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Hi all, thanks in advance for any tips you can offer. I’m not an experienced auto mechanic, but I can follow directions, work with tools, etc. 

I have a 1984 GL wagon, 4sp w dual range 4wd, 180k miles, that I acquired from a neighbor for cheap. It’s somewhat beat up, but I really like it- if you’re here I’m sure you understand the appeal. I’m lucky enough to live in Portland so Subaru parts and shops are relatively plentiful. I am willing to spend a little more than is rational, but don’t want to get too carried away.

The car came to me with a bad engine knock. I tore the motor down and found the #2 rod bearing was very dead. Crank and cam look pretty bad, I’m guessing they’re irreparable, and there were bits of bearing in the oil pan. The block looks good, considering- a couple of the main bearings were a bit beat up, but didn’t seem to have spun or otherwise marred their seats.

I don’t have the experience to do the ej swap, nor is the car clean enough to put that kind of money  into. 

My initial plan was to find a used ea81 to plunk in there, but I’m not having much luck finding a viable runner. Now I’m wondering how these engines do after being rebuilt after rod bearing failure. Is it even worth looking into sourcing parts and having the block bored/decked? If I’m going to go to all the trouble, should I just start with a $300 junkyard engine that probably didn’t have as big a problem as mine did?

The other option I see is to sell off the Weber and other decent parts for about what I have into the car, and start over with a different car. I really like the ea81 wagons and definitely want one, and am not afraid of doing some work to make one go. What do you recommend I do?

Thanks again!

 

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IF you are up to the challenge of scrounging parts that are NLA, have the space and time....

Me, I'd look for a used engine, and expect to do a reseal from the head gaskets up.  Tricky part is how do you evaluate the crank condition before buying?

 

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What is it about an EJ conversion that's beyond you?

If you can strip down an engine and describe what the issues are you're understating your skills in my opinion. 

The hardest part of an EJ conversion is the wiring strip down - but again I reckon you're capable of doing it. My first and last one (not the last I'll ever do, next EJ conversion is in the pipeline a decade after the last one - that's still running very well) took me a few months to strip down, I didn't have a timeline to have it done by. 

Once I had my head around needing the following wires and to strip out anything that wasn't needed/didn't come from the ECU or engine it was piss easy. Wires you need (from memory):

- permanent power to ecu

- backup power to ECU (many ppl wire the permanent and backup power together

- power on (ign ON) to ecu

- fuel pump wiring

- vehicle speed sensor

- Thermo fan relay operation wire (negative switched)

- AC wire if running AC (this one powers up the Thermo fans and ups the idle)

- use the EJ starter trigger wire

Throw in a fuse between these where necessary and the main harness and she'll be apples.

Mechanically the hardest part is drilling the EA flywheel to fit the EJ crank in my mind - although I've not had to do this due to my modified gearbox (I won't go into that here).

Adaptor plates should still be available or you can make your own with a little effort.

Drive it nicely to look after that 4 speed, otherwise drop in a 5 speed while you're at it. There are loads of threads about this mod.

With an EJ conversion you'll be in just as deep if not a little less financially as rebuilding an EA81 - unless the EJ needs rebuilding, in which case don't buy that one!!

You could get a running donor vehicle, pull the wiring, strip it down to what you need then test run your wiring with the engine still in the vehicle - see if the ECU pulls any codes or has the same codes as pre conversion.  Once wiring checks out as working, then get stuck into the mechanical work knowing you have everything you need other than an external efi pump.

Do some reading on it. Ask questions if needed. Find out if there's anyone near you to help out. FSMs are readily available for wiring schematics ;)

Don't do what I did - rebuild my ea82 only to go EJ three years later, I should've gone EJ from the beginning and saved some good coin!

Or rebuild/reseal an EA81 and be happy with it ;)

Either way, don't give in on the old MY if you're really wanting one to drive! My L has 520k km on it now and I still love it. Got it at 297k km 12 years ago :D

Cheers

Bennie

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EA81 rebuild is not viable. Can't get the parts to do it, and you don't have the expertise needed to do a case split, etc. No one has a deck plate to bore it or a jig for doing the main line and cam line. Without doing the main line and cam line the clearances will be complete $hit and it won't last to speak of. Realistically it can't be done without a LOT of money. 

EJ swap really isn't worth it. You would have to ditch the 4 speed - those are junk with 75 HP. With 135 HP it would just be junk that much faster. 

Honestly - you want a reliable Subaru - this isn't that. Can't get the parts to do it anymore. Can't find engines - even 5 speed D/R transmissions are hard to get. 

Get a 1st or 2nd gen Legacy or an early Forester. Still lots of parts for those. 

GD

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what GD said,

i have a few first gens and 1 second gen, they are not a daily driver nor possible to become one for more than a few months without something breaking on it and parked for a few months while locating a replacement part.

as much as i would love to daily one, its not possible, so they only get to see the roads on saturdays and sometimes sundays :(

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Wow, I missed the downer alert!

Seems that it sucks to be in America for "old skool" subarus.

I daily my brumby and the L series comes out on a regular basis too, usually for long distance 4wd touring. 

If you really want it you'll find a way to do it ;)

Cheers

Bennie

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I once had same with a Mazda TC 1300cc engine. Went to buy the alternator ended up driving the car home and all over the place with this mad loud solid knock.

 

Stripped engine to find little end bush spread everywhere. Had a machine shop knock up a bush for the one rod, slapped it all back together and found more noise, pulled apart again to do other three little ends. Back together. Noise still there. head off, valves out, found loose valve seat, so tried a super expoxy glue to hold it in - in my learning days :D. Worked for an hour or so. head off again to centre punch material of head to retain valve. back together with fourth new head gasket. Engine ran so sweet after all that and showed no signs that it had grated little end from Arthur to Martha internally beforehand.

 

Based on this experience. I say go for fixing up yer old EA81

 

As for daily driver, I have been in GEN2 Brumbies for twenty years. Not only love their loyalty but their clear view all around for the driver in respect to traffic.

 

Just that I am on my third one should not denigrate the fact they have been faithful for over a total of more than 600,000 km for me, despite being well used but rescued

 

Edited by jono

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there you go, ask for advice, get more differing opinions than you could think of...now is it worse ??

 

The EA81 has so few parts, cant think what GD cant get !!

 

The only negative I can think of about the EA81 is on the battery post !!

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I daily my 83. Sure, it needs attention from time to time, but certainly not any more than other older cars.

Parts are sometimes hard to come by, but not impossible. Just depends on how hard you're willing to try. 

I'm positive, if you look long enough, you could find a good used engine to drop in and be on your merry way. 

There have been a few offered here on this forum, sometimes for free!

Going EJ22 is also an excellent alternative, and really not that difficult. 

If the body is in good shape, then it's worth, in my opinion, putting a little time and money in to have yourself a cool, retro ride that will be a fun, dependable car with the right care.

I love the 2nd generation styling more and more as they, or I, or both, get older.

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Such a great variety of opinions, thanks to everyone who replied. I don’t really want to daily this car, it’s more for the odd snowy commute or camping trip, and to teach my wife to drive a stick.

Anyway, my problem kinda fixed itself. As I was debating, I found a recently-running ea81 for cheap. Looks like I’m going to want to do head gaskets, etc. and won’t have to split the case, but I’m pretty busy for the next couple weeks and won’t know more until I can spend some time checking it out. Hopefully I’ll have a first drive picture post up by later this summer.

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Don't let GDs comments put you off a case split if that came up. Now you have a spare to pull apart to help get the other one together if you get stuck 

I pulled my first EA81 apart alone with a paper manual. No forum junkies breathing down my neck. The experience was one of appreciation for Fuji's engineers.

That engine gave me 180,000 nipple revving kilometres

 

Get familiar with rockauto.com catalogue for EA81 parts. We use them from as far away as Australia

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