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Subaru Legacy/Outback "Check Engine" Light Problems



  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Most shops will charge 1 hr labor to read codes. So it should be closer to $90 to read the code.

    However since your car is a 2002 w/21k miles if it is in fact an emissions problem, it will be covered under the 8/80k emissions warranty.

    My guess is that it may be the gas cap tightening thing, so give it a few days before panicing.

  • dswissdswiss Posts: 11
    Thats about how long the catalytic converter lasted on my Legacy. By 80,000 mi I was on my third one - all paid by Subaru. After that YOU will have to pay for it, but until then, keep having it fixed at their cost!
    good luck.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I'd buy a scanner.

    I got an Actron model for $99. I've used it a couple of times, plus a couple of times for friends.

    At $130 per use, it's paid for itself more than 5 times already.
  • Hey, I bought the harbor freight OBDII with CAN for my 1999 Subaru legacy outback wagon which occasionally throws misfire cyl 4 CELs.

    This Code reader works well, cost <$40 USD and helps you figure out right away what the problem is. It also prevents having to stop at autozone to have them read/reset codes.
  • Okay, I posted here before about my check engine light, and the dealer wanting $130 just to scan it. I unplugged my cell phone charge thing from the cigarette more check engine light. Waiting to see if it comes back on.
  • Wow if that's it what a lucky fix!
  • So far so good, no check engine light. Whew, I hope this is the answer. lol
    Thanks, for all the help on ideas. I am buying a scanner deal. There's a Harbor Freight tools here. Going to go check it out.
  • Hello there. I happened across your post and you just might be the only person who can help. I have a 1995 Subaru Legacy and the Check Engine Light has come on. I've gone to Advance Auto and have been told they can only read 1997 to current and the best price I received to have a mechanic read the code is $80. I really do not want to pay $80 for something that might be a $20 fix. I am in the Maryland area and was wondering if your scanner is able to read the code for a 1995 Subaru Legacy.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Well, let's see, I have this model, pictured here:

    It is an OBDII reader. There was OBD version I.

    Does anyone know when Subaru switched, and if an OBDII scanner will read codes from earlier models?

    I know that my Miata, for instance, is OBD v1, but it's a 1993.

    Maybe check to see if the port is the same on your 95 Legacy? Let me know. It's under the dash board near the driver's left knee.

    Edit: this is what the plug looks like:

  • Now my check engine light is on. It may be off when I start the car again. Doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. It's off as often as it's on. Just weird.
  • Oh, I was looking on Ebay. Not sure how good that is, but they have a bunch of scanners. You could check with the seller and see if it's compatible with your '95 Subaru. Worth a shot anyway.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    OBDII Readers won't read OBDI The plugs aren't the same, etc. OBDI can be read by connecting the test leads to each other and counting blinks of the CEL. Each car is different so you have to check the repair manula of that car.

    '95 Imprezas were OBDII, and '96 Legacies are OBDII IIRC.

    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • I happen to have a 2005 Legacy wagon, same as one of the posters here - 19,000 miles on the 2.5 engine. The CEL came on, followed by the blinking cruise. I bought my car used (do I still have the power train warranty, or do I 'lose' that since it's used, not through a dealer?). I tried having the OBD II scanner, but maybe the shops' wasn't updated; no codes were read. I've been doing some searching on the net, and one site notes that Subarus use a bit different code - they recommended an OBD II with VAT. I'd be curious - do I need to go that route - but am re-assured some here have had success with the less expensive units.
    I bought this car based on what I'd thought was a stellar reputation for the company. Am I confused on that point (I've been reading a lot of folks saying Subaru is famous for 'issues' such as this - I'm not looking for another 'dependent', if ya know what I mean).

    I've checked my gas cap; I haven't checked my fuses. I expect I'm wasting my time until I get an OBD II readout - correct?
  • cptpltcptplt Posts: 1,075
    the factory warranty is good regardless of where you purchased it or how many owners it has had. 3/36 bumper to bumper , 5/60 powertrain. yours should still be covered. you will have to go to a dealer for the work though.
  • Thanks for the info, cptpit. I'll check tomorrow, see when I can get it in for an evaluation.

    BTW, I've been reading a lot about different OBD II scanners; most that I've checked on claim that the Subaru needs one that also has VAG (don't know what that stands for, but apparently reads more codes). I have the 2.5 normally aspirated engine; any suggestions on which I should purchase? (It'd be nice to be able to at least get an idea, for future reference, what's wrong before hauling into the dealership.) Thanks.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    VAG = Volkwagon Auto Group, maybe? :confuse:
  • I'll start off this post by saying that the dealer's service department that I have been using acknowledges that they have never seen a series of Check Engine Light (CEL) problems like the ones they have seen with my vehicle. I'm hoping that that is not simply a diplomatic way of saying I have a lemon (perhaps the only one on the roadways of Colorado).

    Let me give a little history of these problems so that I can get your collective thoughts on whether they are all related and symptomatic of a larger or missed problem or simply unfortunate isolated incidents.

    My 2002 Outback Wagon is the base model with a standard 4 cyl. engine, automatic transmission. It currently has approx. 93k miles on it.

    Back in late 2005, when I had approx. 51k miles on the vehicle, I started getting constant Check Engine lights. The dealer pulled a Code P0420 and started off by replacing a Fuel (or Oxygen) Sensor. (The dealer indicated that these were the same things.) When the CELs persisted approx. 2500 miles later, and the same code reappeared, the dealer replaced the catalytic converter. I went 15k more miles and the problem resurfaced - same code. The dealer cleared the computer and told me to drive on it some more. At 73787 miles, when the CEL and same P0420 code came back, the dealer replaced the same fuel/Oxygen sensor. Then, at 76874 (now February 2007) -- same code came back and the dealer put in a new catalytic converter.

    Up to this point, I simply got constant CELs and it did not really affect driving performance in any perceptible way. That changed this past fall, when I noticed that the vehicle would sputter and I would get intermittent engine vibrations, usually at idle or low RPM. Occasionally, the vibrations and sputtering would get more intense and sometimes at higher RPM (e.g. 2k). I also noticed that I would typically see the problems when the weather turned colder and in stop-and-go traffic or at higher altitudes (in the mountains at 9000 feet and above). The CEL would blink for 20-30 seconds and then turn constant.

    When I brought the car to the dealer in November with approx. 89k miles, at first they could not pull a code, and simply cleared the computer. The problem reappeared and technicians were able to pull a code: P0302 (cyl. 2 misfire). I was up for my 90K service, so that was done, replacing the spark plugs, and I also had them do a fuel injector flush at their recommendation.

    My problems came back in about 2 weeks and less than 2000 miles. This time the technicians pulled a P0420 code. They cleared the computer, told me to drive it some more, but warned that if the code came back I would be due for my fourth catalytic converter.

    The same symptoms persisted but when I brought the vehicle back to the dealer in late January, with approx. 93k, the techs pulled a P0302 code (the cyl 2 misfire) again. At their recommendation, I had the ignition coil assembly and ignition wires replaced. Although it was not documented, the technician also told me he did a comprehension test, which came back with normal results. They told me to use better gasoline and drive on it.

    The same problems -- engine sputtering/engine vibs, blinking CELs, etc. - came back within a week and less than 200 miles (using the better grade gasoline). The tech who worked on my car confessed that he was not sure whether the new coils and wires would solve the problem but all that the dealer can offer at this point is the recommendation that I continue to drive on it and keep putting in better grades of gasoline. Otherwise, they are out of ideas. (The service manager confessed that he did not think gasoline quality was really the issue.)

    So the short questions I have following this long post are these: Are the problems interrelated? Has something been overlooked? (A friend mentioned that loose connections with the air filter may be a culprit.) Any thoughts on what steps to take next?

    I would be grateful for any suggestions or advice.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    ignition coil assembly and ignition wires replaced

    I would have tried that sooner. The cat was probably a symptom of unburned fuel making its way past the cylinders that were misfiring.

    This case is far beyond my knowledge, but they have to try to find the cause rather than continue treating the symptoms.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Hmm, seems like it could be a vacum leak, intake manifold gasket leak, intake leak of some kind. That would be my guess at this point.

    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • Thanks for all your views to date. These are things that the dealer techs did not mention before. I appreciate your thoughts on this.
  • 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, AlaskaPosts: 11,148
    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.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I 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:

  • sarie97sarie97 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 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 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 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.
  • 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 Posts: 3
    thanks for the advise ....wish it was an oxygen
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Could also be a bad head gasket.
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