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1997 Subaru Legacy Outback Limited
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Discussion Starter #1
1997 Legacy Outback Limited 210k miles in Hospice with Heavy Misfire

So i believe this is my first post on subaruoutback.org. I usually lurk on NASIOC just for the entertainment. Now, I am posting becuause i am getting more and more desperate. This will be a wall of words so i apologize in advance but with this kind of thing, the more info the better.

Here she is now:



My grandfather bought the car new in 1996 for my grandmother before she passed away. He had it taken care of by Subaru exclusively. When i graduated high school back in 2009, i purchased the car from him with 148k on it. I absolutely loved this car. It never left me stranded, never got me stuck, never gave me any major problems. While i was in college, i drove about 100 mi a day. She currently sits just under 210k miles.

Her performance has been slowly degrading and while I know she is getting old, it was a little too much for me. At 203k the second timing belt was done by Turn in Concepts. They replaced:
-Timing belt
-water pump
-tensioners
-cam seals

About a week after the job was done, she started to get a major oil leak, like a basketball sized puddle after sitting overnight. I took it back to TIC and they told me that the oil pump was leaking. They wanted $500 to change it. After giving them all my money for the timing belt, i decided to do it myself. When i got everything down to the pump, the crank seal was definitely leaking. I replaced the pump, sealed it with some high quality RTV and replaced the crank seal. When i put the timing belt back on, I took my time to make sure that the belt was on correctly and tried to count the teeth but it was very difficult.

While i had the engine torn down i did a tune up and replaced the following:
-plugs
-wires
-PCV
-air filter
-fuel filter
-drive belts
-changed ATF and front and rear diiff fluid
-cleaned the MAF
-rotated tires
-fixed exhaust leak

She started right up after putting it all back together and I was back to my manageable few oil drops a day. She drove fine for a few days but then the problems began.

IF YOU ARENT GOING TO READ ALL OF THAT, PLEASE JUST READ THIS:

This is really the reason for starting this whole thread.

While driving, i got a P0302 code, cylinder #2 misfire. I erased the code and it constantly kept coming back. It began to get worse and worse, vibrating the car horribly and barely moving from a stop. I started looking into it and went through my Haynes manual and did some research. My first stop was the coil pack. I found the resistance specs and the primary resistance read about 1.8 ohms and secondary read about 18k ohms. Primary should be between .67 and .79 ohms. I went back up to TIC and swapped coils with a forester just to check and it actually made the problem worse. I am getting spark on all cylinders so thats not the problem.

I have reason to believe that my headgasket is going out due to loss of power and random overheating. Low compression on one cylinder could be the cause of a misfire. The misfire is isolated to cylinder #2.

My next course of action is to swap plug wires to see if it follows.

I have also read that a bad injector could be the cause. Tomorrow i will swap injectors and see if it follows.

Also on the list of checks for tomorrow:
-Check EGR valve
-check fuel pressure
-Compression check
-Seafoam engine
-test knock sensor
-Check O2 sensor voltages

If i am missing anything else that could be the culprit, please, please tell me.

The most interesting thing is that I did a coolant pressure test to see if my headgasket really was leaking. It held pressure for longer than I was willing to wait. How would a headgasket be bad and pass this test?

I know this really is a lot to read but i know that i have given all of the details i could possibly think of. This misfire had made the car nearly impossible to drive and besides my motorcycle, i have no other means of transportation.

I really appreciate all of your help and I know that there are people here that can give me some advice. Thank you.
 

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03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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some other possible culprits to add to the list;

bad thermostat (these really must be OEM 'style'. larger and 170degree. Typical aftermarkets are known trouble makers)

collapsing coolant hose

weak tensioner allowing TB to slip on waterpump

clogged radiator or bad cap?

consider pulling the plugs and comparing the 4. perhaps there will be a clue with cyl 2's plug's appearance?



usually, cylinder pressures are higher than coolant pressure so, combustion gasses can bubble thru the coolant. there is a chemical headgasket test for that. From the few accounts I've read though, it seems difficult to make a determination with typical Subaru bad HGs unless there is visible bubbles in the radiator. There are also youtube videos showing how that works.


just some thoughts
 

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1997 Subaru Legacy Outback Limited
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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the reply. I replaced the tstat about 2 months ago with an OE brand. There was no oil in the coolant or vice versa which confuses me even more. I also replaced the cap while I did it. Right before I replaced all of that, I was overheating and looked under the hood, my upper hose was totally collapsed. What exactly causes that?

The hydraulic tensioner was replaced when i did the timing belt and it took a good amount of time in a vice to get it compressed enough to put the pin in so i don't have any reason to believe that part is bad.

Could you please explain how all of these coolant related issues would cause a constant misfire on one specific cylinder? I'm not disputing anything you have said, just trying to understand how it all works together.

Thanks.

EDIT: Tomorrow when i pull the plugs I will be doing a comparison to find out what the issue is.
When i pulled the old plugs out last week to change them, they were covered in fuel which I thought was odd. I attributed it to turning the engine by hand for the timing belt although i could be completely wrong.
 

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turning the engine (that is, without the igniton on - of course) should not result in additional fuel. Of course, there is pressure in the rails and leaking injectors could flood the cylinders. seems unlikely all 4 would be leaking. Why were you turning the engine though? If it had just failed to start, there could be residual fuel in the cyls i guess.

maybe someone else will chime in with ideas.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I was turning it through after i put the timing belt back on just to make sure everything was good to go. I was really nervous when i pulled it off because I know it wouldn't take much to destroy the engine.

Tomorrow will be interesting...
 

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did you have the collapsed coolant hose AFTER the t'stat and rad cap were changed? could be a clogged radiator or tube to the o'flow. Does the o'flow bottle's level change during, after the overheating events? Also, a huge gas pocket from a bad HG might cause the hose to collapse - more so if it's old and weak I guess.

you may have 2-3 different issues going on, but several symptoms point to HGs or cooling system.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
No, the overheating and collapsed hose prompted me to change the tstat and cap. I have yet to overheat after about 2 weeks sitting in stop and go traffic but the temps have been much cooler than they were when the problem was at its worse.

I do not see any bubbles in the overflow and the level does change from warmed up to cooling down.

Aside from the chemical test, is there any other way to confirm a HG issue? I will be doing a compression test tomorrow and the results should confirm something at least.

Question: Once i do the compression test, while there is still pressure in the cylinder, is it possible to use it as a leak down tester if it is leaking at a high rate?
 

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I simply cannot abide useless people.
2006 2.5i and 2002 3.0 wagons.
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Compression and leak down tests aren't the most reliable for the old DOHC engine. It typically leaks internally, so look for bubbles in the coolant overflow and have the coolant tested for exhaust gases.
 

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most folks report that traditional tests don't work well. probably related to the same reason(s) that overheating seems so intermittent for many folks.

You may try feeling of the radiator, or get/borrow a remote infrared thermometer to see if there are cool sections of the radiator. Might confirm some clogged passages.

If you still have the t'stat that was removed, try putting in a pan of hot water on a stove. Use a meat thermometer as you heat it and watch for when it opens.

It would be nice to KNOW if you've removed the problem.

good luck
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I do have an IR thermo that I will probe around with tomorrow when i have it warmed up. What is the reasoning behind the coolant system causing a P0302 code and no other cyl?
 

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I do have an IR thermo that I will probe around with tomorrow when i have it warmed up. What is the reasoning behind the coolant system causing a P0302 code and no other cyl?

I can't think of one - which is why I suggested you 'may' be dealing with more than one problem. If the misfire code is due to reduced compression when the HG leaks, then they could be related. But, suppose there is a non-HG-related cooling problem and, say, a sticking/burned valve in cyl 2?

it's a stretch I admit, but eliminating things will help to definitively clear or [email protected] the HG.

maybe someone else has a better approach to the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Ok so i did some stuff today to narrow down the issue. I didnt get nearly as much done as i wanted including the compression test which is really the important thing. I guess i was just putting off removing spark plugs...that is the one thing I really hate about this car.

O2 Sensor voltages at cold startup:
1: .32v slowly climbing. After about 10 seconds it was up to .5v
2: .33v with the same results as above.

The manual says cold voltage should be around .1-.2 until iit goes into closed loop. Any major red flags with these readings?

I swapped #2 and #4 plug leads and went for a drive, still got P0302 so its not a faulty wire.

While the engine was running I tapped the knock sensor and surrounding area with a hammer and did not notice and difference iin the idle. I tested for continuity from the harness to ground and there was none. I thought that after a couple solid blows the timing should advance to prevent knocking which it did not. I have yet to get a knock sensor code though.

At idle my spark advance is 18 degrees. The book says it should be 15 degrees. Is this considered a negligible difference? I also noticed during a different startup the adv would be at 28 degrees.

Fuel pressure was at 30 PSI at idle.

On my code reader the CAT, O2 sensor and EGR icons were all flashing.

I pulled the EGR and cleaned it as best i could with a wire brush.

To confirm my dead cylinder I measured temps at the header for each cylinder:
1. 210 degrees
2. 180 degrees
3. 220 degrees
4. 220 degrees

This just confirms that the number 2 cylinder is not firing.

While idling, I pulled the #2 wire from the coil and did not notice any change in the engine running so the cylinder is completely dead at this point and it is not ignition related.

I also swapped the Injectors and what a pain they were to get out.
I swapped 2 and 4 with no difference in running although i did not get a code for the 5 min I let it idle but it was still obviously down a cylinder.

I also put seafoam through a vaccuum line to the TB and it started to smoke like crazy. Tomorrow i will take it for a short drive to clean the rest of it out of the engine.

Tomorrow i will also be doing a compression test to see exactly how low #2 is.

I did another coolant pressure test and it held pressure just fine.

Any other insight to my problem would be great. Thanks for all the help.
 

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did the misfire start after you did the tune up or was it there before??? after the timing belt or before?

did you use the arrows for the timing belt alignment?
NOT the ARROWS, NEVER the ARROWS.

it seems you have 2 separate problems, overheating and the #2 misfire. solving the misfire will not correct the over heating but fixing the over heating may reveal the misfire. if you have bad head gaskets pulling the head may revel the cause. but you probably will want ot pretty much be sure of the misfire cause before you pull the head. you certainly do not want to put in new gaskets only to have the same misfire.

do the compression rest on #2 and i would do #1 as well just for comparison. do #3 if you are energetic. the really hard one is #4. but if #2 is low you will have your answer. you will just need to determine if it is rings, valves or timing.

my guess is a burnt exhaust valve or your timing is off. i think there is a dollar bill test that will help. with the engine idling, hols a dollar bill over the tail pipe. it should constantly be pushed away from the pipe. if it ever ''sucks in'' a little, this could be a burnt valve. i have not tried this and i am not sure how effective or easy it is to do.

the over heating could be head gaskets, especially if they have not been replaced. nothing to do there except replace them.

check you timing marks, 3 screws on each cam timing cover. it could have slipped, jumped or just been set up wrong. if the cam timing is right then the crank is probably right as well, but not a guarantee.

it is more work to check the crank timing, but not terrible. if you remove the crank pulley bolt and set the crank key way straight down in the 6 oclock position the cams should all be on the timing marks.

good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks for the reply. The misfire was barely noticeable before the timing belt was replaced by the shop, not enough to throw a code. After I got it back, it became slightly more noticeable and once i did the tune up where i removed the belt and changed all of the items listed above, the misfire was much more severe and that is where i am now. Now it constantly throws a code.

I removed and installed the belt step by step according to the haynes manual. I used the single and double lines on the cam sprockets to align the belt before removal and marked the belt as well.

I am getting ready to do a compression test and see how that goes. I will also try the dollar bill test just out of curiosity. I will probably pull the timing covers as well to make sure all of the marks are still aligned.

Would the belt being a few teeth off be indicated by the timing advance at all? I;m not really sure how the advance works so I wouldn't know if if is directly related to the belt being off.

Basically all these tests are to find something other than the headgasket that could be the problem. I really cant afford to have that done right now.

I guess its not a horrible thing that i currently dont have a job so i don't have to be anywhere and have plenty of time to work on this thing.

I will report back on how the compression test goes. Thanks again.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Ok so I removed plugs from cylinders 1 and 2. Here is what they looked like:


Nearly identical with no oil or fuel on either of them.

Now to the interesting part: I know You guys like pictures, and even more some video so here you go:

1997 Subaru Legacy Outback Compression Test Cylinder #2 - YouTube

1997 Subaru Legacy Outback Compression Test Cylinder #1 - YouTube

Obviously cylinder 2 is dead due to low compression. My question is what can you tell by the way the gauge builds up during the test? Its more of one spike and then pressure stays near constant after that. The manual doesn't specifically explain this type of reading.
 

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I think we really need to see cyl #4 tested. If the camshaft is miss-timed, you might get 'some' pressure but the valve overlap would leak some out. Or maybe some kind weird broken valve sprig issue where the valve acts like a check valve?
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Ask you and shall recieve:
1997 Subaru Outback Compression test Cyl #4 - YouTube

It might have read 10 psi lower than #1 but i believe that to be a negligible difference considering the car has 210 k miles. If I am wrong, please correct me.

Also did the "dollar bill test" just out of curisioty. It was pretty hard to tell but i did notice it was getting sucked in for a very brief second.

http://youtu.be/NAgpZndF9aM
 

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seems like something's up with, probably?, the exhaust valve in cyl #2.
 
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