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2002 Subaru Outback H6 3.0 L.L.Bean EZ30
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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,

Been a while since I posted.First, let me get the housekeeping stuff out of the way
2002 H6 3.0 L 6 Cylinder, non VDC
Have owned for about 18 months -- current 180k miles

was driving down highway all of a sudden flashing CEL -- pulled the following codes:
P0420 (had been intermittent for a while)
P3001 -misfire cylinder 1
P3003 - misfire cylinder 3
P0457 -Evap Emission Control fault

drove it home, towed it to my garage (non dealer). He did a tune up on it, called back said oil on plug for cylinder 3. Other plugs nothing notable. Replaced NGK plugs. Still not 100 percent. He said I am at or between 90- 105 psi on cylinders 1,3 and 6.

I had refueled just prior to this happening and he advised me that the place where I got the fuel was notable for having garbage fuel.

He is suggesting swapping out with a JDM that has 55k miles on it.

The car also has the aforementioned "death wobble." and it looks like the whole job will come under $3k

Is there any chance that if I ran the gas out of the engine that it could turn around. He said it's idling rough, but above 1500 RPM seems to behave itself, flashing CEL notwithstanding.

He is adamant that it is probably the valves.

My question to you is this: would you do the swap? What else should I do if I decide to do the swap? Finally -- here's the kicker: This is my daily and my only car... this is not a nostalgia car, this was something I needed to have last for a while. Looking for options and for consensus on whether or not you all thing this is actually a burnt valve situation. Not doubting my mechanic, just wanted to pick the brain trust a little and see if anyone else had an alternate explanation. Not overheating or giving any indication that it is a head gasket. Not sure if he's done a leak-down, but the pressure test shows low pressure on 3 cylinders -- again, with this engine (EZ30), replacing is cheaper than ripping the heads off on account of that overbuilt timing chain cover. So... yeah, really bummed out and not sure what to do from here on out.
 

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2002 Subaru Outback H6 3.0 L.L.Bean EZ30
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33 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
also -- forgot to mention prior service since I have owned it.
-New Alt.
- Harmonic Balancer went out in August of this past year, had that replaced w/OEM
- minor things -- new battery (subaru battery), new wiper transmission... few other things I cant recall, but this flashing CEL was rather sudden and unexpected.

thanks again.
 

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On the Super Mod Squad
02 Pair: 3.0 VDC Wag & 2.5 Limited Sedan
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towed I hope means flatbedded 4 wheels up. (the subaru way)

going JDM with these is a cheap easy alternative to major engine work.
(212 hp EZ30D JDMs can be had for $600-800,...sometimes described as 99-02, as that is the JDM years they were used).
put some NGK double plats with a set of valve cover gaskets and tube seals and be done....r
 

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Lawn ornament XT
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Oil on the plug came from somewhere, and the most likely source is getting past the seals on the valve guides.

You can put cleaner gas in (those things sure love premium) and keep driving it. It will burn oil, and continuing misfires are likely but not guaranteed. The misfires will be hard on the catalytic converters, which will contribute to the p0420 becoming a chronic condition as the catalysts get loaded with garbage.

All that really means is that you can probably keep driving it if you're willing to top up the oil on a regular basis until something bigger breaks.

It isn't likely to pass emissions testing until a real fix is done, but maybe they don't check where you live.

There isn't much risk in putting this off until it really dies, beyond the additional cost of needing new cats along with the engine swap.
 

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2002 Subaru Outback H6 3.0 L.L.Bean EZ30
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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for your replies! I really appreciate it.

Oh yeah -- forgot to mention -- I had the tensioner pulley done as it was a known issue on this car -- the dealership offered to do it because a) I had asked about it and b) They had the car in the shop for so long right after I had initially bought it. So -- yeah -- the issue with the P0420. Came and went, came and went and then came back and was solid for a while. Luckily (or perhaps not -- if we had local state screening, I may have had it taken care of earlier), we dont have emissions here in Ohio. I had chalked it up to an 02 sensor that I would get to "eventually" -- had been going the route of re-filling the oil for some time as it did seem to be losing oil, but not too much externally. I figured it was as you said -- either slow leak external (evidence on driver's side valve covers when changing oil, but nothing alarming) or something getting through internally.

Here's where my question comes in -- when it comes to this engine, repairing the seals on the valve guides means getting to the valve guides which means more labor that its worth (remember, I am paying hourly rates here -- I dont have a garage of my own, or the know how...or the tools really ) am I correct on this? The first order of disassembly is something like 36 yield to torque allen head bolts holding the timing chain cover in place? making it nearly as labor intensive as removing the heads?)... So, this is why the recommendation to drop in a new engine is coming into play - cheaper to swap than work on the old one? If I wanted to be a purist about it and re-do the original engine, we are talking new water pump, chains, guides, pulleys, head gaskets, valve cover gaskets, pretty much everything outside the block, right? Near total overhaul?

My only reservations (read: fears) are as follows:
--Issues mating the new engine to the existing tranny. The transmission that is in it seems to be working okay, it is an automatic, but I am just wary of leaks developing at the rear main seal or having problems with the new engine putting too much torque on the old tranny. Anybody have any advice on that?
--While 55k miles sounds great for a used engine -- what are the odds I am getting a frankenstein engine? This engine is local and costs $1250.00 -- is this too much? Only has maybe a 90 day warranty at the most? Should I keep looking or is there little hope of finding something with a 1 year warranty?
-- I am a little afraid I may already need a new cat just because of the persistence of the code. For a while it was the only code.

I mean, I am just wondering if there is any way that something other than a gap at the valves or pistons could be causing the low psi on those cylinders? Probably no way its water from the crappy fuel? I was told that the brand of gasoline I used has high water and alcohol content. I'm just trying to rule out other possibilities.
 

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this engine takes high octane gas,

buy from busy stations where lots of people go. you pull right in behind the porsches and the vettes and fill up after them. if they pull out and peel out of sight you know they did not get a tank of water.



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putting in a new engine does not hurt the transmission. its the same engine you got.
NOT a 700hp/torque thing thats going to snap everything it comes into contact with.

and the 4EAT these came with is a good trouble free transmission, just replace the plain old Dexron3 type ATF and it will go one forever.
 

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I mean, I am just wondering if there is any way that something other than a gap at the valves or pistons could be causing the low psi on those cylinders? Probably no way its water from the crappy fuel? I was told that the brand of gasoline I used has high water and alcohol content. I'm just trying to rule out other possibilities.
There are a few more exotic ways to lose compression in one cylinder, but not many of them are easier to deal with than a munged up ring or burnt exhaust valve. I mean if the plug threads were hosed and it was losing air externally there, that would be somewhat easier to deal with, but your guy would have already spotted that if it were the case.

The right way to repair the engine you have now is to pull the engine, remove the heads and send them to a machine shop. They'll clean everything, remove the valves, pound out the guides, pound in new guides, maybe replace the seats too, maybe just cut new edges on them (I'm not actually sure which is appropriate for EZ30 heads) new stem seals, new valves, lapping, and re-set the lash. A classic top-end overhaul. Not easy and not cheap, but it's a true reset of the clock.

A used engine transplant is much less labor to pay. Can't tell you about the quality of used mills, but I've seen it done and read the stories here and it looks to me like it works well.

Different fuel can make it run better than it runs now, but even on lab test grade fuel it's still going to run like any other 5.5 cylinder engine- a bit sloppy.
 

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2002 Subaru Outback H6 3.0 L.L.Bean EZ30
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Discussion Starter #8
ha ha ha ... lol... I do. I had been using premium always from my local grocery store. It was always busy there, but it had more to do with their fuel point rewards than the quality of their gas, apparently. When I first got the car I passed a Sunoco and put their Ultra 93 in it. There were no stations on my side of town that offered that, and I noticed knocking when filling up with the high octane that I had access to on my side of town after using that. To say this engine is fussy about the fuel it likes is an understatement. I have always put the highest rated gas in it that was available. This gas station chain made the news last year for having diesel labeled as Premium at one of their stores, though -- the gas that I have in there now doesnt smell like diesel, so I am pretty sure that's not an issue. And, I am kind of in the 'hood -- not too many Porsches or Vettes running around. I had wondered if I should have been using octane booster, but have heard that additives are not always the best way to go and thus decided against it.

Thanks -- I mean, my mechanic said the same thing you are saying. I am just a worry wart, I suppose. Like, if I swap the engine - I need for this car to be running for at least another 18 months to 2 years without major issue. It's either that, or buy something else. So far, the cheapest option for me seems to be the engine swap. I have been pouring over the threads on here for days and have come away with the following things to do when swapping an EZ30:

OEM thermostat,
OEM Rad Cap (just replaced when I bought the car, so I'll probably use that one as it is less than 2 years old)
OEM PCV,
Valve Cover Gaskets,
NGK double platinum plugs

.. if you got anything else, I'd love to hear it.


But I mean -- there's like no way there is water sitting in the combustion chamber giving a lower psi rating, right (like displacing overall capacity of the combustion chamber)? I find that, at times, I dream up alternate explanations in an attempt to bargain with reality. But, it couldnt be anything like that you think?
 

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what it does not like and causes some very odd shifting / sluggishness:

going down in octane. it takes about half a tank for the ECU to remap the fuel trims. and this is the time the engine struggles.

I run mine on 93. one time I tried a whole tank of 91, and it was rather awful durring that first half tank. ...then after that it felt a little flat footed .
 

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But I mean -- there's like no way there is water sitting in the combustion chamber giving a lower psi rating, right (like displacing overall capacity of the combustion chamber)? I find that, at times, I dream up alternate explanations in an attempt to bargain with reality. But, it couldnt be anything like that you think?
If you somehow managed to get some water to persist in the combustion chamber, it would actually have the effect of raising the compression by reducing the chamber volume at TDC, while simultaneously reducing the displacement of that cylinder. It would be a different kind of misfire at least, and with enough water it would hydrolock and ruin much more than the top end. But that's where an actual compression tester gauge comes in- if it says that jug is punching below its weight, it is.

"Water in the fuel" usually means a very small overall amount of water- nowhere near enough to cause the effects explored in the paragraph above. It does change combustion properties in small quantities*, and puts them outside the range of what the computer can compensate for. Additionally it is harder on fuel injectors, and water contamination often means there's other garbage in there too. It is common to see crummy spray patterns and drippy leaks from injectors that have spent a long time passing junk fuel.


*Water injection is actually beneficial for performance in some situations, but it must be carefully controlled. A random cocktail is no good. Some race cars and aviation engines have used the technique successfully, but those cost more than old Subarus.
 

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2002 Subaru Outback H6 3.0 L.L.Bean EZ30
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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks so much for the replies again. I am supposed to hear from my mechanic tomorrow. I paid him a visit on Friday just to hear the thing idle -- and he wasnt kidding. It turns over immediately now, after the new plugs, but sounds like it could be happier. Makes me a little more confident in opting for the engine swap. I like the car and so does the wife (which is the real important part). When I bought it, I'd vowed to take it to 300k.

I'll keep you posted on the progress and hope that it goes off without a hitch. Just one last question -- what is customary when having a garage do an engine swap when it comes to the old engine? If I say I wanted it back, is it a breach of etiquette ( and can the Subaru tow it in the back?)? Does it/can it be a barter tool on the price (just curious)? I am not sure what I'd do with it if I had it back -- in the dark recesses of my mind I imagine it becoming a long term project to overhaul the engine, but in reality (as I said above) I have no shop. All the same, is it worth keeping... just in case?
 

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If you get a rebuilt engine, you'll be asked to pay a core deposit. You get that back when they get your old engine, or they keep it if you keep the engine.

When you buy a used engine, this is generally not the case. You just have an extra engine. They are both your property. You can sell the old engine to your mechanic- he may choose to rebuild it and sell it to another customer. This isn't common, but if the guy happens to heavily specialize in Subaru repair then he might be interested.

You may be able to sell it as a core to an engine rebuilder, but that usually isn't worthwhile unless you and they are in the same town- and even then they are unlikely to pay much over scrap metal value.

It will fit in the back, but you'll want to put in a bit of plywood to keep it from cutting the floor panel. I wouldn't bother- all of the things you can use it for are so labor intensive that you'd replace the whole car first.
 

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2002 Subaru Outback H6 3.0 L.L.Bean EZ30
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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks. He couldnt help but mention that he has a fondness for these engines because they remind him of old VW engines. Maybe he'd want it... There's that part of my brain that looks at the timing chain assembly and thinks -- that looks like fun to play with. I think this is just a used JDM, as far as I know. He described to me the situation as to why there would be a 14 year old engine with only 55k miles on it from Japan. So, I am assuming it was lifted from a Japanese Ouback. Is that fair to assume? I had read one post on here where the buyer was replacing an engine in a Tribeca because the block had a "tear" or crack in it, and when he finally saw the replacement engine, he thought it looked like it was made up of parts from more than one engine. Mostly I think he was mad that it was grimey and was told the engine would be 'clean.' Though, to my mind if someone says an engine is "clean" I think that they mean (in this context at least) that it is a mechanically sound, no animals have set up residence in it, etc.. Not necessarily that it is off-the-assembly-line spotless. But, that was enough to give me pause -- is there anything I should be on the lookout when inspecting the replacement other than obvious defects in the block, heads, timing covers, etc.?
 

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2002 Subaru Outback H6 3.0 L.L.Bean EZ30
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Discussion Starter #15
the cylinders that have low pressure are 1,3 & 6 -- so both sides of the engine reporting low pressure. 2,4 & 5 are around 140psi I think he said(?). I was looking at the cross section of the timing assembly and it looks like they share only one point at the bottom center -- possible timing could have been corrupted at that point leading to low pressure on 1,3,& 6?
 

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2001 VDC/SC One of a Kind
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the cylinders that have low pressure are 1,3 & 6 -- so both sides of the engine reporting low pressure. 2,4 & 5 are around 140psi I think he said(?). I was looking at the cross section of the timing assembly and it looks like they share only one point at the bottom center -- possible timing could have been corrupted at that point leading to low pressure on 1,3,& 6?
NO.

All good information this far. The misfires were more likely caused by worn plugs, and this will cause the other codes. Misfires let extra fuel in, and vacuum is effected. Putting another engine in will give you a chance to start over with a good low mileage engine and extend the life of the car. If the supplier has a transmission available with the engine, then you get a low mileage combo. Your other option is a transmission overhaul when it comes up, but replacing now would save time and $$$$. The transmissions are programmed with soft shifting and sometimes are prone to clutch wear with a lot of miles or seal leaks causing loss of pressure. If you do go with a JDM trans, be sure to keep your valve body available as sometimes when transmissions sit, the valves may hang up or an electronic solenoid will stick and you don't know unless the part is tested prior to installation until after its in the car.

The engine comes out of a right hand drive car so you will need to extend your brake booster vacuum hose to the passenger side (right) or fight with the fitting to move it over to the driver side (left).

Me? I'd go with the combo to save time and cash. Not to mention worry over a worn trans with 180k miles mating to a fresher torquey engine.
 

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the cylinders that have low pressure are 1,3 & 6 -- so both sides of the engine reporting low pressure. 2,4 & 5 are around 140psi I think he said(?). I was looking at the cross section of the timing assembly and it looks like they share only one point at the bottom center -- possible timing could have been corrupted at that point leading to low pressure on 1,3,& 6?
I misread initially. I don't think you have a timing issue. Could but valve issue seems more likly. Would recommend a leak down test or just skip to a JDM engine.
 

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2002 Subaru Outback H6 3.0 L.L.Bean EZ30
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Discussion Starter #18
cardoc -- the existing tranny is automatic, does this matter when it comes to mating to the new engine? Obviously I want the fewest problems I can, but do the problems you describe exist also with the automatic tranny? I am not sure if I will be able to find a pair like you suggested. The engine in question -- the one I am looking at as a replacement -- is possibly the only one in my area with low mileage (55k) and the place that has it doesnt even have it listed on their website (only on car parts dot com).. But I had seem that they carried them as a pair in the past. Still waiting to hear back from my guy, but this will be something else to discuss with him. By the way -- that is one **** of looker of an outback.
 

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All of the H6 cars are automatics.

Cardoc is suggesting a JDM trans swap at the same time to give you a full drivetrain refresh. The JDM transmission are pretty cheap but are generally for the VDC cars. If your vehicle is not a VDC you will need to do some extra things.

In my opinion the H6 automatics are very robust and will last to 250k pretty easily with semi regular fluid changes.
 

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2002 Subaru Outback H6 3.0 L.L.Bean EZ30
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Discussion Starter #20
yeah -- non VDC, unfortunately. Well, if I swap the engine out, its getting an ATF change whether it wants it or not, I guess. I have put about 30k miles on it in 18 months and havent done the ATF yet. But it seems to be running okay - how often should I be doing that? I had the diff serviced in August of this past year after about 1 year of ownership and 20k miles -- was told the fluid still looked good - no metal flakes or anything. I had asked him to check the ATF and he said it looked fine in August. I do get a "ker-chunk" when putting it in to reverse, but it has done that since I bought it. Is that a bad sign?
 
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