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2002 Outback Wagon 2.5
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I think that this Subaru has quickly become the most frustrating vehicle I have owned. Lately, I have been plaqued by several problems, some of which I hope venting on here will help find answers.

To catch everyone up, I essentially bought 2 Outbacks to turn into one good one. I took a fairly high mileage engine out of one with a bad trans and swapped it into my black one with the bad engine. Since then, I've hit a deer, which having the parts car helped with. The parts car was very good to me, as I used a ton of stuff off of it, sold a bunch of stuff and then scrapped the rest. While the engine was out, it got a new timing belt, etc, new subaru plugs, and actually 2 new wires, and 2 from the original engine. (the wires I ordered from subaru did not reach, and then I boogered one or 2 trying to swap them around in frustration) I've put 11k miles on it since I got it on the road, with no issues until 2k miles ago.

I keep getting a random check engine light. P0304, cylinder #4 misfire. Not there all the time. Mostly on cold starts, and it lasts more than a few seconds, sometimes even a few minutes. Only feeling it at idle, as off-idle seems ok. Using some thought, I found that injectors sometimes give issues. Since it was cheap enough and easy enough, I bought a remanufactured one from Rockauto. No help. So, back to square one, I found that the #4 coil pack "tower" was falling apart, like it was burnt and corroded. I swapped the extra coil over, since it was easy and free. No change. It doesn't seem to misfire hot or off idle. Some internet research shows they have some issues with valves and valve guides. But I would think it would be more apparent and more consistent. Plug wires are a thought, especially since they are a mismatched set. But I'm kinda at a loss.

Also, Lately, I've been getting an inconsistent vibration while driving. Not there all the time, but it comes in mostly around highway driving. I put the car up in the air and crawled around under it. All shafts look good, all tires look good. I did find that the left rear wheel is locking up, but I'm not sure if that would cause a vibration at highway speeds. I'm going to swap out the rear brakes, including the calipers, and get the rotors resurfaced. I have already swapped the front driveshafts over from the parts car, since my original ones were trashed in the beginning. I still have the rear driveshaft and axle shafts, and was thinking of swapping them in, one at a time. But the u-joints on the driveshaft look good. I still can't rule out a front one, as they were used ones swapped in.

Does anyone have any advice for me? I looked around, with lots of misfire problems, but none matched my symptoms the same. I need some help before I burn it to the ground!

Thanks
 

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2009 Subaru Outback 2.5i 5sp Manual
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354 Posts
Have you had the tires balanced? That could cause a speed specific vibration.
 

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2002 Outback Wagon 2.5
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94 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Tires have been road-force balanced. All took very little weight, and show very little variation.

I saved the rear driveshaft from the parts car, I was thinking of swapping it and that way it can be eliminated from consideration. ;)
 

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'97 Outback Limited, 2.5 DOHC, Automatic, ABS
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97 Posts
First the misfire. p0304 is good, at least you know which hole. It's possible a valve is the issue, you need to check the compression when the motor is cold. Habor Freight sells one with hose you can snake in there. Easier said than done. An amp clamp type ammeter, if it reads fast and has Peak Hold, or got any electronics type geek friends with a lab scope? The idea is to unplug the cam sensor, this shuts off the spark and injectors, crank the motor and watch the amps. The peaks are the compression strokes, the point being that if all the peaks are pretty much the same the problem isn't a valve or compression. Next, both when cold, then fully warmed up, take a resistance reading of the injectors, should be around 9 ohms cold, 11 ohms hot, and all within .5 ohms of each other, cut a plug from the old harness of the old engine, and work the wires out, and use these for test leads. You swapped coils, and no difference. Hmmm, try spraying carb cleaner around the intake with the engine cold and see if it smooths out. I'm thinking two things here. You can have a vacuum leak that fixes itself once the engine warms and seals itself. Here I have to say I work on cars for a living, ASE Master Tech, yada yada, and last week a 99 ate my lunch. We put a motor in it a month ago, and now it was skipping from a stop, and at 40, light throttle with the torque conv locked. Felt like either a coil or starving for gas. Plugged in a very expensive scan tool, no codes, boss drives it while I watch the data, NOTHING is out of wack to explain what the car is doing. Junk yard never picked up the old motor, so here we go swapping, no difference. But it felt like fuel, pressure is good, lets try a new mass Air Flow sensor. Car runs worse. At least for once something changed....boss remembers the Other Guy who did the motor pulled a plug said they looked good. Boss tells me to pull a plug, I say it looks good. Boss says change the plugs. Car is fixed, I couldn't point to a plug and say why it was bad, but one of them was. I'm writing this in case anyone else is tearing your hair out. Pull the plugs and see if one is cracked, could be it's cracked at the electrode. Or you used antisieze compound usually a good idea, but you need to only apply it to within 5 threads of the electrode, it only takes a small amount to cause the spark to jump to the threads and not the tip. I would change the plugs for shitsandgiggles.
My car has a funky vibration, it's likely a tight ujoint, 40 to 48 mph. Hope you kept the driveshaft as the ujoint are not servicable. That tight caliper can heat the rotor enough to warp it and that'll do it too. Or you are feeling a misfire. Or, the brackets under the car in front of the rear tire wells that support the rear diff crossmember are bent up from a jack and touching when there is lots of torque. Take a look this, it drove me nuts on mine. Takes 10 min apiece to drop them and hammer it flat. Hope this helps S
 

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2002 Outback Wagon 2.5
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94 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Well, I think that I fixed the vibration I was getting. Like I said before, the LR wheel was locking up, so I fixed that. Resurfaced the rotors from my parts car, got new pads, and swapped over the caliper on the LR, again from the parts car.

I think that the LR wheel locking up was causing the vibration through the rear differential. Or something like that. I fixed the brakes and now the vibration is gone.

Now the misfire I haven't had any luck yet. It really seems to do it just when it is cold. And I pushed on the EGR when it was happening, and it made no difference in how it ran. My game plan for now is to pull the intake off and replace the gaskets. Run some Seafoam through the engine and in the crankcase. Change the oil. Drop the exhaust and peek in the #4 cylinder looking for signs of a burnt valve or valve guide issue. When I hit/ran over the deer in the winter time, I cracked the rear cat converter. Fortunately, my parts car had a good one to donate to the cause. So I will swap that over.

The other thing I noticed is that the AC doesn't work. I noticed green oil from the passenger side near the condenser area. I'm assuming that something in that area was also collateral damage from the deer impact, since that is where the bumper support is bent.

I find it weird that there seems to be a lot of people with p0304 misfires, with no real solution discussed on the internet. Most people turn out to have valve issues, but I'm not sold that I do. Since my engine only misfires when cold, i find it hard to beleive that it is a valve issue. But I have been wrong before, and quite honestly, I am running out of ideas.

Like I said, quickly becoming the most frustrating vehicle I have owned to date.

Thanks for listening.
 

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(formerly) 03 H6 OBW , (presently) 06 WRX Sportwagon & 2021 Honda CR-V
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maybe the Engine Temp Sensor is bad and the car isn;t getting enough fuel when cold?
 

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'97 Outback Limited, 2.5 DOHC, Automatic, ABS
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97 Posts
Have you tried spraying carb cleaner around the base of the intake where it bolts to the heads at a cold start? If intake leak is an issue, the motor should smooth out. Also spray around the bottom of the injectors, the the bottom oring could be split and leaking vacuum. If you do this (or have already done it) and nothing changed, save your money gaskets won't fix it. You don't have a leak. You could try swapping the injectors and see if the code moves, you'll need lots of carb cleaner to lube the injector seals to get the injectors in and out, but it can be done. My other thought is it really still skipping or are you feeling cold motor mounts? You can make butter in mine until it warms up. It is possible there is carbon up the valve stem and that will definitely make a skip. Seafoam is OK, but the bomb is Techron, which is 2 for one at Advanced right now. By the big bottle that does up to 20 gal. Put it in and fill the tank, and use the whole tank. This is the best carbon cleaner "over the counter", and inexpensive. If you got a Toyota dealer, they sell BG 44K. this works quicker than Techron, but goes $25 a can. Stick to Shell VPower premium, it's loaded with Techron, especially if the car is going on a weekend trip. I don't recommend premium for short hop driving, it will carbon things up. Seafoam as an oil flush is not bad. Pour it in and drive the car moderately for half an hour. It doesn't thin the oil like Riselone Flush. The real trick when you change your oil is to do it right after the car has been driven ,warmed up. That way all the gunk is suspended in the oil. (synthetic oil always comes out looking real dark 'cuz it holds gunk in suspension way better than dino oil) Penzoil Platinum synthetic worked wonders on my car after the second oil change, it got the oil rings so clean that I go 5000 miles to a quart, was using a quart every 1000 with Quaker State syn. Another thought is to use the new Riselone Zinc additive. Use 1/4 of the can with your oil change and and another 1/4 when you need to top off. Quieted the lifters down on a cold start like crazy. Save the other half for next LOF. I really like my OB, but I agree it's a PITA sometimes, now the antenna cuts out on AM stations, and I found out that three $10 ujoints that nobody has are going to be $350 for a reman driveshaft assembly.....S. PS, the car should run rough if you lift the egr valve. It should stall, or just about. I would try to pull it and see if it or the intake is plugged. In general egr plugs up right near the valve itself. You should be able to snake a wire right into the intake (an old brake cable, a long thin flexible bottle brush with plastic bristles , or a bike cable on a power drill is the bomb, and Seafoam is a good cleaner for this) A slightly stuck open egr will make a rough idle and could upset things enough, where if something is weak in #4, it's enough to throw a code for that cyl.
 

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2002 Outback Wagon 2.5
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My 97 still acts up when the engine is cold. Although this morning, it wasn't so bad. But when I was leaving work at 5pm, it was fairly bad and my scanner was reporting a p0304 again.

I was wondering if anyone has ever blocked off the EGR and/or capped the brake booster hose off to see if that would help things.

It feels like a vacuum leak, but it only happens for a few minutes when the engine is cold. Today it was 80 + degrees outside, so i use the term "cold" loosely. Intake gaskets could still be an issue, but it has been hard to get enough time to diagnose things, since it only acts up for less than 2-5 minutes at a time.

Thinking outloud, again, I think i'll put a vacuum pump on the EGR and also put a vacuum gauge on the engine to see what is going on. I ran a compression check on the #4 cylinder, and it was good, over 175 psi.

Is it possible that the computer is picking up the wrong cylinder?
 

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'97 Outback Limited, 2.5 DOHC, Automatic, ABS
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When you say scanner, does it read data? If so, does the coolant temp sensor (ECT on most scanners) and intake temp (IAT) agree with the real temp outside, especially first thing? If it's 45'F out, and the computer thinks the car is 100 by either sensor, you have a bad sensor or bad connection at the sensor or computer. And the computer is trying to run the motor as though it is warmed up. Try unplugging the computer, make sure all the pins look clean. This fixes alot of cars.
Yes you can block the EGR by removing it, cut out a piece of aluminum pie pan, poke out the bolt holes, and put it between the EGR and manifold. While the EGR is off, hold it sideways, with the ports one on top of the other and spray WD40 in the top one. If it pours out the bottom right away, there ya go. If it slowly seeps thru, that's normal, but keep it full of cleaner and work it up and down to clean it while it's off. Easier would be unplug the hose from the EGR overnight and see if it makes a difference. If yes, then either the electrical solenoid is sticking open (somewhat common) or the back pressure transducer is leaking vacuum thru. Also if yes your vacuum will read a few inches and slowly build up to about 20. If 0, no leak. (Less common). I have heard of computers that misidentify cylnders when they set P0300ish codes, but not Sooby (mainly Ford V6 and VW) as far as I have heard. Have you tried the carb spray thing yet on a first start? Other than that, that car may need to be put on a smoke test machine, these are the bomb for finding leaks, but you'll have to pay a shop for that:-( Hook your vacuum pump to a vacuum port, or line that has manifold vacuum. The 2 on top near the throttle only have vacuum when you step on the gas (they go to the EGR) so don't use these. You should get 20" or so. 15 or lower you have a leak. I forgot, but you swap Mass Air Flow senors? These can be real bastards when they act up only part of the time. And one last thought, and it's a rotten one, but is the car using coolant? There could be a head gasket leak, very small, that seeps in overnight, and first start it skips until it burns off. Hope this helps S.
 

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01 VDC, 05 R Sedan, 06 BAJA EJ257
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#4 is at the end of the fuel rail before returning to the tank. I don't see any mention of replacing the fuel filter or checking fuel pressure and flow.

Have you pulled the plugs? And what brand did you use? Heat range 5 is good for this gen engine.

Have you checked the timing belt for proper alignment?

Anything with vacuum leaks?

Change the wires. There are two part numbers for the wires due to length. Oreilly's carries the correct set I believe. You may have installed a bad wire.

If you can read live data, what is the STFT and LTFT doing at cold start to warm up?

And at the same time, what kind of reading are you getting from the front O2 sensor? Cold? Warmed up?

Where do you buy your gasoline and how much ethanol is blended? Does the outside temperature effect the "miss"? The more alcohol in the blend the higher quantity needed to flow for proper combustion.

Lots to look at one step at a time.
 

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2002 Outback Wagon 2.5
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
When you say scanner, does it read data? If so, does the coolant temp sensor (ECT on most scanners) and intake temp (IAT) agree with the real temp outside, especially first thing?

It reads data, but only some. the ECT is good, but I cannot read IAT.


Yes you can block the EGR by removing it, cut out a piece of aluminum pie pan, poke out the bolt holes, and put it between the EGR and manifold.

The egr opens when vacuum is applied, and holds it. Took it off and cleaned out the passages the best I could through the egr hole. No change.

Easier would be unplug the hose from the EGR overnight and see if it makes a difference. If yes, then either the electrical solenoid is sticking open (somewhat common) or the back pressure transducer is leaking vacuum thru.

How common are these failures on Subarus?

Hook your vacuum pump to a vacuum port, or line that has manifold vacuum. The 2 on top near the throttle only have vacuum when you step on the gas (they go to the EGR) so don't use these. You should get 20" or so. 15 or lower you have a leak.

Hooked a vacuum gauge to a manifold port on the passenger side of the engine, and had 15-17" with a little shake. A friend told me that sounds like the beginning of a valve issue.

Have you tried the carb spray thing yet on a first start?
Tried carb spray, not conclusive.

Other than that, that car may need to be put on a smoke test machine.

Thats a good idea, I know a place that can help with that.

I forgot, but you swap Mass Air Flow senors?
I have not, but I have a few from the parts car.

And one last thought, and it's a rotten one, but is the car using coolant? There could be a head gasket leak, very small, that seeps in overnight, and first start it skips until it burns off.

Coolant level hasn't changed since the engine went in 15k miles ago. But I am starting to supect a valve/valve guide issue. But have nothing to confirm that.

Thanks
 

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2002 Outback Wagon 2.5
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
#4 is at the end of the fuel rail before returning to the tank. I don't see any mention of replacing the fuel filter or checking fuel pressure and flow.

Fuel filter was new when I got the car. Haven't measured pressure yet.

Have you pulled the plugs? And what brand did you use? Heat range 5 is good for this gen engine.

Swapped plugs and wires. Went to do compression check and broke the #4 wire. This time have NGK iridiums with Pep Boys wires. (only choice I had on a sunday) No change between old and new set of plugs and wires.

Have you checked the timing belt for proper alignment?

I am assuming that it is correct, I checked it several times and had a friend double check while the engine was out. And the misfire goes away after a bit of driving.

Anything with vacuum leaks?

nothing conclusive yet.

If you can read live data, what is the STFT and LTFT doing at cold start to warm up?

And at the same time, what kind of reading are you getting from the front O2 sensor? Cold? Warmed up?

Gonna look at live data a little closer tomorrow. I remember that the fuel trim appears to be where it needs to be, and the O2 data seemed right.

Where do you buy your gasoline and how much ethanol is blended?
They advertise "up to 10%". And I have switched fuel stations. Should I be running anything higher than regular fuel?


Does the outside temperature effect the "miss"?
It seems to. The colder it is, the worse it seems to run.

The more alcohol in the blend the higher quantity needed to flow for proper combustion.

Lots to look at one step at a time.
Thanks for the help. I'll get it hammered out. I do appreciate everyone's help over the internet. I realize that it's like calling the doctor on the phone and having him diagnose your knee pain.
 

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'97 Outback Limited, 2.5 DOHC, Automatic, ABS
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With all you have checked, I would agree with the sticky valve theory. But to test it, you get to do a compression test with a cold engine. Just start with the same side, if they are withing 10% psi of each other, stop. I'm not sure if the lifter can drain down and collapse overnite and pump up in the AM. Mine is a little rough and rattlely below 60 but doesn't throw a code. It does much better with Penzoil Platinum than any other oil. Use a KN or PureOne or Soob filter, makes a difference. No, back pressure transducers don't go often. The carb cleaner didn't produce much, so I would scratch intake leak off the list. For shitzandgigles I might pull that injector again, while cold, just to see if there isn't any gunk or a big slug of water in the rail. A blob of water that has to burn off will do it. I have a truck killing me at work with an intermittent skip, believe me I know what it's like. Oh, put stabilizer links in Sat, now there's a bulb out in the tach.....S.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I might be closer to figuring this out. It started to overheat today. Checking coolant, it was low. I'm assuming that the coolant is entering the #4 cylinder, causing my misfire. I am currently trying to get "my ducks in a line", hoping that my sister will let me use her spare car while I pull the engine, again, and tear it down and fix it. Gonna work on cleaning the garage, and getting stuff together, including an engine hoist to pull the engine and get it fixed.

I'll keep everyone posted as it happens. Stay tuned!
 

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(formerly) 03 H6 OBW , (presently) 06 WRX Sportwagon & 2021 Honda CR-V
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the plug from the coolant-burning cyl will likely look different from the others. Might help confirm your cyl #4 theory.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
yeah, it was a little different, but at the time, I couldn't confirm coolant burning. i was naive (intentionally?) to the situation. :rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
yeah, she's going downhill fast. started to overheat, even with coolant in it, and the reservoir is overflowing. Not good. I was going to try sealing tabs to hold it off, but that may not even work.


boo.
:28:
 

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'97 Outback Limited, 2.5 DOHC, Automatic, ABS
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If you mean BarsLeaks, it's worth a try. My neighbor uses their High Tech Block Repair all the time in his shop. I have always used a half dose of regular (brown) as an insurance policy. Here is the smoking gun on our engine. It will idle all day long without overheating, even hold the tach up at 2000. But as soon as you start to drive it, within a half mile, the gage is way up. It's because the internal pressure under driving load pushes the head away from the block, and the combustion gases get into the coolant, and make a high pressure bubble behind the thermostat that the water pump winds up trying to pump steam. As soon as the car idles for a minute, the temp drops. Ask in a new thread here, but Felpro claims to have a bullet proof new head gasket for these engines, saw it in a pro trade mag. Another sure fire test is if you have a buddy with an emmissions testing machine, have them stick the exhaust probe in the overflow bottle, and HC reading over 50 ppm is exhaust in the coolant. Lisle tools makes a chemical tester for about $60, special fluid turns color in HC's, then run compressed air thru it, turns the color back and you can reuse it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Well, I pulled the engine out, again and pulled the heads off. At least one exhaust valve appeared burnt, and I didn't like the way the head gasket looked. The heads are currently at the machine shop, and they seem to know what they are doing.

Thanks for all the help out there. I do appreciate it.
 

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(formerly) 03 H6 OBW , (presently) 06 WRX Sportwagon & 2021 Honda CR-V
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you can find a youtube video of dropped valve guides. I suppose they could prevent a valve from closing completely. But, guess that will be addressed also by the machinists.
 
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