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Stalled,Lost Power Steer,Brake + Battery Warning Light,Burning Smell,Rattling Noise


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23 replies to this topic

#1 mountainwalker

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 09:56 PM

2003 Subaru Outback VDC, 3L H6 about 110,00 miles

Car is currently drivable and oddly not showing any dash warning lights and power steering is now working, though all this below happened hours ago so bringing into garage ASAP.

1. Car stalled for a moment when dropping someone off at the curb around 4PM. Started right back up. Parked the car.

2. After getting back to the parked car about 30 minutes later, I noticed a decent amount of water/fluid under the car, but thought this could have come from the A/C.

3. On the short 5 mile or so drive home on local 25-35 mph roads, not highway, I was making a right turn at low speed and felt the car stall and lost power steering. Car started right back up, but I suddenly noticed that two red warning lights were showing on the dash: BRAKE and BATTERY SYMBOL. I also smelled a slight burning smell. Power steering was still gone. I was a short distance from home and there was no check engine light, so kept driving.

4. I stopped on a side street and noticed that when I pressed the brake, I could hear a clicking sound coming from the base of the gear shift lever. I could still smell the slight burning smell. I was only a few blocks from home so kept driving.

5. Kept driving the last few blocks home, and suddenly the BRAKE and BATTERY SYMBOL went OFF (stopped showing), so now no warning lights were showing, the clicking sound from the base of the gear shifter when depressing the brake was now gone, and I now could hear a little screeching sound and a rattling sound when driving, though nothing was hanging off the bottom of the car. Made it home and called AAA for a tow. Never had multiple warning lights come on before.

6. When tow truck showed, car started up and drove with no issues and no warning lights, and the power steering oddly was working again, though I wouldn't take a chance on driving it in with so many indications of a problem.

Last time I brought the car in was about a month ago, because it wouldn’t start several times when the gas tank was low, and then once when it was even full. Reported the problem on this forum. Good indie mechanic couldn’t replicate the issue and said the fuel pump wasn’t clogged and that there was no evidence of the common failed gasket issue on the fuel pump and suggested waiting until the problem reappeared. Then the problem just disappeared altogether and the car was fine this last month.

Battery was replaced only about 1.5-2 years ago, so I'd be surprised if the battery was at fault.

Any ideas on possible causes? Never had 2 dash warning lights come on at the same time before, and never had this many systems fail only to work again two hours later.

#2 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 10:20 PM

did anyone look under the hood?

Possible bad alternator. I somewhat suspect the serpentine accessory belt's idler or tensioner pulleys, or the tensioner.

the previous issue sounds a little like an evap tank vent problem - or the 'venturi/siphon pump' gadget in the tank getting clogged. Ever have a 'WHOOSH' of vacuum or pressure when removing the gas cap?

Edited by 1 Lucky Texan, 16 October 2012 - 10:22 PM.


#3 Turbone

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 10:45 PM

What he said ^^ Sounds like the alternator is seizing up, same thing happened to me.

#4 Gloyale

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 09:47 AM

H6 engine are known for a seized Idler for the serpentine.

There are actually 2 idlers. both are the same.

Expensive to buy the whole part......but cheap to buy just a bearing to fit into the pulley.

I'll bet 20 bucks that's the issue.

Actually, that's the only engine issue I've ever seen from an H6;) they are tough.

#5 Gloyale

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 09:51 AM

Any ideas on possible causes? Never had 2 dash warning lights come on at the same time before, and never had this many systems fail only to work again two hours later.


Sure you have.

Both those lights come on at startup as a test. They are all connected to the charge circuit. Brake light can come on without the charge, but the charge light will always be accompanied by the brake light.

Seemed to start working again because after sitting a while, the tensioner cools off, and frees up a bit. Drive for a while and it heats and seizes again.

#6 mountainwalker

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 03:58 PM

did anyone look under the hood?

Possible bad alternator. I somewhat suspect the serpentine accessory belt's idler or tensioner pulleys, or the tensioner.


I thought it was the alternator seizing up as well. Got a call from our indie mechanic, turns out it was the Crankshaft Pulley (Harmonic Balancer) coming apart, splitting right down the middle. Think I saw a thread about crankshaft pulleys delaminating.

This can't occur too commonly as none of the Subaru dealers in the San Francisco Bay Area within 1.5 hours had the part in stock, and I was only able to locate one at a dealer 2 hours drive away - having it shipped in UPS to hopefully arrive by tomorrow noon. The closest one my mechanic found through his big Subaru parts supplier was in Portland, OR. The hit: $229 for the part, $10 shipping and 1 hour of labor at the garage.

#7 mountainwalker

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 04:12 PM

the previous issue sounds a little like an evap tank vent problem - or the 'venturi/siphon pump' gadget in the tank getting clogged. Ever have a 'WHOOSH' of vacuum or pressure when removing the gas cap?


What I can't explain is why: A) Pumping the gas pedal once was all that was needed to start the car after it wouldn't start up on the first try. B) Why the issue went away. The progression was: Several times the car didn't start on the first turn of the key when the gas was very low close to empty. One pump of the gas pedal and it started. After pulling out the pump to inspect it, nothing was found wrong. Then right after filling up a full tank of gas, it wouldn't start right at the gas station on the first try as well, until after a single pump of the gas pedal. Then the problem disappeared, though I've been staying at my usual above 1/4 tank full and haven't been testing things by running very low.

Two thoughts:

1) My indie mechanic suggested that perhaps the fuel we Californians are limited to by state law may mean a higher chance of impurities getting into your fuel pump, and that whatever was in there, had a chance to get out after running on a new tank of fuel.

2) Because I had driven the car twice within the space of a very busy two weeks close down to empty, that perhaps some debris got into the filter, which when it was removed to look at it, or when it had a chance to run more, got out. I typically always fill up before 1/4 tank - that's generally a good habit to keep considering most modern fuel pumps are cooled by the gas they are sitting in, and that gunk floating at the top has more of a chance to get in when you're running on low gas.

#8 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 10:28 PM

I thought it was the alternator seizing up as well. Got a call from our indie mechanic, turns out it was the Crankshaft Pulley (Harmonic Balancer) coming apart, splitting right down the middle. Think I saw a thread about crankshaft pulleys delaminating.

This can't occur too commonly as none of the Subaru dealers in the San Francisco Bay Area within 1.5 hours had the part in stock, and I was only able to locate one at a dealer 2 hours drive away - having it shipped in UPS to hopefully arrive by tomorrow noon. The closest one my mechanic found through his big Subaru parts supplier was in Portland, OR. The hit: $229 for the part, $10 shipping and 1 hour of labor at the garage.


crazy - plus, make me want to inspect ours.

#9 mountainwalker

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 10:54 PM

Crazy, yes. It seems to be uncommon, but I did see threads about it referencing the pulley delaminating. Perhaps like with most manufactured goods there is some percentage of bad ones in a batch, and we just got the lucky one LOL (it's better to laugh out loud than to cry). Or is it possible it was installed in such a way, or that a belt was fixed in such a way, so as to cause the failure?

BTW, though we maintain the car so well, always doing proper maintenance on time, and don't drive on rough roads, we've suffered two random repairs in the last 12-18 months totaling $800 that have nothing to do with maintenance - a CV boot which blew open after a piece of road debris sliced it open, and this Crankshaft Pulley coming apart.

Edited by mountainwalker, 17 October 2012 - 11:00 PM.


#10 Fairtax4me

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 11:54 PM

Harmonic balancer failure is common to any crankshaft pulley with a two peice design. The rubber layer in the middle is bound to deteriorate and fail at some point. Age is more of a factor than mileage so I would not be surprised to see this become a common issue for the H-6 like it is on the 4 bangers.

#11 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 07:41 AM

Harmonic balancer failure is common to any crankshaft pulley with a two peice design. The rubber layer in the middle is bound to deteriorate and fail at some point. Age is more of a factor than mileage so I would not be surprised to see this become a common issue for the H-6 like it is on the 4 bangers.


yeah, I'm seeing a lot of stuff fail, as you say, due to age. Both our cars are low miles, but they get all the summer heat plus the abuse of secondary roads for 95% of their use. My 06 WRX only has 42K miles, but it has a split inner boot and is getting a rear wheel bearing replaced. Wife's 03 Outback has ~70K miles, but has already had all the shocks replaced, has had lca bushings replaced, split boots on both sides, every o-ring I've encountered is as hard as plastic.

#12 mountainwalker

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 11:25 AM

Makes me wonder - is it possible to make a one-piece pulley with a mold or eventually with a 3D printer, and if so, why not make it that way?

Also, if this is common, why did so few dealerships within hundreds of miles, plus our garage's Subaru parts supplier, not have it in stock?

Edited by mountainwalker, 18 October 2012 - 11:29 AM.


#13 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 11:29 AM

I mentioned that somewhere else. The Impreza 'tuner' community has multiple aftermarket choices for single-piece, lightweight pulleys. I just don't know if one is made for the H6es.

#14 mountainwalker

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 11:30 AM

That would be worth finding out, but may be a little late for me this time (and hope this one lasts a long time). Where would you begin to look for one?

#15 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 12:38 PM

That would be worth finding out, but may be a little late for me this time (and hope this one lasts a long time). Where would you begin to look for one?



I just came back from looking around the net - no go.

I'm betting it would be easy to get kartboy or Unorthodox racing to make one. but they don't offer one, neither does Cobb, Grimmspeed, Perrin, Agency or Ralco - as far as I could determine. I found one for the old 3.3 , but not the 3.0 or 3.6 .

maybe someone else will know.

Edited by 1 Lucky Texan, 18 October 2012 - 02:43 PM.


#16 mountainwalker

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 12:46 PM

Anyone know where to find a 1-piece Crankshaft Pulley for the 3.0L H6? Currently the OEM ones are 2-piece, and the one on our 2003 VDC 3.0L H6 Outback just split right down the middle.

1 Lucky Texan noted that there are 1-piece aftermarket ones made for the Impreza, and found one for the 3.3, but not yet for the 3.0 or 3.6.

#17 Caboobaroo

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 02:47 PM

Nope, not a lot of aftermarket parts available for the 3.0.

If you replace the belt, also replace the tensioner and the idler as well since they bolt have issues with siezing. First thing I did on my Outback when I first bought it as it was making a bit of noise:D

#18 mountainwalker

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 02:57 PM

Are you sure the belt should be replaced if it still looks good? And the tensioner and Idler? What kind of a noise was your car making?

Here are the dealer costs of the parts you recommend and their Subaru numbers:

Drive Belt - $39.95 - 809221100
Belt Tensioner - $106 - 23769AA003
Idler (there are 2 on the 3.0L H6, so this is the price for each): $46 - 23770AA020

By the way, Subaru parts guys said the OEM Crankshaft Pulley (Harmonic Balancer) is purposely made to be a bit heavier so as to dampen vibration, which he says is a problem on the lighter pulleys used in racing.

Edited by mountainwalker, 18 October 2012 - 03:24 PM.


#19 Fairtax4me

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 09:14 PM

Yes, the OE crank pulley is heavy to help reduce vibration and help maintain crankshaft inertia.

The H-6 may use a different pulley than the 4 cyl engines, which would explain the lack of stock. This is also not THE most common issue on the 4 cyl engines. Common enough yes, but not so common that every dealer will keep the part in stock at all times. Not to mention, since it primarily happens on older cars, most people either get a used pulley (junkyard $10)or parts store aftermarket for $50, rather than the dealers $200 list price.

#20 Caboobaroo

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 11:52 AM

I would replace the belt personally. Then keep the old belt for a backup:D

The crank pulley is 3.0 specific as it also has an O-ring in the front to prevent oil from coming out (remember, the chains directly behind it are flinging oil all over). The O-ring is behind a small plate which hides the main pulley bolt. IIRC, there's either 3 or 4 bolts that hold the plate on, 10mm heads I believe.

#21 mountainwalker

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 01:11 PM

Just got the car back - driving very nicely now and even smoother than before, so clearly that crankshaft pulley was probably coming apart for weeks until it just finally came apart (that was the rattling noise I heard on the day it went, and the light burning smell was that rubber/plastic part rubbing against something or touching hot spots).

I'll post pictures of the old Crankshaft Pulley with the torn rubber/plastic. It's such a shame you can't just buy the rubber/plastic part alone that goes over the metal parts.

Would you replace just the belt, or spend all that extra $ to replace the belt + idler tensioner + both idlers?

Are there aftermarket parts for the idler tensioner and both idlers that work well?

#22 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 01:30 PM

check here;

http://www.subaruout...er-bearing.html

#23 Gloyale

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 11:04 AM

Would you replace just the belt, or spend all that extra $ to replace the belt + idler tensioner + both idlers?


If you pull the Idler and Tensioner off, you will see that ther is a Ball bearing pressed into each pulley. Both use the same bearing. You can buy the bearing for about $5 a piece.

I got mine from carquest. Just knock the bearing out of the center with a punch and then take it to the store to match

Definately worth during.

Edited by Gloyale, 20 October 2012 - 11:28 AM.


#24 mountainwalker

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 03:53 PM

Thanks Gloyale, would replacing just the bearings in the idle tensioner and both idlers be equivalent to replacing the whole part of each of those parts?




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