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Sounds a Subaru Transmission Makes

How to diagnose some sounds a Subaru transmission makes when it is in need of replacement.

If you plan to own your Subaru for a while, or if you plan to buy a pre-owned (used) Subaru, here are some transmission noises you should be aware of.

Subaru All Wheel Drive is one thing that makes a Subaru a Subaru!

This traction feature is truly a life-saver. If you have driven a Subaru for any length of time during a Fairbanks winter, I would wager that your Subaru Traction Feature has saved you from a mishap. 

Subaru’s All Wheel Drive feature requires special care.

If you plan to keep the car, or to sell it with a clear conscience, you need to pay attention to a few details.

A Subaru Transmission gear

The drivetrain on a Subaru has a feature that helps it even out power to the wheels.

The engine delivers power to different wheels unequally by nature in a car. Subaru, and other all wheel drive cars have engineered a stabilizing feature to compensate for this.

Subaru’s All Wheel Drive involves a coupler that delivers torque when needed.

This coupler also allows torque differential between front and rear, which provides smooth turning and control.

When tires wear unevenly or vehicles are fitted with tires of different diameters, it puts strain on this fluid coupler. 

Subaru Transmission retaining ring

The result is wear that shows up in the tail shaft of the transmission. There is a retaining ring, that over time, becomes worn. It pops out and falls into the meshed gears of the tail shaft. This results in an inoperable transmission. 

The noises a Subaru transmission makes that has a tail shaft problem are not hard to identify.

This transmission sounds like a bicycle with a playing card wedged in the spokes. It makes a bass clicking sound that is directly correlated to the RPM of the engine, rather than wheel speed. 

Transmission noises correlate to the sound of the engine revving.

This means if you hear a clicking or grinding noise that has a tempo, it will pulse in time with the engine’s speed. A good place to test for engine or transmission noise is while driving in a neighborhood that has a high fence or wall close to the road. This flat surface throws the sound back at you in the driver’s seat. 

If the sound you are hearing does not have the same tempo or speed as the engine, it is most likely a wheel problem rather than drivetrain issue. If the tempo of the sound is slower than the engine speed, then you do not have transmission problem, you have a wheel or axle problem.