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105,000 mile "Valve Clearance" info needed


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27 replies to this topic

#1 outback_97

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 10:57 AM

I was wondering if I could get some info on the 105,000 mile "Valve Clearance" service recommended for the 2.5l engine. Mine's a '97, and the timing belt was done a while back so no need to do that at 105K, FWIW.

Three Subaru dealerships have given three different answers when asked about the 105K valve adjustment:

Dealer A: It costs $320 labor, plus the parts (shims or "pucks"). Don't worry about doing it on a '97, but if you had a '98 or '99 you should have it done.

Dealer B: It would cost at least $1400. We have to pull the engine, send the heads to another shop, it's a PITA. Wouldn't recommend doing it, it's just too expensive.

Dealer C: Over $1000, don't need to do it unless you're noticing a clacking or ticking noise from the valves.

So, the consensus is don't worry about it, but how they got there varied quite a bit, and the information and procedure used seemed to vary a lot.

I don't want to spend money if I don't have to, so I'm glad they're recommending not to do it, but I want to keep this car as long as I can. If the head gaskets went I guess that'd be the time to check the valves, but that hasn't happened. I just want to do what's best for the engine. Can anyone shed some light on this? Thank you very much.

Steve

#2 99obw

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 01:01 PM

IIRC the 96 has hydraulic lifters, someone please correct me if I am wrong. I think the 97 has solid lifters.

Assuming you do have the solid lifters, I would recommend getting them adjusted if you plan on keeping the car.

I did mine myself, but when I called the local dealer they told me around $400. Dealer A seems to be right on with the price.

Dealer B is clueless, with a simple tool the valves can be adjusted in the car. Some DIYers do it without the tool. They should have the tool, but it sounds like they don't.

Dealer C is also clueless. When I called my local dealer they made a similar comment. As the valves wear they get tighter, not looser. The wearing of the valve seat and stretching of the stem lowers the clearance between the cam and the shim. Eventually the clearance will be 0, the valves will no longer seat enough to cool properly, and they will burn up.

I would find out for certian from someone here if you have solid lifters, then go to Dealer A if you do.

#3 Commuter

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 01:02 PM

I have a 97 OB with the 2.5L engine as well.

When I hit this mileage (a few years ago!), I asked the same thing. It was right on their service schedule. They kind of frowned and said that they'd never done it unless head work was being done or the engine was out of the car for some other reason. They called a couple of other dealers. One told them that they had done it a few times, it can be done in the car (no need to remove the engine), but it's not easy and it takes like a full day of labour to do it. Their recommendation was not to bother unless one was getting obvious tappet noise. I took their advice.

I was at 160k miles when my engine went out on me. It had not developed any tappet noise or such yet at that point. I guess there really is very minimal wear in this area.

Interestingly, I bought my car at 2 yo. I recall seeing a service order by the original owner where he was complaining of tappet noise and the dealer apparently did adjust the shims under warranty. (This was out in Western Canada.) I extremely doubt that they removed the engine!

Didn't Subaru change to some sort of hydraulic tappet in 1998? I thought I'd heard that along the way.

Commuter

Edit - Good point 99obw. Depending on the rate of wear of the cam / shim verses the valve head / seat, the clearance might increase, decrease, or stay relatively constant. The 97 definitely has bucket tappets with shims. I've seen my engine apart.

#4 cookie

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 01:47 PM

but I agree with commuter that when you go to adjust them you will find some too tight, some loose, and the majority will be close enough.
On Jags it was a real pain with bucket tappets. It would only be worse with a 4 cam Subie.
If you don't do it you do take the chance of some valves getting too tight and burning.
If I had your engine I would be very tempted to pull the heads and have a machine shop do the valves, replacing with the latest head gaskets.
If I did not have the money for this I would probably try the cheaper place as it seems they know what they are doing.

#5 99obw

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 02:11 PM

All of mine were either 0.007" or 0.008", instead of the 0.010" they are supposed to be. None were ok, none were loose. That was at 120k miles.

Perhaps I shouldn't make such a blanket statement about the adjustment being loose as my experience is limited. My engine lived up to that point with the oil changed at least every 6 weeks with 5w-30 pennzoil or Mobil 1. It had VERY little in the way of cam or shim wear. Perhaps on some cars the cam/shim wear would be significant enough to offset the valve/stem wear and make the adjustment loose. Only a person who has adjusted a lot of Phase 1 valves would know, and it doesn't sound like there are many of those folks out there. Maybe Emily at CCR knows.

Regardless of the wear characteristics, I believe it needs to be done if one wants the engine to last as long as it can.

The head gasket advice is worth considering.

#6 cookie

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 02:22 PM

with Subies, but has varied over many engines, lots of them Diesels, your experience may be as valid as mine.
The point is the same for both of us. It is a good idea to check as wear will occur.
When you go in for a midlife adjustment you are going to see things a bit more in tolerence than you will on a failure teardown.
VWs used to be a real pain for valve adjustments requireing them every few thousand miles. At least with OHC and bucket tappets
we see less change and wear.
As long as there is enough clearance so that a valve is not kept open while it is hot it won't burn.
It is better to have the factory spec becuse it allows for later wear.

#7 outback_97

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 03:23 PM

Some googling just turned this up:

http://www.endwrench...veAdjustF00.pdf

This is from Subaru's endwrench.com site, and is a somewhat detailed instruction procedure for the adjustment in question.

In the second paragraph it mentions the special tool (ST 49818700) which makes the adjustment possible w/o removing the engine, although it says that clearance is tight. Guess dealers B and C don't have that tool, sounds like you guys nailed that one. OTOH, they say in these instructions that they did it while the engine was out.

I'm not sure how I feel about the pre-emptive gasket change. I haven't been convinced that it's a guaranteed inevitability that they'll fail, only that it is a common problem encountered by many people on forums such as these.

I'll try to contact Emily at CCR, but I do really appreciate all the information and points that people have raised. It's too bad that the dealers aren't as informed and helpful.

Steve

#8 cookie

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 03:48 PM

common a failure item.
One interesting thing about OBWs post was that his clearances were down but consistant.
Usually exhaust valves are the killers.
You could pull the valve covers and put each cylinder on TDC on the compression stroke and just measure what you had there.
Emily would know more about the habits of the mating Subaru, but usually these sort of things have patterns.
For example on VWs #3 cylinder was shrouded by the oil cooler and that was where most of the valve problems were.
Emily might be able to tell you if most Subie valve problems are on a particualr cylinder. Then you could check there and if you had running clearance it would be a fair stab to assume you would get by for a while.

#9 theotherskip

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 05:33 PM

yup. yup. yup. everyone seems right on. but i don't know if i would do a pre-emptive head gasket change. it is a lot of work.

when i checked my valves, i also found that none were dead on. one of the exhaust (speced for .010") was as tight as 0.005". a few were around .012, which makes me wonder how closely they are set from the factory.

as for the dealers, i think it is a very commonly overlooked service, and the dealers don't like doing it, since it is a hard thing to explain/describe the benefits of to the average consumer...but it can be done in the car...

#10 99obw

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 05:48 PM

Ahhhh, so either they DO loosen or yours were adjusted loose and didn't change much. Good to know.

#11 RodA2003

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 06:09 PM

It's quite possible to do the valves with the engine in the car and without the special tool. It just requires a little patience. The preemptive gasket change is a good idea, though you can probably go to 150,000 if the cylinder compression are good. My 97 OB needed them at 180,000.

#12 theotherskip

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 08:47 PM

Originally posted by 99obw
Ahhhh, so either they DO loosen or yours were adjusted loose and didn't change much. Good to know.



i have a 97 that uses shims - i believe that shims were only used on the 97?? then they switched to a screw?

#13 99obw

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 08:55 PM

No, the '99 uses the same shims. By loosen I mean that the clearance between the cam and the shim increases. Maybe I am not using the correct terminology.

#14 sprintman

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 09:57 PM

How do I tell for sure if my engine has shims or hydraulic adjusters. OB with 2.5 Gen III built Dec 99 sold March 00? Tks...s

#15 cookie

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Posted 16 January 2004 - 11:27 AM

good stuff. I would check with a knowledgeable Ozzie about exactly what your engine is.
The reason is that I married a Kiwi and travel to Kiwi and Oz now and again.
I know that Oz gets engines we don't, often before we do.
In kiwi all bets are off becuse they allow import cars that meet any major standard and get versions from all over.
I see stuff in Kiwi that I thought was home market all the time.
Maybe some of these folks have truly worldwide knowledge fo what is fitted to what, but I find it pretty confusing, made more so by the importation of used Japanese cars to Oz and Kiwi and used engines.

#16 meep

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Posted 16 January 2004 - 02:00 PM

our '97 2.2L used screws. At 90,000 miles the intake clearances were all .001 of spec. All exh were _just_ out of spec, barely, or maybe at the outside edge of spec. Tightening them up maybe quieted some clatter, but little. Did feel a bit stronger pull, though. I was suprised they were so tight, clean, and in great cond. Note: Mobile 1 oil used exclusively.

Mike

#17 outback_97

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Posted 20 January 2004 - 04:27 PM

For fun I called yet another local dealer (we'll call them Dealer D) and their story was similar to B and C, that is they don't recommend the 105K mile valve adjustment service unless there's a clicking noise after the engine is warmed up. They also said one had to remove the engine to perform the procedure.

So... only one in four local Subie dealers seem to know what they're talking about, according to the consensus by most people posting here. Ironically, this same dealer (A) has lied to me in the past, screwed up simple tasks, etc. I understand why so many people do their own maintenance... but I think the valve adjustment is a bit beyond my ability. Still not sure if I'll have it done or take my chances and wait until something else breaks in the engine first. I may have the compression checked to get an insight into how the engine is doing, but I understand this doesn't always catch HG problems.

FWIW, I emailed CCR last week but haven't heard anything from them yet... no big deal, but I was hoping they'd weigh in on this issue as I assumed they'd have some knowledge about it.

Thanks to all who took the time to post their info, I appreciate it.

Steve

#18 sprintman

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Posted 20 January 2004 - 05:45 PM

Oil analysis will show if you have a head gasket problem. Presence of Potassium or Sodium if I remember correctly in the oil is a sure sign of coolant leakage. Oil analysis is pretty cheap too.

#19 Tiny Clark

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Posted 21 January 2004 - 01:38 AM

If it's running OK, why mess with it?

If you get a dealer mechanic (who hasn't done a lot of them) to do it, and he/she gets them too tight, the valves will burn, since they won't sit against the valve seats long enough to cool them.

#20 99obw

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Posted 21 January 2004 - 06:47 AM

The engine will probably run fine right up to the point where the valves burn. This is definately a preventative maintanence item.

#21 Tiny Clark

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Posted 21 January 2004 - 08:31 AM

The valves won't get tighter than what is set at the factory.

You can give a feeler guage to several different people, have them adjust valves, and possibly get several different clearances. Since it's done by feel, one person's slight drag may seem too tight to another's. But, that's why there are tolerences.

Valves that are too loose don't overheat.

Too bad they just didn't stick with hydraulic tappets.

#22 99obw

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Posted 21 January 2004 - 09:56 AM

Originally posted by Tiny Clark
The valves won't get tighter than what is set at the factory.



That statement is inconsistent with what Skip and I found with our cars. If the valve seat wear and stem strech is more than the shim and cam wear, the valves will get tighter. Mine were consistently tighter.

#23 cookie

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Posted 21 January 2004 - 11:18 AM

I would say I found at least 100 engines that the valve clearance had tightened on.
Many of the engines I worked on had hydraulic lifters so most of them you did not measure at all other than during assembly.
I saw quite a number that had loosened also.
I would agree also with the statement made that two folks in a row can get slightly different measurements out of an engine.
The good thing about them is that there is a tolerence built in.
As long as there is running clearance they will work.

#24 Tiny Clark

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Posted 22 January 2004 - 01:27 AM

I would buy the fact that the valves may not have been adjusted correctly in the first place, before the fact that the valves have become longer or the valve seats have receded.

My point is that I just don't see it worth the money to go to a dealer and let them do it if they are not that experienced at it.
And if their answer is "We just don't do that very often or recommend it", I wouldn't leave my car in their hands for this job.

Tiny

#25 rockbound

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Posted 03 October 2004 - 09:55 PM

before i would go to a dealer for service I would look for a dealer trained mechanic in a private shop, private shops rely on return customers with no warranties, they charge generally lower rates, you do have to be careful and do you're research. Ask to see their training certificate, and/or ase certification, making sure they are up to date. An 1985 certificate does not qualify to work on a 1990 model, let alone a '97. Also inquire at the better business buerau for complaints filed.By doing this you should be able to come up with a shop and mechanic with a good track record, that can competantly take care of you without taking you to the cleaners. With all the discrepancies
in the answers you got about the valve adjustment, pose that same question
to any potential garages. They should say yes to doing it in the car (with/without the special tool), having the tool already in thier tool box is a plus, especially if it isn't brand new. Suggesting to you a compression check would be above board, doing a head gasket without one would not.A concientious mechanic is not going to do a service just because a book says to, he's going to want evidence that it is needed first.
If your valve train has more wear on the valve stem your clearances will get looser, if the majority of the wear is in the valve seats the clearances will get tighter. If there is more wear on the camshaft lobes the clearances will loosen. Optimally these contact points wear at the same rate but that hardly ever happens, usually do to low oil pressure.Valve "stretch" is more likely to be found in a racing engine than a daily driver, the valves need extreme heat and pressure to stretch noticably. So your clearancewill tell you where you are wearing faster at.a compression check would not hurt, but I wouldn't worry about that unless you have spark plugs that are firing abnormally (i.e. dark brown or black deposits on them, or the evidence of oil.)




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