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Subaru Forester Lurching

Hi peoples,

I have an automatic 2000 Subaru Forester with 127K on it.

I bought it in October from a private owner.

So far, the car has been a dream. The owner changed belts and did maintenance on schedule.

We’ve just had a cold snap here in Maryland, and today, while driving to work, I hit some stop and go traffic, and about 10 minutes into the traffic, I noticed the car wasn’t shifting to higher gears. It revved, and then lurched and thumped very loudly and switched to higher gears. It did that the rest of the way to work, and had trouble both shifting up and shifting down.

What could this be?

I’m kind of frightened, because my wife and I dumped our savings into this car, and are hurting with the economy.

Guessing its an automatic given symptoms first step is start really simple, check your automatic transmission fluid level.

Start by checking the transmission fluid level. If you’re not sure how to do this consult the owner’s manual. It’s a different procedure than checking the engine oil.

Agreed with checking the transaxle fluid level as a first step and pray that it’s not low. Continuing to drive the car around with a fluid level that’s low enough to cause shifting problems will damage the transaxle; if not already.

I would also suggest that you check the transaxle final drive oil level, which is separate from the auto trans fluid. A low final drive oil level can cause shifting problems due to a binding ring/pinion gear although this is generally noticeable by the transaxle having a slight “whine” to it.

If the fluid level is fine then drop by a transmission shop and have them scan the car to see if any codes exist.

Fluid did it!
Bloody difficult to top off (funnel and tube was required, along with crawling halfway into my engine).

Thanks for the help!

Yes, adding fluid to an automatic transmission is not easy.

Thanks for the reply. Most people never let us know if our advice was helpful.

Check for leaks. I have to wonder why the transmission fluid level was so low.

I’m thinking because the original owner never added any. It’s an older car, at this point. No visible leaks, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

So which one was low; the automatic transmission fluid or the final drive gear oil?
By fluid I assume you mean auto trans fluid but was just wondering.

Neither one should be low if there are no external leaks but there are a few exceptions for the final drive gear oil.

What a coincidence, my GM is Uncle Festering!

But seriously folks. A subaru with 127k on it??? Unfortunetley you’ve probably been taken to the cleaners by a dishonest seller who had a temporary fix done on the car so that he could dump it on someone. I hope this isn’t the situation. It may be as simple as low transmission fluid or imporper transmission fluid. Have an honest shop look into it.
In general, currently and for the next few months it will be a fantastic time to buy a new or newer car because dealerships need to sell to stay in business.

If the previous owner REALLY did maintenance on schedule, then you would likely not have had a low trans fluid level. My guess is that either there is a small leak, and/or the fluid has never been changed. By now, that fluid should have been changed 4 times, based on the odometer mileage. If it has not been changed that often, then the previous owner did not “do maintenance on schedule”.

I would suggest that, unless you can confirm that the previous owner had the manufacturer’s specified 90k maintenance (which includes a transmission fluid change) performed, then you should have the 90k maintenance done. Be prepared for a bill of $300. or more, depending on where the service is performed.

And, unless you can confirm that the timing belt was replaced already (it is overdue in terms of elapsed time, and is also overdue on the basis of odometer mileage), you need to have the timing belt replaced. Failure to do so will lead to VERY expensive damage to the engine when that belt snaps, and since timing belts give no warning of their imminent demise and since visual inspection is not usually an indicator of their condition, this is a maintenance procedure that cannot be deferred. Have the water pump replaced when the timing belt is replaced, in order to avoid paying duplicate labor costs later if the water pump fails.

For the benefit of your wallet, take out the mfr’s maintenance schedule from the glove compartment (it is in a booklet titled “Subaru Warranty and Maintenance Supplement”…or something to that effect) and compare the maintenance schedule with the maintenance records from the previous owner.
If you do not have maintenance records, then you have to assume that this supposedly conscientious person did not do any of the required maintenance.