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rogero1rogero1 Member Posts: 4
edited March 2014 in Subaru
Purchased 98 OB ltd june 98. When cold in fall
noticed piston slap on cold start. Contacted
dealer, they said normal for 2.5. After 8k took it
back to dealer and said i dont want it back till
noise is gone. next morn they called, said going to
replace short block. FINE!!!GO AHEAD. 7 working
days later was ready.All fine till winter
DAMN!!!!same noise. After taking it up with dealer
and reading the posts on this subject on various
forums, it must be typical subie, so just going to
drive it and hope for best. Making 3200 mile trip
in march------will report!!!!!!!


  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Member Posts: 1,284
    Boxer engines do make more noise, you know...ever wonder why light airplanes such as Cessnas are so loud?
  • shanew1shanew1 Member Posts: 4
    rogero1 - I have a 98 Forester with the 2.5 also and I am experiencing the same problem. I have just under 31,000 miles and am in the middle of my second winter with the vehicle. Last winter I never heard anything, but this winter it knocks very loudly until engine is warmed up. When I took it in to my dealer they produced a letter from Subaru of America stating that this is cause by the solid lifters that are in the 2.5 liter and that it is normal for the boxer engine. I asked them why, if it is "normal", does it continue to get worse and they simply pointed to the portion of the letter that says, and I quote, "Dealers are not to attempt any repair for this since it is characteristic of the system."
    I even left it with the dealer over night so it would be good and cold in the morning and asked them to verify in a service report that the noise was indeed this lifter "issue" and not something else. When I went in to pick up the vehicle they said that they heard no noise.
    Next week the Subaru factory rep. is going to be at my dealer and I am going to drop it off again so he can listen to it, but unless Subaru surprises me and changes there tune this will not only be my first Subaru, but my last. I know that every manufacturer has problems now and again, but I feel Subaru is denying a problem instead of addressing it. I love the versitality that the Forester gives me, but if Subaru is not going to stand behind it's product I am going somewhere else.
    Geez, even GM did a better job to fixing the lemon S-10 I once owned. They didn't deny the problem, they actually FIXED it. What a concept!
    I'll report back after I find out what the factory rep. has to say.
  • rogero1rogero1 Member Posts: 4
    Shane-good luck with your dealer. Insist they drive the vehicle as it is more niticeable when the engine is pulling. I have spent 30 some years in the auto repair business and new piston slap when i heard it. When they figured i knew what i was talking about it was a different story. My subie sounds fine after piston expansion (warm up) Never thought i would be driving 4 cyl, but otherwise car is great, altho AC is weak. Dont give up on your subie too soon, they have good rep and will serve you well. Hopefully we will see 6 cyl soon, but dont buy first year.
  • iup_no_ytiiup_no_yti Member Posts: 11
    fuji heavy industries ltd has always seemingly had noisy, buy VERY reliable engines, utilizing the boxter design. owners manual lists zero clearance on cold start for lifters as a no worry situation. as long as the noise goes away after the engine reaches normal operating temprature. (i have a 93 legacy)previous subarus: 1982 4wd gl wagon, 1994 loyale wagon 4wd.
  • locke2clocke2c Member Posts: 5,038
    while I'm not leaning over your fenders, you could definitely be hearing valvetrain noise and not piston slap. If you aren't running 5w30 in cold weather, try that. I use 10w30 in my Subaru and notice some chatter on VERY cold mornings for the first few minutes.

  • shanew1shanew1 Member Posts: 4
    Per the owner's manual recommendation, I have always ran 5w-30. I believe the noise that I am hearing is solid lifter related and hopefully my dealer and the SOA factory rep. can verify that come Monday. Thanks for the input though.
    Other have recommended running synthetic oil to "quiet" the problem, any opinions?

    Thanks, Shane
  • fuji_hi_ltdfuji_hi_ltd Member Posts: 12
    From what i understand about synthetic oil, is this type of oil prevents more engine wear. I dont think that this oil is the solution to your suspected lifter problem. Standard mineral oil, is fine for most applications, and there are synthetic blend mineral/synthetic oils on the market that are somewhat better in terms of wear protection than their mineral only counterparts. some have made a statement that synthetic oil need not be changed at the 3k mile mark, but can be pushed much longer. I cant say i would try that in my car. If you want to use synthetic oil, to "preserve" an engine, i would recommend an engine block heater, instead of the synthetic oils. most of an engines wear comes from a cold start, and this means any cold start, even if you keep a car in a 70 degree garage all winter, or you live in a warm climate. the engine block heater will have your car at normal operating temp., and thus eliminating any cold startup. this works only if you are parked at home, and have a neighborhood or facility to plug this into. plus this is sort of a conversation piece for neighbors etc.. when you plug your car into an electrical outlet. what did the soa factory rep say? is it a lifter?
  • locke2clocke2c Member Posts: 5,038
    if you've got the DOHC 2.5L, then yes you're prolly hearing solid lifter noise.

    (sorry I don't check this forum very often...)

  • shanew1shanew1 Member Posts: 4
    Hi all, Sorry for the delay in response.

    My dealer and the factory rep. were able to drive my Forester and that rep. said that the noise was from the pistons, and not the lifters. He also said he has heard worse. ( I guess that is suppose to make me feel better ?!? )
    Anyway, he explained that the noise is a result of the piston skirts being shorter, and that no problems would occur because of this.

    I am having a hard time agreeing with him.

    I just returned from Jackson, WY for a week of skiing ( This is the cause of the delay in my response. ) Added 2,800 miles to the odometer of my Forester. As luck would have it, there happens to be a Subaru dealer in Jackson, WY. I stopped in one day to discuss the noise with them. They agreed that the piston skirt was probably the problem and that it is common in the 97/98 2.5l engine. BUT... they also said if the piston in cylinder number 4 is replaced, the noise should go away. Hhhmmmm!!! The Service Manager at my dealer and I are going to have a very serious discussion in the next few days about this.

    I'll let you all know what happens.

    P.S. The Subaru performed great on the trip. But of course we all knew that it would. As I stated in a earlier posting, I love the versatility that the Forester gives me. It can haul and/or tow everything that I need it to, but I also can't help but feel ignored by my dealer and SOA too. To bad there isn't another Subaru dealer close by ( at least 75-100 miles away ) who would do a better job of taking care of my needs and stepping up to the plate with SOA for me.
    When it comes time for me to trade in my 98 ( this summer ) I will probably consider Subaru again, but I will seek out a different dealer. Factory rep. also said that the redesigned single cam 99 and up engine has a different piston design and that the this issue does not exist. Maybe this won't be my last Subaru.
  • fuji_hi_ltdfuji_hi_ltd Member Posts: 12
    If I would be in your situation, it seems like you have a very incompetent dealer, so I would look elsewhere for a more qualified service department. Check a better subaru dealership on this repair. If your dealer is not eager to diagnose this problem, how eager is he to push quality? Also in matters of most car manufacturers they have programs in place to just pull that old engine out of your vehicle at the service department, and replace that engine with another new subaru engine. The service manager can push this thru, if you talk it over with him. Be nice, but insist this is done. This way, your engine wont have to suffer any contamination by having the block ripped apart. Good luck!
  • locke2clocke2c Member Posts: 5,038
    the skirts on subaru pistons of all types are very short, it's amazing to behold for anyone used to seeing american products. the skirt is less than .5". first time I saw one I thought it was some kind of joke. same piston design in the 280HP wrx though, so I guess it works.

  • shanew1shanew1 Member Posts: 4
    I stopped in at my local dealer to discuss with him what I had been told by the dealer in WY.

    He said, and I quote, "Hhmmmm".

    I told him that he WOULD dig further into this for me and and produce something in writing from SOA either confirming of denying this. He said that he would see what he could do.

    It really doesn't matter now though, because the next day I traded-in my Subaru for an Toyota Tacoma Extra-cab 4x4. I'm going to miss my Subaru, and I will buy one again someday, but not from my current dealer.
  • birdsibirdsi Member Posts: 6
    My 2000 Forester started the cold knocking during the first week of ownership. It now has about 5,000 miles on it and the knock is very pronounced when the engine has been off for several hours. One thing about the noise in my engine is that it usually would not quit making noise until after it was warmed up and restarted. Finally got it to the dealer to have it checked out since it sounded like the piston slap and happened between 1500 and 2000 rpm. The dealer had the car for a week and replaced a timing belt tensioner that he said was the cause of the noise. Wife says that there is no more noise and I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet but hope that all is well now. I really didn't want them pulling the engine out of my new car.
  • locke2clocke2c Member Posts: 5,038
    There's been a lot of talk on alt.autos.subaru and other forums about the cam belt tensioner or timing belt tensioner failing and making this noise.

    I haven't gone digging on the NHTSA site for a recall / TSB, but it wouldn't surprise me if there is one.

  • rogero1rogero1 Member Posts: 4
    Expressed concern earlier of piston slap. Just completed 3812 mile trip from twin cities to Tucson, Laughlin, Las Vegas in 15 days. Subie ran great, mileage always 25-26 mpg at 70-80 mph. Sweet spot seems to be at approx 78mph. True, its doggy on long grades in hilly areas, but on interstates holds its own, no trouble running 85 or better where traffic permits. Going to buy 2nd year 6 cylinder when available. This is a great vehicle.
  • sugardogsugardog Member Posts: 41
    I thought I read somewhere that the 2000 2.5 engine has a timing chain instead of a belt, am I mistaken??
    I own a 99 Outback with the 2.5 DOHC solid lifter engine and I have heard no engine noise except from the exhaust which I really like. The sound of this engine reminds me of the V8's of my youth. I have even thought of installing dual exhaust to further exploit the sound, but it appears that no after market kit exists, too bad because the engine design lends itself very well to a dual exhaust. If you look underneath, you see that there is no exhaust manifold (header), the exhaust pipe mounts directly to the bottom of the engine, on both sides, so the engine exhaust is already split, like a V6 or V8. I would like to learn more about this engine and drive train but manuals from HELM'S Inc. are not available. I guess I will have to wait until 2003 to get a manual from Chilton's.
  • birdsibirdsi Member Posts: 6
    The 99 and later 2.5L engines changed from 2 cams per head to 1 but still have 4 valves per cylinder. All of the Subaru engines that I am aware of use a timing belt(s) rather than a chain. The dealer told me that the tensioner operates from oil pressure and that mine had slop in it that caused the noise. The noise has not come back in the month that we've had it back but it hasn't been real cold yet either. Before it was fixed, the noise seemed to be a function of how long the engine had set rather than how cold it was. Time will tell.
    Just last week, my wife got too friendly with the rear end of a 2000 Chevy Cavalier. The Subi is still drivable but kind of munched in front. The brushguard seemed to take the brunt of the damage. When it collapsed back, it took out the grill and the front edge of the hood. The Chevy had a trailer hitch which punched a hole in my front license plate. Looking forward to getting it fixed since it is not even 6 months old with less than 6000 miles on it. The damage didn't get past the grill so didn't get the A/C or radiator. Still the damage came to nearly $1800 while the Chevy got off with less than $600. I suspect that the trailer hitch may have had something to do with that also.
  • sugardogsugardog Member Posts: 41
    Sorry to hear about the accident.
    Maybe now the piston slap problem does not seem
    so significant,(just kidding).
    Hope it gets repaired to your satisfaction.
    My 99 outback has the dual cam configuration.
    I bought it in July of 99, just before the 2000's
    came out. I think the single cam configuration
    came out with the 2000 models.
  • ramonramon Member Posts: 825
    SOHCs came out for 99 and up models. If yours a 99 then it should be SOHC instead of DOHC.
    Also 99 and up models receive the more tuned Phase II engine which saw an increase in hp and torque.
  • locke2clocke2c Member Posts: 5,038
    ramon, the only 99's that were SOHC Phase II were the two models made in Gunma, Japan: the Impreza and the Forester.

    The Legacy and Outback went to Phase II in '00.

  • ramonramon Member Posts: 825
    Thanks for the correction. I am just too into Imprezas. Have to realise that the Imprezas aren't the bread winner in the Subaru family here in North America.... =(
  • focuszx3rfocuszx3r Member Posts: 92
    I LOVE how scoobs sound, it is one of the major things that attrects me to these cars. i love those little Boxer motors, they r the best
  • tcsytotcsyto Member Posts: 2
    i'm new to the subaru game. i always thought they were too expensive. i ran across a 97 impreza outback sport. but tis going for very low bluebook with only 30K miles. i'm trying to figure out how to buy it but also if there should be anything i have to worry about paying for later. any suggestions from any veterans out there?
  • pat455pat455 Member Posts: 603
    Welcome to Town Hall!

    This conference deals with maintenance or repair issues of already purchased vehicles. I found a topic in our Station Wagons Conference that looks like a perfect place to post your question. Here is a link: The Impreza Outback Sport: Experiences and Opinions.

    If you'd like, you can use the Topic Search feature on the left side of this page for Impreza to easily find other topics that may be of interest to you.

    Good luck, and again welcome.

    Community Leader/Maintenance & Repair Conference
  • jstrand729jstrand729 Member Posts: 1
    I have a 97 Outback with 74k on it with what sounds like piston slap and tappet noise. In the winter when I cold start it (I live in Minnesota, so I do mean cold) I get a sound that sounds like it could be piston slap. In the summer when I cold start it I get a different sound that sounds like it could be tappet noise. Both go away when the engine is warm in ten minutes or so. Are there any known tech notices etc. on either of these problems. The noise does not bother me as it goes away in 10 minutes or so. Potential engine damage does bother me. The dealer showed me a written explanation from Subaru on the valve noise. It gave some explanation of lighter weight components for higher performance. I like the car. It sounds like these problems may have been resolved in the '00 model. I would go for a new one if I could convince the dealer to give me retail blue book on the old and invoice on the new. Not likely to happen.
  • uffdaoleuffdaole Member Posts: 37
    For jstrand 792--I(also in minn) have 98OB.Engine replaced at 9K due to piston slap in march of 99. Fine until winter months when slap reappeared.Now at 22k am taking back to same dealer in nov to sit overnite so dealer can confirm same. I am familiar with slap, being in engine repair for 33 years. True, may never bother, but its always on your mind. Maybe 2nd engine?--going to try hard!!
  • rsarichrsarich Member Posts: 1
    I have a '98 Legacy OB w/manual trans. Right around the 2500 rpm mark I get a knocking noise from engine. My Subaru service said it was normal- something about a "floating cam". Does anyone know if this is possible?
  • ykishimotoykishimoto Member Posts: 12
    I acquired a outback 2000 in July 2000 and it has 2230 kms. The engine, 2.5 SOHC, on this vehicle has a knock, not tappets noise, when it is cold and under load. It disappears when the engine get to normal operational temp., I do not hear it. The Subaru Canada maintains that it is normal and not precursor to future damage. But, something in the engine is making this knocking noise and it must causes a damage to that part. Please someone educate me on this. Thanks.
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