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Greetings Subaru Enthusiasts. I drive an 85 Volkswagen Vanagon that has an early nineties Legacy 2.2. The setup I used is CA Smog Compliant. I live in Washington so I have more flexibility with engine choices and not just 90-94 Legacy 2.2s. I need some help with my engine and hoping you guys can shed some light on my situation.

I am on my second Legacy 2.2 (first installed in 2010, second in 2012). I used to live in California so was forced to get old motors out of wrecks. Each engine was over 160,000 miles. On the last install I took the heads off and had them resurfaced, a valve job and all new seals/rings. That was 3.5 years ago. That engine always drank oil. I thought it was due to me living in the mountains and driving downhill. This past Fall I drove back to California and at times I was consuming more than 1qt of oil per fill up. I never saw smoke except on the rare start up. Not a drop hits the ground when its parked. I can follow instructions and consider myself a "part installer" and not a mechanic. I have very little diagnosing skills. I was able to put the engines in with KEP parts and spent 20+ hours reworking the wiring harness so it would pair with the VW. It worked.

So last week my van wouldn't work. It mimicked a fuel relay problem I had before so I got a new relay. I thought maybe the 30 year old fuel pump might have been going bad so I got a new Bosch fuel pump and pulled the old pre-filter out. I also put in a new PCV valve about 4 months ago. Still didn't fire up properly. I would turn it over and if it didn't start I would just let the fuel pump cycle a bit and it would fire up. which is why I was thinking it was fuel or voltage issue somewhere. Anyhow, it stopped working so I had it towed to a pretty good shop.

The mechanic told me the engine was blown and that it had poor compression in 3 cylinders. All the spark plugs were pretty gross. While he was pressurizing it for a leak down, he blew the dipstick out. This guy is pretty solid and I'm guessing it wasn't because he didn't have it TDC. He said that it wasn't worth it to put any money into the small block with the results he got from the tests. I called Small Car which is two hours away to ask where they sourced their engines. After listening to my story, they suggested I send them my 2.2 heads (which they say never go bad) and they would resurface them, do a valve job and new seals/o-rings and then put them on a brand new 2.5 small block that was set up for this application. The total would be $3,000. They said this would work perfectly and had done this for their California customers that were in my shoes. I did some research on the Frankenmotor on some Vanaru/Subagon and Subaru websites and it seems legit. I looked into crate motors from Japan, but they were $1,100 for a 2.2 with 50K miles. I don't like the idea of just putting in another high mileage 2.2 either and being in the same position soon.

and then... I had a new friend come by to drop off his cherry picker. He is a bit of a shade tree mechanic but thought the problem could be with the heads or maybe a cam. He said that it might be worth my time taking the heads down to a shop to have them inspected. It sounds like the shop is pretty reliable and they would be able to tell me if the heads were an issue before I go down the SmallCar 2.5 option. The only thing is that SmallCar told me they would do the same thing basically. I don't want to pay for the same labor twice.

I am not made of money and this car is my daily driver. I put in a new tranny about 18 months ago and just put on a new set of tires so I have a couple grand in it as of recently. Reliability is my number one concern. 

So I come to you on my knees asking... "what would you do?" Do you think its heads? rings? pistons? I live an hour out of town so dropping things off at machine shop is a hassle, though doable.

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pretty sure you had some atypical oil usage - not every 2.2 is gonna do that under 'normal' circumstances.


isn't there a seal on the oil return into the pan that can cause oil consumption problems? or maybe when the conversion was done, there was some confusion about breather/PCV hoses?


CCR in Colorado might have some parts for you - or check LKQ and car-part.com for engines, maybe craigslist for someone parting-out a car.



the frustration comes thru in your post, I just have generic suggestions....sorry

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Frankly, it sound like stuck rings to me at first glance.  It's also probable that the valves may be just plain worn, especially the exhaust valves which are smaller.  And yes, they DO go bad, just not very often.


Did you use a Subaru Genuine PCV valve? The aftermarket ones are mostly junk and a Genuine one isn't much more expensive.  Also, when you changed the valve, did you clean out the PCV hoses? 



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If you flood the engine with gas and cant get it started, then let it sit a while, the fuel residue in the cylinders can glue the rings into the pistons so you have very low compression. If the spark plugs were nasty, that could have contributed to the hard starting and flooding issue. I would pour a tablespoon of oil in each cylinder, crank the engine over for a few turns, and put new spark plugs in. It may well fire right up. Then let it warm up fully, feed it 1/3 of a can of seafoam through the PCV valve into the intake, shut it off for 15 minutes, and then take it out and flog it. Hard acceleration followed by hard engine braking, repeatedly. That may unglue the rings. I've gotten lucky before.


Put a fuel pressure gauge on it, and see what the pressure does when you shut the engine off. You may have a leaking fuel pressure regulator (check for gas inside the vacuum line leading to the fuel pressure regulator) or a leaking injector. Either would contribute to the flooding and cylinder washdown problem you've got.


Could you provide pics of the PCV hose setup you have on the engine? If the wrong hose system is used you can get too much suction and it will pull oil mist out of the crankcase instead of just fumes. Do you have an aftermarket shortened oil pan on it?

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