I just broke down. Here's a description: ('97 Subaru Legacy)
Driving completely normally along a town road, the car suddenly began to sputter and jump as I pressed on the gas. Then the check engine light started FLASHING, which I'd never even seen before. Meanwhile I could hear a very loud clicking coming from somewhere beyond the left air vent, right next to the driver's door. So I immediately pulled over.
I called a slightly more car-knowledgeable friend, and they came and listened to the various sounds/effects of me pressing on the gas, and immediately said "It's trying to change gears and it can't. Something's wrong with the transmission." This seemed obvious to me in retrospect, but I hadn't thought of it myself.
But anyway, we opened the hood and checked the transmission fluid: empty. Before I left home for college a month ago, I had a mechanic give my car a VERY thorough lookover after taking it out of a year of storage. How they failed to notice this is beyond me, and kind of upsets me. But this is beside the point. I bought a quart of the appropriate transmission fluid and poured it in (my manual is missing, so I wasn't sure how much it would need...a quart seemed like a good starting place.)
The problem didn't go away. When I started the car, it started fine. When I shifted to drive, it died. This happened 3 times before it stayed on after shifting to drive. Once I pressed the gas, the sputtering and jumping resumed, along with the clicking, engine light, and general failure to change gears. The car moved forward, but slowly. I turned it off pretty fast.
I'm having it towed and looked at tomorrow, but I'm impatient. Can anyone take a stab at what kind of problem I'm looking at here? I'm hoping to God I don't have to replace the transmission. For all I know I just didn't put enough fluid in yet. Anyone?
UPDATE: The mechanic said he can't even start the car, and that it looks like the car hasn't gotten a tune-up since it was originally purchased. He's going to replace spark plugs, wires, and coils. That'll cost me $200+ before he's even gotten the codes from the engine to figure out what the other problem is. It never stops!