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'96 Subaru OB mystery


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18 replies to this topic

#1 scampen

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Posted 19 August 2003 - 10:16 AM

My wife drives our '96 Outback wagon with 101K miles and reported the following over the past week while she was out of town:
Sometimes, when putting the brakes on, she heard the ignition buzzer noise (as when starting the car), lights appear across the dashboard (like when starting the car), and the car stalls (sometimes) upon final stop. If it does stall completely, she simply cranks it back up (mostly) with no problem, and off she goes, sometimes the acceleration is fine, other times it 'bucks' as she reaches cruising speed. She did describe one time that it hesitated starting, but it finally caught after a few extra seconds.
History: purchased used 7 months ago at 94.5K miles.
Repairs done since purchase: at 95.6K performed timing belt, water pump, gaskets, and belts replacement; at 97.3K changed out 02 sensor closest to engine to try to improve what I considered poor gas mileage (17-20 city/23-24 Hwy).
I've noticed this car has had engine hesitation upon initialy startup and backing out of driveway; on the road, poor acceleration...Flintstones going faster comes to mind :-)
Could it have anything to do with the O2 sensor that I changed 2 months ago? Emissions system in general? According to previous owners records, complete 60K service was done on time, so I've still got ~20K to go 'til it needs it again. Fuel filter was changed at 89K.
I drove it for the first time since these problems showed up, and, of course, nothing has shown up for me in the3.5 mile commute to work. My next step was to go to AutoZone to see if OBDII code has been set (even thougth dash is quiet), and to contact a knowledgable board such as this one. Thoughts/ideas/comments?
Thanks,
Scott

#2 DurhamBuckeye

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Posted 19 August 2003 - 08:18 PM

It sounds like the symptoms we had with our 97 OB when the alternator way on its way to dying: strange electrical behavior, then full recovery. Other things that happened to us in addition to the "engine trying to start" symptom was the needles (speedo, tach) dropped to zero, then recovered.

Getting a new battery "cured" it for a short while until the new battery discharged due to faulty alternator. I also believe there was a recall on the alternators for certain model year Legacies, but I don't recall the specifics.

Hope this helps.



An aside for those who may have known me as "CincyBuckeye" on the former USMB: I've moved to Durham NC but the old board software wouldn't let me change my name. I moved so that I could be closer to the proposed East Coast Subaru gathering that was planned for the Outer Banks (and also because this is where my residency program is).

#3 Tiny Clark

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Posted 20 August 2003 - 05:00 AM

Yes, check to see if you alternator is covered by the recall for 96's.
Mine did what yours is doing.

Tiny

#4 scampen

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Posted 20 August 2003 - 07:21 AM

Wow, two answers that make puh-lenty of sense. I will follow up on this angle and check the alternator AND with Subaru about a possible recall.

To 'DurhamBuckeye': "Thank you"
To 'Tiny Clark': "Vielen Dank"

Scott

#5 Cougar

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Posted 20 August 2003 - 10:59 AM

Scott,

From the sounds of your post I would also check the air filter system and exhaust system for a blockage. This may explain your poor mileage. I would also check to make sure the valve timing is ok since you say it bucks on acceleration. It may be a tooth off. This would hurt the mileage also.

Besides checking the alternator for your electrical problem, if things are ok there then I would check the ignition switch and its' related wiring for a loose connection. Using a screwdriver handle to tap on things may help bring the problem out.

#6 scampen

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Posted 20 August 2003 - 11:19 AM

Glen,
Also, good suggestions. I did replace a moderately dirty air filter yesterday, and would like to follow thru on checking on further exhaust system blockages...any suggestions on a practical way(s) to do so?
I would hope that the valve timing is ok since this was worked on by a knowledgeable mechanic just a scant 6K miles ago. The bucking is not a commonplace thing, just after a couple of the stops that my wife described that the car stalled on. I have driven the OB about 25 miles since the original post, with no side effects seen.
I'd like to check electrical connections in relation to the ignition switch, too.
Lastly, anyone know if an auto parts store can determine if an alternator's bad, given the hit or miss scenario I've described? If its an intermittent problem, I would think that it'd have to be acting up at the very moment that diagnostic equip was put on it...
Thanks for your input,
Scott

#7 Cougar

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Posted 20 August 2003 - 12:36 PM

I don't know of a way other than replacing the CAT but the mechanic may have a test procedure to test it.

The store you bought the alternator from should be able to test it I would think.

#8 scampen

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Posted 20 August 2003 - 12:51 PM

Glen,
I can check with my mechanic on the CAT and exhaust blockage.
As far as the alternator goes, I haven't made any replacements yet, hence the diagnostic question. I would imagine that it's an original part that I got along with the rest of the car when I purchased it back in Feb '03.
I did follow up on DurhamBuckeye's recall suggestion, which yielded nothing for my particular VIN. Others, it happened, were affected...for those interested, see link below for NHTSA homepage and search on Service Program Bulletin(s) on your particular Soob. The Subaru number assigned for this issue is WXF-63.
www.nhtsa.dot.gov
Thanks,
Scott

#9 Cougar

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Posted 20 August 2003 - 02:00 PM

With the amount of miles you have on the car Scott, the alternator could be just ready for replacement due to normal wear and tear. Subaru alternators have never been real strong in my opinion. If your alternator is original then I would suspect it may be ready to be replaced and any good shop could check this for you to see what kind of shape it's in. You may also be ready for a new battery. This should be checked at the same time.

Thanks for the link notice.

#10 scampen

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Posted 20 August 2003 - 02:39 PM

Will do, Glen [to have alternator and batt. checked]...
Thanks for the advice and perspective, all.
Scott :-)

#11 Cougar

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Posted 20 August 2003 - 02:49 PM

Your welcome for the help. Keep us posted on the results Scott.

#12 Lesbaru

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Posted 21 August 2003 - 10:52 PM

Just as a bit of trivia: my 96 Legacy (102k) gets 24/30 mpg.

Now I gotta check to see if it' on the recall list. No electrical problems that I know of so far. (Except the standard goofy gas gauge and blown out dash lights)

#13 dormat925

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Posted 21 August 2003 - 11:53 PM

I would like to know how you get 24/30 miles to the gallon.
I drive like a little old lady on a tank of gas and get 23 I drive like I normally do and get almost 22 on a couple of long trips I have gotten 24.5 how do you get that kind of mileage.

what is with the bulbs in our dashes half of mine went out in the last month I expect the other half is coming soon.

#14 Suzam

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Posted 22 August 2003 - 09:05 AM

Actually, I get close to Lesubaru's mileage on our MY95 2.2 at 23/29 and around 22/27 on our MY01 2.5 OB Wagon. Most of the long trips were 400+ miles.

#15 scampen

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Posted 25 August 2003 - 07:51 AM

Well, it seems the 96 OB mystery has been solved... :banana:
the positive battery cable was loose! I had formerly checked the terminals of the alternator for looseness, but had not focused on the battery. After experiencing the same symptoms that my wife originally saw, I popped the hood and started pushing and pulling different wiring harnesses and cables - didn't take long to find the positive battery cable was able to rotate without a lot of effort.
To continue to the dialog, though, on the MPG: I heard another Soob owner mention the possiblity of a valve adjustment to help matters. Any input here?
Also, I'm a little confused about the major tune up schedule: I saw where the former owner performed the tune up with platinum plugs (at the dealer) at 60K, so thought this was to be done at every 60K. But I read about tuneups at the SOA/MySubaru website, and it mentioned my 2.5L was due for a tuneup at 90K (12K ago). Comments?
And, as far as dashboard lights: I inherited mine with blown lights. It was just a matter to go to the dealership and pay for overpriced bulbs (~$3-4/ea) and pop them in after doing minor disassembly to get to them.
Thanks again to all for your input on this post! :-p
Scott

#16 meep

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Posted 25 August 2003 - 09:42 AM

I've never had platinum plugs last 60,000. Mine always needed regapping ~30k anyway.

Plugs and/or plug wire problems first show up when pulling out at lower revs.

Carbon buildup can be a *factor* here. I start the motor, pull a vacuum line and spray carb cleaner into the intake plenum while maintaining ~2000 rpm with my hand on the throttle. Then shut it off, spray a bunch in, and let it sit for a while.

Then grind and grind until she starts and do it again. Unlike in-the-tank cleaners, this actually gets the valves and valve area...

Mike

#17 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 25 August 2003 - 10:30 AM

Thanks for replying with the fix. This kind 'data' is invaluable for folks doing a search in the future. In fact, along with the repair manual being compiled, maybe a file of 'Weird Symptoms With Simple Causes' or some such could be compiled too.


Carl
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#18 Tiny Clark

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 02:40 AM

I would still check on the alternator recall. Maybe it affects your vehicle, maybe not. At worst it takes a few minutes at a dealer to find out, at best you get a new one installed for free.

Tiny

#19 96outback

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Posted 29 August 2003 - 07:34 AM

I have a 96 OB and the altenator is a recall item. On the gas mileage issue, I get 20-24 mpg city/highway. Also, I have a nagging electricla problem too, I tightened the cables & it went away for a period of time..came back. I replaced the battery & it away for a period of time..came back. In a nutshell, keep watching! My post is 96Outback electrical problems.

Enjoy!




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