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idiot Subie Newbie here


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18 replies to this topic

#1 Thtwudbeme

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 12:13 AM

My first Subaru; I had a Nissan that I kept for 20 years, chose an Outback Legacy because I have heard good things about them.

Here's my immediate problem....I have a 98 Legacy Outback with 85,000 miles on it, and an automatic transmission. Other than the lifters clicking, the car runs great.

Since the weather turned cold in NC, after the car is parked overnight in a steady rain, I get steam from under the hood like the car is over heating. It appears to be coming from the radiator grill (I have pulled over 10 times and opened the hood)....there is NO loss of coolant, all the other fluid levels are fine. The steam smells like nothing; plain water...not a sweet smell at all. This stops after about 10 minutes after the car get really warmed up enough to do it in the first place. It never overheats-in fact, it runs below the halfway point on the gauge.

My mechanic says, "big deal, it got wet," and that's all well and good, but it is driving me batty. It is not small wisps of steam....it is clouds of it. Drivers pull up beside me and point.

What can I do to correct this?

Thank you so much for your help,

Stephanie

#2 alias20035

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 01:00 AM

Originally posted by Thtwudbeme
My first Subaru; I had a Nissan that I kept for 20 years, chose an Outback Legacy because I have heard good things about them.

Here's my immediate problem....I have a 98 Legacy Outback with 85,000 miles on it, and an automatic transmission. Other than the lifters clicking, the car runs great.

Since the weather turned cold in NC, after the car is parked overnight in a steady rain, I get steam from under the hood like the car is over heating. It appears to be coming from the radiator grill (I have pulled over 10 times and opened the hood)....there is NO loss of coolant, all the other fluid levels are fine. The steam smells like nothing; plain water...not a sweet smell at all. This stops after about 10 minutes after the car get really warmed up enough to do it in the first place. It never overheats-in fact, it runs below the halfway point on the gauge.

My mechanic says, "big deal, it got wet," and that's all well and good, but it is driving me batty. It is not small wisps of steam....it is clouds of it. Drivers pull up beside me and point.

What can I do to correct this?

Thank you so much for your help,

Stephanie



Some steam from water on the radiator is normal, but the amount you describe does not sound normal.

First of all the 98 Subaru's have solid valve lifters that should not click like the older hydraulic valves. Perhaps a valve adjustment is needed? Or is it piston slap? Piston slap occurs when the engine is cold and the piston has some play in the cylinder, until warm the piston will slap the cylinder wall causing a tapping sound. After a few minutes the engine warms up, the piston expands and the piston slap stops. If your "piston slap" does not stop it is not "piston slap" and could be incorrectly adjusted valve lifters, or even worse a failed timing belt tensioner. Noisy lifters you can drive with (you should fix it though), but a failed timing belt tensioner can easily cause the timing belt to slip or break which will destroy the engine. So please have a mechanic confirm that the timing belt tensioner is not the cause of the tapping sound.

You 98 Outback has the Phase 1 EJ25 engine which does have the tendency to blow headgaskets.

Look for or note the following symptoms of a head gasket failure:

* overheating
* loss of coolant (boilover from coolant overflow, or possible internal consumption of coolant)
* oil like residue in coolant overflow bottle
* rough running
* loss of cylinder compression (requires a cylinder compression test, although this is not always revealing)
* hydrocarbons in coolant (the coolant is test for exhaust gases, if found the head gasket is leaking)
* sweet smelling coolant exhaust smell

Since you didn't not any of the above, perhaps the problem is elsewhere or there is no problem, but always keep an eye out for the above symptons because head gaskets are such a routine item on this car. One thing to note, where are you checking the coolant level, just the overflow bottle? The overflow bottle will only provide the correct coolant level if the radiator is full of coolant. When the car is cold, remove the radiator cap and confirm that the rad is full right up to the underside of the cap.

If you are not loosing coolant, a coolant leak is out of the question, but it still could be a blown head gasket but you would normally get overheating on long high speed drives in this case.

The temp gauge is just below half, which is about where it should be. Does the car warm up quickly? If not the thermostat could be stuck open which can cause steam from the rad as it will be hotter than it is supposed to be (too much hot coolant running through it).

How much interior heat do you have? When the engine is fully warmed up and with the climate controls on vent, hot air and fan speed 1 (low) the heat output should be painful to the hand after about 10-30 seconds (varies with pain tolerance, but it should be HOT).

If "cold" heat, you likely have a stuck open thermostat or air trapped in the cooling system.

To remove trapped air, I would raise the front end a bit with the engine cold. Remove the rad cap and open the rad bleeder valve and run the engine. Keep adding a 50/50 mix of water and coolant until no more can be added. After a while the thermostat should open and some coolant will start to overflow from the open bleeder and rad cap, at this point any trapped air might be purged. Stop the engine, top up the coolant in the radiator, and replace the rad cap and close the bleeder. Add coolant to replace any that has overflowed.

On Subaru 4EAT models the lower part of the radiator contains an automatic transmission heat exhanger which exhanges the heat from the transmission fluid to the coolant. If the transmission has a problem it may overheat and cause steam from the lower part of the rad because in colder weather there is very little coolant flow to absorb this heat. You would normally get an "AT Temp" light or other transmission problem indicator. Does your "AT Temp" come on before the engine is started? All dash indicator lights are supposed to come on when the key is in the "On" position with the engine not running as this is how you are supposed to note blown warning indicator bulbs. Smell the automatic tranmission fluid on the ATF dipstick, does it smell burnt? If so this is bad.

FYI: When wet air moves through the radiator it should not be hot enough to cause steam. But when you stop, water is trapped and heats up causing some steam. Steam may also appear if you spray a hot dry radiator with water.

Hope this helps.

#3 Thtwudbeme

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 01:16 AM

and I learned much from just reading your post.

Yes, the radiator fluid is full to the cap, and the transmission fluid smells normal.

This only happens for about 10 minutes after the car is good and warmed up (after sitting for 8 hours in steady rain) and has never been a problem on sunny dry days.

It's very, very frustrating, and my mechanic thinks it's nothing....but, the cloud of steam is annoying me to pieces.

#4 alias20035

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 01:32 AM

Originally posted by Thtwudbeme
and I learned much from just reading your post.

Yes, the radiator fluid is full to the cap, and the transmission fluid smells normal.

This only happens for about 10 minutes after the car is good and warmed up (after sitting for 8 hours in steady rain) and has never been a problem on sunny dry days.

It's very, very frustrating, and my mechanic thinks it's nothing....but, the cloud of steam is annoying me to pieces.



Well then the only thing I would check is the actual temperature of the coolant in the radiator, perhaps your temperature sensor/gauge reading is wrong and the coolant flowing into the lower part of the rad is much hotter than it is supposed to be. It might be possible to do this with a high temperature thermostat against the lower rad hose.

This would be a double failure though, the temperature sensor/gauge would have to read cold, and the thermostat would have to have failed and not be fully opening (or be too hot of a model), for this problem to occur.

Subaru's flow the coolant in the reverse of most other cars, cold coolant is pumped out of the top of the radiator into the top of the engine, the thermostat is on the bottom of the engine, and the hot coolant leaves the bottom of the engine to the bottom of the rad. Most other cars have the thermostat up top and flow hot coolant into the top of the rad where it would be possible to check its temperature through the rad cap in most cases.

As a reference, my 2001 Outback will steam for a good 20 minutes after a car wash on a colder day. But steam during rain is not a normal occurance that I have noted.

The rad should not normally get wet when the car is sitting in the rain, is it getting wet because of rain deflected off something or does it only get wet when you drive?

Just thought of something, your 98 has the hood scoop which was recalled to install a water deflector. Water was entering through the hood scoop and onto the engine causing steam and electrical problems. Check with your local dealer, they should be aware of the recall and can confirm if the part was installed on the hood.

#5 Hondasucks

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 03:24 AM

Um, I dunno if it's just a new gen thing or not, but my 87 Subaru has teh thermostat up top.

#6 frag

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 10:33 AM

No loss of any fulid and the engine bay produces steam after a night of steady rain. This might be too obvious but a non specialist would think maybe you have a hood leak somewhere and water is pooling on top of the engine. Nice recesses there around the intake manifold able to hold water.
Did you check for water on the engine before starting in the morning?

#7 DerFahrer

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 10:36 AM

Originally posted by Hondasucks
Um, I dunno if it's just a new gen thing or not, but my 87 Subaru has teh thermostat up top.



New gen thing. All the EA-series engines I've seen have the T-stat on the engine on the pass. side of the block.

All the EJ-series engines I've seen have the T-stat in the water pump at the bottom of the driver's side of the engine...

#8 beauregaardhooligan

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Posted 31 December 2003 - 04:11 PM

Since it only happens after a rain, maybe water is being splashed on the radiator from the road.
Maybe something is out of place in the grill?

#9 FillG

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Posted 31 December 2003 - 05:20 PM

This is very interesting because I've got a 98 Legacy Outback and twice now I've seen wisps of smoke or steam coming from the grill when I'm coming to a stop. It hasn't been clouds like you describe, just a couple wisps. Since it's only happened twice in the 8 months I've had it, I haven't been able to narrow it down. I'm gonna have to keep a closer eye on it after the next rain.

#10 Crashton

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Posted 31 December 2003 - 07:35 PM

Stephanie, I don't think you're an idiot. The same thing will happen with my Forester under similar conditions. I believe your mechanic is right.

Time to stop worrying. ;)

Chuck

#11 Supaglu

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Posted 01 January 2004 - 08:01 AM

Hi,

Try this - using a garden hose or a watering can if hose not available - completely soak the radiator with fresh water, try not to get the engne too wet though.

Then let the engine tick over for a while, when your happy that the engine is ok, in case you got the engine too wet.

After that take it for a good long drive to dry it out.

It may still steam for a day or so but it should stop it ( as long s you dont have a coolant leak).

Regards
Dave H

#12 subaruguru

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 04:10 AM

ok i have had this problem i had a very small leak in my rad like a smal rock hit it whne it would start it would steam a lil bit but once the thermostat opend up it stopped but u said ther wasent any coolent loss so hmmm try taking it to a car wash and using the high power sprayer and make shur ur rad dosent have any bugs weeds and grass and all that good stuff in it it wont let air through:burnout:

#13 Hondasucks

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 05:29 PM

lol dude, did you read the post date? was like 4 years ago! :-P I hope she got her problem fixed :-P

#14 DerFahrer

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 10:01 PM

ok i have had this problem i had a very small leak in my rad like a smal rock hit it whne it would start it would steam a lil bit but once the thermostat opend up it stopped but u said ther wasent any coolent loss so hmmm try taking it to a car wash and using the high power sprayer and make shur ur rad dosent have any bugs weeds and grass and all that good stuff in it it wont let air through:burnout:


No offense dude, but I barely understood a word of that.

#15 screwbaru2

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Posted 09 January 2008 - 03:40 AM

hows the hood alignment? Could water be leaking in when it rains? Try parking the car in a different direction / place. Is the rubber seal @ the front of the hood there. Doesn't sound like a coolant issue.

#16 cobalt

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 07:40 PM

My first Subaru; I had a Nissan that I kept for 20 years, chose an Outback Legacy because I have heard good things about them.

Here's my immediate problem....I have a 98 Legacy Outback with 85,000 miles on it, and an automatic transmission. Other than the lifters clicking, the car runs great.

Since the weather turned cold in NC, after the car is parked overnight in a steady rain, I get steam from under the hood like the car is over heating. It appears to be coming from the radiator grill (I have pulled over 10 times and opened the hood)....there is NO loss of coolant, all the other fluid levels are fine. The steam smells like nothing; plain water...not a sweet smell at all. This stops after about 10 minutes after the car get really warmed up enough to do it in the first place. It never overheats-in fact, it runs below the halfway point on the gauge.

My mechanic says, "big deal, it got wet," and that's all well and good, but it is driving me batty. It is not small wisps of steam....it is clouds of it. Drivers pull up beside me and point.

What can I do to correct this?

Thank you so much for your help,

Stephanie

Stephanie; You mentioned that the steam happens after the car sets outside overnight in the rain. I`m wondering if some rainwater leaks from the top of the car and finds it`s way under the hood by way of a cracked or broken seal between the engine compartment and the windshield or around the edge of the hood. The water would then pool on the engine and then when driven is sloshed over the hot manifolds to produce steam. Just my theory.:cool:

#17 82glsw

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 08:11 PM

User has not been on since may of 2004. Dont think any suggestions are gonna help

#18 mtsmiths

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 08:24 PM

Stephanie, I don't think you're an idiot. The same thing will happen with my Forester under similar conditions. I believe your mechanic is right.

Time to stop worrying. ;)

Chuck


Word. Both our '95 and our '00 steamed in the rain. After checking numerous times (and with the assurance of our mechanic, a Subaru tech at a dealer I actually trust) I quit worrying about it.

If you're losing no fluids, and smelling no sweetness, I think it's collected water boiling off.

Welcome to the board.

#19 beauregaardhooligan

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 08:38 AM

User has not been on since may of 2004. Dont think any suggestions are gonna help


Maybe, maybe not.
Maybe might help somebody else.
Can't never tell.




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