Reader Question: Subaru CVT?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Leo asks: My wife drives a Subaru Outback 2013 (170K), it drives well, she likes it.  It does burn a little oil about a quart every 1,000 miles.  I asked you previously about that.  The answer was to live with it unless it gets way worse. She complained to me that it was making a noise. As we all know strange noises in a car can be signs of something bad. I took it to a mechanic I trust, he is Hmong and a wizard with all things electrical.  He looked at it and said “Leo, I don’t do that, looks like the transfer case.” I took it to another mechanic who send it to a transmission shop. The trans shop says it’s the CVT transmission –  $6,500 for a new one. The car according to Edmonds is worth about 6-8K, so not worth $6,500.00 for a new trans.  I am thinking about a used transmission, but can’t find one. I also learned that Subaru has problems with their CVT transmissions, so much so that Subaru extended the warranty from 5yr/60K to 10 year 100K. We met the 10yr criteria but not the 100K. Any thoughts about the CVT transmission, Subaru version and should I be able to find a used transmission somewhere. Already bought a new (to us) car for my wife, but I’d like to fix the Outback for less than $6,500.00, otherwise I will have to junk it for salvage value.

My reply: You didn’t mention whether it’s more than just a noise. Is the car still driving normally? Has anyone checked the fluid level in the transmission? This is really important!

Do this first.

Next, assuming the level isn’t low and the sound doesn’t go away and the transmission seems to not be working normally – get a second (or third) opinion. Do NOT tell the next person who looks at the car that you suspect (or have been told) that there is a transmission issue. Wait to hear what they tell you. The noise you are hearing could be something entirely else – such as a worn-out CVT joint/bearing. They key diagnostic here is simply whether the car is driving normally. A noise might indicate a transmission issue – but it might not.

If it does turn out to be the transmission, $6,500 seems a bit much. A lot much. It’s a Subaru – not a Mercedes.

I am going to ask my friend Tim – professional mechanic, runs his own shop – what he would charge to install a new/rebuilt CVT in your Outback and will addendum that info here.

Stay tuned.

. . .

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