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Subaru Legacy/Outback Wagons Maintenance & Repair



  • rob_mrob_m Somewhere North of BostonPosts: 813
    Why is everybody always picking on me?

    ... because you give us a lot of material to work with??? Just kidding! ;) Rob M.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,861
    Hmm. I am surprised at no responses as of yet.

    Anyhow, I decided to hit the sack last night rather than try my ragged mindset on a camper removal. I arose at 4 am to attack it and then decided to attempt a temporary repair of the severed spark plug wire that was the original reason I was not going to drive the Subaru today. I ended up patching it up reasonably well so I went ahead and reinstalled all the spark plugs and put everything back together. The car started up and ran fine (as fine as before the test, anyway!).

    Now I just have to find those benchmark compression numbers to see what I have......

    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
    This is not really an answer to your question and I assume you know this since you were capable of doing a compression test yourself, but....

    I was always under the impression that the difference between the cylinders was a bigger deal than the compression values themselves. I don't know what the odds are of all 4 cylinders going bad are. I thought as a general rule about 165 psi and a range of +/-10% between cylinders was considered "good".
  • rainesraines Posts: 1
    i recently bought a 94 legacy wagon 2.2 w/ approx. 150000 mi. my main concern is when you start up the engine it idles high & when you shift (automatic) into reverse or drive the engine is pulled way down as if it were a standard & you were dumping the clutch w/ the brake on. sometimes it dies. the one thing is, if you shift straight into low 1 it doesnt act as bad. if you try to drive @ a slow speed it will jerk &sputter. I drove this car for almost 2 weeks when i first bought it & it did ok. any ideas??
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,861
    I think I would look at the vacuum system..... Not sure where you're having the problem, but it sounds like a vacuum leak, block, etc. Maybe an EGR problem?
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,861
    Thanks, zman. I was aware of the +/- 10% rule, but not about the benchmark against which to compare all the cylinders. I mean, if it was supposed to be 205 and I was coming in at 140, even with all 4, I would consider that BAD!

    As it was, I came in at: (1-4) 158, 182, 175, 170. Differential between high and low cylinders (2 and 1, respectively) was about 13%. Now, I didn't do it exactly like the book prescribed (this was the first time I had performed such a test myself; only watched it done before) on this run. The engine had been off for about 70 minutes: I pulled the plugs early on (~20 min after shutdown, 70-degree ambient temp), but burned the heck out of my hands trying to work in those close quarters, so I waited another 30 minutes before trying to install the compression hose because it was just too darned hot to hold my hand down there and snake that darned thing into the threads. I cranked it 7 times, but did NOT shut the fuel supply off - so I hear that the fuel in the cylinder can cause the #s to be thrown off a bit.

    This morning, I ran the test again before putting the system back together. It was stone cold at this point with no way of heating it back up - ambient temp was 45 degrees. I also shut off fuel supply by depressing accelerator to the floor while cranking. I ended up with this: (1-4) 185, 197, 195, 188. Those were all real close, but again, the environmental variables were different.

    The fact is, I am having black combustion gunk in my overflow tank that would lead me to believe I have a blown head gasket. There's no oil in it (good sign!) and no coolant in the oil. I have also been smelling coolant since, well, since a couple years ago, but I have repaired any sources of external leakage in the interim and I still smell it any time the car is running even though I do not see any visable leakage. Also, the level of the coolant has started dropping again. :mad:

    I am trying to decide whether or not it is worth it to tear the engine out and replace the head gaskets before winter hits or wait until next summer (or longer!). I thought the compression test would help give me conclusive info, but it doesn't look like it to me. If I am having coolant find its way through the exhaust system, it would help explain the P0420 code that keeps my CEL on a good majority of the time, but that started long before I suspected any gasket issues (a good year or so before!).

    All feedback, except anti-'96 sentiments, is welcome! :P

    I think my next project is to tear into that heater fan.... at least I can continue to use the car even if I break something in there! :blush:

    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,861
    Oh, some more info regarding the compression test itself: The needle jumped to the pressures I mentioned on the first crank, so I do not think I have any obvious ring issues, etc., and it also seems odd that the benchmark would be 165 if I am getting semi-accurate #s on a car with 191K on it.... Not doubting that, just surprised.... Perhaps if I had done a more "by the book" job, it would have come out much lower?

    Still pondering,

    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

    Based on what little I've read, some people say ignore the pressure values and concentrate on the differences between the cylinders. Apparently pressure gauges and test methods can lead to varying absolute values, as you have seen in your two tests. I would guess that your compression is fine since the values in any one test are fairly comparable cylinder to cylinder.

    However, just guessing here, I could see where everything would look good during a compression test and then go bad at full operating temps. My 98 had a head gasket leak and of course it showed up as engine overheating. When they pulled the gasket the tech commented on how little the streaks/marks were on the gasket. It looked like a small leak. It's plausible I would have seen no pressure issues if I had done a compression test, yet I did have a leak. It seems to make sense, to me at least.

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,861
    I agree, and I am thinking along the same lines. I know I have a leak, just not how bad it is.... but it is worth fixing sooner rather than later!

    Since I really would like to get another 36 months out this bugger, it is in my best interest to go ahead and replace the gaskets. After all, it is only one weekend and a few hundred $ out the window vs. possibly being without a car or having to buy some very expensive parts or having to out-n-out buy another rig..... basically a no-brainer, even for a dummy like me! :)

    I truly appreciate the feedback. It does me well to knock heads with folks a little; tends to jar a decision out of me easier and I thank you for that! :P
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • stantontstantont Posts: 148
    I replaced the rear shocks on my '02 Legacy wagon, and that was a major improvement. Interestingly, the shocks were not worn enough to have much effect on ride; just a slight "floaty" feel in the back. The handling had felt "loose" in the rear from the first test drive; then we bought the car and got used to it over six months. But with the new shocks, the handling on sudden swerves is dramatically better - the car has become truly a sport wagon. It also seems more stable in strong gusty crosswinds.

    The rears must have been worn abnormally from carrying a lot of weight, or something, because the new rears and the original fronts seem perfectly matched; the fronts show no sign of wear.

    Really love that car! :D

  • zman3zman3 Posts: 857
    Glad to help. I feel like I receive a lot more from these forums than I contribute, so it's nice to help out occasionally.

  • i don't know if you notices that i have the same problem, does your car do what mine does, i was #5128. i went to the dealer and had the computer data cleared, it ran fine until i shut the car off. i am honestly thinking it is going to be the computer, because if it were the iac or something else it would set a code, im gonna have my computer reprogramed next week probably cause i have sources, i will let you know if that fixes it
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,775

    Glad to hear that this did the trick. Think I suggested to you that probably the rear took some abuse that the fronts did not see.

    Just curious - did you go OEM or aftermarket? What did they run?

  • mccainmccain Posts: 1
    Hi guys, My wife's 2003 Legacy has the valet security monitor light between the tach and speedo. We are not able to turn it off (clear the light). I've tried the setting sequence from the Owners Manual. It doesn't respond. Any suggestions ?
  • I have an '01 Outback with the 6 disc changer. The changer is still working fine, but the cd player in the main stereo has quit working and will not read the cd, just spits it out. I suppose my first step is just cleaning the laser? Anyone else had this problem...


  • stantontstantont Posts: 148
    I know the original owner had a pair of BIG dogs, and carried them in crates in the back. I can't imagine the weight of two dogs being enough to make the difference, but maybe they were Great Pyrenees(?).

    Anyway, I went OEM; I have had some good experiences with aftermarket (Koni, Bilstein) and some not-so-good (KYB for my 1990 SHO - wrong calibration for the car). When I test-drove Subies over the last couple of years, I was consistently impressed with the ride/handling compromise, so I figured aftermarket would be darned lucky if they could match that. OEM was a safer bet.

    They were $70 each from an outfit up in New England.

  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,775

    Good deal, and a wise choice. A relatively inexpensive fix to something that has been bothering you for a while. Any tips or problems with the installation?

  • nowakj66nowakj66 Posts: 709
    Will the Subaru cargo carrier that is sold for the 2005 Subaru Outback work on a 2002 Subaru Outback? I'd like to use my Subaru bucks to buy one but I want to be sure it works.
  • stantontstantont Posts: 148
    Pretty much straightforward but for two things: 1) the nut at the bottom of the spring/shock is TIGHT. I couldn't move it even with an 18 inch breaker bar, so I set the wrench on it and lowered the car weight onto the wrench against the driveway. That did it. I guess if you had a lift and raised the car to where you could put a two-foot breaker on it, it would be easy, but in the driveway on a floor jack (with safety jackstands, of course) there was no room to really put muscle on it. 2) the spring/shock unit is longer than the free-hanging position of the rear suspension; you need a hydraulic floor jack to partially compress the spring so you can remove and then re-install the bottom bolt.

    In contrast, the top nuts are accessible inside the rear floor when you lift up the carpeted rear "floor". Really easy.

    They are technically coil-over spring/shocks, but they install very much like McPherson struts.

  • My vehicle appears to have had a power surge or some odd electrical short.
    Here's the story:

    I let my car sit for about a week without driving it and the battery died. I figured it was no big deal since it's the original battery to the car (99 Subaru Legacy GT) and it just needed replacing.
    I jumped it, then a couple days later noticed the battery/voltage light on. So I replaced the battery and drove about a mile when a bunch of dash lights started flashing and the wipers came on and were wiping about 3x faster than the speed of what high normally is. I thought they were gonna fly off the dang car.

    I pulled over right away and it wouldn't start. The only thing that now works is the power locks and the sound that lets you know you've left the keys in the ignition. Everything else isn't responding.

    Any ideas what could have happened here?
  • lfdallfdal Posts: 679
    In days gone by that could have been caused by a faulty voltage regulator. On the old mechanical ones they would occasionally stick and the higher you rev'd the engine the more voltage things got - remember blowing ever bulb, including headlights that way.

    Don't hear about that happen very often with a solid state regulator.

    You didn't happen to notice if things got brighter or w/w faster as you gave it more gas?

    I'd check all of the fuses and fusible links first, then recheck the battery connections and the battery voltage with a meter if you have one.

    Then I think I'd get the alternator output checked.......


  • Giving it gas didn't change anything.
    I had it towed to a garage, I wanted some opinions before they got back to me so I would kind of know what to expect. I'm hoping this won't cost a fortune...

    Thanks for taking the time to give me advice. I'll let you know what turns up.
  • lfdallfdal Posts: 679
    You're welcome. Please do let us know what caused it. An alternator shouldn't be that bad to get replaced, the regular fuses are dirt cheap, but if it did blow some of the fusible links they could get a little expensive.

    Should be trivial for a shop to diagnose.

    Good luck

  • My wife drives a '02 OB Wagon AT with a 2.5L engine. From time to time she will use premium grade gas instead of regular. I know the 3.0L engine requires premium gas all the time, however is it OK to drive the 2.5L engine using premium gas all the time? Can the premium gas affect the 2.5L engine negatively?

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Sorry to ask the obvious, but you sure you're not using the valet key? Try a different key to be sure.

    Premium - it won't hurt your engine but it might hurt your wallet! $3.159 in Rockville, MD for premium, ouch!

  • Premium won't hurt the engine, it's just a waste.
    I had a 96 OB 2.5L wagon that recommended premium but I used 10% ethanol (89 octane) with absolutely no problems.
    My 99 OB 2.5L sedan recommended regular and I used the ethanol mix with no problems.
    My current 03 H-6 3.0L VDC wagon recommends premium, but again, I have had no problems with the ethanol 89 octane.
    Strangely, though, when I reset the engine computer on the VDC and filled the car up with premium (92 Octane) it got 19 city and 26 highway as opposed to 17 city and 24 highway before the reset and using 89 octane ethanol blend.
    In Nebraska, the 89 octane 10% ethanol mix costs substantially less than regular, so I tend to use that more often and it's never given me a problem with engine response or repairs.
  • krzysskrzyss Posts: 845
    Why "Strangely"?
    If premium is recommended then it is no wonder that engine is designed to benefit from higher octane.
    Is 89 octane 10% ethanol 10% cheaper than good stuff?

  • doug900doug900 Posts: 7
    Ok, I'm getting tired of troubleshooting this "o2 sensor heater circuit high input" problem. I didn't have this problem originally. Could it be that I just plain and simply have the wrong o2 sensor installed?

    This is on a 1999 subaru Legacy L wagon (just discovered that it is a California car) which explains the 4 wire o2 sensor on front and back, as opposed to 3 wire front and 4 wire back on non california models.

    When looking up sensors on "" (great site)!, they don't list a 4 wire universal for the front sensor (upstream from cat) for this car (year). I purchased one anyway (a 4 wire universal), and installed it. I wonder if this is the problem? the original sensor is a denso "planer" design, and the one I purchased, is a walker "thimble" design. It appears to be a hard fail in the OBDII, since when I disconnect the battery for a while, and then start the car, the "check engine light" comes on about 5 seconds after start, but instantly for each subsequent start thereafter.

    Does anybody know if this year and model subaru is critical to what o2 sensor is used? Is there something unique about the heater circuit in the oem sensor? I did break down and buy an oem sensor (Denso) for $114.00, hoping that when it comes, it will take care of my problem. Feed back from a subaru tech or someone in the know would be great! Seems to me that there is a reason that universal sensors are not listed for this car! Doug :confuse:
  • Premium is about $2.89/gallon compared to $2.51 for the 89 octane (10%) ethanol mix at the BP stations. So it is a little more than 10% less. Regular (87 octane) is somewhere between the two.
    Of course, these change almost hourly now. :surprise:
  • kalorixkalorix Posts: 5
    This may be a silly question but I have four new jack stands that I've bought to get a good look under the car. However, I've no idea of the safest place to put them. They don't have the slit-like groove that the Subaru jack has so I can't place them directly at the jack points. Any pointers anyone? A previous owner of the vehicle has already "flattened" one of the jack points, I assume by placing a jack stand under it. I have the Haynes maintenance manual if that can be used for reference. Thanks.
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