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I found a 2005 Impreza Outback Sport with an automatic for sale about an hour away. It has high miles (250K) but a new engine was installed 50K miles ago (owner has the paperwork for it). It looks in good condition in the pics and the owner says the only rust is some rust on the rockers. Tires are matched and at 50% wear. Everything works, including the A/C. After owning 8 Subaru's I am pretty sure I know what to look for, but want to make sure I'm not overlooking anything.

I actually owned the same year and old model previously, but it was a northern rustbucket so I will be looking underneath to look for rusted subframes and the like. Here in Virginia, I see a mix of rust free and rusty Subaru's and have owned both. Also will drive in tight circles to check for torque bind. I hope the fact that it will be wet pavement doesn't mask any torque bind issues. Also will make sure the transmission is shifting smoothly and the if car handles well or if the struts and suspension have seen better days.

The seller is asking $3,000 for it- not sure if that's too high given the newer engine and hopefully it's been well maintained. What would be a fair price to pay for this car assuming it seems in good shape?

 

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I would bargain down hard if there's no solid proof the timing belt system was serviced properly. Otherwise, normal 14 year old car stuff in addition to awd issues you mentioned.

 

is 05 still mechanical throttle? my 06 WRX is drive-by-wire.

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That's pricey to me for the mileage, RUST, and having an engine swap if the engine is used. You can find them at auction in other states, and ship to you w/o the rust, mileage, etc. for roughly the same price or fly out and drive back.

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Update- so I drove out over the mountain to see the car. Body is solid with a small rust spot on each side of the rocker panels. I crawled under and there was minimal surface rust on the rear subframe. Quarter panels were rust free. The rest of the body had a few dents and dings but the paint still looks good. The interior was fair, with a lot of wear on the drivers seat.

the paperwork on the engine showed a used 119K engine was installed 3 years ago with a new timing belt (idlers, tensioner??) and approximately 20K miles have been put on it since. The engine runs very smoothly. I crawled underneath and did find oily residue on the bottom of both heads which I attributed to headgasket seepage, and I know that is the common headgasket leakage type on the EJ253 engines. But perhaps valve cover gaskets? 

I took it for a short test drive and the transmission shifted smoothly and it handled pretty well. I drove on tight circles where I could find a spot on the backroads and didn’t feel any noticeable torque bind. The gas tank was about empty so I didn’t drive too far. My 18 year old son drove it and said it felt fine to him (he may be getting this car).

I didn’t feel torque bind but it has a crazy mismatch of tires so I assume if I replace them immediately with a new set that I will avert any issues with it.

I told the seller it seems like a good running car but fear the headgaskets will need replacing soon and needs tires immediately and told him I couldn’t pay more than $2,000 and he agreed to it. I have a couple more days to think about it since he needs to still get it titled from his parents to him.

So does this sound like a good deal? Not pouring out oil yet (but I could smell a little that dropped on the exhaust) so if the headgaskets are going I may have some time before they need to be replaced (which I will need pay to have done).

This will either go to my youngest son to hopefully last through college or my oldest who is getting married soon and will need a reliable AWD where he plans to live.

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Probably valve covers. Like 3 bolts and they pop off. Get a new set and replace the inner o-rings too.

 

If it has mismatched tires, make sure to check if the fuse is in the FWD slot or not if that year/model has one. Don't assume the dash light works for forced FWD. Once got a car that someone dabbed silicone onto the CEL LED...... If the fuse is in there, then you wouldn't notice torque bind.

$2k for a car for your kid, is your call. As long as it's not falling on the unibody, it might be a good car for him.

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True was no FWD light on the dash so I didn’t look at the fuse. However the driving and handling felt every bit like every other old Subaru I’ve driven. I did test drive an Outback once where the seller has put in the fuse and the car felt really squirrelly with just front wheel drive (I really drive anything with front wheel drive anymore) and it felt normal once the guy pulled the fuse out. Of course I didn’t buy that one when the EJ25D overheated at the end of the second test drive.

Still pondering whether to get it. My son doesn’t really want it any more than he wants my beloved ‘98 Legacy wagon that he’s had since last year.

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Update- so i bought it and drove it over the mountain home tonight. Car runs and drives well on the road. I do sense a little vibration at highway speeds (at first in the wheel) and a little bit in the whole body after the mountain (when the brakes were undoubtedly hotter). The brake rotors are a bit warped and could use replacing.

Once at home I examined the tires and found the front two are a matched pair and there are two altogether different tires on the back. All are the same size and tread depth ranges from 3/32" to 4.5/32" so that may have saved it from developing torque bind (I tested it again on my cul-de-sac and no torque bind at all).

I was already planning on a set of new tires and a four wheel alignment anyway. I do notice the steering wheel is a bit off center and and some of the tires are wearing on the inside. I'm hoping the new tires and alignment will give it a smoother ride on the highway.

I put the front of the car up on stands and took a look under there. Some minor oil seepage from the headgaskets but not bad yet. Unfortunately I found that both inner CV boots are split (they are the original axles and i assume the outer CV boots were replaced at some point).

The other concern I have is that it doesn't appear anything but the timing belt was replaced when the engine was swapped in, so apparently the tensioner and idlers have 139K miles on them. Since I know of someone who can do headgaskets and complete timing belt job for around $800, I might just that route and not worry about the engine after that. 

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Why exactly do you think the hg are bad? Oil around the area is often from the valve covers leaking, NOT the hg. Valve covers can leak back towards the pan and air flow spreads it everywhere while moving. Even if you see coolant traces, it can be from a recent coolant change, hose failure, leak off the reservoir, etc..

Unless it's overheating, boiling over coolant, smoking, running like garbage, misfiring, coolant in the oil, etc. etc., there's unlikely anything wrong.

 

Go to the store, and buy a couple cans of generic "oven cleaner". It'll have lye in it and is an aerosol can. Shake well, then spray the underside of the car (covers, heads, pan, etc.). It foams a bit on contact, so cover completely. Wait 5 minutes. Spray it off with garden hose water. Repeat the process for really heavy sludge. Allow it to dry. DRIVE IT. Check back underneath. Look for the leaks.

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26 minutes ago, Bushwick said:

Why exactly do you think the hg are bad? Oil around the area is often from the valve covers leaking, NOT the hg. Valve covers can leak back towards the pan and air flow spreads it everywhere while moving. Even if you see coolant traces, it can be from a recent coolant change, hose failure, leak off the reservoir, etc..

Unless it's overheating, boiling over coolant, smoking, running like garbage, misfiring, coolant in the oil, etc. etc., there's unlikely anything wrong.

 

 

Nah, It's ussually external HG leaks.  Not that there is anything "wrong" about it. If it's not overheating, it's okay to drive.  But they WILL get worse, eventually.

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easy for confusion to happen so, be sure to get IMpreza-chassis parts and not legacy Outback stuff. use the VIN if possible. many folks have received wrong parts due to the whole 'outback' part of the model's name.

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The vibration in the wheel and throughout the car (and particularly under your seat) may be a bad driveshaft. I had to replace ours on a 2005 outback at 168,000.   It could also be a bent wheel, particularly if it is on the front.

$2,000 seems fair for this older car with a swapped engine. You’ll have the usual repairs in the future, hopefully nothing worse.

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Update- I put decent used rotors and new brake pads on and the ride is a lot other and smooth braking. I find there is a little vibration after making a turn and accelerating.

My biggest concern now is the whining sound it makes at highway speeds and under load after new tires were put on and it was aligned, as on the video at the link below:  

 

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