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Hi everybody,

This is my first post on these forums, and I scoured them for an answer but could not find one, so I figured I'd just ask. I recently bought an '03 Subaru Outback 2.5, and I love the car so far. However, I've been hesitant to drive it because I believe the timing belt has not been changed, and it's sitting at 120,000 miles. I am about to order parts for it, but here is what I need to know.


  1. Do I need to buy the timing belt tensioner? It's ~100 dollars, and I'm not certain if it's considered a maintenance item at that price. No one has said anything about it in any of the threads I visited.
  2. If no to number one, should I just buy the belt itself and the tensioner pulley? From what I gleaned, the pulley is what wears itself out.
  3. If the tensioner doesn't need to be replaced, I will be replacing the belt, tensioner pulley, and water pump. Gates is a brand I trust for timing belts, and they offer the belt and pulley. I have no brand opinion for the water pump on these cars. Any suggestions on what brand I should purchase? (Even if it's not Gates, I want the best parts for this car).
Thanks in advance, everybody!
 

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Not on a Subaru, but I had timing belt replaced at normal interval (110K) on my Toyota Avalon. Tensioner was not changed. 40K later, tensioner failed, engine overheated, heads warped, $3000 repair bill. I would never again change a timing belt without replacing the tensioner.
 

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Welcome to the boards and congrats on the car. 2003 was a good vintage, but then I'm a little biased on that.

1 & 2. The way I see it, your mind will keep nagging you, wondering whether you should have replaced the tensioner along with everything else. You'll have to uninstall the tensioner anyways when you put the new belt on.
3. No experience with Gates, but there are TB kits out there that include belt, pulleys, and water pump. Not sure if the tensioner is part of the package or not.

You'll also need a new gallon of Subaru's coolant, as you'll likely be draining the old fluid in the process.
 

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Replace the tensioner. It is a common failure point if it isn't replaced.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Welcome to the boards and congrats on the car. 2003 was a good vintage, but then I'm a little biased on that.

1 & 2. The way I see it, your mind will keep nagging you, wondering whether you should have replaced the tensioner along with everything else. You'll have to uninstall the tensioner anyways when you put the new belt on.
3. No experience with Gates, but there are TB kits out there that include belt, pulleys, and water pump. Not sure if the tensioner is part of the package or not.

You'll also need a new gallon of Subaru's coolant, as you'll likely be draining the old fluid in the process.
Sounds good to me. Is Subaru's coolant necessary? For some reason I got the impression that regular old "green stuff" is just fine for these cars. If it does need special stuff, is there an analog? I know on my (old) Benz, Zerex G-05 is required due to the make-up of the metals.

Not on a Subaru, but I had timing belt replaced at normal interval (110K) on my Toyota Avalon. Tensioner was not changed. 40K later, tensioner failed, engine overheated, heads warped, $3000 repair bill. I would never again change a timing belt without replacing the tensioner.
Replace the tensioner. It is a common failure point if it isn't replaced.
Okay. 100 bucks worth of insurance definitely sounds worth it.

Any opinions on what brand I should go with?

Also, thanks for the quick responses!
 

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Do the tensioner. The chances of the tensioner making it to 210k. Unlikely. I've had one fail at 145k, and am STILL kicking about that years later. Never again would I do a belt without it. If you have the time, do the seals too. Eventually they will fail.

Expensive, but you won't have issues for a very long time. I have a 2004 as well. I didn't use Subaru coolant, which some would say is a no-no. Just make sure you put the subaru coolant additive in the system.
 

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Sounds good to me. Is Subaru's coolant necessary? For some reason I got the impression that regular old "green stuff" is just fine for these cars. If it does need special stuff, is there an analog? I know on my (old) Benz, Zerex G-05 is required due to the make-up of the metals.
Whether or not it has to be OEM coolant or can be a substitute is something I can't answer, sorry.
 

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Whether or not it has to be OEM coolant or can be a substitute is something I can't answer, sorry.
I highly recommend using Subaru OEM coolant as according to Subaru it does not have Amines which tend to cause infamous head gasket failure. So, I would highly recommend either Subaru OEM coolant or any other Amine free coolant (if you can find any) with Subaru coolant conditioner.
 

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I work for a Napa Auto Parts, and I can tell you that more often then not, I end up selling the entire timing belt kit including the tensioner and water pump. I have had to do the head gasket job on both my 2001 with 160k and my girl friends Baja with 90k. Each time I replaced all the gaskets, belt, tensioner, tensioner pulley, idler pulleys, waterpump and thermostat. Most of all the Napa's sell the Gates products, and they are very good quality. If you were to shop there, I would also recommend the New water pump vs the remanufactured.

The timing belt component kit comes with a belt, tensioner and the 3 other pulleys in the system. Granted its close to $400, but if you plan on keeping the car for any length of time its a great piece of mind to have it all done.

As far as coolant goes, I'm pretty sure even the manual calls for ethylene glycol based antifreeze, which is basic green coolant. I personally like to use the Peak Global antifreeze (yellow in color) which is compatible with all makes and models. Its silicate and phosphate free, and does not have the Amines that priyadar was refering too. In fact most every antifreeze on the market today is Amine Free. Its become the standard and they don't even indicate it on the label anymore because its so common. Peak Global is a very good choice when looking for an "OEM" coolant.

And since your going to have most of the coolant drained out, I also suggest you purchase a Subaru coolant conditioner. Its very cheap even directly from a Subaru dealership and is extra insurance.

Subaru Online Parts
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I work for a Napa Auto Parts, and I can tell you that more often then not, I end up selling the entire timing belt kit including the tensioner and water pump. I have had to do the head gasket job on both my 2001 with 160k and my girl friends Baja with 90k. Each time I replaced all the gaskets, belt, tensioner, tensioner pulley, idler pulleys, waterpump and thermostat. Most of all the Napa's sell the Gates products, and they are very good quality. If you were to shop there, I would also recommend the New water pump vs the remanufactured.

The timing belt component kit comes with a belt, tensioner and the 3 other pulleys in the system. Granted its close to $400, but if you plan on keeping the car for any length of time its a great piece of mind to have it all done.

As far as coolant goes, I'm pretty sure even the manual calls for ethylene glycol based antifreeze, which is basic green coolant. I personally like to use the Peak Global antifreeze (yellow in color) which is compatible with all makes and models. Its silicate and phosphate free, and does not have the Amines that priyadar was refering too. In fact most every antifreeze on the market today is Amine Free. Its become the standard and they don't even indicate it on the label anymore because its so common. Peak Global is a very good choice when looking for an "OEM" coolant.

And since your going to have most of the coolant drained out, I also suggest you purchase a Subaru coolant conditioner. Its very cheap even directly from a Subaru dealership and is extra insurance.

Subaru Online Parts
Thanks to you, and everyone else in this thread. I was definitely going for Gates because of my dad's recommendation, and the Gates component kit (including water pump) from RockAuto is only 175 bucks before shipping, so I'm definitely going to go with that. Peak Anti-Freeze and the conditioner sounds like a good plan to me.

Thanks for the advice, all!
 

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Thanks to you, and everyone else in this thread. I was definitely going for Gates because of my dad's recommendation, and the Gates component kit (including water pump) from RockAuto is only 175 bucks before shipping, so I'm definitely going to go with that. Peak Anti-Freeze and the conditioner sounds like a good plan to me.

Thanks for the advice, all!
Wow, I just went online to confirm your price, and that is extremely good! I have herd that Rock Auto has good prices, but that's too good to pass up.

If your doing the work yourself, good luck doing it. Make sure you follow any instructions to the T and you will breeze though it. Its actually a pretty straight forward job.

My only recommendation from personal experience is to rotate the motor by hand before you pull the pin on that auto tensioner. I had the crank pulley lined up on the wrong mark and when I turned the motor by hand I found my mistake. The system bound up and wouldn't rotate by hand. I saved myself hundreds if not thousands of dollars by doing that one check.
 

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Wow, I just went online to confirm your price, and that is extremely good! I have herd that Rock Auto has good prices, but that's too good to pass up.

If your doing the work yourself, good luck doing it. Make sure you follow any instructions to the T and you will breeze though it. Its actually a pretty straight forward job.

My only recommendation from personal experience is to rotate the motor by hand before you pull the pin on that auto tensioner. I had the crank pulley lined up on the wrong mark and when I turned the motor by hand I found my mistake. The system bound up and wouldn't rotate by hand. I saved myself hundreds if not thousands of dollars by doing that one check.
As in, turn it by hand when it's all being put back together? Been there done that with timing belt changes... had some fun with a friend's Civic recently, probably cranked the motor over 8 times by hand just to be extra sure. ;)
 

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As in, turn it by hand when it's all being put back together? Been there done that with timing belt changes... had some fun with a friend's Civic recently, probably cranked the motor over 8 times by hand just to be extra sure. ;)
Yup exactly. Glad you already know to do that. Its a very simple step that can identify issues before its fully assembled. I actually put the large crank bolt back in and turn it by hand. Then after its turned over a bunch of times with out issues, I pull the tensioner pin, remove the crank bolt, and finish reassembling the motor.
 

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Just ordered the parts, should be here by Tuesday! I'll keep this updated with how it goes, looks like it should be a breeze.
 

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Parts arrived at 10 AM on Saturday, just installed the belt, tensioner, all that goodness tonight. The Gates kit has marks to line up the timing belt with the crank and cam-shaft pulleys, so it comes highly recommended by me. I need to put all the covers on and throw it all back together. The guide online on this web-site was extremely helpful, only spent about 3 hours doing the bulk of the job. Can't wait to start 'er up and see how she runs now.

Thanks for the help so far, everyone!
 

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Parts arrived at 10 AM on Saturday, just installed the belt, tensioner, all that goodness tonight. The Gates kit has marks to line up the timing belt with the crank and cam-shaft pulleys, so it comes highly recommended by me. I need to put all the covers on and throw it all back together. The guide online on this web-site was extremely helpful, only spent about 3 hours doing the bulk of the job. Can't wait to start 'er up and see how she runs now.

Thanks for the help so far, everyone!
Sweet! Let us know how it finishes up.
 

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Sweet! Let us know how it finishes up.
Got everything hooked up and cranked 'er over... and she started right up! Just got finished putting all the extra bits back together, and let her run for a little while and she runs just fine. Now it's time for a wash and wax (maybe a wax...) and to clean out the interior. Thanks again for all the help everyone!
 
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