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Subaru Outback/Legacy Starting Issues



  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,391
    Heard the starter make a humming noise before starting.

    Okay, that if you were not attempting to start, that was the fuel pump making that humming sound, so it's not the relay I was visualizing.

    It sounds like an electrical/sensor issue. That's going to mean diagnostics. Simple things to check... are you getting any current out of the fuel injectors when it will not start? How about spark? If it isn't even trying to fire, one of those things has to be missing. After you determine that, the "why" becomes the fun part.
  • I will try look into the current but can't really get busy on it until this weekend due to getting home after dark every day.I appreciate your help in narrowing it down and will post when I work on it this weekend. Thanks again for your help!
  • I have a 1996 Legacy Brighton 2.2 L with 100,000k on it. I recently had the timing belt, water pump, thermostat, and belts changed. A couple of weeks after this, the car wouldn't start. I tried for some time and finally it started. The check engine light came on and I went to the mechanic who checked the engine code and it stated "Cam Shaft sensor circuit fault" . He changed the camshaft sensor to the new one with the yellow dot on it because his code reader said that there had been problems with the old camshaft sensor. The problem went away for a week and then again the car would not start after a short trip. I left it and half hour later, tried and it started. I then checked the connector that looked a little rough and went to a wrecker and got a new connector with a long length of wire. I spliced the new connector on, soldering the wires and used heat shrink tubing to repair the insulation. Again the problem went away and then a couple of weeks later it again failed to start after a short trip, engine cranks at a good speed but no firing. I waited for a half an hour and it started and seems to run fine now. Has anybody had this intermittent starting problem with the Subaru engines?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,391
    edited November 2011
    Yep; I had that problem for years. Initially it drove me nuts, then it was just something I became used to encountering. Mine was a 1996 (Outback) with a 2.5L engine. I could crank it dead and it wouldn't start, but if I cranked it and nothing, then I would wait 5-10 minutes and try again until eventually it would fire up as if nothing had ever been wrong. The longest it ever took was about 50 minutes, but it sure was annoying. It only ever happened when I tried to start the car within about an hour (or so) of last using it - basically, if the engine was still warm, there was risk of no-start. Again - completely random. Sometimes it would work perfectly for weeks, sometimes it would happen several times within a week (or even multiple times a day).

    After about four years of that, I had a problem with the knock sensor. I replaced the knock, cam, and crank sensors simultaneously, and not only did that solve my immediate problem, but it had the happy coincidence of eliminating the no-start issue as well.

    Good luck.... ! :sick:
  • Thank you very much for the information. It gives me hope.

    There are just a few questions I would like to ask about your situation.
    1) when your car would not start, did the check engine light come on after it did start?
    2) If the response to 1 is yes, did you ever have the ODB reader check the engine code?
    3) If the answer to 2 is yes, what code did it display?
    4) When you had a problem with knock sensor, what made you change all three?
    5) Is it possible that in changing all three sensors, you just managed to correct an intermittent connector connection and that had been the original problem?
    6) Had you tried to disconnect all three connectors before and check the connectors?
    7) The crank and cam sensor are easy to replace, but the knock sensor requires that the intake manifold be removed. A lot of components are disturbed in that process.
    8)How much did all that work cost?

    Thanks again for the help, and I hope your answers help me diagnose this irritating problem.
  • I finally got my 96 legacy up and running! ...... For now. Changed out my brand new "airtex" fuel pump for a Bosch . Heard from a buddy that airtex has a rep for being unreliable even being new. Changed out the relay while I was at it. Hopefully it will last more than 3 weeks this time!
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,391
    edited November 2011
    1. Generally, no.

    2. Once in a while it would come on, and I did have a reader to check it, but no code was there. It was the oddest thing; rather infuriating, actually.

    4. The code in the system read knock sensor initially, then it showed both knock and camshaft trouble codes, then back to just knock, then another camshaft. So, I just decided to replace them all. I did the work myself, so it didn't cost anything but the time and the sensors. I don't recall taking the intake manifold off mine. I just removed stuff around it (such as the intake piping) and worked it out.

    If you find you do need to take of the intake, it is extremely simple. Get a pair of intake gaskets and have a small putty knife on hand to clean the surfaces in case anything sticks, and it only adds 10 minutes or so to the work. You don't need to disconnect the throttle cable.

    5. Possibly. I had pulled the engine from the car once previously, plus rather extensive work on the engine a couple times that included disconnecting those sensors, and the car never behaved differently prior to the fix, so I doubt it, but possible. Especially since the problem after that was gone afterward, never to recur.

    6. No, I never did because I had no reason to suspect them and no idea where to start.

    7. Anything disturbed is peripheral. Just label everything as you take it apart, and it will all go back together effortlessly.

    8. Again, just the cost of the sensors and perhaps an hour of time start to finish.

    It was terribly irritating, especially after we had our first baby and we would sometimes be waiting for 30-40 minutes in subzero temperatures to start the dang car. It would only happen shortly after shutting it off (such as on errands), so sometimes we would just leave the car running, especially if we were in a hurry. I would think if it was a connection problem then the issue would occur completely random or even during operation.
  • My 1997 Legacy Subaru 2.2L engine would die at idle and not restart, usually after the car warmed up, but lately sometimes it wouldn't even start when cold. I got accustomed to push starting, parking in spots where I could push the car hard enough to start it. Weird - working starter wouldn't start it, but push start would. (Manual transmission).

    I read here xwesx's comment here, and ...

    (My ODBII was hanging and got burnt on exhaust - on 1988 Vanagon conversion - so I couldn't read ODBII codes).

    I tried the cheapest (Crankshaft Pos. Sensor, $25), and MY CAR STARTS EVERY TIME NOW AND IDLES SMOOTH!

    (Perhaps I should replace the knock and camshaft sensors, too? I don't know, but...)

    I had dealt with this issue for nearly 4 years, with this car being my daily driver, so this is HUGE! And I hope that it can help someone else with this problem.

    Bryan B.
    South Jordan, UT.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,403
    Could be you aren't cranking fast enough (weak battery? Old starter?) because when you push start, that gets the engine spinning pretty fast. I'd take a compression test just to be sure you're not going to charge down the wrong alley here.

    Have you tried to start it with a jump start from another car? does that start the car?


  • The problem included the car dying when idling (nothing to do with starter) - it would intermittently idle kind of rough (and die) before putting on the new crankshaft pos. sensor. The starter is weak, but still started the car cold or hot, except in this strange die-when-idling situations.

    In fact, many times the starter wouldn't start the car, I would push "bump" the car (meaning popping the clutch, but it wouldn't start) - THEN use the starter, and it would start. Go figure.

    Since I have put on the new crankshaft pos. sensor, I haven't had ANY problem starting, and no more dying when idling. I am convinced it fixed the problem. And what a RELIEF! I've been dealing with this for FOUR YEARS or so. Couldn't let my wife drive the car - now I can. So happy!

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,403
    Ah, okay, you added some important information there, so with this new data (not starting after dying at idle even with a push), replacing the CKP makes more sense.


  • Here's a difficult-start issue I haven't seen mentioned, and it's one the Subaru dealer couldn't find, but our local mechanic recently ferreted it out. If he hadn't, I would have posed the problem here in an effort to try to find a solution, so now I'm offering this as more informational, and would certainly be interested in others' thoughts or experiences with something like this.
    We have a '95 Subaru Legacy with about 58k miles on it. About a year and a half or so ago, on occasion, when turning the key the engine would turn over fine, but it wouldn't start. We discovered that by pushing the gas pedal to floor while turning the key, and holding it to the floor, the engine would catch, though it would run a bit rough at first, and a cloud of smoke would come out the exhaust, and there was a smell of gas. It seemed more apt to do it after being driven for at least 15 minutes, and then sitting for a while (an hour or more). We took it to the dealer, and they said it was most likely the cam/crank sensor, but that it might also be more than that. So, we had that replaced, to the tune of $248. The problem seemed to go away for a little while, but then came back. We lived with it for a while, then tried them again, but nothing came up on the computer, and besides, it never did its trick while there (of course). Anything they did do would just be a guess. So, we lived with it some more, but over time it kept occurring at a greater frequency. I should stress here that at no time did the car not start at all. We could always get it to start by pushing the gas peddle to the floor. The solution? It was the Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor. We are keeping our fingers crossed that it is indeed fixed. It sure seems so anyway.
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