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General Information

Year
2008
Make
Subaru
Model
Outback Limited 2.5i
Color
Blue/grey
History
Bought the car used, it idled rough and stuttered coming to a stop but there were no check engine lights, I figure (and my mechanic) it's probably misfiring because of a bad spark plug. No 100k service done, and seemingly infrequent oil changes by last owner. My mechanic does a whole list of service, I'll list the estimate, then the actual work performed.

Estimate: Head gasket (my request, because.), head bolt set, subaru coolant, water pump gasket, thermostat(includes gasket), camshaft seal, timing belt component kit with water pump, crank seal, valve cover gasket set, NGK laser platinum spark plugs, Duralast wire set, engine oil(5W30), oil filter (M4615), Cylinder Head Gasket labor Total:3005.76 (He checked the screen in the assembly when he he replaced the solenoid and switch and it was CLEAN)

Actual: everything plus Air Filter, Radiator Cap (7037), Oil Switch (25240AA060), Oil Valve (VVL)(10921AA040)(He checked the screen in the assembly when he he replaced the solenoid and switch and it was CLEAN) Total 3161.73

After service (like immediately after I picked it up) it throws P0026, variable valve lift solenoid or pressure switch, well they were just both replaced but my mechanic rechecks them, and spends 7 hours checking all the connections back to the ECM and finds nothing wrong. No charge, but he wont work on the problem anymore. Rough idle still present, stutter during stopping still present.

I had a diagnostic done at my local Subaru dealer ($108) and I don't know what they actually did but their findings were:
LCA Codes P0026 Oil Solenoid Valve and Code P0420 Catalytic Converter below threshold. Recommend removing valve cover for further diag & replace Cat Conv. 153615 Tested Oil Solenoid & Oil Solenoid Switch & both are operating normally. Need to remove right side valve cover to inspect cylinder head & determine source of oil restriction causing low oil pressure limiting proper valve function. Minimum labor charge $540 for cylinder head investigation, $850 for Cat replacement.

Well I picked up the Cat for 600 right away but havent put it in yet. (this CAT was part of a recall campaign, last one from that batch, newer ones are $1300+tax) So I have that just sitting around until we can solve the misfire/P0026 code. I tried clearing the code and seeing when it comes back on, and it's during driving when the RPMs hit 4k, when the solenoid should be sent into "high" mode.

I switched to premium gas and put in a seafoam cleaner, as well as a few oz into the oil, and that actually caused a marked improvement in the rough idle, but the misfire still feels present and the stuttering at stops is still there too, undiminished. I just picked up a PCV valve and in going to replace that I noticed that the air intake chamber had a port broken off and siliconed back on so I'm going to wait and replace them at the same time (had to order from denver) on friday 4/27/18. I also plan on having the fuel injectors replaced if it's a reasonable price.

If I can't figure this problem out by Monday 4/30/18 I'll have to let Subaru start digging into the bank 1 cylinder head to see what they find, the estimate is between $540 (taking apart cleaning and putting back together) and $2100 (replacing entire cylinder head and a couple attached bits).

Does anybody have any suggestions for me!? I can call Subaru tomorrow to see if they have any info on what they did during diagnosis, so let me know what to ask about. I plan to ask them to do any additional tests you can think of before proceeding with the tear down.
I can do a lot at home, but I have no idea what else to check! Could my mechanic have done something wrong during the timing belt/head gasket job?
Why wont this P0026 code go away!
2008 Subaru Outback Limited 2.5i (Blue/grey)

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