Transmission issues in 2001 subaru outback


my outback has 160,000 miles on it, and i started having issues with the automatic transmission. when i put it into gear, it takes a while for the engine to engage and actually move, even when stepping on the gas…it’s like i have it in neutral, but it is in gear. if the engine is cold, it engages quicker and starts to move, but if the engine (or weather) is warm, then sometimes it takes several minutes to move. after a long trip, i’ve had to let it sit for a couple of hours before it would drive. it will always go in reverse, and i do have better luck getting the engine to engage when i start out in a lower gear rather than in drive. my mechanic (who doesn’t do transmission work) thinks the seals need replaced. i was also told by a friend who’s a mechanic that it could be the torque converter. i don’t believe i’m losing much if any fluid…it definitely isn’t leaking on the ground, although it could be leaking somewhere in the engine as i have various “smells” associated with the car (there’s definitely a small coolant leak somewhere).

i’m planning on taking it to a garage that specializes in transmissions, but wanted to see if there’s something else i might be overlooking.

Others have had a similair problem and most of the time the trouble has been cleared by adding a product from K&W called Trans-X to the transmission fluid.

“I don’t believe I’m losing much if any fluid.”

But have you checked? Check the level of the fluid. How can you say you’re not leaking fluid if you haven’t checked?

When was the last time the transmission fluid was replaced?

yes, we’ve checked the fluid a few times, and it has never been low. the fluid was replaced in may 2010, and the filter has been replaced twice. my mechanic did add a product to the transmission fluid that was supposed to help the seals, and it might have helped a little when they first put it in, but after a couple of weeks, it started acting the same.

It is very likely that you are headed for a rebuild b/c - yes, this indicates problems with internal seals. So there is no way to address it without disassembly. You could try additives & such, but they won’t fix anything - perhaps help it limp along a bit longer. Some could make it worse.

A diagnosis at transmission specialty shop is in order. Avoid the chain operations. Find a local, owner-operated place.

that seems to be the consensus…the seals. when it started acting up again, i asked my mechanic if he could put more of the additive in and he refused, saying if it didn’t fix it the first time, it’s not going to fix it now and that it could make it worse. i will be taking it to the local transmission shop that my mechanic recommended. i’m hearing that this is a common problem in '00 and '01 outbacks(?) i had a '00 outback before this one…put 205,000 miles on it before the head gasket blew and a couple of other things needed repaired a couple of years ago, but i never had transmission problems with it. i believe it’s still on the road too. when i didn’t want to put the money into it, i traded it at my garage for the '01 (which had 80k miles at the time). my mechanic ended up keeping the '00, did the repairs that were needed, and drove it for a while. i think another member of his family is still driving it.
anyway, i’m hoping that with the transmission work, this one will last another year or two for my daughters to drive. the body is …er WAS in good shape until last night when a neighbor’s mailbox jumped out in front of my 17 yr old daughter on a snowy road. banged up the passenger mirror and front fender pretty good, but we should be able to fix that ourselves.