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1997 Outback Purchase


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11 replies to this topic

#1 Greg S

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Posted 28 September 2003 - 01:27 PM

Hi Folks!

I am considering the purchase of a 1997 Legacy Outback, it has 110,000Km, automatic, air etc. The body is in great shape given its age (some parking lot dings and the like). The car has been maintained at the dealer and recently had the timing belt changed and brake service work done. The are no oil leaks and everthing looks to be in pretty good shape.

I have searched the archives here trying to find out what I can and about all I have seen is a that there can be problems with the 2.5L engines. Should this be enough to make me walk away from this car? Or is it just one of those things where a few horror stories make everything look bad?

One final question: how does the AWD work on these things? I am used to 4X4's with selectable t/case(2, 4Hi, 4Low). Will one tire breaking traction on these get you stuck or is there some sort of proportioning method for power to the wheels (limited slip?)?

Thanks in advance for any advice!

#2 applegump

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Posted 28 September 2003 - 02:07 PM

About the AWD, well it is as follows. You have two open diffs (front and rear) and lockable diff, all of which is computer controlled. If one rear and one front tire looses all traction, your stuck. If one rear tire completely looses traction you are front wheel drive. If one of the front wheels looses traction you are stuck :-\ . The car is 50/50 front rear in first, second and reverse (if im not mistaken) and 90/10 in the other gears under normal circumstances, but can become upto 50/50 all the time with slip.

You can deactivate the AWD to get front wheel drive via a fuse(under the hood) in case you are using a donut type spare wheel or for maintenance things.

P.S.There are Subes (not in north america) with a high low tranny.

Hope this helps

#3 theotherskip

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Posted 28 September 2003 - 03:25 PM

the most major issue with the 2.5 is the head gasket. otherwise it seems pretty solid. on this car you have to adjust the valves at 100k miles, which can be costly if done at a dealership. it requires shims which come in a variety of different thicknesses (they go by .01mm increments).

as far as the head gasket goes, it is a total crapshoot. i wouldn't buy it without getting the coolant checked for exhaust gasses by and independent mechanic. some people have reported no problems whatsoever with the head gasket, while others have had it fail multiple times. a german magazine put it at around 20%, but i would guess it is probably in the 10-15% range. without solid numbers or any help from subaru, it is hard to get any real idea of the scope of the failures.

it is probably worth getting a 3 month warranty to find all of the little things that don't work. i have a 97 obw, and after purchasing it found: a seat heater was burned out, the fuel gauge was innacurate and sometimes quit altogether. then i blew a head gasket after 9 months of owning it. all in all, i like the way it drives and i like the awd, but it has been quite a hassle in terms of reliability.

hope this helps...

#4 Greg S

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Posted 29 September 2003 - 02:02 PM

I contacted the local dealer regarding this car. Luckily he he was more than happy to give me every bit of history on this car that he had in the computer. All call backs were rectified and all the repairs claimed by the PO are accurate, except he didn't mention the new engine, hmmm....

Turns out that the engine (short Block) was replaced in 2001. I would think that is a plus as far as sales goes, perhaps the PO was thinking it would scare off purchasers, thoughts anyone?

I'm am thinking that since the engine was replaced in 2001 it should have better/newer style head gaskets? The timing belt was reused at the time but replaced this spring, this seemed odd to me but they do things according to schedule. If it were me doing the engine I would have replaced the belt at the time of the rebuild but I guess when it is warranty work they do what they want.

What might have cause such an early failure with only 70,000km on the clock? Bad engine or maybe bad Owner or just bad luck? A crankshaft sensor has also been replaced

Sorry if I m beating this to death but....

#5 theotherskip

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Posted 29 September 2003 - 05:42 PM

ooh... a unimog...

when i was going around to dealers for quotes on getting my head gasket replaced, one of them tried to tell me that it probably wasn't the head gasket, rather the cylinder liner separating from the block. perhaps that happened to this car. or i blew a head gasket, the owner drove it for a while with it and the journals got trashed. without talking to the previous owner, you'll probably never know. some engines are just lemons.

it is possible to tell which head gaskets are installed. if you look where the heads meet the block, you can see the gasket. the external shape of the new and old are slightly different, so if you ask the parts people to show you a new one, you will be able to identify the difference by the part that sticks out between the head and block. the dealer should be able to help you with this, or look at a few engines from around that time.

now's the time to beat it to death! it hasn't cost you a dime yet!

#6 cookie

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Posted 29 September 2003 - 10:02 PM

it would be far more attractive to me. On other cars I might find this a detriment, but on Subies having the block and head gaskets changed would make me a happy camper.
When I got my 99 I spent thousands of dollars bring it up to the standard that it should have left the factory in and someone has done that to this car.
If those guys do good work this could be a very good car.

#7 Greg S

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Posted 30 September 2003 - 03:53 AM

Originally posted by cookie
it would be far more attractive to me. On other cars I might find this a detriment, but on Subies having the block and head gaskets changed would make me a happy camper.
When I got my 99 I spent thousands of dollars bring it up to the standard that it should have left the factory in and someone has done that to this car.
If those guys do good work this could be a very good car.



Cookie, I am inclined to agree with you. The engine hasn't given any problems since it was redone, except for the cam shaft sensor. It stands to reason that is ought to be a better engine now than when is was new.

I am going to go pick up the car today!!:banana:

Thanks for the help! I'll BE BACK....

#8 Dr.Outback

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Posted 30 September 2003 - 06:30 AM

Remember that 4WD vehicles even with low range, still have open diffs. That means that you loose traction at one wheel, no power can be shifted forward to help you. The best will always be AWD or 4WD with locking diffs.

#9 Commuter

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Posted 30 September 2003 - 11:32 AM

I see you have already made your decision, but I'll chime in anyway.

I have a 97 OB myself. I bought it at 2 years old.

Last year, the head gaskets failed at 258k km. Fixed that, then the bottom end went out on the engine. I ended up with a new (but from ~97 or 98) block in my car. It's much better than the original engine. Less noise (piston slap). Less oil consumption. I figure I got a bit lucky on this one. If they put a new block in in 2001, you may even have the Phase II block, I'm not sure.

The head gaskets are a problem. They've been changed 3 or 4 times for this engine. The design / part no. that is. I know that what I got in early 2002 was different again from what was around previously.

Other than that, the car has been very good to me. I'm up to 350,000 km now. It has some quirks (like wanting to carbon up a bit... battling that one again now). Transmissions seem to be pretty good. Drivetrain holds up well. A few people have had wheel bearings go. I had one fail on the rear a couple of years ago. The center diff (clutch pack) is a bit sensitive. Make sure that tires are all of equal diameter and mind the pressure. Make sure the fuse goes in the FWD holder if the donut spare is ever put on. Never never tow with 2 wheels on the ground.

I've done quite a few little things to my car over the years. Door tweeters, Subaru in-dash CD/tape/radio, rear swaybar and links, rain sensing wipers, lighweight crank pulley, K&N filter, synthetic fluids all around, alarm/keyless entry/remote start. And probably a few more things I'm forgetting. Oh... just added a roof mounted washer fluid sprayer for the rear hatch. :D Fun little job that was.

We'll definitely be able to help you out as you get to know the car. I wonder if all the climate control bulbs are working... :brow: And if the metal plate that the rear hatch handle / licence plate bulbs attach to is rusted... :( No biggie, either of these.

Commuter

#10 cookie

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Posted 30 September 2003 - 11:43 AM

baby.
Were the head gaskets that failed at 258,000 the originals?

Some folks had good dealers who actually changed the block for the piston slap. I have not heard of that very often though.
Mine slaps so happily I have forgotten about that as an issue.
My Subaru is currently behaving itself well but the BMW gets most of the miles until it is hardtop time here in CA.
All of the issues I had with the car when I bought it are finally worked out.
I think the replacement Sony stereo does not sound quite as well as the Clarion that came with the car but it does not skip.
As long as that is my only current issue I am a happy camper.

#11 Greg S

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Posted 30 September 2003 - 03:26 PM

Originally posted by Dr.Outback
Remember that 4WD vehicles even with low range, still have open diffs. That means that you loose traction at one wheel, no power can be shifted forward to help you. The best will always be AWD or 4WD with locking diffs.



Tx for the note Dr. but if you notice in my profile I own 2 Benz's that both have F&R locking diffs, part of the reason I bought them. The G-Wagon has selectable lock f&R, and the Unimog has both locks on at the same when selected. FWIW, locking diff on really slippery surfaces, such as ice, can be very deadly(ie dangerous), as can limited slip diffs, but that is a whole other conversation.

I'm off to pick up the car now! Strange that I must have seen about 4 Subaru's on the way home!
:wave:

#12 Greg S

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Posted 30 September 2003 - 08:17 PM

Alrighty then! Well the new ride is home. These puppies sure do fly, mind you its been a while since I drove a gasser and the old diesels are a tad slow.

So... what is with the climate control lighting... The lights work when buttons are pressed but I cant see the darn fan knob or anything else. Guess I better start a search to learn how to get at those lights.

The headlights are a bit dimm, IMHO. The G I ahve been driving has H4s, perhaps a change is due for the new ride also.

Other than that the car seems pretty tight and handles nicely. I look forward to trying it out when the snow comes, should be interesting.




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