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

Sudden braking, then car won't go

On the expressway, I was driving my 2013 Subaru Impreza about 50 mph and had occasion to make a sudden stop. There were no crashes, and traffic started up again immediately - except for me! There I was, in the left lane, and when I depressed the gas pedal the car stayed put. I could hear the engine rev, but the wheels didn’t turn. I had to turn the car off and start it again before I could move forward. This is in St. Paul, MN in February. Any thoughts on what could be going on?

Automatic or manual transmission?

On a car that is this new, I assume that it is still under warranty.
If that is the case, then the only answer that you need is…take it to the dealership.

If you have some other party repair a car that is under warranty, you may well wind up voiding the warranty, so a dealership is the only place for repairs on a car that is still under warranty–IMHO.

And, the dealership needs to go through a standardized diagnostic protocol and will almost surely ignore any diagnosis that we might provide to you. If you do give them a diagnosis and recommended repair–i.e.–“I want you to replace the XYZ relay”–and that proves to not fix the problem, then you will be on the hook for the cost of that incorrect repair.

I know that an incident like this is disturbing, but you need to rely on the dealership and/or the vehicle mfr for a fix. If the dealership does not seem able or eager to help you, then you need to contact Subaru corporate. Contact info can be found in your Owner’s Manual.

Automatic trans. Thank you VDCdriver. I have an appointment with the dealership next week. I have tried to find any information on this type of problem, and haven’t seen anything. I’m hoping they don’t tell me they can’t replicate it so my complaint is not valid. I will keep the ‘contact corporate’ advice in my back pocket for backup.

+1 to VDC’s comment.
I’m glad you’re going through the dealer. Sincere best.

Do not get upset with the dealer if they tell you they cannot replicate the problem and nothing shows up in diagnostics. With intermittents especially in the modern world of cars there are a lot of issues that can crop up which have no black and white answer. There’s a lot of gray areas.

Their hands are also tied* in warranty issues by what they can do and how far they can go in trying to find a cause for this problem.

*Corporate Subaru is the one providing the rope for the hand tying… :neutral:

Thanks, all! I appreciate the comments, time & support. More to come…

I suspect some sort of “safety” device temporarily disabled the car. There are sensors to detect everything now; the angle of the car, deceleration, side forces, etc. I think the sensors said told the computer the car was in an accident, or in danger of a collision. It seems when you turned off the car and restarted it - the computer was reset as all the sensors reported in all was OK during the reboot process.

I had a car go into “limp” mode one time and turning the car off and restarting it got everything back to normal. This was years and many miles ago and there was never another episode - it was a one time thing. This might never happen to you again - but it is worth checking out to see if there is a plausible explanation.

I had a similar problem with a 1990 Ford Aerostar. The problem was finally diagnosed as a sticking valve on the antilock brake system. If I made a stop hard enough to kick in the antilock brakes, the brakes would stay on. When you get to the dealer, have a technician ride around the lot with you and slam on the brakes and see if it happens.
On the Ford Aerostar I owned, the antilock brakes were only on the rear wheels, so that if I gave it enough power, I could get off the road. I am sure your car has antilock brakes on all 4 wheels, so it wouldn’t move. If you had a manual transmission, the engine would stall as soon as you let out the clutch. The torque converter in the automatic probably slips enough to allow the engine to rev up.

It’s your CVT transmission.
Anytime you come to a rapid stop, especially from a high rate of speed, you’re transmission doesn’t have an opportunity to “compress” to a lower “gear” and it takes a while for the car to start moving.

Interesting. I’ve never heard of that CVT problem before.