Subaru Legacy/Outback "Check Engine" Light Problems

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  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,217
    Hah! Hey, coming from Alaska, what good am I if I cannot even recognize a block heater.... ;)
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • yasuyasu Member Posts: 7
    Inspection was due to run out in December, so I took it to my Subaru man.He is completely puzzled after checking everything and soliciting advice from other Subaru gurus. This summer we will replace the whole exhaust system to see if there is a glitch there. I am so down under financially on this car that there is no going back. The good news is that I made the final payment on it last week. In the meantime, I have purchased a 2008 Subaru Impreza...no, not the sport model, although they are very sexy. I am already in love with this car. I am getting 30mpg on the highway..that is why I did not get the sport model..I need the mileage as I travel quite a bit.Driving the Impreza has been sheer joy compared to the Outback. It is like going from a farm tractor to a sports car. However, I am still determined to find out what is wrong with the '02 Outback. It runs excellent and gets good mileage on the highway, but there is that pesky engine light......Thanks again for all the information and advice.
  • golinegoline Member Posts: 9
    I posted a long time ago about our 99 OB wagon which has had the light on for 3 years now after many attempts at repair! Now our 98 Forester's light is on with the same exhaust code....and we are exhausted financially from trying to fix these problems!

    It's time for a new car and we're looking for another brand. Some people say it's "just the computer", but as it causes the problem at inspection time annually, it's a major pain in the butt.

    I love the cars otherwise and this problem really makes me mad. :mad:
  • bb2010bb2010 Member Posts: 2
    Can anyone help me with this? This is the first forum I have ever joined so please be patient if I get the format wrong? Just picked up my new Legacy 3.6 limited Saturday at 9:30am. After driving for a bit, the brake seemed to thud when I pressed on it and skip. This morning, after driving around for a while, I had to jam on the brakes and the car stalled out completely. Also after a few hours, the check engine, oil temp, cruise control and brake light warnings all started flashing on the dash at once. Any ideas???? I am having it towed tomorrow, but am very discouraged by this experience. :lemon:
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYMember Posts: 3,786
    Yasu (and Goline):

    Do you know the Pxxx code that is failing with this Check Engine Light? It's hard to even guess without knowing more.
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYMember Posts: 3,786
    Welcome, and sorry to hear that your ownership experience is starting out on a wrong note. I remember the frustration of having my very first new car towed in (2 or maybe 3?? times) during the first week for electrical gremlins. Terrible...

    My first thought when you described the odd brake feeling and the stall that the vacuum booster has a seal failure. The sudden leak into the engine intake can induce a stall. The rest of it? Unknown. Let us know what they say!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Have you driven over any big puddles, i.e. is there any flooding around? I'm wonder if any electricals got wet.

    Let the dealer take care of it. Ask for a loaner given its brand new.

    If your dealer is anything but helpful call 800-SUBARU3 and ask for them to open up a case number to help you out.

    Please keep us posted. Best of luck.
  • mattbiersmattbiers Member Posts: 1
    We just had the same problem with the check engine light and the flashing cruise control. Did you ever find out what was wrong?
    Matt
  • yasuyasu Member Posts: 7
    I never did. Am still determined to do so, but have run out of money. This car has drained me financially.. I have to take a breather. I have had more than several distinguished mechanics and dealers look at it to no avail. I truly am starting to believe it is a conspiracy.. I leave you with this thought... a fool and his money.. of which I now have none.
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYMember Posts: 3,786
    Once again, what code are you getting? Someone might be able to help you. Complaining without getting specific doesn't help anyone.
  • obwnyc97obwnyc97 Member Posts: 2
    Having the CEL code is essential to be able to help. It costs nothing to get the code pulled at an auto parts store (Autozone or such). Costco sells a cheap code reader (something like $40 I think) that may be worthwhile because you can determine the code, reset the system and see if the same code is generated after driving a bit.

    I mention this because I had several different emissions related CELs over a six month period. Very hard to figure out what was going on. Gas mileage was OK though idle was a bit rough. I cleaned the air filter, mass flow sensor, checked purge solenoid, etc., etc. and was ready to change O2 sensors, EGR valve and the upstream catalytic converter. Then I systematically reseated every vacuum line. I have not seen a CEL since (over two months now).
  • bb2010bb2010 Member Posts: 2
    Thanks for the suggestions. The car was towed in on Monday the 22nd, they still have the car as of March 30th with no end in sight. First claimed it might be a wire harness and they replaced that. Now they are talking about transmission issues. I have gone to Subaru of America and had a case number opened. We are discussing options and I will see what is offered. It is a crime when a car acts up as soon as you take possession of it. I keep being told that they have never had this happen before, I am starting to doubt that. I don't want this car anymore, I see a long string of problems down the road if they ever manage to get this one out of the service bay. Ironic that I would have bought a Toyota if they weren't having problems, I was told by so many that Subaru is a great brand. I am expecting them to do the right thing, will let you know. :lemon: :lemon:
  • obwnyc97obwnyc97 Member Posts: 2
    Re: Cleaning mass airflow sensor

    Make sure the cleaner is non-chlorinated. The chlorinated ones will harden the plastic and allow infiltration into the electronics. They sell "MAF cleaner" -- it's just non-chlorinated carb cleaner .
  • cemcconcemccon Member Posts: 6
    Yesterday, I was driving along on the highway in my 2009 Outback (approx 21,650 miles) with the cruise control on. All of a sudden, the cruise control disengaged itself, and the check engine light came on and the cruise light started blinking. I thought the problem may have cleared itself after sitting overnight, but the check engine light / blinking cruise light still happened during the morning commute (I commute about 75 miles round-trip per day ... which makes not having a working cruise control VERY MUCH A PAIN IN THE YOU-KNOW-WHAT). You think with all of the technology available today, instead of a generic, generally useless check-engine light, autos would display a problem-specific code (like an ABEND code in a computer program) that you could then look-up to see what the problem is. Since there is not a Subaru dealer in the town I work in, having it serviced is a big pain in the rear. I'll start by re-tightening the gas cap. If that doesn't work, I'll go to the auto parts store to have the code read for free. Pfooey...
  • cemcconcemccon Member Posts: 6
    Well, I called the dealer, and learned a few things. 1) If the CEL is solid yellow (which mine is), I am not damaging the car by driving it. 2) The CEL will be solid red or flashing for more serious, stop driving and have it towed type of problems. 3) For whatever reason, Subaru has designed their vehicles (recent ones, anyhow) such that the cruise light will blink, and the cruise control system deactivate (I.E., not work at all) while the check engine light is on, irregardless of the seriousness of the issue. I'm going to head over to the auto parts place at lunch to see if they can read and / or clear the CEL for me.
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYMember Posts: 3,786
    The flashing "Cruise" got your attention, didn't it? Yep, that's what it is designed to do. The CEL alerts you to a potentially worsening problem that could disable the vehicle down the road, or at the very least, result in a marked increase in emissions. Yet people will ride around with that pesky light on forever and just ignore it otherwise.
  • cemcconcemccon Member Posts: 6
    @#$ing gas cap not tight!!! Now, is that REALLYworth a CEL?!?!?!? C'Mon!! Maybe a blinking fuel icon / fuel warning light, but not a CEL. Jeepers.
  • cemcconcemccon Member Posts: 6
    Yep ... used to just disconnect the CEL or put electrical tape over the thing in the ole 81 Buick Skylark back in the day...
  • robr2robr2 BostonMember Posts: 8,805
    edited April 2010
    #$ing gas cap not tight!!! Now, is that REALLYworth a CEL?!?!?!? C'Mon!! Maybe a blinking fuel icon / fuel warning light, but not a CEL. Jeepers.

    Yes it is. The gas cap is part of the emissions system and if it's loose, it's out of EPA specification.

    IMHO, spend $50 on a basic scan tool which can clear the CEL and read them yourself.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I was gonna post the same thing.

    It's not Subaru's idea, they have to comply with OBDII.
  • cemcconcemccon Member Posts: 6
    Alright; I tightened the gas cap, and cleared the code with the scanner thing at the auto parts store. Made it home OK, but then the CEL came back on again this morning!! ARG!!!! I know it isn't the gas cap this time.... I guess I'll have to take it back over to the auto parts place and see what the darn thing says this time. Unless Subaru opens a dealership (or at least an authorized service center) in the town I work in, this will be the last Subaru I buy. What a mistake.
  • cemcconcemccon Member Posts: 6
    Maybe they Do have to comply with the OBDII, but they sure as hell don't have to disable the cruise control while doing it. CRAP on a stick.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    edited April 2010
    Maybe they force a limp-home mode when that malfunction indicator light is on? Really not sure.
  • snowbeltersnowbelter Member Posts: 288
    It takes several driving cycles to clear a CEL after a loose gas cap has been tightened. I don't know if clearing the CEL with a scanner speeds up the process.
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYMember Posts: 3,786
    Automakers are being 'encouraged' to find ways to get you to comply with emission standards between your annual inspection. Consider yourself lucky that you are only suffering a minor inconvenience. Proposals on the table for OBD-III include telemetrics that alert the local EPA office for issuance of a fine, and possibly even the disabling of the vehicle altogether for continued non-compliance.

    Clearing the code resets the clock on this event. If it occurred this soon after, then the problem still exists. If the system won't pressurize, there is a leak somewhere. It could be a bad gas cap bleed valve, or the O-ring seal. Or, it could be any one of a dozen other places in the tank, lines, vapor recovery canister, purge valve, etc.

    Assuming it is still under warranty, let the dealer handle it. Make an appointment, and ask for a loaner given your situation.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    My friend owned a Lincoln Aviator, and had an ABS sensor failure. The whole car stopped. He could not drive it at all.

    Had to have it towed to the dealer.

    When he found out the problem he was furious, naturally. A sensor takes down an entire vehicle? Yep.

    Vehicles are so complex, but they should have a fail-safe, and at least continue operating in some sort of limp-home mode.
  • trevwtrevw Member Posts: 4
    First time reader and first time poster. Solid CEL and flashing cruise light came on 2 days ago. Checked the manual and noticed that this could be caused by the gas cap being loose and sure enough it was loose. I tightened the cap but the CEL remains on; how long should I wait before I take it in? Or would it be better to just head down to a parts store and get the code read? Thanks!
  • gilson1gilson1 Member Posts: 4
    think it's 50 miles or so
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYMember Posts: 3,786
    Welcome to the club!

    Under normal conditions, and assuming that the gas cap was the one and only problem, the computer should clear the code out in a few drive cycles. It is checking that the fuel vapor recovery system can properly pressurize and hold the value before it releases the error state.
  • trevwtrevw Member Posts: 4
    That's what I was afraid of; I've put over 50 miles on it and we've made 6 trips with it (if that counts as a drive cycle...). Anyway, I need to take it in to get a rear wheel bearing replaced, yay for the extended warranty on that, so I guess I'll see what they say about the CEL while I'm there.
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYMember Posts: 3,786
    A drive cycle is a start from cold, full warm-up, with a few miles driven before shutdown and complete cooling off. The system must go from 'open loop' (cold) to closed loop (using the oxygen sensor as a feedback to regulate emissions and performance). This allows the vapor recovery system to work, and for the computer to see that all is well. Your day of driving might not have met the criteria. Don't panic yet! (there's plenty of time for that...).
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    edited April 2010
    If you're near MD/DC you can borrow my ODBII scanner to reset the code, to see if it comes back on.
  • trevwtrevw Member Posts: 4
    Hey good news...the CEL is off! Thanks for keeping me from panicking and thanks for the offer ateixeira. :)
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYMember Posts: 3,786
    Glad to hear it. So out of curiosity, per my definition of a drive cycle, how many did it actually take for it to turn off?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Sweet! Karma at play. Soon as someone offered a hand, it cleared itself. :shades:
  • trevwtrevw Member Posts: 4
    It was probably 4 drive cycles (so the light was off on the 5th).
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYMember Posts: 3,786
    Thanks! That's a good data point.
  • sarah03sarah03 Member Posts: 1
    check engine light could be the catalytic (not sure how to spell it) converter. the 2005 models have had a history of that particular issue. Emission controls have been a historic issue for subaru's. i would get that checked. you can have it plugged in at napa or auto zone for cheaper than a mechanic would charge.
  • yasuyasu Member Posts: 7
    Thanks for your message. I have tried that to the tune of 3000.00 and a few other things at the same time which accounts for that price tag. That is how much it cost me that year to get a legal inspection sticker. That lasted about two weeks. It has been five years and the light is still on. Two last attempts before I "sell" it? A mechanic where I work says that (he works on many Subaru's)he thinks it may be in the gas cap compartment or something like that. He will read the codes to determine that. If so, it will cost about 425.00 to fix. A fool and his money! Car runs well and gets good mileage etc. The other? A whole new exhaust system..which I have never had done. After that? Park it when the inspection this year runs out.
  • jim801jim801 Member Posts: 1
    Since Feb. 2009 we have replaced 6 sensors for the same problem. I am getting sick of talking to the dealer about this problem. You know it's bad when you have the dealer on your speed dial. First it was a fuel sensor now it oxygen sensor. It happened again last night,after it was in 10 days ago. If my wife didn't like the car so much would be get ride of it.

    Have you fixed the problem?
  • golinegoline Member Posts: 9
    "The Check Engine Light"...It's what makes a Subaru a Subaru! I share your pain. We have a 98 Forester S and and 99 Outback SW. The OB's light's been on for 3 years with the evap code and yes, we started with the gas cap, then the filler neck, (this was during two separate smoke tests at $50 each!). Something below the filler neck was replaced TWICE! Now we take it in a week before inspection and pray that the light stays off long enough to get it passed (so far it's worked). The Forester's light came on this past year (same friggin' code) and we are not spending a dime on it. Just get it reset and pray. We live in a rural "mountainous" are of NYS with lots of snow and there are Suby's all over. When we finally replace these PIA's, it won't be a Suby. :lemon: :mad: ;-(((((((
  • golinegoline Member Posts: 9
    Our Forester has the CEL blinking when it was misfiring, so be careful. Now the light just stays on, solid, continuously. I posted elsewhere about this. Not a happy Suby owner.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,217
    edited June 2010
    Ah, I see. You have cars that are a dozen or more years old and you expect them to behave flawlessly? It sounds to me like you are destined for disappointment on that one. How many miles are on the cars?

    You may find it helpful to pick up a code reader - they are at or under $100 - for keeping track of the problems and resetting the OBD system. Once that light comes on, any other problems that might develop will be masked by the fact that the light is already illuminated. If you keep the light reset, you can better track the frequency of the recurrent problem as well as note when other issues may arise.

    As you mentioned, problems considered serious by the system (such as misfires) will result in a blinking light while the issue is persisting.

    On my '96 Outback, I had recurrent issues with the P0420 code (catalytic converter under threshold), but employed much the same system as you. It did not affect the state of the tailpipe emissions (so it must have been working), so as long as the light was off upon the visual/readout inspection, I was good to go. I renewed the registration twice (once every two years) while it was in this state.

    On older vehicles, the root of the problem often lies within the vacuum system. Combustion byproducts, oil residue, etc., gets into these lines and builds up, causing reduced flow and blockages that can reduce the efficiency of the emissions system or failure of individual components. You can blame the car/manufacturer if you want, but any machine that is used will need maintenance and repair over time.
    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
    With early Miatas you had 2 choices:

    1. Buy a pre-ODBII model, which meant less strict emissions standards, or....

    2. Drill a hole through the Check-Engine light bulb.
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYMember Posts: 3,786
    It is not a fix that I advocate, but one of the Honda Odyssey boards has a long tread on P0420, and a 'solution' that came from some other car board. Basically, they distance the rear oxygen sensor from the exhaust stream with a spacer so that it's nose doesn't sniff quite so efficiently.
  • yasuyasu Member Posts: 7
    Alas, I have not fixed the problem..the code read an oxygen sensor and I had that replaced with a genuine calibrated Subaru sensor..bill..311.39. I had not even got out of the garage parking lot and the light was on fresh again. I can't seem to get it through the mechanics' heads that the sensor is not the problem..I am convinced now that it is electrical..maybe a wire going to the sensor is faulty.. I quizzed the current mechanic about being able to follow this to determine if that is indeed the cause of this constant light. He assured me he can follow that and determine if that is the cause. I won't see him again until September, however.Am currently researching ways to get an inspection sticker without the cost. Replying to the gent that thinks my car is perhaps experiencing the throes of old age... I have this to say.. I have spent thousands of dollars trying to fix this problem since it was 2 years old. It is now eight years old. One year the light actually went off long enough to get it inspected without cost..except for the inspection fee.
  • dswissdswiss Member Posts: 11
    To pass the inspection, disconnect the battery, shorten out the disconnected leads and then reconnect the battery again. This will reset the computer and your CEL will be out. Usually long enough the get past the inspection. I had to do this several times on mine.
    By the way, are you aware that this car has several oxygen sensors (I was told five)? In the end, you will have to replace the catalytic converter. On mine I had it replaced every year until the warranty ran out. Then I sold it!

    good luck.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaMember Posts: 16,217
    are you aware that this car has several oxygen sensors (I was told five)

    What car/year do you have? Unless it is a truly unique specimen, it will have two oxygen sensors.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYMember Posts: 3,786
    If it didn't even make it out of the lot alive, I sure hope that you applied for a prompt refund!
  • parent1parent1 Member Posts: 11
    Fellow Subaru Owners,

    I own a 2008 OB with 37,000 miles. This morning when I started the car, I realized that my air conditioner was not blowing cold air. A short while later, the Check Engine Light came on which was accompanied by the common, flashing Cruise Control light. This was extremely surprising because the A/C has been working perfectly. This was also extremely annoying since I live in south Texas and in reached 98F today!

    I pulled the ECU code and discovered the code was the ominous P0420, which as many of you know, suggests inadequacies with the catalytic converter / O2 sensors. My question is of the "which came first" variety. That is, did the A/C malfunction trigger the CEL, or would the P0420 code cause the A/C to deactivate (like the cruise control does)? This sounds like a stretch, but I have very little desire to pay for A/C repairs.

    If the A/C problem is not related to the P0420 code, what should my first troubleshooting task be to address the A/C problem? Please let me know if you need further information. One final note, and I’m not sure if this is of importance, when Hurricane Alex hit Mexico last week, we received intense rain. Accordingly, there was a lot of wet driving; could this possibly trigger malfunctions in the A/C?
    Thanks for the help. All the best.
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