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Buying a 1996 Subaru Outback Wagon


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12 replies to this topic

#1 TeamPanic

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 07:08 PM

I test drove this automatic wagon, i'm pretty sure it's the 2.5 (damn), it has 78k miles, interior is excellent, as is the body, tires are new. However, while driving it I noticed a few things/problems and they are as follows:

1. A ticking noise when it is running and parked, nothing to major, but you can hear this noise for sure.

2. When I accelerated from a stopped position, there was this hesitation, kind of like a lag before it took off. It kind of felt like it was going to die.

3. When I slowed down to stop, the RPM's got real low and acted like it was going to die.

4. The check engine light was on?

With all of this said and done,the guy is asking $3100. Now, I'm having a local mechanic (not a Subaru dealership, but he does work on Subarus) look at it on Wed. before I buy it. What should I specifically have this mechanic look for? Would it be best to have him test drive also. Also, could he tell me if the headgaskets look good? Thank you so much for the imput and your time! I report back with the info. :D

#2 NHBill

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 08:57 PM

Ask if/when the timing belt was changed.

#3 rweddy

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 09:49 PM

Yes 96 with auto is first year of 2.5, and it need premium fuel also.

That price is cheap just save $$ for the headgasket job if it needs it!!

#4 TeamPanic

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 10:34 AM

The timing belt has already been replaced at about 55k miles. I figure, even if there is $1000 worth of work, it's still a pretty good deal. If I do buy it, what is the very first thing I should do to make sure it's safe and running smooth? Would you buy this baby for $3100? Thanks for your time!

#5 rweddy

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 12:17 PM

The timing belt has already been replaced at about 55k miles. I figure, even if there is $1000 worth of work, it's still a pretty good deal. If I do buy it, what is the very first thing I should do to make sure it's safe and running smooth? Would you buy this baby for $3100? Thanks for your time!

That is a very good price, but I am comparing it to Colorado prices.
Around here 96 outback, esp. with that low mileage go for the 9-10k range.
I am not sure what they go for in your area.

I would think even if it did have HG issues it would be a good buy. If you buy it for 3000k and even do the head gaskets and fix any other type issues, you are still under 5k for a outback.

Seems like a good deal to me!!

#6 TeamPanic

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 12:40 PM

I live in a rather small town in KS and I found it at a used car lot. I personally know the guy who has it, he got it at an auction and he told me this is the first Subaru he's ever had, so he knows nothing about it/them. Like I said, there is this ticking noise so he thinks there is something major wrong with it so he told me he'll sell it to me at what he bought it for. Personally, I don't think there is anything wrong it, he was talking about putting a new engine in it and then selling it. I told him I'd take it for $3100 if it checks out with my mechanic.

Around here, there is no demand for outbacks at all, so you can get them pretty cheap :D

My next question, can the mechanic check to see if the HG's are good?

#7 PAezb

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 01:28 PM

I live in a rather small town in KS and I found it at a used car lot. I personally know the guy who has it, he got it at an auction and he told me this is the first Subaru he's ever had, so he knows nothing about it/them. Like I said, there is this ticking noise so he thinks there is something major wrong with it so he told me he'll sell it to me at what he bought it for. Personally, I don't think there is anything wrong it, he was talking about putting a new engine in it and then selling it. I told him I'd take it for $3100 if it checks out with my mechanic.

Around here, there is no demand for outbacks at all, so you can get them pretty cheap :D

My next question, can the mechanic check to see if the HG's are good?

The mechanic can do compression tests on the cylinders/check for hydrocarbons in the coolant, and do general inspection for wet/weeping spots around the heads.

Besides HGs, inquire on whether any of the oil seals have been replaced. Hesitation and a check engine light could point to several areas. EGR system failure, an O2 sensor, IAC valve, etc. Your mechanic will put an a scanner on the car and will read what error code(s) are set, which will point to the general system that is failing.

Contrary to what was stated above, you don't need to run premium fuel in this engine, it runs very well with 87 octane (Owner's manual states you may run 87 too, just that premium is recommended. I run 87 almost all the time in my 96 OBW/2.5 and it runs fine.

Subaru engines are by nature, noisy. And they tend to get noisier with age. But I've notice the same on other makes/models as well. Some ticking is, in my opinion, normal. If there is any "clapping' noise", it could be piston slap or a noisy hydrolic tensioner, but probably nothing to be concerned about. Your mechanic should be able to tell you.

I have a 150k miles on my 96, major repairs were HGs @ 138k and timing belt/gaskets/oil seals @ 103k. Smaller items I've done myself like replacing several sensors (VSS, knock, Crank Angle, O2, EGR transducer), replaced the bulbs in the climate control and switches. These smaller things you can do yourself and you have a great forum here to find help. Wonderful cars to work on yourself in terms of ease.

On my 96. the body and interior are in great shape even though I've neglected it for the last couple of years. Car runs great (getting 22 to 24 mpg mixed, and 25 to 29 highway). Perfect dog car! I'm expecting to drive mine to 200k

Anyway, as with any used car being considered, have your trusted mechanic check it out completed.

Good Luck!

#8 Adnan

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 02:52 PM

Hi,

Besides the head gasket and leaking cam & crank oil seal issues, take a long, hard look at the tranny. Make sure the car is running in AWD mode (there's a connector on the right firewall, right near the hood hinge, that can be shorted to disable the rear wheel drive) and with the steering in full lock, drive the car slowly ahead.

The problem with the '96 is that the transfer clutch pack eventually wears the housing and starts to bind. You will feel that as a shuddering in the drivetrain under high steering angle conditions. The fix is pretty expensive; a new clutch pack and housing or a total tranny swap.

We just had a '96 ourselves and it exhibited this problem (fairly common with that era of 4EAT tranny). Otherwise, at 85k miles, the car was very good. No head gasket problem at all but yes, I did replace the crank oil seal and valve cover gaskets.

As for fuel, the car is designed for 91 octane. While it will run fine with 87, it means that the engine management will retard the timing to eliminate knocking. You lose performance as a result.

Hope this helps.

Regards,
Adnan

#9 rweddy

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 03:32 PM

Hi,


The problem with the '96 is that the transfer clutch pack eventually wears the housing and starts to bind. You will feel that as a shuddering in the drivetrain under high steering angle conditions. The fix is pretty expensive; a new clutch pack and housing or a total tranny swap.


Is this true of the 5spds also?

#10 TeamPanic

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 03:44 PM

UPDATE: I just got back from the inspection session with the mechanic. NOT good. My mechanic told me that it would be easier to go ahead and replace the whole engine than for him to try and patch it and work on it. This mechanic is a real good friend of mine and I know he's not screwing me. He said I could get an engine at a salvage yard for around $1000, then we've got labor on top of that. So, basically, I'm back to square one (don't know what the f to do):banghead:

Is it a bad idea to buy a Subaru 2.5 engine at a salvage yard? Or should I probably know the answer already. Thanks for the help guys!

#11 hawksoob

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 05:26 PM

Might do a web search. There are places around the country that import "young" engines from Japan (Japanese don't like to keep cars for too long and they don't buy used ones. Plus, they often get rid of older cars in order to prevent from having to spend loads of money on making emissions type repairs. They're quite strict about that, being a small crowded island. So, there are lots of 50K to 60K engines being exported at cheap prices ... or so I understand). They rebuild them and clean them up really nice and sell them for, typically, under a grand. Shipping is surprisingly low.

#12 ZeroDark:30

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 05:29 PM

The "ticking" can be indicative of lifter noise - Marvel Mystery Oil or some such can maybe work - junkyard engines = know your stuff! Two of my Subes were "composite" projects, especially Maple, and they turned out great. On Sput1, I did a rebuild, 'cause I/we knew what we were working with. On Maple, we blended three different motors along with contributions from a parade of donors. The question for me was . . . money/budget/time. What can you spend? "Just swapping out the motor" can have hidden surprises - other responses here have gone into the gory details already - I'm bugging your brain cells asking what you can spend, and defining is this a project car, daily driver, or . . . ? For me, each of the three Subes had to be daily drivers for my small business operations, so compromises had to be considered. On the other hand, my '70 Jag was a pure project car - and a major budget drain; beautiful, but . . . owwwww. Last night, my associate adopted an 86 GL Wagon that was lovingly cared for, and wow, it's nice to have some issues already taken care of.( She got stung with a poor Sube sedan from used car dealer that has a sizeable portion of issues, and, 2WD. Her new "child" was living with a compassionate family - it just has this healthy glow . . . ) My 86 Sput1 had a . . . healthy dose of issues and history, and, well, taught me a lot - great project car, work-in-progress for business vehicle. Some random thoughts - I've been drooling over my next target of Outback Legacy Wagon in the late '90's/early 2000's vintage to develop into a long-distance touring/response vehicle, so you perked my attention and realization that when I go to South Dakota next June, I'm going to cast about for Sube's there - you're right, Sube sightings dropped dramatically after Billings, Montana. Cheers!

UPDATE: I just got back from the inspection session with the mechanic. NOT good. My mechanic told me that it would be easier to go ahead and replace the whole engine than for him to try and patch it and work on it. This mechanic is a real good friend of mine and I know he's not screwing me. He said I could get an engine at a salvage yard for around $1000, then we've got labor on top of that. So, basically, I'm back to square one (don't know what the f to do):banghead:

Is it a bad idea to buy a Subaru 2.5 engine at a salvage yard? Or should I probably know the answer already. Thanks for the help guys!

;)

#13 ZeroDark:30

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 05:46 PM

I'd buy it - looks like you're thinking along lines of having additional 1000$ on hand.

I wouldn't worry about doing a head overhaul ASAP.

I'd:

1. Get it tuned up.
2. Marvel Mystery oil in gas and oil
3. Change the oil.
4. Run premium, as least for a while ( yes, you can use 87, but, I've noticed cleaner, more powerful running in my Subes )
5. Monitor operation.

I think while you're doing these and other simple tasks, you'll get to know your 96, and be able to identify and prioritize potential projects.

Oh, have you considered getting a CarFax report?

Of course, I haven't seen it first-hand: of course, if I did, I might be drooling . . . . .

"Mine? Mine? Mine? . . . "

:-0

Cheers!

- Carrick


The timing belt has already been replaced at about 55k miles. I figure, even if there is $1000 worth of work, it's still a pretty good deal. If I do buy it, what is the very first thing I should do to make sure it's safe and running smooth? Would you buy this baby for $3100? Thanks for your time!






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