Dear Tom and Ray:
I have a 2009 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport with a stick shift. Every now and again, when I have the car in third gear, the stick will pop out. If my hand happens to be resting on the gear and it pops out, I can feel the stick pushing out of gear. If I try to put the stick back into gear too soon, it grinds, not allowing or wanting me to put the stick back in third gear. This all happens in a matter of seconds, and then I can get the stick back into third. It doesn't feel right, and I'm not the only person who has experienced this. My husband borrowed my car once and asked if I knew about this. I had told him about it prior to his borrowing my car, but he apparently hadn't "heard" me, haha. It happens at least once a day, and when I mentioned it to the Subaru dealer where I take my car for servicing, he told me he didn't experience it, and that was the end of it. Have you ever heard of this happening, and do you have any ideas on what I need to do to repair it? — Ann
Ray: Yes, we've heard of this. How do you think we've been able to afford a bigger boat every year at the shop?
Tom: Your third-gear synchronizers are shot, Ann. The only way to fix that is by rebuilding or replacing the transmission.
Ray: Yeah, I know: "Ouch."
Tom: I'd probably go with a used or rebuilt transmission on a 5-year-old car like this. Depending on which way you go, that'll cost you somewhere in the $1,500-$3,000 range. Maybe your husband will "hear" that?
Ray: So depending on your long-term plans for this car, you might want to just ignore it for now. You won't hurt anything else if you do. And fortunately, you still have four other forward gears that are working.
Tom: You probably noticed this, but it almost always will pop out when you're accelerating. So when it pops out of third, shift to fourth.
Ray: You probably can get away with that for a while. Eventually, though, you won't be able to get it into third at all. And at that point, you'll have to decide if you want to become a lifetime member of the Second-to-Fourth Club, fix the problem or trade in the car.
Tom: On the other hand, if you know you're going to be keeping this car until the bitter end, then you should get it fixed right away. Why? Because why suffer with the problem another day if you're going to pay to fix it eventually? It's going to cost you just as much a year from now. So why not start enjoying a properly working car right away?
Ray: Or, since your dealer wants to convince you that the transmission is working perfectly, maybe he'll give you full value on a trade-in now, without discounting it for a transmission rebuild. Good luck, Ann.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)