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Old 04-29-2003, 10:56 PM   #1
Impreza01
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Post Why does 1st gear grind? Read here

PROBLEM:
I'm kind of tired of people complaining why they get 1st gear grind or difficulties with their 5MT Subaru. This post isn't an excuse for Subaru though, just an informational post. So I'm posting this info under one thread title in hopes most owners would read it. Please read through the whole article to understand what is happening and why the solutions work.

MECHANICS:
First off, there IS NO lock-out feature for the Subaru 5MT tranny (maybe for other car manufacturers' trannies). The reason you hear a grind is because the synchros in 1st gear did not catch up. Drive 25 mph, and then put the stick against 1st gear gate but don't force it in. You will hear something wind up; that's the synchro winding up! (for info on seeing why this happens, go here: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/transmission.htm).

The tranny design came from the 70's (yeah, seriously, Subaru should have made a new design already), and thus has some quirks that newer trannies don't have. It was first a 4-speed that later gained an extra compartment with a 5th speed in it and a center differential. If you want to downshift into 1st then double clutch it. If your tranny grinds when you put it into 1st at standstill then there's something wrong with the tranny.

There are several reasons for the slow synchro speed up. One is because there's a physically large gap between 1st and second gears. Someone said that it's big enough that perhaps there could have been a 6th gear. This gap causes a delay in the spin up of the synchro until the dog gear is moved closer to the 1st gear (ie when the stick is pressed against the entry for 1st gear gate). The fact that first gear has only a single-cone synchro and there is a large ratio difference between first and second gear doesn't help.

Another thing to add is that the first synchro is also a baulk ring, which is an outdated design.

Yet another reason, and probably the most heavily factor issue, is because the ratios between the 1st and 2nd gear are huge. Type RA gearset and tranny users reported that they have no problems downshifting into 1st gear. This is largely because the RA 1st gear is longer and the RA 2nd gear is shorter make the ratio difference much smaller and allowing the synchro to have to spin up less to make up for the difference in gear speeds. However, in the stock US-spec WRX gearset, the ratio difference is much larger. This, compounded with the aforementioned baulk ring issue, is the reason why you hear the synchro spin up.

SOLUTIONS:
Double-clutch/Rev-matching: To get into 1st while moving with no trouble you have to double clutch: Clutch in, neutral, clutch out, rev-match, clutch in, 1st gear, clutch out. In a simple view, there are three parts of the tranny that spin. There is the input shaft, the lay shaft and output shaft. Your input shaft speed is always directly correlated to engine speed (when clutch is out). The output shaft speed is correlated to the wheel speed. When you are in neutral with clutch out and you rev the engine, you spin the layshaft to match the input shaft speed. The reason is the layshaft and input shafts are never disconnected. With the rate of spin being the same, the dog gears (the gear that is the "selector) can slip into the desired gear with ease since the input and layshafts are spinning at equal speeds. This prevents synchro wear and bypass the need for synchros (synchros synchronize the speed between the selector gear and the and desired gear).

If one wants a tranny that doesn't have this quirk, there are several options.

Any 6MT: Put in a 6MT tranny. It's new design (circa 2001) has been said to have more synchros per gear so easier and grindless engagement and it's able to handle more power. If you look at the tranny, it has more rivets in the case to prevent case flexing, a shorter but stouter shaft for a sturdier build and many other things.

2006MY WRX 5MT (USA) or 2005MY WRX 5MT (Canada): Subaru of Canada (SOC) has updated the 5MT in the 2005MY WRXs (Canada) with a new double-cone synchro on first gear. Subaru of America (SOA) has followed SOC's suit and added a double-cone synchro on first gear for the 2006MY WRXs (USA). Drivers have reported a big improvement shifting into 1st gear at any speed.

Legacy 5MT: Shirokuma informed me there's actually an updated tranny in his Legacy B4 (J-spec Legacy) that doesn't have the second to 1st shift problem. He has also confirmed there are more updated 5MTs for the new Legacy. It seems that since the Legacy is the number 1 selling sedan in Japan and is the flagship Subaru, Subaru of Japan (SOJ) constantly updates the mechanics of the car. In this sense, if you really want to stick with a 5MT and can find the latest J-spec Legacy tranny that can hook up to the WRX, go for it.

Gearing: One can put in different gears that have a smaller difference in ratio between the 1st and 2nd gear. One option is the gears from the Impreza WRX STi Type R or Type RA of the GC-chassis generation.

Conclusion:
I hate to say it, but this is one are Subaru should have updated a long time ago. However, since Subaru didn't, one has to either live with it or replace it. One can go with a 6MT or updated 5MT. Alternatively, one can buy a new car such as an STi ( good excuse for the wife, eh?) or a new (2005 or 2006 depending the country) WRX.

Hopefully the following will not happen as much due to this article:
1) So fellow Subaru members don't destroy their trannies
2) So Subaru doesn't get a bad rep for poor quality trannies (when it is just do to an old design)
3) So warranty claims aren't more likely to be rejected for "abuse"

If I have any wrong info here, please post and I'll research into your claim and see why there's a disagreement.

EDIT 1: Added Shirokuma's notes about the J-spec Legacy.
EDIT 2: Added info about SOC's 5MT update.
EDIT 3: Added info about SOA's 5MT update. Took out inflamatory words (was annoyed at the 50 threads a day about this issue). Modified format. Revised draft to make things more clear and less ambiguous.
EDIT 4: Thanks Dave_Clark for thr correction: origins of the transmission. Put in solution of gears.
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Last edited by Impreza01; 04-22-2006 at 04:25 AM.
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Old 04-30-2003, 03:01 AM   #2
joltdudeuc
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I agree completely,


live with it... It's not so bad really, even for how much i grind it, i don't get huge amounts of shavings when i change out fluid...

I double clutch when driving slow in traffic, and it goes right in...

-Gagan
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Old 04-30-2003, 09:39 AM   #3
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I don't usually have a problem with downshifting into 1st from 2nd. What my main concern is sometimes sitting at a light for a while, when the light turns green, press the clutch - then I can't get into first. I have learned now to shift into 2nd and then into 1st if that happens. That works about 90% of the time, but sometimes it still won't work. I have now began to watch the traffic lights and engage the clutch earlier so the syncros will catch up and then 1st will be able to engage. But sometimes it still doesn't work. Any insight? Is this just another side effect of this particular tranny or should I be worried that my ist gear will be out of commission soon. I'm at 24,000 and have entertained the idea of taking it into the dealer. But they probably will just say because I have a modded car, that they assume I drive the mess out of it...which I don't.
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Old 04-30-2003, 10:44 AM   #4
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Good information. This should be a sticky.
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Old 04-30-2003, 11:34 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by joltdudeuc
I agree completely, live with it... It's not so bad really, even for how much i grind it, i don't get huge amounts of shavings when i change out fluid...

I double clutch when driving slow in traffic, and it goes right in...
-Gagan
I agree that its liveable. I think its pretty disappointing. For Auto-x not being able to safely shift to first (even double clutching and rev matching) is sometimes very limiting. For daily driving I don't like it but I can adjust. The disappointing part is that Subaru is the only make I've ever had the problem with.

I also agree that it's been discussed enough and now its time to accept that its normal and move on. At least until some newbie comes on with the same complaint and stirs up pent up frustration with what we are forced to accept.
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Old 04-30-2003, 07:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
Hank3
I don't usually have a problem with downshifting into 1st from 2nd. What my main concern is sometimes sitting at a light for a while, when the light turns green, press the clutch - then I can't get into first. I have learned now to shift into 2nd and then into 1st if that happens. That works about 90% of the time, but sometimes it still won't work. I have now began to watch the traffic lights and engage the clutch earlier so the syncros will catch up and then 1st will be able to engage. But sometimes it still doesn't work. Any insight? Is this just another side effect of this particular tranny or should I be worried that my ist gear will be out of commission soon. I'm at 24,000 and have entertained the idea of taking it into the dealer. But they probably will just say because I have a modded car, that they assume I drive the mess out of it...which I don't.
Same happens to me when my trannies cold (ie I just started up the car for the first time of the day or after the car's been sitting for a couple of hours). I attribute it to the fact that the tranny is cold and thus the metal pieces haven't really expanded and etc. This is probably stupid of me and I should probably research it, but I don't feel like it as it goes away in 30 seconds.

However, if this happens when the car's warmed up and did go 2nd into 1st gear at earlier stops and suddenly wouldn't go at the current stop, I think maybe you should get it checked.

Quote:
Tshulthise
I agree that its liveable. For Auto-x not being able to safely shift to first (even double clutching and rev matching) is sometimes very limiting. For daily driving I don't like it but I can adjust. The disappointing part is that Subaru is the only make I've ever had the problem with.
If you do the double clutch technique (double clutch includes rev matching, it's not just clutch in and out twice) correct, then 1st gear should be able to be selected 100% of the time.

If only Subaru put in their more updated 5MT ( not a full redesign, but some updates here and there). Paul (shirokuma) said that the Legacy B4 gets the updates more often because it is the number one selling Subaru (like very noticeable gap between sales numbers). The 5MT his current Legacy has solved that problem of the 2nd to 1st shift. Unfortunately, us WRX owners didn't get that luxury. [SARCASM] Yay to 80s designed tranny (abeit I find this design rather good if it lasted this long with no major recalls). [/SARCASM]

Last edited by Impreza01; 04-30-2003 at 07:47 PM.
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Old 04-30-2003, 08:58 PM   #7
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for me, the problem of not being able to get into 1st from a dead stop happens regardless of cold/warm engine. happened to me today at a light in the afternoon...i'd been driving pretty much all day. i am hoping the neo gear oil i'm about to put in will help or solve it.
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Old 04-30-2003, 09:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
meZoom!
for me, the problem of not being able to get into 1st from a dead stop happens regardless of cold/warm engine. happened to me today at a light in the afternoon...i'd been driving pretty much all day. i am hoping the neo gear oil i'm about to put in will help or solve it.
Like I posted earlier, I don't really know too much about the standstill problem. Sorry...
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Old 05-01-2003, 12:07 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Impreza01


Like I posted earlier, I don't really know too much about the standstill problem. Sorry...
Well get on it and find out for us!!! J/K Thanks for the info you have provided for us already and for taking time to put it in Lamen's (sp?) terms

I did start experiencing this problem after a few months of chagning my Tranny fluid to Redline...maybe I need to change back. What kind of fluid came with the WRX?
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Old 05-01-2003, 12:08 AM   #10
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yep, i rev match when shifting to first, and sometimes, i get the grind at a standstill getting it into first..........

my buddy has a 100k miles on a RS, his grinds a few gears.....basically a custom sychroless tranny.......so just rev match most of the time........it sounds like a dog box half the time...........but it still runs!............

back to my car..........i also get a 5th gear grind(anyone else) ONLY SOMETIMES.......SO WEIRD so i then go and rev match during that drive to help out.......next drive it goes away sometimes.......so weird.........could a different tranny oil help? im on whatever subaru drops in..........

-mikey
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Old 05-01-2003, 12:30 AM   #11
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Quote:
Hank3
Well get on it and find out for us!!!

I did start experiencing this problem after a few months of chagning my Tranny fluid to Redline...maybe I need to change back. What kind of fluid came with the WRX?
Fine, pay me for my services that I've already provided.

Everyone's been getting mixed reactions with Redline. SPD USA doesn't recommend it. http://www.spdusa.com/shifting.htm
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Old 05-01-2003, 09:28 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Impreza01
...If you do the double clutch technique (double clutch includes rev matching, it's not just clutch in and out twice) correct, then 1st gear should be able to be selected 100% of the time....
With my car you have to rev match almost perfectly for it to work. Another way to look at it is I have to rev match to within 5mph effective relative shaft speeds or I get a grind. That's not easy to do. I just avoid shifting down while moving unless I have to during a race which is very rare.
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Old 05-01-2003, 09:49 AM   #13
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Impreza01, I too am getting a little tired from the constant "my gearbox is grinding" posts. Thanks for the info and let's just keep bumping this thread up the next time an uniformed newbie posts a rant. Also I suspect most of the gearbox failures are from very hard 1st gear accelerations causing that gear to fail and then metal pieces damaging the rest of the gearbox. I do not recommend that one do full throttle/ full boost accels in first gear. The contact ration is such that it will strip. Accelerate in first gear under partial throttle and then do full acceleration in 2nd and up. I have been following this method and my gearbox is fine with 31K on it.
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Old 05-01-2003, 10:04 AM   #14
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yeh, 99% of the time, new drivers do not rev high enough
to be able to slide the shifter into 1st gate any speed over
10mph.
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Old 05-01-2003, 11:55 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by DucatiBoy
Impreza01, I too am getting a little tired from the constant "my gearbox is grinding" posts. Thanks for the info and let's just keep bumping this thread up the next time an uniformed newbie posts a rant. Also I suspect most of the gearbox failures are from very hard 1st gear accelerations causing that gear to fail and then metal pieces damaging the rest of the gearbox. I do not recommend that one do full throttle/ full boost accels in first gear. The contact ration is such that it will strip. Accelerate in first gear under partial throttle and then do full acceleration in 2nd and up. I have been following this method and my gearbox is fine with 31K on it.
FYI, the Cobb car, Project Conebasher, is putting 420hp to the wheels and they ran two autocross seasons on the stock tranny. I think their power was lower than that for part of that time and they didn't slam the tranny but it took it.

First gear is strong enough to take anything a stock motor can throw at it as long as the driver doesn't shock the system by sidestepping the clutch or speed shifting. I think I remember reading some posts where there were gears broken and the driver claimed no abuse. In that case my guess is that the failure was due to poor manufacturing quality of a particular set of gears.

I think you keep seeing new posts on this because 1. its a big disappointment to everyone who experineces it and 2. new people don't think about using the search function. I don't mind helping even if it does get redundant. You can always ignore posts that are on subjects you aren't interested in.
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Old 05-01-2003, 12:29 PM   #16
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Great post! It cracks me up when people complain about grinding in first and reverse in the same breath. I wonder if these people have ever driven other cars with manual tranny's before...

I downshift to first from a roll at least once a day, when I pull into the parking garage underneath my office building. I have always rev matched and never had a problem getting into first gear at any reasonable speed. I have ground first gear only once in 31K and 2+ years, because I rushed the shift and did not have the engine spinning fast enough for my road speed in first gear .
However, at around 24K miles, first gear started to randomly grind when engaged from a stop, and the frequency has been increasing. I believe the first gear syncro is failing. It seems several folks have reported this problem. I also believe this is a fairly common trait among Impreza's with a MT. Wasn't it Car and Driver who did a long term test of the WRX and had the same problem?

To make a long story short, shame on Subaru for not updating the 5 speed, but if you enjoy your Impreza, read the post at the top of this thread and deal!
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Old 05-01-2003, 01:47 PM   #17
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Thumbs up

Right on my fellow nasiocers Deal or be dealed

It's still ok to wish for a smooth tranny though right?
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Old 05-01-2003, 02:51 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by Tshulthise


FYI, the Cobb car, Project Conebasher, is putting 420hp to the wheels and they ran two autocross seasons on the stock tranny. I think their power was lower than that for part of that time and they didn't slam the tranny but it took it.

You can always ignore posts that are on subjects you aren't interested in.
That's impressive.
I agree with you its just that from what I have heard
posted here most of the time its first gear that gets damaged. Also there is an impressive picture in the MT forum with first gear completely torn off. (can't find the link)
The author of this post is trying to tell people that you need to have some "mechanical sympathy" for the drivetrain.

I can ignore the posts but its bad for people to think that the WRX is made of glass when it really is a good car for the money and performance and just needs to driven properly. It could be worse! One could own a new BMW M3 with a "glass" engine!
http://yoy.com/auto/m3_failintro.shtml
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Old 05-01-2003, 03:09 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by DucatiBoy


That's impressive.
I agree with you its just that from what I have heard
posted here most of the time its first gear that gets damaged. Also there is an impressive picture in the MT forum with first gear completely torn off. (can't find the link)
The author of this post is trying to tell people that you need to have some "mechanical sympathy" for the drivetrain.

I can ignore the posts but its bad for people to think that the WRX is made of glass when it really is a good car for the money and performance and just needs to driven properly. It could be worse! One could own a new BMW M3 with a "glass" engine!
http://yoy.com/auto/m3_failintro.shtml

i have an "IMPREZA" book (hyperrev) where it has a picture of first gear torn off like that. actually it's the teeth of the first gear that are stripped. bits and pieces of it ended up everywhere...like the oil drain pan.
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Old 05-02-2003, 03:54 PM   #20
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You can actually shift into 1st while moving without double clutching. However, you have to be gentle. Press lightly on the shifter when it stops while moving into first gear and hold *light* pressure on it. It may take as long as 2-3 seconds, but it will suddenly pop right in. The syncro does work, it just takes some time depending on how fast you are going. When i mean lightly, I mean LIGHTLY. If your putting enough force so that the shifter bushing is giving, you are pushing too hard.
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Old 05-02-2003, 04:42 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally posted by mtb_dude
You can actually shift into 1st while moving without double clutching. However, you have to be gentle. Press lightly on the shifter when it stops while moving into first gear and hold *light* pressure on it. It may take as long as 2-3 seconds, but it will suddenly pop right in. The syncro does work, it just takes some time depending on how fast you are going. When i mean lightly, I mean LIGHTLY. If your putting enough force so that the shifter bushing is giving, you are pushing too hard.
That is only if your tranny is working properly. I can push mine in as slowly as I can and it doesn't make a difference, it still grinds. Don't make the common forum mistake that "because it doesn't work like your car then it must be driver error". You are right that jamming it into first can cause problems but that's not why many of our trannies grind. Its because of some kind of synchro problem. Manufacturing tolerances, assembly tolerances or adjustments, some kind of infrequent driver abuse... I don't know why but some WRX trannys really grind every time going into first over 10mph no matter how soft you shift.

See the "does your first gear grind" poll if you want to see how many of them do it.
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Old 05-05-2003, 04:41 PM   #22
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I wasn't really implying that there isn't a problem, I was really just saying that for a working tranny, it does work. However, most people are unfamiliar with the fact that it works slower than most trannys (ie Honda) I'm sure there was something wrong with a few trannys, but the engineer is me tends to believe a lot of these grinds were due to people trying to jam the shifter in when they didn't get the expected quick shift into first. Flame me all you want, but if you're one of those people, you remeber the day you pushed with all your might to try to shift into first. That's a no-no and will destroy the bronze syncros is very little time.

[Flame Suit On]
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Old 05-06-2003, 12:22 AM   #23
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It's a bummer some of us didn't know this. Natural reaaction is to force something to see what happens. Glad I learned...but I hope it's not too late...
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Old 05-09-2003, 02:08 PM   #24
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I just took mine to the dealer for this problem. Won't engage in first when stopped. Embarassing sometimes.

Will report on what they say.

Quote:
Originally posted by Hank3
I don't usually have a problem with downshifting into 1st from 2nd. What my main concern is sometimes sitting at a light for a while, when the light turns green, press the clutch - then I can't get into first. I have learned now to shift into 2nd and then into 1st if that happens. That works about 90% of the time, but sometimes it still won't work. I have now began to watch the traffic lights and engage the clutch earlier so the syncros will catch up and then 1st will be able to engage. But sometimes it still doesn't work. Any insight? Is this just another side effect of this particular tranny or should I be worried that my ist gear will be out of commission soon. I'm at 24,000 and have entertained the idea of taking it into the dealer. But they probably will just say because I have a modded car, that they assume I drive the mess out of it...which I don't.
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Old 05-09-2003, 02:13 PM   #25
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Why are we making excuses for Subaru or doing extra work?

This is all a load of crap.

Subaru built a crappy, quirky transmission. Shame on them.

Over 20 years of driving I have driven at least 5 different MTs before getting my WRX. Not one of them had any issue whatsover getting into first in any scenario.

Quote:
Originally posted by Stanley
Great post! It cracks me up when people complain about grinding in first and reverse in the same breath. I wonder if these people have ever driven other cars with manual tranny's before...



I downshift to first from a roll at least once a day, when I pull into the parking garage underneath my office building. I have always rev matched and never had a problem getting into first gear at any reasonable speed. I have ground first gear only once in 31K and 2+ years, because I rushed the shift and did not have the engine spinning fast enough for my road speed in first gear .
However, at around 24K miles, first gear started to randomly grind when engaged from a stop, and the frequency has been increasing. I believe the first gear syncro is failing. It seems several folks have reported this problem. I also believe this is a fairly common trait among Impreza's with a MT. Wasn't it Car and Driver who did a long term test of the WRX and had the same problem?

To make a long story short, shame on Subaru for not updating the 5 speed, but if you enjoy your Impreza, read the post at the top of this thread and deal!
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