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1996 Stock Auto Legacy Outback
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5 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,

I've been a long time (nonregistered) lurker ever since I decided 2 years ago that I wanted a Subaru. Dollars are tight as a student but I've been diligently saving and trolling Craigslist until last week when a '96 automatic outback went up for $800. Stoked, I jumped on it and bought it the next day and rented a garage for my new project.

Given my resources I planned on having to do an HG job, as anything in tip top shape is generally not going to be in my price range. I was still hyped I could find something so cheap (I was expecting $1-$1.5k even with questionable gasket status). I'm aware I probably won't be saving any money, and if I could've saved up longer I probably could have got something in better shape. But there's half as much fun in that, and I figure I can do the gaskets and timing belt for a comparable end price.

Anyway my new beauty comes with a busted headlamp and bumper, 180k miles, a 100k old t-belt, and blown HG. But otherwise the car seemed in pretty good shape, a recent alignment, new radiator when the guy started having overheating issues, recent spark plugs, recent CV's, no weird noises, previous owner says tranny is good, and leather seats! The car runs, it made it through a Baltimore city test drive and the two miles from his apartment to the garage without issue or overheating. And now my work begins.

--------Above is back story, skip to here if you want ---------
Although the previous owner never confirmed with a shop that it's only an HG issue, even with my lack of Subaru experience I feel pretty certain it's bad head gaskets. Looking underneath, you can see plenty of sad oil weeping from in between the block and heads. The overflow tank looked nasty and low. The previous owner was having overheating problems. And when I started draining the coolant Sunday, it smelled like I'd just opened a go-kart track in my garage. At 180k miles, I'm not surprised, that's what I planned on getting myself into.

I plan on making space and jacking up the engine, as per http://www.subaruforester.org/vbull...5-head-gaskets-without-removing-engine-57335/. Also, I plan to get the heads machined/checked out since there were definitely some miles on the dying gaskets and some overheating episodes. And while I'm in the neighborhood all the timing belt stuff

I'm not too worried about the actual procedure of replacing the gaskets, I feel I've read enough that I have a decent handle on that. I do have a couple questions related to my particular model though.

First is, what compatibility do I have as far as a whole gasket kit goes? For example what I want is something like the Ishino kit listed first on this page http://www.partsgeek.com/catalog/2000/subaru/outback/engine_mechanical/head_gasket.html

Now that is for a 2000, and I have a '96, so DOHC and the HLA's. I feel less confident about what I'm finding for that year. 96 1996 Subaru Legacy Head Gasket - Engine Mechanical - APEX, Beck Arnley, Felpro, Ishino, Nippon Reinz, VR Gaskets - PartsGeek

The second Ishino link looks like what I want, but it mentions it doesn't include a couple things, most important for me the valve cover gaskets. I figure since I'll be there I definitely want to do the valve cover gaskets. One obvious answer would be just get that kit and also the things it says it doesn't include. But because of the year, I just don't feel that confident on picking parts a la carte.

So, does anyone know of an encompassing kit for the '96 EJ25 with at least head gaskets, valve gaskets, valve seals, and any other essentials? Or for those who think buying the OEM Subaru 610 Head Gaskets and other bits individually, could you lay out a precise list of specifically what I should get? Keep in mind it's got 180k miles on it so things are probably ripe for replacing.

Second, is what should I do regarding maintaining the HLA's? From what I understand, on other later models it's a prime time to do a valve job and make sure the lifters (bucket lifters I think) are shimmed properly. But the 1996 has the hydraulic doo-dads! What do I do with these? Just not care, or what's the recommended plan of action here?

Third, is I think I might as well replace all the timing belt stuff for good measure. I plan on getting a kit like this 96 97 Subaru Legacy Outback 2 5 DOHC Timing Belt Tensioner Kit Aisin Water Pump | eBay with the belt, pulleys, the idler tensioner, and waterpump et al. Does that seem like the way to go? I know we're not talking top notch here off ebay, but from my research GMB pulleys seem fine and so do Aisin water pumps.

--------TL;DR-------------
What head gasket/valve gasket stuff set should I get for a 1996 outback?

What do I do about the HLA's?

Does the above timing belt kit seem alright?

Sorry about the long gigantic post, but I just wanted to put as much information as I had out there so I can get the best help. Thanks for bearing with me and for any help.
 

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2005 OBW 2.5L, 1989 Subaru Justy, RIP Blu
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7,355 Posts
Well since your going whole hog,

Replace the PCV valve.
Use Subaru head Gaskets only. Everything else you can get from other sources. Spark plug bucket seals should be from Subaru, as there is a huge difference between aftermarket and OE.

New Subaru Thermostat. the first thing you do after draining the cooling system is to flush the radiator This keeps all the old goo, coolant and who knows what else from becoming cement when exposed to air for several days.

The timing belt kit seems fine.

I would recomend a compression test first, both wet and dry. This will give us an idea of the health of the engine rings and valves on the other cylinders. From that we can gauge what would be best to do next.

I am a little nervous about doing a valve job or even a HG on an engine with this high a mileage. You may get some blow-by after all is said and done, so lets see where we are first.
 

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1996 Stock Auto Legacy Outback
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5 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the expert eye. I'll do the PCV valve and Thermostat, no need to be shy over another $20. I'll also make sure to get the (improved) OEM Head Gaskets, and probably round everything out with an appropriate Fel-Pro kit plus OEM spark plug well seals.

But first things first I'll run the compression test like you suggested, with crossed fingers and probably toes, and hopefully that will be no impediment.

For the ring health, the key here is the difference between wet and dry right? A vastly improved wet indicating that the rings are lame.

I'll report back (probably weekend time) with the compression test numbers! Thanks a lot for your help and suggestions.
 

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2005 OBW 2.5L, 1989 Subaru Justy, RIP Blu
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7,355 Posts
Wet and dry shows ring wear. I am not concerned with balance as subarus tend to be fairly balanced in wear. The HG blows not cylinder to cylinder but cylinder to water jacket, so with three cylinders we should get a good feel for it.
 

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OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
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12,385 Posts
I would do an EJ22 swap, they're plug and play, no different than removing/install the engine in the car. I wouldn't want to keep that unknown, overheated engine. They blow short blocks/bearings regularly - probably due to prior overheating episodes.

Buy an EJ22 for $300 and sell your Ej25 for $300 and you've got a more reliable engine for FREE. Cheaper timing belt kit too. I just did this for a friend a couple months ago - EJ22 was $350 and his EJ25 never overheated so it'll probably sell for $700 or so...he'll make money on his headgasket repair! Place I got mine from has a ton of 1996's right now, but no 95's.

The problem with that generation EJ25 is that you can not limp it home "I'll just pull over or refill the coolant"....doesn't work in that engine due to the failure mode and how it overheats randomly.

So they're often overheated to extraneous levels.

1995 Automatic EJ22:

Prices look steep out your way, but here's one for $600 in frederick:
1-800-288-6953
$450: 1-800-635-5330 (only 118,000 miles)

You can use 96-98 EJ22's as well if you get one with EGR and get the exhaust manifold with it.

Car-Part.com--Used Auto Parts Market
 

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1996 Stock Auto Legacy Outback
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5 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Hmmm an engine swap had a flavor to it that I was trying to avoid, but at this point keeping course won't really be saving myself any labor I suppose. The bigger concern for me is money, but certainly if my engine blows I'm not saving any of that either.

So I can mull this over as an option, in general do the EJ22's not need anything besides timing belt and friends? I haven't researched them much but they didn't share the head gasket issues with the EJ25 right? Obviously maintenance stuff would depend on the mileage and condition of the individual engine but what's the average you see?

Incidentally Frederick is actually where my family and best friend from high school live, so we could hop in his truck and knock the swap out in a weekend if we were super dedicated.

I guess I'll run the test this weekend and contemplate my options while waiting for my next paycheck.
 

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I own 4 Subarus. A 95,97,02 and a 14. The first two are 2.2 and the last two 2.5.
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657 Posts
+1 on putting in a 2.2 engine. You don't know if the 2.5 has been overheated. The 2.2 can have a HG leak into the coolant but its uncommen. I had one, for example. But I own two 2.2 subarus now, one with 195K and one with 210K and there arn't any problems.
 

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1996 Stock Auto Legacy Outback
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Discussion Starter #8
So it seems like the ej22 is where the safe money is, I'm definitely giving it serious thought and probably leaning towards it. I would be sad to take the horsepower hit though.

To update the plight of my current engine, I got everything needed for the compression test, then started having fun with the spark plugs. Once those were out I hemmed and hawed about whether I should disconnect the crank/cam shaft angle sensors or the fuel pump relay. By the time I decided to run back to my dorm and grab the service manual I'd forgotten, I had just enough twilight left to read the gauge. I pushed the pedal to WOT and go to crank the engine and... the battery was dead! As should have been expected really, at least by Murphy's law. So hopefully I'll have some time in a day or two to actually come back with the numbers I promised.
 

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1996 Stock Auto Legacy Outback
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Discussion Starter #9
Another update!

I walked my battery 3 blocks over to advanced auto and had it charged without issue. After getting back to the car I ran the dry compression test (there was no light left for wet, and also some cat rolled up and started meowing at me to hang out and wouldn't leave me alone). The tests were run on a cold engine, wide open throttle, consistent 5 cranks per cylinder

Also, as I understand it the cylinders are numbered like this:
Passenger side Closest to Front Bumper : 1
Driver side Closest to Bumper : 2
Passenger side Farthest : 3
Driver Side Farthest :4

Is that correct?

Dry Compression Test Results, Cold Engine:
Cylinder
1 => 197psi (pass side closest to bumper)
2 => 185psi (driver side closest)
3 => 200psi (pass side far)
4 => 188psi (driver side far)

3psi/1.5% difference on the passenger side cylinders
3psi/1.6% difference on the driver side cylinders
15psi/7.7% difference between highest and lowest psi cylinders
12psi/6.2% difference between passenger and driver side averages
 
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