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Transmission, Timing Belt or mystery problem

My 2003 outback wagon has 85k. A few weeks ago when ascending a large steep hill i noticed that the car would slow before shifting gears and then would lurch once it changed gears. I was told 6 mos ago that the timing belts would soon need replacing. Is this related? Also, when shifting from Park into Reverse or drive the car lurches a bit.

While the timing belt (there is only one) is due for replacement (105k miles or 105 months, whichever comes first), the shifting problems are not related to the timing belt. Your car will run very normally right up to a milisecond after the belt snaps, at which point you will need about $1,500 in engine repairs–over and above the cost of replacing the timing belt.

If you have never changed the transmission fluid (it should have been changed at least twice already), you may be in for some big trans repair bills in the near future. I would suggest that you take the car to an independent trans shop a.s.a.p. for evaluation, service, and possible repair. Avoid chain shops like AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, Mr. Transmission, etc unless you want to be told that you need a new transmission–whether you really do or not.

The longer you delay in having the trans checked, and the longer you delay in replacing the timing belt, the higher the bill is likely to be.

Thanks for the reply! I have taken it in to a reliable repair shop. Their recommendation was to give the transmission a general service (replace filter and fluid) and I would have a 50-50 chance that it would “bounce back” and I could get another 10K out of it otherwise I would need to replace the transmission. Does this seem like sound advice? It seemed a little odd to me.

I was told by another repair person that there are things that can be done as far as servicing that are not so “black and white” that could also buy me time. My car is in otherwise great condition so I would rather not drive it with a failing transmission if it will do any other damage to the car beyond the transmission itself.

I am scheduled to take it to a 3rd shop that specializes in Subaru transmissions that is owned by a friend of mine. I hope that I can get a “straight” answer there. I will take your advice and replace the timing belt with the service that it needs currently - whatever that might end up being.

Make sure that you also replace the water pump, serpentine belt, and all belt tensioners at the same time that you replace the timing belt. That will save you money in the long run.

As to the transmission, doing a fluid and filter change at this point might help, but it is no guarantee of a real fix.

Unfortunately, you can’t turn back the calendar at this point, and if the trans fluid was not changed at least twice already, damage has been done. Perhaps this may buy you some time, however.

I wish you good luck with the repairs, and please let us know how things turn out.

VDC has given you proper advice. I can only add one thing. The lack of regular transmission fluid changes is not likely your fault, but the fault of the car manufacturers. They all seem to leave out transmission fluid changes on their list of recommended maintenance items.

Has anyone even scanned the computer for trouble codes yet?? The harsh engagements could be from the computer commanding high line pressure because it has picked up a problem.

Scan for codes first, if there are any, post them here and we can go from there.