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I have 2004 Subaru WRX with 100k miles, that I bought new and the car is stock (more or less, other than a much appreciated brake upgrade). About 6k miles ago, my mechanic noticed a noise that he suspects is a failing Input Shaft Bearing on the transmission. It sounds like a scratching/whirring noise when the car is moving (in gear or neutral) up to about 40 mph, at which point there's either too much wind noise or it stops - can't tell for sure and I really only hear it with the windows open. I took it to the dealer for a 2nd opinion and they concur, but of course they do. I'm still driving on the original clutch and figure I should get that replaced at the same time because of the overlap, but I haven't had any noticeable problem with the clutch yet, as I don't drive my car that hard.

I love my car and I'd like to keep it for at least another 2 years/40k miles (when I expect to need a bigger car). I'd been willing to invest in upgrading the transmission a little bit (better gears,etc) if it gives the transmission more life or improves the performance. I'm based out of the NY metro area, if that helps with pricing/suggestions.

1-How long do I have before my transmission blows up (assuming it really is the input shaft bearings)? Both places I took it to told me there's no way they can really confirm it 100% without cracking it open. Is that true?

2-What are my options and what should they cost? Try to keep it to 2 suggestions (basic (under $1500) and improved (under $3000)). Are there any parts that I should have replaced if they have to open up the transmission?

3-Do I let my regular mechanic (works on lots of Subarus because they're in the heart of Subaru country, but just general repairs) do the work or should I go to a specialist (and what kind of specialist should I look for: transmissions, subaru/import/performance, etc)? Is my transmission never going to be the same once it gets cracked open?

Let me hear some opinions.
 

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i got my 2002 transmission "rebuilt" and also a new clutch installed by the dealership(took about 2-3 weeks) It ran great for about a year and now I have that same issue as you do with the noise in gear and neutral. I feel like the dealership is always trying to shaft me so I would say go with the mechanic that you're friends with he'll probably do a better job for you than the dealership. So far my friends and mechanic said that its most likely the throw out bearing making the noise and to replace it when I decide to replace the clutch. So for you it might not be as serious as getting a new transmission or anything like that. But they won't be able to tell for sure until they open it up.
 
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