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Old 09-19-2009, 08:39 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Is there a best year/years for an Outback?

I am looking for a nice used Outback.. needs to be an auto trans.
Is there any years that were more reliable or less trouble free than other years?

My parents had a 96 and never had any trouble with it. But I have seen some reviews that mention repeated head gasket problems with some other years... seemingly more newer ones like 2002.

I need the car to be a good one, I am very mechanically inclined so I could fix most problems anyway.. but I am gone 5 days a week...with little free time.

There is a 97 near me with 123K on it. for $4200 . It has a new engine due to the timing belt being installed wrong by last owner. This dealer replaced the engine. Here is the descrition.
NEW JAPANESE REBUILT ENGINE, LESS THAN 50,000 MILES...NEW TIMING BELT AND WATERPUMP MARCH 09... 2 OWNER...Heated Seats

Thanks for any help you can give.

Ken
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Old 09-19-2009, 09:02 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Well, there were two series of head gasket failures, the most prevalent was an internal failure common to the 1996-1999, much last common was an external failure on 2000-2002 models.

So if you are looking for an inexpensive Outback you have a few options.

1) If you are up for it, you could find a good deal on a car with blown head gaskets and fix them yourself.

2) Buy an older car that has already had the headgaskets/timing belt done.

As for most reliable, most of the 2003+ Outbacks have been pretty reliable.
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Old 09-19-2009, 09:29 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Is there a best year/years for an Outback?

Quote:
Originally posted by kens97sto171
...NEW JAPANESE REBUILT ENGINE, LESS THAN 50,000 MILES...Ken [/B]
I've heard there are engines from Japan you can buy for only a few hundred dollars. Their laws are such that the engines can only be used for around 30,000 miles and then scraped. I would wonder if this engine is one of those. If so, you might have problems getting the emissions test passed.

Chris
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Old 09-19-2009, 10:29 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks for the info.. Really helps. I am really hoping to find a nice one that looks decent, But more importantly will run for a good long time.

The engine in that 97 is a japanese engine that he bought cheap for just the reason you said.

In Ohio and Kentucky we have no tailpipe emission testing right now. I would suspect that as long as there was no check engine light on.. everything should be in US spec since the ECU is a USA spec computer.

Thanks again.

Ken
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Old 09-20-2009, 01:36 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by rockhopjohn
Well, there were two series of head gasket failures, the most prevalent was an internal failure common to the 1996-1999
Im going to disagree with you on this, everything Ive read points to the headgaskets being changed from the 98 model up to the 2001.
so the 96/97 headgaskets did not fail near as often as the 98-01 models.

that being said, I'd be more inclined to purchase a 96/97 model with decent miles, or a model after 02.
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Old 09-20-2009, 04:50 AM   #6 (permalink)
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My recollection ( which means nothing) is also that '98 was the first year of the head gasket silliness. If the price is right, I'd go for the JDM'd '97.
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Old 09-20-2009, 09:46 AM   #7 (permalink)
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There is a thread stickied here somewhere...HG failure log or something like that, you can kind of see what years were commonly affected.

For what it is worth, our 1996 2.5 Outback had a leaking headgasket.
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Old 09-20-2009, 10:23 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by d0sitmatr

Im going to disagree with you on this, everything Ive read points to the headgaskets being changed from the 98 model up to the 2001.
so the 96/97 headgaskets did not fail near as often as the 98-01 models.

that being said, I'd be more inclined to purchase a 96/97 model with decent miles, or a model after 02.
You can disagree all you like, but in the 4 years I have been haunting this site, I can tell you that I have seen PLENTY of 1996 and 1997 Outbacks with HG failures. They may not be reflected in the HG Failure log thread because it has only been up a couple of months. If you buy a car in he 1996-1999 range, there is a very good chance that the head gaskets have failed, or are going to fail.

That being said, there do seem to be a bit fewer failures in 1996 (not 1997), and my 1996 was definitely the favorite of the 3 Outbacks I have owned. It was the quickest and got the best fuel mileage of the group.
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Old 09-20-2009, 11:55 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Golden rule of thumb when it comes to used cars:

NEVER buy the first year of a new generation

A model is at its very best in its last production year
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Old 09-21-2009, 07:49 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I would make sure that the motor has all the required smog equipment to pass basic emissions testing in the US. Not sure if you ever plan on moving or if your state will require testing in the near future but, generally the owner is required to bring the car up to minimum standards and cars with engines that were not manufactured for import in to the US are not grandfathered in.

That is a really stupid ad. The engine is not new, it's used. Unless the internal components were replaced ... it's not rebuilt.

That being said, I've seen a lot of JDM motors in sandrails run for years with no issues. They of course don't need to pass smog [didn't at the time, i think they do now]. That wouldn't be a deal killer for me as long as the rest fo the car was in good shape and the motor was US legal for smog components.
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