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98 Outback Limited 2.5 Manual 243,000 miles

So I bought this OB about a month ago, the previous owner having changed the timing belt, both O2 sensors, brand new battery and verifying that head gaskets had been done recently.

About a week ago, I got a P0400 code. While still in the process of looking into quick checks and fixes, I simply tightened a couple hoses that looked poorly connected. The CEL went out 2 miles into the first drive.

2 miles later the BRAKE and battery lights on the dash both came on, and I read this could be alternator problems. No problem starting up or with electricals. The first time I drove more than 4 miles to work, the lights went off.

Earlier today the CEL came back on on my way to work, first flashing for about 30 seconds then staying solid. I didn't get a chance to check the code. Stopped at a light on the way home, the ABS light came on and the tach dropped to zero even though I could feel that the engine was still running. A few blocks later, the car died mid-turn and now will not start again.

It clicks but doesn't really turn and the lights and windows are weak.

I know jack-all about cars but I learn quickly. I tried to give a decent chronology of events.

Where can I start??
 

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'05 2.5i H4 4-Speed Auto w/Sportshift
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514 Posts
I had all kinds of problems with another vehicle I own. Where I live, the salt on the roads at least nine months out of the year make everything rust and corrode. The other three months, calcium chloride (salt) is put on the many dirt roads we have to keep the dust down. So, the vehicle sees salt nearly every month out of the year here.

Anyway, all that to say, I used a pair of battery jumper cables to check that there is continuity between the negative battery terminal (-) to everything else. I found open grounds in about four locations, one of them being the main frame of the vehicle.

Upon further investigation, what braided ground straps I could see were so corroded they were green and some of them disconnected (or nearly disconnected) from all the major corrosion. Even my mechanic was baffled as he kept clearing all kinds of codes for me, all of them having nothing to do with any of the others, kind of hit-and-miss on all the codes coming up!

When I connected the frame and the engine block to the negative battery cable terminal, I got a spark and all the problems went away! The spark was an indication to me that things which should be bonded to ground WERE NOT BONDED! This had been something I was trying to research for nearly three months, driving around with half the dash missing, wires and cables hanging out, etc.

When I finally found the problem of lack of proper ground, I purchased about six different length battery cables that have a molded eye-ring on each end. I cleaned up the rust from various locations and bolted these new cables into place using star-lock washers in every location. I then sprayed all new bolts and locations (and new cable ends now connected) with Rustoleum. When that dried, I sprayed them all with Lithium Grease.

The problem never came back.
 

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1995 2.2 Auto Legacy Sedan
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142 Posts
Having learned through the school of hard knocks...always check for loose grounds and loose fuses/wires when trouble shooting electrical problems.
 

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(formerly) 03 H6 OBW , (presently) 06 WRX Sportwagon & 2021 Honda CR-V
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18,669 Posts
alternator or possibly bad/dirty ground wire somewhere.

you can take the alt. to a parts store for testing. Inspect the belt for glazing/cracks - maybe it's slipping.
 

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2006 Silver OB 2.5i MT
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1,045 Posts
what braided ground straps I could see were so corroded they were green and some of them disconnected (or nearly disconnected) from all the major corrosion.
Was this your Subaru? I just noticed while changing my oil that there was a green braided cable, about a foot long, completely disintegrated and when I touched it it just crumbled. It's kinda under near the washer reservoir. Car runs ok but I do notice a bit of drain on the engine when I put lights on or use windows. Any idea where to get a new one?
 
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