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Subaru Outback: Catastrophic Engine Failure at 70K Miles---Need Advice!



  • tbonertboner Posts: 402
    Is is possible the timing belt slips on only one bank of cylinders, accounting for only 4 exhaust valves.

    Consider this possiblity, the "funky" sealer used on one bank allowed oil to leak on the exhaust cam gear (I'm not that familiar with the Suby Boxer engine, so maybe there is only one cam.) Timing belt slips on greasy gear.

    Now that cam is "late" and the pistons smack the exhaust valves as they don't get out of the way in time.

    Just speculation, but I do have an active imagination. Of course non of this helps him solve his problem.

    Interested in St Louis
  • nygregnygreg Posts: 1,936
    If the engine was put back together with alleged improper sealant, then the whole job loses credibility. In that case, you can almost guarantee that the "old" belt was reused and the tensioner possibly damaged when reinstalling (Tensioner needs to be compressed over a 3 minute period to avoid damaging). I agree that the complaint is with the dealer and not SOA, however, in the eyes of the average customer - the dealer is SOA as they don't know the relationship between the two.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I still don't see a strong argument here I'm afraid, since "improper sealant" could hardly last 30K miles. Your best bet would be a mangled belt tensioner, -- even more swell and wonderful would be a chain tensioner with vice grip marks on it or sheered bolts holding it on.

    But a broken belt only proves a broken belt, not negligence.

    Now a wrong part installed, or installed backwards, that would be something convincing.

    Or any failed metallurgy might be of interest.

    I guess what I'm saying is that the burden of proof rests with you. Your broken engine, in total while dramatic, isn't by itself evidence of wrong doing. It's the little pieces inside that hold the answer (or not).

    I agree with you here, the argument is only with the dealer, not with SOA, in my opinion.

    Also, having the engine disassembled outside the dealership weakens the case considerably, as the dealer can claim damage during disassembly.
  • subaru_teamsubaru_team Posts: 1,676
    as I've posted before, I cannot comment on individual cases, so, while I hate to leave you hanging, I can tell you that I am "involved" with both situations. To clarify - this is related to two different situations. One vehicle has the bent valves, the other has a hole in the block.

    What I can say is this. Neither situation appears to be related to manfacturing defects or dealer negligence. I'm saying this so folks don't get into a panic about their Subaru engines.

    We're working with both gentlemen involved.


  • nygregnygreg Posts: 1,936
    here. Love my little 2.5. It seems to like the Mobil 1 too. :)

  • coranchercorancher Posts: 232
    My experience with stripped/broken timing belts on a highly over-square interference engine was that only the exhaust valves got bent. Maybe due to relative valve size or maybe geometry or both, but the cam wasn't turning and only the exhaust valves bent.

    Happened at idle both times, once just after starting. No noise or other sign of what had happened. Engine just died.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    We currently have 4 Subies in our family, all EJ25 engines. That's 64 valves. ;-)

  • to report that I have had some good converations with her and with the Subaru Team. I believe she is making a sincere effort to help. However I will report more on this later when I have more information and the resolution to the dilemna is clear.

    Current status is that my local mechanic has just completed the complete valve job, and that the engine is operating fine.

    It may not be possible to determine "fault" at this point. Was it an improper installation of the Short Block by the Subaru Dealership here on Long Island? I certainly have some reasons to believe this, including their rather inappropriate and unhelpful behavior towards me after they learned of my engine failure.

    Or, was it my local mechanic's fault when he did the 60K service which included replacement of the timing belt. He is a high quality mechanic whose business specializes in Japanese imports, and he (of course) claims that this is impossible, and that everything was done properly, and that the belt could not have slipped since there is a hydraulic tensioner.

    Who knows?

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Thanks for keeping us posted.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I would have to say that given the evidence at hand which you present (which may be very incomplete at this point) suggests that more "fault" lies with your mechanic since he was the last one with his mitts on the timing belt. This doesn't mean he necessarily did anything "wrong" but rather that his hands were the last ones in the engine, so this rather absolves the dealer---or at least lets the dealer off the hook in my eyes, were I some kind of arbitrator having to settle the case. The dealer's "attitude" is far less incriminating than your mechanic's physical entry into the very area where the problem might have originated.

    If I had more info I might think differently, but this is how it strikes me at the moment.

    Rather than look for the guilty,however, I would encourage you to chalk it up to bad luck, which just happens to everyone now and then.
  • ftdad1ftdad1 Posts: 29
    Well here is the last chapter of my story. I just got back from signing the title over to a local junk yard. I looked into all options and found this was the best thing for me to do.

    I looked into rebuilt engines but they are few and cost was about the same as having the dealer do it.

    I looked into used engines but here were very few that were useable and once again the cost after freight and everything else was about the same as dealer rebuild. I did find out that almost all of the 2.5L engines available as “used” were listed as having some sort of timing belt damage!!!! Call a junk yard that uses a national parts finder, and check for yourself.

    I would have had the dealership do the work if, Subaru would have offered some “Good Will” to restore my confidence in the quality of the engine, but they choose not to do so. Being true to my word I will never spend one more cent on any Subaru products, including parts. I think their decision was, “penny wise, but pound foolish”.

    The up side to this situation is that, I found one junk yard that was willing to give me way more than I thought I would get for it. With the money I would have put into the rebuild, the money I got from the junk yard and all the buyer incentives out there, I think a new car might be more affordable than I earlier thought. With Subaru out of the running shopping should be a snap.

    For anyone interested, the car is at a junk yard in St. Louis. They specialize in “modern imports”. There are a lot of good parts, heated seats, tow hitch, tires w/only about 10k on them, cargo mat, rear break rotors just resurfaced, engine block heater, hood w/scoop, spare tire never used....etc.

    Thanks to those who offered insight.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    FWIW, noone here has complained about timing belt damage. A few gaskets and wheel bearings, but not timing belts.

    Good luck shopping. I'd really suggest picking a very reliable brand and then getting an extended warranty as well. So many things can go wrong with modern cars, even reliable brands are a toss up. Toyota had sludge, Honda has those tranny issues, every make has its share of problems.

    Good luck with your next vehicle.

  • I have had a cold tapping noise in the engine since about 45,000 mi. Took it to the dealer just before end of warranty period. Came back with a note saying "could not confirm". Car now has 74,000 mi, still hear tapping, especially in winter. Is this noise a precursor to catastrophic failure? I was told unofficially by a dealer service rep that the noise is due to wearing out of a teflon part and implied that the noise is just a tap and not serious. After reading some of the above I can't help but wonder. Thanks for any comment forthcoming.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Well if it was serious you woudn't have made it 30K miles since you noticed the tapping. Sounds like some kind of "valve event". You don't worry about "taps" so much, you worry about "clunks" and "knocks".

    If an engine is in serious distress, it disintegrates pretty quickly.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    My Miata's valves clatter when its cold. For the last 20k miles. Just try not to put a load on the engine until the noise subsides.

  • I had a problem with a dealer somewhat like your Subaru. I kept all my papers, sent in a compaint to the A.G., and filed a case in small claims court. The dealer called me and said that he was upset about being served papers in front of his customers. That alone was worth the twenty bucks I paid to file the case. Anyway, I won the case..only a thousand. The dealer appealed, and the judge said the apeall would take the limit off the award. Now it's up to three thou. I felt great. A week later I got a check from the AG's office. Seems he had so many complaints, they fined him almost thirty thousand. Every one who complained got a check for six hundred. I think you have a good case. Just having a uniformed sheriff serve him the papers at his dealership is worth the twenty bucks.Thank you for posting. i would never buy a car with an interference engine. That timing belt breaks..goodbye engine. I was considering Subaru because living in New England..would be nice to have all wheel drive. I have several neighbors who own them. I will mention this thread to them. I think Subaru will feel the affects of these posts
    Good luck
  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 25,962
    Didn't find this discussion till now, but I have a couple of suggestions. The guy with the hole in the block commented that the timing belt wasn't due for another 25K miles. Uh... as far as I know the timing belt on the 2.5 engine is due at 70K, no? So at 77K miles, you were overdue. Maybe someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

    To the other valve problem, can you tell me if the bent valves were all on the side of the engine that didn't have a true head gasket? I think the possibility of coolant leaking into the cylinders on that side is quite possible. Yeah, it would be amazing that it lasted that long without a good seal, but silicone can fail over time quicker than a proper gasket. That's why they make proper gaskets and don't suggest just using silicone.

    '18 BMW 330xi; '67 Coronet R/T; '14 Town&Country Limited; '18 BMW X2. 47-car history and counting!

  • dcm61dcm61 Posts: 1,564
    The change interval is 105k miles for all 2.5L's ('96 DOHC to '04 SOHC) per the Subaru Maintenance guide that comes with the Owner's manual.

  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 25,962
    yer right. i checked. The 2.2 is at 60K and the 2.5 is at 105. In that case, why did the first poster change their's? Oh well.

    '18 BMW 330xi; '67 Coronet R/T; '14 Town&Country Limited; '18 BMW X2. 47-car history and counting!

  • dunkmydonut,

    Every engine requires some kind of maintenance. Most high compression, overhead cam engines are "interference" engines.
    Gates rubber has a list of interference engine applications at CCD.pdf&folder=brochure&CFID=1128154&CFTOKEN=5942664 .
    It is a little out of date, but many new vehicles are using the same engines, or upgraded version of the same engines.
    Curiously, the Subaru 2.5 boxer engine is not listed as an "interference engine".

    Good luck,

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    There are a few errors on the Gates site, so double check your information before you rely on what they have posted.
  • dcm61dcm61 Posts: 1,564
    It's my understanding that the 2.5L DOHC is interferance whereas the 2.5L SOHC is non-interference.

  • What does it mean if an engine is interference or non-interference?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Interference means if the timing belt breaks your valves could collide with the top of the pistons and cause severe engine damage.

    Non-interference means it won't. You'll still stall and need a tow truck, but it'll be much, much cheaper to repair.

    Note - the 2.5l calls for an "inspection" at 90k miles. Given the labor involved, I plan to go ahead and change it at 90k.

  • Was not my intention. I hope no one was offended by my post. I think what I was trying to say was, if Saturn can put out an over head cam engine that is chain driven, why not Subaru..or all the other interferance engines. The technology is there. Why should someone sustain a five thousand dollar expense over a broken belt. I'm aware that ohc engines are a newer design, but The valve train isn't the only part of the engine that gets stressed at higher rpm's. The average life of a race engine is one race.
    Anyway good luck to all.
  • alcanalcan Posts: 2,550
    Saturn probably isn't a good comparison. When their chain guides chew up (they do regularly), the chain jumps and the mis-timed camshaft drives the exhaust valves into the piston crowns.
  • dcm61dcm61 Posts: 1,564
    The EZ30 in the H6 Outbacks has a timing chain. My understanding is that the decision to use a chain versus belt wasn't for durability but to minimize the engine length. IIRC, the H6 motor is less than an inch longer than the H4.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Engine length, engine noise, less expensive castings, etc.---there are lots of advantages to using belts. Chains have their faults and their advantages as well. There is no perfect solution.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Yep, I was gonna mention noise and reciprocating mass.

This discussion has been closed.