Why is Rica's Car Stuck In Gear?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 04, 2015

Dear Car Talk:

I have a 2001 Subaru Forester with a manual transmission and about 210,000 miles on it. This morning I started the car, and as I loaded in some things, the car died and lurched a bit. I restarted it. It starts without a problem when the clutch is in and the shifter is in neutral. But as soon as I start to let off the clutch, the idling becomes slow, the car shakes in rhythm with the idling, and as soon as the clutch is all the way out, the car dies. The car ran fine yesterday. What are the potential culprits of this problem? What would related repairs be likely to cost? I plan to purchase a new vehicle soon, and I don't know if it's worth it to get this car repaired. Thanks.

-- Rica

It sounds like your transmission is stuck in gear, Rica.

Think about it. If you had put the shifter into fifth gear, this is exactly how the car would behave: It would start fine and run fine as long as your foot was on the clutch. But as you let out the clutch pedal, it would bog down, shake and then stall.

The $25,000 question is: Why is it stuck in gear?

If you're lucky, and you've led a good, clean life, maybe it's just the physical linkage that connects the shifter to the transmission. The shifter is connected to the transmission by a metal bar, and that bar is held in place by a bushing. And maybe that bushing failed for some reason. It might have something to do with those 210,000 miles you've driven.

If it's just the linkage, you're talking about a few hundred bucks. That would be worth repairing.

The more ominous possibility is that the problem is inside your transmission. That'll cost you $25,000 to fix, which is the price of a new Forester. Have it checked out in case it's just the linkage, Rica, and good luck.

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