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Occasional trouble starting

I have a 1998 Sub Outback that has occasional issues starting. I have only noticed the problem on short trips to the store and such. I will drive a few miles to the store, run inside and then when I come back out the car will turn over but won't fire. Then if I wait about 10 minutes and try again it generally fires right up. It does not seem to matter how many times that I try before the 10 minutes or so mark, it just won't fire, and then mysteriously it will decide to fire. Other than this issue, that happens about once every two weeks, the car runs tip top. Ideas...


  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,312
    This seems to be a relatively widespread, even if not extremely common, affliction. My '96 did the same thing for years. As you said, you have to wait for ten minutes the first round, then try again every five minutes or so until it finally decides to start. The longest it took me was 45 minutes on one trip. As with yours, mine generally did this once every dozen trips or so, so maybe every week or two.

    In 2004, I had a knock sensor failure and replaced that plus the camshaft and crankshaft sensors simultaneously. After that, I never had the non-start issue again. Whether or not they are related, I just don't know, but there's a pretty good chance of it. I owned the car until 12/30/2006, with another 60,000 or so miles on the car and no driving habit changes, and it did not happen even once.
    2008 and 2010 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • I was listening to Car Talk last week and they described something very similar but for a Honda or something. They claimed it was the fuel pump relay going out. Does that sound right?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,312
    I would say no. I have had a fuel pump go bad on me, and it would always start initially, running very poorly and grumbling for about 10-20 seconds, then die.

    Even if there is no added fuel/pressure, the pressure in the system at the time of start up would be sufficient to allow the car to fire (or attempt to fire) for a few seconds.

    The good news, though, is that you can test a relay easily to verify whether it may or may not be the problem! And, if you decide to replace it, it might set you back $10-$15 (and take 30 seconds of time) versus sensors which are $50+ and a little more work to replace.
    2008 and 2010 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • What do you think about the camshaft position sensor. Another poster had a few sensors replaced and said that the issue stopped, so I look online for similar issues and found several Subaru owners who had similar or the same issue and it turned out to be the camshaft position sensor. Do you know where the camshaft position sensor is on the car? I looked at pictures of a replacement and it looks to be only a plug and a few bolts, which could make life pretty easy. Thanks so much for your feedback!
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,312
    That's certainly possible. I would have to run through my records on that car to see which codes had actually set. Since I replaced all three at the same time, I cannot say for sure which resolved the no-start, but I certainly never had any codes pop up when the no-start was the only problem (unfortunately!).

    The Camshaft Position sensor is the easiest of the three to access and should take only a few minutes to replace. It is located on the driver side, front of the engine... at the top front corner just to the left (if you're looking at the engine) of the oil filler spout and, I think, to the right of the air conditioning compressor. If memory serves, you should be able to get to it without removing anything else!
    2008 and 2010 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • That is awesome. I will try that and let you know. Thanks for the feedback!
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,312
    edited December 2010
    Here is an annotated photo of my engine back in 2005. If you have the SOHC, which I think was the case in 1998, it is going to look a little different, but I think the sensors were in the same general location.


    Of course, this is only available for the next three days....
    2008 and 2010 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
This discussion has been closed.