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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Been reading here since I got a 2003 Outback that needed HG replacement, first time posting.

Car is a 2003 Outback, EJ25, 172K miles.

Yesterday, while driving home my smooth running Outback suddenly lost power and began running very rough, lots of engine shake. Got it towed home and started looking at it today.

Car will start and run, but lots of engine shaking. I put a timing light on it, thinking may have had timing belt jump a tooth or something, The timing light does NOT flash on cylinder #1, but DOES flash on cylinders 2,3,4. I thought that on this engine that the same coil works pairs of cylinders, 1&2 or 3&4.

Since it works on 2, I figured plug wire bad. Switched wires between 1 and 3. Still no timing light flash from cylinder 1 - 2,3,4 all still flash.

Tried then swapping plugs between 1 & 3 - still same. Plug out of 1 was wet with gas - so injector does seem to be doing something.

Ok, it must be coil pack. Bought new and replaced. Same - the timing light will not flash when on cylinder 1 plug wire, will flash with all other cylinders.

There does seem to be a clacking type noise coming from engine. Sounds more like valve noise than a thrown rod. I do not know what mechanical issue would result in no spark on cylinder 1.

A little history - bought this car (cheap) knowing that head gasket needed replacing. I did the head gasket repair myself, following guides here and the South Main youtube videos. While heads were off, they were machined and valves done (including new shaft seals) by an engine rebuilder with lots of experience with Subaru (I’m in Colorado - lots of them here).

When I put it back together, it ran very well, probably 2000 miles since HG done.

Last week tried to start car, battery dead - looks like wife left lights on. Charged battery - still no crank. Took battery to shop - tested ok. Replaced it anyway (it was 4 years old and winter is coming)j. No problem starting with new battery. Negative cable looked corroded - replaced the negative battery clamp. Ran well with new battery for 3 days.

I have checked ground straps from firewall and passenger to engine are attached and tight. They were cleaned when I disconnected to do HG.

CEL light is intermittently flashing - I have ordered a code reader, but have not yet checked for codes.

Any ideas what to look at next?
 

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On the Super Mod Squad
2002 3.0 VDC Wag + 2018 2.5 Leg Ltd
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26,843 Posts
timing belt or timing belt kit? (- the rubber belt on these may outlast the pulley/idler etc which can seize up and break a good new belt).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That was my first thought which is why I started with timing light. While hooked to cylinder 2 (which should be firing at same time as 1) timing is dead on 10° BTDC. Thanks.
 

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Premium Member
(formerly) 03 H6 OBW , (presently) 06 WRX Sportwagon & 2021 Honda CR-V
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18,329 Posts
i have no idea how a timing light could detect slipped cam timing.

compression test and/or dropping exhaust to look for a dropped valve guide?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
That’s true, didn’t think of that. Cam position sensor is on drivers side with cylinders 2 and 4. The cam on the head with 1 & 3 could have jumped. Will pull timing belt covers and check timing using the markings. Thanks.

Valve issues could certainly cause the noise I’m hearing - the valve guides were all replaced with HG replacement, and I can understand that issue. But I still can’t figure why no spark. Is an inductive timing light a valid way to check for spark?

Don’t have a compression tester but maybe local parts store has a loaner. Cylinder 1 is relatively accessible after removing the tank that’s part of the air intake. Will also drop exhaust and see what I can see.
 

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Premium Member
(formerly) 03 H6 OBW , (presently) 06 WRX Sportwagon & 2021 Honda CR-V
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18,329 Posts
if it's running, you might be looking at some pulley being only 1 or 2 teeth off. Find the tooth count on-line for your engine, align the marks and count the teeth.

marks on the belt - if they are still visible - only align once every few score/hundred revolutions and are best used as a guide for intial installation only.

will the plug wires also swap positions?
 

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01 Outback LL Bean
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If the the inductive light isn't going off then its not a mechanical problem. Have you tried pulling the spark plug out of the cylinder and running it like that to check for a visual spark?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Have you tried pulling the spark plug out of the cylinder and running it like that to check for a visual spark?
I have not checked visually for a spark with the plug out. I will. How likely is it that there will be a spark but it won’t trigger the inductive timing light? The shaking and lack of power makes it pretty clear it’s not firing on all cylinders.

Any ideas why I could be getting a spark on 2 but not on 1, they are attached to same coil?
 

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01 Outback LL Bean
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I'm not convinced you aren't getting spark on cylinder 1. Pull the plug and see what you get. Also hook up the timing light. Then you need to check compression and fuel pressure and the injector.
If you had a stuck open injector that could cause some issues and possibly keep the plug from firing...just a thought.
 

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Onyx, 2008 LL Bean 3.0R and 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
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When you get the code reader or go to an auto parts chain store to have the code read for free, you should see a P0301 code indicating a miss-fire to the first cylinder. If you don't get that, you should consider a skipping timing belt or sticky belt tensioner or pulleys. Give the water pump a spin by hand as well, just for the heck of it. They rarely fail like the pulleys though.
 
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