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1999 Subaru Outback LTD 2.5 engine question - Seattle


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18 replies to this topic

#1 scotteverett

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 03:33 PM

Hey all, going to look at a 1999 Outback Limited today with 135K on the engine. The owner has had the following work done: 

 

2010- Clutch
2013- Brakes
2014 (two weeks ago)- timing belt, water pump, thermostat, seals, valve cover gasket.

 

I called the mechanic where he's had the work done, CMARR automotive, and the owner there, Eric, told me he didn't see any current issues with the Head Gasket. Based on everything I've read though here in the forums, it seems this is an automatic repair sometime in the next 20K miles, is that safe to assume? Or if I have the fluid flushed periodically is it plausible I could go without a replacement for a number of years? 

 

I was thinking of taking it to AWD Automotive to have a second opinion on the head gaskets. If I will have to replace them sometime in the next 2 years I want to factor that into the price and offer I make. The owner wants $5000 cash. Interior and exterior in great shape, leather, heated seats, etc...

 

I've read threads here about the engine, how many owner opt to swap in the 2.2l, but I've also read that once the head gaskets are fixed, and if the engine overall is given some love on a regular basis, routine stuff, its not a bad engine per say.

 

Thoughts?

 

Thanks all in advance... 

 

Scott



#2 grossgary

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 04:13 PM

, it seems this is an automatic repair sometime in the next 20K miles,tt

 

assigning a mileage to EJ25 headgasket failure is not accurate. people who assign a mileage usually means that's just the largest percentage of cars on the road (120k....150k), getting worked on by owners, DIY, worth still repairing, but pricey for the low value they still hold, etc.  these things were blowing at 30k under warranty, or at low mileages where most first owners were still okay with the high repair bills and they weren't hitting the online forums yet.

 

can't diagnose a Phase I EJ25 headgasket condition so AWD auto won't be able to tell you anything.  they could test for exhaust gases int he coolant maybe.  that's how those engines fail.  they should be able to tell if the headgasket has been previously replaced. not sure what that would tell you though - gobs of 200k EJ25's have had their headgaskets replaced. i'd prefer it having original head gaskets, then you know it's never been overheated.

 

that being said, in regards to 4 digit repairs it's hands down the worst engine subaru has ever made since the 1980's.

it also has valves that are suspect since they are so absurdly hard to adjust most people never have it done.

 

for reliability and inexpensive maintenance and value, i'd aim for an H6, 2000 and up EJ25, or older EJ22 in pristine condition.  if those things aren't a concern then my commentary isn't much worth reading.

 

or buy one you're looking for with a blown engine and Ej22 swap it.  it'll end up being cheaper and a better end product.

 

okay, this sounds terribly against the EJ25.  sounds like yo'ure on the right track to get it prepped and diagnosed as much as possible. 


Edited by grossgary, 04 March 2014 - 04:17 PM.


#3 thatswhatshesaid

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 04:20 PM

oops. double post


Edited by thatswhatshesaid, 04 March 2014 - 04:23 PM.


#4 thatswhatshesaid

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 04:22 PM

assigning a mileage to EJ25 headgasket failure is not accurate. people who assign a mileage usually means that's just the largest percentage of cars on the road (120k....150k), getting worked on by owners, DIY, worth still repairing, but pricey for the low value they still hold, etc.  these things were blowing at 30k under warranty, or at low mileages where most first owners were still okay with the high repair bills and they weren't hitting the online forums yet.

 

can't diagnose a Phase I EJ25 headgasket condition so AWD auto won't be able to tell you anything.  they could test for exhaust gases int he coolant maybe.  that's how those engines fail.  they should be able to tell if the headgasket has been previously replaced. not sure what that would tell you though - gobs of 200k EJ25's have had their headgaskets replaced. i'd prefer it having original head gaskets, then you know it's never been overheated.

 

that being said, in regards to 4 digit repairs it's hands down the worst engine subaru has ever made since the 1980's.

it also has valves that are suspect since they are so absurdly hard to adjust most people never have it done.

 

for reliability and inexpensive maintenance and value, i'd aim for an H6, 2000 and up EJ25, or older EJ22 in pristine condition.  if those things aren't a concern then my commentary isn't much worth reading.

 

or buy one you're looking for with a blown engine and Ej22 swap it.  it'll end up being cheaper and a better end product.

 

okay, this sounds terribly against the EJ25.  sounds like yo'ure on the right track to get it prepped and diagnosed as much as possible. 

I'm with grossgary on this one. Although the N/A SOHC 2.5s are not impervious to HG problems, they're infinitely superior to the older EJ25Ds. The price on a car like this won't be much different, but you'll almost assuredly save on maintenance/repair costs.

 

Go with a 99+ Forester/Impreza, or 2000+ Legacy if you want a 2.5


Edited by thatswhatshesaid, 04 March 2014 - 04:23 PM.


#5 scotteverett

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 04:40 PM

Thanks for the feedback guys. I guess it just comes down to risk.

As far as I can tell this car has been well taken care of, has had a lot of good routine maintenenance and key work done like timing belt, and has a mechanic saying at least right now, head gasket work isn't needed.

So while I totally get it, a later 2.5 or a older 2.2 is te preferred route, if I get this one, and take care of it, am I still making a mistake by takin in the risk that this engine will inevitably need work done in a manner much beyond the preferred engines?

Because I've been looking for 6 weeks and really having a hard time finding either of the better engines in a decent shape car at a decent price and with a seemingly normal owner, and this guys seems like someone I feel comfortable doing business with.

#6 scotteverett

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 06:26 PM

Well, in the end it didn't matter. I show up and the lady goes:

 

"So, I just wanted to tell you that I have a full price offer on the car for $5100, so after you check it out, if you want it, you'll have to beat their offer."

 

I was factoring in the head gaskets and a possible 2.2l swap in my overall valuation, and so If anything I was prepping to make her an offer closer to $4000.

 

Oh well, based on your guys advice, sounds like I saved myself some trouble.

 

Thanks again, and back to the hunt!



#7 thatswhatshesaid

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 10:41 AM

Which models are you considering, and what's your price range? I buy/sell/trade Subarus all the time, and I have a great mechanic who does all my HG jobs (we use all OEM/high quality parts). I might be able to find you a car. I also have a hook-up with an independent dealer in Texas. I get a LOT of great deals on Subarus there.



#8 grossgary

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 11:04 AM

can you wait until tax season is over?  it's a terrible time to buy a vehicle.  i mean if something comes up, jump, but tax season is a terrible time to buy.  friends that sell a lot of cars say nasty things i can't repeat on a public forum about people buying cars this time of year - they know the market is favorable (understatement).  granted that means more cars are coming on the market to an extent too as people move on from one vehicle to another...but still it's a fast market now.

 

you're right, it is about risk.  the 1996-1999 Outback EJ25 DOHC engine is much riskier than other engines.  you got a 70% chance of not having issues...which is pretty high.  but 30% risk of a high dollar repair bill and future issues is not very comforting either in my book.

 

http://seattle.craig...4360020667.html

 

http://seattle.craig...4357316064.html

 

honestly the best product you can end up with is essentially buying one with a blown engine and swapping in an EJ22.

$2,000 for a vehicle with a blown EJ25.

$2,000 for an EJ22 with new timing belt and components, seals, water pump, adjust the valves

 

you're almost guaranteed a cheap and easy 150,000 miles, there's hardly any comparison in the subaru world to that end product in terms of reliability.  extra work - but for 5-10 years of low cost, reliable, enjoyment and saving gobs of money over 10 years in repairs, wondering when to buy the next car....it's a huge payoff, like compounding interest.

 

if you're ambitious you could look far away for a vehicle outside of the seattle Subaru savy area and probably get into a less volatile subaru market and end up much better off.  i've flown 700 miles and driven a car home i bought off ebay, towed a car 500 miles, had one shipped from California to the east coast, had a friend fly to texas and drive one to the east coast.   where there's a will, there's a way.  and with some effort you can get a great car for a great deal.


Edited by grossgary, 05 March 2014 - 11:08 AM.


#9 scotteverett

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 02:21 PM

Which models are you considering, and what's your price range? I buy/sell/trade Subarus all the time, and I have a great mechanic who does all my HG jobs (we use all OEM/high quality parts). I might be able to find you a car. I also have a hook-up with an independent dealer in Texas. I get a LOT of great deals on Subarus there.


My price range is 3-6K, roughly. I've been looking at Outbacks, Impreza wagons, and Loyale's mainly. I've considered the Legacy wagons that replaced the Loyale's, but there's something about the Loyale angular body I really love. The later 90s Outbacks, like the one's linked above, are fine. I'm not in love but its probably my second favorite. The Impreza Outback Sport Wagons are also on my list, as they are a bit slimmer looking than the regular outbacks.

I think my main criteria though has more to do with interior shape and engine. I would probably be happy with any of the above vehicles if the cloth wasn't stained, the car smelled decent, and the engine was going to run for me. :)

I'll be using this car mainly for ski trips to Mt. Baker, so lots of snow, and camping, so longer trips. So the better MPG models start looking more attractive, and the higher ground clearance as well.

-s

Edited by scotteverett, 05 March 2014 - 02:23 PM.


#10 scotteverett

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 02:27 PM

can you wait until tax season is over?  it's a terrible time to buy a vehicle.  i mean if something comes up, jump, but tax season is a terrible time to buy.  friends that sell a lot of cars say nasty things i can't repeat on a public forum about people buying cars this time of year - they know the market is favorable (understatement).  granted that means more cars are coming on the market to an extent too as people move on from one vehicle to another...but still it's a fast market now.

 

you're right, it is about risk.  the 1996-1999 Outback EJ25 DOHC engine is much riskier than other engines.  you got a 70% chance of not having issues...which is pretty high.  but 30% risk of a high dollar repair bill and future issues is not very comforting either in my book.

 

http://seattle.craig...4360020667.html

 

http://seattle.craig...4357316064.html

 

honestly the best product you can end up with is essentially buying one with a blown engine and swapping in an EJ22.

$2,000 for a vehicle with a blown EJ25.

$2,000 for an EJ22 with new timing belt and components, seals, water pump, adjust the valves

 

you're almost guaranteed a cheap and easy 150,000 miles, there's hardly any comparison in the subaru world to that end product in terms of reliability.  extra work - but for 5-10 years of low cost, reliable, enjoyment and saving gobs of money over 10 years in repairs, wondering when to buy the next car....it's a huge payoff, like compounding interest.

 

if you're ambitious you could look far away for a vehicle outside of the seattle Subaru savy area and probably get into a less volatile subaru market and end up much better off.  i've flown 700 miles and driven a car home i bought off ebay, towed a car 500 miles, had one shipped from California to the east coast, had a friend fly to texas and drive one to the east coast.   where there's a will, there's a way.  and with some effort you can get a great car for a great deal.

 

I'd be fine with investing in the swap assuming I could A) find a vehicle with really great interior condition, and B) find the right engine, and C) find a mechanic willing to do the work in Seattle. But all of that also requires quite a bit of hauling stuff around it seems, and I am car-less at the moment. So having to take cabs and buses and so on, which is impractical when a lot of the good finds are outside of the city. : \



#11 grossgary

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 02:47 PM

oh yeah, you need a vehicle and simpler the better.

 

craigslist, autotrader, local ads, keep those eyes peeled. 

 

 having cash on hand and buying it as soon as possible helps with good priced/condition stuff.  higher priced stuff sticks around longer, better condition and priced stuff moves quick.  being positioned accordingly helps. as an example, i'll carry around a lot of cash when i'm ready to buy a car and respond with "I got cash and a truck to come pick it up - let me know time".   people who take their time, ask questions over a few days, wait until they see it and then mess around with banks/money, how they're going to get it...are apt to miss a good condition/priced vehicle.



#12 Cougar

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 03:09 PM

Getting a car you want with engine issues at a low price would be nice if you could wait for the work to get done on it. Then you know things with the engine should be good for some time. The Bajas are nice also but you may have a hard time finding one in your price range. 



#13 grossgary

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 04:25 PM

Impreza Outback sports are awesome little vehicles.  A little less ground clearance and more basic trims and you sounded interested in interiors. 


Up to 2001 they all have 2.2 liter engines too.  I'd prefer a 97 or 98 Impreza OBS myself, excellent engine.

Interference so you'll want to replace the entire timing belt kit (not just the belt). 



#14 scotteverett

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Posted 08 April 2014 - 06:58 PM

Well, I'm headed tomorrow to look at a 91 Loyale with only 116K miles. Owner just did timing belts and battery. I think it only has studded tires, so I'm factoring in that cost. He's asking 4K because of the condition (in and out), which seems about $1500 too high, but I'm still going to go and make a reasonable cash offer and see what happens. Wish me luck!



#15 scotteverett

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Posted 08 April 2014 - 07:01 PM

Also, I've found a handful of Outback Sports with the 2.2l, anywhere from 135K to 160K miles, usually running about 5-6K. Although I prefer the Loyale body style, the practical side of me thats been reading these forums for months is feeling like the 2.2l OBS is a safer route with less upkeep in the next few years. Even the 116k Loyale I mentioned above is still a 23 year old car...



#16 upnorthguy

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Posted 10 April 2014 - 10:21 AM

The premium pricing in the NW is amazing.  There is a steady supply of 95-99 Outbacks around DC for $1500-$4000 in the 120k-200k mileage range.  Road trip!  

(I'm sure there are other places closer to Seattle that aren't in the premium price range)



#17 Rooster2

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Posted 10 April 2014 - 12:41 PM

Well, in the end it didn't matter. I show up and the lady goes:

 

"So, I just wanted to tell you that I have a full price offer on the car for $5100, so after you check it out, if you want it, you'll have to beat their offer."

 

I was factoring in the head gaskets and a possible 2.2l swap in my overall valuation, and so If anything I was prepping to make her an offer closer to $4000.

 

Oh well, based on your guys advice, sounds like I saved myself some trouble.

 

Thanks again, and back to the hunt!

I agree on the advise of going with 2.5 SOHC, vs 2.5 DOHC. Just not worth the gamble of buying with the DOHC, then blowing a head gasket.

 

As far as woman seller telling you they had a full price offer of $5100, but leaving the door open for you to bid up the offer...........well I think that stinks. Selling a car is "selling," not treating a buyer as an auction bidder.  Her approach is abusive to both you, and to the alleged "full price offer" buyer. I would have told the woman exactly that, and ended the conversation.



#18 scotteverett

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Posted 10 April 2014 - 02:32 PM

The premium pricing in the NW is amazing.  There is a steady supply of 95-99 Outbacks around DC for $1500-$4000 in the 120k-200k mileage range.  Road trip!  

(I'm sure there are other places closer to Seattle that aren't in the premium price range)

Yeah thats actually starting to become my approach. I've been using this site http://www.autotempest.com/ which is pretty great for doing a multi site cross country search for very specific cars. I'm totally willing to take off 2 days from work, fly to CA, get the car, and drive back, in fact would be fun. I guess the only challenge is I've foind the whole buying from a private seller to be hard enough as it is. So to manage to take care of it mostly online, or to fly out only to find out the person wasn't being 100% honest...



#19 darsdoug

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Posted 10 April 2014 - 02:56 PM

A couple years ago I found a one owner 99 Outback wagon that had been parked in a driveway so long all the tires were flat. It only had 133K on it and the owner let it go for six hundred bucks to my son in law. He didn't mention it had problems. Claimed he just parked it because he bought a new truck and liked driving the truck better.  My son in law put a new fuel pump in it and it started right up. He drove it for about a month but it eventually started overheating with bubbles coming up in the coolant surge tank. He was a little upset back then but It's a great runner now after he's put around 1500 bucks into the engine mostly for parts. I agree the 2000+ SOHC 2.5's are better.






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