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About Theophilus

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  • Location
    Gainesville, Florida
  • Referral
    Googled "Subaru repairs"
  • Biography
    UF grad student trying to keep a Subaru alive on very little money.
  • Vehicles
    2003 Subaru Legacy Outback
  1. So do you want to know how it all ended? I tried everything I could think of — cleaned the throttle body, checked the fuel pressure, etc. — but it still wouldn't run. It would start, but it always needed a little gas or it would die at idle, and it shuddered under any load at all in first gear. (I only drove it around the block a few times.) So finally I gave up and had AAA tow it to a service shop. They went through all the same things we talked about (fuel pump, fuel pressure regulator, IAC solenoid, and so forth). They couldn't find anything wrong and everything seemed to be in really good condition. Finally they checked on that new radiator I'd installed, and they found that it was bone dry. So they tried to fill it with coolant... and got a river of antifreeze pouring out the tailpipe. You should have seen it. The whole shop came to a stop and a dozen mechanics all gathered around to ogle it. They said they'd never seen anything like it, where there was a straight-flow, no-resistance route from the radiator fill cap to the end of the exhaust system. So why hadn't I noticed something that obvious myself? It's because, when I put in the new radiator, I only filled it with water for the first fill, in case there was a leak from one of the hoses or something. When I turned it on and tried it for the first time, I told you that I got a big cloud of white smoke coming out the back. But it wasn't smoke. It was steam from all the contents of the radiator hitting the exhaust and boiling away. My "smoke" problem only went away because I boiled off everything in the radiator. Anyway, new gaskets might solve the coolant leak, but who knows what other problems might be lurking in there? I was done with it, so I sold the car to one of the mechanics on the spot for $500. Now I'm looking for an electric car or a hybrid.
  2. Several people I've talked to have been thinking along the same lines. Here's the thinking: It's too much of a coincidence to have the starting problem and the radiator explosion at the same time. They must be connected. It seems most likely that the radiator crack was what caused the starting problem, but the car didn't overheat until AFTER it lost power and went to the side of the road. So, if it wasn't the heat that messed things up, it must have been the coolant. The crack was at the top middle of the radiator, between the cap and the air intake. But there was no coolant at all in the air intake. The car was going 60 mph and about a gallon of hot coolant was blown straight back over the throttle body. What could a gallon of hot water and antifreeze do to a throttle body? This was very old antifreeze, so it would have been electrically conductive. Maybe it caused a short? But wouldn't that have blown a fuse or generated a CEL? Maybe I should remove the whole throttle body and clean it? My IACV doesn't have a hose attached to it. Just an electrical connector (which seemed clean and dry). I pulled the valve and it was totally black and gummy, but I don't know how to test whether it still works.
  3. And the verdict appears to be... KILL IT. I was able to replace the radiator, but all those other changes didn't solve the starting problem. I can only get it started with a lot of effort (and starting fluid) and it only keeps running if I'm giving it gas. It dies if it gets below 2,000 RPM. I did replace the fuel filter and that seemed to help, but it wasn't enough. And I don't have any way to scan for pending codes. But thanks for all the suggestions! I'll check tomorrow morning in case anyone has any new ideas overnight, but otherwise the Subaru goes to a junkyard tomorrow.
  4. Progress! Here's what I've done: replaced and refilled the radiator, replaced all the spark plugs, replaced both fan belts (which were actually the original equipment from 2003), refilled the oil, checked the timing belt (which seemed fine), checked the air filter (which was dry and unclogged), checked the fuel pump (which was working fine), and checked all the fuses (none were blown). Then I gave it a 3-second burst of starter fluid at the air intake and I also attached a portable jump-start device, just in case the battery wasn't giving it enough power. And... it started! But it put out a huge cloud of white smoke, it was loud, there was a smell of gas in the exhaust, and it would only keep running if I kept giving it a lot of gas and revving it pretty high. It didn't give any CEL during the few minutes I had it running, but it died as soon as I took my foot off the accelerator. So where are we now? Is this a problem with the fuel/air mixture? Two other pieces of the puzzle that I haven't mentioned before: I replaced both O2 sensors before I started out from Florida. Could one of them have suddenly gone bad? A more detailed report from the driver (my wife): The car was driving fine until (on that long hill outside Scranton) the AC stopped working and then, a few minutes later, the engine lost power and died. But she didn't notice the clouds of steam from the leaking radiator until she was stopped at the side of the road. So it's possible that the cracked radiator would have killed it later on and that this is just something unrelated that happened to kill it first. Not sure what to try now, so suggestions would be welcome!
  5. Haven't checked the timing marks (because I don't know what that means) but I'll look into it. I'll also definitely check the things you mentioned about the fuel line. The thing is, whatever is causing the starting issue happened right when the radiator exploded and sent a gallon of coolant over the engine. So I'm skeptical that the fuel pump is involved (because it's not located in the engine compartment), and I'm skeptical about the timing belt (because it seemed clean and dry when I looked at it). It seems like this has to be something that happens when a lot of liquid with a high boiling point gets sprayed over an engine. Could a cup of coolant in the alternator be causing a short? It's been cool and rainy here in Ithaca, so I wouldn't be surprised if I still have some antifreeze in there that hasn't evaporated. Maybe I should just put the car in a dry place with a box fan and blow a lot of air through the engine compartment? I've also thought that maybe I should try a jump start, in case the battery got depleted by a short.
  6. Updates: I got AAA to tow the car to Ithaca. (They weren't very happy about it, but they did it.) I took the cover off to check the timing belt. It looked absolutely pristine. No signs of oil or dirt or wear at all. I bought and installed the cheap radiator that Idosubaru found on eBay. There was less than 2 quarts of coolant left in the system when I drained it. I also installed new spark plugs, because one person suggested that the sudden high heat in the engine might have destroyed a plug. Outcome: The car turns over and tries to start but doesn't start. There's about half a tank of gas, the oil is midway between the full and low marks, and the new radiator is now full of water. Any suggestions? My first thought is to check the air filter, because maybe the exploding radiator soaked the paper filter and air isn't reaching the cylinder. My other thought is to check the fuel pump, to be sure gas is getting to the cylinder. If both of those are fine, then maybe the coolant explosion did something to the ignition coil or the alternator? Any suggestions welcome and appreciated!
  7. Thanks for all the good, solid input on this question! It's very helpful. 1997reduxe is correct about it being a Florida car. It's never had any rust issues at all. And, yes, I feel the same way about knowing the status of a car I've maintained. The car is 150 miles away, in Scranton, but I might still be able to get AAA to cover the first 100 miles of the towing. If I can just get the car into my own driveway, I've got some things to investigate now. And I found a used radiator at an online parts place for $125. Scranton hills really are hell. In retrospect, I wish we'd just turned on the emergency blinkers and done 40 mph in the right lane, like all those big rigs were doing.
  8. Trying to decide what to do here, so I'd appreciate any input people have. I was moving from Florida to New York last week in my 2003 Subaru Legacy Outback. The car was doing fine and almost made it, but one final long hill outside of Scranton PA was just too much. The car suddenly lost all power and started putting out billows of steam/smoke from the engine compartment. We pulled over to the side of the highway right away. The temperature gauge only went into the red zone AFTER we pulled over and stopped. When I opened the hood, I saw that a crack had developed along the top edge of the radiator. Large amounts of coolant had shot out all over the hot engine (producing the smoke). When I try to start the engine now, the starter spins but nothing catches. Hopefully it's just that the sudden high heat destroyed the spark plugs and they need to be replaced. But it might be something more serious. So what should I do? I'm in Ithaca now and the car is parked at a repair place in Scranton. Is it worth investing $500 or more to tow the car 150 miles, replace the radiator, replace the spark plugs, and hope that it runs again? Or should I cut my losses and sell it to a junkyard in Scranton for $250? My heart says "keep it" but my head says "kill it." What do you think?
  9. I've got a 2002 Subaru Legacy Outback with a 5-speed manual transmission and I've been driving it for almost ten years. Just lately I've started having problems hitting the correct gears when I shift. I try to put it in 1st and I hit 3rd. I try to get into 2nd and I hit 4th. Sometimes I try to go into 3rd and I hit 5th. And there have even been several times when I've been shifting into 4th and I've hit reverse (which is really disturbing). It seems that all the proper gear positions are drifting to the left, so I'm now hitting one gear to the right of where I should be. The problem only started about a month ago, and it's definitely getting worse every day. Any idea what could be causing this? Is there some bolt that holds the transmission in place and could be coming loose? Or maybe the rods connected to the gear shift are starting to bend? Everything else is working and the car is driving fine, but changing gears is just going to be impossible if this keeps getting worse.
  10. Time for another update on this thread. Thanks to everyone for all the input! I did what FairTax suggested and took apart the solenoid. It was perfectly clean and looked brand-new inside. No contamination at all and everything seemed to moving easily. But the problem continued, so I decided to just live with it and drive as gently as possible after each fill-up. But now the check engine light has come on and the codes are for the upstream and downstream O2 sensors. Could this be connected to the shuddering problems (which are still happening every time I fill up with gas)? Is it normal for both sensors to suddenly have problems at the same time? I saw some YouTube video awhile back that suggested taking off the charcoal cannister and weighing it to see if it was flooded. Is that worth doing? I'm not sure what I should be checking at this point.
  11. Wow, I didn't realize how many valves were in the Subaru EVAP system! After reading a bit more, I think I was blaming the wrong valve. The vent valve on top of the fuel tank (#16) is the one responsible for letting vapors escape during refueling. Seems like that's the one to look at if the problem only occurs when I buy gas. But, lordy... Step One in the Haynes manual is "remove the fuel tank," which seems like a massive amount of work. I'm hoping Fairtax4me will weigh in here and tell me whether I'm on the right track before I start something that big. Is there a way to test the vent valve without taking out the fuel tank?
  12. Okay, I'm still having the same problem, but I've done a little more research. One thing I should have mentioned before is that my fuel pump gave out about a year ago. It developed several hairline fractures in the upper plate where the hoses attach and started spraying a mist of gasoline everywhere when the engine was running. I just assumed that the plastic had gotten old and brittle, so I replaced it and didn't think much about it. My theory now is that the pressure control solenoid valve is broken. When pressures get high in the tank (such as after refueling) the valve should be opening to let vapors escape to the EVAP canister. If the valve isn't working, pressurized gas is getting forced into the fuel pump, which would explain both the shuddering of the car and the eventual cracking of the fuel pump nozzles. And if the valve isn't opening, nothing is going to the purge control valve, which would explain why it's dry. Does that seem reasonable? If I'm right about this, I need to deal with it right away before I destroy another fuel pump.
  13. Okay, I tried it with the engine cool and gave it several strong blows. Couldn't get even a bit of air through the hose. Any other ideas? I appreciate all your suggestions and help with this!
  14. For the purpose of this diagnostic, does it matter where I detach the vacuum line? I filled up the car this morning, waited until the shuddering started, and then pulled over to check. I disconnected the hose from the purge solenoid where it enters the throttle chamber (because that's the easiest connection to reach on a hot engine) and it was completely dry. No liquid that I could detect. But I see that you said to check "the line going to the purge solenoid" and I was checking the line after it left the purge solenoid. Should I try again or should I investigate something else?
  15. I'm having a similar problem with my 2003 Subaru Legacy Outback. Whenever I fill up the tank with gas, the car starts fine and drives away from the station, but I get about 200 yards and then the engine starts coughing and shuddering. The car lurches and shakes that way for about half a mile, and then the problem seems to be solved. Everything operates normally after that. I get the same problem whether the tank is completely empty or only half empty when I fill it. The coughing is the only symptom. I'm not getting a check engine light or anything like that. From what I read in this forum, it sounds like the purge valve is the likely culprit, but AutoZone wants $130 for a replacement. Questions: Is this something I need to fix? (i.e., am I damaging the car if I decide to just live with the shuddering effect?) Could one of the lines going to the valve be the problem? Can I just take them off to check for leaks and obstructions or will gas start spilling everywhere? Can the purge valve be cleaned and restored? (And, if so, how?) Is this the sort of part that would be safe to buy from an online junkyard? Thanks for any advice!