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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
2004 Outback wagon with 129,000 miles.

I was told both catalytic converters need to be replaced. The most recent dealership to tell me that said "both converters are completely shot and need to be replaced ASAP." This was 12,000 miles ago. I've read about the O2 sensor problems and plan to have a dealership that I trust more check that in January. (So far 3 different Subaru dealerships in 2 states have said it's the cats.)

My real question, is it possible for a car to run without either cat working? I know when my truck's cat went I had to have it towed because the engine died.

The car also needs new brakes, tires and maybe shocks. I've already replaced a number of parts, including the head gasket and solenoid converter. I am trying to prioritizes the repairs, so I need to know how important the cats really are. I can register the car in another state where they are (supposedly) covered under warranty until 150K, but that will cost me a fair amount in taxes and fees as well as increased insurance prices.
 

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2004 Outback wagon with 129,000 miles.

I was told both catalytic converters need to be replaced. The most recent dealership to tell me that said "both converters are completely shot and need to be replaced ASAP." This was 12,000 miles ago. I've read about the O2 sensor problems and plan to have a dealership that I trust more check that in January. (So far 3 different Subaru dealerships in 2 states have said it's the cats.)

My real question, is it possible for a car to run without either cat working? I know when my truck's cat went I had to have it towed because the engine died.

The car also needs new brakes, tires and maybe shocks. I've already replaced a number of parts, including the head gasket and solenoid converter. I am trying to prioritizes the repairs, so I need to know how important the cats really are. I can register the car in another state where they are (supposedly) covered under warranty until 150K, but that will cost me a fair amount in taxes and fees as well as increased insurance prices.
Replace the front O2 sensor. Highly doubt you need a new cat. Your car may also fall under extended coverage via subaru. I havent met a dealer yet that is 100% truthfull about this.
I actually damaged mine at 140k cost me $150 to have a exhaust shop weld a new one in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for your input. I have already reached the point of not trusting any dealership. I will have the sensor replaced first to see if that fixes my problem.

I have already called Subaru and they do not have extended warranty coverage in the state the car is currently registered in. If I register it in the state I live in they do offer the extended warranty and are saying they will pay to fix it. However, that would add a great deal of expense so I don't want to switch states unless I have to (the car really does need new cats).

I would still like to know, can an Outback run without either catalytic converter working?
 

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01 VDC, 05 R Sedan, 06 BAJA EJ257
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For starters, go here and read my post. http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/66-problems-maintenance/49537-p0420-diag.html

Then find another shop and ask for proof.

It is possible for a car to run with a bad CAT. It depends on the condition of the "combing" within. If it is getting clogged up with carbon it creates a lot of back pressure and the engine can't breath. It will be unable to push out the exhaust, or exhale. This in turns increases the engine temperature and you will lose power output. It won't be able to move well.

If it is just unable to store oxygen used in reburning the HC, then the car can breath but the tailpipe emissions will be higher than normal.
 

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First - tell us what is wrong. I do not care what the dealers told you. I want to know what running symptoms you have or codes. Dealers throw converters around like they're rice at a wedding.....stupid. You will need to decide if you want to be part of that system of nonsense or practical, experienced advice.

If it's the 0420 code then oh my goodness, just install the $5 fix and be done with it. That thing is a complete debacle, you can google P0420 and read all week what a mess this code is across every make/manufacturer. It in NO WAY AT ALL indicates your converters are bad....maybe 1% of the time, although I haven't seen it yet.

First though - make sure you don't have any leaks and replace the front O2 sensor(s) if you want. If you wanna save green stuff then don't.

If you REALLY think your converters are bad or want to test then simply unbolt them from the exhaust and let them hang there so the exhaust isn't "all clogged up" (as these converter failure proponents would have you believe)....if the car then runs fine then maybe they're clogged, but that actually never happens because Subaru converter clogging failure is like BigFoot. you'll see no change in symptoms because your converters are fine.

More than likely your converters are fine, they generally last the life of the vehicle on Subaru's unless something very bad happened prior. I can not stress how uncommon Subaru converter failure is (not counting simple external rust LOL)...This is for from the 1980's and up, I only have experience on 3 decades of Subaru's, not sure about older ones. LOL
 

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If and only if the problem is really the cats, to depends on where you live. If you live in an area that requires regular emissions checks, then you will have to get them replaced before you can pass your next inspection.

If you live in an area that does not check emissions, then you can get away with out them. It's not recommended, but legally can be done.
 

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post your city and maybe someone can recommend a competent mechanic.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
What first started this whole problem was the check engine light flashing. I was told it was the cats at that time. A while later the cruise control light started flashing and cruise control no longer worked. I never addressed the cruise control problem because it wasn't high on my list of priorities.

The engine did get really hot once when my Mom was driving the car. She called me in a panic and I had a tow truck meet her. The AWD also failed at that time (only the front tires were turning). I had the transmission fluid flushed/replaced twice. That didn't work so I had the solenoid (sp?) replaced. That fixed the problem with the AWD and since then I have never seen the engine get even remotely close to overheated.

The car has been registered in a state that does not require emissions checks for the past 4 or 5 years.

I am not sure if there is loss of power. To be honest, I have been driving trucks for years so when I first started driving a 4 cyl Subaru I felt the acceleration was quite poor. I have noticed a decline in engine power, but not to the point that I struggle to get home after work. I have to ascend 2000 feet in elevation in just under 4 miles, so I expect if the cats were really bad the car wouldn't make it???

I will get the codes checked to see exactly which one it is. I can have that done at a place like Autozone, correct? I am near Springfield, MA.

I am not very car savvy and would have no idea how to do any diagnostics or repairs myself.
 

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I passed an e-test with a p0420 code on my car. We can have Check engine lights on here, as long as it passes the two speed sniff test.

Agree with above, Cats are usually not the problem, O2's usually (or wiring to O2's) are
 

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First - tell us what is wrong. I do not care what the dealers told you. I want to know what running symptoms you have or codes. Dealers throw converters around like they're rice at a wedding.....stupid. You will need to decide if you want to be part of that system of nonsense or practical, experienced advice.

If it's the 0420 code then oh my goodness, just install the $5 fix and be done with it. That thing is a complete debacle, you can google P0420 and read all week what a mess this code is across every make/manufacturer. It in NO WAY AT ALL indicates your converters are bad....maybe 1% of the time, although I haven't seen it yet.

First though - make sure you don't have any leaks and replace the front O2 sensor(s) if you want. If you wanna save green stuff then don't.

If you REALLY think your converters are bad or want to test then simply unbolt them from the exhaust and let them hang there so the exhaust isn't "all clogged up" (as these converter failure proponents would have you believe)....if the car then runs fine then maybe they're clogged, but that actually never happens because Subaru converter clogging failure is like BigFoot. you'll see no change in symptoms because your converters are fine.

More than likely your converters are fine, they generally last the life of the vehicle on Subaru's unless something very bad happened prior. I can not stress how uncommon Subaru converter failure is (not counting simple external rust LOL)...This is for from the 1980's and up, I only have experience on 3 decades of Subaru's, not sure about older ones. LOL

maybe you should read my thread http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/66-problems-maintenance/49537-p0420-diag.html

Your $5 fix only extends the life of the oxygen sensor and actually alters the feedback to the ECM because the sensor is not getting any flow across it.

A CAT fails in different ways. I just posted a follow up where only the CAT was replaced. No sensors. The sensors were good and operating correctly. The CAT could no longer store oxygen to function properly and the ECM picked up on it.

Please stop advising people of this $5 fix. It is not a fix. If the CAT is on its way out, its on its way out and there is nothing you can do to prevent it. If its going to get plugged up with carbon, its a quick downhill once it starts and there is no repair for.

And again, I very rarely replace CATs when I see a P0420. This code is general in nature and is telling you something is wrong with the performance of the engine and you need to find the problem.
 

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If your outback is a PZEV your cats are warrenteed for 150,000 miles. My 2004 wagon had 225000 miles on it when i sold it back in june and both cats had been replaced by the dealer for free twice because of the P420 code. Once at 75000 and then again at 150000. It might be worth looking in to. I am also in Mass and had them done at patrick Subaru in Worcester.
 

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If your outback is a PZEV your cats are warrenteed for 150,000 miles. My 2004 wagon had 225000 miles on it when i sold it back in june and both cats had been replaced by the dealer for free twice because of the P420 code. Once at 75000 and then again at 150000. It might be worth looking in to. I am also in Mass and had them done at patrick Subaru in Worcester.
FREE. A wonderful thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
If your outback is a PZEV your cats are warrenteed for 150,000 miles. My 2004 wagon had 225000 miles on it when i sold it back in june and both cats had been replaced by the dealer for free twice because of the P420 code. Once at 75000 and then again at 150000. It might be worth looking in to. I am also in Mass and had them done at patrick Subaru in Worcester.
It was that dealership that failed to repair the part when the car was registered in MA and the code popped up for the first time. :confused: I honestly don't know if I trust them anymore. I live in western MA now anyway.

I do like to hear that it is free to replace. I am fairly certain that my vehicle qualifies as a PZEV. It was made to "California emission standards." If Subaru covers the cost of repairs I will be a very happy and relieved person!

I went by AutoZone today and got the error code. This is what the print out says:

P0420

Catalyst efficiency bellow threshold

Probable cause:

rich A/F ratio
ignition system malfunction
faulty catalytic converter
 
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