High Mileage Outback-Concerns

lostheartslosthearts Member Posts: 6
Hi, I'm so glad I stumbled upon this forum. I'm a long time Subaru fan and only strayed once from the brand, to my deep regret. :( Which leads me to asking for some advice. Please excuse any dumb posting errors as this is my first post on this forum.

My previous Subarus were Impreza sedans & were excellent cars. However, we are moving to a more hilly area and are considering buying a Legacy Outback as we need the extra cargo space.

Our budget, however, is not very flexible in that soon we will be applying for a mortgage so a car loan is out for now. This means we must look for Outbacks which have somewhat high mileage; i.e., 120,000 plus. On my Imprezas, this would not be a concern as they just kept going and going....

Right now with our budget at $4000 - $7000 for an Outback, I was wondering if mileage over 100,000 should be a concern if the vehicle appears to have been decently cared for. Most of these miles appear to be highway. There are several prospects (I've checked their CarFax which can at least provide a partial view of the history) but am put off a bit by the higher mileage bracket we are forced into.

I know how well Subarus perform, esp. in snow, mud etc. Really wouldn't consider anything else.
So I would appreciate any comments or suggestions on higher mileage Outbacks. In the price range, we are looking at the years 1997 - 2000, both at dealers and private sellers..

Thanks in advance and enjoy the weekend!


  • bajasosbajasos Member Posts: 4
    hola everyone ,
    i'm driving my new to me 1991 subaru legacy wagon fwd LS 145,000 miles on her to mexico and everywhere inbetween .my questions are what spare parts should i carry with me ? sensors, starters ,alt, injectors? i love this car it drives awesome but a bit worried about reliability ? preveious owners did a lot of work . any tips or helpful tid bits i should know about 1991 subaru legacy cars in general? thanx ......Shauna
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    At that age it's all about luck and how well it was maintained up until now.

    Honestly? To go to deserted parts of Mexico I'm not sure I'd trust any 1991 model with high miles.
  • rshollandrsholland Member Posts: 19,788
    One of the problems driving a Subaru (any Subaru) in Mexico is, until fairly recently, Subarus were not imported there. That means getting parts—of any sort—could be a real problem.

    Make sure your spare tire is in good order, as the roads are pretty bad.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    That's not a bad idea. An extra spare tire may be your best bet. Maybe lso a spare tank of gas, at least a couple of gallons.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    I wouldn't do it, just me, and I'm a Subaru loyalist to the core. Too risky in a foreign country w/o much subaru support.

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,134
    Naysayers aside, my reservation is that you do not seem to be very familiar with the vehicle. This means that in the event of an emergency, it likely would not be you to perform repairs. In an area where Subaru is scarce, that could mean prolonged trouble.

    I would carry a few feet of spare hose of various size (fuel line, heater, vacuum), some hose clamps, a spare set of radiator hoses, a couple gallons of coolant, water, spark plugs, plug wires, set of drive belts, a couple wheel bearings, bearing grease, rags, engine oil, ATF (or gear oil, if a manual transmission), gear oil for differential(s), baling wire, complete set of tools, two full size spare tires, penetrating lubricant spray, filters (oil and air), maybe some JB Weld, repair manual (in Spanish if you will not be doing all repairs!).... Are you planning on taking anything else with you on this trip? :D

    Really, you just have to cover the most probable scenarios and have with you a plan "B" and "C" in the event one or more improbable scenarios crop up. The best way to prepare is to be familiar with the vehicle, and I mean intimately familiar.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • nathan149nathan149 Member Posts: 1
    I drove my 1991 Legacy wagon through mexico, it was a blast! My only precaution was to remove my license plate and tape it to the inside of the glass, as I'd heard about ppl stealing them. But I lucked out and didn't have any car problems at all. We didn't even suffer without A/C (mine was broken at the time - and still is), except in Texas. The duct tape lines are still on my window, reminding me of the trip. Sadly, my timing belt just went out and I may be retiring her, depending on what my mechanic says it'll cost... Buen viaje! Espero que tengas una aventura magnifica!
  • bajasosbajasos Member Posts: 4
    thanx everyone that replyed i bought a toyota sr5 4x4 tercel first before the subee but i have had subaru's in the past with good luck so i will do as all of you sugest and bring the stuff i can fix or mind it with its a 800 dollar car im thinking if tranny or engine go south i will jump out and leaver right there and hitch, hop a bus what have u ?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,134
    Sounds good, and hey, whatever happens, I bet you will have a fabulous time as long as your well being is not at risk. Have a great trip!

    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • bajasosbajasos Member Posts: 4
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Isn't there always?

    Bad news first. My concern would be leaky head gaskets. That affects the model year range you mention. If the engine has survived 120k miles, though, it would have happened by now. Just make sure you're not buying one that just leaked and was patched up. Have a mechanic inspect for signs of oil/coolant leaks and conduct pressure tests in the cylinders.

    Good news. A problem should be faily obvious. Turn off the radio and open the windows on a test drive and listen for any driveline noise. Wheel bearings will be noisy, same with differentials. It should not be hard to trace a problem.

    Good luck. I've seen Subarus for sale with 247k miles, but I'm sure those were cared for properly so buying used makes it tougher.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,134
    Yes, the 120,000 mile area is a tough one because even the poorly maintained cars tend to make it that long (then quickly fall apart!). Once the miles get even higher, the better maintained cars naturally outlast the gas-n-go's.

    In addition to the head gasket issue, which is definitely the most critical one to avoid, I have seen quite a few reports of transmission seal problems in, especially, the 1999 model year. The symptom of this is a delay in engagement when trying to put the car from park to a forward gear (D,3,2,L). If this happens, it is an early warning sign that things are going to get worse and a transmission replacement is not long in coming. These engines also have sensitive valve cover gaskets and camshaft gaskets.

    Generally, well maintained and replaced gaskets (or no current leaks), and I would trust my family to a used Outback. I had 220,000 on my '96 when it was killed last winter and purchased it at 83K (from, I found, a series of gas-n-go owners).

    Oh, and in regard to head gasket leaks, this is an issue for the 2.5L engines. 2.2L was still available on the Outback for model year 1996, in case you look at those as well. The main distinguishing feature between 1996 and 1997 models is the lack of a fake hood scoop on the 1996, making for a less sporty but more elegant look.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • lostheartslosthearts Member Posts: 6
    I will certainly be sure to check for those issues. Any vehicle we are considering gets a very thorough check by a mechanic. I will tell him the concerns mentioned above and we'll take it from there.

    There is a 1999 Legacy L Outback at a dealers with under 70,000 miles. Of course it costs more but would still be affordable, but at the upper limit of our budget. I'm going to have someone check it out first before we even go to look at it.

    After surviving a 1999 Ford Minivan with (unknown to me) HUGE problems (didn't do my research; that model was junk to begin with and seems to have come off the line with cheap transmissions) I'm going back to Subarus. My little 80 something GL kept going until it literally fell apart around the engine. On the other hand, my minivan developed a sudden transmission failure at 92,000 miles and got so hot the parts literally melted. I later learned that the trans we put in afterward was the 3rd one.

    Many thanks for the excellent advice!

  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    You'll be happy to know Subaru now uses galvanized steel, so the body will last as long as the engine if you take care of both.

    1999 Legacy L Outback

    That's incorrect, it's either a Legacy L or a Legacy Outback.

    The Outback will be obvious: hood scoop, two tone, etc. It will have a 2.5l engine and alloy wheels, too.

    The Legacy L had a 2.2l back then, I believe they only standardized on the 2.5l for MY2000.

    If it's a 2.2l that could be a nice find - the EJ22 had far fewer head gasket issues, and was a very realible engine overall. Go check it out!
  • lostheartslosthearts Member Posts: 6
    I get confused. This is definitely a Legacy L Wagon with the 2.2 engine. Going to have it checked out first because it's quite a drive away from me. With the mileage under 70,000, I'm hoping for the best!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Good luck, keep us posted!
  • lostheartslosthearts Member Posts: 6
    I have just ordered an independent inspection (yes, it costs $100, but if the vehicle of interest is a long drive away it can save me in time, gas, frustration, and sanity, I consider the inspection fee as an investment).

    We are looking to move to the Roanoke VA area and I've no doubt a Subaru is one of the best choices for those hilly curves.

    So glad I found this thread! :)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Cool, keep us posted.

    And stick around, too, if you do have problems that are folks here that are pretty good about narrowing it down, often guessing the exact problem.
  • deblsdebls Member Posts: 6
    Along this same line, I currently drive a 1995 cavalier with 127,000 miles on it and it's time to go!
    I've been offered a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback Limited. One Owner. Well maintained. 77,000 miles which I guess is considered low for the age. The price is 7395.00 from a small 2nd had dealer who is a friend. Says he would have put the car on the lot for 8500.00 and has already had calls on it. I ran a carfax to confirm what is stated above. Car looks brand new inside and out. I am just wondering about reliability. Last Subaru I owned was an 88 GL Sedan which I loved except for the Y pipe and the rust! Otherwise car was good. I had 96,000 on that when I traded it in. I've just never bought a car with this many miles on it but it seems like such a good deal and I don't have a lot of money right now.
    So, what say you? Deal or No Deal?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    The 98 models had galvanized steel panels, so it should be a lot better about rust. Do inspect the undercarriage to see if it was exposed to a lot of salt (beach, NE snow treatement, etc).

    Also check the gaskets, front main seal (o-ring) and heads for oil leaks. If the block is dry after a decade it will probably never leak.
  • xctrygirlewdxctrygirlewd Member Posts: 1
    I gotta say, my '00 outback limited wagon has just been diagnosed today with the head gaskets. She has 164k miles and we haven't seen this problem for long. So I was greatly relieved to hear it was a real problem that the dealer could fix for a resonable fee considering everything involved.

    So don't assume that the gaskets would have gone by 120k. These cars are solid, this stuff can happen late in a cars life.

  • mike_wolfmike_wolf Member Posts: 2
    My 99 Outback isn't starting when it is raining out. I am not getting fuel to the engine, it sounds like it is out of gas. I just replaced the fuel filter, am getting fuel pressure out of the filter towards the engine, but it still just turns over. Happened once before 2 weeks ago (also when it was raining), replaced the fuel pump and it's been driving fine until today. I have 156k with about 1200mi a month. I don't know what to do next. Any help? Anyone else experience this with their high mileage subie?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Wow, at 164k I guess the engine doesn't owe you much.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,134
    Why are you certain it is fuel? Since it is a problem that only shows up with the moisture, it could also be a spark or MAS (mass airflow sensor) issue.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • formulaveeformulavee Member Posts: 14
    I am thinking about selling my 2001 BMW 540, buying a 2001 Outback with the H6 and banking the difference. All of the potential OUtbacks I see are arounf 100k miles. Are there typical concerns with a high mileage 2001 Outback? What should I look for or be concerned about (aside from regualr mainenance by the PO)?

  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    The EZ30 engine is pretty solid and never had the gasket issues from the EJ25.

    Turn off the radio, open the windows, and drive in a figure 8. Listen for any unusual drive line noises, feel for binding, grinding, anything like that.

    It's a good model without a known problem area, and any flaws should make themselves fairly obvious.

    Inspect the gaskets anyway, the front and rear seals, the wheel bearings, things that are common issues on other Subarus.
  • buffalosubybuffalosuby Member Posts: 2
    Are any other posters able to direct me to previous threads regarding high mileage maintenance issues/items on a 98 Legacy, 2.2 liter with a 5 speed manual trans.? If this hasn't been talked about in a while, here is my dilemma - my Legacy sedan now has 152,000 miles. I am the original owner and except for about 30,000 that my son put on the car, I have driven it since new. It has had the head gasket replaced and a repair to the gas tank filler neck (was rotted and leaking air, giving off a check engine code). It had a short block replacement at 60,000 under warranty (cold engine piston slap) and at that time the dealer replaced the pilot bearing and 5th gear in the transmission. Trans fluid was replaced with synthetic at that time and hasn't been changed since. Except for replacing the bearing, the clutch is original, as is the exhaust, all pumps, etc. I take pretty good care of my cars, so oil changes and other routine maintenance have always been done. This is my daily driver and I put about 300 miles a week on it. Still gets over 32 MPG on the highway! My problem is that the clutch is on its way out (shudder that I can't get rid of by adjusting; fairly soft engagement and very occasional slipping). This is about a $900 repair. It is also time for timing belt, drive belts & hoses to be replaced, spark plugs, fuel filter, brake fluid replacement and some other maintenance items - figure these things will cost another $200-$300 or so depending on how much of it I do myself. Do the "experts" think it is worth replacing the clutch and other work to put the car back in good order, or it is time to move on.... I guess what I am worried about is that other things will start to go like water pump, fuel pump, exhaust, CV joints, etc. and it will become a money pit. The body is still decent and it still runs well generally. Any thoughts or advice? Thanks in advance!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I think it's worth keeping. Then again I still drive a 1993 Miata daily.

    You could fix only the priority stuff and from then on follow an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mantra.

    Odds are one of the things you mention will indeed fail each year, but each will likely cost you a car payment, two max.

    That's cheaper than a new car.

    The time to sell it is when you stop trusting the car to start every day.

    My Miata has not reached that point, so I've kept it. I did invest over $1000 on a timing belt, water pump, valve cover gasket, etc this year. But that's still only 2-3 car payments, and it has already lasted long enough to pay itself off.
  • carteachcarteach Member Posts: 179
    I have a '95 Legacy wagon with 215,000 miles on it. It has given me no trouble all these years although it looks its age. But now I need a new timing belt, water pump is leaking and the break line is shot. Without the timing belt I think the repairs will come to $1300. I have a 2006 Acura; so I'm not without a car. I've loved having the wagon to haul large items including my two Goldens. My car repair guy advised me against buying an Outback if I sell my Acura. So I don't even know what car I could buy to take the place of my Subie.

    Just would like some thoughts from any of you.

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,134
    edited January 2011
    Well, $1,300 sounds a little high for that work, but I am not sure how hard it is to replace a brake line on one of these things. You should definitely replace the water pump if it is leaking, as that is a sure sign it will fail in the not-too-distant future. But, the good news is that it takes no extra labor to replace the timing belt when you're in there for the water pump (because you have to remove the belt to access the pump), and the belt itself is about $100.

    Were it mine, I would probably do the work if it is otherwise in decent shape. That said, if you have done no other work (such as strut replacement, CV joints, wheel bearings, etc), there are likely many other things that need attention now or in the near future.

    Aside from the appearance, I would not bet against a new Outback. I, like many others, have some concerns about the wheel shake issue that is not uncommonly reported, but, aside from that, the model has thus far proven to be quite solid.

    The 09+ Forester is also a great car. Coming from the '95, I suspect you might find it a nice fit.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    My car repair guy advised me against buying an Outback

    He's probably concerned about the head gaskets, but that was 2004 and prior. A newer one should be fine.
  • diver7diver7 Member Posts: 5
    here is my dilemma- my 2000 outback ltd has 257K- already replaced head gaskets- brakes twice, clutch once- belts once or twice, hubby has diligently changed oil every 3-4K miles. i really love this car..has 2 moonroofs, weather band, manual, heated leather- i could go on i just love it. but practical spouse says time to get new;gotta have reliable car; rpms rev spontaneously at times...i could keep it and get a smaller impreza for long distance trips or just say heck with it and go all out...decisions decisions- anyone want to offer their thoughts? if i do buy i want all the things i have now esp. weather band if it is still an option.
  • saedavesaedave Chicago, ILMember Posts: 694
    The new Impreza probably has about the same passenger room as your 2000 Outback and with the new engine offers MPG economy, similar performance and no head gasket worry. I believe there will be a model with leather.

    Weather band seems to be missing.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,134
    It is; I don't think Subaru has included weather band since the 2005 model year on the Legacy/Outback. I'm not sure when they phased it out for the Forester.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • diver7diver7 Member Posts: 5
    Thanks for replying. hate to hear about the weather band- it really helped me through these storms we've been having. think i'll keep this car and drive it til it drops.
  • saedavesaedave Chicago, ILMember Posts: 694
    A Midland HH50 Pocket Weather Radio sells for less than $18 on Amazon and is small enough to be clipped to a visor. I suspect it works better than the old Subaru built-in.
  • diver7diver7 Member Posts: 5
    hey thanks you know sometimes i need someone to come along and offer a simple solution :blush:
  • phxmotorphxmotor Member Posts: 9
    164 is alot? I dont think so, my god! This is where I buy my Subi's. If it needs head gaskets...good! Then I get'em cheap...if the H-G's have been done, then they are ready for another 150k. Actually with Felpro's I havent had a failure all the way up to 300 & higher.
    A fuel pump at 190...and whatever else the CEL tells me to do...and the darned things seem to go indefinately.
    Brakes here, half shafts there, its no big deal to keep these things on the road.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I did see a Forester for sale that had 274k miles on them.

    Did you buy that one? LOL

    Quarter million mile club is awesome!
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