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Looking for new (used) Subaru Outback!


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25 replies to this topic

#1 Jaimesbeam

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 11:26 PM

So my previous Subaru died tragic death! Not a traffic accident...

I had bought a 1995 Subaru Outback with 225K on it for $1300 a year ago.
I'm pretty much stuck in the same ballpark. I'll probably have $2500 - $3000
to spend. I'd like to get something under 200K miles; I'd like something newer
then 1995, although I did really like my 1995.

A couple of general questions:

Is there anything good/bad about the 1995-2002 range that I should want or avoid? Any reason to buy something newer then a 1995?

What is the difference between the Outback and the Legacy? My impression
is that the Legacy is an older name. I'm look for a wagon model, but I see
Outback/Legacy/Impreza models that looks very similar. Some are about a
foot shorter in the back, and are more like a hatchback then a wagon. How will I know by name which is which? Are the 'L' models the wagons? What
other submodels exist? LT? XL? XT? What different engines are there in
this time period?

For some reason, I don't like the Forrester; it's more like an SUV then a
wagon; which is not what I want.

A lot of the car ads I'm seeing have 'new head gasket', 'new water pump', 'new timing belt' etc. Is that necessarily a good thing? What that says to me
is that the engine may already be half fried. What do I look for to make
sure I don't end up with a half fried engine? I've already been through a
timing belt failure, and want to avoid another one!

Like I said, I'd like to get something with less that 200K miles. Is 200K
too many miles, or will a car with 200K miles still have some miles left in it?
Which is a better choice for the same money? 1995 with 150K miles or
2000 with 200K miles?

I'm 50/50 on the Auto/Manual question. I'd like as good an MPG rating as
possible. A trailer hitch would be nice... What other options should I look
for? I don't know why anyone bothers putting PS, PB in ads any more...

Anyway, these are a few of the questions I have; got any answers for me?
:-)

Thanks for the advice, Jim.

#2 Fairtax4me

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 12:54 AM

Well as you may know, the 2.5 is prone to head gasket failure.
The SOHC 2.5 is prone to external HG failure, they will leak coolant, sometimes for years as long as you keep the level full and prevent it from overheating. But it's not something that will leave you stranded with a boiling engine like the DOHC 2.5 will as long as you keep the coolant level up.

Anything 2.2 or 2.5 after 96 is interference design so timing belt maintenance is a must. If you can't find out when the belt was done last, and that all of the idlers, tensioner, and water pump were done along with it, plan on doing that soon after you get the car.

The manual transmissions do tend to wear out around 250k miles (seems I've seen quite a few threads about MT troubles lately). Replacements are easy to come across, but it's still going to cost on the order of $1000 - $1500 if you have a shop replace it.
The ATs are hit or miss, but overall seem to be a little more robust than the MT. Fluid changes make a HUGE difference in the life of an AT, and one that has had the fluid changed regularly will cover 300k+ miles before it gives up the ghost.

#3 johnceggleston

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 09:15 AM

if you start comparing prices you will soon see that a 96 - 99 outback sells for more than the 96 - 99 legacy, with the same miles / condition. there are differences that justify the price, bigger engine, paint, more ground clearance, alloy wheels maybe, but the basic cars are very very similar.

so if price is a limiting factor, buy a legacy, and save a few bucks. you can swap in outback struts, wheels, tires and if you want to spend the money even the paint. (but at this point an outback purchase would probably been cheaper in the long run.)

legacys come with almost all the same options so you won't miss much there and you benefit from the 2.2L engine, fewer HG problems. and it has all the same space inside. and these engines seem to run 300k if you keep oil in them, 200k at least.

if you plan on towing a fair amount you will want an auto trans. it's easier and smoother on the road.

having said all of that , once you make the decision to buy a 2.2L car, you should not rule out 90 - 94 simply on age. they made good cars in those years and some think they are better than 95 - 99. same engine and for the most part the same options and space.

i would think in your area rust would be an issue. there are lots of cars that get sold in the NE with rust at the rear wheels. that would be a deal breaker for me, but i really don't know your market or what is available. but generally speaking the less rust the better.

good luck, and let us know what you finally end up buying.

#4 Rooster2

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 10:31 AM

Your '95 would have had the 2.2 motor, which is a non interference motor. So, when the timing belt broke, it would not have damaged the valves or pistons. A simple belt replacement would have put your car back on the road, if that was its only issue.

I would suggest you look around on Craig's list, or E-bay for a used Subie. If for sale by owner, ask to see the service receipts on the car to see what repairs have been done. You may also want to do a Carfax on a car to learn about its history. I think it is difficult to tell if a motor was half cooked from over heating before head gasket replacement. I simply listen to the motor at idle, and at speed for any strange noises, and see if the motor has good responsive power during a test drive. I also try to test drive for an extended period of time to see if it wants to over heat.

As far as Subie wagons go, the Impreza OBS is narrower and shorter then a Leggie wagon or Leggie Outback. In my opinion, the Leggie's extra room is the better choice of the two sizes, but that is only my opinion. Drive train is pretty much the same among all Subarus.

Good luck on your car search!

#5 Jaimesbeam

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 06:03 PM

Maybe my previous Outback was a 96... It had a 2.5 DOHC that bent a valve...

Jim

#6 Fairtax4me

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 08:44 PM

You said it was a 99 in your other thread. :confused:

A 96 outback could have the 2.5 with automagic trans. 2.2 with manual trans.

#7 Jaimesbeam

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 11:04 PM

Well, I went car shopping today...

Had to go halfway across Maine to find a couple of inexpensive Subaru's
without a *lot* of miles. I have about $2,500 to spend, and I was looking
for a 95-00 Legacy wagon with less then ~150K miles. I could find a lot of
~200K+ cars in that price range. I realize this may be the bottom of the
barrel to a lot of people, but hey, that's where I'm at. You don't get rich
farming.

The Legacies (not Outbacks) are pretty bare bones looking; I've pretty
much just had Outbacks in the past. Of course me wife wants a spiffier
Outback.

I stopped at Bath Subaru. They had five inexpensive 'wholesale' Legacies.
These are cars without any guarantees or warrantees, haven't been
inspected, you can't drive them off the lot to get a mechanic to look at them,
so you're kind of buying a pig in a poke. All these cars are trade-in's at this
dealer, so I could find out some info about their history. But the salesmen
are very closed-lipped, and don't say anything if you indicate a problem
with a car; they certainly don't volunteer any information.

One thing I noticed is that a number of the cars ran pretty rough at first,
knocking a bit. I've noticed a lot of Subarus doing this. I've been told
that it's "Piston Slap" before the engine warms up, and it's not a problem.
I've heard of this before, so I'm not entirely skeptical...

The other thing I noticed was that a lot of them had new looking radiator
caps; I'm not sure what that means, does it indicate it blew the head
gaskets and overheated?

1996 Legacy wagon silver, 131K, AT, asking $2,300, talked them down to
$1,600, $2,000 with TT&DP. Seemed to drive ok, had a new fuel filter,
engine looked good, no oil, etc. I noticed that it had new 'blue' valve cover
gaskets. It had a small dent/scape in the front drivers side. It had had a
new timing belt 15K miles ago, according to the previous owner. The top
timing belt cover screw holes were broken, and the cover was held on by
zip ties through the holes; but it seemed to be on securely. 2.2 Engine.

This is the one the dealer said was the best of the lot, and what they were
pushing. I was leaning toward this one as the best deal, but what do they
know that they aren't telling me?

1998 Legacy Outback Green, 135K, ST, Leather, $3,300. The battery was
dead, ran ok, but the brakes seems to be dragging, didn't roll easy in neutral
and came to a stop sooner then I'd expect, either the back brakes or wheel
bearings are bad. Had an extra gizmo/light on the dash, window sticker
mentioned a 'panic button'. I didn't really pursue this one. 2.5 Engine.
Here's the URL for an ad for it.

http://www.bathsubar...0e2a7c9a3a2.htm

1997 Legacy L, Green, 150K, AT, 2.2L. Ran pretty rough, with ?Piston Slap?
symptom. $2,800. Drove ok.

http://www.bathsubar...05&aff=national

1998 Legacy Green, 135K ST, $3,300. Ran pretty rough, with 'Piston Slap'
symptom. Drove ok. Had new fuel filter, plug wires & ignition module.

2001 Legacy Outback Green ST 2.5l 161K (seems to be a popular color) :-)
$3000 asked, I talked them down to $2,700 TT&DP. Drove ok, BUT
I think it has a bad clutch 'throw-out' or pilot bearing. It whines when you
press in the clutch, but not in gear. Most people would say you have to
replace the clutch; kiss $500-$1000 goodbye. But what I've actually heard
is that yes, it's kind of a problem; well what will happen? The clutch might
wear a little faster; the bearing might self-destruct, but it's not likely to
cause any more damage. The bottom line in my book is that you replace the
clutch when you need to replace the clutch; don't worry about the bearing.
Can this cause damage to the flywheel? That's what I'd really be worried
about.

The thing is it's a much nicer and newer car then the others. If I need to
replace the clutch in a few months or a year I can live with that.

Tires seemed to be ok on all the cars, but nothing special. When I say the
car drove ok, I mean it didn't didn't bounce up and down when you put
weight on the end of the car and release it; decent shocks/springs/struts.
It drove straight without holding the wheel. It drove straight without holding
the wheel pressing on the brakes. I don't know what else to try; I'll have
to do some more research... But I really don't want to crawl under a
dozen cars during the winter! No obvious rust noticed without crawling
underneath on all the cars.

The other cars I looked at were cars from a private mechanic who rebuilds
Subarus and sells them. For instance he gets a lot of cars with head gasket
problems or timing belt problems and fixes them and sells them. He does
a couple dozen a year. I talked to him at length, and he will give a six
month guarantee on the motors. I feel like talking to him like I'm doing
better then buying a pig in a poke wholesale car from a dealer. But his
cars are a little more expensive.

Here's the two cars he has:

1998 Subaru Outback limited/leather, 130K 2.5L engine. Automatic. Engine has been completely re-sealed. New headgaskets, Timing belt, Water pump and T-belt tensioner. All seals and gaskets were relaced as well. New midpipe on the exhaust.Leather, Power eveything. Duel moon roofs. Heated seats. Tires are 3/4 tread all seasons. Will come with a new inspection sticker and 30 day warranty on inspection items. I take pride in my work and stand behind everything I do. Asking $3,800, He'd sell it for $3,500.

http://maine.craigsl...2160463079.html

He also has a 1995 Legacy, AT, 95K, 2.2l, New rear wheel bearings, gas
tank filler neck, front rotors. New Snow Tires. Timing Belt, Water Pump, Cam Seals, exhaust header. It's (you guessed it!) Green colored.
He'll sell it for $2,800. The engine is spotless. (which makes me worry,
what are they trying to hide? But his other car wasn't so, and obviously
the engine was out/apart. )

This is an older car then I'd like, but it looks nice, and it has low miles.
I figure his cars are about $1,000 more then the Bath Dealer wholesale
cars on average, but they come with a lot more piece of mind.

I'd really like to get another Outback, but if I can't, I'd probably settle for
the cheapest Legacy.

Maybe I'll ask him if he'd check out the cars at the Bath dealer for me???
He's not far away :-}

Anyway, any thoughts appreciated...

Thanks, Jim.

#8 mikec03

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 03:11 PM

I own a '95 and a '97 subaru [both 2.2l] so maybe I have some opinions that you may value. I would take the '96 on price basis. The new valve cover gaskets are irrelevant. They are are only a 15 min change on the 2.2 anyway. It is especially important that you have talked to the previous owner so if there was anything amiss, I'm sure he would tell you. The 2.2l engines are bullet proof and that is the major consideration. It's too bad Maine is so far away from me, otherwise, I would go and buy it even though I don't need it just for a reserve car.

The new radiator caps probably indicate an overheating condition that the previous owner tried to fix by changing the radiator cap. Avoid!

You better get that car before someone else does. Be aware and I'm sure that you are that the fuel feed tube will rust out on the 90's cars. I have replaced two at a cost of $50/ea and a little swearing.

#9 Jaimesbeam

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 07:01 PM

I realize that the valve cover gaskets in themselves are trivial; I just wondered what that might indicate; as with the radiator caps.... I was afraid that the
new radiator caps would indicate overheating!

I'd really like to know the answers to the piston slap and clutch pilot bearing
questions...

Is it possible to look up the previous owner of the car from the VIN number?

Thanks, Jim.

#10 Fairtax4me

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 12:38 AM

You might be able to get PO info from a Carfax report, but I'm not sure (never bothered to try).

Piston slap is benign. Every 2.5 does it.

Pilot bearing is not a big deal. I think you meant the Throwout aka Release bearing though. Again probably not a huge deal, unless it really starts screaming. A friend of mine has had one whirring in a Volvo 240 for 125k miles. The rest of the car has worn out, TOB still sounds the same.

#11 Steves72

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 10:59 PM

My only comment would be to avoid the cars with moon roofs. Do a search on these forums. Too many people with leaks or the front cartridge failing. Ask me, I know.

Steve

#12 heartless

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 01:16 PM

He also has a 1995 Legacy, AT, 95K, 2.2l, New rear wheel bearings, gas
tank filler neck, front rotors. New Snow Tires. Timing Belt, Water Pump, Cam Seals, exhaust header. It's (you guessed it!) Green colored.
He'll sell it for $2,800. The engine is spotless. (which makes me worry,
what are they trying to hide? But his other car wasn't so, and obviously
the engine was out/apart. )


of the ones you listed, this is the one I would go for if it were up to me.

95 means 2.2 non-interference, a definite plus - the 2.2 is a very good motor and when cared for will easily go 250-300K and being non-interference, if you should "forget" to do the timing belt on schedule and it breaks, no big deal, no internal damage.

only 95K miles - it is barely broken in, so a clean engine bay would not surprise me in the least - especially if the car was well maintained by it's former owner.

new snow tires - in Maine - yeah, definitely!

new timing belt, water pump & cam seals - all regular maintenance items that should be done with a timing service.

The biggest difference between a Legacy and an Outback Legacy is trim (cosmetics) and suspension/tires/wheels (ground clearance) The Outback will be taller with larger wheels/tires. Also, the Outback will be heavier which means a bit less fuel mileage...

personally, i have not had any "ground clearance" issues with my bone stock 1990 Legacy - it goes thru fairly deep snow with no problems at all - two winters ago i drove home after it was storming all day - snow, wind = lots of drifting - had to drive nearly 10 miles down a road that had not been plowed all day, and hadnt seen any traffic in quite a while either (no tracks even partially visible)
for most of the drive i was "dragging bottom" on the snow that was over the road, with an occasional need to "plow" thru a drift that was nearly hood high...made it home just fine - a little tense, but you'll have that. LOL not a trip i want to repeat, but it is nice to know that i could if i had to.

#13 Jaimesbeam

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 12:17 AM

Well, I ended up buying the 1996 Wholesale Legacy 2.2, 131k from Bath
Subaru for $1,600.

I got a mechanic to look over the cars. The 2001 Outback needs some exhaust
work, and the front struts replaced sometime.

I needed to bring back a car that day, as I had taken a bus down to pick up
one of the cars. I discovered it's almost impossible to legally buy a car
someplace you don't live and drive it home. I was going to buy the car, get
it inspected, go to the DMV and get my plates transferred to the new car. It
turns out that you can't get it inspected untill it's registered, and you can't get
it registered untill you pay the property tax on it, which you can only do at
your local town hall. Screwy system!

Jim.

#14 Fairtax4me

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 12:47 AM

It turns out that you can't get it inspected untill it's registered

Yep.
I believe there are exceptions in some states for people with independent dealer licenses. And obviously a dealership can do safety inspection on inventory vehicles. Seems like you could have talked them into throwing a sticker on there for you.

Glad you got something. That 2.2 is the last year for the non-interference design. With a little TLC here and there, it should run very well for quite some time. Mine is still charging hard at 183k. :grin: And it's still young by EJ22 standards.

#15 heartless

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 08:45 AM

Congrats on the "new" Legacy - I hope she works out well for you. :banana:

As already mentioned, the 2.2 is a very good motor and will last a long time with proper care & maintenance. Mine is still going strong at 205K and the other half has one with over 240K, also still going strong, so 131K is nothing for this motor - barely broken in. :)

I wouldnt worry too much about the zip-tied timing cover either, it isnt that big of a deal.

#16 mikec03

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 11:20 AM

I wish that I had thought of zip tying my timing belt guard when I was in the dealership to have a timing belt change on my '95. Most of the screws were frozen and stripped out the threads. It just never occurred to me to zip tie it! Instead I paid to reassemble it and come back a week later when the replacement guard was delivered. It was a $200 mistake.

#17 Jaimesbeam

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 02:46 PM

The (rear) catalytic converter segment of the exhaust rusted out,
so I'm trying to replace it. Took a while to get the right parts from
Advanced Auto Parts. What's with this goofy spring & bolt kit, with
two bolts that are for some other car? Managed to get the old ones
off more or less intact thanks to PB Blaster, so the new ones will go
back to the store. The nuts on the bolts in front (front is front!)
of the CC mostly disintegrated. Good old vise-grips twisted one bolt
untill it sheared apart.

Imagine my surprise when I found that there wasn't a Oxygen Sensor
in the old CC? Some idiot plugged up the hole. So, I'm not sure what
kind of OS I need, one wire, three wire, four wire??? Where does the oxygen sensor connect to, as I don't see any sign of the wiring for such either???

I'm looking for the cheapest reasonable part I can get locally; not a
expensive high-performance part I have to wait three weeks for!

Thanks for all your help, guys!

First guy to visit Shalom Orchard Winery, in Franklin ME gets a free
bottle of wine!

Jaimes Beam

#18 hankosolder2

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 08:05 PM

Are you talking about the o2 sensor in the rear or front converter? The rear o2 sensor is only there to monitor the performance of the catalytic converter; it doesn't adjust the fuel trims like the front o2 sensor. I would imagine that someone plugged the hole and installed one of those electronic oxygen sensor simulator gadgets to avoid throwing a check engine light. (Or maybe they didn't and the car has the check engine light on?) If it runs well and you don't live in a state with intrusive inspections, you might want to think about letting it ride.

#19 Jaimesbeam

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 07:13 AM

The Check Engine light was off when
I bought the car. It's been on for a
while, but it's off now. Weird!

I don't get very good gas milage.
I'd still like to know where the wiring
goes, or where to find a plug to
replace the Oxygen Sensor.

What else can I do to improve my
gas mileage?

Jim

#20 grossgary

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 11:18 AM

i was in ME last year and would like to go back to Katahdin, I'll look you up if we do but doubt it'll be this summer. i'm a wine person too so sounds like a great offer.:grin:

$1,600 for a good condtion 96 EJ22 with only 131k is awesome deal. don't run it out of oil or overheat it and that motor will go a lot of miles.

have your check engine light read. you can buy the scanners for $50 or so off ebay, well worth the investment to have it handy.

look all around the exhaust for the O2 sensor wiring/plug. Did you already look around for it? Memory tells me it comes through the heat shield somewhere, so maybe it's just stuffed up behind it?

the rear O2 doesn't affect mileage at all, only the front does. there's no way to tell what will improve mileage but an O2 sensor could certainly help if it's the original.

not sure if adjusting the valves affects mileage but that should be done too for the sake of the engine. you'll have to check on the 96 EJ22, some aren't adjustable, one style is really easy and the other style with the shim and buckets is all but a magic trick pain to do.

air filter, check tire pressures, and regrease your brake slides and clean or replace the clips. brighton and L 96 Legacy's should be rear drums, all other legacy's will be rear disc.

#21 1-3-2-4

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 11:28 AM

also make sure none of the wiring is hanging down near the axles..

I'm not sure if mine was factory but my wire was so long it was rubbing on the passenger side drive axle and I caught it before it wore out the wire (got the protective sleeve)

#22 Fairtax4me

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 12:15 PM

The wiring for the rear O2 sensor runs from the sensor, along the driver side of the transmission, up over the bell housing to a block with 3 or 4 small plugs on top of the bell housing on the passenger side.

#23 1-3-2-4

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 12:22 PM

yeah I think mine were missing I never saw anything so I found away to keep it out of the way

#24 Rooster2

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 12:19 PM

The (rear) catalytic converter segment of the exhaust rusted out,
so I'm trying to replace it. Took a while to get the right parts from
Advanced Auto Parts. What's with this goofy spring & bolt kit, with
two bolts that are for some other car? Managed to get the old ones
off more or less intact thanks to PB Blaster, so the new ones will go
back to the store. The nuts on the bolts in front (front is front!)
of the CC mostly disintegrated. Good old vise-grips twisted one bolt
untill it sheared apart.

Imagine my surprise when I found that there wasn't a Oxygen Sensor
in the old CC? Some idiot plugged up the hole. So, I'm not sure what
kind of OS I need, one wire, three wire, four wire??? Where does the oxygen sensor connect to, as I don't see any sign of the wiring for such either???

I'm looking for the cheapest reasonable part I can get locally; not a
expensive high-performance part I have to wait three weeks for!

Thanks for all your help, guys!

First guy to visit Shalom Orchard Winery, in Franklin ME gets a free
bottle of wine!

Jaimes Beam




Are you sure the rear segment of what you are calling your cat converter is really a cat converter? On my 98 OBW, the cat looking devise immediately behind the cat converter is really just a resonator. The resonator does not have an 02 sensor connected to it. The resonator rusted through on my car, so I had a muffler cut/chop shop torch off the resonator, and replaced the resonator unit with a straight pipe. Cost less than $60. Works great.......sounds as quiet as stock.

#25 Jaimesbeam

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 12:24 PM

Yes, I'm sure it's the catalytic converter. I replaced it with a Bonsal
catalytic converter. Took a couple of trips to get the right donut gasket for the Bosal, the pipe is a hair larger diameter and longer then the stock, so I had to get a different gasket from Bosal, but the CC was $150 instead of $300!

Had some problems with the spring bolt kit that connects the rear of the CC
around the donut; what's the reason for the goofy thing? I didn't like paying $25 for a spring bolt kit that had two extra bolts for other models. I'll try to re-use the old bolts just so I can return the spring bolt kit!

I'm a little disappointed with the MPG on the 1996 2.2L Legacy. I put a plug in the new CC OS port, since there wasn't a OS in the old CC. My check engine
light went out; I'm not sure why, since I didn't replace any oxygen sensor!

Thanks, Jim




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