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Subaru Legacy/Outback Engine Issues



  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Check all the vaccum lines. There are probably a bunch and it's at the age where those vaccum lines will start to crack.

    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • Hey everyone. I am thinking about buying a '97 Legacy Outback and I have some questions. This being the first time I've ventured outside of buying a GM product. The Outback has 106,000 miles, it's a 5 spd manual, pwer locks and windows...I have been researching this model year and have noticed numerous problems. Head gaskets, front main seals, cam seals, valve cover gaskets, burnt valves. I have also read that the timing belt should be changed at 100,000 miles, and also have a valve adjustment done? Basically I don't want to buy a car and then have it break down with all of these issues. Is the H4 a difficult engine to work on? (I guess it depends on the problem too) The dealership (it's a Subaru dealership) wants $5500 for the car. I don't think that's a bad price, but I could be wrong. Thanks for your help!
  • lucymolucymo Posts: 13
    don't get a Subaru. I first owned a 1993 Loyale, and it was the best car ever. It just didn't break, and then I sold it at 150K miles (14 years old).
    Being so happy with it, in 2005 I bought a 2000 Legacy for $6,800, it had 92K miles on it. Since then I had only cried over it.... I already described my ordeal here.

    On the day I sold my old Subaru, the "new" one lost its engine and head gaskets. I sold the wrong car!!!

    $3,000 for headgaskets and a new engine, $800 for burnt coil, bunch of other stuff that actually broke and maintenance items (such as water pump and a timing belt) that added up to over $5,000 in 18 months of my owning that piece of $%^&. Sorry. I could have bought a brand new car for that money!!!!!

    I now own a 2005 Mitsu Outlander and I couldn't be happier. And, if you read the reviews, Mitsu cars have way less problems.
  • Thanks for the reply. I want to hear both postive and negative reviews of Subaru. Like I said, this is my first venture away from Chevy and GM. I almost bought a Honda Accord for my wife, but got an '05 Malibu instead. It's okay, but not the best. Thanks again.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    No offense but you are comparing a used car to a new car. Second, if you look back at Mitsu's long term reliability it's way way down on the list. While those particular cars (96-02 2.5L DOHC engine) subies are known to have head gasket problems, there weren't any other (that you mention) repairs needed on the car.

    All cars from all manufacturers breakdown, be them Toyota, Honda, MB, BMW, Lexus, or Mitsu.

    To the Original Poster:
    If the head gasket hasn't been done on an 96-02 2.5L Subie, you should probably work in about $1,500 worth of "I'm gonna need to do the Head Gasket and associated maintenance items" when negotiating a used car. The associated things would be the timing belt, water pump etc. since the engine will be nearly torn down anyway to do the HG.

    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    A new coil cost you $800?

    The ignition coil is an $80 part. Two bolts to remove and replace, and it's right at the top/front of the engine. It takes about - 90 seconds to replace.

    How did that get to $800?

    It should be $80 plus half hour labor at the very most, so I don't see how you get to $800 from there.

    Sounds more like you need to replace your mechanic.

    Having said that, gaskets are indeed a concern. Check for leaks there and on the valve covers, and the front and rear main seals. Also listen to the wheel bearings, if they're noisy they're probably gone.

    If it's leak-free and quiet you're probably good for quite a while. I've seen 2 Foresters go over 250,000 miles.
  • lucymolucymo Posts: 13
    How is it that I am comparing a used car to a new car? I have never bought a new car in my life.

    After my Subaru problems I searched the internet (and this site too) and saw many engine problems reported for Subarus, and not just the headgaskets.
    We were ready for the headgaskets when we bought the Legacy, but we weren't ready for the warped engine without it ever overheating or headgaskets actually blowing up on us. So there - put away about $3,000 just in case.
    I did look at the Mitsu reliability ratings - way better than Subarus.
  • lucymolucymo Posts: 13
    How it gets to that? when your car is at the Subaru dealer and it's not going anywhere.... That's how. And if you don't know how to get the two bolts out, change the coil and what the heck the coil is - that's how. Especially, if the dealer charges $100/hour and overcharges all the time.

    We already replaced the dealer, needless to say...
  • b06sajb06saj Posts: 1
    I own an '03 Legacy ("non-Outback" , non-turbo year) 2.5 GT wagon / 5-spd manual. I love the car as a driver. Mechanically, though, I disagree with some of the reliability reports I've read. My head gaskets began leaking early in the year. They were replaced by my mechanic whom I consider to be quite competent - he's been working on my cars for 15 years or so. He advised me that Subaru is on the 6th or 7th iteration of the head gasket. This implies to me that they have been unsuccessful in resolving this expensive, recurring issue. In following Consumer Reports reliability ratings(which I have increasing unwillingness to honor), the black dots in the engine category are lag three to four years from current. I suspect this largely to be due to the head gasket issue. I would expect this problem to persist in all Legacy models going into the future, and to see it reflected in this pattern. Therefore,
    1. Be cautious about purchasing a used model. I don't recommend buying a
    used model unless all maintenance records (as best as can be taken) accom-
    pany the vehicle.
    2. Always have the mechanic scrutinize the engine for signs of head gasket
    leaks at every oil change.

    So far, I've had no repurcussions. My mechanic told me that this was caught relatively early and that he saw no damage to the block. But I will probably remain a little uncomfortable as long as I own the car that I may eventually experience some additional problems related to this issue in the future. I read a mechanic's blog from a known dealer in the Seattle area who seemed to want to put the truth out there. He claimed that, of the head gaskets he's replaced with no damage to the block, no further issues usually occur. Of course that's one opinion of many.

    One last comment, to agree with Paisan above. My mechanic has reported that he believes that he's seeing more issues in general with all Japanese makes. Now they may occuring more or less depending upon the brand, but even Toyota and Honda are seeing issues like this because all of the Asian brands (including Korean) sold in this country use Aluminum Blocks. Aluminum flexes more than does cast iron from heat. This means that states in warmer climates are probably more condusive to heat-related engine issues (I live in the Atlanta area). Be aware of that. But Subaru's, I think, are still pretty good cars. They ride pretty well; handle pretty well; are among the safer models on the roads; and, with proper maintenance, will still probably serve well for a number of years (hopefully!). Good luck to you.
  • To own a Car is to maintain a Car.
    No matter what model you buy, you're gonna have to maintain it.
    Why bash Subaru for being nothing more than a Car that from time to time, needs work on it.
    If you buy any make of Car with 100k+ Miles on it, get ready to start fixing it, that's why the Person is selling it...
    To purchase a Subaru with over 100k Miles on it then come on to a forum and tell People not to buy a Subaru because yours broke down is a little odd in my Book.
  • lucymolucymo Posts: 13
    it may be a little odd in your book but if it stops them from buying a car and paying $3,000 in a few months for a new engine - I'll be happy. I have nothing against maintenance items.
  • Well I had the dealership fax me service records for the car. It hasn't had the timing belt done, so I would have that replaced right away, the head gaskets have been done, so we're good there. The car has been serviced 23 times in its life. Mostly oil changes every 7500 miles. Parking brake has been replaced twice and the alternator has been replaced. Check engine light has been on three times, the oil pump has been resealed, new battery, transverse link cam seal inspection. They are asking $4370 for the car and my trade in value is $2,000. So I don't think that's too bad. Any feedback anyone?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    We already replaced the dealer, needless to say...

    Good because they were far from honest with you. I've changed a coil myself, it's a piece of cake, and cost me $79 shipped.
  • HI,
    Re: MY08, 2.5 manual

    I am having trouble with Subaru over a few issues. Any ideas or fixes?
    Subaru claim this is all normal and intentional, and cannot help.

    After a normal cold start, I try to back out the driveway (with minimal-no throttle) and the car starts revving on its own, in the range 2000-3200 rpm. Lucky I dont keep letting the clutch out with brake off! It usually cycles down, back up, and down again. I have posted some clips on utube.

    Subaru say: "normal operational characteristic. This warm-up cycle is normal to see in this model and indicates a safe and optimal warm-up for your vehicle's engine. Rest assured there is no "undue wear" caused by this operation.">>>>>>>>>>

    There is no fine throttle control possible.. Its fly by wire I think, and its either on or off.. there is no feathering of the throttle possible. Try going down hill, or doing a hill start, or crawling in traffic, or even a normal start in first gear. Its terrible.

    Subaru say: "your concerns pertaining to "poor throttle control" are, in fact, normal to see and are indeed characteristics of operation"

    When upshifting, the revs maintain for a moment even with no throttle. I bought a manual to have full control. Not to have it taken away. Not happy Jan.

    Subaru say: "feature found in Subaru vehicles which assists in gear changes, ensuring minimal wear to clutch components and smoother gear transition. We do not consider this normal operation to be a safety risk, rather, a beneficial feature designed with longevity in mind."

    Try double-clutch and rev while down changing. It really consfuses things. The car starts revving just as you get into the lower gear when you want slowing, and then realises theres no throttle and backs off.

    Subaru say in conclusion: we believe your vehicle to be operating to manufacturer's specifications
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,920
    Your first concern is definitely not normal. I have had a manual and a couple autos, and none exhibited this behavior. But, there is hope I think. A gal was through the boards not too long ago, Carol, I think, and claimed a similar problem. Mike (paisan) suggested that she have the ECU re-flashed to correct the issue and she reported back that it did work. I agree with you, that is a definite safety concern and it is foolish for Subaru to have claimed it was a normal operational characteristic. Perhaps the representative was not fully understanding the concern.... ?

    Second concern - I did not experience this and do not recall if MY07, for North America at least, had drive by wire or not. I found throttle control on the car very responsive, though the clutch itself was quite touchy.

    Third concern - I also did not experience this problem. I have a 1998 Ford Escort with a manual, though, and it does do this. I hate it, so I see your point!

    Four - never tried it, so cannot comment.

    I have a friend who currently owns a MY08 Impreza manual, so I will ask him about this things and get his input. I rode in the car a few times and did not notice any of the anomalies you addressed, but I suspect the revving while cold is the only one I would readily notice as a passenger.
    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 felt that our 2002 Legacy had a similar on/off throttle mapping. My 98 Forester and our new 2009 Forester are not like that at all - much more linear, easy to modulate.

    I think that's throttle-by-wire so ask the dealer if they can re-program it, maybe? Our 2002 was not by-wire.
  • az906az906 Posts: 1
    When changing plugs on my 2003 with 160,000 miles, I noticed oil on all of the plug boots, one had quite a bit. I had been noticing a hot oil smell for awhile but couldn't find a leak but was loosing about 1/2 quart between oil changes. I am sure it is the valve cover gasket and think it should be easy to replace but don't know what the proper torque is. I think it is easy to over torque these so if anyone knows for sure what the correct value is I would appreciate it. This is only the second repair the car has needed, the other was a pilot bearing in the transmission which I let a mechanic handle.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,920
    I would have to check my repair manual to know for sure, but it is fairly low, something like 9 ft-lbs. I found that one way to boost the reliability of the valve cover gaskets is to apply some "ultra-blue" silicon gasket sealer/maker to both the head and cover sides of the rubber gasket. Then, set the cover as you would otherwise, but let the sealer cure for 24 hours before operating the engine. After doing this with my 2.5L, I never had another leak from it. I replaced the gaskets once at 144K miles, then, when I replaced the head gaskets at 192K, I reused the same valve cover gaskets (which were leaking again) but added the silicon, and had no leaks for the remaining 30K miles I owned it.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • leo2633leo2633 Posts: 589
    The oil on the spark plug boots is from the round rubber o-rings that seal around the spark plug holes in the valve covers. My mechanic had had to replace these every other tune-up, or about 60K miles. This has been consistent on my 2001 Forester, which currently has around 190K and my wife's '03 Outback, now at around 97K. He replaces the valve cover gaskets at the same time he does the o-rings, but there has never been any indication of oil leaks from these gaskets. I also change my spark plug wires at that time.

    Just another Subaru quirk.

    I hope this helps.
  • subie822subie822 Posts: 6
    Hey Guys/gals,
    I need your help,im looking to buy a used 2001 outback limited (2.5 engine) with 41,000 miles on it this week.I've done some researched on the vehicle and found out alot of people have problems with the Head Gasket going out? Anyone had any problems with this on their 2001 Outback? Please share i need to know quickly..i put deposit for the vehicle...Thanks
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I wouldn't complain - my Miata eats through spark plug wires every 30k miles. Not a mile longer.

    At 30k you start to notice a marked drop in power output, then you know you need wires.
  • lamericuslamericus Posts: 1
    I have the same problem as this poster.
    have a 1992 Legacy sedan. I have had this problem twice now once about a month ago and just today. It acts like its starving for fule sputter and then dies. Wont start and when you take the fuellines off the filter no fuel is coming out while you crank. First time I replaced the filter and added dry gas. Also took the fule pump out of the tank and checked it . That was operating fine. I should mention when i took the feul line off the filter it was under a lot of pressure. Ok back to the problem . I put the pump back in and tried it by cranking the enigine with the fuel line off it pumped. out line back on and the car ran fine. Today it did the same thing. I pulled the lines took the pump out again and it ran fine after it was put back in. Any help on this woyld be appreciated.
    Our car is a 1995 model.
    Poster suggested intake leak or MAF, MAP as problem
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,920
    When is it happening? During driving or at idle? How about the relay for the fuel pump - could that be failing intermittently?
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • greasefiregreasefire Posts: 2
    I am having major problems with my 2005 Legacy GT and wanted to see if others have had similar issues. I will begin with a saying we have at work Yakamatsu which is code for "You can't make this sh%t up"

    1:May 28 2008- Turbo failure resulting in metal shavings getting into the engine. This was covered under warranty and was repaired in about 35 days.
    2: March 31 2009- Loud knocking sound coming from engine, dealer determined the number 2 bearing had spun and wrecked the motor.This is covered under warranty repair and the engine scheduled for repair.(Car still at dealer)
    3.April 25 2009- After waiting weeks for parts the engine was reassemble and put back in the vehice. I received a call from the dealership with not so good news. There was a casting defect on one of the heads and the cam was seized. Parts were ordered.(Car still at dealer)
    May 14 2009- I received a call from the dealer that the car was road tested and finally ready for pick up!!!

    May 15 2009-I picked up the car and drove home 20 miles. When I pulled in my driveway I heard a ticking sound coming from the left side of the engine and a burning smell. I called the dealership and they asked me to return with the vehicle. The car was put on the lift and it was determined that the turbo had failed and would need to be replaced. I was then put back into a loaner car and sent on my way. About an hour after returing home the dealership called me and stated "The turbo for my car is on national back order and there are none available in the usa" I will update this post more as events unfold.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,920
    Talk about sour luck! Whoa! You were not kidding when you said, "yakamatsu."
    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
    Too late to call it a lemon, that's first year only.

    At least the dealer seems to be trying.
  • greasefiregreasefire Posts: 2
    Yes the dealer is trying and SOA is involved from a consumer affairs perspective. While this might not be a lemon law issue there are still options as a consumer. I have filed a K35 for with my local DMV and have the regional manager from SOA involved. I will post the out come for anyone having similar issues. I will say the service manager has been great as far as updates and general customer service.
  • jake68jake68 Posts: 3
    :confuse: OK, I have a 2005 Subaru Legacy GT 2.5 Limited. Great car, Lots of fun to drive. It has 54000 miles on it and for the last 5000 or so the Check engine light keeps coming on. I used the OBD reader and the code is 0304, misfire in cylinder # 4. I want to swap the coil with cylinder #2 to check if that's the problem. However, I don't know whick cylinder is #4. I even bought a service manual. It shows a block diagram of the engine and list the cylinder # for each one. BUT, it doesn't give any indication of the orientation of the diagram??? If I assume the top of the diagram is the back of the car then Cylinder # 4 is on the Divers side front. If I assume the opposite orientation cylinder # 4 is on the passenger side rear.

    Which one is it? Can anyone tell me which one is cylinder # 4?

  • jake68jake68 Posts: 3
    :blush: Oooops! Make that, If I assume the top of the diagram is the back of the engine compartment, then cylinder # 4 is Drivers side rear and if I assume the opposite Orientation it would be Passenger side front. Sorry About that.

  • jake68jake68 Posts: 3
    OK, I found it. Cylinder # 4 is drivers side rear (closest to the firewall).

    Now I have another question. I've unbolted the 2 coil packs but they won't pull off. I also can't get the wire to unplug from it. It looks like it clips to the coil but I can't see it well enough to se how it unclips and I don't want to force it.

    Does anyone have any ideas on how the clip works?

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