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Long-distance Subaru Repair - UPDATED


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25 replies to this topic

#1 stephenw22

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 08:38 AM

My wife and her Subaru are about 450 miles away from me, and her car just died. She had it towed to a friend's driveway, where it is sitting. I'm driving up there this weekend to try to fix it, but without seeing it, I'm not sure how to prepare.

She said she was driving along and the car just died all of a sudden, and would not start. It doesn't turn over, but it just makes a 'click' sound (my guess is that it's the starter solenoid). The interior lights and radio still work. No warning lights came on before the car died. The car's oil and coolant levels were OK, and it happened very suddenly, so I don't think that the engine would be seized.

The only things I can think of it being are blown fuses/fusible links, or a dead alternator&battery (if the charge light is burned out). I'm going to bring along some fuses and fusible links, a multimeter, and my standard toolbox.

Is there anything else that it could be?

#2 gravelRX

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 08:43 AM

And maybe some battery connectors and a wire bush. Extra alt. too if you have one handy. Be prepared for the worst, Hope for the best.

Good Luck.

Jay

#3 oddcomp

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 09:02 AM

and where exactly is 450 miles away maybe one of us that might be closer can lend a hand

#4 Martin

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 09:14 AM

i can't exactly remember if there is a click noise after a timing belt goes... but the just driving along thing would be a sign of that.

#5 thealleyboy

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 09:22 AM

Might want to check for spark too... A bad coil could give you those symptoms.

A timing belt can be checked easily, but you'll want to grab as many tools as you can if plan to replace it. You might want to find a source for parts near where the car is located before heading out there.

I don't think it's battery/cables/alt if it died while running.

Good luck, John

#6 Nug

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 10:19 AM

yeah, it sounds like timing belt/ignition failure to me.

#7 stephenw22

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 10:24 AM

Thanks for your ideas so far. My wife is in Edmonton, Alberta. She just moved back up there to take the last few classes she needs for her degree.

Would a broken timing belt make the engine not turn over at all? I guess it might be a combination of problems, like a burned-out started, and also a broken timing belt.

I had bought her this Subaru and fixed it up over the summer because I wanted her to have some dependable transportation. So far, it's not working out too well.

The ignition and cooling systems are almost completely new, so I'm leaning towards answers that don't involve those.

#8 calebz

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 10:49 AM

I am of the opinion that it is electrical

Bring a battery, an alt.. hell, bring a starter if you have a spare.. plus, some spare battery cables.. It could be something as simple as a loose battery terminal

#9 thealleyboy

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 11:05 AM

Stephen:

Don't jump to conclusions just yet.

It could very well be the timing belt, but you need to be methodical about troubleshooting one step at a time.

I would check for spark first. That'll cut the job down to size in a hurry.

Negative spark could be loose wires or a bad coil (my hunch).

Positive spark would seem to indicate the timing belt, which you can verify (or rule out) by popping off the access hole plugs on the timing belt cover, and feeling around with your fingers. Replacing the timing belt isn't fun, but you only have to do it once every 60k. May as learn how to do one if you plan on driving Subes for awhile.

As far as being "reliable", a Sube is as good as any make, and better than most. The secret is to get the car up to a baseline standard (ie catch up the maintenance schedule). Sounds like you have a good start in doing the ignition and cooling systems. Just keep at it, and do EVERYTHING on your maintenance schedule for the amount of miles on your odometer.

good luck, John

#10 MilesFox

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 01:48 PM

pop the distributor cap and see if the rotor turns. maybe the starter went out in a vain attempt to start the car just after it quit (cranking on it for too long)

#11 stephenw22

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Posted 28 August 2003 - 08:08 AM

I had a friend up in Edmonton go over and have a look at the car. It seems like the only problem is a toasty alternator. Even then, I think I'll still bring along all of my tools, a spare set of fusible links and fuses, as well as a replacement alt and battery charger.

Thanks for your help guys, it gave me a good list of things to suggest for my friend to look at, and it will make the fix go a lot easier (probably) t his weekend.

#12 thealleyboy

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Posted 28 August 2003 - 10:14 AM

Stephen:

The alt would explain some, but not all of the symptoms.

If the car died while being driven, it would tend to rule out most of the electrical system, including the alt. Is this what happened when the car "died"?

Now, if it was parked and wouldn't crank over, it could very well be the alt. (The bad alt would have worn down the batt, resulting in the "click" while you were trying to start it.

I would try jump starting it if you haven't already. If it starts, you can safely focus on the electrical system.

good luck, John

#13 calebz

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Posted 28 August 2003 - 10:22 AM

"The alt would explain some, but not all of the symptoms.

If the car died while being driven, it would tend to rule out most of the electrical system, including the alt. Is this what happened when the car "died"?"

Not true at all. My car died due to a bad alternator. No warning lights. Ran crappy for about 2 blocks before it died. it just wasn't able to keep the line voltage necessary to fire the injectors and the ignition system. After it drained the battery, there was nothing to keep it running. Thankfully when it happened, I was less than half a block from home.. Changed the alt, jump started it. Two days later, started a 2400 mile trip. Problem never reappeared

#14 stephenw22

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Posted 28 August 2003 - 10:54 AM

Sorry, I forgot to mention that the friend was able to boost the car, but the car only ran while the booster cables were connected.

I'm not ruling out that there are other problems than the alternator, but at this point, I'd say that any problems would be electrical. I'm definitely going to give the car a good look and long test drive over the weekend. I'll probably leave the charger on for the whole weekend when the car's not running.

I really should get a clamp-on ammeter to see how much (if any) current is being drawn from the battery with the ignition off. Maybe I have a small, low-current short to ground that's draining my battery, and making the alternator work harder than it needs to.

#15 thealleyboy

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Posted 28 August 2003 - 11:36 AM

Stephen:

Sounds like you're getting warmer...

Cal:

Maybe you misunderstood what I meant...

When I talked about the car dying while being driven, I was talking about "sudden death" (ie coil, timing belt). Not too many electrical problems I can think of that will shut a car down IMMEDIATELY (while driven), and result in a "click" when you crank the starter.

An alt shorting out will give you some warning, just as you described, especially on a fuel injected model where it would become obvious while driving. I suspected that Stepehen had a gradual electrical failure instead of "Sudden Death" and that's why I suggested the jumper cable test to confirm this, (and to eliminate all the other stuff).

good luck, John

#16 RedLance

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Posted 28 August 2003 - 11:44 AM

My brother was driving a previously ill cared for EA-81 wagon. It's carberated. The 2 pole connector on the back of the alternator fell out while he was driving. It did exactly what the original poster described. Plugged the plug back in, and off he went.

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#17 thealleyboy

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Posted 28 August 2003 - 02:54 PM

Red:

That's interesting...I'll have to try it and see what happens on my 86 carbed model. I'll study the schematic as well.

If the plug dropped out, the alt circuit would no longer be grounded, and maybe thats what shut things down.

I don't think the Sube engineers would have intentionally designed the car to quit when an alt goes out "normally", as that would be a serious safety hazard. If anything, the alt dummy light (or guage) would be the warning device to let the driver know there was a problem.

John

#18 DoughtCom

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Posted 29 August 2003 - 12:04 AM

I'm positive you've already checked this but my car did the same exact thing, when there was a lot of corrosion on the battery connectors. Once I cleaned it with a wire brush, it worked fine. I'm assuming the corrosion still completed the circuit enough to make the "click" sound, but there was so much resistance it couldn't do anything. But then again that doesn't explain the sudden death... but it's worth a shot to look at?

I've also had the Alt go out on my old 92 Legacy, and I wouldn't think it would be instant, maybe these cars are different. But both times it went out it just came up with the battery light, and the engine eventually died due to the battery being drained.

Good luck y0!

#19 stephenw22

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Posted 29 August 2003 - 10:01 AM

Well, I'm all stocked up with parts and tools, and I'll be looking at the car tomorrow sometime. Hopefully, I'll be able to get my wife's computer set up, and I can let you know how this turns out.

Thanks for all the help!
-Steve

#20 thealleyboy

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Posted 29 August 2003 - 03:24 PM

Stephen,

Yes please do follow-up and let us know what it was.

This is valuable information to all Sube derelicts!!

good luck, John

#21 Syrinx

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Posted 29 August 2003 - 05:36 PM

I would go with the alternator. When they go bad you don't notice it right away because the battery charge lasts for a while. During daytime driving a vehicle can go for quite a ways on battery power alone. Nightime is alot quicker due to the headlights. Headlight dimming and car dying are symptomatic of a dead alternator. When jumping you can start the rig but it won't run continuously because the battery is drained. Also the click can be attributed to not enough battery power left to turn over but enough to pop the solinoid. Usually there is a warning light for low charge but it is easily overlooked by many drivers..........

My money is on the Alternator.

Kurt

#22 stephenw22

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Posted 30 August 2003 - 06:16 PM

Well, I've had a chance to drive up and look at it myself, and it sure looks like it's the alternator. The car runs fine when It's being boosted by a (running) car, and the battery has been completely drained. I have a battery charger, and I'll charge up the battery for about a day before I put the new alt on and run the car for a while. I'd hate to over-stress the new alt, trying to charge up the dead battery.

It's funny though, because my wife said the charge light never came on. Maybe it's been tampered with, or burned out. When I bought the car, the owner said that the alternator was a rebuilt, only 6 months old. It still even looks pretty new, so I never bothered checking it. It's a DL, so there's no voltage gauge, just the idiot light (that's supposed to work). :rolleyes:

#23 thealleyboy

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Posted 31 August 2003 - 12:09 PM

I wonder if you have some other problem which is causing the alts to go bad early in that car...

Might want to take it to an auto electric shop for a checkup now, or soon after you put on a new alt.

John

#24 calebz

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Posted 31 August 2003 - 12:20 PM

My charge light never came on in either of my GL-10s when my alt went bad

#25 stephenw22

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Posted 31 August 2003 - 05:16 PM

I have a clamp-on ammeter that I'm going to use to check the current output of the alternator with. It'll let me know how hard the alt is working to just keep the car running without any accessories working.

I also found out that my wife was cruising with the fan blasting at full and the headlights on when the car died. Then, she had left the interior light on for the last few days. I think the battery is toasted as well. It's been charging for 2 days, and still no good. :( Oh well. I think it still has a couple of years of pro-rated warranty left.




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