really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
24,500 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

1998 Subaru Outback transmission problems

transmission problem

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1998 Subaru Outback Owner Comments

problem #6

Feb 152010


  • 86,000 miles


1998 Subaru legacy Outback wagon automatic transmission 86,000 miles. Purchased used many years ago with about 10,000 miles. My sister's car, she was driving alone. Experienced driver. About two months ago she came around a corner on a 30 mph road near her home. Light snow on the ground (amherst, Massachusetts) she could not control the car, and it slid around. She phoned me and was very upset at losing control. Commented that the car had not felt quite right. I suggested loose lug nuts, badly inflated (almost new) tires, bent rim, defective tire, alignment. All checked out fine. Then I mentioned suspension. She took it to her mechanic who replaced both rear struts. Car still unpredictable. Returned to mechanic who then test drove car and decided that it was a problem similar to that of his parents' similar car: Power was not being proportioned properly to the four wheels. He replaced existing transmission / transaxle / differential lubricant with some more specialized lubricant. (amalie ama 1607881297 dextron lll atf) at this time my sister is trying this out to see if it does the trick. Since this defect affects the safety of the vehicle I thought that you should know. I drove older 4WD Audi, owned military 4WD trucks, and cars with limited slip differentials. I was always aware of the need for specific lubricants. I do not think that the average car owner should be. Was there a secret advisory or recall?

- Lee, MA, USA

problem #5

May 152004

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 61,000 miles
The automatic transmission failed with just 61,000 easy miles. The failure was in the clutch assembly (it would not decelerate when taking pressure off the gas pedal). I took it to the dealer and the manager told me that the drive train was technically out of warranty and that I would be responsible for a new transmission. (before 60,000 I had the dealer check out the whole car and they could find nothing. When the transmission failed I took it in again and the mechanic told me "nothing is wrong"... I am not kidding; they were not competent enough to know that the transmission was not performing properly!!). after that experience there was no way I was going to replace the transmission with another Subaru product. I took it to aamco for a rebuild. The mechanic there told me that the factory settings for the clutch assembly were set at 50 thousandths and should have been set at 15 thousandths or less. In other words, the factory built the transmission to self-destruct. When I approached takao saito, president of Subaru about this problem, he had linda fouch contact me by telephone. She promised to help out with the repair bill because the failure was so close to the warranty. When she discovered that I was not interested in litigaton, she promptly forgot her promise and failed to respond to any further correspondence! if Subaru is to keep its loyal customer base, it needs to aggressively address the problem of quality control and mend the bad experiences of its patronage.

- Berkeley, CA, USA

problem #4

Oct 042003


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Intermittently, automatic transmission will not shift into second gear. It goes into neutral and will continue to rev up to anywhere between 5500 RPM and redline before it shifts. This has been an ongoing problem for the past year. It usually happens at least once each time it is driven. We have taken it to Subaru of santa cruz in the past and they could not identify a problem. When the 'check engine' and 'at oil temp' lights came on, we took it to Subaru of santa cruz. The diagnostic computer indicated that the speed sensor needed to be replaced. Once replaced, the problem did not occur for about 5 days, but then began occurring again.

- Gilroy, CA, USA

problem #3

Apr 132001

Outback 4WD

  • miles


I was parking my car to go to the video store with my son. It appeared to lurch forward, speeding up, and did not come to a stop until it hit four other cars, and finally plowed into a large 4X4 broadside, with enough speed to push it into another car. My airbags deployed, and my disabled child fell out of the passenger side onto the pavement. Paramedics where called and he was determined to have minor injuries. I had previous problems with the key sticking, and sometimes unexplained minor speedups int he transmission, but didn't realize how severe it was. Now I understand this is a possible, serious problem with my vehicle. The car is considered totalled, but hasn't been disposed of as yet. Police took pictures at the scene. Please help me figure this out.

- Waukesha, WI, USA

problem #2

Mar 232001

Outback 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
On 1/15/01 beard Subaru diagnosed and repaired my engine for an oil leak. I paid $654.50 for them to remove the transmission and reseal baffle plate as well as reseal oil pump, questionable cam seals (referring to paperwork from dealer). On 3/23/01 while driving on the highway, check engine light went on and simultaneously car completely died. Beard Subaru diagnosed engine seized due to drop in pressure w/in engine. Upon several contacts w/ Subaru of America, they have offered to pay 50% to rebuild engine, which has been verbally estimated at $2,500. Beard Subaru unable to explain cause of engine seize, but denies it is related to recent repair of engine leak. Subaru of America requires me to accept or deny offer to of "courtesy for my patronage" 50% by wed. 4/4/01. I bought my vehicle brand new at beard Subaru and have maintained it faithfully. I question a defect within my vehicle, or a direct correlation to the recent work conducted by beard Subaru. I requested written documentation. They diagnosed my vehicle on 3/27/01. On 3/30/01 I received a message from beard Subaru they would have to get back to me "next week". they are aware I begin a new job on 4/2/01 requiring me to rent a vehicle until my situation is resolved. Subaru of America has offered to pay 50% car rental fee for 5 days. Is there a way to have a second opinion before I am required to respond to Subaru of America's deadline by 4/4/01? I am weary to accept an agreement that no one has provided a second opinion, they have failed to provide a written estimate of what I will be required to pay "after just paying $654.50 for an engine leak" and I am being told I must respond to the offer by 4/4/01 or I will not be assisted.

- Hyannis, MA, USA

problem #1

Oct 131998

(reported on)

Outback 4WD

  • miles
Transmission/ driveshaft failure.

- Taunton, MA, USA

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