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Neutral Safety Switch question, and Intro


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10 replies to this topic

#1 FreeLegacy

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 05:19 PM

Hello all,



By way of introduction, I have a ’95 Legacy wagon. It belonged to my in-laws, who gave it to their son when they got a new Subaru. He drove it hard and declared that it was on it’s “last legs” when they got another new Subaru and gave the newer one to him. The ’95 came to us, free of charge, with 148,000 miles. It now has 158,917 and is going strong. I get 25 miles to the gallon, with probably 2/3 of that freeway.



It is my first all-wheel drive vehicle. It proved to be a pleasant surprise in the Cleveland winter, accelerating nicely away from a traffic light. Most appreciated was it’s ability to drive up, amidst snow, the medium slope of our driveway like a mountain goat. Our front-wheel drive cars often get stuck.



We hope to get much more use out of this great car, while minimizing the expense of fixing it and keeping it running.



I would like to become a backyard mechanic. I want to stop paying gobs of money for mechanics to fix things that I could learn to fix. And I think it would be empowering to do a lot of this stuff myself. I’m pretty much starting from scratch, as I have very little mechanical experience.



This issue I’m having is a starting problem. Sometimes the car starts fine. Other times the dashboard lights light up and I hear a single click (I believe a solenoid click) and nada. The work around is to jiggle the automatic gear shift until the engine starts. Sometimes it might take 10 or 15 minutes of jiggling to get it to start, sometimes just a few jiggles will do it. The problem seems to be more frequent on wet or really cold days. The problem existed when we got the car.



So I suspect the Neutral Safety Switch needs to be adjusted or replaced. Jacked the car up today and crawled under there. I believe I located the switch. From what I can see, it doesn’t look anything like the switch in the photographs of the Haynes manual, page 7B-5, figures 4.10, 5.4, and 5.5. It might bear some resemblance to the drawing in the Chilton manual, page 7-49, figures 157 and 159. Hard to tell, because a big hunk of exhaust pipe is blocking my view as well as my theoretical access to the switch.



The answer might be obvious, but, do I need to remove this piece of exhaust to get to the switch? Am I correct in determining that the switch is behind this piece of exhaust? If I need to remove the piece of exhaust, is there anything I need to be aware of besides whats covered in the Haynes and Chilton books?



I had read somewhere that the all-wheel drive cars have the Neutral Safety Switch on the transaxle (as opposed to the shifter.) Just for laughs (and in the hopes that it might be easier), I removed the Gear Position Indicator Panel. Judging by figures 158 and 160 from page 7-50 in the Chilton manual, I didn’t see anything resembling a shifter mounted Neutral Safety Switch.



Thanks for any illumination you might provide.



Dave

#2 Legacy777

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 05:43 PM

10 bucks says your problem is the starter solenoid contacts, and that the gear selector jiggling is purely coincidence.
Check out this thread
http://www.ultimates...=secret* start*

It's a little on the long side, since I didn't suspect the solenoid contacts at first.

You can buy the contacts here
http://4crawler.com/...#OnlineOrdering

You want to order 2 of the Type A smaller contacts.

Here's some pics of the contacts and solenoid on the starter
http://www.main.expe...ages/legswap/12

#3 Olnick

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 08:26 PM

Aw, shucks! My favorite subject and Legacy777 beat me to it!

Really, FreeLegacy, you'll be amazed at how easy the starter fix is. Two electrical connections and two bolts--one on top and one below--and the starter lifts right out, from the top no less.

Open up the back plate of the solenoid--three screws holding a triangular shaped backing plate IIRC--pull out the solenoid shaft and you'll see the two L-shaped copper contacts that Legacy777 mentioned. They'll probably be pitted and worn. Replace them, put it back together, slap it back in the car and you're ready to go.

Good luck to you. Well, sounds like you don't really need luck--you got the car at the right price and you found this board (most helpful people you'll ever meet) so you're well on your way!!!

By the way, '95 was a great year for the Legacy!

#4 Cougar

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 11:37 PM

Yeah, Josh is fast on the draw and I think he has the correct diagnosis also.

After driving the car in the snow you now know the feel of a Subaru FreeLegacy. Hope you enjoy the car for some time. They have some weak points but they can go for a long time when they are cared for.

#5 FreeLegacy

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 01:34 PM

Thanks for the responses! I'll give this a try (although possibly not for a couple of weeks - vacation coming up) and post back.

Thanks again.

#6 FreeLegacy

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 01:23 PM

I got the contacts from the site above. I spent some time on the starter earlier today. I think my question now has more to do with getting the bolts loose.

The top bolt, which seems to like a 14mm socket, won't budge. I can pull, pull, pull, and the car will rock back and forth (or actually from side to side, with me standing on the driver's side.) I sprayed WD 40 twice. I am wondering how to best proceed.

Get a breaker bar of some sort to get more leverage on the socket and just pull real hard? I'd hate to break the bolt head. Or the socket, even thought it's a Sears.

Spray more WD 40 a few times a day over the next couple of days?

Some other tactic?

I'm also wondering how to best access the bolt on the bottom. I can feel around and touch it, but can't imagine getting a socket on it. I suspect jacking up the car would be best, and in fact a search on the forum revealed that someone else removed it that way. Sound reasonable?

I also checked out the pics on the site Josh posted above. Somewhere I read something about spraying brake cleaner in the starter...how does that work? Simply spray some cleaner and wipe off which ever innards I can reach? Would I leave the starter out for a while to "dry" after using the cleaner?

What a rank newbie I am. Well, gotta start somewhere.

Thanks,

Dave

P.S. I'm going to go spray more WD 40 on that top bolt. And the bottom, if I can reach it.

#7 Olnick

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 02:18 PM

Good going, FreeLegacy--am happy that you're giving it a shot.

I think you are approaching the top bolt the best way, soaking with WD40 or penetrating oil. Try a short pipe extension on your socket handle (is that what you meant by "breaker bar?") Might even try a few taps on the handle/extender with a hammer, kinda' like a pneumatic wrench. Tap both ways (loosening and tightening directions) but don't get carried away--if you shear off the bolt head it'd be a real bear to drill out.

The bottom nut, in my opinion, is best reached from underneath the car. You may need an extension for the socket, can't remember. Hopefully the bottom will not be as corroded or "frozen up" as the top.

Oh, and please don't work under the car while it's on the car jack. Get ramps or block it up carefully with something solid. Luckily you don't need to get it too high to get under!

Good luck and let us know how it's going.

#8 Cougar

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Posted 13 August 2005 - 06:28 PM

I don't know if you have room for one, but using an air impact wrench set at low torque works will on removing stuborn bolts. Also there is a product called Areo Kroil that works really well as a penetrant.

http://www.kanolabs.com/

#9 Legacy777

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Posted 14 August 2005 - 04:20 PM

PB Blaster is another good penetrating oil.

Yeah, you have to get the bottom bolt from under the car. A long extension helps.

#10 FreeLegacy

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Posted 14 October 2005 - 01:23 PM

Guys, IT WORKED!! The starter contacts I obtained from the aforementioned site fixed the problem!

For the last couple of months, the car had been starting so well it seemed silly to try putting the contacts in. Then, it started taking longer to start the car, like 10 or 15 minutes.

Then two Thursdays ago, I got in the car to go to work. I was already running my customary 10-15 minutes late. Spent about 10 minutes trying to start the car. I figured I’d better get the contacts in. That weekend was already booked, and so was the following weekend. I figured I’d better take Thursday off and tackle the problem.

Dad came over for moral support and beer-drinking. I got the top bolt out with the help of a – I’ll call it a breaker bar. Even with WD-40 I couldn’t budge the bolt with just my socket wrench. I had some metal tubing in the garage, perhaps ¾ of an inch thick, and Dad had a tube cutter. Cut a 14” piece, slipped it over the socket wrench, pulled smoothly, with ever-increasing force, and it loosened.

Couldn’t get to the bottom bolt from the top. Jacked the car up. My preferred method is to use floor jacks at both jacking points (at the front of the driver and passenger doors, and yes, we have two floor jacks), then put about 3 inches of boards under the front wheels. Then lower the floor jacks and remove them. Then slide another 1” board under the front of the car, put a floor jack on that, position the floor jack under the frame, and jack it as high as it will go. Then use jack stands under each jacking point. Jacked up this way, I was able to crawl under and have reasonable access to the bottom bolt.

There are only two bolts securing the starter on my ’96 Legacy. I don’t remember if the Haynes and Chilton manuals mention that or not.

Here’s what threw me about the bottom bolt. The top bolt was a long bolt with the bolt head holding the starter on. I expected to find another bolt head at the bottom. What I found, mainly by feeling up there, was the threaded bottom of a bolt with a nut on it. This confused me. I wondered if I was feeling something different altogether, and the bolt I needed was yet to be found? After some confusion and such, I decided to take the nut off and see what happened. After taking the nut off, the starter came off. I was able to set it on some stuff, get out from under the car, and pull it up from the top, snaking it up through the hoses.

It was a simple matter to get the starter apart and remove the old contacts. One of the original contacts was longer, kinda banana-shaped. Both of the replacements were shorter, identical to the contact that was not banana-shaped. I wondered if this would make a difference. It did not.

A digression: when it was first suggested that the contacts were the problem, I imagined they were rusted and corroded. They were not. However, they were worn down where the plunger was supposed to touch them. So that must have been the root of the problem. The contacts were worn down and the plunger didn’t always touch them enough to make an electrical contact. Which would also explain why the car was harder to start when it was cold – cold contracts, thus making it even harder for the plunger to connect with the contacts.

Getting everything put back together was uneventful.

As I mentioned in another post, I’m a rank newbie at this mechanical stuff. And sometimes you have to do something to believe it will work. So when I went to start the car, I wondered if perhaps the contacts were not the problem, or if I had unknowningly hosed something up. But the car started, first time. Started it four times, and it started each time. Like I said, that was two Thursdays ago, and since then, the car has started first time, each time.

I’d like to thank everybody here who provided info and encouragement. I gotta wonder what this would have cost me if I had taken the car to a mechanic – probably a few hundred at least. Besides, I have a great sense of accomplishment and empowerment. Next time something breaks, I’ll research it and try to fix it. This can be complex, but it isn’t rocket science.

Ah, the joys of knowing the car will start. Now I can run an errand at lunch and be back on time. Now I can get gas without wondering if I’ll be sitting at the pump for 10 minutes, with people wondering why I’m not moving. Now I can get home on time!

When we got the car about a year ago, we regarded it as something we could use for a couple of months until it became too expensive to repair. Now, I’m looking at it as a long-term car.

Next step is to do some maintenance type stuff to extend the life of this great little car!

Thanks again, everybody.

Dave

P.S. Where do I send Josh's 10 bucks?

#11 Cougar

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Posted 14 October 2005 - 07:14 PM

Good job. Thanks for the feedback.




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