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We're thinking of buying a used Subaru... what should I look for, or look out for?


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8 replies to this topic

#1 ERICH

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Posted 12 March 2006 - 03:05 PM

We owned a 1993 Legacy a few years ago and liked it. We saw a few newer ones yesterday in our area ( a 98 Outback and a 99 Forester), the prices were reasonable for the mileage. We came home and I started doing some research online and found scarry stories out the head gaskets and wheel bearings. Are the 2.5ltr in the Forestor as bad as the OTB? Once the original H gasket is replaced do you still have to worry, is the design flaw in the original gasket or the engine? How will I be able to tell if the original gasket has been changed, I have done lots of auto work but not much on subbies, is there a way to visually tell if it has been changed?
Should I just get one with a 2.2 ltr engine, I up til now did all of our auto work, I have a small business that is just getting off the ground so I don't have time for a head gasket job and don't really want to afford one in the near future. Does the Outback still come in a 2.2 ltr or would I have to get plain Legacy to get the smaller engine?
Please advise, what to look out for, or what to avoid.
Thanks
ERICH

#2 grossgary

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Posted 12 March 2006 - 03:34 PM

i'd get the 2.2 (actually i did last year). we have a 1997 Subaru Outback Sport that we picked up for my wife. great car and no head gasket issues to worry about. they at least offer them to 1998 in the Outback Sports, i don't think the Outback Wagons came with them, i think they are 2.5 but i'm not possitive. the ones i've seen are all 2.5 but that isn't many.

It would be hard to definitively tell if it's been replaced, though signs of major engine work would point to that. owner would be the best source of knowledge. The new head gaskets solve the problem, once it's replaced you're golden. If it fails you also have the option of swapping in a 2.2 which would be easier than the head gasket job on a 2.5. they are nearly a direct swap, computers wiring and all that stuff is plug and play.

There isn't neccessarily an enormous failure rate, but it is more risky than most subaru's in my oppinion (except maybe the old turbo's since they're 20 years old). And of course of all the 96-2000 2.5's out there the ones most likey to hit the market are ones showing signs. People are more likey to trade in or sell a bad car than a good one. It is very difficult to detect when it first starts and they almost always pass all the common head gasket tests - even the exhaust in the coolant test and compression and coolant in the oil. All that can be fine but still have issues.

The 2.5 is a great motor, i would recommend not paying top dollar for one in the 96-2000 era. sounds like you're already on your way to making a good decision.

#3 Olnick

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Posted 12 March 2006 - 04:00 PM

Your analysis is spot-on, ERICH. I'm a conservative old fut who drives a 2.2L '95 Legacy L wagon with 5-speed MT so I'm biased. I'm also thrilled every time I get on the highway with it--it's smooth as silk and virtually bulletproof. Personally, I wouldn't consider buying a 2.5L Suby. But keep searching here on the board--lots of opinions on the new 2.5 HG.

My suggestion to you, under your circumstances, would be to look for a mature (get that, cookie?!!) Legacy 2.2 that's in decent condition and throw a few bucks into tuneup and maintenance. Then when your business is wildly successful you can go buy something newer and shinier!

By the way, be aware that the last few years of the Suby 2.2--starting with model year '97--are interference engines.

Good luck with the business and keep posting your feelings and questions.

#4 dmanaenk

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Posted 12 March 2006 - 04:26 PM

99 MY Forester is SOHC 2.5 engine.
It has different headgasket issues, which are fixed with proper conditioner added to a coolant once in a couple of years.
Wheel bearings would not be such an issue for me, cause they are a lot easier to fix than HGs.
Stay away from 98 outback, or decrease the price by 2k and keep savings for engine swap when HG blows.

#5 3Pin

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Posted 13 March 2006 - 10:01 PM

I have had 2 95's with the 2.2 motor and just bought a 96 OB with a know HG issue.

Once repaired with the new HG kit, it is my opinion that the 96 will be fine for quite some time. It had 152 K on the motor when it went bad.

The 2.2 is a more reliable motor, that is a fact. If I were in your shoes, I would find a decent 95 or 96 2.2 Legacy sedan or wagon and ride of into the sunset.:banana:

#6 jasonhughes

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Posted 13 March 2006 - 10:08 PM

I have had 2 95's with the 2.2 motor and just bought a 96 OB with a know HG issue.

Once repaired with the new HG kit, it is my opinion that the 96 will be fine for quite some time. It had 152 K on the motor when it went bad.

The 2.2 is a more reliable motor, that is a fact. If I were in your shoes, I would find a decent 95 or 96 2.2 Legacy sedan or wagon and ride of into the sunset.:banana:

I agree with everyone on the 2.2 liter issue. I did a lot of research before I bought my legacy and the 2.5 head gasket issue was a big turn off for me. I also suggest that you tear out the legay seats and replace them with some outback seats. I put leather in mine. Very comfy. I hate hate hate subaru's legacy cloth seats. Good luck.

#7 otis

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 01:29 PM

ok I'll play the contrarian. I disagree with everyone.

well not really- everything that's been said certainly has some truth behind it. But I don't think you should exclude a certain car just because of the head gasket issue. what if it has been fixed in the car you're looking at?

also buying a 2.2L engine is fine. but these tend to be in cars that are older. Some subaru diehards won't let go of these cars- severely limiting the supply. so if you look at the remaining supply of cars that were available in the mid to late 90's, how many miles are going to be on those cars? you may alleviate the HG issue (assuming there is one), but trade it for other issues that naturally come with any car with age. Sure if I could find a 97-98 w/ 2.2 engine and <75k miles, I'd jump on it- too bad there's only 10 cars in the US with those specs.

also it's been said before- but when there's a problem with a car and you look on any internet forum- the problem looks like some kind of epidemic that will wipe out the entire car line because the problems tend to be amplified. I guess I should disclose that my 00 forester had the HG leak at around 60k miles- so it sounds a bit hipocritical for me to say what I'm saying. But mine is just 1 instance out of 100's of thousands of cars out there and once fixed, I've been happy with it.

#8 cookie

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 01:35 PM

If an Outback sport with a 2.2 would fit your lifestyle it is a winner. I don't like the DOHC engines for a couple of reasons, they are harder to work on and the internal leak problem. I needed the extra room and settled for a 99 Forester with the phase 2 2.5.
Some of us old folks need room to haul things and the Forester does it quite well.

#9 burtonsnowman

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 02:44 PM

They still put the (non-interference) EJ22 in '96 Outbacks with manual transmissions, didn't they? To me, that sounds pretty appealing...because I want an Outback, but I also want the EJ22...

Does anyone have figures on what the estimated likelihood of HG problems is on the EJ25s?




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