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new subaru RX owner..looking for info


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47 replies to this topic

#1 Ben L

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 03:41 PM

hello all..
today i purchased my first subaru..an 86 subaru RX turbo. i hope to have as good luck with the car as the previous owner has had. i'm looking for any and all information about my car, including service manuals or bulletins and how-to articles. thanks for any relplies, and i look forward to using this board. btw, i'll take pics as soon as i can..i hear the RX turbo is kind of a rare car.

#2 MilesFox

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:01 PM

well, you have found the beast and most comprehensive collective subaru information on the internet!

the RX has the Full-Time Dual Range transmission with a 3.7 final gear. it also has stiffer spring rates than standard models, limited-slip rear differential, and center diff lock.
it also has RX exclusive body molding and interior.

the turbo engine is the same as other turbo models, and all of the body parts, interior, and driveline components are interchangeable with other models.

what is a common thing to take care of is the timing belts. subaru recommends that they are changed every 60,000 miles. check with the previous owner to see when that was done last.

turbos will tend to blow head gaskets if they get hot, so make sure the cooling system is in good working order.

while the timing belts are serviced, you can do the water pump and oil pump while its apart.

t-belts can be done yourself without too much trouble, with a handful of tools.

the motor is not near as complicated as it looks, and everything is easy to get to(following the right procedure)

the rx is a coveted ride, so nice score for your first soob!

#3 Ben L

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:15 PM

cool, thanks for the reply! the previous owner replaced A LOT of things right before i bought the car, which saves me a lot of time and money. well not so much money cuz i ended up paying more for the car, but it definately saves me time. he did the timing belt, water pump, and seals about 20k miles ago, and about a month ago he did the clutch, axles, exhaust, alternator, a pretty decent tune-up.

the clutch cable feels REALLY stiff, and the clutch engages as soon as you let your foot off the floor. can this be adjusted? you'll have to forgive me, most of my automotive knowledge is with civic/crxs, i know they have adjustable cables.

also the hill holder is not working. perhaps it is out of adjustment..how can i check this? i see that some people think that the hill holder is not that desirable anyways.

about that cooling system, i just might throw some water wetter in there to be on the safe side.

also, the previous owner has been running 87 octane in the car for the time he's owned it (about 30k miles). i doubt he ever revved the car over 3500 rpm at half throttle, but i understand the car requires at least 90 octane fuel? i'll fill it with 93 octane next trip out.

i should be able to get tags and the title switched tomorrow, and so the fun will begin. now i can't wait for snow :)

#4 northguy

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:16 PM

Welcome to the board. Check the archives for a posting that says something like FSM's for all or service manuals for all or something like that. It has a link to a bunch of downloadable full service manuals. Also, PM Dr. Rx on the board.

#5 MilesFox

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:18 PM

being an 86, it will have a vane type MAF, and a mechanical distributor with stand-alone knock control unit.
the 87 and up used a crank angle sensor optical distributor, and a hot-wire MAF.

also, 86 has orange instrument display, 87+has green

the fan switch, wiper control, and hazard are in different locations than 87+

is it a sedan or a 3-door?

#6 Ben L

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:25 PM

the car is a 4 door sedan.

so with a stand alone knock sensor the timing would be retarded if knock was sensed, so there is probably no damage from 87 octane?

sorry if i'm slow, it's obvious to me after about 30 mins on this board that you guys are VERY knowlegable about these cars! i also have to say that i'm really impressed with the engineering of these subarus, they appear to be ahead of their time.

#7 MilesFox

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:26 PM

the clutch cable is adjustable, if you tighten it, it will disengage sooner when you press the bedal, and engage higher up off the floor.

i like my clutch to where i can keep my heel on the floor, and not have to hover my leg(i'm 6'2")

the hill holder is connected to the clutch fork, and acts as a clutc pedal return spring. it is also adjustable

sounds like all the service that has been done is good to go.

you can rev it up to a healthy 5500 rpms all day long, its best not to "lug" the engine, its most efficient rpm range is between 2500 and 45oo rpm, so dont be afraid to wind it up to the next gear.

the hi-lo can be shifted on the fly, its designed so that you can pop it into lo to accelerate out of a turn, etc.
there is no speed limit on the lo-range, my buddy drives 75 with his in lo, its only a 500 rpm difference in 5th gear.

the diff lock should never be used on dry pavement, as it locks inthe 4wd like a part time unit.

the lsd can be prone to push the car into understeer, but if you knw how to drive it, the lsd will be ti your advantage in performance driving.

how are the axles? check for torn boots. if a torn boot is caught right away, you can have the boot replaced and save your axle.

the inner end of the axles will hold up way longer than the outer ends with torn boots

the axles can be serviced yourself if you d the right procedure.

welcome to SUBARU!

#8 Meeky Moose

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:27 PM

looks like were gettin more and more soob owners out here in virginia afterall.. i can think of about 7-10 of us right off the top of my head.. hehe welcome to the board..

ya know, the clutch in my RX Sedan was replaced about 13k ago by the person before the previous owner.. and tell ya what, mines stiffer than stiff.. but mines also slippin a little. ( i think its glazed over) i did adjust it but basically all that did for me was move the "feel" of where it engages when lettin out on the pedal..

where at in Virginia are ya?

the hill holder is a trial and error adjustment... its great if you just plan on city drivin, but if ya wanna offroad, its more of a pain in teh arse than a benefit, cause ya can't roll backwards down a hill if ya need to..

as far as fuel goes, i've always run 87 in my turbo wagon and my RX, never had a problem with it.. ocasionally when the prices go down i toss a tank of 93 in it just as a treat..


and miles, my RX doesn't have the lockin center diff :banghead:

#9 Ben L

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:28 PM

Originally posted by MilesFox

also, 86 has orange instrument display, 87+has green

the fan switch, wiper control, and hazard are in different locations than 87+

is it a sedan or a 3-door?



haven't seen the instruments at night, but i know the turbo light is green under boost and the 4wd lights up green when engaged.

the fan switch is next to the wiper control, a little dial on the right hand side of the cluster, and the hazard switch is on the steering column.

#10 MilesFox

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:31 PM

you are right about the knock control, 87 octane is fine. the motor has 7.7 compression ratio, and 115 hp.
there is a guy who built a turbo uo with 9,5 compression,(WJM) and it was fine for the most part with 93 octane.

you can crank the boost a fwe psi to get a little moe power, stock boost is something like 9-11 psi

if you are performance oriented, the right mix and match of parts will let youuse later model parts, such as xt6 hubs will let you use 5-lug wheels, axles, and struts from legacy/impreza

having the spider intake from a non turbo mpfi XT will lwt you use impreza intercooler and intake pieces

there is a lot of potential with teh RX, its pretty much the 80's equivalent to wht the WRX is today.

#11 Meeky Moose

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:40 PM

hehe, stock boost 8psi.... :argue:

your dash lights will prolly be almost white like mine.. no digidash :banana:

#12 MilesFox

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:51 PM

yes, the hazard on 87+ is where the lights are, the lights are on the turn signal on 87.

the fan is where the wiper is on 87, and the 87 wiper is on the right steering column. the 87 has a blox-off plate where the 86 fan was.

you say the 4wd light kicks on, do you mean the diff lock?
what does your shifter/4wd lever look like.

the middle of the dash will show a pic of a drivetrain that says 4wd, then a LO light will come on when the lever is moved up, and a DIFF LOCK will come on with the diff lock switch

diff lock switch
http://usmb.net/gall...lbun92/Oct11_47

the atatchment is the LO and DIFF LOCK lights

Attached Files



#13 Ben L

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 04:56 PM

Originally posted by MilesFox

you can crank the boost a fwe psi to get a little moe power, stock boost is something like 9-11 psi

if you are performance oriented, the right mix and match of parts will let youuse later model parts, such as xt6 hubs will let you use 5-lug wheels, axles, and struts from legacy/impreza

having the spider intake from a non turbo mpfi XT will lwt you use impreza intercooler and intake pieces

there is a lot of potential with teh RX, its pretty much the 80's equivalent to wht the WRX is today.



my axles/cvs are also pretty much brand new ;)

i'll probably try a few performance tricks in the future, i'm pretty sure there is a turbo XT in the junkyard by my house. i might also want to upgrade from the 13 inch alloys, although they look pretty sharp imo.

i'm not sure if my car has the locking differential, is this a manual control, like the 4wd hi/lo? i'm guessing the LSD is in the rear differential and is always there, and only working while in 4wd?

no digital dash, thank goodness.

#14 Meeky Moose

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 05:01 PM

heh he prolly doesn't have that little switch, just like mine.. although if he does, i'll be a little cornfuzzed:cornfuzz:


what kinda alloys ya have? they the h-style?

well heres a pic of my rx.. what color is yours, just curious..

my RX

#15 Ben L

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 05:01 PM

Originally posted by MilesFox

you say the 4wd light kicks on, do you mean the diff lock?
what does your shifter/4wd lever look like.

the middle of the dash will show a pic of a drivetrain that says 4wd, then a LO light will come on when the lever is moved up, and a DIFF LOCK will come on with the diff lock switch

diff lock switch
http://usmb.net/gall...lbun92/Oct11_47

the atatchment is the LO and DIFF LOCK lights



aha, i don't think my car is equipped with the diff lock :(

ok, just looked, definately no diff lock. the dash lights are orange ;)

#16 Ben L

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 05:06 PM

Originally posted by Meeky Moose
heh he prolly doesn't have that little switch, just like mine.. although if he does, i'll be a little cornfuzzed:cornfuzz:


what kinda alloys ya have? they the h-style?

well heres a pic of my rx.. what color is yours, just curious..

my RX



yep, h-style, just like your RX and turbo wagon meekymoose.

mine is light blue, with similar rust to your wagon around the rear fenders. paint is a bit faded and oxidized. maybe some nice wax will bring the blue out a little..

#17 Meeky Moose

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 05:13 PM

never seen a blue one before, wow. very cool... can't wait to see it.. will have to get together sometime for a meet and greet... since your practically in my backyard, lol

#18 Ben L

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 05:17 PM

Originally posted by Meeky Moose
never seen a blue one before, wow. very cool... can't wait to see it.. will have to get together sometime for a meet and greet... since your practically in my backyard, lol



definately! i can't wait for the next non rainy day so i can poke around the car and learn a thing or two.

thanks again to all who have replied, and i look forward to being a contributing member of this subaru community ;)

#19 MilesFox

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 05:22 PM

are you sure its an RX? rx's were white with gray bumpers and side molding, and has the letters "RX Full-Time 4WD" on the side.
they made black ones in late 89, a special edition..

but you DO have the 4wd hi-lo?
does it have the center console like the pic i posted?

if you look under the rear of the car, you will see the rear diff. there should be a plaque there(if its not there it fell off) that will say LSD if it is limited slip, and have the 3.700 gear ratio

but if its a part time 5spd dual range, it will have a 3.900 gear.
also, if its a part time unit, the 4wd will lite up in green, the lo in yellow, and it wont have the pic of the 4wd already there like the pic i posted

here is an 87 RX 3-door
http://usmb.net/gall...lbun92/Oct11_39
and agian with body molding
http://usmb.net/gall...n92/RXDoorsOpen
the molding onthis car has been painted black

5spd dual range part time did not come as stndard for turbos. yours may be a special order though. i have not seen an example of a turbo with a 5spd dual range.

does yourt shifter hava 4wd button on the shifter knob itself? if so, its single range, which DID come with turbo, like my gl-10 wagon has

put up the VIN and someone here can tell you if the car is original, with its original features

also, being an 86, it should have height adjustable front struts..

#20 Warp3

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 05:45 PM

Originally posted by MilesFox
are you sure its an RX? rx's were white with gray bumpers and side molding, and has the letters "RX Full-Time 4WD" on the side.
they made black ones in late 89, a special edition..


I think that possibly only the 87+ cars came solely in that color scheme. My 86 RX Sedan is maroon with a small black spoiler on the trunk.

BTW, this thread has been very informative to me as well. I just picked up my 86 RX a few weeks ago and love it so far. This isn't my first Subaru (I also have a '99 Impreza 2.5RS) but this IS my first car with an EA motor.

Here are some pics if you are interested:
http://www.warpthree...pg_warp3rx.html

The octane posts have me wondering. Is the system on these cars actually smart enough to take advantage of 92/93 octane or can timing simply not be advanced that far? (BTW, the owner's manual stipulates 90 octane for all the cars (no spec for NA/Turbo, just 90 octane period) so I had just assumed that it could at least take advantage of that much octane.) If they can't advance that far, I may drop back to 89 until I start turning up the boost (the car is bone stock currently).

#21 Dr. RX

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 05:49 PM

Damn it Fox, if you don't know what you are taklking about, don't say anything. The guy stated that he had an 86 RX, they were only 4 doors in 86 and were available in many colors, the white only didn't start till 87. The dash is analog not digital, so I don't believe the light is orange. Being an 86 it will have a D/R 5 speed tranny on-demand 4WD, the Fulltime 4WD didn't start until 87. I know you think you know alot about these cars, but it appears that you are confused about the model years changes.

#22 MilesFox

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 05:51 PM

Dr.RX! where are you, what can you tell us?

#23 bushbasher

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 06:06 PM

he's above you! :D

#24 MilesFox

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 06:37 PM

Originally posted by Dr. RX
Damn it Fox, if you don't know what you are taklking about, don't say anything. The guy stated that he had an 86 RX, they were only 4 doors in 86 and were available in many colors, the white only didn't start till 87. The dash is analog not digital, so I don't believe the light is orange. Being an 86 it will have a D/R 5 speed tranny on-demand 4WD, the Fulltime 4WD didn't start until 87. I know you think you know alot about these cars, but it appears that you are confused about the model years changes.



Yo! chill out and calm down. easy now. "Dammit Jim, i'm a Fox, not a Doctor"!

Hey, i called you out for your input. looks like you beat me to the post. i didnt expect to have what i said thrown out the tailpipe.
I am not wrong, but there are a few things i did not know about for sure. so, ok, i learned something new. so did the guy who posted this topic, and anyone else who is reading this....

not unlike this........
http://usmb.ultimate...=&threadid=8000

Of Course I know about these cars. Maybe not all, but hey, i know now from what you said. But what I posted in response is NOT wrong.

what is this about digital gauges? i never mantioned that. What i menat as green instruments is the Analog cluster, like in the RX i know of, and an 87 wagon. i had an 86 sedan, with orange, because pre 87 had orange.
also, the digital dash does not have an oil pressure gauge, which the RX has the analog cluster for that gauge. The digital dash in my 87 gl-10 is Green. the one on a 85 Turbo wagon i had was orange.

i did not dismiss it as an RX, and for sure not on the account that it wasnt a 3-door. i asked if it was a 3-door or a sedan because there was no picture of it!

so the ON DEMAND 4wd 5spd is the pushbutton, right?

and i quote myself:

"5spd dual range part time did not come as stndard for turbos. yours may be a special order though. i have not seen an example of a turbo with a 5spd dual range.

does yourt shifter have a 4wd button on the shifter knob itself? if so, its single range, which DID come with turbo, like my gl-10 wagon has



I'm sorry if i were to post first. at least there was good dialogue and a lot got said. i'm sure he was happy with his quick and informative response. read his replies.

Corky, i called on you to add some of your Expertise, baut all you got out is the fact that they werent white in 86. That was shown by Warp3. The board speaks for itself...........................................

The Single Range had a 3.700 gear. LSD may have been an option for 86, but that i dont know of. I'm sure Corky can tell us, so lets hear it, Dr.RX:D

#25 Ben L

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Posted 28 November 2003 - 07:06 PM

my car is definately an RX.

it does not have the button on the shifter, but the dual range on demand hi/lo 4wd. i read through the owners manual and saw a pic of the single push button..definately not my car.

also, the dash lights are orange/amber. when 4wd is engaged, the green signal lights up. i didn't notice a LO lighting up, but seriously, i only played with the car for about 5 mins today..it was raining and nasty.

if tomorrow is bright and sunny, i will go clean the car a bit and snap some pics for you guys. keep the info coming!




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