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1999 Legacy Outback won't shift past 2nd when cold

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Hi all,


I have a 1999 Legacy Outback with an automatic transmission (4EAT). When I start driving when the car is completely cold (after sitting overnight) the transmission will not shift passed 2nd gear. After about 5 - 10 minutes of driving (or idling), it will then shift normally.


I have searched regarding this issue and read that these transmissions will not shift passed 2nd in extremely cold situations. I live in southern California so it's really never *that* cold (lowest is like 40s - 50s) and the issue happens even if it's 80 out. I am wondering if it's possible that a transmission fluid temp sensor is bad and could be causing this.


My only other idea is to change the filter and fluid. However, the transmission was replaced fairly recently (a year or so) and the fluid looks clean on the dip stick.


If any of you guys have heard of this issue before and know potential causes, please let me know! It is super annoying and potentially unsafe as I cannot go much faster than 40 when I first start driving.

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If I were you, I'd take it to a trans specialty shop, have the fluid flushed and get their opinion, they usually do a free diagnostic.


On a side note, I noticed that when my battery was low on power and my alternator wasn't working that my transmission didn't like to shift. When it's below 32, the battery loses half of it's cranking ability until it warms back up so that could also have been why the trans wasn't happy, but it seems like a long shot.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I doubt its related to the battery and alternator but its worth a shot, especially since its free to test at any auto parts store. Also have them check for codes even if your CEL isnt on. If that all checks out fine, make damn sure all of your fluids are correct. i know youve probably already done this but just be sure.


Its never a bad idea to do a filter and new fluid. Make sure you use the correct ATF. I believe it's Dexron 3 (dex/merc). This might also be a wiring issue with your neutral saftey switch on your shifter. You might take a peak under there and check the connectors for corrosion or stiff wires. This is everything I can think of without spending big bucks on diagnostics from a shop, but that might be your only option left unless someone here knows of a definitive problem that these trannys have.

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