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Power Loss on Freeway

power loss check engine coolant motor oil

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11 replies to this topic

#1 junkchief

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 01:59 PM

Sorry forum posting virgin here ... but I had an issue last night that I think maybe you guys on here have some smart advice for me :)

 

Some background:  I have had my Subaru Legacy 1996 since 2004 and it has about 140k miles on it now.  It hasn't had any major issues lately and has always been a reliable machine.

 

The Event: So last night around midnight after spending some time with the guys, I was driving home on the freeway/highway/motorway at a leisurely pace (around 55-60 mph) and suddenly my car started to lose power.  I had to down shift to get any juice from the car and made it to exit.  When I got to the exit ramp, all the lights on the dash lit up  (check engine, oil, etc) and my steering got very stiff, but since I was going only 10-20 mph, I was able to control it and continue rolling down the hill to the end of the exit.  I down shift all the way to 1st by the time I got to bottom of the exit, but then I noticed I was getting power back.  I slowly made a right turn and drove into an empty parking lot and drove around without any noticeable issues.  Luckily I was about 2 miles from home and took surface streets home without any issues.  I was in 4th gear heading home and rolled down the window, but didn't hear anything out of the normal.

 

When I got home it was too dark to look under the hood, but this morning I popped the hood.  The ground under the car was dry, but the bottom of the car looked oily (but I don't know if that has been that way for a while or if it was new).  The coolant tank was empty and I think the rest of the oil levels look ok .. the motor oil was a low but not empty.

 

Anyways, the mechanic I would have taken my car to is closed today so I probably won't be able to get it to him till Monday, but maybe someone on here has some ideas of what this may be all about.

 

Thanks in advance and I am finally no longer a posting virgin!!!



#2 NorthWet

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 02:13 PM

First thing that I would think of is checking the fuel filter.  In general, a car that will run at low power demands but has trouble at higher demands might have a plugged fuel filter.  However, since this has been a single occurrence (rather than having more "history" of it happening), it could be something totally different.

 

Did the engine ever completely die?  The dash lights and heavy steering kind of point to that, but on rereading it sounds like you have a manual transmission (I was thinking auto for some reason), so compression braking would keep things turning.

 

Any obvious "check engine" light after you got it running on surface streets?



#3 junkchief

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 02:31 PM

Thanks for the reply ...

 

Yeah the Legacy is a manual ... I don't know about the engine completely going dead, because I was rolling down the exit ramp and trying to slow down so wasn't stepping on the gas.  On the other hand, when I did reach the bottom and stopped at the light, I didn't have to restart the car to make the right and drive into the parking lot ... so I guess the engine stayed alive..

 

The check engine light was off the whole way home and no sign today either.  Will the mechanic be able to get an error code even if the light isn't on? 



#4 l75eya

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 03:25 PM

Get your alternator tested. Or test it yourself. Or both. To test it yourself, start your engine, and then while the engine is running remove the negative battery terminal from your battery. If your engine starts to sputter or even stalls, you've definitely got a bad alternator.
 



#5 junkchief

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 03:50 PM

Thanks for the tip I75eya.

 

I did the alternator test twice .. just to be sure .. and the engine did not sputter or stall when I removed the negative terminal from the battery.  The bad boy kept chugging along without a skip.

 

As an update ... this morning when I noticed the coolant tank was empty, I filled it up halfway and about 4 hours later the level is still the same .. of course I haven't been driving it around at all, but just starting and stopping the engine in the driveway.

 

Thanks again.



#6 Wayback

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:05 PM

You should NEVER disconnect the battery while the engine is running. It can dump a massive voltage surge into your electrical system. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Load_dump



#7 NorthWet

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:07 PM

It isn't likely to be anything devastatingly mechanical (i.e.- overheating, oil loss, internal breakage.)  All of the warning lights coming on was just a sign that the alternator was not generating output:  Perfectly normal if the engine speed dropped below a certain point below idle.  Since the steering became heavy (indicating the power steering pump wasn't being driven very well), This again points to engine speed... or, at least, drive belt speed.  I imagine that the crank pulley may have loosened up enough to spin on the crankshaft's nose, and it might have gripped again later on:  You might want to ensure that the crank pulley is still keyed to the crank nose, and its bolt is tight.

 

As far as pulling codes, I think that is what normally happens.  BUT, I am not that familiar with OBD2 vehicles.



#8 NorthWet

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:10 PM

You should NEVER disconnect the battery while the engine is running. It can dump a massive voltage surge into your electrical system. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Load_dump

Generally, this is good advice to follow.  Practically, if the engine is idling, then the chance of overvoltage damage is not overly great.  (Though, on my late 80's cars, it can freak out electronics:  My wipers will start to run on their own...)  It is a quick and dirty test, but I would avoid it.



#9 junkchief

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:24 PM

Thanks for the suggestion, NorthWet.

 

Is this something a newbie can do or does it require some tools that would have me dropping the car off a the mechanic on Monday?  In the mean time I'll be searching up a storm on crank pulleys.



#10 Razorthirty

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:32 PM

Thanks for the suggestion, NorthWet.

 

Is this something a newbie can do or does it require some tools that would have me dropping the car off a the mechanic on Monday?  In the mean time I'll be searching up a storm on crank pulleys.

 

I just went through a crank pulley disaster myself... no fun but not devastating at all (unless your broke like me and $200 is a big deal). pop your hood and look at the crank pulley while the engine is idling, does it look like it is wobbling or off center at all? If so get it to your mechanic asap and hope not too much damage has been done.



#11 l75eya

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:51 PM

You should NEVER disconnect the battery while the engine is running. It can dump a massive voltage surge into your electrical system. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Load_dump

*edit* Nvm. I'll be sure to wear an anti-static wrist-strap when I handle motherboards, wear safety glasses when using a drill bit, and never go out during a thunder-storm.

Sure something bad can happen, but 9 times out of 10, does it really? You're right though, should have given that heads up to the OP, my bad there. I'll stick my head back to the old gens where there aren't really any fancy 'lectronics to possibly hurt =P


Edited by l75eya, 02 March 2013 - 05:03 PM.


#12 NorthWet

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 07:03 PM

Thanks for the suggestion, NorthWet.

 

Is this something a newbie can do or does it require some tools that would have me dropping the car off a the mechanic on Monday?  In the mean time I'll be searching up a storm on crank pulleys.

The fuel filter is fairly straightforward.  It should be mounted in the engine compartment behind the left-front strut tower.  Should be a black or silver can with 2 large-ish fuel lines attached.  The fuel system is pressurized, so either depressurize it (pull fuel pump fuse and crank the engine for a few seconds), or be prepared for a small gout (2-3 ounces) of fuel when you pull a line loose.  The fuel lines can be stubborn.  Replacement cost should be $10-15 or so.  Please remember, this is only a first guess without any more info.







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