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High Mileage Outback-Concerns

Hi, I'm so glad I stumbled upon this forum. I'm a long time Subaru fan and only strayed once from the brand, to my deep regret. :( Which leads me to asking for some advice. Please excuse any dumb posting errors as this is my first post on this forum.

My previous Subarus were Impreza sedans & were excellent cars. However, we are moving to a more hilly area and are considering buying a Legacy Outback as we need the extra cargo space.

Our budget, however, is not very flexible in that soon we will be applying for a mortgage so a car loan is out for now. This means we must look for Outbacks which have somewhat high mileage; i.e., 120,000 plus. On my Imprezas, this would not be a concern as they just kept going and going....

Right now with our budget at $4000 - $7000 for an Outback, I was wondering if mileage over 100,000 should be a concern if the vehicle appears to have been decently cared for. Most of these miles appear to be highway. There are several prospects (I've checked their CarFax which can at least provide a partial view of the history) but am put off a bit by the higher mileage bracket we are forced into.

I know how well Subarus perform, esp. in snow, mud etc. Really wouldn't consider anything else.
So I would appreciate any comments or suggestions on higher mileage Outbacks. In the price range, we are looking at the years 1997 - 2000, both at dealers and private sellers..

Thanks in advance and enjoy the weekend!
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Comments

  • bajasosbajasos Posts: 4
    hola everyone ,
    i'm driving my new to me 1991 subaru legacy wagon fwd LS 145,000 miles on her to mexico and everywhere inbetween .my questions are what spare parts should i carry with me ? sensors, starters ,alt, injectors? i love this car it drives awesome but a bit worried about reliability ? preveious owners did a lot of work . any tips or helpful tid bits i should know about 1991 subaru legacy cars in general? thanx ......Shauna
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    At that age it's all about luck and how well it was maintained up until now.

    Honestly? To go to deserted parts of Mexico I'm not sure I'd trust any 1991 model with high miles.
  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,657
    One of the problems driving a Subaru (any Subaru) in Mexico is, until fairly recently, Subarus were not imported there. That means getting parts—of any sort—could be a real problem.

    Make sure your spare tire is in good order, as the roads are pretty bad.

    Bob
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    That's not a bad idea. An extra spare tire may be your best bet. Maybe lso a spare tank of gas, at least a couple of gallons.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    I wouldn't do it, just me, and I'm a Subaru loyalist to the core. Too risky in a foreign country w/o much subaru support.

    -mike
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,269
    Naysayers aside, my reservation is that you do not seem to be very familiar with the vehicle. This means that in the event of an emergency, it likely would not be you to perform repairs. In an area where Subaru is scarce, that could mean prolonged trouble.

    I would carry a few feet of spare hose of various size (fuel line, heater, vacuum), some hose clamps, a spare set of radiator hoses, a couple gallons of coolant, water, spark plugs, plug wires, set of drive belts, a couple wheel bearings, bearing grease, rags, engine oil, ATF (or gear oil, if a manual transmission), gear oil for differential(s), baling wire, complete set of tools, two full size spare tires, penetrating lubricant spray, filters (oil and air), maybe some JB Weld, repair manual (in Spanish if you will not be doing all repairs!).... Are you planning on taking anything else with you on this trip? :D

    Really, you just have to cover the most probable scenarios and have with you a plan "B" and "C" in the event one or more improbable scenarios crop up. The best way to prepare is to be familiar with the vehicle, and I mean intimately familiar.
  • nathan149nathan149 Posts: 1
    I drove my 1991 Legacy wagon through mexico, it was a blast! My only precaution was to remove my license plate and tape it to the inside of the glass, as I'd heard about ppl stealing them. But I lucked out and didn't have any car problems at all. We didn't even suffer without A/C (mine was broken at the time - and still is), except in Texas. The duct tape lines are still on my window, reminding me of the trip. Sadly, my timing belt just went out and I may be retiring her, depending on what my mechanic says it'll cost... Buen viaje! Espero que tengas una aventura magnifica!
  • bajasosbajasos Posts: 4
    thanx everyone that replyed i bought a toyota sr5 4x4 tercel first before the subee but i have had subaru's in the past with good luck so i will do as all of you sugest and bring the stuff i can fix or mind it with its a 800 dollar car im thinking if tranny or engine go south i will jump out and leaver right there and hitch, hop a bus what have u ?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,269
    Sounds good, and hey, whatever happens, I bet you will have a fabulous time as long as your well being is not at risk. Have a great trip!

    -Wes-
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Isn't there always?

    Bad news first. My concern would be leaky head gaskets. That affects the model year range you mention. If the engine has survived 120k miles, though, it would have happened by now. Just make sure you're not buying one that just leaked and was patched up. Have a mechanic inspect for signs of oil/coolant leaks and conduct pressure tests in the cylinders.

    Good news. A problem should be faily obvious. Turn off the radio and open the windows on a test drive and listen for any driveline noise. Wheel bearings will be noisy, same with differentials. It should not be hard to trace a problem.

    Good luck. I've seen Subarus for sale with 247k miles, but I'm sure those were cared for properly so buying used makes it tougher.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,269
    Yes, the 120,000 mile area is a tough one because even the poorly maintained cars tend to make it that long (then quickly fall apart!). Once the miles get even higher, the better maintained cars naturally outlast the gas-n-go's.

    In addition to the head gasket issue, which is definitely the most critical one to avoid, I have seen quite a few reports of transmission seal problems in, especially, the 1999 model year. The symptom of this is a delay in engagement when trying to put the car from park to a forward gear (D,3,2,L). If this happens, it is an early warning sign that things are going to get worse and a transmission replacement is not long in coming. These engines also have sensitive valve cover gaskets and camshaft gaskets.

    Generally, well maintained and replaced gaskets (or no current leaks), and I would trust my family to a used Outback. I had 220,000 on my '96 when it was killed last winter and purchased it at 83K (from, I found, a series of gas-n-go owners).

    Oh, and in regard to head gasket leaks, this is an issue for the 2.5L engines. 2.2L was still available on the Outback for model year 1996, in case you look at those as well. The main distinguishing feature between 1996 and 1997 models is the lack of a fake hood scoop on the 1996, making for a less sporty but more elegant look.
  • I will certainly be sure to check for those issues. Any vehicle we are considering gets a very thorough check by a mechanic. I will tell him the concerns mentioned above and we'll take it from there.

    There is a 1999 Legacy L Outback at a dealers with under 70,000 miles. Of course it costs more but would still be affordable, but at the upper limit of our budget. I'm going to have someone check it out first before we even go to look at it.

    After surviving a 1999 Ford Minivan with (unknown to me) HUGE problems (didn't do my research; that model was junk to begin with and seems to have come off the line with cheap transmissions) I'm going back to Subarus. My little 80 something GL kept going until it literally fell apart around the engine. On the other hand, my minivan developed a sudden transmission failure at 92,000 miles and got so hot the parts literally melted. I later learned that the trans we put in afterward was the 3rd one.

    Many thanks for the excellent advice!

    Sharon
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    You'll be happy to know Subaru now uses galvanized steel, so the body will last as long as the engine if you take care of both.

    1999 Legacy L Outback

    That's incorrect, it's either a Legacy L or a Legacy Outback.

    The Outback will be obvious: hood scoop, two tone, etc. It will have a 2.5l engine and alloy wheels, too.

    The Legacy L had a 2.2l back then, I believe they only standardized on the 2.5l for MY2000.

    If it's a 2.2l that could be a nice find - the EJ22 had far fewer head gasket issues, and was a very realible engine overall. Go check it out!
  • I get confused. This is definitely a Legacy L Wagon with the 2.2 engine. Going to have it checked out first because it's quite a drive away from me. With the mileage under 70,000, I'm hoping for the best!
    Sharon
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Good luck, keep us posted!
  • I have just ordered an independent inspection (yes, it costs $100, but if the vehicle of interest is a long drive away it can save me in time, gas, frustration, and sanity, I consider the inspection fee as an investment).

    We are looking to move to the Roanoke VA area and I've no doubt a Subaru is one of the best choices for those hilly curves.

    So glad I found this thread! :)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Cool, keep us posted.

    And stick around, too, if you do have problems that are folks here that are pretty good about narrowing it down, often guessing the exact problem.
  • Along this same line, I currently drive a 1995 cavalier with 127,000 miles on it and it's time to go!
    I've been offered a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback Limited. One Owner. Well maintained. 77,000 miles which I guess is considered low for the age. The price is 7395.00 from a small 2nd had dealer who is a friend. Says he would have put the car on the lot for 8500.00 and has already had calls on it. I ran a carfax to confirm what is stated above. Car looks brand new inside and out. I am just wondering about reliability. Last Subaru I owned was an 88 GL Sedan which I loved except for the Y pipe and the rust! Otherwise car was good. I had 96,000 on that when I traded it in. I've just never bought a car with this many miles on it but it seems like such a good deal and I don't have a lot of money right now.
    So, what say you? Deal or No Deal?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    The 98 models had galvanized steel panels, so it should be a lot better about rust. Do inspect the undercarriage to see if it was exposed to a lot of salt (beach, NE snow treatement, etc).

    Also check the gaskets, front main seal (o-ring) and heads for oil leaks. If the block is dry after a decade it will probably never leak.
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