The 4EAT transmission installed in the Subaru SVX (also in the
Legacy, Nissan Pathfinder, and Mazda MPV) suffers from one fatal
- Radiator-based transmission cooler can't keep the transmission
fluid cool enough
- Transmission is poorly designed and does not allow the lubricant
to flow through it to keep parts lubricated (thus friction causing
- Unusually high overdrive places additional side loads on bearings
- AWD system puts strain on the transmission causing even more
|| Which Transmission Do You Have
All SVXs have the 4EAT but which version do you have? Incremental
improvements were made to the 4EAT transmission throughout the production
of the SVX. The improvements do not coincide with the year of the
SVX but rather were made as they came up with fixes.
First, find the 6-digit ID on your transmission (it is on an adhesive
sticker on the bell housing near the starter area).
- If your transmission ID is less than 389607:
- Ask your dealer if your transmission has been upgraded
to the redesigned transfer clutch driven plate (Part # 31589AA041).
Transmissions 389607 and higher have the improved parts. This
fix addresses complaints about rear axle binding on turns.
- If your SVX was manufactured before 11/92:
- Ask your dealer if your transmission has been upgraded to
the redesigned oil pump gasket (Part # 31339AA121). Transmissions
513102 and higher have the improved gasket. This fix lessens
the chance of gasket failure resulting in half line pressure
at idle and full pressure at stall speed; sometimes even causing
a delay going into reverse.
- If your VIN# is less than NH106286 (only 1992 models):
- Ask your dealer if your transmission has been upgraded with
the transmission oil filter kit.
- 93-97 SVXs came with transmission oil filter kits from the
- If your transmission ID is greater than 426207:
- Your transmission has a modified transmission case to help
prevent the oil pump gasket from leaking (this happened some
time in 1994)
- If your transmission ID is greater than 463969:
- Your transmission has the new high clutch drum, reverse
clutch fiber plates, and reverse clutch steel plates. These
changes help oil flow to the transmission's components for
- If your transmission ID is greater than 633657:
- Your transmission has a newly designed high clutch drum
and thrust bearings . These changes fixed the problem of not
shifting or increased rpms when shifting to 3rd.
Most of these improvements were made between 1992 and 1994 1/2.
The newer your SVX, the more improved your transmission but all
of these transmissions suffer, to some extent, from the same problems.
||Protect Your Transmission and Yourself
- Use synthetic transmission fluid. It reduces the overall friction.
Buy a reputable brand of synthetic fluid.
- If you have a 1993-97 SVX or you have an upgraded 1992 transmission
(see "Which Transmission..." above), install a high-quality
external transmission filter. This will keep those stray particles
from clogging up the too-small, oil-carrying arteries of the transmission.
- Install a transmission oil cooler. It will cool your transmission
fluid by up to 20 degrees (picture
of an ATF cooler installed). There is a debate as to whether
the cooler should be installed in series, parallel, or whether
it should bypass the main system all together. I recommend parallel
or bypassing.This costs around $350 to install.
- Buy an extended warranty through SOA (if you can) or from a
reputable warranty company. It's like health insurance for your
car. Pay a $50 deductible and they pay the rest. A bumper-to-bumper
2-year/24K warranty will run about $1200; a 3-year/36K warranty
is about $1500 and you can pay in installments. If you replace
one transmission, you'll save money. Read the fine print if you
want new parts, the warranty may only cover you for a rebuilt
- Delay when shifting
- Engine revs while shifting
- A "thud" when putting the car in reverse
- Will not go into 4th
- Will not go into any gear
||Repairing Your Transmission
|| Taking it to the Repairman
If you can't limp to the service garage, the Subaru manual states,
"when transmission failure occurs all four wheels MUST be lifted
off the ground in order to tow."
Taking this list of Technical Service Bulletins to your repairman
will help to ensure that your new transmission will be installed
- TSB# 16-58-94
- TSB# 16-61-94 (contains crucial corrections to 16-58-94)
- TSB# 16-62-97
- TSB# 04-20-94
- TSB# 16-56-93
If you're going to the expense of having your transmission replaced,
you may as well have it done right. Have them flush out the radiator
heat sink and replace the cooling lines. And use a synthetic transmission
fluid from the start. You can also contact TransGo
Performance (626/443-7456) and ask about their "Shift Improver"
kit (part # SKRE4R01A). This $50 kit has 4 plastic rings for the
transmission that are designed to handle greater temperatures
than stock Subaru parts.
Cost estimates range from $1,800 to $4,200. The
low end being a rebuilt transmission at a non-Subaru transmission
shop to the high end of a brand new transmission installed at a
Subaru will give you a 2 year/24K warranty with your
new transmission. AAMCO offers a 3 year/50K warranty on AWD cars
for $190-$295 (depending on which one you go to). Some SVX owners
have even claimed that their AAMCO offered them a $495 lifetime
warranty but AAMCO Corporate headquarters said that they don't have
authority to sell lifetime warranties on AWD cars. If you get such
a warranty, you'll need to take your car back to that particular
store if you want to redeem your warranty. The front-wheel-drive
SVXs will probably have lower fees for warranty coverage.
Read the small print to see if the warranty covers the entire
repaired transmission or just the new parts they install.
|| Hidden Warranties
Another tactic you can try was suggested in a Consumer
Reports article: Hidden Warranties Exposed:
"Don't assume all your problems are due to normal wear and
tear. Peeling paint, transmission failures, and other
major problems have all been traced back to factory defects....At
the dealership, first have the service department give you a
written estimate so they can't give you an inflated "regular"
charge and then offer you a bogus discount. After getting the
estimate, ask if there are any warranty-adjustment policies
in effect for your model. If none apply but there is documentation
about a factory defect that appears to cover your problem, present
the information you've collected and ask for a goodwill adjustment.
Your documentation should show that the problem is widespread
and that the manufacturer knows about it. If the service adviser
refuses, work your way up the line from service manager to the
dealership's management. If necessary, call the manufacturer's
customer assistance hotline."
Looking for documentation to take to the dealer? Try the NHTSA
It has a long list of transmission complaints from SVX owners
who have traveled down this path before you. Print a bunch of
these out for ammunition at the dealership. If it doesn't impress
the dealership, maybe it will impress a judge. The Consumer
Reports article goes on to say that a lot of people have taken
manufacturers to small claims court and won.
If your transmission has failed, please contact the NHTSA and
file your story with them. The web address for the complaint form
their phone number is 888/327-4236. If they receive enough complaints,
the NHTSA will conduct an investigation into the transmission
failure problem. If Subaru is found to be at fault, Subaru will
be required to solve the problem to NHTSA's satisfaction. The
probable outcome would be newly redesigned parts for our 4EAT
transmissions installed a no charge!