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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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Discussion Starter #1
This is for our 2003 Outback VDC 3L H6 which is in very good condition. Never happened before, but happened twice in the last few weeks. We usually fill up way before the gas tank empties, usually at ½ or 1/3 tank, but sometimes get close to empty. When we have gotten close to the empty line or light and parked the car for the night, we’ve never had a problem starting the car on the first try the next day. Recently twice when we let the gas go very close to the empty line or light, parked it and returned to start it the next day, the car didn’t start right away. It clearly wasn’t an electrical problem so I pumped the gas pedal twice and the car started fine. After driving the car for 15 minutes still without filling and parking, returned 45 minutes later and car started fine.

What could be the cause of the car not starting right away when parked for the night when close to empty? Dirty injectors?

We do fill up from time to time on Chevron Techron before a longer drive to keep the fuel system clean (supposed to be same as using a fuel system cleaner).
 

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Search on failed fuel pump gasket on H3. Yours is in that neighborhood regarding age. There have been a few recent posters who found this failing gasket in the fuel pump to be the cause.
 

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2012 Outback 2.5 i Premium
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474 Posts
Clogged fuel filter, dirty injectors, or a bad fuel pump gasket. Start with the cheapest and work your way up.
 

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03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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do you ever notice any whooshing sound when removing the gas cap?

is there a Check Engine Light on?


as subiesailor mentioned, there's an issue with the fuel pump but, your symptoms do not match 'precisely'. Still, it's a common enough problem to check - even to rule it out. failed fuel pump cap and o-ring , mostly on H6 engines.

if it weren't so difficult, I'd suggest pulling the plugs to see if one is wet with fuel after sitting for a while/over night.
 

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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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Discussion Starter #5
thanks, whooshing sound sometimes when opening fuel cap

Thanks for pointing me in good directions, much appreciated. So, clogged fuel filter, dirty injectors, or a bad fuel pump gasket, from cheapest to most expensive.

No Check Engine light - would have brought it in right away had we seen it on.

1 Lucky Texan, we have noticed a whooshing sound sometimes when removing the gas cap, but not always. Would the whooshing sound point to the failed fuel pump gasket?
 

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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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Discussion Starter #6
re whooshing sound from fuel cap, only after driving for a while and refueling

Now that I think of it, only hear that whooshing sound when stopping for fuel after driving for a while, like after driving on highway, upon removing fuel cap.

Haven't heard it both those times when trying to start car in AM when gas close to empty.
 

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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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235 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
threads and writeup on fuel pump failed o-ring gasket?

Tried searching for fuel pump o-ring gasket threads, but only found one I just posted on as well. Can you point me in the right direction, and do you know where the writeup is that was mentioned?
 

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Was it parked on an inclined surface when parked overnight?
 

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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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235 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Thanks Subiesailor; Upflying it was parked on level ground

Was parked overnight on level ground close to sea level like most of Silicon Valley (though in 10 minutes drive we can be at 2000 ft elevation). Temperatures were mild summer night temps, around 55-60F.

Thanks Subiesailor for the link.
 

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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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Discussion Starter #11
Similar problem written about at USMB below

Looks like a similar problem has been written about on USMB Subaru forums:

2000 Outback Fuel pump assembly metal cap is broken - Ultimate Subaru Message Board

FairTax4Me there said that he's waiting to hear if the fix in that thread will work, as the only current way he knows of to fix the issue "is to buy a used part, which will likely fail again in the not too distant future, or buy an entire fuel pump assembly from Subaru to the tune of around $400."
 

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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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235 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
Subaru dealer said they just replace whole fuel pump assembly for whopping $785

Asked the better of the two local dealerships if they're familiar with this problem - they said they just replaced the entire fuel assembly at a cost of about $785 in parts and labor. Ouch. Our indie garage is great and always much more reasonable, but if they can't source the parts they'd still have to get a whole assembly.

Does anyone have a good source for the cap and o-ring parts aside from junk yards (and if the original Subaru parts are designed or made badly to begin with won't they just fail again)?
 

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Asked the better of the two local dealerships if they're familiar with this problem - they said they just replaced the entire fuel assembly at a cost of about $785 in parts and labor. Ouch. Our indie garage is great and always much more reasonable, but if they can't source the parts they'd still have to get a whole assembly.

Does anyone have a good source for the cap and o-ring parts aside from junk yards (and if the original Subaru parts are designed or made badly to begin with won't they just fail again)?
How old is the car? - its made pretty good if you consider the fuel pump history of GM vehicles. As far as whats been shared - the parts are only sold in the full package for the fuel pump. So unless your shop can find a replacement without purchasing the entire unit your options might be pretty limited.
 

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03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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I'm wondering if you might have a vapor recovery system problem. Thing is, I'd expect you might get a CEL. Perhaps have the OBDII system scanned for pending codes.

I don't think you should have any vacuum or pressure in the tank when removing the gas cap.
 

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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
So wasn't fuel filter cap/o-ring; now worse; thinking leaky injector

OK, so brought it in to our good indie garage, asked them to check for fuel filter cap and 0-ring deformation - none found. Only error code thrown was P0183 code (Fuel Temp Sensor A, High Input Circuit). No Check Engine Light, just the error code.

Mechanic couldn't replicate the no-start problem I was having. After leaving, I filled up a full tank of gas. Everything was fine until two days later. Went to start car in the afternoon after not driving it all day - no start - and this time it wouldn't start 3x until it started on the 4th try. I drove some blocks and then parked to see what would happen - car wouldn't start on first and second try again.

I'm thinking maybe a leaky injector that's flooding the cylinder? Any suggestions?

Found info related to the P0183 Error Code here:

http://www.ultimatesubaru.org/forum/showthread.php?t=77153

http://www.ultimatesubaru.org/forum/showthread.php?t=7578&highlight=P0183

I had copied and pasted summary notes from what I found in these threads:

Code:
P0183 Engine Fuel Temperature Sensor A Circuit High Input

Description:
The comprehensive component monitor (CCM) monitors the EFT sensor circuit to the PCM for high voltage. If voltage were to exceed a calibrated limit and a calibrated amount of time during testing, the test will fail.

Possible Causes:
*Open or Short to power in harness*
*Damaged EFT Sensor*
*Improper harnes connection*
*Damaged PCM*

Diagnostic Aides
Verify EFT-PID value to determine open or short

-It uses fuel temp to know when to run the integrity test. It basically makes sure you have no leaks in the fuel system, which would allow raw fuel in the atmosphere. In an endwrench article for enhanced evap soobs it says:

To test the integrity of the [fuel] system, the system shuts off all access of the tank to the outside atmosphere. [then a bunch of other steps].

The testing of this system is only conducted once per drive cycle and only under very specific conditions:
• The fuel tank must contain less than 9.6 gallons of fuel.
• The fuel temperature must be less than 113°F.
• Engine speed must be over 1500 RPM.
• Vehicle speed over 28 MPH.
• Throttle position must be mid-range.
• Intake manifold vacuum must be equivalent to cruising vacuum.
• 455 seconds must have elapsed since engine start.

-the ECU uses the fuel temp sensor input to know when it can do the evap fuel system integrity test.

-Typically when the CEL illuminates with a fuel temp sensor code, either the fuel filter is partially plugged, the pump is defective, or the sensor is bad. The fuel continuously circulates from the tank to the injection unit and back to the tank again whenever the pump is running. Any restriction (plugged fuel filter or pinched line) will cause the fuel to heat up and trigger a code.
BTW: in tank pumps are good because they are submerged in fuel which acts as a heat sink to keep the pump cool. Running the car on empty a lot can lead to premature failures of the fuel pump. Ideally you should always refill BEFORE the low fuel light comes on.

Also in winter you should keep the tank above 1/2 full all the time as doing so will reduce moisture buildup in the tank which will reduce the chance of a frozen fuel line, and reduces corrosion in the tank. It also means that you will have "extra" fuel in an emergency.

In addition, apparently having the wrong ECU for your model Subaru can also throw the P0183 code. Doubtful in my case as I'm sure I have the OEM ECU.
 

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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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Discussion Starter #16
Problem went away on its own; Any idea why?

So the problem went away on its own - no issue for the last 6 weeks. At least nothing other than removing the fuel pump to inspect it and putting it back.

The progression was: Several times the car didn't start on the first turn of the key when the gas was very low close to empty. One pump of the gas pedal and it started. After pulling out the pump to inspect it, nothing was found wrong. Then right after filling up a full tank of gas, it wouldn't start right at the gas station on the first try as well, until after a single pump of the gas pedal. Then the problem disappeared, though I've been staying at my usual above 1/4 tank full and haven't been testing things by running very low.

What I can't explain is why: A) Pumping the gas pedal once was all that was needed to start the car after it wouldn't start up on the first try. B) Why the issue went away.

I should mention that the Crank Shaft Pulley (Harmonic Balancer) just came apart on me yesterday, and I've just ordered a replacement, though don't see how it's connected to this.

Two thoughts:

1) My indie mechanic suggested that perhaps the fuel we Californians are limited to by state law may mean a higher chance of impurities getting into your fuel pump, and that whatever was in there, had a chance to get out after running on a new tank of fuel.

2) Because I had driven the car twice within the space of a very busy two weeks close down to empty, that perhaps some debris got into the filter, which when it was removed to look at it, or when it had a chance to run more, got out. I typically always fill up before 1/4 tank - that's generally a good habit to keep considering most modern fuel pumps are cooled by the gas they are sitting in, and that gunk floating at the top has more of a chance to get in when you're running on low gas.
 

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2007 outback 2.5i
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i don't know the specifics of the module for subaru, but most modern fuel modules have a reservoir that keeps fluid around the pump, even when the tank is low.

there is a small check valve that prevents fuel from draining from the module. if this check valve leaks, or gets some debris in it, fuel can exit the module and cause hard starts.

there is typically a check valve in the pump that serves a similar purpose from the pump to the rail.

there are certain failure modes in which a little percussive maintenance on the fuel tank may cause these valves to seat properly, or jar the debris loose.

disclaimer - thumping the tank may provide temporary relief, but there are also things that go wrong (like brush wear) where your pump/module is gonna need to be replaced soon anyway. so if you find yourself underneath the car hitting the tank, you should probably investigate replacement parts.
 

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2003 VDC Subaru Outback 3L H6
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Discussion Starter #18
Looks like it may be the starter motor or gearing going?

So yesterday with a full tank of gas, when I tried to start the car, the dashboard lit up and I heard a clicking sound coming from behind the dash, but the starter didn't turn over or catch. Same thing on the second try. On the third try it started up. That happened each of the two times I used the car afterwards. I had just replaced the Harmonic Balancer (Crankshaft Pulley) a few days before, after the rubber/plastic on the pulley had separated.

Perhaps all along it's been the starter motor or gearing around the starter motor going bad. But can't understand why the problem hasn't been consistent.
 

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Starter motor has a electric switch on the actual starter these can go bad. Generally caused by a weak battery over time.

When you say the car wouldn't start we all assumed it was turning over ie the starter was running fine but the engine was not catching. Which case everyone was thinking fuel issue.

Also when you did the harmonic balancer did you touch or lean on or other wise mess with any of the wires ground wire etc - this can impact your starter not getting enough juice due to bad wire connections. This could also cause the car to have other odd issues like hard starts if a ground wire is bad etc

Based on your comment about California fuel I would assume your in CA which case we just had one of the colder nights we have had all fall which case a tired battery would generally go **** up after a cold night also impacting your starter

CA fuel quality is not the issue. Fuel - Electrical ground contacts - bum starter switch etc yes all possible causes
 
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