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Need Your Advice
Posted 13 February 2005 - 08:05 AM
I bought a 1990 Subaru Legacy AWD SW with 5,000 miles on it in 1990. Last year after much deliberation with myself and others, I decided to keep this car rather than trade and drive it until .... I had it tuned up, both CV joints replaced, front and rear brakes done, new timing and other belts replaced and even had it repainted. It looked like new and ran like a dream.
After listening to the "Car Doctor" on a local radio station discuss the benefits of synthectic oil for older cars, I decided to make the switch. Since the garage where I normally had those kind of things done had employed guys who only speak Spanish to do those kind of jobs, I didn't like having to communicate through an interperter, so I decided to take my car across the street from where I work to a place similar to a Jiffy Lube. I assumed they could handle a simple oil change since those are the kind of things they specialize in. I paid to have the system flushed because I was told that had to be done in order to change to the synthectic oil. I went back peroidically to have the level checked and everything seemed to be fine. My car had always made that pinging sound on a cold start but stopped when the engine warned. But when our weather turned colder in December, the pinging didn't stop when the engine warmed. I thought maybe the oil was low, so had it checked and it was fine. In January when we had, for our area, below normal temperatures for a few days the pinging got worse. My coworker told me I should get the oil checked that his car did that when the level was low. I went back again and the level was just slightly below the full line. Since I had almost driven the 5,000 miles they told me I could drive between oil changes, I decided to have the oil changed while I was there. Even though they have the info in their computer, I handed the guy the receipt I had been given and said this is the kind of oil they put in my car last time. By the way, it was 15W50 Mobile One Synthectic. He said that's awfully thick oil. I asked if it should be changed and he said no, that's fine. Well, his comment made me curious so I began to ask others and I checked my owners manuel. This oil change was done on a Saturday. I called the owner back on Tuesday and questioned him about the weight of the oil that was put in my car. He checked the specifications in his computer and at first told me that the manufacturer did in fact recommend that for my car. I told him I was reading the same info in my owners manuel and I thought we could both agree that driving in SE North Carolina is NOT desert driving. He agreed to change the oil to a 10W30. He assured me that with my driving habits - just back and forth to work and around town - that it would take about a week for the new oil to work its way into the engine and the constant pinging would go away. Well, it's been almost 2 weeks since the oil was changed and I still have this constant pinging.
I went back last week to talk with him and he wasn't there. The manager told me it was simply normal wear on a car as old as mine that the oil didn't cause it. My car has slightly over 127,000 miles on it. I'm not at all knowledgeable about these kind of things so would appreciate some input from you guys. Do you think that the 15W50 weight oil contributed to or caused the problems I'm having with the constant pinging that's coming from my engine and if so, what do I do now?
In the meantime I have had a new thermostat installed and the water pump replaced because it was making a growling sound. The mechanic told me it didn't have to be replaced now, but would eventually fail. As far as I know, the only other problems I'm having with the car is idling rough at stoplights sometimes and a code 35 from the CEL.
Any suggestions, input all will be appreciated.
Posted 13 February 2005 - 08:37 AM
The "ticking" is still there even when the engine is warm?
I doubt that the 15w-50 did any harm to your engine even though it is too thick. Mobile 1 is great stuff. Stick to the 10w- 30, though. You may have some valve train noises due to the Mobile 1 cleaning out old deposits.
Did they over/underfill the oil? "Quick Lube" joints are notoriously bad at working on Subarus.
What kind of oil filter did they install?
Posted 13 February 2005 - 09:25 AM
So, here is some anecdotal information for you. Many people feel that syn oil is a better solvent than dino oil. Your engine developed sludge deposits after years and miles of operation. If you had continued using dino oil, those sludge deposits would have happily stayed in the oil pan, causing no harm. But syn oil is a better solvent, those sludge deposits started breaking up and circulating through your engine. Bad stuff can happen. That's why the garage flushed your system before installing syn oil. They did the right thing. But did they get all the sludge? How do they, or you, know?
If it was me, I would have stayed with dino oil. There are no proven significant benefits to using syn oil. It is more expensive. And a Subaru engine properly maintained on dino oil has a very good chance of outlasting the other major components of the car.
Another piece of anecdotal car wisdom goes "start with dino, stay with dino-start with syn, stay with syn". There are also anecdotal stories of seals leaking when a car is switched over to syn oil. There are plenty of people on this board who have switched over to syn with no problems. Good for them. There are plenty of people who have posted saying that they have had problems when switching over to syn oil. Who knows? Like I have said, hard facts are awful hard to come by on the subject of oil, and opinions are a dime a dozen.
Posted 13 February 2005 - 09:27 AM
I'm sure when the 15W50 was replaced with the 10W30 about 2 weeks ago, the level was correct because the owner showed me the dipstick. It's been checked twice since then and is okay. Before, I have no idea - I just know when I went to have it checked from time to time, they'd tell me it was okay.
Posted 13 February 2005 - 11:53 AM
It's sounds like your engine has developed "piston slap". In some Subaru engines "piston slap" is fairly common, and is considered to be "normal". For example, my 99 Forester developed "piston slap" at 20,000 miles. I now have 175,000 trouble free miles on the engine.
However, "piston slap" can also be a sign of piston ring wear. A simple and relatively inexpensive compression test can determine whether or not your
piston rings are worn.
IF you have worn piston rings, could it have been caused by the syn oil change over? There is no way to know.
BTW, I don't which engine you have, but "piston slap" is fairly common in several Subaru engines. It starts at first only during cold weather. Gradually you can hear the ticking all year. In my engine, the 2.5L SOHC, it is attributed to overly short piston "skirts".
I hope this helps.
One question, did the the low oil dashboard light ever go on during this time?
Posted 13 February 2005 - 01:00 PM
Posted 13 February 2005 - 01:10 PM
Thanks for your replies. The engine is a 2.2L and no the oil light only comes on when the car is first cranked like all the other lights do - never while driving. The motor was flushed 9 months ago when they first put the 15W50 syn oil in my car. The filter was changed then and also in January when the oil was changed again. I wish I could take a "picture" of the noise cause I don't know if I"m describing it correctly. One guy described it as a metal to metal sound. I just know it ain't suppose to sound like it does.
Posted 13 February 2005 - 01:15 PM
Posted 13 February 2005 - 01:29 PM
One problem often cited with changing to synthetic is that it cleans out congealed oil, sometimes opening up leaks. It's possible it cleaned out some deposits under your piston rings or on your cylinder walls and now there's room for the piston to wobble a bit at the bottom of it's stroke.
Posted 13 February 2005 - 01:33 PM
Posted 13 February 2005 - 01:43 PM
15W50 will not hurt your car in any way. The owner's manual actually recommends 10W30 or 10W40 (slightly thinner than 15W50) for your car for most cases, but it also recommends 20W50 (slightly thicker than 15W50) for heavy duty uses like towing.
that's what i was using in my 92(20w50)
never a peep of complaint.
Posted 13 February 2005 - 03:55 PM
On the first note, this is a noise that happens when the engine is cold (or parts of it are), so the colder weather making it worse is to be expected. On this note, it sounds like piston slap. You are having a "colder than normal winter", so the noise is exasberated a bit there. On the second note, no it may not necessarilly happen right from when you first put the oil in. It may have taken some time for the oil to have loosened the deposits on the valve train, for example, so 5k miles later, more gunk would have been cleaned than when the oil was first put in. this will change clearances, and possably induce piston slap (or a valve train tick) that was borderline before. This is what your situation sounds like to me. Is it dangerous to your engine? probably not. It may also have highlighted a problem that was just starting and now you need to take a look at it. I would take it to a mechanic that you trust and who knows Subaru engines. Have him (or her) look at it and do some tests. Until that is done, and you know for sure what the ticking/pinging is, we can give you "advice" all day and it would do little good. . .
When I would first crank the car, I'd hear this noise from the engine, but when the engine warmed the noise would stop. Now it doesn't stop even when the engine is warm - it's clicking, pinging, constantly. The 15W50 was first put in my car during warm weather and this problem didn't start until the weather turned cold. And if it was just noise because Mobile One was cleaning gunk or whatever that would cause the valve train noises you mentioned wouldn't that have started when this oil was first put in my car not almost 5,000 miles later.
Posted 13 February 2005 - 09:53 PM
I paid to have the system flushed because I was told that had to be done in order to change to the synthectic oil.
They're gonna be hard pressed to show you hard evidence that the flush was required in order to switch to a synthetic. It's simply a lie. This could be your ace in the hole.
I'd be curious to know exactly what this flush entailed. Vigorous cleaning of "happy", well-seasoned engines can often be the begining of problems. The accumulation of light varnishes that form with normal use can actually be beneficial for hydraulic lifters.
Regarding the oil, Mobil 1 15W-50 IS NOT an extremely thick oil (17.4 cst.) and would be fine in a warm climate. I wouldn't use it if the temp was below 40*f.
Other than the noise, how does it run? How does it idle? How is the power? How is the fuel mileage? If it runs OK and such, the noise may be inconsequential.
Posted 13 February 2005 - 10:59 PM
Posted 14 February 2005 - 01:18 AM
I am 99% certain that you are hearing the sound of one or more stuck hydraulic valve lifters. My Legacy did this three times in the last 60k miles that I owned it, on cold starts and kept it up for a few miles down the road. Apparently, your problem is now permanent.
The oil pipes that feed the valve lifters are very narrow and can easily have been blocked by the gunk freed up by the synthetic oil. I would recommend changing to a thinner oil (5W-30) and replacing the oil filter with a genuine Subaru part. With a bit of luck this will free up the gunk and make the noise go away. Help it along by accelerating hard a few times - only once the engine is warm!
If this doesn't help, you need the valve lifters removed and cleaned.
Posted 14 February 2005 - 03:45 PM
Congratulations on sticking with a fine vintage Subaru. If it were my car, I'd stick with 10w30, I'd do a full "Seafoam" treatment on it (search "seafoam" on this and the old gen forum for more info), and next time you pay the mechanic to change the timing belt (have you put 60,000 on since the last belt change?), I'd have the oil pump resealed or, if you prefer, replaced. Not all that expensive. For oil filters, I currently like Baldwin, but many people are very happy with Wix or Napa. I took the steps above with my own 90 loyale and haven't ticked since. Meanwhile, relax. You have a great car even if it does tick.
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