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Subaru Legacy/Outback Wagons Maintenance & Repair



  • Hey everyone :-) thank you all so much for the great ideas... I think we are on the right track here - I think we are close to figuring this gremlin out.

    OK - on Thursday, when I got stranded... we could manage to start the car, but it would not stay running. And did it ever stink - the mix coming out of that exhaust was unbelievably rich - you could pretty much smell straight gas almost. It was like it was drowning.

    We managed to get it running well enough on Friday once it had dried out, and I got it home, but it was not a fun ride. The CEL came on immediately, and it ran just awful - good thing I only had 5 miles to go.

    When my friend hooked it to a palm help computer tonight, we got a P0102 = low voltage to Mass Air Flow Sensor. He cleared the error, and the CEL subsequently went off, and the car ran better.
    We were pretty sure with as rich as it had smelled that the problem was related to the air/fuel mixture, and this codes seems to be in agreement. And today was dry, so nothing was wet and it behaved. We were not ready to spray it with water and try again - for fear that I may permanently burn out whatever it is and have to have the thing towed off.

    Interestingly enough, the car sat in rain all day on Thursday... and it started and ran fine til I got a few miles down the road. My gut feeling is that you are on the right track with either a wiring harness issue or an intake issues.

    When I popped the housing to the air filter off on Thursday, the filter was bone dry. Its actually in great shape. So my thought is wiring harness - that mist coming up from the road or puddles is causing some sort of a short - but i dont think it is sucking moisture through the intake, because wouldnt the filter be damp if that was the case?

    PS about my mechanic - he's my best friends husband, and hasnt charged me a cent, much to my protest :-) A great Marine with loads of general mechanical knowledge, who has driven 50 miles roundtrip to bail me out a 5 times now, and who has himself personally changed my cat converter, o2 sensors, fuel filter, ignition coil pack, plugs and wires. He's a fantastic guy and a wonderful friend. But: he says electrical is beyond his scope - and I am thinking that my only recourse at this point is to have the thing hooked to a big computer and have a full diagnostic laundry list run.

    Can someone point me in a direction to loook for chaffed wire? we wiggled all visible connections from the top, and could not replicate the problem or cause a stall. We were able to see 3 or 4 different connectors. Mitch even popped the air box and looked at the sensor itself, but we werent really sure if the sensor looked normal - we didnt see any black char or anything on it tho. I will happily crawl under there and look for chafefd wire and broken guards and so on - I am not exactly sure what I am looking for tho, I will admit that. :confuse:
  • garandmangarandman Posts: 524
    Well, actually the Honda V6 has two head gaskets as well.
    Yes it does. But it does not have a reputation for blowing those headgaskets at 70-110K miles. You did know that about the Subaru 2.5 before you bought it, right? Surely you noticed how the older Subarus are all getting a "below average" reliability grade for engines in Consumer Reports?

    You probably will get similar reliability in the Subaru. What you will not get is the acceleration, smoothness, and mileage of the Honda V6. But I couldn't fit in a 2001 Accord, so I have no opinion on the differences. I still have the Subaru, BTW.
    If it's still running OK next winter I'll put Nokians on it.
  • stantontstantont Posts: 148
    This started with a comment about ease of care as part of a manufacturer's design priorities, but we have gotten a bit afield. But since you bring it up...

    I've never driven an '04 or later Accord, but compared to my '01, the Subaru gets 2-3 mpg better mileage than the Accord did (not quite fair comparing 4-speed auto with 5-speed stick, but that's what we had/have). Week in and week out, the Accord got 19 mpg in our daily city driving; the Subie gets 22. And the Accord got 26-27 mpg on the road; the Subie has gotten 29.5 at the same speeds and on the same routes. Same tires, even.

    But the clincher is that our Accord had a 4-speed auto with very wide-range gearing (stick shift was not available with the V6). 4th gear at 60 mph was only 2000 rpm versus 2600rpm in the Subie. On top of that, the last generation VTEC Accord V6 had very poor midrange torque. So even though it was undoubtedly faster 0-60 mph than the Subie, the Subie feels faster and more responsive in daily driving. Acceleration in 4th gear in the Accord was undetectable; any acceleration at all required a downshift, so a simple lane change required a push to downshift, which often gave more acceleration than you really wanted, but there was nothing in between. I find myself moving through heavy traffic much smoother and easier in the Legacy than the Accord.
    More important, if you wanted to pass a car on a 2-lane road at 60 mph, you stomped the Accord and got 3rd gear and 3300 rpm, and very little torque. If the car were going 50, it would go to 2nd and Wow!, in a few seconds it was going 70, then upshift to 3rd. But at 60mph you couldn't get second. Having driven the Accord for nearly 4 years and 65,000 miles, and having driven the Subie for 4 months, I'll say our 165hp 4-cyl Subie (with stick shift!) is faster accelerating from 60-80 mph than the 200hp V6 Accord automatic.

    None of this applies to the newer Accord with 240 hp and 5-speed auto. The latest engine has a 3-stage version of the VTEC system where ours had a 2-stage version; it has much better midrange torque, from what I've read, and the 5-speed auto fills in the gaps left by the older 4-speed auto.

    On longer trips, the quiet of the Subie is years ahead of our Accord. Sure, the Accord engine is nearly silent on the highway, but on the coarse ship-seal roads that Texas DOT uses so much, road roar and hiss in the Accord drowned out everything else, including conversation or music. The '05 Legacy's I've driven and lusted after are nearly immune to coarse road noise, and even our '02 is much quieter than our Accord was. The absence of road roar means you hear wind rush and engine whine in the Legacy, but the overall cabin noise level is still much lower in the Subaru. When I got rid of the original Michelin MXV4 tires on the Accord, the noise level dropped, but was still significant on coarse roads. We often listen to books on tape on longer Interstate trips, and my wife and I have both noticed the lower noise level in the Legacy. BTW, in other states where chip-seal roads are not used so much, this may be a non-issue.

    I may have trouble with the Subie head gaskets some day, or I may not. I got the car at a good enough price that if I eventually have to shell out for new gaskets, I'll still probably be ahead of the game. And meanwhile I am driving a car that I really enjoy.

    If you are too, then we're both winners here. :)


    p.s. As an aside, if Honda offered an Accord wagon with v6 and stick shift, I might have bought it, road noise or not.
  • ALRIGHT. Now I am really tweaked :-(
    After the car ran last night - and we cleared the P0102 code...
    I cant get the car to run this morning. Same thing - stalls wont stay running. The car sat in the garage all night long. But the humidity in the air is very high.
    SO-- wiring harness? cant imagine what else could be causing this, since I havent driven through any puddles today.
    The real kiss of it is I was scheduled to bring it to a garage this am for an electronics diagnostic. Too bad I cant get the car there!
    the code P0102 denotes low voltage... besides the MAF getting low voltage and not nkowing if its inbound or outbound... what else should I be looking for? Besides a cheap towing company? :sick:
  • kmcleankmclean Posts: 173
    Mike -

    Actually, it's the "pilot light" in the switch - the little, round, orange light that's integrated into the switch and comes on when you depress the button to activate the mirror heaters. The switch (and heaters) work.

    If I get behind that little wood bezel and encounter a multiswitch panel that would have to be replace entirely I'd blow it off and live without the light. I'm mostly concerned at this point with getting that plood trim piece off without damaging it so that I can take a look. I've done this with other cars (similar setup) but I had the expanded maintenance manual that indicated pry points - and prying elsewhere would likely cause damage. Since Subaru only sells monster manuals, I don't have that info available (in the basic owners manual). There's no screw or obvious pry point that I can see.


    Ken in Seattle
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,910
    It may be one (or both?!) of two problems at this point:

    1. Loose Ground
    2. MAS is failing or failed

    I had problems with my MAS before and when the MAS wasn't working, neither was the car.... It was very hard to diagnose and I eventually replaced it on my mechanic's "hunch," but since the problem ceased to occur, I can only assume that this WAS the problem. You've done better than me though; my CEL came on every time, but oddly enough it never recorded a code. Mine had no relation to wetness, so I may be grasping at straws here.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • starwindstarwind Posts: 9
    Thanks to all for the input.
    Here's the outcome: I went to an auto trim shop, the kind of place that does custom decals. They made exact replica decals for me, & installed them, for $250 out the door. It really looks great. The color matches the silver paint even better than the oem decals had.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,910
    Sounds like a great deal for the result you most preferred!
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I know this sounds almost too simplistic but check is any of the vacuum hoses are loose or not attached. OBDII will shut the engine down and trigger a CEL if it senses a leak in the fuel vapor recovery system.

  • letspikletspik Posts: 3
    My wife and I bought subaru outbacks in 1997. We loved em- then last week my coolant was bubbling- and now they tell me a cylinder leaks into the coolant and it needs a short block- Our cars are highly maintained oil changes more than you recommend, etc... I have 106,000 and was hoping for over 200,000- just replaced the compressor and did the belt/water pump for close to $2000. Now the car is dead and the regional manager says subaru won't help- at least till I talk with him next week, and hopefully change his mind. What the heck should I do with a car that looks new- and needs $4000 in engine work ??
  • kat95kat95 Posts: 49
    I just came back from a long trip and noticed the de-cell surge you are speaking of.
    This is my second Subaru and the other one did it as well, I'm not concerned. However, for your peace of mind call your dealer and ask if this is "normal".
  • garandmangarandman Posts: 524
    My wife and I bought subaru outbacks in 1997. We loved em- then last week my coolant was bubbling- and now they tell me a cylinder leaks into the coolant and it needs a short block- Our cars are highly maintained oil changes more than you recommend, etc... I have 106,000 and was hoping for over 200,000- just replaced the compressor and did the belt/water pump for close to $2000. Now the car is dead and the regional manager says subaru won't help- at least till I talk with him next week, and hopefully change his mind. What the heck should I do with a car that looks new- and needs $4000 in engine work ??

    Subaru has steadfastly denied there is any problem with the design of the 2.5l and will not help. They offered me a $1,000 discount on a new one after I complained but we bought a 2005 Honda and Nissan instead. Toyota was much more upfront about their problems and retained customer loyalty. Subaru is pretending that all the owners who have had head gasket problems won't talk to each other. Search for head gaskets on and your eyes will be opened.

    First, take it to another garage.If it's just bubbling and didn't overheat while driving it's more likely the head gaskets alone. If you were driving hard and got an overheat condition, that's more likely to require a rebuild.

    On and even our local craigs list there are 90's Subarus for sale with head gasket problems. There does not seem to be an awareness of this problem here on Edmunds.

    I paid $1,250 for headgaskets (preemptively) at 140,000 miles. It now has 155K and is still running well. My sister-in-law had a rebuild at 144K due to the overheat and now has 215,000 miles on it with no further problems. The most you could hope for as is is probably $2,000 or so. So if you like the car, get it fixed and keep driving.
  • 95legacy95legacy Posts: 26
    Look for paints made by monokote or duplicolor. You'll find them at a NAPA or an auto parts store. Wal-Mart has them too if you can't find it anywhere else but, I only go there as a last resort. Trying to keep some jobs in the U.S. (Thank you George W.) Anyway, prep is more important than any other step in painting. Clean the center caps well and the Duplicolor will stick. Other than that follow the directions. shake the can for the full two minutes, hold it 12" away, etc... You know.

    As far as matching the color, try the subaru silver (you can look up colors in a color matching booklet), or since the wheels are primarily aluminum try any paint that says aluminum as the color description.

    If you end up wanting to replace them check eBay. - -


    You'll find a lot of other Suby parts there too. Read up on the sellers' background though.

  • 95legacy95legacy Posts: 26
    I think if you just wear your seatbelt it doesn't chime. LOL
  • 95legacy95legacy Posts: 26
    Yeah, I felt kind of bad saying that about your mechanic and actually I figured you had some sort of relationship.

    As far as the connectoins. I don't know what new things you've found out or if you were able to get that diagnostic but, is it possible that it wasn't starting because it was flooded every time? This whole issue is with the mixture too much gas, too little air, not enough, etc... Your rich mixture smell description makes me think that you were getting too much gas due to this connection problem that many have described.

  • prigglypriggly Posts: 642
    The head gasket in my meticulously maintained and always timely serviced '97 Outback blew at 137,000 miles. By the time I noticed the temperature gauge in the red the short block was already cracked. The Subaru dealer charged me CDN$7,000 for repair including a re-manufactured short block. NONE of this cost was defrayed by Subaru. The engine actually runs better now than when it was new: more power and no further piston slap which had been a "feature" of the original engine since near new. The car has been fun to drive and highly functional but has had plenty of mechanical problems over its lifetime. It has left me stranded three times including the head gasket/cracked block episode. Not what I would classify as impeccably reliable.
  • letspikletspik Posts: 3
    Thanks for your replys- - The dealers have been quite good- even one is excellent- but Subaru hotline is terrible- "Grant" even hung up on me after telling me he could do nothing but some loyalty cash for maybe $500... when I said the fix was $3500- we would NEVER do that- he laughed...

    Honda NEVER treated me like that.

    anyway the local dealer found someone to take it off my hands for $2650, and I will likely take that.. and go buy another Honda- whenever I told Honda about a problem, they came up with customer loyalty or some such money for most of the repairs/ springs broken- stuff like that...

    This Subaru looks brand new-- what a shame. I can get a replacement used engine for about $2000, but then I still have other headaches to look forward to..

    I am out of the SUBARU market forever- after having 2 that I loved- but if I don't love their corporate people and the treatment- then I don't any longer LOVE Subaru.. here I come Honda... or is that hyunda (SP?)that has a great warrantee and might want a new customer?

    I'm never coming back- and I will do all in my power to be sure others don't buy-
    wonder what the USA Today 1/4 page will cost? Don't be surprised if you see my story there- We will get even..
    thanks all/ Jerry
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    If there is a crack in the block it's totalled, that age and mileage make it a parts car now.

    If it's just the head gaskets you don't need a new block, that can cost as little as $6-800 per side.

    Toyota was much more upfront about their problems

    I respectfully disagree. Subaru bumped the head gasket warranty to 8/100 without much of a fight. Toyota fought tooth-and-nail on the oil sludge issue. Proof:

    You guys are talking about gasket failures at 144k and 137k miles, and in this owner's case 106k miles. Do you really think Honda or Toyota would cover those at that kind of mileage?

    For reference, Honda's powertrain warranty finishes at 36k miles and Toyota's at 60k miles. Honda would have to quarduple their warranty to cover that 144k gasket failure.

    No way, no how.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    By the way, the owner in that article had 29,000 miles on her sludged-up engine when Toyota denied the powertrain warranty claim.

    Not 100k+. 29k.

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,910
    At this point, it sounds like you are more frustrated with your treatment by SoA than with the problem itself. But, you should certainly find out the extent of the damage to the engine. If it is just a blown head gasket (which I suspect is the case), then you are allowing yourself to get the worst part of the deal by selling for such a low price. Even if you have a shop fix the gasket (or both) for $1,000 - 1,500, you could still sell the car for $4-5K and come out ahead. I am not sure where you are, so of course market would have a lot to do with that, but 106K is quite low mileage for a '97.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • zman3zman3 Posts: 857
    Subaru bumped the head gasket warranty to 8/100 without much of a fight.

    But they haven't done squat for those of us that own '97 and '98 vintage cars with the internal leaks that cause overheating and hydrocarbons in the coolant. The extension on the warranty does not apply to us, if I understand correctly.
  • c_hunterc_hunter Posts: 4,487
    I understand your frustration, but you should move on and be happy with your next car. Life is way too short to hold a grudge against the US arm of a large multi-national corporation!! They will always have more lawyers than you can ever afford!

  • goosegoggoosegog Posts: 206
    And my dealer says the extended warranty does not apply to Canadian owners of 2000-2004 Outbacks even if they have had the recommended coolant additive put in at the dealership. Either we are too few to bother with, or we aren't as litigous as Americans, or maybe our laws aren't as supportive of consumers. For example, I don't think we have a " :lemon: law" anywhere in Canada.
  • dcm61dcm61 Posts: 1,552
    For example, I don't think we have a " :lemon: law" anywhere in Canada.

    Isn't it too cold for in Canada for lemons??

    Maybe Canada should have an apple law instead? :D

  • betsy5betsy5 Posts: 2
    I love my LL Bean Outback, but am having serious concerns over noises I am hearing that seem to come from the suspension. It's starting to make me hate my car. The second winter I had the car, I complained to the dealer that the car was making loud creaking/groaning noises from the suspension going over bumps or uneven surfaces when the temperature got below about 45 degrees. It would sound like the car was falling apart. I was assured it was nothing that some lubrication to struts or whatever wouldn't cure. The dealer wasn't able to duplicate the noise, but lubricated struts, etc. That worked for a month or two and then the noises came back. The weather then got warmer and the car stopped making them. It then started making cracking sounds from primarily the front wheels when I was in a turn under slow speeds. Nothing was found to be wrong. The next winter the creaking noises started again. Again, the problem wasn't able to be duplicated at the dealer, but everything was lubricated above and beyond the call of duty. The noises didn't go away. Then, when I would go over small bumps(like speed bumps) or hit uneven pavement, the suspension would actually squeak, sometimes accompanied by a clunk. There were times you could feel the clunking/vibration in the steering column. Now it is starting to feel unbalanced or "wobbly" when going around curves at slow speeds. All this seems to be experienced at slow speeds. And of course, except for some places I drive where I know the noises will always happen, they are not consistent. I am frustrated and unhappy and am very reluctant to take it to the dealer yet again for complaints that are never able to be duplicated. Does anyone have any ideas on what may be causing this???
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    That's true, and I have a '98. But mine's been just fine.

    We have 5 subies in my family, mine, wife's, dad's, sister's, and brother's. That's 10 head gaskets. Not one has ever even shown signs of leaking.

    If you were believe the hysteria some people seem to have, we'd have at least 6-7 failed gaskets by now.

    Betsy: I do think you should periodically spray lithium grease on your sway bar joints, but I'd suspect wheel bearings in your case. Do you get a speed-dependent noise?

  • famof3kidsfamof3kids Posts: 160

    I had a '86 Subaru that used to do this. Describing the noise as a squeek is too nice, I would call it a cruching noise. It was because the front struts were bad. It really made loud noises over speed bumps.
    I have noticed it once on my '03 Legacy, a few weeks ago, and I only have 20,400 miles. It don't concern me much because I know what it is.
    I suspect this is your problem, if your dealer can fix it, try another dealer and see what they say.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 7,748
    I know, we're getting to the time of year when it's almost light here in the east when we sit down to chat! But what's more fun than ignoring yard work that could be done to chat with the Subaru Crew??? :)

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  • dcm61dcm61 Posts: 1,552
    But what's more fun than ignoring yard work that could be done to chat with the Subaru Crew???

    Ignoring taxes?? :D

  • c_hunterc_hunter Posts: 4,487
    If the noise is associated with cold weather, then it's 95% likely to be a rubber bushing that needs some lube. These noises usually sound like a low-frequency creak, groan, or squeak. Unless you get the lube in the right place, the noise will continue. So I would try to get another lube job where they can find and cure the noise for sure. Beyond that, I would have a good mechanic check all the suspension bolts and mounts, especially the strut tops.

    I would not suspect bearing at this point, since this noise is associated with suspension travel and cold weather.

    As for the unbalanced wobbly feeling, check your tire pressure as a first cut.

    How many miles on the car?

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