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Guest Message by DevFuse

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Observations on EJ25 at 101,000 mi

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7 replies to this topic

#1 Chip Hedrick

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Posted 28 January 2004 - 09:41 PM

About two weeks ago my '98 OBW with 101,000 began leaking oil. That was just days after the car had its annual inspection and passed with flying colors. The car had never before required any signifcant mechanical work (still has original brake pads, battery, etc.!).

Finally got the car into the shop today. Mechanic is an independent with 25 yrs experience working on Subarus, 15 yrs with dealerships and 10 yrs on his own.

Said my OBW had the worst oil leak he'd ever seen in a Subaru. In addition to a leaking crank oil seal (which we both suspected) one of the cam seals had popped right out of place.

He replaced all 4 cam seals, the crank oil seal, oil pump O ring, t-belt, t-belt tensioner, and a few miscellaneous odds and ends. He said the t-belt tensioner was toast.

Here's a few interesting insights the mechanic had. I'm sure some of them are open to debate, but nonetheless I found them interesting.

1. I asked him to check the valve clearance. He claimed it was unnecessary unless the engine was unduly noisy. He said most of these engines will go 100,000s of miles w/o the need to be shimmed.

2. I asked him to replace the water pump at the same time he did the t-belt. He said he'd inspect it and only replace it if it showed signs of wear. He said only 1 in 100 water pumps go bad and they almost always show signs before doing so, such as discoloration on the sprocket. He said the pumps typically last 200,000 to 300,000 mi. When I picked the car up he said he left the pump in because it looked fine.

3. I asked him to replace the coolant. When I went to pick up the car he said he didn't bother because the coolant was still good. I told him that it hadn't been changed for at least 40,000 mi and said the fact that it still looked good suggested to me that the headgaskets are in good shape. He agreed and said he had seen no signs of headgasket failure on my car.

4. I asked him to replace the passenger side valve cover gasket because it had had a small oil leak for quite some time. He said the valve cover gaskets rarely require replacement; they may shrink over time, but usually all that needs to be done is tighten the bolts.

Upon driving the car home tonight, I found the engine to be much quieter. I suspect the tensioner must have been making a lot of racket and that I had gotten used to it. I also suspect that recent extremely cold weather in this area caused the oil seals to finally fail.

I thought you guys/gals might find these observations interesting.

#2 99obw


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Posted 28 January 2004 - 10:11 PM

I am sorry if this seems harsh, but people like him annoy me.

1. His experience is inconsistent with mine. This was discussed at length recently. My guess is that he doesn't like to do it.

2. My experience with many makes has been that water pumps tend to last 120k-140k. 200k-300k!!! Ok, yup, sure. I hope for your sake that not replacing it wasn't a mistake. Water pumps don't seem to give much warning in my experience. A siezed water pump can destroy your engine via timing belt failure. To save $100???? Hmmmm.

3. This is the only item where I think this guy wasn't out of line, but coolant is cheap so if I drain it I generally replace it.

4. Tightening bolts to fix a gasket leak is not my style.

My summary, this guy likes to cut corners. This is what us perfectionists refer to as the "good 'nuf" personality type. I like to do everything such that the repair lasts as long as possible. This guy wants you back next week, month, or year. Fundamental difference in technique.

#3 theotherskip


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Posted 28 January 2004 - 10:17 PM

i agree with 99obw. it does depend on your outlook. if you intend to squeeze every last drop of life from the engine, you are best off replacing thing rather than nursing them along. he may be more used to just band-aiding cars along. but i don't agree with the mechanic's opinion with most of the points that 99obw took exception to.

#4 richierich



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Posted 29 January 2004 - 12:45 AM

I also disagree with you mechanic. Subaru Legacy/Impreza/Forester waterpumps usually go out at 130-140k miles. If you plan on keeping the vehicle, I recommend replacing it at the 105k or 120k marks depending on engine type. I have seen them go out as early as 55k miles.

The valve cover gaskets is probably a judgment call. The 2.5 and the 2.2 valve covers do leak. They will seep oil (ie not leaking on the ground but slight dusting on the valve cover) for a long period of time But if he can slow down the seeping by tighting it, and gaining you more time between valve cover replacements then more power to him.

I agree that the valves do not have to be adjusted unless you have a problem with them.

I also TOTALLY disagree with him about the coolant. These vehicles are prone to overheating, it is best to keep the coolant clean. That means not only keeping it under -34 degrees but also free of debre that accumulates over time. You do this by changing it every 3 years or 30k miles.

#5 BlueTrain


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Posted 29 January 2004 - 02:59 AM

your mechanic may have saved you a bit of $$ at the moment, but a little preventative maintenence may have saved you $$ in the (hopefully not too near) future.

#6 Chip Hedrick

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Posted 29 January 2004 - 06:56 AM

I knew this would generate some debate.

I elected to trust the mechanic because he works on a ton of subarus and because he seemed to be very straight forwarded in stating his reasons to replace or not replace certain parts. I also don't think he's all about cutting corners. For instance, he replaced the tensioner and all four of the cam seals (not just the one that had popped out). He also replaced the upper and lower timing cover seals.

With respect to the water pump, if I had done this job myself I would have replaced it. But that's because I don't know enough to distinguish a good one from a bad one. Plus I wouldn't want to make that call after I'd already opened up the t-belt cover and then have to run around to auto parts places trying to locate one. The guy could have made a quick buck selling me a new water pump (he had them in stock), but instead he inspected the existing one and said it was good to go.

What he said about coolant also jibed with what a service writer at a major dealership in Augusta (where I bought the car and had it serviced for the first 60,000 mi) told me: it just doesn't need to be changed all that frequently because the blocks are aluminum and the radiators have a plastic core.

I double checked the Subaru of America maintenance schedule for my car and it does specify checking the valve clearance when the car hits 105,000. I may well do this myself this spring/summer (I'm not doing it this winter in an unheated garage).

#7 outback_97


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Posted 29 January 2004 - 11:14 AM

Your mechanic's advice about the valve adjustment was consistent with what I was told by a few dealerships here, about my '97 OB. Here's a recent thread about the 105K mile service, if you haven't read this already:


Still not sure what I'll do, but I'm not confident that any dealer I spoke with would be able to do this without potentially messing something up. It sounds like they just don't do many of them.


#8 cookie


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Posted 29 January 2004 - 02:09 PM

and this does hold with what was taught when I was a kid.
At the time money was hard to come by in Maine and labor was cheap.
People also rarely traveled long distances at high speeds.
Boston or New York was considered quite a trip.
After 10 years of running busses NY to SF I changed a number of my mechanical attitutes.
Frankly the guy is trying to save you money using the old tried and true methods he has learned.
For my money changing the water pump is cheap while you are in there and I am sure getting rid of old coolant with acids you can't see.
But I live in CA and conditions are different here.
As for setting the valves in those miserable suckers I am also sure he is telling you what works locally. You do get much less wear with a bucket type unit.
First of all I would not own another solid lifter bucket actuated valve automobile, especially a DOHC with the cams in a truly obnoxious position.
Now before all the flamers hit me I will toss in that I do quite like Subaru's SOHCs with hydraulic actuation especially if I can just keep my new head gaskets intact.

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