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Old 07-19-2012, 11:54 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default chugging on acceleration & check engine light.

Hey everyone.

Still loving my 1999 Outback a year or so into it. Just hit 165k!

Unfortunately, I'm having an issue that will have me at the mechanic tomorrow but I like to come talk to the folks on here for some insight before I head in.

Recently my Outback has been "chugging", seemingly struggling to get moving intermittently when trying to accelerate from a full stop. It would do that for a few seconds, then suddenly kick in and everything was fine. Didn't seem to be a problem when passing on the highway. It happened a few times in a month, so as a goof I added some fuel injector additive to the gas. Didn't seem to make a difference either way.

Then yesterday, it started happening almost every time I pressed the gas from a standstill. Soon after the "check engine" light started flashing and then went solid and has stayed on. It's still drivable, but it's definitely acting strange.

I'm vigilant about maintenance. I just had the spark plugs replaced about 6 months ago. Perhaps a bad injector? I'm certainly no car guru, so I'm wondering if anyone had thoughts on what might be the problem. Hopefully it's nothing too dire. I love my ride!

Either way, I'll report back when I do end up finding out what the problem is.

Thanks!
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Old 07-19-2012, 05:30 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The check engine light flashing (rather than steady) is usually related to faults that are likely to cause more serious damage, such as misfires. I believe the light will continue to flash as long as the fault is detected. Misfires, for example, sometimes exist for only a short time and then the engine returns to normal. (Typical of cracks or leakage at the coil or wires, especially when damp.) Even if it stops flashing, the CEL will then change from flashing to steady, and will stay on until several driving cycles are completed without the problem being detected again.

Your mechanic can still read the stored code(s) -- they will remain in memory for up to 40 driving cycles. This could be the key to identifying what is causing the chugging.

Let us know . . . .
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Old 07-20-2012, 07:44 AM   #3 (permalink)
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This is likely something as simple as a problem with a plug wire. It is imperative that you get the codes read so that you can solve the problem. It is not a good idea to continue to drive with the CEL light illuminated for an extended period.
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Old 07-20-2012, 09:56 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I had a similar problem and read the CEL DTC codes. You can have this done at Pep Boys, Autozone, Advanced Auto and places like that for free. My code was P0302, a misfire in the 2nd cylinder. Since you already had the plugs done it may just be the wires and/or coil. Both very easy jobs to do. I replaced plugs, wires and coil and she has never run better. Haven't had the CEL since then either.

Obviously, don't do anything until the code is analyzed. But my philosophy is check the most obvious, easiest, and cheapest stuff first. Good luck.
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Old 07-20-2012, 11:24 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Hey guys,

@DavidPeab ... it was indeed code P0302. My mechanic said about the same as you: could be the wires or coil; maybe an injector.

I decided to basically start with the least expensive and go from there! Since I just did the plugs, I told him to replace the wires. From the chatter on here, that's a very likely culprit and by my untrained eye they looked pretty darn old anyhow.

Getting it back this afternoon. I'll let you know how she runs.

Thanks!
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Old 07-20-2012, 07:53 PM   #6 (permalink)
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A simple way to check to see if is a wire problem or a coil issue is to switch the wire that is giving the code (P0302 is a misfire on cylinder 2). In this case, just switch wires with cylinder four. Check the codes again and if it is a bad wire, then you will get a P0304 code. If it is the coil, then the code will stay at P0302.
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Old 07-31-2012, 05:43 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Hey everyone, just wanted to update. I ended up getting the wires replaced and so far (a week+ in) I think the problem has been resolved. Thanks everyone for your feedback.
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