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1999 Legacy SUS Purchase


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#1 umirza

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 05:23 PM

Hello,

 

Im looking for a reliable car for the winter and I've come across a 1999 Legacy SUS with only 30,000km on it, and also a 2004 Acura EL with 118,000. Im not really sure which car to pick as they are both pretty similar and cancel each other out with the pros & cons. I just need somethign really reliable as I am quite far up north in the winter and will also be using the car to do quite a few road trips. Well I am here so not looking for anyone to make a choice for me as I am leaning towards the Subaru.

 

I was just wondering what problems I should be looking out for - the car has barely any kilometers and was well kept the interior is pretty much brand new looking black leather. Though there is rust on one of the doors but im not too worried about that, also some rust underneath. The only issue is a CEL, and we think its from a rusted pipe where you fill the fuel apparantly there is a sensor there - so the pipe would need to be replaced.

 

Im having a tough time deciding figured if anyone had any real thoughts on the car.They are both going for the same price.


Edited by umirza, 22 October 2013 - 05:29 PM.


#2 JKinPA

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 06:26 PM

Hi,

 

Subaru's have always had a reputation of having the body rust out LONG before the engine died.  The AWD system in the Subaru is FANTASTIC and way better than 4WD.  You also benefit from the lower sitting horizontally opposed engine.  If you are going to be riding around in snow country leave the Acura wherever you found it and buy the Subaru!  From a reliability stand point they are pretty equal, getting from point A to point B in all kinds of weather Subaru Takes It HANDS DOWN.  The added ground clearance, AWD system and added to the power plant's reliability are VERY difficult to beat and the Acura does not even come close.



#3 grossgary

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 07:40 PM

I'd put some weights towards the one with the least amount of rust if they have any significant amount at all on fuel, brake lines, rear cross member, and exhaust.  Exhaust is extremely expensive and annoying to maintain. Cheaper stuff isn't nearly as robust and Subaru parts are nutty expensive.

 

they are both due for a timing belt (if the acura is equipped, it may have a chain, i only know Subarus) which is $450 - $750 at a shop.  to be done right a timing belt kit should be installed - all new tensioner and idlers.  ebay, amazing, gates kits are the way to go and standard for Subaru folks that know what they're doing to get another 10 reliable years.

 

That subaru belt is 105,000 or 10 years and you're way past due for 10 years, rubber degrades and that rubber has obviously sat for extended periods of time which if you've ever seen interiors of vehicles or tires that sat for awhile...it doesn't do them any good.

 

in my experience lower mileage cars can have more odd-ball issues - like switches failing, cables failing, electric motors an relays failing...stuff that normally doesn't happen, they have more of it than the "average" car.  just my experience but i think it might make sense just from lack of use too.  i wouldn't rule it out or anything and i still like the idea of lower miles of course, it's cool and novetly-ish, but i just wouldn't let it make you drool all over yourself either.

 

I'm all for Subaru's and particularly fond of the SUS - it's one of my favorite looks ever from Subaru and I have owned them, excellent vehicles!  they drive great.  excellent ground clearance like outbacks, but drive much nicer due to being a sedan. and look sharp.

 

that being said - it comes with the worst engine Subaru ever made...particularly for buying used.  google "EJ25 headgasket" on google and you'll see why.  of all the variety of Ej25 headgasket issues that motor in the 99 SUS is the more egregious by far.  it will randomly overheat with no warning, at any mileage, any condition, and there's no way to verify if any particular one is good or not. and if it overheats there's no easy way to "limp" it home...no filling it up, no waiting...just random chance.  which also means many have been previously overheated really bad - and they also have a propensity to loose rod bearings...probably due to that series of events.

 

if you're paying top dollar and want reliability...i'd research the headgasket issue and see how it compares to any issues with the Acura.  you basically want to know how reliable and maintenance prone the engine and transmission are - and possibly any really wonky items - poor wiring, etc...but you're not looking at a german car so probably not much else to look at.

 

you can easily mitigate snow driving, particularly if it's in flatland with high quality snow tires.  a 4WD with average all seasons isn't really that spectacular in the snow...i mean it's nice but...meh.  i like both...but snow tires are the bees knees.



#4 Rooster2

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 07:55 PM

Ask to see a repair receipt from the owner confirming that the head gasket has been replaced on the 99 Subie. That is the weak point on the motor. I have both a 98 and 99 with the same motor as the 99 you are looking at. Both blew their head gaskets, it is repairable at a price of about $1,700. Nice if you can see a receipt that the HGs have already been replaced. Other then the HGs, the Subies are good reliable, fun to drive cars.



#5 umirza

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 08:40 PM

Hi,

 

Subaru's have always had a reputation of having the body rust out LONG before the engine died.  The AWD system in the Subaru is FANTASTIC and way better than 4WD.  You also benefit from the lower sitting horizontally opposed engine.  If you are going to be riding around in snow country leave the Acura wherever you found it and buy the Subaru!  From a reliability stand point they are pretty equal, getting from point A to point B in all kinds of weather Subaru Takes It HANDS DOWN.  The added ground clearance, AWD system and added to the power plant's reliability are VERY difficult to beat and the Acura does not even come close.

 

The AWD and ride height are definitely pluses but the body already has rust on it which worries me. The Acura comes with a set of snow tires so should pretty much be the same as the SUS which only has all seasons I would think.

 

I'd put some weights towards the one with the least amount of rust if they have any significant amount at all on fuel, brake lines, rear cross member, and exhaust.  Exhaust is extremely expensive and annoying to maintain. Cheaper stuff isn't nearly as robust and Subaru parts are nutty expensive.

 

they are both due for a timing belt (if the acura is equipped, it may have a chain, i only know Subarus) which is $450 - $750 at a shop.  to be done right a timing belt kit should be installed - all new tensioner and idlers.  ebay, amazing, gates kits are the way to go and standard for Subaru folks that know what they're doing to get another 10 reliable years.

 

That subaru belt is 105,000 or 10 years and you're way past due for 10 years, rubber degrades and that rubber has obviously sat for extended periods of time which if you've ever seen interiors of vehicles or tires that sat for awhile...it doesn't do them any good.

 

in my experience lower mileage cars can have more odd-ball issues - like switches failing, cables failing, electric motors an relays failing...stuff that normally doesn't happen, they have more of it than the "average" car.  just my experience but i think it might make sense just from lack of use too.  i wouldn't rule it out or anything and i still like the idea of lower miles of course, it's cool and novetly-ish, but i just wouldn't let it make you drool all over yourself either.

 

I'm all for Subaru's and particularly fond of the SUS - it's one of my favorite looks ever from Subaru and I have owned them, excellent vehicles!  they drive great.  excellent ground clearance like outbacks, but drive much nicer due to being a sedan. and look sharp.

 

that being said - it comes with the worst engine Subaru ever made...particularly for buying used.  google "EJ25 headgasket" on google and you'll see why.  of all the variety of Ej25 headgasket issues that motor in the 99 SUS is the more egregious by far.  it will randomly overheat with no warning, at any mileage, any condition, and there's no way to verify if any particular one is good or not. and if it overheats there's no easy way to "limp" it home...no filling it up, no waiting...just random chance.  which also means many have been previously overheated really bad - and they also have a propensity to loose rod bearings...probably due to that series of events.

 

if you're paying top dollar and want reliability...i'd research the headgasket issue and see how it compares to any issues with the Acura.  you basically want to know how reliable and maintenance prone the engine and transmission are - and possibly any really wonky items - poor wiring, etc...but you're not looking at a german car so probably not much else to look at.

 

you can easily mitigate snow driving, particularly if it's in flatland with high quality snow tires.  a 4WD with average all seasons isn't really that spectacular in the snow...i mean it's nice but...meh.  i like both...but snow tires are the bees knees.

 

The HG issue is my biggest worry in picking the Subaru, it only has 30,000 km but it worries me that if I take it on road trips that it will randomly become an issue. I sort of feel like I would be buying a ticking time bomb which sucks because everything else about the car seems great. Both cars are currently being held by my mechanic (good friends) and they are $4000 each. The lower miles is what is making this such a hard decision - if it had >100,000km i would pick the Acura but it only has 30,000. My mechanic has been driving it around the past month or so and hasnt had any issues. I guess I should ask about the timing belt, and also the HG though I doubt its been done at this stage. As far as issues in the Acura the body has 140,000 or so on it but it has an engine in it thats only got 118,000 with no rust - I completely trust the mechanics as they are close friends. They think the Acura is more reliable but the Subaru makes more sense because theres a lot of snow where I am. No one is able to decide which car to pick because the pros and cons seem to balance each other out - everyone at the garage is split. 120,000 on an Acura EL (Honda Civic pretty much) is nothing and im sure it will do plenty of road trips. As far as maintenance they know that eventually the exhaust will need to be replaced on the Subaru since there is a bit of rust underneath, but not on the Acura before I get rid of it....its such a tough decision.

 

I agree with your point about snow tires, I love them. And would assume the SUS with new allseasons would be pretty much the same as the acura with winters.

 

Also the gas mileage wise the Acura is much better, and the engine in the Acura is must faster/takes off quicker (though neither are 'fast' by any means). But is not as comfortable to drive or as smooth as the SUS.... everything just balances out :(

 

Ask to see a repair receipt from the owner confirming that the head gasket has been replaced on the 99 Subie. That is the weak point on the motor. I have both a 98 and 99 with the same motor as the 99 you are looking at. Both blew their head gaskets, it is repairable at a price of about $1,700. Nice if you can see a receipt that the HGs have already been replaced. Other then the HGs, the Subies are good reliable, fun to drive cars.

 

My mechanics picked up the car, it only has 30,000 km so I doubt the head gasket has been done but I can ask tomorrow and also enquire about the timing belt. That price of $1700 to fix the head gasket seems so ridiculous - Im not arguing the price just saying wow. Like I said above the HG issue seems to feel like a ticking time bomb. Also Im assuming that the repairs on the Acura are marginally less over time than the SUS.

 

And just want to thank everyone for the great responses, they've definitely helped me understand what I'm getting into.


Edited by umirza, 22 October 2013 - 08:52 PM.


#6 matt167

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 09:11 PM

Consider this. If the head gaskets blow, the engine should be pulled to do them on an EJ25D anyway.. You could drop in a '95-'98 EJ22E only needing to change the Y pipe on the exhaust ( and only if '96-'98 engine is used ) and make sure the engine you get has an EGR.. The 2.2L has 30 less HP but is pretty much bulletproof and a common swap for EJ25D's.. I have an EJ22 swapped '99 SUS.. I bought the motor and did a full service on it for less than a grand, rather than do the same to the orig 25D, but the 2.2L really could have been installed as is.. I did the install myself tho

 

As far as the EJ25D head gaskets, engine should come out to get enough clearence tho I have heard they can be done in car ( it's probably faster to yank engine in the long run ). Water pump and timing belt are usually done at the same time.. Really not a big deal to engine R&R on a Subie. IIRC the dealers only get a flat rate 45 mins for remove, and 45 mins for install..



#7 umirza

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 09:37 PM

Consider this. If the head gaskets blow, the engine should be pulled to do them on an EJ25D anyway.. You could drop in a '95-'98 EJ22E only needing to change the Y pipe on the exhaust ( and only if '96-'98 engine is used ) and make sure the engine you get has an EGR.. The 2.2L has 30 less HP but is pretty much bulletproof and a common swap for EJ25D's.. I have an EJ22 swapped '99 SUS.. I bought the motor and did a full service on it for less than a grand, rather than do the same to the orig 25D, but the 2.2L really could have been installed as is.. I did the install myself tho

 

As far as the EJ25D head gaskets, engine should come out to get enough clearence tho I have heard they can be done in car ( it's probably faster to yank engine in the long run ). Water pump and timing belt are usually done at the same time.. Really not a big deal to engine R&R on a Subie. IIRC the dealers only get a flat rate 45 mins for remove, and 45 mins for install..

 

This is what I am trying to avoid though I already have a play car and I dont think the significant other would be too impressed if i ended up doing an engine swap within a year or two on a car I just bought, Im looking for something reliable that I can drive that is also good in the winter and road trips during better weather. Its just we bought a house and we just need something that we dont need to dump lots of money into - I dont mind regular maintenance and little problems as you cant escape those. But its the bigger issues like the HG and issues that cost over 4/500 to fix that id like to avoid for at least  few years.

 

But i see what you're saying that it might be cheaper to do an engine swap than replace the HG's.



#8 matt167

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 10:48 PM

Yep. If I just did the engine swap and stopped there, I would have been out $500+ time... Still the head gaskets on the EJ25D  typically runs 150k miles to the time when they blow for the first time, so if the car really has 30k KM on it, than your good for a long while, or at least another 50k if it failed 'early'.. The timing belt would be on my list as it's past due if original, but they are general maintenance. Acura has one too, and I would do the Acura's if you did not have a service record for it also.... All in all, they are 2 very different cars. Depends on really if you want the status car ( Acura ) or the practical car ( Subaru ).. My brother bought a Civic with barely 100k miles and it puked the transmission a week after he bought it, so they all can fail.

 

The filler neck issue is common. My '99 SUS is missing a large section of the filler neck now. Replacement part is about $150 + the sensor if it's bad.


Edited by matt167, 22 October 2013 - 10:50 PM.


#9 MilesFox

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 11:19 PM

You could consider doing the head gasket as future maintenance, such as 100,000 mi when the timing belt is due Either do it preemptively, or budget yourself for it and hae it done t first symptoms. If caught soon enough, replacing the gasket is a permanent fix with an updated gasket design. But if the motor is overheated severly, it compromises the internal bearings and could throw a rod even after HG repairs. Thisis particular to ej25d engine, DOHC. Regular coolant changes will help preserve them as they begin to fail from corrosion.

 

If you are inclined to do your own service or routine maintenance, you will find the subaru is much easier to acess and work on for simple repairs such as an alternator or a starter.



#10 umirza

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 05:34 PM

Yep. If I just did the engine swap and stopped there, I would have been out $500+ time... Still the head gaskets on the EJ25D  typically runs 150k miles to the time when they blow for the first time, so if the car really has 30k KM on it, than your good for a long while, or at least another 50k if it failed 'early'.. The timing belt would be on my list as it's past due if original, but they are general maintenance. Acura has one too, and I would do the Acura's if you did not have a service record for it also.... All in all, they are 2 very different cars. Depends on really if you want the status car ( Acura ) or the practical car ( Subaru ).. My brother bought a Civic with barely 100k miles and it puked the transmission a week after he bought it, so they all can fail.

 

The filler neck issue is common. My '99 SUS is missing a large section of the filler neck now. Replacement part is about $150 + the sensor if it's bad.

 

Ok thats great to know that I have until around 150k, noted that I should get the timing belt checked. Im not really looking for a status car just something to get through the next few winters. I have my Porsche for the summers just looking for something for winter/road trips where I dont want to put the km on my other car.

 

Thanks for the prices for the filler neck thats good to know maybe I can work something out with that.

 

You could consider doing the head gasket as future maintenance, such as 100,000 mi when the timing belt is due Either do it preemptively, or budget yourself for it and hae it done t first symptoms. If caught soon enough, replacing the gasket is a permanent fix with an updated gasket design. But if the motor is overheated severly, it compromises the internal bearings and could throw a rod even after HG repairs. Thisis particular to ej25d engine, DOHC. Regular coolant changes will help preserve them as they begin to fail from corrosion.

 

If you are inclined to do your own service or routine maintenance, you will find the subaru is much easier to acess and work on for simple repairs such as an alternator or a starter.

 

I think thats a great idea, since im at 30,000 km (~18,600 mi) I can hold off until about 125,000 km (~78,000 mi) and preemptively do the HG's - seems like that is a solid plan of action for the future. Also in regards to doing regular coolant changes is this something that costs quite a bit? and how often do you mean by regular?

 

Yes taking a peak into the engine bay it really did seem like everything was easily accessible which surprised me. 

 

Does anyone have any thoughts on the AWD system? is this something I should be budgeting for in case of failure in any way?



#11 grossgary

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 06:22 PM

Ok thats great to know that I have until around 150k,

 

It's not great - it's not true!  people sometimes say, not just about headgaskets, but lots of issues "it happens at 150k" but EJ25D headgaskets blow at any mileage.  EJ25D's were blowing at 30k and 50k when they first came out, i've seen it, i've bought them that way. it's easy to find folks that have had headgaskets fail twice before 150k, LOL!

 

there's a ton on this guestbook log at low mileages:

http://home.comcast....m/guestlog.html

 

there's other headgasket logs out there, subaruoutback.org has them too and google if someone doesn't know the scope of the EJ25D headgasket issues.

 

the problem is one of perception.

 

you don't see as many low mileage headgasket failures simply because you don't see many low mileage cars after 15 years.  there's a member on this forum that had a headgasket blow at 30k on his 1999 Legacy GT Sedan Black.

 

you don't see as many 200k+ EJ25D's blowing headgaskets because - again there's fewer of them. they're the most likely to be sent to the scrap pile, particularly in the rust prone northeast where gobs of people and Subaru owners live.

 

The SUS is a great car, i love them, but it has a problematic motor.  The reason I don't like them is they leave you stranded when they do blow (which is completely random, there's no mitigating it or symptoms prior).  2000+ EJ25's are much more forgiving in the way they fail, you can basically drive them like 50,000 miles after the first sign of failure...not so with the EJ25D in a 99 SUS.

 

Personally - I'd still buy the SUS - sell the motor right away and drop in a much better EJ22.  Don't even wait til the headgaskets blow.  I just bought an EJ22 for a friend for $300 low mileage and installed it's probably not much more than I'll make selling his EJ25 (there's plenty of demand).

 

And i've done that before too - bought a legacy sedan, made like $2,500 on the EJ25D and dropped in a $150 EJ18 that purrs like a kitten and i've put gobs of miles on it over many years.  I make money and get a better motor for it, sign me up.  I don't recommend an EJ18 that was just an experiment of mine, but Ej22's are awesome.



#12 grossgary

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 06:23 PM

The AWD system is robust and not prone to anything.  Those auto trans easily make high miles without issue. Change fluids, keep your tires matching, and never improperly tow it and it should be fine.

 

Coolant changes are like $50 - $80 at a shop - follow the owners manual.  Every 2 years would be very often.



#13 umirza

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 08:14 PM

It's not great - it's not true!  people sometimes say, not just about headgaskets, but lots of issues "it happens at 150k" but EJ25D headgaskets blow at any mileage.  EJ25D's were blowing at 30k and 50k when they first came out, i've seen it, i've bought them that way. it's easy to find folks that have had headgaskets fail twice before 150k, LOL!

 

there's a ton on this guestbook log at low mileages:

http://home.comcast....m/guestlog.html

 

there's other headgasket logs out there, subaruoutback.org has them too and google if someone doesn't know the scope of the EJ25D headgasket issues.

 

the problem is one of perception.

 

you don't see as many low mileage headgasket failures simply because you don't see many low mileage cars after 15 years.  there's a member on this forum that had a headgasket blow at 30k on his 1999 Legacy GT Sedan Black.

 

you don't see as many 200k+ EJ25D's blowing headgaskets because - again there's fewer of them. they're the most likely to be sent to the scrap pile, particularly in the rust prone northeast where gobs of people and Subaru owners live.

 

The SUS is a great car, i love them, but it has a problematic motor.  The reason I don't like them is they leave you stranded when they do blow (which is completely random, there's no mitigating it or symptoms prior).  2000+ EJ25's are much more forgiving in the way they fail, you can basically drive them like 50,000 miles after the first sign of failure...not so with the EJ25D in a 99 SUS.

 

Personally - I'd still buy the SUS - sell the motor right away and drop in a much better EJ22.  Don't even wait til the headgaskets blow.  I just bought an EJ22 for a friend for $300 low mileage and installed it's probably not much more than I'll make selling his EJ25 (there's plenty of demand).

 

And i've done that before too - bought a legacy sedan, made like $2,500 on the EJ25D and dropped in a $150 EJ18 that purrs like a kitten and i've put gobs of miles on it over many years.  I make money and get a better motor for it, sign me up.  I don't recommend an EJ18 that was just an experiment of mine, but Ej22's are awesome.

 

Well thats not making this decision any easier  :)   Being stranded with an engine problem is exactly what I would like to avoid the most since I will be using it for road trips. I don't really have the option or time right now to purchase and sell the motor and put in a new one. While I'm not really against that option, my current circumstances sort of prevent that.

 

The AWD system is robust and not prone to anything.  Those auto trans easily make high miles without issue. Change fluids, keep your tires matching, and never improperly tow it and it should be fine.

 

Coolant changes are like $50 - $80 at a shop - follow the owners manual.  Every 2 years would be very often.

 

Great to know that worrying about the AWD system doesnt need to be at the top of my list.

 

So knowing all this, do I get the 2004 Acura EL with 118,000km (~73,500 mi) on the engine + snow tires, or get the 99 SUS with 30,000km (~18,600 mi) + replacing the gas filler neck, then save for HG replacement while just driving until it needs replacing.



#14 Bushwick

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 02:05 AM

I just bought a 95 Legacy L AWD Wagon as a winter vehicle about 2 weeks ago. Interior is immaculate, never smoked in, everything works (except cigar lighter which had the ground plug pulled from the case) including air. Heats up very quickly, and rides OK. It needed a rear cross member as the one in it when purchased was completely rotted out. I've looked at other ones in bone yards and many have rusted through. Subaru should have used aluminum as the salt seems to settle on the thin steel shortening it's life span. The rear brake lines seem to meet the same fate too, so something to consider if you don't weatherize it. It only cost me $18 for the cross member, and $10 for a brake line (I do my own work). Get an oil spray if you plan on keeping it and look over closely since the filler pipe area is rotted. In lieu of an oil spray, take to a spray wash place and rinse the underside often, and especially get the salt off the rear cross member to minimize rusting.  

 

I have to say Subaru's from that decade are VERY cheap to work on if you avoid the dealership. Many of us buy off of rockauto.com as the savings are huge. Also has to be one of the EASIEST 4cyl cars to work on that I've owned. Since the heads are horizontally opposed, each head is like a 2 cyl. It's very easy to do the head gaskets with basic tools and only about $20 for a gasket ($40 for a pair (SOHC). The newer head gaskets offered aftermarket are MUCH better than the factory ones, so keep that in mind. 

 

I needed an AWD winter car with room for the dog or trips to Lowe's, etc. and I've got no regrets buying my Legacy. It only cost a paltry $25 a month to add to my auto insurance :rolleyes:  Even after a full tune-up, fresh oils, and repairs mentioned, I've only sunk about $100 into it. You mentioned you live up north, so I'd have to say AWD is a nice selling point. Having had a dash of near freezing HEAVY rain and some snow Thursday, the car was very warm and felt stable while on the highway driving through it. Windows never fogged, rear wiper speed is great for visibly (wagon), etc. Happy with my choice as I was considering a Ranger or similar, but those can't offer car-like handling or MPG.


Edited by Bushwick, 25 October 2013 - 02:06 AM.





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