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Old 08-01-2010, 08:05 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Neutral Switch

Here are my observations and experiences with the "Neutral Switch" on Subaru's I service.

On the Automatics, The neutral switch is not only used for closing the contacts to the start solenoid, but also is in the Cruise control circuits. So if driving along with the cruise set, IF the shifter is moved ( accidentally or on purpose ) to the neutral position, the cruise disengages. Many many times, someone can NOT start the car ( starter not turning while in Park ), but it WILL start in Neutral. Switch defective and must be replaced. There IS a procedure on the Automatics and not doing it properly may put the Shifter and Tranny out of sync ..... commonly, you may not be able to place the tranny in Park. It also inputs to the ECU to control Idle when the shifter is in Park or Neutral positions.

XT Manual ..... Here the switch serves 2 purposes .....first control engine idle by inputting to the ECU when you are in Coast mode ( slowing while in gear ) VS Idle mode, ECU now must manage the idle speed by controlling the IACS ( Idle Air Control Solenoid ). And secondly it IS in the cruise control circuit. So a faulty switch can cause a car NOT to maintain cruise engagement. When the cruise is engaged, just touching or moving the shifter the slightest bit while still in gear causes the cruise to disengage.

NA Manual ...... Here it only has 1 purpose ...... to control engine idle by inputting to the ECU when you are in Coast mode ( slowing while in gear ) VS Idle mode, ECU now must manage the idle speed by controlling the IACS ( Idle Air Control Solenoid ). It is NOT in the Cruise control circuit at all !!!! Here they rely on the ICE-SLIP mode of the cruise to disengage it. ( If the engine RPMs raise abnormally fast as if the car is slipping on ice, OR moved out of gear, the cruise will automatically disengage ). A defective OR worse yet INTERMITTENT switch can cause BAD Erratic Idle ( P0506, P0507, P0519, P1507, P301/302/303/304 all together ) or maybe NO code at all. This can happen randomly, when COLD, WARM ..... anytime.

The Neutral switch input is used in BOTH Open and Closed mode.
It can also cause a slight "lurching" when coming off and on the accelerator.
Remember this is ONLY on the manual transmissions.

Now to diagnose a problem. IF you have a code you should still go through the flow chart. If everything checks out AND you have a Manual Transmission, then I would suspect the neutral switch. If you can find a scan tool that will give you live data on the switch you can put the transmission in gear and watch the on/ off signal while you gentle move the shifter in gear. If you do not, you could try unplugging the switch, attach an analog ohm meter and watch the needle for fluctuations while gently moving the shifter in gear. There should be continuity when in gear, NO FLUCTUATIONS WHILE MOVING THE SHIFTER IN GEAR, and open in neutral.

On the N/A Forester, this is the 2 wire BROWN plug just below the air filter housing on the passenger top side of the bell housing. I use 3M wire splices to CLIP my meter leads to the wires just to the rear of the plug. The internal pins are small and are impossible to attach meter leads.

The switch I took apart had a small membrane between the plunger on the top of the switch and the contacts. That membrane was breached and damaged, so the seeping transmission fluid was not always allowing good contact.

Replacement on the Manual was easy ...... no need to drain the fluid. Even though open to the inside of the tranny, it is above the fluid level. It also comes with a new copper seal. On the XT, it is part of the Reverse Lights/ Neutral switch assy, SO if using a factory part, you will replace BOTH switches. There are those who bought a single switch and spliced/soldered just the neutral switch back in place.

These is my knowledge and observations of this OFTEN overlooked part, feel free to
add to this.
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Old 08-01-2010, 10:02 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Good info.........however

Quote:
On the XT, it is part of the Reverse Lights/ Neutral switch assy, SO if using a factory part, you will replace BOTH switches. There are those who bought a single switch and spliced/soldered just the neutral switch back in place.
Not so............
This only applies to the N/A manual and Auto XT

The manual XT has individual connectors built into the harness for the two switches as shown here in joe r's piccy from another neutral switch/sensor thread...................

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Old 08-01-2010, 11:51 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Nice informative post..... hopefully I won't need this information in the future, but if I do it's nice to have here.

dm
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Old 08-01-2010, 07:31 PM   #4 (permalink)
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nice info, and just at the right time as i have the other thread running about mine being faulty and needing replacement.
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:31 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwmoss View Post
Nice informative post..... hopefully I won't need this information in the future, but if I do it's nice to have here.

dm
I'm noticing that on occasion our 07 FXT 4EAT doesn't want to start when in park. Jiggling the shifter in park will allow the vehicle to start.

Is this a symptom of the neutral switch??

dm
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:33 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwmoss View Post
I'm noticing that on occasion our 07 FXT 4EAT doesn't want to start when in park. Jiggling the shifter in park will allow the vehicle to start.

Is this a symptom of the neutral switch??

dm

Sounds like it is. That is one way the automatic switch goes bad.
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Old 03-08-2011, 08:48 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Does anyone have a part number for the switch? 04 FXT MT

I just made a really annoying 1600 mile round trip drive with on and off cruise control.
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Old 03-08-2011, 03:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Following URL .... Illustration number 11:

http://opposedforces.com/parts/fores...llustration_1/
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Old 03-11-2011, 11:27 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Can you tell me where this switch is located on the trany? I have scoured the web, and I cannot find anyone that has answered this question. I am also having a hard time finding replacement instructions and "where to buy" info.

I get the CEL codes for bad 1&2 cylinder, and bad Park Neutral. My car will die on off-ramps, when approaching a traffic stop, and will randomly not restart after operating fine for minutes, days or weeks.
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Old 03-11-2011, 11:41 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SubyRuby View Post
Can you tell me where this switch is located on the trany? I have scoured the web, and I cannot find anyone that has answered this question. I am also having a hard time finding replacement instructions and "where to buy" info.

I get the CEL codes for bad 1&2 cylinder, and bad Park Neutral. My car will die on off-ramps, when approaching a traffic stop, and will randomly not restart after operating fine for minutes, days or weeks.

First, WELCOME to our little corner of the internet. Sit down, look around and feel at home. As you see, we discuss more here than Foresters.

Now, I wish you would update your signature to show what year, model and Auto/5sp you own. Your profile states 97 Forester. That was in Europe/Japan. They first sold the Forester in the US in 1998. In any case, you state you have a manual. There is a picture in the second post. It is the rear drivers side of the transmission from underneath. The neutral switch is the rear switch ( to the right ) in that picture. It can be purchased from the dealer or any of our vendors here on the board. It was easy to replace and not expensive.
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Old 03-11-2011, 11:58 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Sig was updated as soon as I realized that it wasn't included in my 1st post. Ha, thx!
I am in Denver, CO. Non-turbo. 5sp
I was under the impression that the photo you refer to was for a turbo. If they are esentially the same, cool...perfect.
Do I need any special tools? Any specific procedures or tips for replacement?
In your opinion, will this fix my issues? The symptoms are VERY random. Most recently, I find that I am able to overcome the associated delays by popping the clutch on a rolling start.
I also experience a very jerky take off in 1st gear upon cold starts. I have read that all of the mentioned sysptoms are related to this darn little switch. Opinions?
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:08 PM   #12 (permalink)
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That picture IS for a turbo model. The switch is in the SAME place on the transmission. But the wiring harness for the non-turbo is longer and the connector is on the top passenger side of the tranny ( from under the hood ). Remove the air cleaner and snorkel and you will see 2 small connectors on the top of the tranny. The reddish brick colored one is the neutral switch connector.

I describe this and how to replace it in the first post.

Again WELCOME !!!
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Old 09-16-2011, 09:48 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Thank you and thank you again.
I just purchased a 2007 forester and in the first week I noticed the problem with the clutch switch (will not start). Got that fixed by dismantling the switch and adjusting the contacts, plus some contact spray. Still had issues with drivability so after reading this post I looked at the neutral switch on the transmission and it shows poor connection in the closed position. Don't think that can be fixed since it is a sealed unit. I placed an order with the dealer for a new one. Once installed I am confident that I will solve that problem. Until then I will drive sounding like I never used a standard transmission.
I am new to this group and I hope that I will be able to contribute something in the near future.
Cheers!
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Old 09-18-2011, 09:09 PM   #14 (permalink)
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My $0.02:
I was experiencing the on/off cruise control issues associated with the neutral switch going bad. Replacing the switch remedied the problem immeadiatley BUT it started coming back a month later. Rather than replace the switch again I put in new shifter bushings (rear and front poly) and haven't had an issue since. (that was about 10 months ago now) I've also read of just the bushings 'fixing' this issue for some so it's a two birds with one stone mod. Less sloppy shifting and you get your cruise back! :)
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Old 12-02-2011, 05:09 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I'm a newbie to Subaru's. We bought an '04 Forester 2.5X manual. Really do like the car. The CEL light was on when I bought it and assumed that it would be something electrical. After reading this forum I determined that it was the Neutral Switch. I changed it out a couple of days ago and ............. success.......... no CEL.
Thanks for the knowledge I found here..........it is much appreciated.
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