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Discussion Starter #1
I've recently changed the timing belt, idlers, tensioner, ancillary belts, PCV valve, water pump and thermostat on my 2005 2.5L SOHC Outback and now it doesn't like starting from cold. It turns over but then it sounds like the engine flutters before firing properly. Here's a video (typically today I video it it didn't do it as much):

Subaru Outback cold start problem - YouTube

So other than this cold start issue, it runs fine and will start for the rest of the day OK without the fluttering. The only other thing it does is it smells of burning coming from somewhere under the hood on the left of the car (U.S. driver's side). I've looked into the burning smell on the forum and it might be because it's winter and we have snow everywhere (I live in the CO mountains) and the AWD is struggling? I checked all the fluid levels and they're good - although the transmission fluid is on the high side over the max mark).

Any ideas greatly appreciated!

I'll shoot another video tomorrow in case it flutters more than it did here. Normally it flutters for a good 2-3 seconds before firing up.

Cheers
Simon
 

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1993 Legacy LSi with still functioning Air Suspension, 1999 Outback 2.5L 5MT lab Rat
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Sounds to me like you may have gotten one of the Cam gears off a tooth or two. Not enough to set a MIL lamp, but enough to effect initial start up. I would look closely at thhis 1st as it is most likely your cause.
 

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1993 Legacy LSi with still functioning Air Suspension, 1999 Outback 2.5L 5MT lab Rat
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This BTW could also be your burning smell as the model you describe has 2 separate Catalytic Convertors, and if one Camshaft is advanced a few degrees your burning fuel in the exhaust system instead of the engine.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Oh wow, that doesn't sound good. I'll check the cam gears. When I put the timing belt on I thought I was soooooo careful to make sure it was all lined up properly. I'll check it out though. Thanks!
Simon
 

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Discussion Starter #6
So I pulled it apart and checked the timing and it looked like the driver's side cam pulley mark was slightly to the left of the timing cover notch, maybe by half a tooth. So I took the belt off, gave it a good looking at and put it back on. I had 3 attempts and on the last one it looked like it lined up well enough - see photos here: http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/66-problems-maintenance/52825-quick-help-timing-belt.html#post510876.

It fired up right away and seems to be running perfectly (touch wood!). The proof of the pudding will be tomorrow morning on a cold start - previously it was struggling to start/fluttering. The start after I put everything back together was a cold start as the car hadn't been run today, but tomorrow will be the real test.

Cheers
Simon
 

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Discussion Starter #7
UPDATE: so it started from cold pretty good and didn't really flutter which was great. And I think the burning smell is actually front differential fluid because I checked the fluid level and it's v low (below the low line) and I think burning gear oil would smell like burning rubber/almost an electrical burning smell which is what I'm getting.

So I have to get it up on the jack stands and see if I can find where it's leaking oil. Are there specific seals I should be checking for leaking front diff fluid?

Cheers
Simon
 

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1993 Legacy LSi with still functioning Air Suspension, 1999 Outback 2.5L 5MT lab Rat
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Glad to hear its running better. Hope if the diff is leaking its something simple.
 

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Car: 2008 Tribeca, 2010 LGT, Sold: 2005 XT Limited
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Bad smell is usually a torn CV boot throwing grease on the exhaust pipes.
 

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'07 OBXT Ltd. 5EAT, Charcoal Gray; '70 Chevy K10 4X4, 396c.i., lifted; '63 Pontiac Tempest, 326c.i.
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Glad to hear it's running well. I just did my timing belt last weekend and was surprised to see my timing off by a notch on both sides (DOHC 2.5XT). Not sure if it came like that from the factory or if someone has been in there before, but at least now, my car runs like a top!

The burning smell makes me think (and hope, for your sake) you just missed the filler hole when you filled up your coolant. I made that mistake, and now every time the car gets up to temp, get that horrible smell. And it's quite pungent! But, if you're sure it's not that, I'd also guess that one of your boots is torn.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
The front diff fluid was waaaay low, and the dipstick stank of burnt fluid, so I topped it up and the burning smell went away. I ended up taking it in to my Subaru garage and the mech said the timing was perfect and they have no idea what the cold start issue is. They thought it was down on power a bit too, so maybe something restricting intake? They checked it out though and couldn't find anything. V odd. I did find that if I start it with my foot a bit on the gas it'll flutter less and get started faster. Still no idea what could be causing it though. I guess the next thing for me to do is to leave it at the Subaru garage overnight so they can experience the cold start themselves. What a PITA.

Simon
 

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You should probably drain and fill the diff to change out that burnt fluid. You should also find out where it went. Most likely one of the seals at the axle is leaking unless its the drain plug.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Yeah I flushed the diff fluid - luckily there were hardly any metal shavings on the plug which was cool. I had the Subaru tech look for leaks and he couldn't see any - if the level starts to drop again then the leak should be more obvious. Still no idea about the cold start issue though.
Cheers
Simon
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks cardoc. I'll definitely clean the throttle body.

Another clue: I pumped the gas pedal once today before starting it. Then a little bit of ga when turning the ignition key and it fired right up no problem. This makes me suspect an intake issue, like throttle body, even more.

Cheers
Simon
 

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2001 VDC/SC One of a Kind
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LOL! Its funny to me.

Okay, the electronic throttle on your car has to have current flow to operate. It only controls air flow into the engine and corresponds throttle position to the ECM for fuel delivery from the injectors. Unless you had the key on/engine off when you "pumped" the pedal, you just exercised your foot. With the key on, the butterfly plate would move, freeing it up from the resting position should it be sticking due to debris.

The reason I say clean the throttle is because the carbon and "gum" from the PCV system builds up and tends to make the butterfly plate hang up or it throws off the data to the ECM causing poor start or erratic idle.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
LOL! Its funny to me.

Okay, the electronic throttle on your car has to have current flow to operate. It only controls air flow into the engine and corresponds throttle position to the ECM for fuel delivery from the injectors. Unless you had the key on/engine off when you "pumped" the pedal, you just exercised your foot. With the key on, the butterfly plate would move, freeing it up from the resting position should it be sticking due to debris.

The reason I say clean the throttle is because the carbon and "gum" from the PCV system builds up and tends to make the butterfly plate hang up or it throws off the data to the ECM causing poor start or erratic idle.

Ha ha! That IS funny - it was just exercising my foot. I get the idea though. It has a new PCV valve and the old one didn't look that bad. Will clean throttle body and see if it fixes the issue.

Cheers
Simon
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Update

So I removed the throttle body and it looked pretty clean to me (see photos). The butterfly valve seemed to open up easily enough when I pushed it, and the spring behind it snapped it shut well when I released it. I cleaned the little bit of carbon build-up off it with carb cleaner and put it back together. Pretty sure this isn't the issue now - I was expecting it to be covered in black carbon muck from the PCV valve and blowback from the intake, but it was really clean.

So this morning (before I cleaned the throttle body) I turned on the ignition and gave it a couple pumps on the gas pedal (using the other foot ha ha). Then when I turned it over it started more easily - it still hesitated a bit, but nothing like it does when I just started it without doing the gas pedal pump.

Assuming the throttle body cleaning has no effect, any other ideas?

Cheers
Simon
 

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