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Subaru 2001 Legacy L intermittant electric problem -- help!

chriswansonchriswanson Member Posts: 13
edited July 2014 in Subaru
2001 Subaru Legacy L

Since I had the infamous head gasket replacement, my wagon has had an intermittent problem where the car loses power momentarily and then comes up to original RPM. Feels like "missing" or stumbling. Tends to happen under load, I think. Quite scary on the freeway, sometimes misses several times a second, sometimes just once.

I took the car in to the non-dealer shop that did my gasket work and they replaced the spark plug wires, thinking they were arcing. After that the problem was lessened but not solved, and...

Yesterday car stumbled several times on freeway and then shut off completely, AT Temp light started flashing, and I was unable to restart for 1.5 hours. Had car towed, car started normally.

Shop is saying this is going to be hard to figure out, as there are no error codes on computer.

Any amazing people out there who have experienced this? Should I take to dealer or electrical system expert? Recommendation in Torrance, CA area?



  • fibber2fibber2 Member Posts: 3,786
    This is a long shot, but look for a loose or missing ground wire between the engine and the chassis. I forgot to put an engine block ground wire on a car many years ago and it intermittently ran very badly.

    A lot was removed in the process of replacing gaskets. Go over the engine and check every single wiring harness connector for a snug fit.
  • chriswansonchriswanson Member Posts: 13
    fibber, thanks for reply..

    i took car back to shop that did head gasket work and they didnt have time to check it out on a saturday. i got impatient and decided to take it to dealer with the idea that if they found something obviously done wrong i could get reimbursed by first garage. besides, i had already taken the car in for the same problem and they didnt find the cause.

    picked up the car and engine was missing/stumbling from the start, but made it home.

    popped the hood and found a part of the wiring harness (left side looking from bumper of car) that was actually resting on the block. also found a "bracket" that looks like it should be holding something, but isnt (wires in question?). fiddled with the wires to make sure they were not in contact with block and started the car. "AT Temp" light promptly went away and car hasnt stumbled since. im going to test this tonight and try to get it to misfire (usually happened under load) and pray that it doesnt.

    basically matches what above responder reported. thanks again for reply!
  • fibber2fibber2 Member Posts: 3,786
    You are most welcome! Hope it really turns out to be that simple. (simple is good!)
  • chriswansonchriswanson Member Posts: 13
    edited April 2010
    well, i was wrong..engine cut out after a few seconds of higher RPM testing.

    took it to the dealer and turned out to be a faulty crankshaft sensor.

    what are the chances that sensor was damaged during timing belt replacement? its true that the car started misfiring after this repair. do i have grounds to ask for compensation from shop that did this repair?
  • fibber2fibber2 Member Posts: 3,786
    edited April 2010
    Sorry to hear that the issues came back.

    The crankshaft position center sits forward on the top of the block just under the alternator. It shouldn't have to be removed during the headgasket change (it's below the intake manifold that is removed), although the routing of the wiring harness might make disconnecting it a possibility. I assume that you had the timing belt change done as part of the HG service, as it's all apart anyhow. No question that it is vulnerable given where it is located during the timing belt change. Could it have been disturbed? Sure. Is the shop responsible? Difficult to prove, and kind of unlikely you'll convince them to pay.

    I lost a neutral safety switch on a Camry transmission change some years ago. Even though this part was removed from the old tranny and placed on the new one, the fact that it worked for a week or two before dying was enough of an out that the shop claimed it was a natural death. I took it apart, and indeed it was corroded inside. This is what happens on older cars. They are dying a slow death, and disturbing things quickens the decline.

    Did they kill your sensor thru malpractice, or just hasten it's failure? Tough call.
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