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Subaru Legacy/Outback Wagons Maintenance & Repair



  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    xwesx: at 190k, all bets are off. That's more mileage than most cars reach by the end of their lives. I'd donate it and take a tax deduction if you can't resolve it easily.

    sonnysayshi: all things equal, a turbo is working harder. But all things are not equal - in this case the block is a semi-closed deck design, the pistons are forged, and an injector cools the bottom of the pistons, even the exhaust valves are sodium-filled to resist heat better.

    Subaru engineered this engine to last, and so far the 2.5l turbos have been reliable.

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,913
    True enough, but I'm going to get another 40K out of this puppy as our main transport, darn it. I would just rather not start digging into the dash blindly if someone else has some wisdom to donate to the cause! :D

    I wouldn't care if it had a heater or not if it was just me using it as a commuter, but I have a wife and 1.2 year old child that need to use it as well. The last thing I want to do is invest in another vehicle right now and it is not to the point that I have decided a new rig is the best route. :sick:

    I'll stick out a couple more weeks and then start digging at it if no good info turns up. Maybe I shouldn't have given my car's stats at the top of that post..... sticker shock! :surprise:
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • kenskens Posts: 5,869
    I think it really depends on the time horizon you're talking about. For most people who would sell a vehicle before 150K miles, I'd say that the 2.5 turbo on the Legacy GT/OBXT would probably do as good as a non turbo. It's been designed with some beefed up components as juice mentioned, similar to the higher powered engine used in the WRX STi. If anything, owner usage and care patterns would probably dictate the reliability of an engine up to this point.

    Beyond that, however, I would think a turbocharged or supercharged engine might be more prone to problems. Forced induction motors generally work harder (ie. more heat and pressure) and have more moving parts than a non-turbo so it would be short-sighted to say that the risk of failure were the same.

    Subaru has been manufacturing turbo engines for quite some time now and I don't think they would make the 2.5 turbo a workhorse engine if they weren't comfortable about it's reliability.

  • rstarkrstark Posts: 1
    I am interested in purchasing a 97 legacy GT the car has 168K miles. but when I test drove it both the check engine light and the airbag lights were illuminated. What could be the cause of the "Airbag" light being on? perhaps more important does anyone know generally the cost to get it repaired?
  • stantontstantont Posts: 148
    On my 2002 Legacy wagon, it seems the rear of the car is underdamped compared to the front. That is, on sharp humps taken at speed, the rear of the car rebounds with a little "hop" that the front does not. Since I bought the car in December 2004 with 57,000 miles on it (got 67,000 now), I don't know what the shocks were like when new. Would some of you more-experienced Subie owners care to comment on the firmness of Subie struts? If I thought the struts were getting worn, I'd replace them (the rears, at least); but if Subie's tended to ride a bit like this all the time, I wouldn't bother, expecting that new struts wouldn't make much difference.

    This is not a major issue; in normal driving, the car rides just fine. But on a rolling, twisty hill road, the rear does seem a bit indecisive. The problem might even be in only one rear strut, as the hop doesn't feel quite symmetric. But bouncing on one side of the rear bumper or the other doesn't give any hint of a problem; it only shows up at speed. And neither strut shows any sign of leakage, etc.

    Any advice? Thanks!

  • I am new to the forum and have been searching for a solution to my sticking clutch problem. There is no slipping of gears or hesitation, but for the past six months or so, the clutch sticks near the floor and pops up after a few seconds of delay. This happens about two or three times and then goes away, only to reurn again in a few weeks. Any suggestions?


  • jfljfl Posts: 1,385

    I'm assuming your rear tire pressures are set to factory recommendations?

  • jfljfl Posts: 1,385
    Check here:

    You can price the parts at:

    I'm trying to decide whether to repair it myself or use subie bucks to cover the labor too.

  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,775

    It is quite possible that the previous owner carried heavy loads in the rear on a regular basis, and the rear struts are simply wearing out.

    It wasn't all that long ago that people replaced struts/shocks every 25k miles. With the advent of gas to control cavitation and better seal materials, we don't notice the loss of control quite as quickly. But I bet most of us with middle aged cars would be quite amazed at the difference a new set would make.

    You cannot generate enough rapid force trying to bounce on a corner to notice much of a difference, unless they are really shot - as in almost dead. It doesn't take a lot of dampening to quell the oscillation you can generate by hand. It is things like speed bumps that exercise them sufficiently to notice.

    If you are handy and have access to a spring compressor, it can be a do-it-yourself job, or farm it out to a shop. Either way, it sounds like the place to start.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I'd get new rear shocks, sound like they are not dampening like they should. Especially if the rear behaves differently than the front.

    My Miata needs a set. It bobs up and down a couple of times on undulations.

  • saedavesaedave Chicago, ILPosts: 694
    Could there be a leaf or twig in the air duct/fan? With possible damper movement switching from AC to HEAT such an obstruction to fan rotation could change position. Your description of the noise could be either such a "leaf" or fan motor bearings. Fan motor bearings can sometimes be temporarily resurrected with motor disassembly, shaft polishing and WD40. ( I have done this on boiler inshot draft motors.) Even if this works, it is NOT permanent. The procedure is for plain, not ball bearings.
  • Thanks, very helpful. I know little about the technology of cars, and I will look for a performer in the next couple of years. I had planned to put the Legacy GT on the short list. It seems to offer so much for the money -- reliability from the turbo engine seems like the only question.
  • stantontstantont Posts: 148
    Steve, Juice,

    Thanks for confirming my suspicions. I've got spring compressors, so I'll redo struts some time this fall after it cools off a bit. My previous experience tells me that if I replace the rears only, then the fronts will suddenly feel too soft, and I'll have to do them as well. But I've got no desire to work on the car any more than necessary (esp. when the temp is over 90 degrees), so I'll order them two at a time.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Plus you'll be able to measure the change in the feel of the rear by itself.

    And if it settles down nicely you may not even need to do the fronts.

  • stantontstantont Posts: 148
    Yup, and rears are cheaper also. On a Subaru parts website the rears are $70 each, while the fronts are about $112 each. I'll check locally before I order, but I imagine my local dealer will be pricier than that.

    BTW, has anyone tried using Dynamat in a Legacy? The car is pretty quiet, but it would be nice if it were even quieter yet. I'm thinking about ordering the Extreme 36 sq foot set for about $90 (plus shipping) on eBay. It would cover all four doors plus the wagon "trunk" floor and probably the tailgate. Their website shows pretty impressive sound reduction, but the specific example they show is a Sentra, not an especially quiet car to begin with, so improvements are pretty easy. Subaru uses some dynamat-equivalent stuff around the car as it is, so I'm not sure if there is much to be gained. Do/did the upscale models use more sound stuff than my L model?

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    They used more in the H6 models, I believe.

    You'll probably get subtle improvements. I'd do the firewall first.

  • stantontstantont Posts: 148
    Yeah, the road noise is already pretty low, though I think it can be improved. Dynamat says in order of diminishing improvement to: start with the doors, then the trunk floor, then the cabin floor, then the hood. But since the engine hum is audible at speed, I think I'll do the easiest stuff first. I'll start with the underside of the hood (remove the stock pad, then put it back on over the Dynamat), then as much firewall as I can reach, then the trunk floor (because it is over the rear muffler), then the lower part of the tailgate, and last the doors. If I have a square foot or so left, I may lift the carpet and stick a piece to the floor under the subwoofer. The Extreme Dynamat is only about 1.5mm thick, so it should have no effect on how things fit back into place.

    The shop manual says to use a "clip removal tool" to remove the door upholstery clips. What is that? Other cars I worked on you just pulled/pried off the inner panel after removing the 2-3 screws that held on the armrest, etc. The clips were basically just barbed pieces of plastic or metal that pushed into holes in the inner door skin. A blunt table knife worked pretty well. Does Subie use something different? And is there a better (i.e., safer) way to remove them?

    Finally (for now!) is the inner door gasket part of the upholstery panel, or separate? I would expect it to be separate, but the manual doesn't show enough detail to tell.

    Lots of questions. Thanks for your patience!

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I would try to Google the tool you are talking about.

    I've had to replace a couple of clips, not on the interior, but holding things like the engine covers and grille on.

  • stantontstantont Posts: 148
    Thanks, I'll try that.

  • Hi Mark -sorry for the delay in posting. I've fallen way behind! The gasket replacement did indeed cure the overheating problem - we have had no problems since, other than the CEL and the dealer telling us we need to replace the catalytic converter which is NOT covered by the extended warranty I purchased. My daughter has learned to live with that, although at some point we will need to replace it. How warm is warm? we get 90+ from time to time here in the Boston area, but have had no problems with overheating even when using the AC. Good luck!
  • Jim,

    What are subie bucks? Do you think it will be easy to repair? My husband is pretty handy, but does not have a lot of time. Anyway, I was wondering if you had heard that the problem might be with a groove being worn on the quill?. I did some more research and found a company that makes a stainless steel sleeve to go over the housing to prevent anything from wearing on the housing directly - Apparently they have parts on, but I haven't been able to locate it. Any thoughts?

  • robotb9robotb9 Posts: 82
    I hope you guys can stand yet another AWD binding question. I have a 96 Outback wagon, auto transmission, with 103,000 miles. When I go around sharp corners (e.g., in parking lots, turning into my driveway) on dry pavement, I get a binding, clunking experience that feels as if the central diff has locked. I did some searching through the forums and became concerned that I was going to be looking at AWD clutch pack replacement (hence a couple of clumsy questions I posted a few days ago). Having just bought a B9 Tribeca, I want to get the Outback into reasonable shape to sell without pumping too much money into it. I have not yet taken it in to a mechanic.

    Anyway, while researching the problem I found some Subaru tech info that suggested measuring the tire circumference -- a difference of 1/4" could cause the problem I'm having. I measured them tonight (all at 32 psi) and found that the left rear was 83 1/8", while the other three were 82 7/8" (!). So, maybe I'm onto something. The tires are Michelin XW4s with about 46,000 miles. Tread wear looks even on all four. I tried dropping the pressure in the left rear to 20 psi and drove it around the neighborhood a bit. It seemed to help, though I couldn't be sure.

    So if you're still reading this, does the above make sense? I could buy a new set of inexpensive tires (the Michelins probably need replacing within the next 15,000 miles anyway) and see if the problem goes away. Or I could take it to my Subaru dealer, tell them the whole tale, and see what they can find. My concern is that diagnosing the problem could involve quite a bit of labor taking the tranny apart. What do you think?
  • jfljfl Posts: 1,385
    Subaru bucks are a 3% credit from the Subaru Chase credit card. It comes as $100 coupons good towards parts, service, or a Subaru car. I think the max you can earn in per year is $500.

    I haven't looked into what's involved in doing the repair mentioned on

    I'd look at the quill for grooving before considering that repair. It would be nice to understand the specific cause of the sticking clutch pedal.

  • grahampetersgrahampeters AustraliaPosts: 1,783

    Sounds like a Clutch Slave Cylinder failure. The clutch on subarus is hydraulic and the bit near the transmission evetually wears out. This manifests itself as the clutch pedal randomly sticking as you take your foot off it.

    Cots here in Australia is about USD200 for a repair. It's worth getting a Subaru Specialist to work on this as its one of those jobs, easy for an expert but a pain for someone without the proper toos etc.


  • garandmangarandman Posts: 524
    Hi sooby1!

    My 99 Outback Legacy Wagon started doing the exact same thing very early this year (overheating randomly, coolant backing up into reservoir). After 3 mechanics, a change in radiator, plugs, thermostat, etc, they opened her up looking for a head gasket and found a tiny hairline crack in a cylinder.

    After speaking with a parts guy at a Subaru dealership, the 1996-1999 dual overhead cam motors all have problems with overheating. In fact, he told me I wouldn't have much luck looking for a used engine because everyone in the world has sort of used them up replacing engines just like mine. He stressed that the 2000 (onward) engines were changed by the manufacturer because Subaru had no idea what was causing the overheating and probably didn't want to take the risk of a major recall.

    A mechanic I used to date has advised us to find an attorney and to contact Subaru HQ directly (they deny everything of course). Thus, I pass that information on to you.

    Good luck!

    PS: If anyone else has had this problem, I would like hearing from you. It's taken us almost 5 months to figure this all out!

    I wrote Subaru a letter after replacing the head gaskets on my 1997 at 140K miles (before there was a major failure) telling them I didn't like the fact that they officially were denying any problem with the 96-99 engines while all the mechanics and service managers are well aware of it. Toyota fessed up to their head gasket problems, and even Ford replaced a ton of 3.8l engines at little or no charge for overheating problems. Subaru offered me a $1,000 discount on a new Subaru within six months, but I didn't take them up after driving the 05's. My '97 has 161K miles now and I think the new gaskets will hold up through next winter, which is what I'm looking for.

    If you go to Subaru enthusiast sites like UltimateSubaru, you will find many threads reporting head gasket problems. At one point a guy had a registry of cars with head gasket problems, but ut's gone off-line and my suspicion is he settled with someone and shut it down.

    By contrast, reports of problems with headgaskets here seem under-reported. Some owner forums here are rant-fests, while others are feel-good.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I had to to this on my Miata, wasn't too hard.

    In fact I got a rebuild kit for under $11, and some brake fluid, and bled the system myself.

    It's about as hard as doing a brake job.

  • stantontstantont Posts: 148
    Re. the fan motor, the sound like spokes in a bicycle wheel made me wonder: have you looked at the possibility of some sort of debris blocking the fan? We have lots of trees in our yard, and spring and fall we get tons of leaves on the car's cabin air intake. We occasionally used to get a leaf or twig come all the way through to the interior air vents and blow into our faces (different cars - the Subie air filter would catch them now).

    Just a thought. After 190k miles, there could be all sorts of stuff in there, and the effect might be intermittent. A leaf wouldn't stop the fan motor, but a twig certainly could. If you pull the glove box, can you get a hand in to spin the blower and see if it is free?

    My point is that an intermittent problem can be hard to find, and I would not go into it assuming the problem is electrical.

  • ozman62ozman62 Posts: 229
    Actually, Scott McGerick's weblog is still up and running, and still getting new cases logged. It makes for some interesting (and worrisome) reading. FWIW, my '98 Forester is at 155K km (~95K miles) and no signs of cooling or headgasket problems. I hope I didn't just jinx myself ;)

    Scott's Weblog

    Regards, Owen
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,025
    A magazine writer would like to talk with car owners who have experienced auto repair fraud or incompetence. Please send your name, contact info and a few lines briefly telling your story to no later than Friday, August 12, 2005.


    Need help navigating? - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

    Share your vehicle reviews

  • doug900doug900 Posts: 7
    My wife has a 99 Subaru Legacy L wagon, which is displaying the cursed Check engine light. We had the codes pulled, and found 3 problems...faulty knock sensor,Front O2 sensor with a slow response time, and rear O2 sensor pre-heater failure. I replaced both sensors with Walker brand 4 wire universal sensors (this car happens to have 4 wire O2 sensors on front and back of catalyst, unlike many of that year, that had a 3 wire and a 4 wire sensor). Also, I replaced the knock sensor.
    We were told by a Subaru dealer, and a tire distributor that does inspections, that we would have to drive the car 70 to 100 miles for the ECU to reset the Check engine light, after repairs are made of course, which makes sense to me, since the OBD II ecu needs to take averages that fall within a pre-determined specifacation for emissions. Problem is, it won't turn off, after 100 miles of long drives. Any ideas anybody? Before I changed the sensors, or knock sensor, I disconnected the battery for about 20 minutes, which reset the computer, for about 5 to 7 miles. That was before we had the codes pulled.

    Now, disconnecting the battery doesn't do anything for the light. It comes right on upon starting, and stays on steady, as always. Very frustated! Doug Brown
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