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Guest Message by DevFuse

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Advice before buying a used Outback/Legacy Wagon?

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5 replies to this topic

#1 Phreon


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Posted 03 May 2006 - 10:30 PM

I've been entertaining buying a used Outback/Legacy wagon. All of the vehicles in my range of $5-7k have at least 100k miles on them. I've been a die hard Audi fan and 100K is just starting to break one in; what is the lifespan of the average Subaru?

What's the fair going price for a manual transmission 97-99 Legacy wagon with around 100k miles?

How reliable is the viscous coupling on manual trans. Subarus? What should I look out for?


Phreon (Audi defector)

#2 friendly_jacek


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Posted 04 May 2006 - 08:32 AM

Stay away from 97-99 if you don't want to deal with fatal HG problems.

#3 ron917


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Posted 04 May 2006 - 09:47 AM

On my '99 Outback, the head gaskets were replaced at 105K miles.

The 96-99 2.5L DOHC engines eat head gaskets. It's an internal leak from the combustion chamber into to the coolant. Classic symptom is bubbles in the coolant overflow tank while the egine is running, especially when hot. If there is black crud in the coolant, that's another sign. Yet another sign is coolant level in the overflow does not drop as the engine cools. Definitive test is done with a chemical that detects hydrocarbons in the coolant.

This leak can not be detected with a compression or leak down test. Coolant will not be found in the oil, nor will it leak into the cylinder. It's a small, one-way leak of combustion gasses into the coolant.

Subaru has updated the head gasket design, and the problem is supposedly solved. If a car you are looking at has had the head gaskets replaced with the latest Subaru part, it should be OK for a long time. If not, plan on spending $1200 for a head gasket job.

#4 fnlyfnd


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Posted 04 May 2006 - 11:31 AM

I got a 96 Legacy outback 5spd, 2.2L for $4750 six months ago. It had 113K, leather, cold weather pckg, new windshield (lucked out - dealer had to replace it because there was a lot of pits in it), and it was in perfect condition. I bought this car to get out of the sport/import scene, so I could stop pouring money into cars and get back to school. I plan on this lasting me my next 8yrs in school with only basic maintance to worry about.

Stay away from the 96-99 2.5L, they have headgasket problems.
The 5spd AWD is pretty much bullet-proof.
the 2.2L is arguably the strongest motor subaru has ever made.

#5 nipper


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Posted 04 May 2006 - 12:41 PM

Headgaskets were in only about 15% of the cars. Anycar with over 100K can have a HG failure.
Automatics are very robust, and ther AWD is more sophistcated and forgiving then the AWD in the manual tranny. Check the tranny fluid for discolortaion or burnt smell. Manuals try to start the car off from a dead stop in 3 or 4th, the car should stall. if it doesnt its a sign of a clutch problem.
Take the car out in the parking lot and do tight figure 8's and make sure there is no torque bind. Make sure all 4 tires match. Look at the bottom of the engine for signs of leaks. If the car has seat heaters, turn them on and wait about 5-10 minutes. Make sure the seat bottoms and backs both heat up.
Otherwise just make sure everything works. Take a freind to be a pair of eyes and ears that are not interested in the car and let him give you an honest opinion.


#6 Wayne Boncyk

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 12:55 PM

Everything that Nipper says! :)

Also, the HG problem is over-emphasized, IMHO. I have one of the "cursed" '96 2.5L DOHC engines, and I did have a HG fail at around 160K miles. The new Subaru HG material in the replacement gaskets is fundamentally different from the original, I have personally had no problems since I changed them, and I have heard no one reporting subsequent failures. So, bottom line is to ask the seller if there ever has been a HG problem with the car you're considering, and if he/she says no, then do the checks that have been so very thoroughly discussed here on the board (i.e. check for oil in coolant, bubbles in the overflow tank while the engine is warm and running, watch the temp gauge while you're driving it and make sure that it is rock-steady at midrange, etc.). If you see no signs of problems, then you most likely are looking at one of the 85% of those vehicles that won't fail. Consider the first 100,000 miles on these cars, or ANY subaru, to be the "infant mortality" period. Get past that point, and it is ikely with good regular maintenance you'll push well past a quarter million miles before the car is totally worn out!

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