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96 Legacy wagon - HG Leak?Pre-Purchase q's


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30 replies to this topic

#1 tehP

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 03:23 AM

My wife and I are considering purchasing a '96 Subaru Legacy Outback 2.2L wagon in my area.
It's $800, 195k miles on it.
I've previously owned a 98 Impreza hatchback, and a 92 Legacy wagon - been around Subarus most of my life (the '92 was my ma's), and have done maintenance chores like oil changes, timing belts, head gaskets, spark plugs, that sort of thing.

So, the details on this old wagon….
Carfax is clean. No accidents. And it shows very regular maintenance, oil changes, transmission fluid, timing belts every ~80k, etc. Current owner bought the car at 35k (lease vehicle). He showed me receipts from a local mechanic, new clutch 2 years ago, rear drum brake repaired. Totally regular maintenance, oil changes, and timing belts every ~80k miles (last one was at 168k).
It's NYC and he doesn't drive it much. Less than 2k miles/year since 2008.

The biggest outstanding "known" issue is leaky exhaust, in the front. It SEEMS to be the joint between the "dual" front exhaust pipes and the catalytic converter. I can spot exhaust smoke coming out of that flange It's also possible the front pipes leak where they meet the cylinder heads.. You can smell exhaust in the cabin at idle if you're stationary. But he says it passes NY state inspection/emissions(!) as is. He replaced the muffler/rear pipe a few years ago, but didn't do the front at that time. So I believe most of the exhaust system is fine.

Oddball minor issue, he shifter is TOTALLY LOOSE/floppy even when it's in gear! That's a new one for me. You can move the shifter side to side even when it's in gear. Trouble?
Other than that the transmission/clutch seemed great. (can be hard to get into Reverse but they all do that right?).

Here's the biggie.
While there wasn't an oil slick on the street where it was parked,
the area under the left valve cover seems to have a fair amount of oil coverage (suspension arm, etc). I'm concerned about the oil, and what looks like engine coolant. Blown head gasket?

There is green "coolant" on parts of the frame/other bits south of the left valve cover (!). Here's a good photo:
http://gallery.mac.c...&bgcolor=black/
Bit different angle, note the CV boot for orientation.
http://gallery.mac.c...0&bgcolor=black
Here's the front exhaust pipe coming out of the passenger's side cylinder head. This where the exhaust leak is, I think. Note the green "coolant"
http://gallery.me.co...2&bgcolor=black
http://gallery.me.co...4&bgcolor=black

The CV joints seem fine. No knocking. Boots feel good. Engine has plenty of power. Brakes are iffy, likely need replacing (at least the rear drums). Front calipers appear extremely rusted, and the discs looks pretty worn. The ol' EJ22 Has a slight "knock" going on,but they can get Subaru "piston knock" as well correct?
Does this look like a blown head gasket? Would you run away for $800?
I haven't taken it to a mechanic yet, though I don't have a Subaru mechanic in NYC so I'd have to track one down. That's why I'm here.

As mentioned, the owner is super cool, told me who his mechanic is, and invited me to talk with him and see the complete repair history. I am confident that if he KNEW this vehicle had a blown head gasket/other somewhat major issue, he would absolutely tell me. But he's not a gearhead, and doesn't drive it very much. I don't think he's had it in for oil change/service in 8+months, as I said he doesn't put many miles on it these days.

For your consideration:
For ~$500 in transport cost, I can have my sister's old '96 civic coupe. It's mechanically sound, new exhaust, ready to rock. Much more road worthy than this Subie is right now. But it's a 1.6L 4speed. I love Subarus, but I don't have a great space to work on one. The insurance for my wife and I is much cheaper for the Legacy in our area, so that's a consideration.
Would you take the chance on the Legacy? Or get the Honda out here and be done with it?

Thanks if you've made it this far. Like I said, If I move forward I still want to have it get a good "once over' by a mechanic, but I don't have one I trust -- this will be my first car since moving to NYC in '04.

#2 Red92

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 03:46 AM

I don't know about your area, but in mine, $800 will barely buy you a Subaru that runs and drives... and if it does, it probably needs major work. So for $800, you have to lower your expectations, and expect to sink some money into it. ;)

Are you the kind of person who says:
"The car was only $800, so I can afford to put some money into it. Even if I have to put another $1000 in, it will still be a good used car for the price."
...or are you more of this type...
"$400 to repair that?? Forget it! I only paid 800 bucks for the whole car!"
?


I'll let others comment on the rest, but don't worry about the shifter. It's just some bushings underneath that wear out, and it's pretty common. As long as you can still shift it, it isn't a big deal, but if you want to fix it, there are step-by-step guides available.

#3 johnceggleston

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 08:29 AM

the ej22 in this car is the same one you drove in both of the other 2 subarus you have driven. it is a great engine and not prone to head gasket failure. generally speaking if you keep oil in it , it will run for ever.

i doubt the exhaust leak, i can't imagine a NY inspection station passing it if it really has one, but i don't know. it could be probably is engine oil or axle boot grease burning on the exhaust pipe. maybe.

there is a plate on the rear of the engine behind the fly wheel that leaks, but you have to pull the engine to get to it. valve cover gaskets leak, and maybe the cam, crank and oil pump seals on the front. but all of that is fairly small stuff , except pulling the engine unless you have a garage and engine hoist, and you can take care of them over time. none are expensive. if you get it , you might want to plan pulling the engine, resealing the front of the engine and replacing the timing belt and all it touches. then you will be good for 60k and it won't drip.

i coulndn't see the pics without your password. there is a way to insert them in the post by clicking on the yellow icon that looks like a post card with a mountain on it. you will see it just above the box you type your response in.

timing belt due every 60k, at 228k miles. you can get good quality parts from ''theimportexpert'' on ebay. kit with water pump about $130. but you don't have to wait until then. the engine you have is an interference engine, if any one timing belt component fails, it will bend valves, $$$$. so the question is were all the pieces replaced the last 2 times the belt was changed?

#4 porcupine73

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 11:13 AM

Floppy shifter is probably the shifter rubber bushings are shot.

The slight 'knock' could be a faulty HLA.

For $800 it's hard to be too picky; cars are worth $300 in some places right now just as scrap.

Small exhaust leaks I've had good results just patching them over with jbweld or even RTV.

#5 Rooster2

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 12:10 PM

Sounds like a decent car for just $800.00

I couldn't access your pictures, so no can see what you have.

All your problems seem inexpensively manageable:

1. Grease the slides on the brakes.

2. Doubt that you are having head gasket trouble. Antifreeze leak from a hose is more likely, or perhaps from failing water pump.

3. Replace bushings on shifter is most likely the problem, as others have said.

4. Exhaust leaks cheaply fixable. Find a cut/bend/weld family owned muffler shop, that will cut out bad pieces, weld in new pieces. Lots less expensive then replacing entire system. Chain muffler shops are the culprits that want to replace entire muffler system.

If motor runs good..........sounds like a good buy.

Edited by Rooster2, 07 February 2012 - 12:16 PM.
added more info


#6 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 12:14 PM

Can't see your pics but by your description of the location I would lean toward a leaking water pump gasket or weep hole, lower radiator hose, bypass hose, or thermostat housing, etc.

EJ22's don't leak coolant externally from the head gaskets. When they fail they blow compression gasses into adjacent coolant ports. I would say it's highly unlikely that you have found the first and only external HG leak on an EJ22 that I've seen or heard of. Much more likely that you need a timing belt/WP job and a complete reseal - valve covers, cam seals, etc.

If it runs fine and doesn't overheat - you will probably be fine with it. The EJ22 is inexpensive and can easily be replaced if needed for about $500.

GD

#7 Red92

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 03:21 PM

I figured out that tehP's photos just had a bit of extra stuff at the end of the url... Here is part of the original post, with the photos inline:


There is green "coolant" on parts of the frame/other bits south of the left valve cover (!). Here's a good photo:
Posted Image

Bit different angle, note the CV boot for orientation.
Posted Image

Here's the front exhaust pipe coming out of the passenger's side cylinder head. This where the exhaust leak is, I think. Note the green "coolant"
Posted Image
Posted Image



#8 tehP

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 05:26 PM

Wow this really is a great community, thanks for your time so for.

To answer earlier questions,

Yup the bluebook on this car is $~2200, so I figure if I have to spend $1000 on top of the $800 purchase price for maintenance we're fine with it.
My only worry is that I buy a car that is going to suffer catastrophic failure with warning signs on display.

Red92 - thanks for digging out those photos for me. Sorry for the poor quality, did the best I could at night (and photoshop to touch them up as much as possible).

I love Subarus. I just wish I had a better/secure garage space in which i could pull the engine on this car and make it a project. I would absolutely love it.
What would you guys do?

#9 tehP

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 05:32 PM

Forgot to add-

Sorry if I'm jumbling any terminology here.
I've been a "retired" car nut since I moved to NYC from Madison in 04 (when i surrendered my beloved '08 Impreza hatch). So I'm getting back into the flow.

I have a fair amount of tools, but no engine hoist. There is a garage behind my apartment building that the super uses for his car/bike repair business; I'm certain I could gain access to it for at least temporary repairs.

We didn't drive it for long yesterday but like i said it felt totally solid. No overheating. Idled a bit rough but I feel like that's a simple adjustment.
And the exhaust leak doesn't really frighten me, as I think its a flange/gasket. A cheap fix as others have pointed out.

#10 Blue Whale

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 05:42 PM

From those pictures, the fluid looks like engine oil. It may not be the only thing, but I would bet on the valve cover gaskets being responsible for a lot of this mess. They're not expensive, and they're easy to replace--just remove some little bolts, and the covers come off. On your EJ22, the spark plugs don't even have to come out. Just put something under the engine to catch the oil that drips out when the covers come off. After you take care of those gaskets, clean up the engine and you'll be able to see if anything else is leaking.

#11 tehP

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 06:47 PM

From those pictures, the fluid looks like engine oil. It may not be the only thing, but I would bet on the valve cover gaskets being responsible for a lot of this mess.

Even the slimy sort of green stuff? Could that be something other than coolant or oil, IE transmission fluid, or axle grease or something?
I wish i had better photos. I'll try to get that done tomorrow if you think that'd help.
Would it be wise for me to do something like a coolant "block test" prior to purchase? Make sure there's no combustion gas in the coolant?
if it IS a leaky coolant hose, are there any consistent culprits to look at first?

Valve cover gasket job seems totally doable. So I'd start there, clean the engine, and see what happens. I think i'll replace the front exhaust pipe gaskets at the same time, and try to locate + patch the exhaust leak.
From what I gather replacing water pump in these pretty much requires the engine to be pulled, does that sound right?
If it is a cooling system hose or gasket or whatever, that seems easy enough. Those parts are in-expensive and the jobs seem possible for me.

Consensus on this forum for HG replacement seems to be OEM part, is does that logic apply to valve cover gaskets as well? Should i always stick with genuine Subaru parts otherwise?

I believe my exhaust gasket part number is H4000-113834. Found them Online for $12, can't beat that. I'd get a few to have on hand.


Subaru valve cover gasket

Lastly, would a compression tester give me any clues about possible blown HG?

After the gasket job, would you suggest I change the oil with synthetic?
Guys I can't thank you enough. I'm leaning toward this car instead of my sister's old Civic simply because this forum is amazing. What a fantastic resource, I'll definitely become a donor if I buy this car.

#12 Red92

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 08:00 PM

At just $800, if you're seriously thinking about it, you probably won't want to wait too much longer... or someone else will snag it out from under you. ;)

$800 is a nice low-risk price range too. Even if you do get complete buyer's remorse, you could always re-sell it for what you paid, or not too terribly much less. And if you buy it and things go REALLY wrong, you can sell the wheels and a few other parts, and scrap the rest, and still get half of your money back out. Posted Image


Did you take any pictures of the outside of the car?

#13 Ricearu

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 08:47 PM

that is a steal. I bought a 1997 outback knowing that the headgasket was blown for 900. Jump on that sucker and worry about it later ;)

EJ22's are solid, if I were you, I would replace the timing belt, water pump, Idlers, water pump elbow (little rubber hose) and any other original rubber hoses on the car and you should be good to go

oh and check the pcv valve, and change the valve cover gaskets. I would buy it. I could easily double my money on it :cool:

#14 Blue Whale

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 09:01 PM

Coolant is greenish, but it isn't awfully slimy, and it will dry. Photos can be deceptive about color, but otherwise the appearance is consistent with an oil leak: it looks like oil, and it's visible from the middle of the engine and rearward. Also, the bottom of the valve covers appears substantially oily. Coolant is more likely to come from the bottom of the water pump or from a hose connection--all in front, except for the heater hoses. BTW if there's a blown head gasket, coolant will be forced out through the recovery bottle drain hose by incoming exhaust gasses at certain times. That's not so common with an EJ22, though.

A water pump replacement doesn't require the engine to come out; you just remove everything you would remove when changing the timing belt: fans, accessory belts, belt covers, timing belt...it's driven by the timing belt. That's why the water pump is often changed along with the timing belt, even if it doesn't show any problems yet.

Valve cover gaskets aren't a critical part, so no need for OEM; they are rubber, and eventually they get hard and develop cracks.

#15 themoneypit

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Posted 08 February 2012 - 12:18 AM

i think you should pass on the car. send me the guys phone number so i can buy it :clap: just kidding. however, if you do decide to pass on it i would def be interested. im located in CT, only 1.5 hrs from NYC.

#16 tehP

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 12:00 PM

Yup,
crunching the numbers but aiming to buy this sucker tomorrow.
They still have it.

If i can't swing it for whatever stupid reason I'll absolutely pass their info along. Like I said, they're great folks.

#17 Olnick

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 12:06 PM

Good luck. We're rooting for you! :banana:

#18 tehP

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 08:26 PM

Update:
got the money together. got the wife onboard (finally) and my dad is even half-way sold on it!
The owners are cool, they're pretty much holding it for me on a verbal agreement/handshake. Its uplifting that a man can still buy a car in this country with a handshake. :)

I hope to pick it up tomorrow.
First task: become an ultimatesubaru.org donor.
CLEAN the beast. It's filthy, inside and out.
I'll post before and after pics if anyone wants to see them. It'll be like a celebrity makeover man. Woot. This includes oil change, spark plugs/wires/cap/rotor, and research coolant flush. Yay or nay? How 'bout transmission and differential fluid?
Second Task: Gotta get the NY state inspection. So, sus-out the exhaust leak and patch/fill/fix/hire it done. Luckily, there are LOTS of "not chain" repair joints in Brooklyn NY - tire shops, cut/bend/weld exhaust, you name it.
Third Task: For my wife's sake (and confidence), replace the shifter bushings.
This seems to be the authoratative guide on this issue, for a '97. Does it apply to the '96? From what I gather the part numbers are the same.
97 Sloppy Shifter Fix

From there, I'll try to wait for warmer weather for the gasket party.
It's February and I don't have a garage. Also, i don't commute with a car.

THANKS THANKS THANKS
Hope everyone's enjoying their weekends!

#19 Fairtax4me

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 09:09 PM

Don't worry about head gaskets unless you notice it losing coolant. of the leaks you hav the valve cover gaskets and rear cam cap O ring on the passenger side are easily replaceable in a hour or less and will make a substantial difference in the amount of oil leaking out.

The exhaust may be worse off than you think. A lot of times the flanges on the pipes will totally rust away, but a good exhaust shop should be able to replace the flanges or patch them up.

As said earlier the shifter is just bushings and that should be a relatively simple fix as long as you don't have to remove the end from the transmission, then it will become difficult.

#20 Olnick

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 09:24 PM

Congrats tehP! Hope it all comes together for you tomorrow.

Fixing the sloppy shifter can be a bit of a PITA, but it's worth the effort. there are many threads on the topic--go to "advanced search" and enter "shifter bushings" then select "New Gen Forum."

Here's one from back when I did mine.

http://www.ultimates...hifter bushings

Good luck.

#21 porcupine73

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 10:19 PM

Woohoo congrats!

Second Task: Gotta get the NY state inspection.

You know one thing I love about the '96 - it resets all inspection I/M's every time the key is turned off, so it gets exempted from needing to have them set. That means if you have a CEL problem, if you can unhook the battery and reconnect it, and start it, and the light stays off, you can pass basic inspection! (Normally you can't do that, because then the I/M's are not ready after unhooking the batt). :D

#22 tehP

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 07:36 PM

Porcupine73 - Wow i'll have to file this for educational purposes :)

Question about NY title transfer (off topic of my initial thread, but i feel related to my larger theme of buying a used car)

It says on this form http://www.dmv.ny.gov/forms/dtf802.pdf that I need to fill out the DTF-802 "statement of transaction" form (reporting sale for sales tax purposes....) that
"The motor vehicle is sold below fair market value to a person other than a spouse, parent, child, stepparent, or stepchild"

Is this car considered under-valued?

In my case, this vehicle "blue books" at ~2200, yet i'll be paying $800.
(we'll list know/agreed upon maintenance issues either on back of title or on http://www.dmv.ny.gov/forms/mv103.pdf ....

I'd rather not submit a tax form if i can help it :D
I realize I'll have to pay sales tax when I register it at the DMV, which i believe is 8.5%?
Gonna REALLY press my luck, mention the "oil leak/how dirty it is" and try to get them to eat the 8.5% off the sale price of $800. HARDBALL BABY

This is WAY more complex than it needs to be. Still, lots of not-so-smart folks buy/sell cars privately all the time, so i figure i'm at least half way better !

Bonus: Anyone have a NYC metro area DMV recommendation? Went to Coney Island by mistake to renew my DL a few years ago. Never again....

Edited by tehP, 12 February 2012 - 07:43 PM.
Mis-spelled Porcupine73


#23 tehP

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 07:39 PM

replace the timing belt, water pump, Idlers, water pump elbow (little rubber hose) and any other original rubber hoses on the car and you should be good to go

oh and check the pcv valve, and change the valve cover gaskets. I would buy it. I could easily double my money on it :cool:


Question:
Regarding the water pump and PCV valve, should i go "original Subaru parts" ?
Got a favorite online/aftermarket shop for this kinda stuff?

Already asked/answered, I'll go 3rd party with the gaskets

#24 johnceggleston

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 08:41 PM

i don't know about NY, but in VA the value of the car is fixed based on some schedule, UNLESS you have a ''bill of sale'' wit hall the info reqiuired by that, names, addresses, vin, mileage, sale price, location of sale, terms of sale and signatures, date of sale, etc.....

Edited by johnceggleston, 12 February 2012 - 08:46 PM.


#25 tehP

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 11:03 PM

Update:
I own half of a 96 Legacy Wagon ;)

The owner didn't have his original title (only a photocopy) available, so he has to go to the DMV and get a new one.
So I won't have it in my name for another week or so.

That's ok, that'll give me time to strategize, plan, and budget my repair strategy.

Does anyone need a cargo topper for a Subaru Legacy? It's a Sears X-cargo brand. I believe it's 18-20 cu. ft.
I'll add the model/info/photo once i can take a nice day-time photo, but there's that. I'd be willing to give it to one of y'all if you promise to give it a good home :)




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