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Guest Message by DevFuse

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97 Subaru Legacy Engine Knock

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41 replies to this topic

#1 Guest_KenpoMan2000_*

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 02:58 PM

Hello all!

I know posts about this probably exist but I've looked through the
threads and couldn't find one.

I have a 97 Legacy (about 47000 miles), well-maintained (by me and

My problem is this:

When I start the car in the morning, I can hear a noticable knocking
sound coming from the engine.

This knocking continues (and as the engine warms up, turns into a
clicking, lite knocking sound inside of the passenger compartment).

I haven't tried my dealer again with this complaint, but about a year
ago I had it in to have it checked for this knocking sound and they
said they couldn't hear anything abnormal, only that Subaru engines
are noisy (which they are).

What could be the problem? And my other question is: What can I
say to the dealer to help them diagnose this problem? Does anyone
have a tech service bulletin that I can present to the dealership to
at least get them to acknowledge the problem?

And my final question (Sorry I know I'm rambling :) hehehe ) is this, if the dealer won't
do anything for me, will I still get the normal amount of life from this
car? (I love it, and my next car will be a Sube)

Thanks for help!


#2 Guest_bobjr94_*

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 06:48 PM

what engine? 2.2 or 2.5? If its a 2.2 maybe try useing a syntetic oil..Or 5-30 if your not now..Maybe now the nights are colder your oil is to thick..My 90 did that a few weeks ago the first time it started getting cold(20's at night) only did it a few day though..The oil wasnt draining back fast enough into the oil pan..

#3 Guest_wjyw_*

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Posted 22 November 2000 - 07:33 PM

My 97 Legacy has the same problem and seems like it's getting worse and worse. There is a post "Tapping noise in 97 Outback" in page 13 talked about this problem. One guy had his engine block replaced becaused of this. I think the dealer will try everything to convince you this problem is normall unless you can find that service bulletin to prove otherwise.

#4 Guest_KenpoMan2000_*

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Posted 23 November 2000 - 12:02 PM

I'm already using 5 w 30 oil as specified in the owners manual.

I called SOA again today and they recommended that I switch to 89 octane gas.

I don't see how that can help when it doesn't seem to be a gas related problem (I was using 89 and still heard the knock).



#5 Guest_czo79_*

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Posted 24 November 2000 - 01:52 PM

I have a 97 legacy GT and this summer my car started overheating mysterously, it did this randomly, you'd have to top of the coolant and then it would go for somewhere between 100 and 1000 miles till it would do it again. I brought it to my local subee specialist, who said that I probably had a head gasket going, and that when the engine was cold he could hear a knock at low throttle, and that he thought it was a connection rod bearing. I have heard this is a weakpoint to the DOHC engines. The dealership could never reproduce the problem despite sending a mechanic home with it for the weekend, (i think the problem is that they don't shift at 5500-6000 rpm) So after the fourth time bringing it to the dealership and threatening to call the BBB, they agreed to do the headgaskets and remachine the heads under warranty, but I have never been able to get them to acknowledge the knock, they say the ecu isn't coding. and its been 12000 miles since. Friends of mine in the american car world tell me they seen small block chevy's with a connecting rod bearing induced knock go for 50k while being driven very hard, so hopefully its not a problem. Nonetheless, I just trying to keep it alive till the WRX makes it.

#6 Guest_monovich_*

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Posted 29 November 2000 - 02:10 PM

Funny thing, I logged onto this forum to ask about the EXACT same problem you are describing in my 98 GT wagon. I'm bought it used about 3 weeks ago with 43,000 and I'm none too pleased with the noise it started making. It taps really loudly when I start it up cold and eventually diminishes a bit as the car warms up. As a precaution, I got the oil changed professionaly. And just for the sake of it, I threw in a fuel injector cleaner. No change at all.

The good thing is that I have a brand spanking new 2 year 24,000mile bumper to bumper warrany I bought through the dealer for just this reason. It actually says that If it isn't convienient to bring it to the dealer I purchased it at, I can redeem warranty service at ANY mechanic. So now that I've found others with the same problem...and I've heard the runaround that the dealers give you, I'm wondering if I should take it to a private mechanic to get it checked out in hopes of a more straight-forward explination of the problem.

I really hate this noise and it's actually embarrasing in front of friends to have the car making the tapping noise right after I bought it.

Any other advice?


Steve F.

#7 Guest_richierich_*

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Posted 29 November 2000 - 05:28 PM

That warranty that say that you can take it anywhere if not convient to take to the dealership. Most warrantee companies say that if you live within an hours drive of the dealership where you bought the warrantee then you have to take it there to honor it.

also this subject has come up before and most of the time it can be related to the solid lifters making noise, when cold. The solid lifter suggest to be replaced at 100k or when lifter noise is constant. ($800 at dealership ouch!)But I would check that the knocking noise is not a rod before your warrantees run out. And get documentation of the problem i.e keep all receipts and complains, incase they are incorrect. And later at say 75k they say you need a motor.

#8 Guest_monovich_*

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Posted 29 November 2000 - 05:35 PM

I took my car to a Subaru dealer after writing the last post and they said the noise my engine makes is normal considering the 30 degree weather we have been having. I also called an independent specialist and he said that it was normal also. The subaru tech at the dealer (Portland, OR) gave me a paper from Subaru that says this:



'97 MY engines have been fitted with solid valve lifters. These filters help increase the power of the engines and provide improved startability in cold weather. The 2.5 Liter engine in '97 uses a lifter setup that requires the use of a shim to adjust the clearance. A characteristic of this type of setup is a slight tapping noise, heard especially at idle, under the hood. The intensity of the noise may vary with engine temperature. Typically, this noise is not apparent in the passenger compartment.

It is imperative that you understand this operating characteristic to prevent unnecessary and UNSUCCESSFUL attempts to totally eliminate this noise. Dealers must not attempt any repair for this noise since it is a characteristic of the system.

Every engine is being closely screened for noise level at the production line. We are confident that each engine meets our standards for operating noise. If any customers identify this noise to you, explain that this characteristic will not cause any failure.

We are interested in monitoring field opinion of this noise. Please report any customer complaints or comments to SOA Technical Service.


So that's it straight from the horse's mouth. By the time I was able to drive my car from my house to the dealership to have my sound checked, the engine warmed up and the sound had gone away completely. (which was embarrassing). But we did get to shoot the breeze about which hop-ups he recommended for a '98 GT wagon, so it wasn't a totally wasted lunch hour.

Hope this helps,

Steve F.

#9 Guest_wjyw_*

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Posted 30 November 2000 - 05:01 PM

Is "97 MY engine" in this service bulletin a 2.2 or 2.5 ??? Anybody know?

#10 Guest_monovich_*

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Posted 30 November 2000 - 07:36 PM

near the top of the bulletin it mentions 2.5 specifically.

On a side note. Someone in my family has a '96 with a 2.2 and it makes the same sort of sound.

I guess there is nothing to do about it really


#11 Guest_ccrinc_*

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Posted 30 November 2000 - 09:19 PM

There are two issues involved here:
1) In the 2.5, the noise you are hearing is most likely piston slap which goes away when the engine warms up and the metal expands. Unfortunately, given the design of the engine, this is "normal", but damn annoying! The best thing is to warm the car up somewhat when you first start it (always good in cold weather anyway). Here in Denver, the dealers are so used to it, they'll usually warranty the shortblock with practically no questions asked.
2) IF you are having early bearing breakdown (which you can only tell by disassembling the engine), it's probably due to the design of the oil pump. There is a plate on the back held on by short screws. Over time, these screws back off, loosening the plate and reducing the oil pressure, not enough to show on any warning lights, but enough to cause damage over time. (Oh, for gauges in a Legacy/Outback.) When we rebuild those pumps, we LockTite them in!
So, can you do anything about it? Bitch, a lot!
Will it shorten the engine life? Oh, maybe from 250,000 miles to 175,000 miles.
Of course, you can always install a block heater :)


#12 Guest_SmashPDX_*

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Posted 30 November 2000 - 09:24 PM

You're in the PDX area? Which dealer are you dealing with? Just curious, I'm also in the PDX area here, spend a lot of time over at CARR Subaru.

#13 Guest_SmashPDX_*

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Posted 30 November 2000 - 09:25 PM


My Legacy has 93000 miles on it, '95 LSi wagon w/EJ22 engine, I get this tapping thing intermittently, usually but not always after an oil change. Is it worth having the oil pump checked out?

#14 Guest_Dickens_*

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Posted 01 December 2000 - 01:19 AM

You CCR guys are making me nervous :-/

My '98 OB is coming up on 30k and I'm willing to give up the car for a bit to look into some of these things.

Is it worth it to crack the engine open at this age and do a full inspection? Would it be worthwhile to fight for the replacement pistons that Sube has available for noisy customers?

It's had regular oil changes (4-6k intervals at the dealer, yeah yeah I know) and no major problems. It has the standard ticking on startup.

Since things are working I'm not too hot to crack things open.

Thanks for any insight...

#15 Guest_Frag_*

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Posted 01 December 2000 - 08:34 AM

Ccrinc: the screw and plate problem you describe with the oil pump, is this only for the 2.5 or is it also the case with the 2.2L ?

#16 Guest_monovich_*

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Posted 01 December 2000 - 01:10 PM

I live downtown and I bought my subaru in Everett, WA (imported from Canada). But I run it over to Wentworth Subaru when I have questions. They are super-nice and very informative

-Steve F.

#17 Guest_monovich_*

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Posted 01 December 2000 - 01:15 PM

Hey Dickens,

Subaru has replacement pistons for noisy customers? How noisy do I have to be? What's different with replacement pistons?

-Steve F.

#18 Guest_OLDGLORY_*

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Posted 01 December 2000 - 04:15 PM

hey guys i think we are being lied too!!!!!!
i found and artical by JOSEPH KRAL stating it's not the lifters. in fact the 1998 2.5 has the improved screw in type lifters and do not depend on oil presure or valve lash. it "says" "incorrect clearance on 2.5 ENGINE WRIST PINS CAUSES KNOCKING on start up and thereafter there's a tech bulletin" what the hell are wrist pins????

#19 Guest_monovich_*

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Posted 01 December 2000 - 04:39 PM

The article he is mentioning I think is the one found at


The refrence is brief and near the bottom. But it is there and it would be great to find the tech bulletin. Anybody know how to find the guy?
I'd love to shut my ping up even though it goes away when the car warms up.


#20 Guest_OLDGLORY_*

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Posted 01 December 2000 - 04:52 PM

MONOVICH THANK YOU. yes thats it.
damn i forgot to type where i found the info sorry.

#21 Guest_SmashPDX_*

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Posted 01 December 2000 - 11:09 PM


Glad you like Wentworth, I'm in Aloha and love the boys at CARR Subaru. Wentworth blew my sale big time so I never got as far as their service department. Good to hear they're worth something over there tho.

If you ever want to talk tech w/somone local, feel free to drop me a line, russ at randomsoup.com!

#22 Guest_monovich_*

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Posted 02 December 2000 - 06:23 PM

I e-mailed the guy with the Outback FAQ and he sent me the original e-mail from Joseph Kral. Here it is:

Joseph Kral wrote:

Hi Rich,

Found your subaru outback page while searching for information on the problem ours has. If you haven't yet, you'll be hearing more about a serious engine problem. This problem apparently affects 98 model year cars. It manifests itself in a knocking noise when cold, that sometimes remains when the engine is warm. On our car, we experienced intense knocking for 15-20 seconds on a cold start. The problem? Incorrect clearance on the wrist pins. Dealers now have a Tech Note on this. The solution is a complete rebuild of the block assembly. The factory doesn't do engine sub assembies so the dealers have to order all of the individual parts and do the work locally. Our car has been in the shop for a month, and they just received the parts. Subaru is covering this under the power train warranty.

Joseph Kral

So there it is. This does sound similar to my problem, but it also sounds more severe. I'm not sure. The guy who does the Outback FAQ page reccomened two sites If we want to try to find the tech bulletin. Here they are:


-Steve F.

#23 Guest_Dickens_*

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Posted 03 December 2000 - 02:40 AM

Alldata doen't show a relevant bulletin, at least for the 98 OB.

#24 Guest_Dickens_*

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Posted 03 December 2000 - 03:33 AM

Okay, I better straighten myself out before I cause a rampage. I went back through the outback list archives to get my bearings. (Outback list is at www.egroups.com/group/outback )

First, please disregard my mention of replacement pistons. I cannot find any messages referencing it and as such I cannot back up that assertion.

Second, the current thiking is that The Noise™ is a problem with the piston wrist pin (where the piston attaches to the crank) being too loose and allowing the piston to "slap" around in the cylinder/on the crank. The proper solution appears to have the entire short block rebuilt. I believe this problem exists on all 2.5DOHC engines (including '97-'99OB), although the strongest objections come from '98 owners. SOA has done it for a few people on the outback list who bitched loudly. So a solution is out there.

Third, from the anecdotal solution section, someone claimed to switch to synthetic oil and it made the noise go away. This is an anecdotal story only. (see msg# 5082)

I'm beginning to think there's two noises people are hearing. There's the usual engine clatter and the knock/tick/click on cold that some (myself included) can hear inside the car. The external clatter is normal, the noise on cold start is not.

My questions to the group are:

1. Is this piston slap detrimental to the engine? If so, then in what way? (By "detrimental" I mean engine life, as in abnormal wear of internal parts.)
2. If one should choose to take this up with the dealer/SOA, what would be your strategy? (Read: Is there a TB or other documetation on this problem one can use as leverage?)

There's some fuel for the fire...

#25 Guest_OLDGLORY_*

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Posted 03 December 2000 - 12:16 PM

DICKENS i hope there is some paper trail out there that we can follow for this problem. i just bought a 1998 outback with 45,000 and after the dealer change the oil and front main seal i noticed this noise on star up. very loud when cold outside. after warming up for about 10min it's not that noticable but still there when you floor board it:) if i let it warm up for 3-5min then drive it knocks all the way till reaching normal temp. "this is not a ticking sound" it is a knocking. but there is no loss of oil and no white smoke of burnning oil. i'am still under warrenty for 13,000 more miles. do they rebuild the whole engine cams-lifters-etc. or just that trouble area pins or pistons?

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