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Need advice on buying '97 Legacy Wagon AWD


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11 replies to this topic

#1 AWDCar

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 09:54 AM

Hi there:

I am new here but am really interested in getting a mid-late 90's legacy wagon - AWD of course. This era interests me because of the body style and price range that I'm at right now.....

I've got my eye on a '97 Legacy Wagon AWD. they're asking 5,000 CDN for it. It's got 180,000km on it. It's got AC, cruise, but no power windows (one less thing to break so that doesn't bother me). It's a 5 speed. What should I look for when I go take it for a test drive? If I take it to a shop what should they be looking for? With a 10 year old car with 180K km on it?, what should I expect to be replacing?, is this a lot of mileage for a subaru?

I've heard that these cars will last a long time, and I'll be doing a lot of driving in the snow this winter, so obviously that's a big reason for me wanting this car.

Any comments or suggestions on what I should look for on this car would be helpful....

Thanks, Mark.

#2 grossgary

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 10:09 AM

2.5 liter motors have a higher than normal percentage of head gasket problems, check out all the threads started due to this issue. $1,100 seems about the average head gasket replacement price tag at a shop. drive it awhile, let it sit and idle awhile...keep your eye on the temp gauge and look at/listen to the overflow reservoir for air bubbles. when they first start to fail it is very difficult to detect...which makes it really easy to sell too. if you don't mind the risk, the work, the money for replacing a head gasket then go for it.

a 95 or earlier legacy, or up to 99 impreza (maybe later??) 2.2 liter outback is a better bet in my oppinion. they do not have the head gasket issues that the 2.5 has. i went with an impreza outback sport with the 2.2 for my wife and am glad i did.

other than that, check for torque bind if it's an auto transmission. drive in really tight circles on solid pavement and feel for any "dragging", hopping, or signs the trans is binding.

it's an interference motor, at that mileage youll want to make sure the timing belts and water pump are new. breakage there can cause major engine damage. if the timing belt isn't new plan on a $500+ timing belt replacment soon (or do it yourself cheaper).

#3 AWDCar

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 10:14 AM

Forgot to mention: it is a 2.2L, with a manual transmission. how long does the head gasket typically last on a 2.2 motor?

with respect to the timing belt - how often should they be replaced?, are they easy to inspect?:-\

thanks.

#4 grossgary

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 10:31 AM

awesome, a 97 legacy wagon with a 2.2? i thought they were always 2.5. pardon the confusion on my part. i wonder if CA got different motors than US in legacy of that year?

the head gaskets can last nearly indefinitely on the 2.2 liter motors. seen plenty over 200,000 miles with the original head gaskets. overheating is what will kill them, otherwise they shouldn't fail. thermostat, radiator, water pump failing will cause overheat and a 10 or 20 year old head gasket won't stand up to overheating to well. that's why i say replace the water pump with the timing belt.

no matter what the replacement interval is of the 2.2 (it's either 60k or 100k, not sure), either way if you don't know when the belt was done it should be checked/changed. i replaced mine last year at 60k. i'll replace it again at 120k with a new belt and water pump. i'm not going to hope for the old water pump to make 10 years and 150,000 miles. cheap insurance to install a new pump and belt. allows checking the timing bearings as well if you remove the belt. bad pulley/bearings will break a belt.

checking is really hard to say, really old belts can still have markings on them. but they can be checked very easily by anyone willing to give up 10 minutes of their time. all you need is a 10mm socket wrench (or wrench)..i think thats' what it is, they all run together. anyway, there are left and right side timing covers that come right off and allow you to see the belt.

#5 dmanaenk

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 11:58 AM

Even though its a 5sp, torque bind still does happen and the only fix is to change viscous coupling which is 1000+. So run tight turns and make sure all tires are the same with similar tread depth.

#6 grossgary

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 12:27 PM

manual transmission should be golden, i didn't see that in your post, they rarely have issues. the auto's have more torque bind issues (completely different trans and failure modes, but similar results in driveability). you can still test it if you wish, i'd be very surprised if you have issues with a manual trans.

#7 AWDCar

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 01:03 PM

Cool. thats why i want a 5-spd, less problems than an automatic. however i did notice yesterday when looking at it that the tires were not the same. 2 rear were the same with not a lot of tread, and 2 front were the same with lots of tread - ????:confused:

And I've been reading about interference vs. non-interference engines which can impact potential damage if the timing belt breaks. I've read that pre-97 2.2L's were non-interference. but what about this one?

#8 grossgary

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 01:12 PM

I've read that pre-97 2.2L's were non-interference. but what about this one?


you see "pre-1997" because 1997 2.2's are interference engines. all 1997 and up 2.2's are intferences.

subaru says i think the tires should be within 1/4" in total circumference of each other. i'd look for other signs of "neglect".

#9 tcspeer

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 08:26 PM

I have a 97 Legacy wagon 2.2 engine. I would find a 96 or older if I was you, Don't get interference engine when you can have non interference. I lost my first engine at 288,000 miles because of this, the idle pully came apart and the valves got into pistons.
I know most people here make a big deal out of the tire depths but mine now has 315,000 miles and I have never kept my tire depth close, in fact I put a new tire on Saturday and Wal Mart gave me an auto quote for two tires because two of mine were under 6/32 of an in. Maybe I have just been lucky on this, but the advice you got here from the other posts is the advice you would get from top Subaru people so do what you think best.

Hi there:

I am new here but am really interested in getting a mid-late 90's legacy wagon - AWD of course. This era interests me because of the body style and price range that I'm at right now.....

I've got my eye on a '97 Legacy Wagon AWD. they're asking 5,000 CDN for it. It's got 180,000km on it. It's got AC, cruise, but no power windows (one less thing to break so that doesn't bother me). It's a 5 speed. What should I look for when I go take it for a test drive? If I take it to a shop what should they be looking for? With a 10 year old car with 180K km on it?, what should I expect to be replacing?, is this a lot of mileage for a subaru?

I've heard that these cars will last a long time, and I'll be doing a lot of driving in the snow this winter, so obviously that's a big reason for me wanting this car.

Any comments or suggestions on what I should look for on this car would be helpful....

Thanks, Mark.



#10 AWDCar

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 09:14 PM

hey guys:

went to look at the 97 tonight. they actually had a 96 there too!, 161,000km on it. 2.2L (maybe they didn't even make 2.5's in '96 - i wouldn't know for sure...:rolleyes: ) - it looked and sounded better under the hood than the '97! - had power windows too :D ! and all the tires were the same size - bonus! :grin: and non-interference engine is really comforting!

anyway, the car seems great!, just have to see past the used interior.... i was wondering though: it currently has 185/70/R14's on it. would a 205/70/R14 work on this car?, have any of you ran this size tire on such a car?, i've got great set of snow tires in this size, so just wondering... :confused:

ohh, and i took it to a parking lot and did a few doughnuts wound out in first to check for "binding" in the drivetrain - NONE. sounded and ran smooth while going in circles. i've read that this is a good test for the tranny/diff - but not sure exactly what the test checks for?, ie, what is this "binding" probelm?

thanks everyone. Happy driving.

just viewed my posting, i had to edit and say sorry for so many face icons there - not hard to tell i'm new at this eh?, hahahaa

#11 grossgary

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 06:28 AM

the non-interference is a nice safety if you can come up with a 96 in great shape and the mileage/condition you want. they definitely made the 2.5's in 1996 (at least in the US they were installed in some 1996 vehicles). the 96 has fewer km's on it as well, sounds like a great car.

you would be fine to run those tires. use this tool:
http://www.miata.net...e/tirecalc.html
to help you see how far off your speedometer will be while driving and the differences in specifications. your speedometer will read 60mph when you're really doing 62.7mph. all the 97's i have (3 of them) came with 15" wheels. 205/60/15 tires.

the torque bind is very very rare in the manual transmissions, so i'm not surprised you didn't notice anything. you said you did "doughnuts" in the parking lot, that's not a good test for torque bind. you want to go very slow in a tight circle, steering wheel turned all the way. if yo'ure going fast and doing doughnuts you'll give the wheels opportunity to slip and you won't notice the binding. go slow and the binding would be obvious, it's like driving a vehicle (think truck) locked in 4wd on pavement, it starts binding, hoppping and feels VERY slow going around turns because the wheels need to spin at different rates but they can not. it'll feel as if the car just want to come to a stop, has the brakes on etc.

if you don't like the interior, it is not hard at all to swap front and rear seats. very very easy to do, you could look for a nicer set and get the color/design you want and newer as well. the door panels are easy to swap as well if you needed a complete matching set of those for the new seats as well.

#12 dmanaenk

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 10:31 AM

96 is prone to "Tick-of-death" - so get a stethoscope and listen for any abnormal ticking sounds behind valve covers (and compare to 97).




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