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'95 Legacy - engine dies + electrical weirdness


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11 replies to this topic

#1 SeanC

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 09:52 PM

Hello all-

Got a strange problem that I'm hoping to get some ideas on.

Last week my wife was driving the Subie (i was out of town, of course) and here's what happened according to her account:

- radio begins to cut out, and I mean the power is cutting in & out.
- AT temp dash light begins to flickr, and turn on & off
- she comes to a stop and the engine dies
- Dash lights are still on, but engine has died
- Restart engine - everything is OK.
...
A few blocks later, a similar thing happens:
- radio cutting on & off
- dash lights coming on
- engine dies

Soooo when I get home I dig in:

After some checks which i'll describe below I decide to crank it up.
Engine starts fine. I decide to go for a drive. I turn the headlights on and instantly the engine dies. Dash lights are still on, and turning the headlight knob creates clicking sound behind dash (relays?). I believe (it all happened so fast!!) that the engine wouldn't start again until i took the key out and tried again, then it started fine. I was unable to reproduce the problem after that. I just tried again this evening, went for a drive, everything is fine, can't get it to happen. I've tried toggling every thing i could think of that puts load: lights, defrost, A/C, radio ... nothing. Ahh i love intermittent problems.

Here's what I've checked out based on reading a bunch of posts on this forum:

- Battery producing normal voltages: 12 at rest, 10 or so on startup current, 13.5 with engine running, cables look OK
- Checked grounds, don't look rusty or loose or anything
- Checked coil pack resistances according to Haynes manual. They seem OK althought the "primary resistance" (on the connector wires) of 0.6 Ohms is hard to read with my analog meter ... looked like 0.
- Tried jiggling the keys a lot in the ignition while engine is running, no effect
- While the engine was running i tapped on a lot of things under the hood with my hands/screwdriver: fuses, ground wires, ignitor, coil pack wires, alternator, any other wires i could see, the engine in general, my head ... the engine continued to purr happily through it all.

Any advice is welcome. In lieu of a specific plan I guess my next move is to just replace the coil pack and maybe the battery, and maybe plug wires? all of which could probably use replacing. She just turned 200,000 miles in October!

thanks for your time

-Sean

#2 johnceggleston

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 10:25 PM

i love guessing games. 95 legacy w/ 200k miles, auto trans, light green, how'd i do???

#3 nipper

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 10:32 PM

i love guessing games. 95 legacy w/ 200k miles, auto trans, light green, how'd i do???



hehehehehe

#4 nipper

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 10:35 PM

Hello all-

Got a strange problem that I'm hoping to get some ideas on.

Last week my wife was driving the Subie (i was out of town, of course) and here's what happened according to her account:

- radio begins to cut out, and I mean the power is cutting in & out.
- AT temp dash light begins to flickr, and turn on & off
- she comes to a stop and the engine dies
- Dash lights are still on, but engine has died
- Restart engine - everything is OK.
...
A few blocks later, a similar thing happens:
- radio cutting on & off
- dash lights coming on
- engine dies

Soooo when I get home I dig in:

After some checks which i'll describe below I decide to crank it up.
Engine starts fine. I decide to go for a drive. I turn the headlights on and instantly the engine dies. Dash lights are still on, and turning the headlight knob creates clicking sound behind dash (relays?). I believe (it all happened so fast!!) that the engine wouldn't start again until i took the key out and tried again, then it started fine. I was unable to reproduce the problem after that. I just tried again this evening, went for a drive, everything is fine, can't get it to happen. I've tried toggling every thing i could think of that puts load: lights, defrost, A/C, radio ... nothing. Ahh i love intermittent problems.

Here's what I've checked out based on reading a bunch of posts on this forum:

- Battery producing normal voltages: 12 at rest, 10 or so on startup current, 13.5 with engine running, cables look OK
- Checked grounds, don't look rusty or loose or anything
- Checked coil pack resistances according to Haynes manual. They seem OK althought the "primary resistance" (on the connector wires) of 0.6 Ohms is hard to read with my analog meter ... looked like 0.
- Tried jiggling the keys a lot in the ignition while engine is running, no effect
- While the engine was running i tapped on a lot of things under the hood with my hands/screwdriver: fuses, ground wires, ignitor, coil pack wires, alternator, any other wires i could see, the engine in general, my head ... the engine continued to purr happily through it all.

Any advice is welcome. In lieu of a specific plan I guess my next move is to just replace the coil pack and maybe the battery, and maybe plug wires? all of which could probably use replacing. She just turned 200,000 miles in October!

thanks for your time

-Sean


Your altenator output is a little low. measure it with everything on (and i mean everything) at 1800 RPM.

Start with the simple stuff. You are looking for very expensive problems where there is no proof of them.

Battery if the car restarts the battery is fine.
Coil pack will have zero effect on the radio.

Possabilities:
I am going with a bad ground wire. Spend , oh , i guess 10.00 and run new grounds (make them dont buy that stupid ground kit) and replace the engine ground and frame ground.

A bad altenator.

nipper

#5 johnceggleston

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 10:39 PM

hehehehehe


i knew i could count on you.

#6 SeanC

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 12:06 AM

... close, but it's dark blue.

Nipper - I see the frame ground right in front of the battery, but I couldn't find another one. Haynes says it's near the coil pack kind of on the top of the engine somewhere? Never could see it. Can you describe where it is?

thanks for the advice. Yeah i agree, the radio thing is a question mark.

-Sean

#7 nipper

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 12:11 AM

It may not be there. Remember there is no such thing as too many grounds. I added some to Blu because i had wierd electrical issues and it solved some problems.


nipper

#8 Cougar

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 12:45 AM

I first recommend you clean the battery connections using a battery post cleaning brush. I also agree with the others about checking for a bad chassis ground. Remove the ground leads running to the chassis and clean them.

#9 lmdew

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 07:12 AM

If you are just taking voltage readings your meter can lie to you. To get a true reading you have to check the circuit loaded, or load the circuit when you test it.

Here is the tool you need for your meter:

http://www.brighterideas.com/

I attended Dan's Training course and it changed the way I look and test electrical problems!

I had a 85 BMW 318i that had problems for years, RPM would flux at idle. No fix. My kid used it for several months and the car started killing at random times. New battery, New Grounds...

It turned out to be a very corroded + lead of the alternator. I found the problem using the TESLite. 30 minutes later the problems was fixed.

Check out some of the videos on his web site.

#10 grossgary

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 08:36 AM

Alternator. Have it tested at a shop (many places do it free) or swap in a used one to test.
Definitely remove and clean your battery links.

Edited by grossgary, 13 February 2009 - 08:38 AM.


#11 crash321

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 09:15 AM

I agree on grounds and alternator. Strange things happen with a failing alternator, but check your ground from the trans to chassis, that caused all sorts of problems in my car, and consider every connection suspect even if it looks clean. Remove them, clean them and use a corrosion inhibitor on every connection. You would be surprised what a connection will hide sometimes. Good luck.:)

#12 abog

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 11:21 AM

Alternator, output should be 14.2 to 14.5 1500 rpm with no load, about a volt to a volt and a half lower with all accessories on. Definitely check all of your grounds. It also never hurts to disconnect and check all of your connectors for loose or corroded contacts.




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