Subaru Outback Forums banner

1 - 20 of 46 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
67 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I'd like to share my story with you fellow lovers of these fine automobiles. This is going to be a long one but hopefully it will be entertaining. Last month I got the itch for something to tinker with. It's been a while since I'd had any kind of automotive project and I just kinda missed working on cars. So I hit craigslist in search of some sub $1000 shitbox I could nurse back to health (and hopefully make into my new daily driver) when I came across a 2005 Legacy wagon (limited!) with 114k miles that "just needs a timing belt". Perfect! About 10 years ago I was a Subaru tech, and while I hadn't touched once since at least I'm at least going in with somewhat of a clue. I also remember being particularly fond of this generation.

I went to see the car, which was only about 8 miles away from my house. The PO was an 18 y/o kid. It was his first car, and one morning it wouldn't start. A mechanic had diagnosed it as a bad timing belt, and that was that. The car itself looked pretty clean aside from some evidence of a minor front-end collision at some point that was repaired "good enough", and some peeling paint on the rear bumper. The interior was spotless though, and he had just put on 4 new tires, pads/rotors, and rear struts before it blew up. He accepted an $800 offer and about an hour later I had a tow truck dump this thing in my driveway.




Yay so exciting! So the next day I got a better look at it. Not so bad looking for an '05 from NYC.



Some battle scars but otherwise still pretty presentable. I quickly got to tearing down the motor, and was pleased to see that the engine was not only spotlessly clean (strangely so) but that only 4 intake valves were bent due to the timing belt tensioner bolt shearing off (somebody goofed). This was going to be an easy fix! Hahahahahaha!!... Or so I thought. Here's where it gets interesting.

First. There was evidence someone was in there before Some of the bellhousing bolts were missing, loose hose clamps, harness brackets, missing, etc.. Just general signs of hackery all over the place. Secondly, the brand of belts was "Pitwork" which is a brand I'm completely unfamilar with. Gates? Continental? Sure. But never heard of Pitwork. Both the accessory belts and the timing belt were from this mystery brand. That in itself I didn't really pay much attention to but this here was bugging me.



I'd been a while since I wrenched on a Subaru but I don't ever remember a piston that looks like this. WTF is up with all those valve reliefs? I chalked it up to me just not remembering what they looked like, and went ahead and ordered new valves, as well as head gaskets and a timing kit. Later on in the evening I was just standing around drinking a beer, and looking around at everything when I spotted this:



Hey, that looks kinda weird doesn't it? Looks like the exhaust ports on the head are... oh ****...



So what we have here is a car with CA emissions, which use a single oval port, and an engine with the typical dual circle exhaust ports, and it had been running like this for god only knows how long. So obviously this wasn't the original engine, but what was it? Now I'm starting to get more curious about the pistons, and that's when I spotted EJ20 stamped onto the block.

You've got to be kidding me. Who knows what happened to the original engine, but someone had apparently swapped in a JDM EJ20 where it definitely didn't belong. This thing probably never ran right, which would explain why all of the o2 sensors were new (except for the one they couldn't get out). So I guess I'm shopping for a new engine. What shocked me was that when searching on car-part.com, it seems that used engines for these things start at like $800 with high mileage. That's crazy.

I ended up taking a trip to a pick-n-pull 2.5 hours away and managed to score an engine from a '04 Outback with CA emissions for only $200. The engine I got seems pretty decent. I carfaxed the donor car and it's last reported mileage was 161k miles 2 months ago. High for sure, but it was also a PA car which means mostly highway. I inspected it as thoroughly as I could, including cutting open the old oil filter and didn't really see anything concerning aside from some slight vertical scoring on one of the cylinders. Enough to feel but not quite enough to catch my fingernail in, and definitely not enough for me to want to go through with a rebuild. I did put on new head gaskets for good measure, and a contitech timing kit with came with all Japanese components and a Mitsuboshi bel. I also did a valve adjustment, and I had to swap over the oil pan, windage tray, oil pickup tube, and the coolant crossover pipe since they were different between '04 and '05. The old engine also had brand new NGK iridium spark plugs in it so I re-used those as well.

The rest of the swap was pretty easy and straightforward, and in a few hours I was ready to start it for the first time. After cranking it for a good 10 seconds with the crank and cam sensors disconnected to prime the oil system. It fired right up! Every light on the dashboard was on too! I had the check engine light, trans light, airbag light, and cruise flashing for good measure. Oh boy now is when the fun begins. I filled it up with coolant, and let it run to operating temperature, and was satisfied everything was ok. The engine itself ran nicely, so at least that part's over and done with.

I ended up ordering an Autel AP200 diagnostic tool, which is pretty cheap and can check trans and airbag codes. The check engine light was on due to the heater circuits for the 2 front AFR sensors and one of the rear o2 sensors which was completely mangled. The 2 AFR sensor codes were caused by this stupidity. Who's got a keen eye?



Yay for eBay garbage! I swapped the terminals on the o2 sensor connector to their proper location and those two codes were gone. For the rear o2 sensor I ended up having to bring the entire exhaust to a shop so they can get it out with an oxy-acetelyne torch. I replaced it with the correct Denso sensor and that light was out too.

The trans code was for the throttle position sensor circuit, and turned out to be due to a loose engine ground on the intake manifold. That one was my fault.

The airbag light was for the ODS module, which only turned out to be unplugged for some odd reason. Seems like I got lucky there.

I flushed and charged the A/C (I did end up replacing the condenser since it seems nobody replaced that post- crash and it had a big hole in it).

After an expensive trip to the DMV to register this puppy I was finally able to get it on the road and see what else was wrong with it! Stay tuned for part 2 (I'm tired of typing right now).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
79 Posts
Quite a start you've gotten off to! I'm also cursed with finding "bargains" and then struggling to keep the costs under control. Great detective work, though. Keep it going! How's the rotational aspects of the car...brakes, bearings, diffs..?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
67 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Brakes are fine. It has 4 brand new cross-drilled & slotted rotors & pads, undoubtedly from eBay but they work fine. One of the rear calipers was missing a bolt and I didn't discover that until after I already put a couple hundred miles on it. Fortunately I didn't discover it the hard way. Bearings are quiet, as well as the diffs. I'm getting an annoying vibration at idle and sometimes during acceleration which I was suspecting the driveshaft but I just read on here that apparently aftermarket CV axles can cause exactly these symptoms (guess what this car has).

I'm definitely struggling to keep costs under control. So far I'm doing ok but I keep finding stuff wrong. I can't believe how much the previous owners let this car go. They fixed nothing and when they did, they did it wrong or used crap parts.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
375 Posts
I'm getting an annoying vibration at idle and sometimes during acceleration which I was suspecting the driveshaft but I just read on here that apparently aftermarket CV axles can cause exactly these symptoms (guess what this car has).
Yep, that's absolutely aftermarket CV axles.

Warning, remanufactured OEM axles can also have issues (undersized at the diff seals, some similar vibrations).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
67 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
So where was I. Ahh yes, I finally got it on the road. Now the real fun begins.

So the initial test drive went well. It ran great. However lots of things started to rear their ugly little heads. Firstly the rear suspension feels like total crap. Harshness over bumps + a weird wiggling sensation. The back also seems to sit low, which I know "saggy butt" is a common Legacy problem but I'm not sure if it's more than that. The car does have brand new quick-struts in the rear (fronts are original) which are undoubtedly from eBay as well. I'm not ready to rule them out yet but I did notice the trailing arm bushings were kinda screwed. I have since replaced them with Whiteline bushings but it seems the inner upper lateral link bushings are shot too, so that's now on the to-do list.

Also there's a bit of vibration from the driveline, both in gear and when accelerating. I know now that aftermarket CV axles are usually the culprit, but I did notice that the transmission mount was totally torn, and that the pitch-stopper was broken cleanly in half. I have also since replaced those which improved things slightly, but some vibes still remain. Also of note. I ordered an Anchor trans mount from Rockauto which didn't fit. The transmission mounting holes were off by 1mm which made installation impossible. I ended up using a mount from Autozone which seems like it was also made by Anchor (same part#) but fit like a glove and was the same price.

I'm also getting a light scraping sound when rolling. I can only hear it with the windows open and when driving next to something that reflects sound (parked cars, highway divider, etc...) It almost sounds like brake caliper hardware might be touching the rotor but I haven't found that to be the case. The heatshield isn't touching the driveshaft either. No idea what's going on there yet.

I also sometimes hear a squeal sound from what I think is the rear when making tight turns, usually only when the car/brakes are cold. It sounds like a brake squeal. Calipers aren't dragging, and the wheel bearings are tight. Clueless here too.

There's also the check engine light. That actually took a little while to happen. First it set a P0153 code for one of the front AFR sensors. Cleared it. Now it routinely sets P0171 and P0174 for fuel trim lean on both banks. A look a the fuel trim values shows that they are indeed high (25%) at idle and about 15-17% during steady-state driving. Sometimes it'll take days before the light comes on because I drive in so much stop-n-go traffic. I'm almost certain this is caused by the sketchy AF front AFR sensors that didn't even have the wires in the correct terminal holes. A new pair of Denso sensors is about $200, but before I do that I'm going to see if I can find a decent pair at the pick-n-pull for $10 each. If anything it'll buy me a little time (trying to save $$$ where I can here!). The good news though is that the catalytic converter I/M readiness flag did pass. No dreaded P0420, and it already passed it's NYS OBD-II emissions inspection.

Driver's side window switch was broken, but an aftermarket one on Amazon works great and was only $25.

Passenger's side door had a weird internal rattle. Seems the spot-welds for the intrusion beam on the trailing edge of the door had come loose and the beam is rattling. No evidence the door was ever hit. I ran a self-tapping screw into it which seems to have helped but I think I might need to put some sort of expanding foam between the beam and the doorskin to kill it completely. It's most noticeable when experiencing the idling in gear vibration and it's annoying as ****.

Lets see what else:
  • HVAC mode door actuator stuck
  • D/S heated seat not working, P/S works a little bit
  • Headlights are pointed at the ground. They're aftermarket replacements and looks like nobody ever bothered aiming them.
  • Front part of ginormous sunroof doesn't tilt up
  • P/S got heavy and starting whining a bit after a very extended trip in heavy Manhattan traffic. Only time I noticed that happening. Fluid level is fine.
Car sounds like real pile doesn't it?

It's not actually that bad. It does have some good things going for it. The front suspension is in great shape and needs nothing. There is also no rust on the car aside from some minor surface rust on the subframes. Rare for a Northeast car. The interior is also in excellent shape. All of the other issues will be dealt with eventually.

I also was intending to monitor oil consumption since I don't know the history of this engine but that's been proven difficult since the dipstick in these cars is retarded and doesn't give consistent readings. So far I don't think it's consuming oil in any significant amount but only time will tell with that as well.

Oh and I also detailed it! It looks like the PO tried to spray-tint the rear lights, except there wasn't any tint on the lights anymore, but there was tons of overspray/drips all over the place. It was like he didn't even mask anything.





That took a lot of Goof-Off to remove.

After that I cleaned the paint with a clay-bar, and then polished it with a DA machine. I'm hardly a professional detailer but this paint seems to have loved the attention it was longing for. Despite it's NYC battle scars, it looks pretty good for $800!




It's a nice looking 10-footer.

The interior also came out really nice.


So I've been daily driving it, and so far I've put about 400 miles on it without any major incidents. I'd like to say I've been enjoying it but each drive is somewhat anxiety ridden. I'm hyper-aware of every squeak, noise and smell. Is that oil burning or is it just the neighborhood BBQ I'm driving past? Is that noise coming from the car next to me? Stuff like that. I just don't trust it entirely yet. It is quite comfortable though and despite it's remaining issues it's already redeemed itself by swallowing a dishwasher whole with room to spare when I came across a deal I couldn't pass up.

So that's where I am today with it. Was this a mistake? Maybe. I'm still well under the cost of buying a clean, running one that would probably have many of the same issues.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
375 Posts
The wiggly rear end is worn out bushings, almost certainly the rear suspension front lower lateral links, and the inner bushes on the upper lateral links. This also gives the infamous ghost walking issue.

Other bushings back there may be gone as well, and the rear alignment adjuster bolt is probably rusted into the rear lower link bushing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
375 Posts
The scraping noise is possibly a bent disc cover at the front - they're thin sheet metal and easily get bent into the disc in e.g. snow.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
67 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
The wiggly rear end is worn out bushings, almost certainly the rear suspension front lower lateral links, and the inner bushes on the upper lateral links. This also gives the infamous ghost walking issue.

Other bushings back there may be gone as well, and the rear alignment adjuster bolt is probably rusted into the rear lower link bushing.
The upper lateral link inner bushings are visibly shot. The others seemed ok but I didn't really look at them that closely. Fortunately it seems the bushings are cheap at $5 each on Rockauto and they're all the same. Also it seems the rear tires are toed in a bit to the eye. I'm going to have to replace everything back there aren't I. 😞
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
375 Posts
The front lower lateral link bushings look ok when they go. These aren't really replaceable, but a new Dorman link is $35.

If you're going to press bushings, get the whiteline camber adjustment bushing for the upper lateral link outer, so that you have two adjusters available back there.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
384 Posts
Also there's a bit of vibration from the driveline, both in gear and when accelerating.
If you replace the axles and other bits and the vibration is still there; pull the prop shaft and check the u-joints. When mine went bad it made a vibration like driving on super knobby tires or driving over the "oh ****" strip on the shoulder of a highway. It was worse under acceleration but noticeable at steady speed too.

I'm also getting a light scraping sound when rolling. I can only hear it with the windows open and when driving next to something that reflects sound (parked cars, highway divider, etc...) It almost sounds like brake caliper hardware might be touching the rotor but I haven't found that to be the case. The heatshield isn't touching the driveshaft either. No idea what's going on there yet.
I've done new brakes twice since I've had my outback and both times I've had the top pad hardware in the front end up rubbing on the OD of the rotor. New hardware both times and brand new calipers this last time. I don't get why it keeps happening. I've never had that problem with any other car. It's like the clearance is super small to begin with and then it eventually vibrates loose and touches the rotor. Maybe it's an issue of aftermarket pads not being long enough to keep them in place? I used different brands of high quality pads each time though. Frustrating.

Passenger's side door had a weird internal rattle. Seems the spot-welds for the intrusion beam on the trailing edge of the door had come loose and the beam is rattling.
I followed this TSB to fix my drivers door... https://www.subaruoutback.org/attachments/12-104-07-door-rattle-front-side-beam-2-pdf.19863/
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
67 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
Yeah that’s what I did essentially just with a screw instead of rivets. Probably should use 2 screws lol.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
67 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
So let me tell you how my day went. Today I went to the big pick-n-pull 2.5 hours away and here's what I scored.

  • 4 Genuine Denso AFR sensors (wanted to have spares)
  • '08 Radio so I can have aux in.
  • Upper lateral links
  • Rear floor cargo cover (mine was nasty)
  • Mode door actuator.
Not a bad haul. I would have taken CV axles too but I didn't have a cordless impact with me. Local yards near me are selling them for $25/pop and they pull them for you so I figured I'd just go that route.

I also noticed that every Subaru I looked at was a rusty shitbox compared to mine. Mine comparatively has hardly any rust at all. Also on every car, the rear lateral link inner bushings were shot, including the one I took. I'm going to rebush them so I can just swap them into my car with minimum downtime. Also for the mode door actuator, parts.subaru.com shows it as one part number that only fits '05's. I pulled one from an '05 and an '06 and they were identical (I kept the one for the '06).

So now that I saved all that money by buying AFR sensors for $10 each instead of $100, of freaking course a rock has to hit my windshield on the way home. Not on the Subaru (I don't trust it enough yet to drive it that far), but my other car which I'm intending to sell. Just great.

Oh but wait it gets better. So I get home. I'm still pissed about the windshield. I figured let me throw in the AFR sensors since that only takes a few minutes and at least I can drive to work tomorrow with no check engine light. I start the car up and the fuel trim values are 35% now even higher than the 25% that the eBay sensors were showing. Well I ended up finding the problem. It was a split PCV hose. The eBay sensors were right afterall. I drove 5 hours, got a cracked windshield, and at the end of the day I solved the problem in 10 minutes (including walking time to and from Autozone) with a $2 piece of hose. I'm basically a fucking clown.

Moral of the story, as always do proper diagnostics. I was so ready to blame the eBay sensors since they're known to be problematic that I didn't even look beyond that. At least I did get some other good stuff and I feel better knowing I'm using genuine sensors. Fuel trims are under 10% now. At least I didn't find this out after spending $200 on new Denso sensors.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
375 Posts
If you're rebushing the rear upper lateral links, use the Whiteline camber adjustment bushings at the outer end. Gives you independent toe and camber alignment, and I think that can help you get past issues with partly worn bushings in the back for a while.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
990 Posts
Moral of the story, as always do proper diagnostics. I was so ready to blame the eBay sensors since they're known to be problematic that I didn't even look beyond that. At least I did get some other good stuff and I feel better knowing I'm using genuine sensors. Fuel trims are under 10% now. At least I didn't find this out after spending $200 on new Denso sensors.
It sounds like you are still way ahead on saving money which is something you can do because you have the skill, experience and knowledge to make it happen. And I wager you are having some great (and maybe needed) fun with the adventure overall...

"Have I still got it? Yeah, I do" sort of thing. The fun / the challenge - you need to value that properly because it's part of the overall equation, the victory, the outcome, the knowing you resurrected something.

Every now and then, we all do something that isn't "optimal" or the way it should have ideally been done, and we all kick ourselves for it. But no one else would know. However, you're even having fun relating the stuff you "hosed" (pun intentional).

It's your adventure... Us, the readers are digging it. I hope there's another installment.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
67 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
It sounds like you are still way ahead on saving money which is something you can do because you have the skill, experience and knowledge to make it happen. And I wager you are having some great (and maybe needed) fun with the adventure overall...
Yes. I am having fun, and yes on some level I needed this.

"Have I still got it? Yeah, I do" sort of thing. The fun / the challenge - you need to value that properly because it's part of the overall equation, the victory, the outcome, the knowing you resurrected something.
OMG YES! This isn't the craziest project I've ever done by a long shot, but it's the first one in a long time (at least 10 years).

Every now and then, we all do something that isn't "optimal" or the way it should have ideally been done, and we all kick ourselves for it. But no one else would know. However, you're even having fun relating the stuff you "hosed" (pun intentional).

It's your adventure... Us, the readers are digging it. I hope there's another installment.
Wow. Thank you.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
67 Posts
Discussion Starter #20
Installed the new radio today. I ended up cutting the male end off of a headphone extension cord and soldered it to the i85 connector I clipped off at the junkyard.

470938


I had to move one of the pins to position 8 for the illumination wire which was a pain in the ass. Those are tricky to get out. After that I just soldered the aux-enable wire to the ground wire that connects to the back of the radio, and the illumination wire to the existing i85 harness, leaving the stock i85 connector in place. It worked great.
BAFE1E81-A5BF-42A0-A156-F2EBB9407F97.jpeg

470941


Yay! No more FM modulator! I also had a good excuse to unearth my binder full of circa-2002 mp3 cd’s lol.
 

Attachments

1 - 20 of 46 Posts
Top