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Old 05-09-2007, 05:52 AM   #1
StiLimited
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Default Failure Analysis Testing of WRX Transmissions

Hi All,

I've been reading a lot about WRX transmission failures. Mostly it's stripped teeth on 2rd and/or 3rd gear. So far, the dealership/SOA always alledge abuse. Here's what I propose. How about we get together, chip in some money and get some of these parts tested at an independent lab?

What we need are some destroyed gears and some good gears. We'll need someone to donate parts for testing. Obviously we won't have any problem finding broken parts to test, but we'll need at least one good gear to test.

I found this page
Metallurgical Testing Laboratory
http://metalstesting.com/

They have a price list, and it doesn't look too outrageous. This is the first place I found when searching google. I'm sure there are more.

What I'm thinking is... if those who have had failures of WRX transmissions stand behind their claim that they did not abuse the transmission, how about people chip in some money to get the parts analyzed?

Just to get things going and because I'd really like to know, I'll put up $100 to start the fund. I (or anyone here) can call this place or any other place you find or know of, explain what we want and find out an approx. price. Then we'll take pledges here and when we get to the required amount, someone act as treasurer and we'll send our pledge to the treasurer and parts and get them looked at.

Any takers here?


5/24/07 Note: Originally this discussion was for the Metallurgical Testing of WRX Transmission Gears. However, after my review of the transmission, I think just gear testing would only answer part of the problem. At this point I believe it's a transmission case that is not strong enough to keep the shafts from flexing (ie, the parts of the case responsible for keeping the shafts supported are not strong enough) and thus there may be tooth separation leading to gear failure. In light of this and where the thread went, I'm changing the title of the thread to keep it more descriptive of the issue.
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Last edited by StiLimited; 05-24-2007 at 07:08 AM. Reason: Changed Title of Thread
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Old 05-09-2007, 10:56 PM   #2
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I think it is a good idea; SOA is a big gun to take on. If this comes together I'm in for $50.
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Old 05-09-2007, 11:44 PM   #3
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LyveWRX has already volunteered his services to do just that for someone who snapped a couple of teeth off 2nd, iirc - unless you know what you are asking for, just sending something out for a "metallurgical analysis" is going to be tough - I am guessing for gears you would want bulk and in-tooth microstructure, hardness profile (to see case depth), and maybe compositional. You'd also want a metric to compare your data to.

Maybe someone is a matls sci grad student and could do the testing under the radar in their lab... I have most of the facilities, but bringing in outside work to do on our equipment is a pretty big no-no...

In any event, unless you could prove that there was a significant problem which was systematic and they knew about, getting SOA to do anything (or even worry about your findings) is going to be a challenge.
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Old 05-10-2007, 01:04 AM   #4
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So what exactly do you think they are going to find? Bad castings? A flawed design?

What you are missing is when and how these transmissions failed. That is the big key. The information would be useless without comparing one set of data to another, which is impossible.

Having worked in the service industry a bit, the bulk of the blown transmissions I have seen have been from abusive driving. Meaning, lots of power, hard shifting (or poor shifting) etc.

2nd and 3rd gear go out on STI transmissions too. Why? How about that 5-3rd gear drop on the freeway. This basically loads up the transmission with lots of stress and strips gears.

It is no secret that the manual 5-speed is weak, but for a stock WRX it is fine if you know how to drive.

Really, all of us need to learn how to drive a 901 box and then you might not kill your 5-speed.
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Old 05-10-2007, 02:12 AM   #5
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ouch, but kinda right
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Old 05-10-2007, 06:52 AM   #6
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Well the transmission has to have a torque rating. And we know the torque the engine produces. So if you test the gears at the specified torque rating and it fails, that would be obvious. The next thing I'd want to test is for variance from part to part. If they are all close, great, but if one gear fails 20% sooner or later than another.. that would seem to indicated inconsistant parts. I'd also look for obvious boners in the past... poor heat treatment. Flawed lubrication method/system. Deflection in the case and/or shafts. Bearing not supporting the loads. And yes, micrograin struction from gear to gear. If you pull out 10 failed gears and they have a different grain structure from those that don't fail... that'd be a start.

bottom line... I own an sti. so a wrx failure isn't important to me. But I just have a question about why a 2nd or 3rd gear would fail when in my experience there are usually plenty of other weaker links in the drivetrain that should fail first. I see it as a detective story..

Also, since other manufacturers don't seem to have these problems why just subaru? (I have no idea if this is true, but I've not read people complaining in the corvette, mustang, evo, srt, etc forums... but maybe I don't read enough. ) Perhaps an argument could be made that subaru is deviating from standard practices for monetary gain... after all, if a u-joint or cv joint busts, it's a fairly cheap fix. Even a cluth is relatively mild, but blown transmissions bring in more dough. Just speculating here... no evidence.

Or maybe it's kids trying to powershift w/o the needed speed or co-ordination and they are clashing gears... Either way, I'd like to know what it is.

Okay, so we are up to $150 pledged. Any idea what the min. base would be? A couple of thousand?

Do we hear anymore people willing to pony up some bucks?
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Old 05-10-2007, 06:58 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MeanEditor View Post
2nd and 3rd gear go out on STI transmissions too. Why? How about that 5-3rd gear drop on the freeway. This basically loads up the transmission with lots of stress and strips gears.

It is no secret that the manual 5-speed is weak, but for a stock WRX it is fine if you know how to drive.
Based on the posts I've read, they claim the Sti trans does not suffer from these problems. I thought it was all Subaru trannys, but after some people replied to my posts, I did go back and reread several of the reports and they were all from wrx, not sti transmissions.

Even you just said wrx 5 speed is weak.
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Old 05-10-2007, 11:10 AM   #8
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www.gearboxtech.com has about 100 broken gears laying about their shop, contact them.

Torque does NOT break gears. What does?

Shock load. What is shock load?

Power + force of application of power + frequency of use

What does this mean? You cannot test a broken gear or new gear to find out that XXX shock load breaks gears. Lets look at arguably the strongest gearbox in the world: Prodrive's Hewland manufactured transmission used in the WRC. If you were to lease one (you cannot buy one), you would see two levels of required maintenance. The first level is a light rebuild (basically a C&I and fluid swap), the second level is a full rebuild with new parts. Why? Prodrive/Hewland put this box into a WRC car and ran it to failure. Then they subtracted that failure mileage by say (pure speculation) 10%. Then they rebuilt the tranny and repeated. They eventually reached the point of diminishing returns where the tranny was run at (say) 10,000 miles and there was only 5% chance of breakage in that 10,000 mile maintenance schedule. So even that tranny will fail, but they replace it before it fails.

So the only thing conventional testing could do is to say (and something I'd like to see) is that comparatively, the old WRX vs new WRX vs RA vs whatever gears show a XX% difference in break strength. This could be extrapolated to show that XXX gears are better than YYY gears, but would still have no tangible crossover to failure which is caused by shock load. This is the data that should be considered for testing.

Remember kiddies, if your tranny warranty is denied and you sue, its up SOA to PROVE that it was your fault, not vice versa.

Last edited by Unabomber; 05-10-2007 at 11:16 AM.
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Old 05-10-2007, 09:34 PM   #9
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As usual, I disagree with your assessment. The "test" you describe only tests the endurance of the design, in regards to bearings and stress on the case. It can't pinpoint a failure like the gears stripping off teeth.

Maybe you can't test, but it doesn't mean someone else can't. Based on the number of posts about the broken gears and based on the number of wrx's out there not breaking gears, it's either operator error, or inconsistant parts. Either of which is just as likely. However, it's possible to test for inconsistant parts. If you don't wan to participate, don't.

Last edited by StiLimited; 06-01-2007 at 11:52 AM. Reason: removed my sarcasim
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Old 05-11-2007, 04:08 AM   #10
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And once again, a NASIOC member replies to an intelligently written post by myself with an acid tongue. Attention new guy: I have spoken to the TITANS of the transmission world about gears. When I post something you BEST listen as I am not posting to be a jackass to anyone, only to spread some of my knowledge. When I say that torque does not break gears, you can by Father God and Sonny Jesus believe me. Want to talk to someone about what breaks gears and and not believe me? Feel free to converse with Brett Middelton. Send an email to the engineers at Hewland. Chat around the campfire with Andrew Yates. I could name drop more as I have emailed or called all the big names in the United States and abroad about what does and does not break transmissions.

Recognize the usernames before you snap young lad. I am but a cog in the wheel on NASIOC, but one of my "specialties" is transmissions and in that regard, there are damn few here among us that can say they know much about them. You want help? Fine. What do you need?
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Old 05-11-2007, 05:15 AM   #11
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As usual, you use your moderator position to bully people who disagree with you.
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Old 05-11-2007, 06:03 AM   #12
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Yes, you are correct, hence you receiving zero warning points and the fact that you are not in time out or have been banned. Man, am I throwing around my power or what? I am a person just like you, hence my allusion above as just being a cog in the wheel. Being a Moderator has zippo to do with this conversation. I talked to all these people years ago before I was a Moderator and continue to do so every so often.

What my post above did was avail you to my knowledge. I've done the leg work, I've talked to the people who KNOW, so when I say something about gears...it's not speculation or mindless e-dribble, it's knowledge that based on fact and you should probably pay attention vs. summarily discount it.

If you want fact, let me know.
If you want contacts to check things out for yourself, let me know.
If you want gears for testing, let me know.
If you want money for testing, let me know.
If you need a contact for FEA testing, let me know.

If you want me to die in a fire and for you to blaze your own path, well, I can do that too. Just trying to help here bro, so if you want some, send me an email, otherwise, I will do my best to die in a fire for you. All the best...
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Old 05-11-2007, 06:45 AM   #13
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Isn't "shock load" just a fancy way of saying "slamming gears at WOT?"

And OH YES, you can break a 6-speed. I had a 17 year old customer with a 6-speed swapped WRX that broke his brand new 6-speed by racing on the freeway. Mommy was not pleased on that one. It can and does happen.

My understanding is that the 6 was more or less designed to be a more rugged racing box for group N.

The 5-speed is an old design and was never really meant for lots of abuse, or so says Subaru. Some say this is due to the case design, others say rubbish to that since a PPG or RA gear swap seems to stand up to hard driving just fine.

The bottom line is that if you want to test these gears, what do you expect to find and or prove? Negligence on the part of Subaru who knowingly produced a faulty part?

The fact of the matter is that it is not faulty transmissions/gears that are the problem, but bad drivers OR asking more than what the transmission was designed for.
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Old 05-11-2007, 06:56 AM   #14
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If you looked up shock-load in an encyclopedia you would find a picture of someone side-stepping their clutch.
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Old 05-11-2007, 07:25 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StiLimited View Post
If torque doesn't break dears, what does, your fairy god mother?
I understand what you're saying. Unabomber's point is that a lab that tests steady state forces to determine the failure point is going to find a very very very high force load on the gear teeth before they fail. When people destroy their gears, it's most on a hard shift or occasionally a launch where the pressure on the gears goes from zero to overload in the matter of a fraction of a second. It's a hammer effect, not a steady state torque application.

Every now and then you get someone who says they rolled onto the power in 3rd or 4th gear with their [insert random tuner's stage X] engine and as soon as they hit their torque peak, the gear lets go... I'd stake money that they had already fractured a few of the gear teeth with a rushed shift, and the failure became catastrophic afterwards.

Fact is, except for a few real racing applications, a vast majority of the broken subaru gearboxes have come at the hands of people who are very inexperienced with manual transmissions and/or cars in general. There's a reason we see the same people with 2 or 3 broken factory transmissions under their belt.
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Old 05-11-2007, 07:35 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StiLimited View Post
As usual, you use your moderator position to bully people who disagree with you.
Unabomber, in my opinion, is one of the most knowledgable people I've encountered in my limited time here on NASIOC. From what I've observed, he has done nothing but supply consistently correct, well thought out, and rigorously verified information for the members of this site. When he offers his two cents, common sense says it is likely correct.

Before retorting with snyd comments (i.e. fairy god mother BS) why don't you research the concept he is talking about. Shock loading is a very powerful and often over looked cause of failure for many things, transmissions being no exception. Ask any mechanical engineer or engineering student with a basic level of competency and they will tell you the same.

Sorry, but it is far to early to put up with this. :Going back to bed:
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Old 05-11-2007, 07:38 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beaverboy View Post
I understand what you're saying. Unabomber's point is that a lab that tests steady state forces to determine the failure point is going to find....
You sir sound knowledgable too. Thank you for a good response.
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Old 05-14-2007, 10:40 AM   #18
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You know what - bottom line I'd just like to know what the gears are actually made of, and all the other things we can figure out. Why? Well, lets say someone other than PPG or Kaaz was in the mood to make aftermarket gears? This would give them a good starting point to work from.

OP - instead of going through a nameless lab see if you can coordinate with LyveWRX (we're aware of his background, and he'd have a vested interested in finding out). If he's willing to do it, and share his findings publicly we'll throw a few bucks at this project.
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Old 05-14-2007, 11:37 AM   #19
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In response to the OP, I would be interested in the test and would chip in a few bucks, just for the giggles.

One thing that came to light (as I asked the same question, but WHY 3rd gear 06-07) in a post I made a week or two ago are following:

3rd gear is going to take the biggest momentary shock load more frequently. Why? That is the gear I use to pull onto the interstate. Its the gear I use around town. It (in my opinion) has the widest powerband so you stick in it a bit longer. So it gets hit more often. 2nd gear same story if you are a stoplight warrior (me not so much).
It has the most narrow profile of all the gears. Yes Subaru starting making gears bigger in 04/05, but it is still the smallest gear.
Something that evidently brings up consternation, but makes sense due to the AWD layout and the tranny size, is flex in the casing. 3rd gear is dead in the middle, so MIGHT be prey to this if it does happen.

I was a honda guy previous to the suby, and a die hard camaro addict prior to that. Stories of them eating gears are few. Why? Who knows. But having seen the trannies and gears in both, camaro trannies are monsters. Honda trannies are not. But they both seem to get the job done.
But they both only tend with two driven tires that are engineered to slip under heavy load. Subie trans and drivelines are built for grip and by nature have no room for give due to the 4 driven wheels. I used to drive my camaros like a wildman. Never was I worried about anything negative happening (except for maybe a burnt clutch). My honda didn't have enough power to kill itself, but lord knows I drove it like I stole it. You could drive either like an idiot or drive like Andretti and the car could care less.
But also note that these cars were NA, not turbo'd. Does that have anything to do with it? I don't know, but with all the variables, even metallugical testing might yield the same answer: There is no 1 answer.

Please don't consider any of the above to be smart or intelligent. Just my rambling thoughts as I read the post.
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Old 05-14-2007, 11:51 AM   #20
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From what I understand, the transmission case is the problem, The case distorts causing the gear tooth contact to open up striping the teeth off. a harder gear helps, but the overall transmission design is the real problem. Just not enough support for the main and lay shafts.
I think if you learn how to keep the shock loads down, the transmission will last. If you are making enough torq. to damage the transmission with out high shock load....well, you the man!
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Old 05-14-2007, 12:18 PM   #21
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^^^ you understood case flex from what? read the FAQs and search more and you'd understand that it's really a myth.
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Old 05-14-2007, 12:45 PM   #22
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I just swap out my 5 speed, I never break any gear but bearing keeps failing left and right. I noticed that the bushing at the shift selector is rather loose, this could lead to incomplete engagement and bust some gear teeth, IMO.
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Old 05-14-2007, 01:36 PM   #23
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I wondered about this after watching some drag wrx and even regular ones snap stuff. If to look for something unusual snapping enough torque to break a tranny. ...
  • The 5 main bearings are very very tight, and by far the craziest design boxer yet with no excuses for not staying three mains.(there was a 5.9 liter three main bearing boxer in 1902 BTW)
  • ALL engines in the past and present with two rods between the bearings are outstanding.(all the way to every engine legend, and even world records)
  • The subes awd with an lsd is going to be very tough on large wheels/tires designed to grip. One can outdo something(obviously).It used to be flimsy axles (where it ought to stay really)
  • Metallurgy will only find it is in fact very tough. there are standards at a minumum quite successful for many internationally shipped vehicles.Subaru is of course one of them.
In short: I blame the crank.
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Old 05-14-2007, 02:13 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Turn in Concepts View Post
OP - instead of going through a nameless lab see if you can coordinate with LyveWRX (we're aware of his background, and he'd have a vested interested in finding out). If he's willing to do it, and share his findings publicly we'll throw a few bucks at this project.
Doesn't matter to me where it goes for testing/evaluation. I just posted that one link cause it came up in google and had a price list. But if there is a nother place that people believe are staffed and equiped to do it, that's fine with me. I'd just like to see the community use it's community power to maybe find some answers. None of us individually could pay to have this type of work done, but if 100-200 people chip in various amounts, we could probably find an answer.

The people I think have the most to gain are those with denied warranty repairs. Reading the threads, these folks have spent many thousands of dollars in repairs they claim were not their fault. If it were me, and I paid $3000 to replace/repair a tranny I didn't feel I broke, I'd be happy to put $50 to $100 out for testing in the hopes something was found that could then be used to get my money back. Because if there can be found an engineering or design or manuf. defect, everyone who paid a dealership to have it repaired could sue in small claims court to get their money back.

My motivation is just to know what the real problem is and I hate to see a large well funded corporation bully people around (if that is in fact the case.)

But sure, nominate whoever you like to do the work. If everyone here is willing to use that place and chip in the money, then lets make it happen.
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Old 05-14-2007, 02:22 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MeanEditor View Post
The bottom line is that if you want to test these gears, what do you expect to find and or prove? Negligence on the part of Subaru who knowingly produced a faulty part?
What I expect to find is the truth, not more allegations or WAG (wild ass guesses.) There are just as many people who blame the driver as their are who blame failed parts. There is some snobbery from time to time about how much better certain people are at driving and any failed tranmission is obviously the cause of a poor driver. I'm not so quick to blame inexperienced driving. (Although I do conceed it's very possible.) I'm also not so quick to blame faulty parts either. (I just see other vehicles break several other parts before the transmissions goes.) I'm just trying to find the truth behind the failures. If a lab could test 10 gear sets that have not failed and 10 gears that have, if there is any difference betweeen them, it would point to defective parts. If there were no difference found, then it would point to user error.

Quote:
The fact of the matter is that it is not faulty transmissions/gears that are the problem, but bad drivers OR asking more than what the transmission was designed for.
No, that's just it. There is NO FACT OF THE MATTER. We have only 1 thing to go on here.. Subaru dealerships who make the claim of driver abuse with no testing of the transmissions. I've yet to see a SOA representative with a degree in engineering provide any sort of written analysis of a failed part. There IS NO FACTS in this case. That's all I'm trying to do. Is get some real data from an IMPARTIAL source. THEN we'll have something you can say "the fact of the matter is...."

Till that testing is done, there are no facts.

I'm not in one camp or the other, I just would like to know what the problem is once and for all, with data, no more WAGs.

Last edited by StiLimited; 05-14-2007 at 02:27 PM.
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