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Misfire 1 & 3


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17 replies to this topic

#1 AMCDawes

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Posted 17 April 2004 - 02:26 PM

First off thanks for such an active support forum. This site was one of the many things that made me really comfy buying a used subie.

Car: 1998 Outback bought @ 97k now 100,800. 2.5L.

Runs great no indication of any trouble. First oil change two weeks ago (DIY) cakewalk compared to oil change on my older Jeep.

Problem: Yesterday Check Engine Light came on. No indication of trouble. Not sure if it was at startup on on highway, just looked down, saw it on. Again didn't feel any shudder or stall etc. Still runs fine. Codes (thanks to AutoZone) are P0301 and P0303 (checked today).

I've seen some posts about similar items. I don't have full records on the car but it's in great shape, one owner, trusted dealer etc. I was told to run some injector cleaner around 101k so I'll probably do that now since it may help.

I'm basically looking to see if there is a good plan of attack on this problem. There is a local shop in town that is known for solving mysteries but I'd like to avoid anything serious unless its really a serious problem ;-)

So far I have only wiggled the plugs and wires just to make sure it's nothing obvious... but again there is no physical sign of a problem (stalling, shuddering, rough idle etc... all are fine).

Mileage averages 22 (+/-1) over the two months I've had it.

My instinct is to do a round or two of injector treatments and see if the code will stay gone.

I am suspicious of wire/plug issues simply because I doubt both 1 & 3 went within 14 hours of eachother. Since 1 & 3 have paired injectors (from what I've gathered here) that feels more like the problem.

If any of you have thoughts on this, or experience to pass along, that would be great. And thanks again for a great forum. USMB lives up to its name!

-Andy :headbang:

#2 Buddythedog

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Posted 17 April 2004 - 05:41 PM

I had the same problem with my Outback, same codes and everything. I replaced the injectors, as cleaner did nothing, checked the plugs, wires, coil, etc... It was a death sentence for my car. It was a burnt exhaust valve(s) on that side of the engine. These engines are prone to it, sadly. Get it checked pronto. Dealer recommends a valve adjustment for $1000.00 at 105K. Listen to your exhaust, and do the dollar bill trick over the tailpipe, it's ancient and people laugh, but it does work. Good luck, cost me 2100.00 (plus a new clutch while the motor was out)

#3 Supaglu

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Posted 18 April 2004 - 08:11 AM

Cylinders 1 & 3 also share the same inlet manifold gasket - so could be an air leak !

DaveH

#4 frag

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Posted 18 April 2004 - 08:42 AM

Buddythedog, what's the «dollar bill trick over the tailpipe»?
I think I get the point, but what exactly are you looking for when you do that test?
Thanks in advance.

#5 Buddythedog

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Posted 18 April 2004 - 11:15 AM

Sorry about that. People, including mechanics will disagree over the validity of this test, but I have read it in some very old publications, and older men that I know swear by it, using it back in the 50's, 60's etc. On a "normal" car, one without engine issues, try this; start the car and let it idle normally. Place a dollar bill (or whatever bill you want) over the tailpipe, no more than an inch or so away give or take, it's not that scientific. The result should be no fluttering of the bill, it should be "pushed" straight out, as if in front of a fan. Now, with your car, or one with exhaust valve issues in question, the bill should be sucked in, blown out very rapidly, and produce a fluttering effect. These engines are notorious for burning these 2 exhaust valves, and I think it was a defect, because Subaru recommends that the valves be shimmed, or adjusted at 105k, and my dealer mechanic told me there are a lot of these problems. I got mine done privately, and the car runs beautifully, better than when I bought it. Please let me know if the trick works for you.

#6 Buddythedog

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Posted 18 April 2004 - 11:23 AM

:burnout: I doubt it's an air leak because: 1) intake gaskets rarely fail because they're not subjected to heating and cooling because they only manage cool air. and 2) you could test this by letting the car idle, and getting a propane torch (UNLIT) and holding the propane closely over the intake area, if the idle goes up, i.e., the car is sucking in the propane via an intake leak, then I am wrong and there is an intake leak, however if nothing changes in the idle, no intake leak. Also, these injectors can be prone to clogging because they are the bank closest to the fuel filter and therefore would be the first two to suck in any crap that's gotten through the $$20 filter, sadly, that wasn't the case with my car:banana: .

#7 AMCDawes

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Posted 18 April 2004 - 11:50 AM

Thanks for the replies. As usual I wish they contained better news ;)

Did the dollar bill trick (good call by the way) so before it was warm, all good. Just the slight flutter but always positive pressure (pushing out).

Once, warm, and idle dropped <1k, ~500 rpm. Started sucking... evenly too, like every other pulse (i.e. with 1 & 3 cyl.) Sometimes clamped onto the pipe so hard almost pulled ole george out of my hand (I need that $ !!)

Big explative with that realization. Just to be sure I did the same thing on my '93 jeep, no dice. Even warm it just fluttered with the hum of the engine.

Looks like I'll be driving that beast for the rest of the weekend.

So I'll call the local shop (good with Subies) and hopefully cut right to the chase since the dollar bill trick suggests valve issues.

Now, if/when they do the job, what else should I have them do.

It'll be close enough to the timing-belt + water pump schedule. That makes sense especially if they have to pull the engine (I can't imagine this car has room for a valve job with the block in place!).

It's an AT so no clutch to swap... any other suggestions.

I just bought a house so I'm not really looking to blow the whole wad... just what makes sense for the sake of not having to do this kind of thing again for a long time.

Thanks again for the help and I'll give an update when there is one.

-Andy

ps- just so I can bargain well, what should be a reasonable price for work like this. It's my first subie and my first time to the shop so I don't have a baseline for this car. I trust the shop (highly reccommended and known for taking it easy on students with budgets) but its worth a poll

#8 Buddythedog

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Posted 18 April 2004 - 11:59 AM

Well, I'll say a prayer for you, congrats on the house!! It's a lot of fun/work/happiness/frustration et al., Yeah, some people will laugh at the dollar bill trick, but it does work. They do have to pull the motor to remove the heads, and I'd do any maint. necessary to do with the engine out, as you don't want to have to pull it ever again (hopefully). All I'd say is maybe new hoses, although I didn't get them, and a new set of NGK platinum plugs or whatever the manual calls for, I forgot. The plugs should only be $15 or so, so no biggie there since the engine's out. I went ahead and got both cylinder heads done at the same time, as the labor is much less with the motor out, and I didn't want to worry about the other side going out. Just make sure you get a warranty, and it's done right and the car doesn't leak oil when it's all back together. I know it sucks, but if you have a nice car, and you like it, a grand or 1500 is less than a new used car, and I did some research when faced with this decision, the machine shop said they do a lot of Subie heads, old and new, but almost never do they do a bottom end (block, pistons, crank) as they are extremely durable and last a long long time, so good news there. Good luck:) ps. also have them do a compression test first before you tell them about the valves (in case we're wrong so they don't do your valves anyway--unless you really trust them, then let them know)., that's how mine was absolutely confirmed,

#9 Buddythedog

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Posted 18 April 2004 - 12:05 PM

Sorry to ramble on and on. Just to let you know, I fooled around with the engine codes, and trying to do tune ups, injectors, etc... for about 4 months before I realized it was my valves, then when it was diagnosed, I drove it from New Mexico to Mississippi and back. It drove ok on the freeway, because you have inertia to propel you forward, and use less hp and torque then to start out, when it would hesitate a bit, so it isn't an emergency, I probably drove 10,000 miles before my compression went to 60 or 65 I think. It should be around 120 or 125, and if yours is just starting to go, your compression may still be high, a cylinder leakdown test should confirm it though.

#10 AMCDawes

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Posted 18 April 2004 - 05:40 PM

Thanks for all your tips, like I mentioned earlier, having this forum was a big plus when deciding on what makes of car to look at.

I'll call the shop on monday and see when they can get me in. Never been to the place before but they specialize in subaru, and the other japanese makes.

I'll be sure to have them check compression. I'm willing to bet money on the valves but that doesn't mean I won't make sure that's the problem. Just helps to know what to test first rather than go round and round with it... plugs, wires, injectors, etc. You are sure getting good karma for offering your experience and insight on this one!

True a grand or 1500 is less than a new used car... but the tough spot is that it is a new used car :-)

I got it just over two months ago. Now I'll know to always whip out a dollar bill when I'm shopping cars! I've put about 6k on it so it's entirely possible that it wouldn't have shown this problem yet... but there isn't much to do about that now eh. I feel strange saying it but it's in great shape, tidy, solid and especially for being here in the south, very little rust. It sounds like it's just another victim of the occasional subaru valve gremlin.

As annoying as a valve job can be, it's good to know bottom-ends are solid in this car. Knock on wood this is the only time I have to pull the engine.

Also thanks for the numbers on compression, good to know what I can expect from it at this point. I'll look on the bright side... I just thought it was slower off the line because I went from a 6 (jeep GC) to a 4... with a new head and full compression on half the engine... I could be in for quite a boost!

-Andy

#11 friendly_jacek

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Posted 18 April 2004 - 08:19 PM

Buddythedog,

Great insight! Thanks for sharing the info. Do you know the reasons for these valve failures?


AMCDawes,

Make sure the new, improved head gasket gets installed, as 98 is prone to HG failures.

#12 legacy2.5

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 09:53 AM

i have had that code on my 97 legacy gt 2.5 before, once it was after i did my first timing belt, i had the belt a tooth off, and i have seen the coil go bad also, cylinder 1 and 3 are on the same coil. i would check coil output.

#13 AMCDawes

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 01:42 PM

I had heard about the coil issue... since it covers both 1 & 3, I may check this along the way.

I'm less suspicious of the timing belt since AFAIK it is still in its factory-installed location (suggested change at 105k).

The update from today, and driving it to the shop:

Drove in, explained the situation: light on, codes P0301 & P0303. Mentioned story of exhaust valves throwing these codes. Mentioned air being pulled in via exhaust. Got strange look. Was told usually plug wires, safest bet is to clear it and wait. Done. The guy even made me write it in the manual (@ 100956 CEL with P0301 and P0303). So he suggested the conservative approach. No sense in pulling the engine or doing anything else if was just a jiggle in the wires or coil that threw a code one time. Wasn't anywhere near as concerned as I was (made worse by valve replacement fears).

At this point I figure two things:

1) If pete isn't worried, I'm not worried. Plus he clearly isn't willing to rip me off since I made it clear I was suspicious of the valves he had a great opportunity. Not that I would stand for it... think of it as a little test of the shop. If they are willing to just replace a head no questions no tests... then that probably isn't the shop to be at :-)

2) It's due in less than 4k for the recommended valve inspection so even if it is exhaust valves starting to go, I'll be well under the 10k that you ( Buddythedog) got out of it.

So again, thanks for the insight everyone, I'll still keep an eye out for any signs of valve trouble and try to get a look at the coil output. Of course if the light comes back with those codes, I'll let you (and Pete) know.

-Andy

ps - from the people that scoff at the dollar bill test... what is their justification? I'm a physics grad student so I know pressure and forces pretty well. I know my way around a four stroke engine, and I get the basic ideas. So what else in the car would try to pull air back up the exhaust pipe. That seems wrong no matter what is doing it! Any comments there... I think it's a slick little test... and if this problem turns out to be valves then I'll swear by it in the future.

#14 dmplatt

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 02:36 PM

99 Legacy with 2.2... had a similar issue on cylinder 4, replaced the coil pack, good as new!

The dealer thought it necessary to scare me with talk of burn't valves before suprising me with the good news. But he did mention the valves are notorious.

#15 alia176

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Posted 26 April 2004 - 08:51 PM

Hey guys,


I was raptured as I was reading this thread! I have the same two codes plus a bonus code P0420. Little history: '95 Legacy wagon, 2.2 engine, 120k miles. For a long time P0303 kept showing up. Did the usuals - coil pack, plugs, wires, etc. Engine would shudder and wanted to stall on my wife many times. She almost got rearended a few times on the hwy. While P0303 was showing up, a second code P0420 (catalyst below threshold) began to pop up. Same symptoms as before. NOw I'm getting P0301 (#1 cyl misfire).

I'll try the dollar bill test. I'm very intrigued! I'll do a leakdown test and a compression test as well. If she fails both tests then perhaps it's time to pull the heads!

Thanks.
Ali

#16 AMCDawes

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 08:46 AM

Let us know what you find. It would be good to get some definitive results from a dollar bill test. It really makes sense to me (I sure don't know of a good reason for an engine to suck air up the exhaust pipe).

Hopefully we aren't all in the same expensive-repair boat. How frequently did you get the lights. I reset mine and it's been about 600 miles.

-Andy

#17 Commuter

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 11:41 AM

A minor point, but the heads can be pulled with the engine in the car. I saw it done with my 97 OB.

If you are going to do this work, I'd say go for a full valve job and change both head gaskets. The HG's are the achilles heel of these engines. Not to scare you, but some have had them done more than once. Mine are now 2 yo with 125,000 km on them. (Knock wood.) It seems the latest incarnation of the head gasket is doing the job.

Another option is to deal it off, cut your losses now.

Another option ($$$) is a rebuilt engine from CCR Inc with a warranty.

I hope you didn't pay a whole lot for the car. I would think that resale values have slipped with all the known issues with the late 90's 2.5L engine. Don't get me wrong, I like my car and will continue to run it for some time, but I didn't expect to have to put a 'new' engine in at 260k km. (My HG's failed, then my bottom end failed.)

Oh... and before you get into all this expense, do make sure that it is not something as simple as plugs, wires, coil pack, etc. HUGE difference in dollars. Worth a bit of money just 'part swapping' if you ask me.

Commuter

Argh... Just saw page 2 of this thread now. Ok... I see you are sitting pat for the moment. Probably a wise thing.

#18 alia176

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 03:19 PM

In my case, I feel that the problem is electrical related and NOT mechanical. Think about it, how come all is well after restarting the engine? There's not a hint of trouble after the restart and sometimes many miles and months go by. :banghead: I'm ordering two O2 sensors today. Last night a quick test revealed that the O2 sensors heat resistance values were out of spec by a lot! Spec calls for 30 ohm and I was getting around 4.2 ohm. Now, this isn't a big deal since it's only the heater circuilt. That only means that the ECU won't go into close loop mode until the O2 sensors are good and hot from the exhaust gas. However, I'm going on the assumption that an engine with 125k miles on it prolly needs new sensors anyway. Perhaps this will eiliminate the P0420 code (catalyst below threshold value).

On another quick note, the ignition coiled checked out ok too. I knew they'd be fine since they're only three months old but .....

Stay tuned...:brow:




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