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Used Subaru's Buying!!!


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14 replies to this topic

#1 kenfb1

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Posted 27 November 2003 - 08:41 AM

I am looking at a few 98-2000 outbacks considering buying. Are there any standout problems I should look for??
They are mostly in the 60- 70,000 mile brackets. Pricing is averaging about $9500 to 12,000. Also looked at two plain jane l sedans. These are a little cheaper but was wondering do the L sedans have all the same motors and trans as the outbacks?
Any help from you guys will be great.
Thanks, Ken

#2 northguy

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Posted 27 November 2003 - 11:01 AM

One of the first things to enquire about with that mileage is if the vehicle has had the timing belt changed. 60K is the time to do that and it can be a major expense if you're not mechanically inclined (600 - 1,000 dependng onwhere you live and the shape of all of the tensioners and bearings...). I'll have to defer the questins about motor size and transmissions to those more knowledgable than me, but offhand, I believe the sedan and the wagon have the same motors (2.2 or 2.5) and there isn't any real advantage in transmissions, I believe.

#3 86subaru

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Posted 27 November 2003 - 11:32 AM

i think with the 2000 and up the timming belts last 90- 100,000 mi , check and see if the headgaskets were replaced , becuse it is a common problem , :wave:

#4 kenfb1

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Posted 27 November 2003 - 11:41 AM

I hear these things a lot when talking about the cars.
number one is the timing belt and next is always the headgasket problems. How can I tell if the timing belts were changed without having a lot of experience looking for it. Same with headgaskets.
If I buy from a privite owner he may have answer and receipts but the dealers are another problem. They will tell you anything and not have any proof to back it up.

#5 theotherskip

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Posted 27 November 2003 - 12:44 PM

either demand proof (try to have them locate other dealers who have worked on the car), or have them change the timing belt again. but the belt change interval for the 2.5L motor is 105k miles, so it may not need to be done for a while, and probably hasn't been done if you are looking in the 60k mile range.

as for telling if it has the newer head gaskets, you have to look where the heads meet the block. the newer gaskets will stick out a little more. it would probably be best to have a technician point it out to you on a car with the old ones and a car with the new ones.

also check the gas guage for good operation. they are notorious for going bad. have the dealer change the sending units as part of the sale if you notice any weird fluctiations or the needle not reading full.

#6 WagonsOnly

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 03:28 AM

Skip--I noticed you have a '97. The timing belt change interval is 60K miles for all Phase I (DOHC) 2.5L engines and 105K miles for all Phase II (SOHC) engines. These were in the '99 and later Impreza and Forester; the '00 and later Legacy and Outback; and all Bajas. You might want to have your T-belts changed if you've been going by the 105K mark--also, the DOHC engine is interference so if the belt snaps on you, your car is toast.

#7 alias20035

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:17 AM

If you want an Outback, I suggest a 2001 model.

The 2000-2004 Legacy/Outback models have the more reliable Phase 2 EJ25 SOHC engine, which doesn't have nearly the same frequency of head gasket problems as the Phase 1 EJ25 DOHC.

The only frequent head gasket problem on the Phase 2 EJ25's is an external head gasket leak on the lower driver's side of the engine. The external coolant leak only occurs on very cold days, and only a small amount of coolant is lost, and once the engine is warm the leak seals itself. Subaru is aware of this problem and has replaced head gaskets with this problem even after warranty expiration in some cases. Total head gasket failures like those on the Phase 1 EJ25 DOHC are very rare in comparison on the phase 2 (they still happen on occasion though).

The Phase 2 EJ25 SOHC engine (2000+ Legacy/Outback) produces about the same power and torque as the older Phase 1 EJ25 DOHC engine, but this power is produced a lot lower in the rev range, and makes the engine a lot more usable. The Phase 2 also gets a bit better mileage (nothing to write home about though).

The 2000 Outback suffers from severe front brake rotor warping. The 2000 has the same brakes as the 1999 model, but weighs a lot more. In 2001 Subaru corrected this problem by increasing the front brake rotor diameter by an inch to accomodate the heavier weight and reduce the rotor warping problem. 2001+ models also add a few features: outside temp gauge, dual trip odometer, seatback nets, rear intermittant wiper, LATCH child seat tie downs (we had this earlier in Canada, not sure why US was a year behind), and the rear viscous limited slip differential is standard on all Outbacks (was part of the Winter package and standard on Limited models in 2000).

From 2000 onward, all Legacy's and Outback's use the same Phase 2 EJ25 SOHC engine and transmissions, with the exception of the Outback H6 with its six cylinder engine and variable torque distribution (VTD) transmission. The 2003/4 Legacy GT model is available with a VTD transmission with Sportshift function (manually shiftable).

From 2000 onward all Outbacks get the viscous coupled limited slip rear differential which is also standard on the 2000+ Legacy GT models. Prior to the 2000 MY the LSD was not available, aside from a few 91-94 Turbo Legacy's.

The 95-99 Legacy (Brighton, L and 95 LS/LSi) models had the somewhat underpowered but very reliable EJ22 engine. Try to get a 1999 model with the Phase 2 EJ22 engine which has more HP (142 hp vs 137) and more torque (149 lb ft vs 140). The Phase 2 EJ22 also produces its peak torque at 3600 RPM instead of the Phase 1's 5,600, which make it a far more usable engine.

Avoid 4EAT automatics prior to the 99 model year (or is it 98?). In 99 (or 98?) Subaru introduced a new 4EAT case design which does not suffer from the torque bind problem in such high frequency. The pre-98 transmissions had a metal part moving against the aluminum transmission case, which would eventually wear and develop a pressure leak (and torque bind). In 98 Subaru added a hardened steel sleeve to prevent this wear to the aluminum transmisison case and in most cases this will prevent torque bind (it will at least reduce the cost of fixing torque bind). Basically if the transmission has a spin off transmission oil filter near the front drive shaft on the driver's side, it is the new transmission and this is the good one. The old 4EAT's aren't that unreliable though, just keep $800 aside to fix the torque bind problem that will almost always occur between 70-120K miles.

The 5MT's are not smooth and the clutch sucks, but this is true of most Subaru's. If you can shift properly and get used to the long throws of the gears and clutch and tolerate some clutch judder, the 5MT is pretty much bulletproof. I quite like my 5MT, but when I drive my relatives' BMW's and Acura's I really realize that the Subaru 5MT transmission is not all that great.

So my recommendations are:

Get a wagon, unless you absolutely want a sedan. The wagon is more versatile and is easier to resell.

Don't get any Subaru with the old Phase 1 EJ25 SOHC engine (1996-1999 Legacy LS/LSi/GT and Outback had this engine). The 1995-99 Legacy L and Brighton had the far more reliable EJ22 engine, and the 99 Legacy L and Brighton had the more powerful Phase II EJ22 engine.

Don't get any Subaru with the early 4EAT transmission. (1989-1997?). Look for the spin off oil filter on the driver's side of the transmission, this is the redesigned and more reliable 4EAT (should be on 1998+ models).

Get the 2001 Outback, and avoid the 1995-2000 models. The 2001 does not have the brake problem of the 2000 model, and has some important features standard such as the limited slip differntial.

Get the 1999 Legacy L wagon, in particular the special anniversery edition which included more standard equipment (alloy wheels, sunroof, height adjustable seat).

Note the other replies regarding the timing belts, head gaskets, water pumps, etc, these replies are correct.

Regular and proper maintainance of Subaru's is very critical, and any seller should produce the service receipts to prove that they have done the required work.

For more info on new and old Subaru's go to: http://www.cars101.com/

#8 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 11:11 AM

alias is THE MAN!
best post ever - a pleasure to read.
thanx

#9 lsr3177

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 06:59 PM

WAGONSONLY: My maintenance schedule states that my '98 2.5L's timing belt needs to be changed at 105k miles!

#10 theotherskip

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 07:10 PM

wagonsonly: thanks for the concern, but i am 99% sure (it's raining and i don't want to get the book out of the car right now) that the interval is 105k miles. i did change mine when i did the head gaskets at 70k, though...

#11 kenfb1

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 07:25 PM

alias20035,
wow, what a post!! I thank you for your time in responding. I will take your suggestions when final decisions are made. Right now I have a 2002 L sedan I'm looking at. It's got what I need and price seems right. Asking $12000 with 30,000 miles serviced at a Subaru dealer that's close to me. It could use a set of tires but otherwise it is as they bought it two years ago. No problems or service besides oil changes.
Ken

#12 adwolf1

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Posted 29 November 2003 - 03:09 PM

great post,

just another data point, i've got a 96L with 100k miles on it (all put on by me..) and it has been pretty bulletproof. It has endured terrible abuse. (an outdoor car, up north, followed by several years in hot-as-hell florida)

The EJ22 engine isn't very powerful but it goes and goes and goes...

I guess according to alias my 5EAT is ready to die, but i'll keep my fingers crossed.

I'm always astounded when i see these things going for so little on Ebay...





Originally posted by alias20035
If you want an Outback, I suggest a 2001 model.

The 2000-2004 Legacy/Outback models have the more reliable Phase 2 EJ25 SOHC engine, which doesn't have nearly the same frequency of head gasket problems as the Phase 1 EJ25 DOHC.

The only frequent head gasket problem on the Phase 2 EJ25's is an external head gasket leak on the lower driver's side of the engine. The external coolant leak only occurs on very cold days, and only a small amount of coolant is lost, and once the engine is warm the leak seals itself. Subaru is aware of this problem and has replaced head gaskets with this problem even after warranty expiration in some cases. Total head gasket failures like those on the Phase 1 EJ25 DOHC are very rare in comparison on the phase 2 (they still happen on occasion though).

The Phase 2 EJ25 SOHC engine (2000+ Legacy/Outback) produces about the same power and torque as the older Phase 1 EJ25 DOHC engine, but this power is produced a lot lower in the rev range, and makes the engine a lot more usable. The Phase 2 also gets a bit better mileage (nothing to write home about though).

The 2000 Outback suffers from severe front brake rotor warping. The 2000 has the same brakes as the 1999 model, but weighs a lot more. In 2001 Subaru corrected this problem by increasing the front brake rotor diameter by an inch to accomodate the heavier weight and reduce the rotor warping problem. 2001+ models also add a few features: outside temp gauge, dual trip odometer, seatback nets, rear intermittant wiper, LATCH child seat tie downs (we had this earlier in Canada, not sure why US was a year behind), and the rear viscous limited slip differential is standard on all Outbacks (was part of the Winter package and standard on Limited models in 2000).

From 2000 onward, all Legacy's and Outback's use the same Phase 2 EJ25 SOHC engine and transmissions, with the exception of the Outback H6 with its six cylinder engine and variable torque distribution (VTD) transmission. The 2003/4 Legacy GT model is available with a VTD transmission with Sportshift function (manually shiftable).

From 2000 onward all Outbacks get the viscous coupled limited slip rear differential which is also standard on the 2000+ Legacy GT models. Prior to the 2000 MY the LSD was not available, aside from a few 91-94 Turbo Legacy's.

The 95-99 Legacy (Brighton, L and 95 LS/LSi) models had the somewhat underpowered but very reliable EJ22 engine. Try to get a 1999 model with the Phase 2 EJ22 engine which has more HP (142 hp vs 137) and more torque (149 lb ft vs 140). The Phase 2 EJ22 also produces its peak torque at 3600 RPM instead of the Phase 1's 5,600, which make it a far more usable engine.

Avoid 4EAT automatics prior to the 99 model year (or is it 98?). In 99 (or 98?) Subaru introduced a new 4EAT case design which does not suffer from the torque bind problem in such high frequency. The pre-98 transmissions had a metal part moving against the aluminum transmission case, which would eventually wear and develop a pressure leak (and torque bind). In 98 Subaru added a hardened steel sleeve to prevent this wear to the aluminum transmisison case and in most cases this will prevent torque bind (it will at least reduce the cost of fixing torque bind). Basically if the transmission has a spin off transmission oil filter near the front drive shaft on the driver's side, it is the new transmission and this is the good one. The old 4EAT's aren't that unreliable though, just keep $800 aside to fix the torque bind problem that will almost always occur between 70-120K miles.

The 5MT's are not smooth and the clutch sucks, but this is true of most Subaru's. If you can shift properly and get used to the long throws of the gears and clutch and tolerate some clutch judder, the 5MT is pretty much bulletproof. I quite like my 5MT, but when I drive my relatives' BMW's and Acura's I really realize that the Subaru 5MT transmission is not all that great.

So my recommendations are:

Get a wagon, unless you absolutely want a sedan. The wagon is more versatile and is easier to resell.

Don't get any Subaru with the old Phase 1 EJ25 SOHC engine (1996-1999 Legacy LS/LSi/GT and Outback had this engine). The 1995-99 Legacy L and Brighton had the far more reliable EJ22 engine, and the 99 Legacy L and Brighton had the more powerful Phase II EJ22 engine.

Don't get any Subaru with the early 4EAT transmission. (1989-1997?). Look for the spin off oil filter on the driver's side of the transmission, this is the redesigned and more reliable 4EAT (should be on 1998+ models).

Get the 2001 Outback, and avoid the 1995-2000 models. The 2001 does not have the brake problem of the 2000 model, and has some important features standard such as the limited slip differntial.

Get the 1999 Legacy L wagon, in particular the special anniversery edition which included more standard equipment (alloy wheels, sunroof, height adjustable seat).

Note the other replies regarding the timing belts, head gaskets, water pumps, etc, these replies are correct.

Regular and proper maintainance of Subaru's is very critical, and any seller should produce the service receipts to prove that they have done the required work.

For more info on new and old Subaru's go to: http://www.cars101.com/



#13 alias20035

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Posted 29 November 2003 - 05:52 PM

Originally posted by adwolf1
great post,
I guess according to alias my 5EAT is ready to die, but i'll keep my fingers crossed.



The 4EAT transmission is very reliable, it is the poorly designed AWD tailshaft that causes most of the problems. The "version 1" 4EAT transmission has a steel part that moves against aluminum, and the result is wear to the aluminum and loss of hydraulic pressure in AWD system causing torque bind.

Subaru's tailshaft (torque transfer clutch) rebuild kit for your older Subaru will fix the AWD section of your transmission permanently (while not quite, but far better than the original design). The rebuild uses a steel sleeve to protect the soft aluminum, and thus the problem is fixed forever..... Duty solenoids will still occasionally fail though.

I find the the 4EAT version 1 transmissions always develop torque bind at 140-200,000 km regardless of how they are treated, the aluminum case just seems to give up at this point.

The version 2 4EAT transmissions (with the spin off ATF filter) don't suffer the "torque bind" problem due to case wear, they just occasioanally need a new duty solenoid.

Thankfully the problem is well known, reasonably easy to identify and not horrendously expensive to repair ($750-900).

#14 adwolf1

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Posted 30 November 2003 - 10:01 AM

thanks for the clarification, alias!

so when the inevitable binding starts happening, i should look at the tailshaft and not ditching the whole tranny? is this something that a subaru specialist would look at, or can any reasonably competent mechanic handle it?


Originally posted by alias20035
The 4EAT transmission is very reliable, it is the poorly designed AWD tailshaft that causes most of the problems. The "version 1" 4EAT transmission has a steel part that moves against aluminum, and the result is wear to the aluminum and loss of hydraulic pressure in AWD system causing torque bind.

Subaru's tailshaft (torque transfer clutch) rebuild kit for your older Subaru will fix the AWD section of your transmission permanently (while not quite, but far better than the original design). The rebuild uses a steel sleeve to protect the soft aluminum, and thus the problem is fixed forever..... Duty solenoids will still occasionally fail though.

I find the the 4EAT version 1 transmissions always develop torque bind at 140-200,000 km regardless of how they are treated, the aluminum case just seems to give up at this point.

The version 2 4EAT transmissions (with the spin off ATF filter) don't suffer the "torque bind" problem due to case wear, they just occasioanally need a new duty solenoid.

Thankfully the problem is well known, reasonably easy to identify and not horrendously expensive to repair ($750-900).



#15 alias20035

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Posted 30 November 2003 - 09:36 PM

Originally posted by adwolf1
thanks for the clarification, alias!

so when the inevitable binding starts happening, i should look at the tailshaft and not ditching the whole tranny? is this something that a subaru specialist would look at, or can any reasonably competent mechanic handle it?



If you get a new/used replacement tranny, make sure it has the rebuilt tailshaft. Most likely fixing the tailshaft will be far less expensive than getting a good used transmission.

You should go to a Subaru expert mechanic for this work, they have probably done this procedure many times. Dealers could also do this work properly, but you may pay a bit or a lot more, depends on the dealer. A non-Subaru expert mechanic could do the work, but mistakes could be made, and it may take him/her a lot longer to complete, so I would not recommend it.

I find that mechanics that are not familiar with Subaru's tend to be scared off by them, and are not aware of how easy they are to work on. I have had the comment that the engine in my Subaru is "weird" from more than a few mechanics.

The transmission part of the 4EAT rarely causes any problems, almost all of the problems are confined to the rear tailshaft assembly.

The only Subaru 4EAT's that seem to encounter transmission problems (as opposed to tailshaft problems) are the ones in the SVX and Legacy Turbo.

Some of the 90/91 4EAT's had problems, but they were corrected by TSB's to install an external ATF filter on the outlet side of the transmission cooler (radiator). Subaru's from 92-97 have this filter from the factory.




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