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2003 Forester
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am a newbie on this forum in desparate need of some help. The background information of my story is quite lengthy so get comfortable.

2003 Subaru Forester 2.5X (Automatic Transmission)
117,000 miles

I was hearing quite a bit of noise in the right rear end of my car from what I thought was a defective tire. I drove the car like this for maybe three thousand miles, checking the tire for signs of major wear. The tire did not show any strange wear pattern or bubbling, but I finally decided to just replace all four tires. After doing so, the noise was still there. I know, I should have known better, but that's a different story all together.

I then assumed that the wheel bearing needed to be replaced and immediately brought the car to my mechanic. I watched him put the car on the lift to "give a listen". He stood underneath my car while another mechanic sat in the driver's seat and applied the gas pedal with the car in gear. I was horrified when I saw that the front wheels were clearly moving in unison while my rear wheels dribbled along at less than half the speed of the front. At one point, my mechanic was actually holding one of the rear tires while the front spun away.

He confirmed that the wheel bearing needed to be replaced, but I also had the larger problem of a malfunctioning AWD system. He asked me if the AT Oil Temp light was flashing. I told him "no". "It was flashing on the lift," he said, "bring the car in next week." I drove home with the car, wheel bearing grinding along NO lights flashing on the dash. Here is what happened next.

My mechanic replaced the wheel bearing. After doing so, the AT Oil Temp light began to flash when he test drove the car. The noise from the rear end was gone, but now something else was wrong. According to the code that was flashing (code 93) the vehicle speed harness needed to be replaced. However, when he tested the resitance of the new harness, it was identical the the harness already on the car. Confused, he hesitated to replace the harness and gave me the car back. I needed it, and he said it was performing as it should.

I took the car from his shop AT Oil Light flashing, but now the car was acting funny. My speedometer would suddenly drop to 0. Third gear would wind out, and the car never shifted into its highest gear. I took the car back to his shop.

After more diagnosis, a new code appeared only when the car was being driven. I believe it was "code 73". My mechanic got on the phone with Subaru North America and the consensus was to replace the vehicle speed wiring harness (rear diff).

The harness was replaced. The car performs well, but the AT Oil Light is flashing. I don't have a clue if the AWD is working properly. Stumped, my mechanic handed me the keys and told me he really didn't know how to advise me.

I am bringing the car to a Subaru mechanic on Tuesday, but I just don't trust dealerships. Afterall, I bought this car only a year and a half ago from a dealership, and I already have a major problem.

Please give me some insight before Subaru simply tells me to toss a new tranny in this car.

Thanks for you time
 

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The 'oil light' isn't its a general warning light.

If he ran the car on the ramp the light could come on as the front and rear wheel speeds would be 'wrong' so that was probably a false alarm, if that is the case 9and code 93 is the one likely to be set) then the TCU will disable the transfer clutch giving no drive to the rear, it was working exaclty as it should when you were 'horrified'!

The AT TCU uses 3 speeds, input (engine speed) output front and output rear (to control the transfer clutch) to operate.

93 is the rear wheel speed, that could have been set by running it on the ramp, as it could have detected the fault then (unexpected difference front and rear)

The sticking in third and speedo dropping to zero is clearly an issue with the front output speed, wiring, sensor or trigger wheel, no way of telling which without some methodical diagnostics, but a physical check of the trigger wheel and sensor (its magnetic and excessive metal swarf will corrupt the signal) should be the first step, then logging and further diagnosis.

73 is the low clutch timing solenoid so I suspect it wasn't 73.

Simon
 

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2001 SOLD!
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Putting a car on the lift and making it run with the wheels in the air will confuse the TCU(Transmission control unit). It will give some codes. I suggest reseting the ECU and TCU by removing the (+) terminal from the battery.


Is the AT Oil Temp light flashing the whole time? Meaning constant at start-up???If so, it's the transfer duty Solenoid. When it fails, it goes into a limp mode and locks front and rear. To test this theory, do figure 8's on pavement. If you feel some binding in your driveline while doing this, your transfer duty solenoid is the culprit. Here is a post I did when I changed the one on my wifes Outback. http://www.subaruforester.org/vbulletin/f89/center-diff-22005/index2.html

Now for the speedo freaking out on you, I would look into the speed sensing unit leads. It's most likely a connection problem. Hope this helps a little.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for your quick response.

Simon:

Could my mechanic have improperly reset the computer? Is it possible that he damaged something by putting it on the lift?

Huck:

The AT Oil Temp light only flashes when the car is moving in drive. At start up there are no lights flashing. Once the car begins to move forward, the light begins to flash. However, it does so inconsistently; I may drive the car for 15 kilometers before it flashes. Other times it begins after 5 meters.

I am going to disconnect the positive terminal and then take the car to a parking lot for figure eights. I will let you know how it goes.

Thank you for your responses.

-Pierre
 

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Disconnect the battery, reset the computers, but give yourself the benefit of the doubt and skip the "figure eights". Take it for a nice drive, see what's going on first, then try to diagnose it. Be easy on her!!!
 

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Safer to remove the Negative battery connection to reset, unless you really know what you are doing - less chance of a huge short circuit flash......
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Took the car out for a test drive after resetting. The AT Oil Temp light started flashsing as soon as the car started rolling forward.

As far as I can tell, the AWD is working as it should. On hard turns, the AWD clearly engaged. All the parking lots were sandy out here because of the recent snow. I got out of the car while my father drove in a hard circle around me. I could clearly see the AWD engage.

However, I have never put my car through some of the paces you guys have. I have only put 30,000 miles on the car. I can't say that I know what the car should feel like, or look like, when taking a hard turn

I'm still scratching my head. Tomorrow, the car goes to the Subaru dealership in the afternoon. Hopefully I will get a phone call early on Tuesday and get an idea of what is wrong. I will certainly post the details.

Thanks for you help guys. I am impressed by the quick responses. You are clearly passionate about your cars.

-Pierre
 

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Hey, could be something simple. I guess I'm not familiar with all the codes and lights, but you've got a 50/50 shot that it's just something simple. Maybe she's just leaked off some tranny fluid... Keep your fingers crossed.
 

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IF you look at the history (as told by you) of WHEN the AT lamp started flashing the cause is obvious to me... something was disturbed by your mechanic when changing out the wheel bearing - as the other say most likely wiring / connectors or the wheel speed sensors.
 

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Simon:

Could my mechanic have improperly reset the computer? Is it possible that he damaged something by putting it on the lift?
Anything is possible, probably not the act of 'putting it' there, but as he clearly has no idea how the system works (claiming perfectly normal operation was in some way 'wrong') then anything is possible!

You need the error code and work from there......but almost certainly a speed sensor issue.

Simon
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I actually suggested to my mechanic that the wheel speed sensor may have been damaged when he pulled the bearing. He assured me that was not the case. I actually considered asking him to check it out, but as I understand, taking the hubs apart is a tremendous amout of work.

The car is in the hands of the local Subaru dealer. I should be getting a phone call tomorrow morning. I am hoping it is something small.

I will report back to you when I get this car back.
 

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... 2003 Subaru Forester 2.5X (Automatic Transmission) 117,000 miles... I just don't trust dealerships. Afterall, I bought this car only a year and a half ago from a dealership, and I already have a major problem...
... I have only put 30,000 miles on the car...
You can't expect a dealer to guarantee that an '03 sold with 117,000 miles would not have a transmission problem 18 months and 30,000 miles later. Used cars are usually sold with a 90-day warranty.
 

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I actually suggested to my mechanic that the wheel speed sensor may have been damaged when he pulled the bearing.
The schematic I have (01-04) suggests wheel speed isn't used by the TCU, just engine and trans output speeds.

Simon
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
You can't expect a dealer to guarantee that an '03 sold with 117,000 miles would not have a transmission problem 18 months and 30,000 miles later. Used cars are usually sold with a 90-day warranty.
True. I don't expect them to do anything about it. But, I didn't buy a piece of crap and I maintain the car very well. 250,000 miles on a Subaru with no major issues is not uncommon, even in the models with head gasket issues. I bought a Subaru to avoid this type of issue.

I sold my 1987 Chevy Caprice and upgraded to this car. The Chevy had 150,000 miles on it and I took very good care of it. If the tranny went on it, I would be pissed, considering the care I put into the car. I don't believe when cars hit the 100,000 mile mark that I should expect major issues to occur.

I hope I didn't offend any dealers out there. The fact is that I have been screwed over by dealerships in the past. I just haven't had good experiences there. My brother sells cars; he actually used to sell Subaru's . I can tell you many stories of how he shoved cars down peoples throats. He once sold a Miata to a woman coming in to buy a mini-van. I kid you not. He didn't lose any sleep.
 

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You can't expect a dealer to guarantee that an '03 sold with 117,000 miles would not have a transmission problem 18 months and 30,000 miles later. Used cars are usually sold with a 90-day warranty.
True... But, I didn't buy a piece of crap and I maintain the car very well. 250,000 miles on a Subaru with no major issues is not uncommon... I bought a Subaru to avoid this type of issue...
Is the whole car a piece of crap, or is this just referring to the transmission problem?

Neither dealer nor you know how the previous owner(s) treated and maintained the transmission for the 117,000 miles before you bought it. The transmission appeared fine to the dealer, and to you for another 18 months and 30,000 miles.

My dealer tells me that I should have the transmission flushed every 30K, and that if nothing is done at all, then transmissions have problems around 120K.

You paid for an old used car with a lot of miles. If you want 250,000 trouble free miles on a car, you have a better chance if you pay for a new car and then maintain it very well.
 

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A damaged wheel sensor will give you the yellow "ABS" light on the dash.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I got the car back. It turns out there were two loose wiring connections that lead from the vehicle speed wiring harness, to the transmission's wiring harness. I don't know all the details yet because I picked the car up after the techs had left. Frustrating. I spent a lot of money on labor to replace a $7.00 part. There is no way of know if I even needed to replace the vehicle speed harness.

Thanks for you help guys. At the very least, I learned quite a bit about this vehicle's AWD system. I know much more about the inner workings than I did before I posted and feel more confident about discussing the issues with my mechanic.

I will let you know when the car hits 250,000 miles.
 
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