Subaru Legacy: Typical high-mileage repairs?



  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Hi Paul, recognize me from the chat last night? It's juice.

    This is an inactive topic, so you're better off going to the Owners Clubs, then Subaru Crew.

    98 and 99 had the Outback, Legacy 2.5 GT, GT Limited, and Outback Limited (from cheapest to most expensive).

    Both are good years. All have the same Phase I 2.5l DOHC engine, with 165hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. You can get 5 speeds or autos on each, but the early Limiteds were auto only.

    Resale value is very high, so beware. You may want to consider a new one - they are not much more expensive.

    IMHO, problems will stand out like a sore thumb. When you test drive, turn off the radio and listen carefully. The engine should idle smoothly, the tranny should shift with precision, and there should be no gear whine, brake squeeking, or shakes/rattles that stand out.

    The good news is that the powertrain warranty goes for 60 months/60k miles, so most of these will still be under warranty.

    Good luck.

  • sfamnssfamns Member Posts: 2
    I owned a 1990 Legacy brand new for 10 years until I traded it in in 1999. It had aboutt 168,000 miles on it. I had never had any major work done to it other than the usual. Never had to have freon added; never had the a/c worked on. And it cooled colder than my freezer at home. That was the best car I ever owned. But when you start having kids you need more room - so on came the SUV! And then the problems began! See my take on the Jeep Grand Cherokee in the Jeep section. If I could find a good one now, I would buy it and put it up for my son. But I would only buy a '90 or '91.
  • nylegacynylegacy Member Posts: 4
    Could someone be able to tell me where I can find repair manual for a 2000 Legacy. Haynes and Chilton only go up to 99. I just hit 30k and don't want to pay the dealer all kinds of money for stuff that I can do myself.
    I bought my car brand new and was wondering if anyone else has experienced not-so-smooth transmission shifts with the automatic. It seems to engage every gear kind of jerky almost like a manual. I've driven in my friends Focus and you can barely tell the car is shifting. I especially notice my car jerk when I let off the gas and then apply throttle again. Please advise. Do I need to change the tranny fluid, check fuel injection?? Any info would be appreciated.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Shop manuals are hard to find. Subaru has 6 or 7 titles, so it's a pain.

    You may want to consider a swap of your ATF, maybe even to synthetic.

    Selina: the new Legacys are pretty reliable. Why not look at a Legacy GT wagon? Consumer Reports ranks Subaru #7 among manufacturers (in terms of reliability) while Jeep is dead last, so surely you'll see an improvement.

  • supersoobsupersoob Member Posts: 6
    If you have noticed a difference in shifting since you bought it, I would have it checked. However, if it has been the same since day 1, just chalk it up to Subaru AT's that are not the slickest in the industry (some might say they're awful). I can barely feel my '98 Maliboo shift while my '98 Legacy feels exactly as you described - quite jerky..
  • parimalparimal Member Posts: 2

    I have a 91 LHD Legacy. The steering rack is leaking a little round the steering column shaft & rack box. Is the rack servicable. Are there any seals that can be replaced.

  • subleg1990subleg1990 Member Posts: 3
    I have a 1990 Subaru Legacy LS Station Wagon with 146,000 plus miles on her. My children and I recently took a driving trip around 300 miles, plus city driving for a week. Everything was fine. However on the way back it was very hot, my air conditioning wasn't very effective. I turned it up to max/ac and was driving about 80 mph. My engine kicked two times and I noticed the temperature gauge indicated my car was overheating. I pulled over and waited for it to cool off. The radiator fluid was splashed all over the engine. Luckily I was at an exit and I coasted over to a mechanic (thank God). He told me it was a busted radiator hose. After he replaced the hose, my car still was overheating. I was also told that there could be an airlock in the hose and that the antifreeze should be added through the top radiator hose not the bottom one. Also it was said that it could be that a gasket (don't know the proper name)cover blew off and I may have to have it replaced. Does anyone know how much that would cost? Could there by any other reason for this overheating. Are Subaru cars known for this cooling problem? Another mechanic said that these cars don't do well in the summer months.
    I took it to two other mechanices, but neither wanted to attempt to handle my cooling system because it was too tricky. They instructed me to take to the nearest Subaru dealership. They said the coolant runs backwards instead of the normal way. Could someone please explain this. I've only had this car for five months and have had my timing belt, water pump and the front and back cv boot replaced. I also had my radiator flushed because when I bought it the owner put water in the radiator instead of coolant and when the first real cold weather came my car's engine completely frozeand my power windows stopped functioning. I don't have those problems anymore, I am just wondering about how much would I have to overhaul the airconditioning system. I'd rather get it done now then to nickel and dime it later. I believe it is a pretty good car, but I won't take it on such a long trip the next time.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    As for the a/c, this is a known trouble area for the Legacy.

    As for overheating, it sounds like your engine has already had its share of stresses upon it. Overheating can be tricky and a complex issue to resolve. You should first of all have the cooling system pressure-tested to see if you have head gasket damage either from the overheat or the freeze.

    Last of all, these are sort of typical old car/high miles problems. You may want to consider bailing out of this car, it sounds like it's had a hard life.
  • subleg1990subleg1990 Member Posts: 3
    Thanks for your help Mr_ Shiftright. Do you know how much would it cost to replace a head gasket? My vehicle had to be left at the Subaru dealer about 150 miles from my house. Would you recommend me driving it back to my home, if there is an indication of engine trouble? What testing method is used to determine if there is engine trouble that is producing the overheating?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    As long as the car is not running in the overheat range, and as long as you don't see any milky sludge on the dipstick when you check it, you are probably okay. If the cooling system is pressure tested, this could detect a head gasket leak, as could perhaps a compression test or cylinder leakdown test.

    Perhaps your overheating is not due to such a drastic malady. A clogged or rusted radiator, a bad thermostat or cooling fan, those are also possbilities.

    Usually head gasket leaks or a bad thermostat cause a pretty fast overheat, whereas clogging makes for a more gradual overheat and usually only at higher speeds.. Air-bound cooling systems overheat pretty quickly, too, as there is no water circulation, similar to a bad thermostat.
  • jeijei Member Posts: 143
    In our '92 Legacy L, we replaced the orginal radiator at around 160,000 miles. The car overheated on extended driving and highway driving. The temperature guage would rise slowly to just 3/4 - just into the hot range. Check and see if this is an orginal radiator, or one which was replaced a while ago; it may have gone bad. Radiator failure is a common problem over 100,000 miles.
  • subleg1990subleg1990 Member Posts: 3
    OK, the mechanic said that I blew a fuse which is connected to my engine fan. He said that the engine fan appears a bit wobbly (?). Is this something that needs to be replaced now or should I wait? I still have to drive it home 150 miles. He said there were no other problems with the thermostat and that the radiator was the original radiator.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Well, you do need to find out why the fuse blew in your engine fan so it doesn't happen again. I don't know what he means by "wobbly", that doesn't sound very precise. Does he mean the fan shaft bearing is worn? How badly? Bad enough to drag and cause the fuse to blow?

    Anyway, at the very minimum fix the fan so it works properly, and have him show you where it is and what it looks and sounds like when it's working, so that you can check it yourself if your temp gauge starts to go up again.
  • nygregnygreg Member Posts: 1,936
    Is there one fan or two?
  • justbecausejustbecause Member Posts: 1
    I would just like to add that my 91 Legacy was having overheating issues 2 summers ago. It started on a 250 mile trip, and it over heated. I let the engine cool off and added more coolant, there was an air pocket that was keeping the coolant from going into the engine after it heated up. Two months later I took it on a 3,000 mile trip and I had some overheating issues after driving 12 hours a day at 75. I was also spraying coolant all over the engine. I replaced the radiator cap, that's it. I have not had a problem since then.

    Oh and my legacy has 180,000 miles on it now.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Well, you probably had no pressure in the system as well as a bad seal in the your coolant boiled at 212 rather than 230-240 as it would unde pressure, and with the bad cap also also having a bad seal, the coolant escaped...therefore causing more overheating, etc.

    I don't think a true air block was your problem because you have to bleed that out carefully according to a certain procedure. It's not the kind of thing that fixes itself as far as I can recall.
  • dnuggetdnugget Member Posts: 17
    Can any Legacy owners (1992-1994) help me out on this ? I wanted to upgrade the stock steel rims on my Sube (14") to an aftermarket alloy rims but have read on some Sube accesory sites that it has a high offset (backspacing ?) and if you don't get the right one ( +45 - +50 mm )on a 15" or 16" rims, it may rub the fenders ? But they talk mostly of the late models impreza and legacy models. I searched tirerack, victoria tires, etc on the net and while they offer numerous brands applications for this models, none have been in the offset range I mentioned so I'm hesitant to purchase. I'll feel more sure if anybody out there have had success with any aftermarket rims ( 1992-94 Legacies ) without the rubbing problems. The ones they recommend are way too expensive ( Speedline, Raceline..) ! Thanks .
  • taylor47taylor47 Member Posts: 23
    My 95 legacy has 187,000 kms.or about 116,000 miles on it. To date it has had 2 timing belts, 2 front brake jobs, both rear wheel bearings replaced one under warranty, a water pump and a clutch. It is on its 2nd set of tires.
    The cruise control motor has packed it in and other than that it runs like a watch. The body is still tight, and I would recommend these cars to most people as a good reliable vehicle. If you want all wheel drive, for the money you can't beat a Suburu!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    For wheels, also try

    They were a little less conservative than Tire Rack, and let me go with 225mm tires. Tire Rack said they would rub, but they wrong just plain wrong.

    Offsets are indeed unusual, but call and work with one of their techs. I even managed to find one that fit on special, so 16"x7" rims for my Forester cost just $75 a pop. That was cheaper than steel rims from Subaru!

    That's great to hear Taylor! Keep 'er running!

  • dnuggetdnugget Member Posts: 17
    Thanks for the response. I had looked on that site too and found similar brand applications to my legacy 92 like tirerack with some deviations. Will call up techs for advice. If you don't mind, what aftermarket wheel brand/model worked well with with your forrester ? Unfortunately, yours is AWD, my 1992 Sube (L) is FWD, one of the distant cousin of the AWD models and already disinherited and abandoned. Not that I'm complaining, this baby was bought used but still going strong and near 100K miles. That's why I wanted to dress her up and improve handling/road grip for my daily commute. Anyway, I'm still hoping for any previous/present legacy 92-94 owners to read this and give me advice if they'd switched to aftermarket rims before. Keep it coming !
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Mine are MB Motoring MB6 rims, 16"x7" with a 55mm offset and 5 bolts with 100mm spacing.

    Stock was 40mm, IIRC, so they sit 15mm further away from the rear spring base, which was closest to rubbing (but does not).

  • tailwind19tailwind19 Member Posts: 6
    I have a Legacy L. Wagon with 139,000.
    When the 4WD is engaged the rear end thumps, especially when moving slowly and turning. The problem has gotten progressively worse. No I cannot use 4WD.
    I replaced the differential (with a friend), that did not solve the problem.
    I was told by a transmission guy that the problem is caused by fluid flow. He said something about restricting fluid flow somehow solves the problem. He said it takes less than an hour.
    The car has original transmission fluid in it. It is still clear and looks fine.
    Any information would be appreciated.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Isn't that type of binding normal on 4WD when the axles are locked at the same speed and you turn?

    In other words, aren't you only supposed to use that 4WD on slippery surfaces?

    Sorry if I'm way off base here.

    Other ideas - are the tires worn evenly? I've heard you can have no more than 1/2" difference in tread wear.

  • gslevegsleve Member Posts: 183
    Mr tailwind it appears that if there is restrictive fulid flow that perhaps its time to change the fluid over to synthetic gerar oil both in the tranny and diff and central diff, I've seen a lot of cars and trucks with 4wd having these particular problems and 9 times of 10 changing the fluid to a synthetic helped immensly, however not changing fluid and leaving it in for as long as you have probably didn't help and has exacerbated the problem
  • rayfbairdrayfbaird Member Posts: 183
    I have a 1991 Legacy Wagon with 120,000 miles. My struts seem to be fine, but when I replaced some on my Mazda the ride is SOLO much better. Does anyone know how long they will last? Is there a maintenence schedule for replacement?
  • blaneblane Member Posts: 2,017

    Your struts don't need replacing as long as they are still working properly. There is no maintenance replacement schedule.

    You should try "bouncing" the suspension by placing all of your weight on, and then releasing, each of the four corners of your vehicle one after the other. If one or more corner continues the up/down bouncing for more than a couple of strokes, or if the strut looks like it has leaked fluid (exterior stains) you should consider replacement. Normally you would replace either both fronts or both rears, but at your mileage you might as well do all four corners.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    How much did you pay for the service? Were they gas?

    Just curious.

  • subaru_teamsubaru_team Member Posts: 1,676
    you might want to try a couple of figure 8's in a parking lot with the 4WD engaged. A wet surface is best.

    With the 4WD in your vehicle, you should not really use the 4WD unless you need it (ala Juice's post).

    What year is your Subaru? Does it have 4WD High and Low? Does it do this at both settings?

    It may save you a lot of time and agg. if you go into a dealer to see what they think. Probably a lot less than putting in a new differential.

    Just my thoughts

  • tailwind19tailwind19 Member Posts: 6
    I'll try the figure 8's in a lot. I dont have high and low settings.
    I have a 1991 legacy wagon, 139,000 miles.
    I've always operated the car in 4wd. I thought you were supposed to! I started using front wheel drive when the problem started. Runs xk in 2wd, but I like 4wd, especially when its raining.
    Went to a dealer, they said it would cost $1,100.00 to repair. They said it was the differential and charged me $35.
    I am going to try a tarns fluid change.
    I'll post results.
    Juice, tires are evenly worn and still have good tread.

  • mrdetailermrdetailer Member Posts: 1,118
    I have a 1991 Loyale 4WD and I noticed that this small 1.8 engine worked at least 33% harder than my other vehicles at the same speed. I have used a synthetic blend (Quaker State 4 X 4 10W-30) for years. I used to use about 2 quarts every 3000 miles. I would add a quart, and it would be a quart low at the time I changed the oil. I am a strong believer in following the SEVERE schedule for maintenence, and changing tranny, brake, and power steering fluids every 30,000 miles.

    Last November I changed to a full synthetic 5W-50. I have gone 6,000 miles since then, and changed the oil filter at 3,000 miles. I have been amazed at how clean the oil was. I couldn't even see soot for 3,000 miles, and it is as clean as the conventional was for half the distance.

    I am also amazed at how much less oil was consumed. When it was changed out it was not low at all, and I only added a pint during the entire time.

    Winter starts were fabulous, and I haven't not noticed a substantial difference in gas milege. My valve covers are not leaking at all.

    Are there any known problems with continuing to use the heavier weight synthetic?
  • christine19christine19 Member Posts: 1
    I'm test driving a 1991 Subaru 4wd legacy wagon with 222,000 miles on it. The owner has replaced the timing belt, water pump, and muffler. I have never owned a Subaru and was wondering if there are any major repair problems I should be aware of. He wants $2500 for it. What would be a good price with this high of mileage? He serviced it regularly and the the engine and car looks clean and well taken care of. One of the service records recommends a cross member bolt to be repaired- what is it and cost to repair. Any info would be appreciated. I have till Monday to make my decision. Thanks
  • williaeawilliaea Member Posts: 1
    Well I'm sure this isn't a complete list, but I just bought a '90 2wd wagon and it is going to need struts ($500-$1000 depending on where you get them done). I have heard that the Automatic Transmissions on the '90 and '91's may be touchy and they are big bucks to replace or repair (I've heard $1500-2500). Not sure how you check them out though other than listening for slippage or sluggish shifts (especially between 2nd and 3rd gears). If the one you are looking at is an LS, then the Air Suspension is a LOT more than the struts I mentioned above. I would do a quick visual on the CV joints too to see if they were torn. There are a number of seals (cam seals and valve covers) that typically leak on these cars, but I 've heard they aren't too bad to get repaired. No idea on the cross member bolt repair, but that sounds like it may have taken some damage from below. Crossmember supports the engine and transmission in the front. YOu would have to have a mechanic check it out. Never heard of it in the "standard" Legacy issues. You may want to do some reading on the Ultimate Subaru Message Board

    It's a very good and thorough board. As to price, doesn't sound too bad if it doesn't have any major issues.

    Good luck


  • hammersleyhammersley Member Posts: 684
    If I understand the ratings correctly, the 15W-50 oil may actually be better. Both flavors of oil are multi-viscosity - they adjust their flow properties as they warm & cool.. the 5W-50 will flow more freely at colder engine temps, such as at start-up, than will the 10W-30. Synthetic oils already have better flow characteristics than mineral oil, all other things being equal.

    I'm a little surprised that your oil consumption is down... sometimes switching to full synthetic in a high mileage engine can cause leaks to show up. Your engine may be in better shape than you thought! I've been told by my service dept. that 1 quart per 1000 miles is considered normal consumption in my 97 OB 2.5l.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    222k miles itself is a great achievement. Expecting it to last any longer is wishful thinking, no matter how reliable it is.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • artiewoodartiewood Member Posts: 2
    I am considering purchasing a 1995 Subaru L AWD. After about 10 miles the CHECK ENGINE light comes on. I paid the dealer $26 to read the code(I), and it is a P0740 -Torque Converter Clutch System Malfunction.

    The Subaru dealer pointed out this was a "junk yard" transmission, and that it may be installed incorrectly, or at least one of the sensors is not picking up. He says he has never seen that problem before, and that it would cost me a considerable amount to trouble shoot the problem.

    He said if the transmission works, don't worry about it. It shifts great, the car runs great.

    The used car dealer is willing to sell as is for black book average wholesale price, which is about $2500 below NADA retail.

    Anyone familiar with this problem, or got a clue what I should do?
  • tailwind19tailwind19 Member Posts: 6
    I had the transmission fluid, pan gasket, and filter changed. The transmission shifts great! I can use 4wd without that bumping in the rear. I would recommend to anyone who has the problem to have this done 1st. I was really surprised with the improvement.
    Don't go 139,000 without doing it like I did!
    The site mentioned in post #133 is great! Alot of good information. It was particularly interesting to read about common problems; i.e. dim headlights, broken sun visor, transmission problems.
  • mrdetailermrdetailer Member Posts: 1,118
    I would do it every 30,000 miles or 2 years. I also add Lubegard and it shifts smoother than when I bought it.
  • elpnjcelpnjc Member Posts: 1

    I'm looking into buying a used Legacy sedan, and I've found a very nice '95 LS. The only question is the mileage - 132,000. I know that Subaru makes a reliable car, but how many more miles can I expect to get out of this one, assuming that it's in good shape and hasn't gone through any major incidents? Any info or advice would be great. Thanks
  • robh14robh14 Member Posts: 2
    I have a 94 Legacy LS Wagon with just under 100,000 miles. I just had to replace an oxygen sensor and an idle speed motor. I'm wondering whether this is that start of an expensive year? Any thoughts would be appreciated!!!

    (In the past, we have had to do nothing but typical maintenance on the car, so this kind of took us by surprise. But we also realize that any car is going to require new parts at some point...) We love Subarus (this is our second one), just waiting for Subaru to make a minivan.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    IMHO, any car over 100k miles is going to require more maintenance and repair than a new one. But look at it this way - the average new car payment is over $400, so even a seemigly devastating $700 repair bill is less than you would spend in 2 months.

    The engine will probably last forever, it's the accessories that will give out, like the water pump, the belts, hoses, the A/C. Stuff like that. Just replace the water pump whenever you do the timing belt, and do all the belts/hoses each 60k miles or so (ASAP if you do not know the full service history of the vehicle).

  • pinkertopinkerto Member Posts: 3
    I recently replaced the power steering pump in my 1990 Subaru Legacy. Since I had power steering fluid all over my engine from when the old pump failed I decided I would put engine degreaser on the engine and hose it off. The next morning it started up and I drove to work. I did notice that the engine was a bit sluggish. When I went back out start my car to go to lunch it would not start. When I would turn the key, I would just get a "Click" and I noticed that the Power Indicator light was lit on my dashboard. The owners manual says, "if the Power light flashes for eight seconds or more after the ignition switch has been turned "ON" when starting the engine, it may indicate a problem with the automatic transmission control system." It also says that I should be sure to have it checked at a nearby Subaru dealer immediately.

    Does anyone have any idea what the problem might be?

  • evilizardevilizard Member Posts: 195
    You washed away some of that dirt that was holding your engine together!

    No seriously I would guess some type of electrical short. probably with the starter, maybe starter motor or something. Probably related to the work done to replace the PS pump, just manifested itself after the wash. Its amazing how many Totally unrelated mechnical failures happen right after getting some work done. I had an old Tempo, got the heater core replaced. The next day the distributor cap disintegrated into 18 pieces (I counted em.) I'd check my batter/connections and then try to take some power staight to the starter motor if you can.
  • pattim3pattim3 Member Posts: 533
    You may also want to check your spark plug wires.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Check the distributor cap and rotor, too. I think your car has them.

    Even a little water in there can keep it from starting up. My wife's old Mirage would stall when it rained, and I found out part of the distributor cap had cracked and was letting water in.

  • pinkertopinkerto Member Posts: 3
    After a visit to the local auto supply store, and explaining the situation about my car not starting, the manager told me to try tapping on the starter lightly with a hammer as my Bendix (sp) might be stuck. Willing to try anything, I tapped it with my tire iron,

    Wouldn't you know, it started right up. That was the cheapest repair I ever had!!

    Thanks for everyones suggestions.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    It usually isn't the bendix (starter drive) that sticks, it's the starter brushes. Sounds like your starter's living on borrowed time.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I was going to say the same thing - time to replace that starter, even though it worked this time.

    That same shop may even have a remanufactured one, but I'd check on the price of an OE starter first at your dealer or

  • rayfbairdrayfbaird Member Posts: 183
    After 120,000 my wagon wallows when fully loaded. I am going to replace the struts? I want to use performance ones, but the Subaru OEM costs over $100 apeice, and I'm not sure they are performance.

    Are KYB, or Tokico struts better than Monroe or Gabriel?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I'm not sure what you mean by "performance" struts exactly...if your original OEMs lasted this long, that's pretty darn good--I wouldn't imagine a KYB or Monroe or Gabriel doing that well. When it comes to struts, you do get what you pay for; however, you should check into the Subaru Owner's Club at Edmunds for some owner feedback. There's a hot link right at the top of this page. They may have had good luck with some aftermarket brands.
  • rayfbairdrayfbaird Member Posts: 183
    I read about performancae struts such as Tokico, KYB, and Eidelberg on the aftermarket springs ansd shock absorber site. They are supposed to deliver a smoother ride, and allow firmer cornerning.

    Checking with dealers here, the KYB is available for half the price of the Subaru one, and has a permanent guarantee of replacement unlike Subaru's.

    I'll check the owner's club.
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