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July 29, 2008 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Is my car broken? I somehow managed to stall my automatic transition. WTF? Is it a crazy fluke, or possibly a sign of trouble? The car is a 2001 Subaru Forester.

I was running quite late, and was driving in a way that is probably not good for transmissions when this happened. It happened when accelerating from a stop. I wasn't over accelerating, but rather, gave a teeny of gas in anticipation of the car ahead going, then rolled on that a bit while they got going, then tried to accelerate a bit more when they got going, but stalled (that is just my best memory of the sequence of events).

So is this a bad sign. I've never stalled an automatic, or heard of anyone doing so. Have you ever stalled an automatic? Was it a sign of things to come? Were you driving stupidly as I was?
posted by gauchodaspampas to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total)
 
What makes you think it's the transmission? Sounds like bad gas, dirt, or an electrical problem--distributor, plugs or wires.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:54 AM on July 29, 2008


The headlights were being a bit funky, in fact. Possibly related?
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:57 AM on July 29, 2008


So is this a bad sign. I've never stalled an automatic, or heard of anyone doing so.

Happened frequently with the crap cars that my parents had when I was young.
posted by amro at 12:01 PM on July 29, 2008


Does it start and run now? But I'm generally with WGP, above -- gas, an old fuel filter, wonky electrics.

The headlights were being a bit funky, in fact. Possibly related?

Funky, as in they were getting progressively dimmer?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:01 PM on July 29, 2008


Have you replaced your alternator since you bought the car? That's what it sounds like to me.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:01 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


If the car is running rough, or neds a tune-up, and you tromp on the gas, that might make it burp and stall. But without being there and actually knowing what you did, it's hard to say for sure. You say you weren't winding it, but you might not have to. Probably not the distributor, as newer cars don't have them. But bad gas? Maybe. Electrical problem? Yeah, I like that, too.

And... don't drive like my brother.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:02 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Funky lights indicate it's possibly related to worn alternator brushes or another electrical problem. Other places to look: timing belt tensioner and motor control relay. Some of these fixes are really simple if you get the right diagnosis and an honest mechanic. Many people replace the alternator when just the $15 diodes/brushes assembly is required.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:04 PM on July 29, 2008


I'd say it's maaaybe running a bit rough. It's hard to tell though because it's made to shift really smooth, so shifting is only ever a bit rough if I'm accelerating and decelerating really erratically.

Funky as in they would turn off, then I'd fidget with the switch (not necessarily turn off, then on again, just fidget) and they'd turn back on. I drive rarely, and short distances, so if this was a problem before for a while, it just never came to my attention because I didn't drive far enough.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 12:06 PM on July 29, 2008


And I mention that I only had to fidget with the headlight switch, because it made it seem like it was just the switch not contacting properly, rather than something else.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 12:09 PM on July 29, 2008


I was running quite late, and was driving in a way that is probably not good for transmissions when this happened.

Have you ever stalled an automatic? Was it a sign of things to come? Were you driving stupidly as I was?


I once threw my car into reverse when I was doing 60 MPH on the highway... (I was playing with the gear shift switching between D and N for some stupid reason, and was tapping the button on the stick in time with some music) Luckily for me, the engineers at Mazda somehow foresaw such an accident stupidity and there was a cut-off switch engaged that shut the car off instead of asploding my transmission all over I-495. I probably don't recommend trying this at home, though... Perhaps something like this engaged?

So yes... I've stalled an Automatic (transmission-related), I did have to replace said transmission about 8 mos. later, but I think that may have been coincidence... though, now that I think about it... who knows?, and that would be a YES, I think I was driving STUPIDER than you...
posted by Debaser626 at 12:11 PM on July 29, 2008


I've definitely stalled an automatic before. It was a rental, so I just started it up again and didn't investigate, but yeah, automatics can definitely stall.

Going off Guy_Inamonkeysuit's reference, this could be a fun thing to call the Car Talk guys about. They love this kind of thing.
posted by lunasol at 12:15 PM on July 29, 2008


I've also stalled an automatic. Turns out the engine wasn't getting enough gas. Can't remember exactly what was wrong. All I know is that if I drove it uphill and was even the tiniest bit pedal-happy, it would stall.
posted by cgg at 12:59 PM on July 29, 2008


Have you ever stalled an automatic? Was it a sign of things to come? Were you driving stupidly as I was?

Yes, no and not really... I had a '91 Mustang (5 liter V8) do something similar, and I expected the worst (I immediately started pricing transmissions), and it turned out that the problem was with a cable that ran from the throttle body to the automatic transmission -- the plastic clip that retained the cable end in the engine compartment had broken, and the cable was hanging loose.

The cost to repair was $30, and only that high because I had a local performance shop (they specialized in mustangs) fabricate me a new clip out of brass instead of replacing the plastic clip, so that it wouldn't happen again.

I have no idea if you've got something similar, but just wanted to mention that sometimes Murphy does take the day off, and things aren't necessarily as bad as they seem...
posted by nonliteral at 3:39 PM on July 29, 2008


Did it stall or did the transmission not engage? I had a 2000 Forester that would not always engage into first. For example, I'd put it into reverse to back out of a parking spot, and then put it in drive, but I'd be stuck for a few minutes because it wouldn't actually go into first. I could rev the engine all I want, but it wouldn't go anywhere for up to 10 minutes. I've heard this is a common problem with Subarus, and even saw it happen to someone else's Outback.
posted by ellenaim at 7:22 PM on July 29, 2008


Somewhat unrelated, we had a 1988 Plymouth Voyager minivan that would always stall when we making a sharp turn. It was an automatic.
posted by abdulf at 7:47 PM on July 29, 2008


I once threw my car into reverse when I was doing 60 MPH on the highway
Ha! I did that once.

Seconding the alternator. I had the exact same thing happen on my (stickshift) Saab. Headlights got dim, car drove fine until I had to start off from a stop, when the engine died. Turned out to be a bum voltage regulator.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:05 PM on July 29, 2008


ellenaim, pretty sure it stalled. The car turned off. Had to restart it.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 5:19 AM on July 30, 2008


The transmission is pretty much irrelevant to the stall. What happened was the load and fuel/air delivery got out of sync and one wouldn't match the other - ie the load was too great for the engine to cope with. This is much more likely to be an engine issue (fuel, electronic or ignition) than anything else. It's just harder with an automatic, not impossible.

I'm not sure how it can be electrical. Even low volts shouldn't make a car stall unless it is then too low to restart. I suspect electronic, rather than electric. The problem is, however, not related to the transmission, most likely.

When people are asking if it is running ok, they don't mean the gearbox and how it shifts. They mean the engine. Does it accelerate smoothly, does it cough and splutter when you pull away in any other way (but not stall).

(My old carburettor auto would stall if I repeatedly stabbed the throttle then floored it. It was bad fuelling and a worn carb, nothing else. If it didn't stall, it's backfire, which was why I did it. It made me laugh. Oh, and also, if you change into reverse in an (old) rwd auto and keep your foot on the throttle, you can spin the wheels backwards and stop the car in a massive cloud of smoke. That too, makes me laugh a lot...)
posted by Brockles at 8:34 PM on July 30, 2008


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