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Subaru Legacy/Outback Wagons Maintenance & Repair



  • I have noticed three possible problems in a 2005 Legacy GT Limited I recently bought. With 800 miles on the car, I have noticed:

    The car pulls to the right. I took it in and they performed a four wheel alignment, but it still pulls to the right. I am going to call them and have them look at it again, but I can't figure out what would cause this, since they just aligned it a week ago.

    A burning smell comes in through the vents when I am not running the AC but the fan is on. I first noticed it a couple days ago, when I revved the engine near the redline. It is similar to the smell of a hair dryer that's overheated.

    When I accelerate, in first and second gear, I hear a lot of transmission whine. Similar to the sound made when driving quickly in reverse. Is this normal? I thought I should only be able to hear the engine, the exhaust, and maybe some road noise from the tires. My car sounds like a go-kart with this whine...

    I am concerned about these three problems. I am afraid if I take it to the dealer, they will just tell me the burning smell has no source, and that the whine I hear is normal, when I don't think it is.

    Can anyone offer any insight???
  • sheesh1sheesh1 Posts: 2
    Ever since I bought my Outback (2002), I have had a really bad windshield problem. Whenever I drive in a crosswind, at certain angles, there is a very loud noise emanating from the side of the windshield. Sometimes it comes from the driver's side and sometimes from the passenger's side. But it seems most common on the driver's side. It is a high-pitched whine, and is very very annoying. I have had this noise for almost three years now, and noone has been able to fix it. I will admit that unless the conditions are just right (dry, windy, driving into or across the wind), that it doesn't happen.

    Originally, I took it to the dealer in Alabama where I bought it, and they couldn't hear it. Now, since I moved to Kansas, the noise happens on a daily basis (it is very dry, and very windy here). I have been dealing with the dealer here, and they have been trying to fix it under warranty. At this point they are unwilling to do anything else until the "Subaru rep" approves it.

    I have been told that this is a problem that other Outbacks (and other Subaru models possibly?) have had, and since they have tried to fix it twice (first by replacing rubber parts (gussets I think) on the side windows, and then by re-sealing the windshield), that at this point the "Subaru rep" will have to see me/it before any further action to be taken. I don't understand why the service managers can't tell/ask the Subaru rep to just approve for it to be fixed without having to see it.I almost feel as if they don't believe me that I have this problem. Recently, before a trip that I take frequently to South Central Kansas, during which I endure almost constant screaming from this windshielf because I drive for three hours in a southwesterly/westerly direction, I decided to take matters into my own hands and put duct tape around the windshield. Voila, fixed it. No noise. Now, what I don't understand is this...if I can fix the problem with a $1 roll of duct tape, why can't someone at Subaru fix my darn car?

    This problem is so bad that I am thinking about trading it and never buying another Subaru. That is sad, because I really love the car.

    Any help is most appreciated. Sorry for the lengthy message.
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,775
    A few suggestions:

    1) If duct tape around the edges solves the problem, then a tube of RTV sealer should do wonders. It has to be something that lifts with high wind velocity. Try backing off on the tape until you find the spot, if you don't want to use sealer around the entire thing.

    2) Go to a glass shop, and pay for new surround mouldings to be put in.

    3) Find a friend with a big rock... forget that suggestion...

    Seriously, if it is bad enough that you would consider selling a car you really love, then you need to pony up $100-$200 and get it fixed by a professional. I figure it will cost you at least $1000-$2000 to sell and buy something else (just in sales tax and tags alone), so stop being miserable and get it fixed!

  • sheesh1sheesh1 Posts: 2
    Thanks Steve. You gave me way more information and encouragement that I have gotten out of the Subaru guys ever.

    I told the Sub guy that I would pay for it to be fixed, and forget the warranty if they would just fix it. He still didn't have the ideas that you did.

    I appreciate it muchly.

  • jfljfl Posts: 1,385
    My Legacy did the same thing in heavy crosswind. Fortunately, heavy crosswind is uncommon where I live.

    I had the windshield replaced due to a small chip in the line of vision. The replacement moulding around the glass is very different and much flatter than the original moulding. I would think the new moulding is more resistant to the whistling. The original moulding was shaped like a "C". I believe the intent was to direct water from the windshield to the roof rather than to the side windows. I like Steve's idea of filling in the section with silicone.

    Hope you find a fix!

  • Well... not only have I been blown off by the service dept. at our local dealer, but by SoA customer service as well. I contacted them originally via e-mail and they assigned me a case #. When i called them to follow up, the rep intimated that the clutch problem is due to the way the car has been driven. She told me to take it back to the dealer (which I did the next day). I accompanied their "technician" on his test drive (once around their lot). He noted that the clutch was 'juddering.' The svc, mgr. said he would discuss the problem with his district mgr., which I suspect he never did. I wrote a long letter to SoA with the case #, VIN, TSB #, etc. and to date have received no response (I have written proof that the letter was received). It has now been over a month! My next step is to write a cover letter to the President of SoA and send a copy of my original letter to their customer service dept. I am really pissed atthis point! Any further suggestions?
  • rob_mrob_m Somewhere North of BostonPosts: 813
    First the tires. Have you rotated the tires? Sometimes a radial tire will pull to one side. Also, check the tire pressure. Subies are extremely sensitive to variations in tire pressure.

    Second, the smell. Is it a manual? There are a lot of reports of 'clutch stink'. There are a bunch of threads on legacygt forum. If it is an auto, it's probably the center differential engaging.

    Last, the transmission whine. Is it the tranny, or the turbo? Rob M.
  • Having lots of wind noise through the lower front corners of the front windows on my '03 Legacy wagon. Can somebody re-post the info on how to adjust the gussets to eliminate the noise (this was posted in 11/03, but the link from that post no longer works!)? THANKS!!!
  • bkaiser1bkaiser1 Posts: 464
    You should really try to find a different dealer, one that is interested in fixing the problem. The shuddering clutch is well documented here and there IS a TSB issued on the clutch in your car.

    I had a 2001 Outback with a clutch that shuddered horribly almost since took 50,000 miles of me documenting the problem at every service visit (each time being told it was normal). Finally, in December 2003, the TSB was released and Subaru made the updated parts available. The new clutch didn't cost me anything, but the issue had been well documented since the car was new.

    In the absence of a "history" on your car, they may decide to only cover part of the repair at this point, but there is absolutely a fix out there. If your dealer won't help, perhaps it might be worth a drive to a different one. Good luck -- I know it's frustrating!

  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,775

    To begin with, note that there is a Subaru Service Advisory on this, that was released in April, 2004 (bulletin # 12-82-04). So before you kill yourself trying this on your own, see if you can get your dealer to do it for free!

    Craig Hunter is our master of door glass adjustment, and posted instructions previously on his web page:

    If it is no longer available, I did copy it and have it as a powerpoint file. But you will have to post an e-mail so that I can send it to you.

  • cvargacvarga Posts: 1
    I purchased my 2000 Legacy Wagon GT in September 2003. Whenever I have driven the car in excess of 20 minutes, I notice that, as I take a tight turn (like into a parking space), a noise emanates from the car, almost like a piece of rubber touching the bodywork. This ONLY happens after I have driven the car for a while and never when cold. This leads me to think that it is not the CV joints but something else. I did have the car checked up last year by my local (non-Subaru) service center and they found nothing (and could not repeat the circumstances to find the noise).

    Any ideas?
  • They have not been rotated, to my knowledge. I am taking it back in on Saturday, and I will explain that it still pulls to the right.

    It IS a manual. I will see if I can find anything in the forum on "clutch stink." Is it just something I have to live with, or is it sign of a problem with the clutch?

    The whine is definitely not from the turbo. The whine comes when I accelerate, not when I rev the engine. I can only hear it in first and second gear; the volume and pitch seem to be directly rated to the rate of acceleration. Once in third, even when the RPM are high, I cannot hear the whine. If I am idling, motionless, and rev the engine, I cannot hear the whine.

    I'm concerned about it. I am positive the dealership will just tell me it's normal, when in fact it's not. And with my luck, whatever is wrong will cause other parts to fail; ones that are not covered under warranty.
  • bkaiser1bkaiser1 Posts: 464
    On my WRX, I cannot hear the turbo at all if I just rev the car up in neutral...the only times the turbo whine is evident is when I'm accelerating in 1st or 2nd gear and happen to be parallel to a wall or something to bounce the sound back, or in 5th gear on the highway when I accelerate.

    I know you've got a different engine than I do, but the concept is similar and it sounds like you're hearing the turbo at exactly the same times I am on my car -- which is to say, when the car is under load and not at rest. Sounds normal to me.

  • So I wonder -if I was too really get the revs high and get the turbo spooled up faster than I have been, if the whine would change...

    Then again, I can hear the whine even when I am not near a wall, and with my windos up or down.

    I'll check it out, though - thanks!
  • Don't trade it! We traded in our OBW for a grand caravan when our 3rd arrived. We now wish we had toughed it out for the short time it was for our oldest to grow out of the booster. Now looking to downsize for another OBW or Forester for all the usual reasons even though our AWD Caravan has served well.
  • francophilefrancophile Posts: 667
    .it took 50,000 miles of me documenting the problem at every service visit (each time being told it was normal).

    In my case they kept telling me they couldn't reproduce the shudder ('00 Legacy GT). But my constant complaints also got me a free clutch at 63,000 miles once Subaru finally faced up to the problem and the TSB came out.

    Morals to the story? Okay, I'll give it a go :-)
    1) Unfortunately it sometimes takes a while for manufacturers to 'fess up.
    2) Document, document, document.
    3) Maintain a good working relationship with the dealer.
    4) If #3 becomes impossible, find another dealer! There are good ones.
    5) Replace the throwout bearing while the clutch is being done!

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Spary lithium grease on the sway bar bushings, the rubber joints that hold them in place.

  • digobwdigobw Posts: 4
    I just bought a 2002 Outback (47K) and notice the engine knocks for the the first 8-10 mins each time I drive the car. Even if I drove the car 2 hours earlier, it still knocks. After ~10 mins, the knock quiets. By the way, during Idle, the engine does not knock, only when I am driving. I have let the engine idle until complete warmed up (~15 mins) and it still knock when I drive it. I ran a tank of premium gas to no avail. The knock is not fast (isolated to a few cylinders) and not a tap (lifters).

    This leads me to believe that this maybe a "ping" and the computer take ~10 mins to compensate and adjust.

    Is this normal? What can I do to quiet this down? Any suggested additives?

    Thank you
  • leg04leg04 Posts: 3
    I have a 2004 Legacy. About a week after I bought the car that only had 100 miles on it. I started to notice an antifreeze/coolant smell. I took the car back to the dealer only to be told they didn't smell anything. After a few more tries and negative reviews on the service questionnaire , they finally smelled the odor. The explanation I received was this was "NORMAL" and that there is a tiny hold in the coolant over flow reservoir to let out the vapors. I find it hard to believe that every Subaru owner puts up with this smell. Has anyone else had this problem?

  • jensreidjensreid Posts: 3
    I am looking to buy a Subaru OB wagon. They ares:

    1. 98 OB @ 53K for $10,900
    2. 03 OB @ 79K for $12,500

    The 03 was a sales car w/ all highway miles and regular check ups @ 30 & 60, as well as oil change every 3.

    Not much history on the 98- its being sold by a dealer so has had a through inspection.

    The question is: Is it better to get an older car w/ lower mileage or a newer car w/ higher?

    (Currently I drive a 93 Legacy Sedan w/ high miles doesn't scare me as much.)

    Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  • I would recommene the newer 03 model for the higher price.
    That said, there are some terrific deals right now, and I would try to get a new or newrly new one for almost the same money. For instance, I bought a new 2004 Outback (base) from McCurley in Pasco, WA for $17,340 on August 26, 2004. Seems like you could get an 05 for about that now, and there's a world of difference.......more than the $5000 difference just in warranty alone.
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,775
    Most likely what you are hearing is not a pre-ignition combustion type knock (ping), but something known as 'piston slap'. Many of us have it, and it has resulted in quite a lot of discussion here in the past. On warmer days, you might not notice it much, but the colder it is, the more irritating it is.

    Basically, you are hearing oscillation within the cylinder bore of the tail end of the piston (known as the piston skirt). This is not a Subaru-only problem, although I wonder if the horizontal layout rather than more vertical arrangement of common engines might exacerbate the issue. In the quest for reduced mass (higher revving, reduced friction), the length of the piston below the wrist pin is trimmed. Until everything has expanded to equilibrium, it 'shakes' slightly, making the noise. A number of sources have reported that it does not appear to cause damage, but it sure does make a racket. Subaru issued a tech bulletin advising the service people to inform customers that all is well.

    But just to be sure, take it in and have them listen to it. You are still in the powertrain warranty, so it is certainly worth the piece of mind to get an opinion. Let us know what you come up with.

  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,775
    Given the continuing head gasket problems of the older series phase 1 DOHC motors, I would opt for the '03 without question. Plus, you are getting a slightly larger, and more comfortable car for the money. I have driven in friends '98-'99 cars (1st gen OBW), own an '02 (year 3 of the 2nd gen OBW), and have rented several '03 & '04's on trips. Clearly, they get better each year as SoA adds and refines little things. For instance, after a set of feature enhancements added in '02 (over the '00 & '01), they went and gave the '03 a revised front suspension that improved ride and handling.

  • francophilefrancophile Posts: 667
    It could be that they overfilled it from new, or it could be the dreaded head gasket seepage. Do you smell it all the time, only when the car is hot, only when the car is cold? Where do you live, is the weather still cold there? How cold?

    My '00 Legacy GT had a seeping head gasket. Coolant would leak out onto the exhaust where it would vaporize. It was a tiny leak but wow did it make a lot of smell. It only happened when the car was cold and the weather was cold. Any other conditions and it did not happen. The leak was so minor that I never even noticed the coolant level dropping.

    Finally one very cold day the smell got *really* strong and I figured, enough. Took it to the dealer and they did the head gasket under warranty.

    Let us know what it finally turns out to be.

    Good luck,
  • leg04leg04 Posts: 3
    From what I've noticed I smell it all the time. It is worse when the weather is warm. I live in PA and the temp is around 50-60.

    I drive little less than 10 miles from work to home and when I get out of my car I smell it. There are no visible leaks, nor do I notice the coolant level dropping.

    Last year we drove to Florida in mid Oct. and the smell was so strong that at a gas station, a section over someone made a comment about how strong the smell was.

    Question is, how to get the dealers to do the head gasket work, when they like to put it off until it is no longer under warranty.
  • jensreidjensreid Posts: 3
    Thank you for the great information~

    I had no idea about the head gasket problems. Good to know.

    I am going to take the 03 into a mechanic tomorrow for a 'once over' and if all looks good, I'll likely buy it!

    I appreciate your feedback. Very helpful.
  • kenskens Posts: 5,869
    Cross rotating the tires will sometimes fix drift if radial pull is the case. One other possibility is that front caster (a non adjustable setting) might be out of spec. Did the dealer provide you with the results of the alignment?

    The clutch stink apparently has no solution. I've read about other owners complaining over at

    With regard to the gear whine, I don't recall hearing any when I test drove a 5MT LGT last summer (I bought an auto, however). Perhaps the dealer can let you try some other LGTs to see if you have a louder than normal gearset?

  • mrk610mrk610 Posts: 378
    Welcome to the Subaru Piston slap club. I also have a 02 obw with 54k miles . I have had the slap since 6k miles . I was able to get SOA to replace my #4and #2 pistons to combat the noise . That was at 42 k miles . Well the slap is back . I have done alot of investigating on this subject and there has never been a case of engine failure from piston slap in the subaru engine . Fibber2 has the best explanation of the noise . I have heard that some owners have had new short blocks installed and the slap has come back . I live with mine I just take it easy for the 1st 5-10 mins if driving . I have had my oil analysed every other oil change for the last 40k miles and I have no excessive wear in the engine . If anything my engine has very little wear for the miles . I only burn 1/2 quart of oil every 5k miles .I use sub filters and mobil1 10w30 . I have read that some owners have quieted the slap noise down by using a heavier oil or using a syn blend or straight dino oil. I,m thinking of trying a blend next change to see if there is any difference .

    Mike k :)
  • I personally would be checking for a leaking windscreen that may be dripping onto the ECU.
  • jgsubarujgsubaru Posts: 3
    What is the trick to getting at spark plugs.....not a lot of I need to drop motor, or maybe try a double universal spark plug socket
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