It's a 2005 subaru outback. It was under snow and freezing for about six days. When I tried to drive it, it started up fine but drove kind of noisy and woudln't go above 20-25 for about ten minutes. Then I stopped at a red light. When the light changed, it would barely move at all. I managed to pull over to the side. I saw there was a lot of (oil? grease? trans fluid?) on the ground underneath

The car would rev up, the engine goes on, the heat/AC works, but it wouldn't actually move. When I change from park to drive or reverse, usually I feel a little lurch. But now I don't feel anthing. When I press on the gas, it revs up, but either doesn't move at all, or moves like an inch or two and then stops.

I had it towed to aamco (it was the closest place) and the guy says the trans needs to be rebuilt and it will cost 2400+, but I don't know enough to tell if I'm being screwed over here...

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    I guess what happened was all the transmission fluid leaked out and eventually the killed the transmission. The cost to rebuild sounds about right. You might want to get another quote from a specialized transmission shop if you decide to have it rebuilt. Not sure If I would spend that much money of a 11 year old car. That is up to you to decide.
    – rana
    Jan 10, 2017 at 17:05
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    I forgot one thing. If the leak is from the transmission oil pan, you can try to put a new gasket and fix the leak, then refill the fluid and see how it goes. Note that this will also cost you some money if you do it at a shop. This is not going to work if the transmission is already damaged internally, but should be lot cheaper than rebuilding the transmission.
    – rana
    Jan 10, 2017 at 17:09
  • I will probably get a second or third quote, yeah. Of course, I'm also worried that the guys at aamco will screw with the car if I say I'm taking it somewhere else... About two years ago, I had the entire suspension for this car replaced. So maybe it's worth fixing the transmission too, because due to having a new suspension, maybe it has better internal health (Besides the transmission, of course) than a normal 11 year old car? I'm not sure if that even makes sense. It has about 145k miles
    – iammax
    Jan 10, 2017 at 17:13
  • @rana - Your comments are sound ... please make them an answer! Also, AAMCO in the States is a specialized transmission shop, meaning, they do tranny work all the time. It was their bread & butter for many years before starting to branch out into other maintenance areas. Jan 10, 2017 at 17:15
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    @dlu - You may want to read this about AAMCO. They usually rebuild the tranny themselves, unless, I'd suspect, the transmission housing it shot. Like I said, this is their bread & butter ... they have a fairly good word of mouth reputation backed by a nationwide warranty. I'm sure there are specific shops which aren't very good, but for the most part, I don't think I'd have an issue taking my tranny there. Jan 10, 2017 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


Don't let a shop near it just yet!

That spot on the ground is not enough trans fluid to stop a Subaru - but it may have been losing fluid over a period of time. I would check the level of transmission fluid - you'll probably find it's empty.

Before you fill it up, see if you can find the leak. Subaru's leak transmission fluid from the pan gasket, the transmission wiring harness o-ring, or from the transmission cooler on the drivers side of the radiator. If it's in the middle of the car, it's one of the first two, and if it's under the drivers-side front wheel, it's the rubber hose from the radiator to the transmission hard line.

In any of these cases, the repair is pretty simple; the transmission pan gasket would be the hardest, at about two hours time for a mechanic. The others are 15 minute jobs.

One thing to consider; it's not unknown for Cheap Oil Change Shops (mentioning no names!) to drain the transmission fluid on Subaru's by accident, because they unscrew the wrong bolt (they're pretty close), and then overfill the oil (because none was taken out). There'll be enough left for a short while, but then any minor leak will cause it to lose all drive.

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    Well, the car has been sitting in aamco's garage since yesterday. It's basically immobile. My dad is dealing with the aamco guys; it's his car (and he is a lot better at arguing with these kind of guys than I am, seeing as he's a lawyer whose job is essentially suing scammers). I recommended that he tell them to try to put in new oil and trans fluid and see if it starts running again, to see if the transmission really is shot. Hopefully he can get them to try it
    – iammax
    Jan 10, 2017 at 18:20
  • I should mention that I checked the dipstick when the car stopped moving and it seemed okay, but frankly I haven't ever done that before so maybe I did it wrong. The whole thing seemed to be wet, though
    – iammax
    Jan 10, 2017 at 18:21
  • "The whole thing seemed to be wet, though" - Could be a clue. I think your approach of getting them to change the oil and transmission fluid will give a result.
    – PeteCon
    Jan 10, 2017 at 18:36
  • Here's an update to this... the guys at aamco told my dad over the phone that the problem was something about the radiator not function, and because of that, the transmission was not getting cooled properly, and because it had been driven like that, something in the transmission burned up. So long story short it's going to cost $1100 MORE than the initial estimate. My father seemed a bit unsure of the details talking to me so I'm basically playing telephone...
    – iammax
    Jan 12, 2017 at 20:01
  • The diagnosis makes sense, considering I did drive for about 8 minutes before I realized there was a serious problem, but I still don't 100% trust these guys... but the work is already being done, so I can't do anything about it now. But there goes about 15% of my income this year... It's my father's car, which is why they talked to him.
    – iammax
    Jan 12, 2017 at 20:02

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