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How many Subaru owners have/live with piston slap?


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59 replies to this topic

#1 jcole01108

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 07:54 PM

I called 1-800-subaru3 today to try to get the piston slap I experience on cold starts on my 2000 Outback limited. with slightly under 51K miles, fixed.

I was told that it is normal, that it can't be fixed, that some have tried replacing the short block, changed pistons, tried various liquids or different octane gasoline but because of the design of the pistons, "they all fail". I was also told that the Subarus in their fleet in New Jersey have the problem. The bottom line: they won't fix it and it won't harm the engine, so don't worry about it.

So, I am curious, how many Subaru owners do in fact live with the problem?

#2 myles

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 08:57 PM

My 2002 Legacy GT has been noisy when cold since new. I'm not sure if it's piston slap or a noisy timing belt tensioner. I'm more inclined to think it's the latter, as it doesn't sound "metallic" enough to be piston slap.

How's this for an experiment? Place a lightbulb, or some other heat source, against the timing belt cover, near where the tensioner is. Leave it overnight. Ideally, this would warm the tensioner without warming the block considerably. No noise = failed tensioner, noise =, well, you get the idea.

#3 mike golin

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 10:03 PM

i have a 97 outback 2.5 with 140,000 miles on it . sounds like a diesel cold but it runs flawlessly . i think they went a little too far lightening components to gain a little fuel milage .

#4 adge_082

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Posted 25 March 2004 - 10:21 PM

I got my 96 Liberty about 4 months ago in summer here in Aust.
Now that we are heading into some colder weather i am hearing piston slap, goes away pretty quick though, 2 blocks and its gone, and its real faint for the two blocks anyway.

Im not worried about it, try to get it in writing (if you can) that it wont hurt your engine, then you have some sort of insurance from subaru. Doubt youll have much luck getting it in writing, but its worth a shot.

#5 Sconnyite

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 12:38 AM

Try emailing subaru from their website to get it in writing. They actually do get back to you quickly with a personal answer and if they give you that company line again, then you'll have a record of it.

#6 cookie

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Posted 26 March 2004 - 01:35 AM

that I am used to it. Anytime it is cold it slaps till warm. A bit more than 100,000 miles now, much less irritation than head gaskets or the chattering clutch it came with.

#7 yohy

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Posted 29 March 2004 - 10:07 PM

My '97 Legacy L with 118K on it sounds horrible when cold, kinda like mike golin's description of a diesel, but warmed up (a few minutes) and it sounds fine. I also agree that Subaru's attempt at gaining a few mpg's or a couple of hp's has caused more aggravation than benefit.

#8 cookie

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 11:20 AM

get tested. They put them on a dyno and run the snot out of them and then pack years od real world testing into a matter of months.
They take them to the Arctic Circle and feeze them and buzz though the desert down in Arizona and New Mexico.
We have seen them here in SF trying new cars on the big hills. (This is why the Honda 600 sports car never got imported, it flunked the hills.)
Things that take a few years of normal start stop wear often get missed.
For Subaru we can say head gaskets, piston slap, the organic clutch, add your personal irritation here.
Those cute little short skirt pistons are great for emissions and fuel mileage but don't do much for the Subaru image.

#9 Chip

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 11:56 AM

98O/B..195,000kms. Been slappin' as long as I can remember. I'm looking to remove all the Subaru badges and replace 'em with Kenworth badges.

#10 cookie

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 11:59 AM

those Kenworth badges? Might give us some pride in our rigs. ;)

#11 Commuter

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 01:00 PM

Those cute little short skirt pistons are great for emissions and fuel mileage but don't do much for the Subaru image.

Gee... I thought cute little short skirts were good for the image. You see lots of them at the car shows. :brow:

Sorry... couldn't resist... Com'on Friday! :drunk:

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#12 jcole01108

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 08:11 PM

So.....at 51K miles I should just live with it or press Subaru to fix it which means.... piston replacement or short block replacement but which may only be a temporary fix... is that about right?

#13 mattocs

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 08:13 PM

Mine ticked...but some said it was the hydralic valve lifters...that was about 10 months ago (17,000 miles)


It stopped after about a month or so...car still runs fine...dunno what it really was.

#14 cookie

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 11:12 AM

assessment. Since nearly all phase 2s slap eventually and we know they run at least 100,000 miles that way most Subaru dealers are unlikely to do anything about it.
I have heard of the worst complainers getting a short block but in at least a couple of cases the slap came back a few miles down the road.
A real fix would entail a piston redesign with longer skirts.

#15 Scoobaroo

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 11:46 AM

I wish car makers would stop with this "my piston skirts are shorter than your piston skirts and our engine makes .005% more HP than your engine" mentality.

I'd galadly accept a few less HP for a well built engine with normal length piston skirts that never blew head gaskets and never developed piston slap.

Get a clue, Subaru. Keep it low tech and reliable. You're losing customers because of this crap.

#16 Ranger83

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 11:53 AM

We had two 97 OBW's. One was much noiser than the other on startup, but actually idled more smoothly than the other. It had 87K miles when we sold it and their mechanic blessed off on it.

In general, the Subaru flat fours, especially the 2.5's sound like a can full of rocks at idle.

The one with 131K was noticably quieter on cold start when we switched to Castrol High Mileage oil.

#17 mrk610

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 12:19 PM

I have a 02 outback 41k miles .Started with piston slap at 6k miles . It got progressivelly worst as the miles were put on . It got so bad that the car would never stop knocking even fully warmed up . I complained enough and got SOA and DSR involved . They aggreed to replace #2 & #4 pistons to combate the noise. They say that these are the pistons that make the noise. They don't do short block changes anymore either . I was able to view my old pistons and there was some wear but very minor on the piston's around the wrist pins . There was no wear on the cylinder walls and you could still see the hone marks very clearly. My car is noticable quieter on start up but you can still hear the slap ,but it goes away very quickly . I also have better acceleration ,and I think that is because the knock sensor was picking up my slap and was retarding my timing . I'm going to have my oil anaylisis done the next time i change my oil .

Mike k

#18 hawksoob

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 01:12 PM

Mine slaps pretty much constantly at the moment. It's always done it for the first few minutes before warm up, but now it does it pretty much any time I'm at idle. About to do an oil change. First one since my oil pump O-ring was replaced (assuming the mechanic put my old oil back in instead of refilling with new. I wasn't charged for new oil like I was charged for new coolant that they had to remove because they had to take out the radiator to do the job, so I assume they just put my old back in.) It's been 3300 miles since last oil change. About 1200 of those have been long trip, highway miles. I added some Valvoline Maxlife Engine treatement stuff a bit after the last change. That seemed to reduce the clatter for the first 1000 miles or so thereafter.

I always hear it's no big deal if it's just after startup until warmup, but
since it does it pretty much all the time at idle (and if it continues to do so after the next change) should I be concerned about this?

#19 cookie

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 01:17 PM

way into old age. It will get noiser and burn more oil as it goes along.
My guess is that a 2.5 can do 200,000 and maybe more in rare cases, but it is no 2.2.

#20 cookie

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 01:25 PM

In 96? every time I hear piston slap I think 2.5, but now that I think of the late 2.2s had some of the same problems didn't they?

#21 hawksoob

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 01:41 PM

Yep. It's a 2.2. And yes, most things I read about piston slap mention it as a sort of design issue in the 97s and later. I suppose the earlier ones do it too, only after conmsiderable age?

Again, I'll see after the next oil change. Any additives, besides the Maxlife stuff, that might help? Or, a particular oil? I've been using the Maxlife oil lately (free rebate ... worth a try).

#22 bubernak

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 02:16 PM

I've had some luck with GUNK Valve Medic on a 97 OBS 2.2. Still had some noise on cold mornings but considerably less.

#23 cookie

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 02:20 PM

Have you checked out bobistheoilguy? There are some real high mileage folks on that board and one guy here was running Dello in his high mileage sube.
I used to run Dello in my diesels but never tried it in a car.
I use synthetic in my M series BMW and have from new and the subie gets dino changed frequently.
Since I am over 100,000 with the subie I will also be looking at the new high mileage oils soon and plan to change the diffs and tranny to Redline on both cars. The BMW is still under warranty so I won't change those till five minutes after it gets off.

#24 hawksoob

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 03:06 PM

Yeah, I look at BOBISTHEOILGUY once in awhile. Some good information over there, but it's frustrating sometimes. "Pennzoil sucks!"/ "Pennzoil is the best oil EVER!" / "Walmart's Supertech is horrible. It's only slightly better than Valvoline." /"I've been using Valvoline on all my cars since they were new and I have 300,000 miles on all of them." / "Supertech is the best thing going!" and so on ... About the only consensus on anything over there is that Fram filters suck. So, I take what's said over there with a grain of salt and try to filter out truth from opinion. Difficult sometimes.

Anyhoo ... much rain out today, so oil change isn't going to happen. :(

#25 cookie

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 04:09 PM

anything with a grain of salt. The best thing I can do for myself is to go by manufacturers reccomendations as far as I trust them.
When I was younger I was always hot rodding things and whatever came out in the magazines that week was in my car.
Now I am a bit older and have been in charge of fleets of busses, trucks, and cars for about 30 years now and want to experiment a lot less.
If you have heard good things about a product from a number of people you trust it is probably safe to try.
That is why I think I am going to try Redline in trans and rears.
My BMW has lifetime fluid in tranny and rear and I tend to think that it has to get dirty too, so I plan to exceed factory specs by changing it regularly.
My Subaru has been getting mostly dealer service except for brakes and struts and a few other items I have done myself. I really don't think they have changed the diff fluid and tranny at all.




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