Subaru Legacy/Outback "Check Engine" Light Problems

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  • georgejunggeorgejung Member Posts: 8
    Just an update. I looked diligently for enough information on 'which OBD tool does it take' to evaluate my 2005 Legacy wagon (2.5i), without too much success. Seems there are multiple options, and no guarantee which would do the job, with OBDII probably covering most of the emissions questions, but some other scanners dedicated to 'most' (but not all - esp WRX etc) Subarus. My small town, local autoparts stores wouldn't let me 'see' if the scanners they carried would work, without purchase, and they were pretty elementary scanners; from what I'd read, a scanner that allowed updates to the programs, and 'live assessment' of functions, seemed the best approach. So..... I took my car into one mechanic, whos' OBD II wouldn't read the codes. Then tried another - and his worked fine, indicating a bad oxygen sensor (?front one?). $160 plus labor. He suggested I call the nearest Subaru dealer - 150 miles away - to see if the drive train warranty would cover it. I did. It doesn't (though I'm still good on drivetrain to 80,000 miles). Seems the warranty on the sensors ran out about a year ago (I bought this car used - haven't 'needed to know' about the warranty before this!)
    Seems I can buy an extended warranty, if I wish - but not for the sensors! ECU covered to 80K too.
    So, I'll get this fixed, but I really should learn how to check/change the sensors myself, I suspect - if anyone can recommend an OBD II that they've successively used on a 2.5 engine, I'd love to hear it. And maybe a shop manual - ?Edmunds? - Any thoughts? Thanks.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,217
    On the 2005 models, you need to have an OBDII scanner that is CAN compliant. Most manufacturers switched to CAN around 2004, if I recall correctly. I am sure Mike (paisan) can clarify this.

    I find Haynes manuals very helpful for maintenance, even very in-depth maintenance, but I am not sure if one is available for a Subaru as new as 2005. Looking on Amazon, there is one for Legacy/Forester 200-2006. Wow; quite a range! I imagine it is good for most of the basic stuff.
    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
    I bought a cheap $99 Actron scanner and it works fine on our 2002 Legacy 2.5l. It also worked on my 98 Forester, and a friend's Suburban. One other car, I forget which one right now.

    So it's not universal but it has worked on many cars and is so cheap that it pays for itself on the 2nd use.

    Mine is the 9135, which I bought at NAPA:

    image
  • sarie97sarie97 Member Posts: 1
    Wondering what the outcome of this was for you as car is sputtering and cel on and the car is sputtering quite a bit- we are taking to a friend's shop on Saturday and wondering what we should let him know ahead of time maybe...thanks
  • selfish1selfish1 Member Posts: 1
    For what it's worth... My girlfriend's 2004 Legacy began exhibiting symptoms of CEL + flashing cruise control light immediately after she had her car serviced. We poked around under the hood and found that the technicians had disconnected an electrical connector adjacent to the air filter and hadn't re-connected it. After plugging it back in and starting the car twice, the CEL + flashing cruise light problem went away.

    It wouldn't hurt to check all the electrical connections under the hood. Unplug any connection you can find and re-plug them to possibly re-seat the electrical contacts that may have become corroded or tarnished.
  • triniluvtriniluv Member Posts: 3
    i have a 2000 legacy outback a check engine light came on an it started idling rough and hesitating a mechanic checked the compression an said cyl#2 has a really low compression and is saying might be a burnt valve. he advise me to change my eng but i have only 71,000 KMS on this car which i only bought last may...ANY ADVISE or suggession would be grately appreciated...thanks
  • nornetnornet Member Posts: 24
    Someone may have unloaded their problem on you. That is a very low mileage car. But before I got too worked up about it, get the compression test verified by a second mechanic (or do it yourself). You or the mechanic should be able to isolate the problem whether it be rings or valves using the wet dry test. If it's valves, and all other cylinders are good, get a valve job only on the side that's bad.
  • roadrunnerksroadrunnerks Member Posts: 1
    Bought Outback new, complained to dealer at first service of coolant smell from vehicle after long drives. Coolant resevior low , had to add coolant, dealer states no problem found. Added 1 gallon of coolant in a period of 12,000 miles. Kept telling dealer about problem on each service. Same comment, no problem found. While driving vehicle on vacation a few hundred miles from home, check engine light came on and cruise control light flashed. Vehicle overheated into red zone. Stopped immediately, let cool, added 4 bottles of drinking water, drove back home without overheating. Took the vehicle to the dealer, they stated that the head gaskets were blown. They replaced both head gaskets. I picked up the vehicle, drove 30+ miles home, notice burning smell from engine compartment, hopefully it is only residue from the repair. I am wondering if I should expect problems with the O2 sensor and cat converter. Ken Stroud
  • triniluvtriniluv Member Posts: 3
    thanks for the advise ....wish it was an oxygen sensor...lol
    :surprise:
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Could also be a bad head gasket.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    My guess would that its residual oil/grease/dirt burning off from the repair, give it a few 100 miles and see if it gets better.

    -mike
  • shiner50shiner50 Member Posts: 9
    I put my OB in the shop for a new a/c compressor. I picked up my soob and less than a mile later the check engine light came on. I figured that something was left unplugged by the mechanic. I checked all the connections reachable in the engine compartment and found nothing unplugged. It seems to coincidental to me. Any ideas? I have 81k on it and have had no other issues till now. What kind of scanner does it take to read the codes? Oh, I took it back and had the garage hook it up and check it. They said it was a manufacturer specific code. Does anyone know what that means? Thanks. Shiner50
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    You need an ODBII scanner.

    Some Advance Auto Parts stores let you borrow them.

    You can buy one for $100 or less. I bought one.

    Dealers charge around $80 to scan a single code some times.
  • shiner50shiner50 Member Posts: 9
    Thanks for the info..doesn't that seem a little coincidental, I mean the light coming on less than a mile from the mechanics shop after they have been under the hood for a day?
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Yup bring it back and have them fix it on their dime.

    -mike
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    It's very likely.

    I'd still get a scanner. They're quite useful.
  • shiner50shiner50 Member Posts: 9
    I checked with the local dealer as to when the timing chain needed to be replaced on my 03' H6. The dealer told me that the 2.5's needed to be changed around 80-90 k and that I never needed to change out my chain ( H6). Does anyone know the truth about this? thanks.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    on the H4 engines it's 105k miles for 2000+ year vehicles.
    on the H6 the Timing chain doesn't need replacement.

    -mike
  • ebaconebacon Member Posts: 1
    Have you solved your problem with the P0420 CEL code? I am having the same problem with a 1997 Subaru Outback, 2.5L, with 112K miles. The exhaust system including catalytic converter was replaced in Nov. CEL first came on in March. Gasket between converter and front exhaust pipes replaced. CEL back on after 40-50 miles. O2 Sensor replaced. CEL back on after 40-50 miles. Car runs fine. CEL has gone off a couple of times after filling gas tank but not always. Back on after few miles.
  • shiner50shiner50 Member Posts: 9
    I had a local garage replace my a/c compressor, high side line, liquid dryer, and expansion valve. I have had nothing but trouble since. Here is one for you subbie braniacs! Now I am getting a low pitch ( sounds like a low note played on a flute ) sound when I run the a/c. What I just described is what it sounds like from inside the car. I popped the hood and tracked the noise to the low side metal a/c line. It is actually reverberating in a cyclic manner. You can feel it reverberating when you put your hand on it. I have no clue other than some kind of restriction. HELP! SHINER 50
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    That stinks, sorry to hear it.

    I can relate. I had the timing belt changed on my Miata, as well as the water pump, and I swear they retarded the timing because I feel like I've lost 10 horsepower.
  • shiner50shiner50 Member Posts: 9
    I had a local garage replace my a/c compressor, high side line, liquid dryer, and expansion valve. I have had nothing but trouble since. Here is one for you subbie braniacs! Now I am getting a low pitch ( sounds like a low note played on a flute ) sound when I run the a/c. What I just described is what it sounds like from inside the car. I popped the hood and tracked the noise to the low side metal a/c line. It is actually reverberating in a cyclic manner. You can feel it reverberating when you put your hand on it. I have no clue other than some kind of restriction. HELP! SHINER 50
  • paulo1967paulo1967 Member Posts: 1
    hi need some help badly i have a 1998 subaru legacy 2.5 4cam i have a problem with the check engine light coming on periodically but at the time this happens the car loses its power dramatically lately the car has felt like its pulling back all the time can anybody help ????
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    You need to get the CEL code pulled, this will point you in the correct direction as to how to fix it.

    -mike
  • subyobsubyob Member Posts: 4
    I live in Australia and own a [non-permissible content removed]. spec. 2000 H6 Subaru Outback VDC wagon. The 'VDC off" light has recently come on. I have had my Subaru dealer check this and fix the problem but they told me there is normally a switch under the dash to reset this light. Apparently on mine it is not where they expected it to be and they could not find it. Does anyone have any ideas about how to clear this code/warning light?
  • baccus49baccus49 Member Posts: 60
    Check this thread on how to turn it off

    http://www.ozliberty.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3042
  • carp53carp53 Member Posts: 4
    Any suggestions on where to get my 2003 Outback serviced in Seattle ?
    Check engine light on - P0030 code (bank one upstream A/F ratio sensor heater circuit)
  • subiekatsubiekat Member Posts: 2
    I have a 2001 Outback Limited with 158,750 miles on it that I bought new. It has always had an intermittent "sluggishness" on acceleration from a stop or slow speed that Subaru service checked out more than once and told me it was the way the computer picked up on the way I drove the car. After clearing the computer 2 or 3 times to no avail, and since it was intermittent, I just lived with it. The car has been a great car up until about 130,000 miles. About a year ago, the CEL came on and the local mechanic (I live about 75 miles from nearest dealer) determined that the car needed a new catalytic converter. Had that replaced. No problems for about 6-7 months, then radiator went out while on out of town trip. Had radiator and belts replaced by local mechanic in nearby town. All was good for about a month then CEL light came on. Since I work in a small city (50 miles in the opposite direction of the Subaru dealer), I took it to a Nissan dealer there who had done a brake job on my Outback and had also replaced a leaking gasket. I have been very pleased with their work. The code showed P0303 Cyl 3 misfire so they replaced the spark plugs, coil assembly and spark plug wires. No problems for about a month, then CEL came on again. They (Nissan dealer service dept.) performed a fuel injection clean and changed fuel filter. Just a day or two later, the CEL came on again. Nissan people ran scan again, and again cyl 3 misfire. They have replaced wires, cleaned connections, checked and rechecked. They have "researched" and asked Subaru buddies that they know what to do. While they were trying to get info on what to look for, I was still driving my Outback even tho the CEL was on. Then last week after work, the car wouldn't start. It tried to start, but would just "cough" and die. Had it carried over to Nissan dealer, and they found fuel pump internally shorted. They replaced the fuel pump assembly and said that it has a slight miss at start up (very similar to the sluggishness that it has always had) and needs injectors replaced (approx $1200.00). I believe they have been honest and diligent in their work and think this is as good a guess as any. They did say that it is very unusual for ANY car to have the injectors go bad. Sooooo, my questions are .....Is this normal for a Subaru at this mileage? Does anyone have any other ideas? And, just what is the normal life span of a Subaru anyway? Is this the end? I was hoping to get a least 200,000 miles out of it. Now I'm thinking I need a new one. I have put quite a bit of money into this one so for this year. When do you stop putting money into an older car and start paying for a new one? I fell in love with my Outback and swore I would never own any other make of car, but now that I've read all the forum questions and problems and had similar ones with my car, I'm not sure. (I even test drove a Nissan! I feel like a traitor!) Any comments?????? (FYI - this Subaru lives in Texas, so no cold weather problems if that makes a difference.) -- 'Thanks.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Why would they replace all the injectors when it's only cylinder #3 that is bad?

    Also $1200 to replace the injectors is significantly higher than you should be paying. Let me look up the price of the injectors and we can go from there...

    The injectors are about $125/each and shouldn't take more than 2-3hrs to install for a competent mechanic. So even if they did all 4 we are talking $800, maybe. But like I said, you should only have to do the one that is a problem.

    As for all that other stuff leading up to the injector issue, some was regular maintenance, some was extranious. I've never seen a fuel pump go bad, if it were internally shorted it simply would not have worked.

    -mike
    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • subiekatsubiekat Member Posts: 2
    Thanks for the info. Decided to get a new 09 Forester. Picking it up tomorrow. Appreciate your reply.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Good luck, keep us posted!
  • Speed69Speed69 Member Posts: 3
    I have a 2005 Legacey Gt 2.5 Turbo, Automatic. Just turned over 64000 miles (which of course takes me out of the power train warrenty). The car does not get driven much anymore but the wife and I took it shopping yesturday and suddenly got a Check Engine light with the blinking cruise. At first I was like humm loose gas cap or fuse something small. Then about 1/2 mile down the road it started to randomly make a Whoop ( kinda sounded like a siren) noise on the passenger side of the car seemed to be coming from under the hood. I was trying to baby it home so I cant say for sure if it was more under a turbo load or not but seemed to not make the noise if I wasnt on the gas. I didnt notice any true power loss but then again was trying to stay out of the gas as long as possible. I am waiting for a scanner to make its way to me but was hoping maybe someone could lend an idea. Thank you so very much... :confuse:
  • Speed69Speed69 Member Posts: 3
    Ok here is what the scanner said. The code was a P0011 .. It read Camshaft Position... Actuator A Bank 1 Timing Over Advanced.. The car seems to run fine and no over heating or anything of that sort. So again any help?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,217
    Hmmm... not sure what it means exactly, but the timing is fully computer-controlled. I wonder if it was just a hiccup? Perhaps reset the error code and see if it pops up again soon. If so, probably something to take to a shop for diagnosis. Be sure to log this event (when it happened, driving conditions, etc), though, in case it ends up being a sporadic problem.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • Speed69Speed69 Member Posts: 3
    OK here is some info I was given today. There are 2 hydrolic adjusters one on each cylinder head, They have Banjo bolts with screens in them that will get cloged or even fall apart. The adjusters work by oil flowing thru them . As you get on the gas the oil pressure boost and it advances the timing for performance. Was told to replace them and to replace the Bango bolts in the turbo line just in case. Not sure where the bango bols are in the turbo oil line so any help there would be great. Have the parts on order at my local subaru dealer. .. Oh yeah and when I bought the car they said to use coventional motor oil but now are saying to use synthetic with this motor.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,217
    Synthetic has much better wear properties than conventional, so yes, I agree that synthetic is preferable.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • 95sl95sl Member Posts: 1
    i have a 95 subaru legacy and the CEL came on and i went to get it scanned and it came bac as P1104 which is engine torque control signal circuit malfunction. When i had it scanned the guy told me he never heard of it and he owned a subaru himself. He told me to bring it into the dealer. Well i called around to local mechanics first before i would bring it in to the dealer and all the places i called have never heard of this problem either but they all said it probably had something to do with my transmisson. I was wondering if someone out there had this same problem or had a solution to this problem.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    Been around subies for a long time, never heard of that code either. Sorry :(

    -mike
    Subaru Guru and Track Instructor
  • fffzippyfffzippy Member Posts: 1
    This is exactly what I just experienced and our mileage is close. What happened? They originally replaced my oil sensor, but the check engine light came on again and now the dealer says I need a new turbo and catalytic converter to the tune of $5,000. I have had all the O2 sensor problems and many of the others discussed on this forum.
  • RoobarRoobar Member Posts: 2
    We have 2005 and 2008 Outback XT's with auto transmissions. The 2008 has a lurching shift between gears 2 and 3. The 2008 acceleration is also more sluggish that that of the 2005, even with the auto transmission in Sport Sharp mode. Has anyone else experienced similar symptoms with the 2008?
  • PbalkanPbalkan Member Posts: 2
    Mine is a 2006 GT-Turbo with 5sp Manual. I ONLY get the CEL when I travel between my two homes. One home is at 7000' in a cold climate and the other is at about 3000' in the desert. Usually, I get the light when I go from the cold to hot climates. Every time I take it to the dealer, I'm told its a loose gas-cap.

    I NEVER fail to tighten the gas-cap and I am especially aware of that now. I suspect that the problem is caused either by the change in temperature or the change in altitude (pressure). I always buy gas at the half-way point between the two homes.

    I had a Forester with the same problem and then I had a Baja that never flashed a CEL.... ever.

    Comments? Ideas?
  • 2009buyer2009buyer Member Posts: 15
    I have a 1996 Subaru Legacy Wagon. I bought it from a private party when it had 11,000 miles on it. Not long after I bought it, the check engine light came on. Twice when this happened took to the dealer, they said nothing was wrong turned it off. They never said it was a known problem. Living in Oregon, it was not a problem as there were no emission problems. Now in California, just the fact that the light is seen as on manually, they fail your smog. No emission problems, car problems of any kind. The print out mentions a Knock Sensor. Had it replaced, drove it about 100 miles, had it smogged, now the light is on again. I have two years to do something about this. I love the car, but the only alternative is to sell for scrap in two years. This just not seem right that you would be forced to junk a car that has an engine that is so quite when idling, you can't tell it is on, no emissions, etc.

    Would Subaru have a fix for this? One mechanic said it needs a new computer, about $1500. Another said it has nothing to do with the computer or catalytic converter. Any ideas?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,217
    Not that this is a solution, but you should seriously consider purchasing a scanner for the car. That way, when the light illuminates, you can read out and reset the codes yourself. This does two things: 1, you know what codes are tripping and how often, and 2, if something else goes wrong, you will not be in the dark about it (once the light is on, an infinite number of additional codes could crop up and you would have no idea).

    Also, it would alleviate the issue of occasional codes causing a fail when having the test performed.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • 2009buyer2009buyer Member Posts: 15
    So how does one buy a scanner and where do you get them? What do you look for? Also, is this in keeping with regulations to reset the codes prior to getting it smogged? Just wondering.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,217
    Scanners can be purchased at many, if not all, automotive parts stores, as well as online through many venues such as Northern Tools, Amazon.com, etc. They tend to cost around $130-$150, and you want a scanner that is OBD-II with CAN compliance.

    I am not aware of regulations related to resetting codes prior to getting an emissions test, but it is your car. As far as I am concerned, if the codes had an effect on the emissions coming out of the tailpipe, the car would not pass the test anyway and then you would have a legitimate reason to pursue repair. If it passes, the code was irrelevant. If the state has a problem with that, they are welcome to provide me with a car (and therefore have a say in its ownership) or kiss my.... cheek. ;)
    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
    I got an Actron for $99. Make sure it can read and reset codes also.
  • scoobydoo4scoobydoo4 Member Posts: 1
    I usually go to my local O'Reilly's and use thier scan tool for free! Hope this helps. Most parts stores do this. Why buy one.
  • 2009buyer2009buyer Member Posts: 15
    I have read the posts and appreciate the feedback. Unfortunately I am not sure what I would do with a scanner if I had it. If I bought one, used it according to the manual, then what? It gives me some codes, I read them, don't know what to do about any of it. Don't know what would happen if I re-set the codes. Does that make the check engine light go out? So it would pass smog?

    I don't have an O'Reilly in my part of California. Anyone else know of somewhere they do this. Like a Kragan or Pep Boys?

    Since this seems to be a common problem, what does Subaru say about this? :)
  • PbalkanPbalkan Member Posts: 2
    OK.... I bought a scanner. And.... I have just made the trip from high-altitude to low and from cold to hot. I haven't got a CEL.... yet... but I usually get one within 24-48 hours after I make the trip.

    Of course, now that I have the scanner.... the car might just fix itself to spite me. :mad:

    I found the OBD2, 16 pin connector. Subaru "hides" it in plain sight. I was looking for some kind of hatch-cover but it's just THERE, next to the hood latch. I read somewhere that there are connectors that must be connected to put the car into test-mode. The connectors are supposed to be around the glove-box.

    True? Where do I find those? :confuse:
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Nah, just follow the instructions that came with the scanner.

    I didn't need to find any connectors for any of the cars I've scanned. You just plug-and-play. Read the instructions to find out where to put the ignition switch and when.
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