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7 Unexpected Transmission Problems Of The Subaru WRX

7 Unexpected Transmission Problems Of The Subaru WRX

For some of us, Subaru lovers, the WRX will always be the “hardcore” Impreza. Subaru, however, had a different idea. In 2014, the WRX was first released as a standalone model. But we’re not here for that. In this blog, we’re looking at all the transmission problems of the WRX in the past 15 years. Here is a quick summary of our findings.

Manual transmissions on the WRX mainly have problems with premature clutch failures and poor fitment to the car’s body. Automatic transmissions are generally problem free, this includes the TR690 CVT. Avoid heavily modified and overly abused cars.

Buying a performance Subaru can be nerve-wracking. To alleviate some of your concerns, we analyzed all the NHTSA owner’s complaints, Subaru’s technical service bulletins, and potential recalls that relate to the WRXs transmission. Stay with us, you don’t want to miss this one.

Common Subaru WRX Transmission Problems

There are many transmissions to cover. To make things easier, we’ll break this section into different WRX generations and their transmissions. We’ll then tackle each transmission on its own. Let’s get to it!

Second Generation – VB (2022 – Present)

The latest iteration of the legendary WRX lineage still smells fresh. It hit the roads with the 2022 model year and offered the first buyers the following transmissions:

  • 6-Speed Manual Transmission
  • Subaru Performance CVT

Many Subaru lovers cried tears of happiness when they saw that the 22’ WRX will still feature the 6-speed manual transmission. For everyone else, Subaru has concentrated their 15+ years of CVT development to introduce the new Performance CVT. Here is what we know so far.

Subaru Performance CVT

Subaru decided to call this CVT unit a Subaru Performance CVT Transmission, and they promise it will be able to handle all the situations a WRX could end up in.

New owners are mostly expecting that the new CVT transmission will be able to handle high-stress situations. Many owners of the previous WRX generation installed aftermarket CVT coolers to prevent overheating damage on the track.

Subaru also implemented simulated gear shifts to this “continuously variable” transmission. This should improve the overall driving experience. The CVT-equipped WRX also features shift paddles to further build on that premise.

Currently, there are no early issues, recalls, or technical service bulletins reporting CVT problems. Let’s hope it stays that way!

6-Speed Manual Transmission

There’s nothing being reported here. Generally speaking, the manual transmission was always the first choice for those seeking reliability and a raw driving experience with the WRX. We are sure this generation will deliver on that front. 

First Generation – VA (2015 – 2021)

Many heads were turned at the release of the first standalone WRX. Subaru once again proved its mastery when it comes to boxer AWD performance toys. The first generation WRX featured the following transmissions:

  • 6-Speed TY75 Manual Transmission (WRX)
  • 6-Speed TY85 Manual Transmission (STI)
  • Lineartronic TR690 CVT (WRX)

These transmissions are under a lot of stress, especially when under the ownership of abusive owners. This is something you should keep in mind when assessing their overall reliability. Here is our report.

6-Speed TY75 Manual Transmission (WRX)

Despite our previous claim that manual transmission represents the more reliable choice compared to the CVT counterpart, it wasn’t always like this. 

A number of owners report premature clutch and flywheel failures. Despite being a mystery at first, Subaru soon realized that a defective throw-out bearing is to be blamed for these occurrences.

An owner of a 2015 WRX filed the following NHTSA complaint:

I am a 44 year old woman, driving a 2015 wrx. I have only owned and driven manual transmissions my entire life. My last car, a Mazda 3, I drove to 110,000 miles and the clutch never went out. My 2015 WRX is at 22,000 and the clutch is being replaced. A bearing went bad and did damage to the clutch.

NHTSA ID Number: 10936354

Owners also report cases of hard shifting in or out of different gears. Some have reported that it was nearly impossible to shift out of neutral, while others experienced problems with the 4 > 3 downshifts.

Subaru eventually started releasing TSBs to address these issues. Starting with the TSB 03-83-20R. This bulletin announced the release of redesigned shift forks and corresponding sleeve and hub assembly for the 2015-2020 WRX and STI.

This resolved the commonly reported vibrations and rattling coming from the shift knob. These symptoms were mostly present while driving in the 4th gear between 1900 and 2500 RPM.

Going forward, TSB 03-86-20 specified additional procedural requirements when replacing a leaking clutch master cylinder on the 2015 WRX and STI. This TSB also addressed the pressure plate, flywheel, and pilot bearing problems. 

Inside, Subaru clearly states that defective throw-out or pilot bearings, flywheels, and pressure plates should be replaced under warranty if the parts are damaged due to material or workmanship reasons.

Being a quality-driven company, Subaru also addressed the concerns about creaking and flexing of the clutch and brake pedal. They extended the warranty for the Pitching Stopper Bracket on the 2015-2017 WRXs. 

This TSB also included the procedure for diagnosing and replacing the cracked pitching stopper bracket. Subaru also developed an improved design for the bracket to prevent future issues. Subaru also addressed this issue in this TSB.

Generally speaking, these transmissions were far from what people were used to when it comes to manual Subarus. However, we must admit that as Subaru tackled these issues, the reports of failures in later model years are almost entirely gone.

6-Speed TY85 Manual Transmission (STI)

There are no NHTSA owners complaints regarding its transmission. It is largely perceived as a “bulletproof” unit. We want to end this section with a quote from one of the owners:

“Transmission – pretty much bullet proof. As long as you know how to use a clutch to shift gears I don’t see any issue here. Whether you build your car for high HP/TQ or just want a daily driver, the STI is known for it’s stout transmission…”

We normally don’t rely on owners’ forums for information, but this time, this sums it up perfectly. Avoid buying heavily modified cars, and you should be fine.

Lineartronic TR690 CVT (WRX)

Speaking from experience, we cannot simply rewrite what we already covered on some other models with this transmission. At the release of this WRX, many of the early TR690 CVT issues were already addressed. 

This also explains why there are almost no NHTSA complaints in connection to this transmission, and why Subaru found it reasonable to only extend the CVT warranty on the 2015 model year WRX. Early models still came with some initial bugs, which could lead to bigger problems if left unattended.

Despite that, Subaru still released a number of TSBs resolving all the left-over TR690 issues. One of those issues is the illustrious CVT fluid seepage at the CVT’s oil pump chain cover and the input shaft oil seal.

We can’t look past the TSB number 16-119-19. This bulletin announced the availability of a redesigned control valve assembly (valve body) that prevented false detection of the P0841 diagnostic trouble code and/or false illumination of the automatic transmission temperature warning light. 

There were also TSBs that helped service technicians diagnose various diagnostic trouble codes. Both the TSB numbers 16-131-20R and the 16-102-16R greatly improved both the accuracy and the speed of problem diagnostics, which benefited both Subaru and the owners.

If you ever find yourself buying a TR690-equipped WRX, make sure the car is not overly modified which shouldn’t be a problem at most large Subaru dealerships. Too much torque and horsepower will still destroy this transmission in a short amount of time. You don’t want to be the one dealing with the repairs. Trust us.

Third Generation – Impreza WRX (2008 – 2014)

Despite not being technically a WRX, we decided to include the last generation of the Impreza WRX in this list, because it is still a sought-after WRX model. Many of them are still on the road with the original transmission.

  • TY758VE1AA 5-Speed Manual Transmission
  • 4EAT 4-Speed Automatic Transmission

Whenever you look up “WRX + transmission problems” on Google, you will always find guys complaining that their manual transmission failed as he tuned the car to 400hp and more. For the sake of this article, we’ll exclude reports by such owners.

TY758 5-Speed Manual Transmission

The TY758 is widely regarded as a culmination of Subaru’s transmission-building know-how. And while that is true, Subaru still caused some headaches to the owners of WRXs with these transmissions.

Due to the thinness of the firewall barrier, which holds the clutch assembly and separates the engine bay from the car’s interior, the firewall was known to bend and creak every time the clutch pedal was pressed.

The spot weld that held the clutch assembly to the firewall was also known to break, which basically rendered the clutch useless and left the driver unable to change gears. 

To deal with the issues, Subaru extended the warranty coverage in June 2015 for the 2008, 2009, and 2010 WRX and STI. But this only extends coverage for one extra year. Owners were not particularly happy about this.

You can read more about this issue in this extensive Nasioc owner’s forum thread. Apart from this issue, these transmissions did not cause major problems.

4EAT 4-Speed Automatic Transmission

The 4EAT 4-speed automatic transmission was first introduced in 1988 with the Subaru XT6. Since then, it was a constantly improved product. By the time it was fitted to the 2008 Impreza WRX, this transmission was considered bulletproof.

Many Subaru owners still swear by it and reminisce how these transmissions felt, drove, and easily lasted for 200,000 miles and more without major repairs.

If you are in the market for a WRX with this transmission, make sure the oil cooler pipes were replaced. Due to poor material choices, these pipes were known to rust through and leave the transmission deprived of cooling fluid. Subaru addressed this issue in TSB number 16-92-14.

Other Problems Related To The Powertrain

If you are in the market for a WRX, you are surely aware of the fact that these cars are harder to find stock than heavily modified. While there are certain powertrain problems on stock cars, these issues become all the more apparent if the car undergoes heavy modifications.

Owners tend to remap these cars and increase power without paying attention to engine internals (pistons, piston rings, valves) and the supporting engine accessories like cooling, air intake, and turbochargers.

When test-driving a WRX, pay attention to any noise or vibration coming from the AWD system when cornering or coming to a stop. We also recommend having the car inspected by a mechanic to reveal any oil leaks and damage to the powertrain.

How Long Does A Subaru WRX Transmission Last?

Let’s kick things off with the latest, second generation of the WRX. As of now, there is no reason to believe that both the 6-speed manual transmission and the Performance CVT automatic transmission would not last at least 150,000 miles and more with regular maintenance.

The first-generation WRX is a bit more troubling. The 6-Speed TY75 came with a number of problems related to the clutch, fittings, and the shift forks. However, after Subaru addressed these common issues, the transmission itself should have no issues lasting 200,000 miles. 

The same goes for the TY85 6-speed manual transmission, known as one of the best Subaru manual transmissions ever.

The TR690 CVT automatic transmission fitted to the first generation WRX should have no problems lasting 150,000 miles with regular maintenance. Most of the early problems with this transmission have been taken care of in previous generation Subarus.

Both the 4EAT 4-speed automatic transmission and the TY758 5-speed manual transmission should have no problems lasting 200,000 miles with regular fluid and filter changes.

How Much Does A Subaru WRX Transmission Cost?

  • TR690 CVT remanufactured valve body, 1st generation WRX, eBay: $250 – $400
  • TR690 CVT rebuild kit, 1st generation WRX, eBay: $200
  • TR690 CVT refurbished torque converter, 1st generation WRX, eBay: $330
  • TR690 CVT used complete transmission, 1st generation WRX, Maktrans: $1500
  • TY758 pre-owned 5-speed manual, 3rd generation Impreza WRX, eBay: $1000 – $1800
  • 4EAT 4-speed automatic refurbished valve body, 3rd generation Impreza WRX, eBay: $380
  • 4EAT 4-speed automatic shift solenoid valve kit, 3rd generation Impreza WRX, eBay: $100
  • TY85 6-speed manual transmission pre-owned, 1st generation WRX, eBay: $2500 – $3400

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