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Subaru Outback/Legacy Starting Issues



  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Interesting, I have a similar problem on my dad's 95 Impreza L.

    Cold starts are ok. Warm starts sometimes don't start. So far I've done battery, alternator, distributor pack, and the ignitor.

    I will try the knock, and crank position sensors next :(

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    I know, this one is terribly frustrating. I hate throwing parts at a car with nothing more than a hope it will fix the problem.

    I was having stall issues early in my ownership of it (September 2000) and same deal there - no codes, shops could not help. One of the shops suggested I try replacing the mass airflow sensor. I did (with a used one) and no more stall problems. Oddly, though, I knew someone last spring who had a '98 Impreza 2.5L with a bad MAS and the car would not run at all. I offered him my MAS, but with the disclaimer that the car could have intermittent stalling problems. He took it, and nearly insisted on paying for it (though I finally convinced him that we were doing each other favors by him just taking it ;) ), and apparently it works fine for him.

    I did recommend that he clean the sensor before installing it, but do not know whether he did so. I now wonder if that part was ever even bad.... ?
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • hey i have a 99 subaru legacy sus and i tried to start it the other morning and all i got was a "click". so we tried to jump start luck, so we thought well the battery is shot, so we got a new one, we tried to start it and still all i get is "click"
    im starting to get irratated, i asked a few people, one said it might have 2 do with the security system and i have to reset it, one said something w the starter and the guy at the dealership in town said ummm idk just get it towed in and we will look at it
    im a girl lol i need help :confuse:
  • thanks for the help. I changed the cam position sensor (knock was already changed) and so far st. anthony, crossing my fingers and the new sensor seems to be working. Its hard to drive with my fingers crossed but I'm going to take my chances...
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    Well, at least you know that if it continues to be a problem, you *can* still get the car started. Wishing you luck on that one, I know what an incredible annoyance it is.... :mad:
    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: 10,925
    The click! I am amazed that these problems still occur, even ten years removed from the build of the vehicles. I would have thought that owners would long ago have shot all the cars with this defect! Hahah.

    So, from my experience, it is one of two things:

    First, the easiest: The spot where the negative battery cable connects to the car is on the top, rear, driver side of the engine. It is a post that is mounted to the engine/starter by the bolt that secures the starter itself. Sometimes, this post can work itself ever so slightly loose, and, if this happens, the connection may not be good enough to allow the starter to draw enough power to crank the engine. The result? A click, or, sometimes, a click-click-click-click-click in series. Check that first - make sure the post is solid and the connections clean.

    Second, the other culprit: The starter solenoid. Another easy fix, but slightly more complicated than the first, the solenoid is mounted on the inner (I think) side of the starter unit and is what engages the motor. If the solenoid is not working properly, it is going to just click once.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • gailkgailk Posts: 1
    I have an 01 Outback, love my car and have never had any problems until yesterday. It's been very cold here, as low as -20. After sitting 2 days I went out to start the car, just to make sure, started with first turn of the key. Warmed it up, moved it closer to the house shut it off. Two hours later went out to head to work and I got a turn over but no start. Didn't have time to fool with it so left it set borrowed a friends truck. Six hours later home again decided to give it a try and it started right up. Looking for something to take to a mechanic if necessary. Any ideas out there any help is greatly appreciated.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Sounds like the battery. If it's the original one from 01, then it's well over due to be replaced. I just did that on my 04 Armada due to the same symptoms.

    Subaru Guru and Track Instructor
  • Hi,
    i would appreciate if you could provide more information regarding:
    I have had this problem for the past 6 months or so. It was intermittent and really annoying. Finally, a dealership in Ohio found the problem, allegedly known by Subaru. They called it a "shift linkage" problem and described it as: "...the computer returns a message as the car is in gear hence it doesn't start when the key is turned in the ignition". If needed I can get more details from the dealership.
  • 2002 Legacy Outback Sedan, 2.5L, 120k miles

    I LOVE my car and have never had any trouble until this year. I had the head gaskets resurfaced a few months ago. Now I'm having starting trouble. When starting up the car the engine has been knocking. At first I thought I just held the key over too long, but it became repetitive. Today we driving and the car started to sound really boggy and after about a half hour it sputtered and died on the road. When I turn the key, there is the electrical noise, but the starter isn't doing anything. No vroom-vroom start. Just whirrrrr. We got a tow and tried to boost it at home, but no luck. Any ideas?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    Almost sounds like the engine may have seized by way of a shot bearing, etc. Were you checking the oil to ensure it was topped off? That knocking sound (especially if it went away after a few seconds) is often an early warning that the engine is getting low on oil.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • I just finished replacing the starter on my Outback, and it will not start. I have to put it in neutral to start it (automatic trannny) because I had a drive shaft failure last year and I think it may have damaged something in the switch. I'm hoping this is the problem. Sort of. It was making a buzzing noise inside the tranny in every gear but neutral, but now there is no buzzing, and when I hit the key in neutral I get the click, but nothing else. It even buzzed in Park. Should I just go ahead and replace the switch, or is it inside the transmission itself? any help would be appreciated, I need to get my car back on the road asap.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    edited July 2011
    Will you clarify what the symptoms were that prompted you to replace the starter? Was it doing this same thing (click but not start while in neutral) prior to replacement and continues to do the same thing after?

    This generation Outback can be a bit touchy when it comes to the ground connection, as it connects to a bracket that is then held tight by one of the starter motor bolts. If either of those two "joints" has poor conductivity, it will prevent the starter from turning over.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • ajnaajna Posts: 1
    Is the info the same in a 2001 outback? Mine makes clicking sounds when in gear with clutch depressed but in neutral does not even click. I can hear a very faint noise that sounds like a switch activating apparently near the passenger back seat as i perform the first part of the ignition turn, then as I turn to the part that should crank the starter I get the continous clicking noise. NOT of course, if the clutch is not all the way to the floor.Have tried the cycle about 25 times so far. It is neither too cool or too hot outside here. The lights are bright - all the dash works as it should. Is there a switch somewhere, as talked about in posts shown above? Just bought the car- previous guy replaced battery and alternater so apparently this happened to him too although he denies it of course. Helpful ideas?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    The 2001 is the second generation of the Outback, but still very similar in those mechanics, but your problem sounds different.

    Mine makes clicking sounds when in gear with clutch depressed but in neutral does not even click.

    The reason for this is there being an interlock on the clutch, meaning you cannot start the car without the clutch being depressed. In that respect, the car is behaving "normally."

    as I turn to the part that should crank the starter I get the continous clicking noise.

    This is likely one of two things. First, your battery may be low. Check the voltage on it with a multimeter (can be had for $20-25, maybe cheaper); if it is at ~12.5 volts, you're good to go. Second, and perhaps more likely in your scenario, is that the resistance in the negative battery cable may be too high. Replacing that cable, which also should be very cheap, should do the trick.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • About a month ago my Subaru would sputter when taking off, until eventually it went out. My son and I put in a new fuel filter and fuel pump and it ran great for about two weeks. Then it just went out on my son while he was driving. Would turn over but wouldn't start, as if it wasn't getting any gas. Went to tow it and it started right up after sitting for about a week??? Today... Didn't start! Does anyone know if this can be electrical or a injector problem? Battery and terminals are fine. Any help would be much appreciated!
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    When is it not starting? In other words, do you notice this when the engine is cold (such as sitting over night), or warm, or does it matter.... ?
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • It does it in warm or cold weather. First time was on the highway,second about 2 miles after leaving home in war
    m weather. When it started the other night,it had been sitting for about 5 days, the next day... Nothing.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    edited October 2011
    Okay, have you had any issues with it while it is running? Any engine stammering, etc?

    It almost sounds to me like there is a relay that is shutting down the fuel system on it, which means the relay is either going bad or it is getting poor feedback from one of the connected sensors. That, too, could either be a sensor, or a poor wiring connection, but those things work on resistance. So, if it is within spec at the time the car is doing the system check, you're up and running until you shut it off. If not, you're not going anywhere. :cry:

    When the problem happens, do you hear the fuel pump priming in the rear of the car? In other words, when you put the key in the ignition, turn it to "on" and wait a few seconds. What sounds do you hear?
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • Before we put the fuel pump in we did have problems, it sputtered at take off. After the fuel pump, no sputter but flat out dies and stays dead. Just went and tried starting it and it did start after sitting again for a few days. And it stood running. Heard the starter make a humming noise before starting. Tried starting it again and nothing.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    Heard the starter make a humming noise before starting.

    Okay, that if you were not attempting to start, that was the fuel pump making that humming sound, so it's not the relay I was visualizing.

    It sounds like an electrical/sensor issue. That's going to mean diagnostics. Simple things to check... are you getting any current out of the fuel injectors when it will not start? How about spark? If it isn't even trying to fire, one of those things has to be missing. After you determine that, the "why" becomes the fun part.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • I will try look into the current but can't really get busy on it until this weekend due to getting home after dark every day.I appreciate your help in narrowing it down and will post when I work on it this weekend. Thanks again for your help!
  • I have a 1996 Legacy Brighton 2.2 L with 100,000k on it. I recently had the timing belt, water pump, thermostat, and belts changed. A couple of weeks after this, the car wouldn't start. I tried for some time and finally it started. The check engine light came on and I went to the mechanic who checked the engine code and it stated "Cam Shaft sensor circuit fault" . He changed the camshaft sensor to the new one with the yellow dot on it because his code reader said that there had been problems with the old camshaft sensor. The problem went away for a week and then again the car would not start after a short trip. I left it and half hour later, tried and it started. I then checked the connector that looked a little rough and went to a wrecker and got a new connector with a long length of wire. I spliced the new connector on, soldering the wires and used heat shrink tubing to repair the insulation. Again the problem went away and then a couple of weeks later it again failed to start after a short trip, engine cranks at a good speed but no firing. I waited for a half an hour and it started and seems to run fine now. Has anybody had this intermittent starting problem with the Subaru engines?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    edited November 2011
    Yep; I had that problem for years. Initially it drove me nuts, then it was just something I became used to encountering. Mine was a 1996 (Outback) with a 2.5L engine. I could crank it dead and it wouldn't start, but if I cranked it and nothing, then I would wait 5-10 minutes and try again until eventually it would fire up as if nothing had ever been wrong. The longest it ever took was about 50 minutes, but it sure was annoying. It only ever happened when I tried to start the car within about an hour (or so) of last using it - basically, if the engine was still warm, there was risk of no-start. Again - completely random. Sometimes it would work perfectly for weeks, sometimes it would happen several times within a week (or even multiple times a day).

    After about four years of that, I had a problem with the knock sensor. I replaced the knock, cam, and crank sensors simultaneously, and not only did that solve my immediate problem, but it had the happy coincidence of eliminating the no-start issue as well.

    Good luck.... ! :sick:
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • Thank you very much for the information. It gives me hope.

    There are just a few questions I would like to ask about your situation.
    1) when your car would not start, did the check engine light come on after it did start?
    2) If the response to 1 is yes, did you ever have the ODB reader check the engine code?
    3) If the answer to 2 is yes, what code did it display?
    4) When you had a problem with knock sensor, what made you change all three?
    5) Is it possible that in changing all three sensors, you just managed to correct an intermittent connector connection and that had been the original problem?
    6) Had you tried to disconnect all three connectors before and check the connectors?
    7) The crank and cam sensor are easy to replace, but the knock sensor requires that the intake manifold be removed. A lot of components are disturbed in that process.
    8)How much did all that work cost?

    Thanks again for the help, and I hope your answers help me diagnose this irritating problem.
  • I finally got my 96 legacy up and running! ...... For now. Changed out my brand new "airtex" fuel pump for a Bosch . Heard from a buddy that airtex has a rep for being unreliable even being new. Changed out the relay while I was at it. Hopefully it will last more than 3 weeks this time!
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925
    edited November 2011
    1. Generally, no.

    2. Once in a while it would come on, and I did have a reader to check it, but no code was there. It was the oddest thing; rather infuriating, actually.

    4. The code in the system read knock sensor initially, then it showed both knock and camshaft trouble codes, then back to just knock, then another camshaft. So, I just decided to replace them all. I did the work myself, so it didn't cost anything but the time and the sensors. I don't recall taking the intake manifold off mine. I just removed stuff around it (such as the intake piping) and worked it out.

    If you find you do need to take of the intake, it is extremely simple. Get a pair of intake gaskets and have a small putty knife on hand to clean the surfaces in case anything sticks, and it only adds 10 minutes or so to the work. You don't need to disconnect the throttle cable.

    5. Possibly. I had pulled the engine from the car once previously, plus rather extensive work on the engine a couple times that included disconnecting those sensors, and the car never behaved differently prior to the fix, so I doubt it, but possible. Especially since the problem after that was gone afterward, never to recur.

    6. No, I never did because I had no reason to suspect them and no idea where to start.

    7. Anything disturbed is peripheral. Just label everything as you take it apart, and it will all go back together effortlessly.

    8. Again, just the cost of the sensors and perhaps an hour of time start to finish.

    It was terribly irritating, especially after we had our first baby and we would sometimes be waiting for 30-40 minutes in subzero temperatures to start the dang car. It would only happen shortly after shutting it off (such as on errands), so sometimes we would just leave the car running, especially if we were in a hurry. I would think if it was a connection problem then the issue would occur completely random or even during operation.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • My 1997 Legacy Subaru 2.2L engine would die at idle and not restart, usually after the car warmed up, but lately sometimes it wouldn't even start when cold. I got accustomed to push starting, parking in spots where I could push the car hard enough to start it. Weird - working starter wouldn't start it, but push start would. (Manual transmission).

    I read here xwesx's comment here, and ...

    (My ODBII was hanging and got burnt on exhaust - on 1988 Vanagon conversion - so I couldn't read ODBII codes).

    I tried the cheapest (Crankshaft Pos. Sensor, $25), and MY CAR STARTS EVERY TIME NOW AND IDLES SMOOTH!

    (Perhaps I should replace the knock and camshaft sensors, too? I don't know, but...)

    I had dealt with this issue for nearly 4 years, with this car being my daily driver, so this is HUGE! And I hope that it can help someone else with this problem.

    Bryan B.
    South Jordan, UT.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,613
    Could be you aren't cranking fast enough (weak battery? Old starter?) because when you push start, that gets the engine spinning pretty fast. I'd take a compression test just to be sure you're not going to charge down the wrong alley here.

    Have you tried to start it with a jump start from another car? does that start the car?

    MODERATOR --Need help with anything? Click on my name!

  • The problem included the car dying when idling (nothing to do with starter) - it would intermittently idle kind of rough (and die) before putting on the new crankshaft pos. sensor. The starter is weak, but still started the car cold or hot, except in this strange die-when-idling situations.

    In fact, many times the starter wouldn't start the car, I would push "bump" the car (meaning popping the clutch, but it wouldn't start) - THEN use the starter, and it would start. Go figure.

    Since I have put on the new crankshaft pos. sensor, I haven't had ANY problem starting, and no more dying when idling. I am convinced it fixed the problem. And what a RELIEF! I've been dealing with this for FOUR YEARS or so. Couldn't let my wife drive the car - now I can. So happy!

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