable. If it’s not the CHP likely damaged your transmission.

On the surface, I agree there could be transmission damage and the fact the CHP would shove you 5 miles is baffling to me. Not only is there the risk of mechanical damage but what if someone pulled out in front of you, etc. and you were then shoved into another vehicle.

I find it stunning that doing something like this would be part of the CHP policy. You really should pursue a straight answer from the CHP on what their policy is.

That being said, let me propose a theory. The car was run out of gas and is 6 years old.
Does this noise sound like it’s coming from the rear of the car? I’m just wondering if an aged fuel pump became whinier due to running of gasoline. This could explain the steady pitch sound that doesn’t change with engine speed.

Subarus are not towable by conventional means - they should be conveyed on a flat bed truck. If you read your owner’s manual, you will see that this is true. I am sorry, but you may have serious damage.

Thanks to all of you who commented so far. I tried to talk the cop out of it but he was quite the young punk. And, someone did pull in front of me! It was awful and this kid spoke to me like I was a child. crossing my fingers and calling the dealership…

I cannot believe that CHP policy would be to allow a trooper to do this and if any damage turns out to be caused by that push and in viiolation of policy as written then I’d sure make a claim against the CHP.

My view of the CHP is a bit biased. The first time I visited CA I got stopped on a Sunday morning (in August no less) about halfway between Needles and Barstow. The trooper tailed me for 10 miles (not speeding) before deciding to pull me over.
When I asked what I had done wrong he said I was operating a motor vehicle without a front license plate. That can’t be helped; OK does not issue a front plate.

We had a half hour argument in the middle of one of most godforsaken places on Earth, the Mojave, and in 100 degree+ heat. He kept insisting I wasn’t going anywhere without a plate and I kept telling him that I couldn’t buy a front plate in OK even if I wanted to.
He was actually going to call a tow truck and have my car impounded but the dispatcher said it was going to be 4 or 5 hours at a minimum.
I was half yelling at him to ask the dispatcher to call back to OK and verify what I was saying. They finally did and then let me go with a “warning, and the next time I see that car it better have a front plate”.

There is a high probability that you have transmission damage. Automatic transmissions are not tolerant to being run with no oil circulation, and five miles with no oil circulation is pretty far. If it’s the fuel pump, which is another possibility, you will hear the noise before the engine starts. You can turn the key to run without cranking the engine and will hear the fuel pump run briefly. This sound can be very noticeable on some vehicles, particularly Chevy trucks of the mid to late '90s. They would get louder and louder until they failed.

On another note, didn’t this mark up your bumper cover?