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2003 Outback Wagon 2.5L 5MT
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Some of you may have already seen my other post about this car. Go check it out if you haven't! I decided that I'm going to make a thread and document everything I do to this car. Everything. I'll include prices, error codes, little stuff here and there. It might even be annoying how meticulously I plan on keeping this up to date, but, oh well! I have wanted to do something like this but haven't had a car I really could for a while. Now that I have a new tinker toy, I'm set. BTW this isn't my daily - I still have my Honda for that. So if I leave this one down and out for a few days waiting on parts, it's not a big deal.

Here's a picture of the car.
481253


So far here's the chain of events:

3/18/20 - got the car! Paid only $1500 for it from a guy across town and loved it almost instantly. I could smell some sort of oil burning when coming to a stop as well as some slop in the shifter. The car drives and brakes straight, e brake works and doesn't do anything unusual when pulling it. Check engine light is on. Had the guy scan it and got P0519 and P0420. I know that you can't properly diagnose P0420 without having your engine running properly, including idling at the correct speed, so I'm not AS worried about that. There's a rattling sound coming from underneath that sounds like a heat shield rattling or a cat that has fallen apart inside (less likely, I think).

3/19/20 - took it to a shop I used to work at and asked them to do a full look over the vehicle as well as an oil change. Their findings were as follows
  • Oil leaks present - unable to identify, recommend to clean and degrease affected area and retest for leaks.
  • Check engine light - P0519 and P0420, recommend replace IAC and catalytic converter.
  • Struts - replace due to mileage.
  • Rear differential fluid - replace due to mileage.
  • Power steering fluid - replace due to mileage.
  • Manual transmission fluid - replace due to mileage.
  • Brake fluid - replace due to mileage.
  • Unable to duplicate ralling sound.
OK, so after being in the automotive repair industry for five years I could tell this was a bullshit visit. They took the easy way out on their recommendations and recommended parts based off of codes. Needless to say I was NOT happy with that. Plus, knowing the shop from working there, I know that (at least when I worked there for 3.5 years) we were NEVER allowed to make recommendations without getting the customer to commit to a separate check engine light diagnostic charge. Like it or hate it, those were our rules.

3/20/20 - took it over to my mom's to show her and my brother. Took off the IAC and cleaned it and the port it plugs into with carb cleaner, then reinstalled. No check engine light for that day.

3/21/20 - CEL came back for P0519 and some other P05xx's all related to the IAC. Cleaned it out more and then hit it with some Seafoam Deep Creep to lubricate the internals. I know this is dumb, but it's pretty likely at this point the valve is at fault, so even if it kills the valve we're in the same boat as we already are. After cleaning it, I had trouble fitting the o-ring on for some reason. Finally got it on then drove it. No issues.

3/22/20 - CEL is back! IAC code. Reset it. Didn't come back. Got drunk that night and ordered like $300 of parts 🤦‍♂️ Here's what I ordered!
3/23/20 - talked to my buddy about some of the stuff. He works for the same shop I used to and the one I took it to, just at a different location. I decided I'd take it to him sometime this week. I also started looking at headers for the **** of it and found that there are some for SUPER cheap. I talked to another buddy to see if they'd work and he said he did it on his '02 even though they are advertised for Imprezas and they fit fine. Some reviews on Amazon look like people had to make them work slightly, but whatever... F it. I bought them.
3/25/20 - took it to my buddy, had him look at everything, found a few more minor things wrong. Slight play on the right front inner tie rod end, the rattling sound was the heat shield on the cat and also had rocks in it haha, the struts are worn, and it looks like it's the valve cover gaskets that are leaking. Also later that day while I was looking at IACs online I realized that the reason I had trouble putting on the o-ring was because I was putting it at the base of the flange and not where it's supposed to go (oops). For some reason, these IACs are effing EXPENSIVE if you're going with a reputable brand. So I decided NOT to go with a reputable brand because for the price of this one I found I could buy 28 of them before breaking even. Decided to just go ahead and order the dang IAC. Drove it that night, the effing check engine light came back on. But it wasn't on the last few days... soooo I installed the gasket incorrectly again and guess what! No check engine light! So pretty cut and dry that it's a bad IAC.
3/26/20 - Checked Amazon... it said that the shifter linkage, LED bulbs, and plug wires would be here April 21... lol, cancelled that stuff. Ordered them on eBay! I also decided, since I'll be in the area in order to do the shifter linkage and bushings, to just go ahead and get a transmission mount. It's cheap enough that it's negligible. I also decided to just go ahead and buy some roll pin punches. Well, I wanted just one, but with Amazon being so effed right now because of COVID-19, it was faster by a month to just get a set of them. Now I have them for if I ever need them again in my tool box.
That's it for right now! I plan on updating this as I get parts in and install them as well as if any issues arise. IDC if anyone reads it, it's more for me than anything else. But if you do read it and have a question, just let me know!

Edit: Forgot to include these additional items
Also, one thing I learned while working in the automotive repair industry was that there really aren't that many manufacturers of aftermarket parts when it comes to OEM replacement quality parts. What I mean by that is that if you see a brand you don't know, such as Ultra-Power in this instance, and they have an identical part number to the Moog equivalent... it's the same part. It's sold in a different box. Why? To create a high and low point in the market and also to compete against themselves. Buy the lower priced part because you don't wanna buy the expensive brand? Guess what! They still sold it to you! If you see a variation of the part number then it may be from the parts that didn't meet certain QC ratings, but aren't total garbage. So if you see a part number such as (I'm making this up) K1001-A and then K1001-B, then there's more than likely a difference in quality between the two brands, but they're more than likely still the same manufacturer.

Edit 2: Adding prices for everything. Why not? I'm just not including tax or shipping costs since that's a point of ambiguity.
 

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2003 Outback Wagon 2.5L 5MT
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Discussion Starter #2
Ok well I already did another thing...

3/26/20 - My right side fog light and Energy Suspension shifter bushings are here! Since the old right side fog light was smashed out and totally inop, I went ahead and swapped it out. The install was easy, had to get behind the bumper cover by moving a piece of plastic but that was really it... it was easy. However, I looked it up afterwards and there is a video if you need that extra reassurance on how to get to it. Check out the one 1aauto.com has here. I haven't gotten to the shifter bushings yet since I'm waiting on the linkage and transmission mount so I can do all of that together.

Here's the crazy thing about the fog light though... check out these pictures.
Here's the driver's side that was on the car when I got it. You can also see how foggy the headlight is.
481272


And here's the new passenger's side. What a stark difference!
481273


Also, I haven't taken a picture of the light output yet, but I'm not even joking when I say that this single fog light is now brighter than the headlights. One thing I've always loved about automobiles is how the lighting works. So it's really wild to be able to actually witness how badly hazy headlights actually make your night driving. It's not just a matter of them looking bad, which they do, but it's a legitmiate safety item for you and other drivers. When the light ends up refracting on all of the divets in the headlight lens that causes it to look hazy, it scatters the light for you so you can't see ahead properly, and it also ends up blinding those in oncoming traffic. So what that means is... I ordered the left side fog light and now I'm waiting on that!
 

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2003 Outback Wagon 2.5L 5MT
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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Soooo tonight was interesting....

At 4PM I decided I'd put the header on. Oh boy. It went horribly. First off, the jack squirted hydraulic oil all over me 🙄. I managed to get off the nuts and studs from the exhaust manifold.... This was not good. Some nuts came off, some studs and nuts came off... Ok, I can work past that. I tried taking off the two bolts at the cat flange to the header and those wouldn't budge AT ALL. Soooo I then took the whole cat off and unplugged the O2 sensors. Once the cat and exhaust manifold was off in one piece, I managed to separate the the manifold from the cat and then proceeded to work further to get the header on. I tried tried tried to bend it into place but it wouldn't budge. I got the reciprocating saw out and chopped off the little connecting weld on it, and then was able to bend it better into place. Unfortunately... Still couldn't get it on. I had to pee, so I ran up to my apartment and on the way back downstairs... Well, I jumped a few steps and DESTROYED my foot. Like, unable to walk on my foot. ****. My brother was there and we tried to get the header on but my foot was hurting too bad. I couldn't put any weight on it at all and it felt just about the exact same as when I broke my collarbone. I went to the ER and was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis... Not good.

So... The header is half on, the car is still on Jack stands at my apartment complex, and I'm at my mom's since she lives right by the hospital. I'm going to have to get new exhaust studs and get those in then use them to get the header on. It's gonna be the only way.

What a day 😅

Edit: just ordered exhaust studs and bolts.
 

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2002 Outback
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659 Posts
Ouch! I hope you heal quickly. Be careful installing the studs and don't over tighten. The threads in the head strip pretty easily (ask how I know)...
 

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2003 Outback Wagon 2.5L 5MT
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32 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Update - it's lightly raining today and I have a header that's half on. Exhaust ports are exposed to the elements.... Not good not good! I went to the Subaru dealership to get new studs and nuts and the parts dude was gouging me. How do I know? Because MSRP on the studs on parts.gillmansubaru.com (the dealership I was at) is $2.13 and the nuts are $1.88. The parts guy told me they were $3.99 for the studs (ugh, annoying, but fine) and the nuts are $7.99 each. **** NO. Asked for his manager, manager just left. I was being difficult because dude I used to work in the industry... I know how this stuff works.... I showed him the online price for those parts at the dealership I was at and got the generic "parts online are always cheaper blahblahblah" that I myself used to use. That's true! But if you go to Walmart and try to buy a toaster that's online for $14.99 and in the store it's $29.99, you get the price online. He said 2.99 and I just said fine, f it. These are small dollars but that's very very annoying. I'm going to write in to Subaru about it because it's just so unprofessional.

Anyways, I'm hobbling and going to get the header on the car OR shove some shop towels in there to reduce the likelihood of the elements getting into the combustion chamber.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
We have an update my friends!

My brother and I got the exhaust studs but no nuts. Luckily the nuts included with the header were correct for the OEM studs. I drove in the studs that needed to be driven in, but... There was one that was bad. It was cocked to the side. When I say cocked to the side, I mean it was literally going in at about 80 degrees to the head rather than 90 degrees. So, this was very much a bad situation. What I did was drove the remaining 5/6 exhaust manifold studs into place like they should be and left that one to fate. I got the exhaust manifold into place and buttoned up... but.... after starting it we heard some tapping. Oh yeah. It was pressed against the front sway bar. What do you do in a time like this?? Remove the front sway bar of course! Front sway bar took LITERALLY 5 minutes to remove haha. Front sway bar out of the way, I got a genius idea! I couldn't drive in a full exhaust stud into place before it started getting tight and could only get it 1/3 of the way in successfully, I decided to get one of the bolts that came with the exhaust manifold and put an exhaust nut onto it. It ended up being the perfect spacer to allow me to tighten it up! With this in place and with the sway bar removed, the exhaust manifold was successfully installed! The only bummer is that I JUST bought sway bar bushings and sway bar end links... but maybe I can return them or since they were so cheap, just keep them in a closet with the original OEM exhaust manifold for the future if I decided i need to put it back to stock... I DID have to remove the stock hard plastic skid plate but I may just go ahead and cut it now that

OK so guys here's the crazy thing - after the install of this header, my cruising MPG SKYROCKETED. I have been to my mom's from my place multiple times on the same highway route... the first time I got 24.1 MPG via my ScanGauge II. The second time I got 25.6 MPG. After the aftermarket cheapo header? 32.2 MPG. I always put it on cruise at 70 MPH. Dude, this is absurd. It doesn't sound that different except for at idle. There's much smoother power in the low range and it really does sound fantastic.

And here's the crazier thing! I LOVE the way this car feels without the front sway bar! I was worried at first that there would be too much body roll.. but for how I drive this is perfect. Remember, this is a dog car. I want the smoothest ride possible for my baby. I actually can feel the difference between the front being removed and the rear being there, but I actually really like the way it feels with having the rear end being so solid at the moment.


Here's a pic of it installed! Minus the sway bar...
481341
 

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2002 Pair: 3.0 VDC Wag & 2.5 Limited Sedan
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I think your high mpg suggests it is running lean as the front o2 sensor is confused by the new shapes.

and I was just going to type about removing the cross bars and putting them in a closet to get 1 more MPG. (I have used mine exactly 1 time in 15 years since parking them,...with tape over the bolts to hold them in)
 

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2001 2.5 MT
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mid-early 00's vw passat (B5 or B6??) front aluminum end links work as rear outback endlinks. noticeably stiffer as well as lighter than the dual ball joint style.

e. sweet header pipes you should record a clip so we can hear idle and revs
 

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2003 Outback Wagon 2.5L 5MT
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Discussion Starter #10
mid-early 00's vw passat (B5 or B6??) front aluminum end links work as rear outback endlinks. noticeably stiffer as well as lighter than the dual ball joint style.

e. sweet header pipes you should record a clip so we can hear idle and revs
Gotcha! In this instance it was the sway bar itself that was hitting the header. Also, it actually doesn't sound any different, just feels a little smoother in the revs.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Today was not very eventful, but I did a few little things! Today my DEPO replacement headlights arrived from Amazon. They are AMAZING! I'm very pleased with DEPO products after this whole experience. I also decided to disable the DRLs. At first I was confused as to why there's such little documentation out there, but then realized how easy it was. On this vehicle, it's as simple as just unplugging a connector. I'm just wanting to confirm that there's nothing else that is affected by unplugging that connector. Headlight bulbs are coming soon so I needed to disable those for sure. Check out the pics!

Right side of the vehicle DONE, left side OLD
481363


Both sides and the right fog light grille!
481364


The difference is amazing! It's still light outside but I'm counting down til it gets dark because I'm stoked to see the difference!

I thought about plastidipping my grille today but want to see how I feel about the new look with the headlights.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Alright alright alright! Over the past two days I started working on some other things. I installed my shifter bushings, shifter linkage, and transmission mount. To anyone who has a 5 speed and has a sloppy shifter I HIGHLY recommend to do this! It was such a pain in the ass. It ended up taking me a total of 6 hours. Now, that sounds like a lot because it is lol but with only having cheapo jackstands and a cheapo jack that doesnt go that high, it went fairly smoothly. How would I do it differently if I were to do it again? I'd have a 2 post lift and a transmission jack LOL. I will say that the HARDEST part of changing the shift linkage was the roll pin. That stupid pin that holds the linkage to the selector on the tranny took the most time out of the entire job. I probably spent about 2 hours combined just working on getting the pin out then getting it back in. I saw that some people mentioned putting a bolt in place of that, but I just wouldn't feel comfortable with that. Seeing how difficult it was to get the pin in there and also due to the Subaru engineers doing it that way rather than a bolt... Well, I trust the engineers more than the forums :p

I also got in the rest of the parts minus the LED headlights. So now I have the rear sway bar bushings and unfortunately only one rear sway bar link because I can't order parts online properly haha.

Edit: I don't think I'm going to leave the sway bar off of this car... I may have to bend the header more or literally put a dent in it so it doesn't hit because it just doesn't feel good right now. Before I do that, however, I'm going to remove the rear sway bar that's still installed to see if that makes it better. I fear that having a tighter rear end (giggity) is making it handle worse than having an equally loose front and rear (GIGGITY!).
 

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mid-early 00's vw passat (B5 or B6??) front aluminum end links work as rear outback endlinks. noticeably stiffer as well as lighter than the dual ball joint style.

e. sweet header pipes you should record a clip so we can hear idle and revs
Dude I toasted my B6 2.0T (2007) so I'm about to go fire up the torches and or the grinder and find out about those links!!! Thank you much!!!
 

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We have an update my friends!

My brother and I got the exhaust studs but no nuts. Luckily the nuts included with the header were correct for the OEM studs. I drove in the studs that needed to be driven in, but... There was one that was bad. It was cocked to the side. When I say cocked to the side, I mean it was literally going in at about 80 degrees to the head rather than 90 degrees. So, this was very much a bad situation. What I did was drove the remaining 5/6 exhaust manifold studs into place like they should be and left that one to fate. I got the exhaust manifold into place and buttoned up... but.... after starting it we heard some tapping. Oh yeah. It was pressed against the front sway bar. What do you do in a time like this?? Remove the front sway bar of course! Front sway bar took LITERALLY 5 minutes to remove haha. Front sway bar out of the way, I got a genius idea! I couldn't drive in a full exhaust stud into place before it started getting tight and could only get it 1/3 of the way in successfully, I decided to get one of the bolts that came with the exhaust manifold and put an exhaust nut onto it. It ended up being the perfect spacer to allow me to tighten it up! With this in place and with the sway bar removed, the exhaust manifold was successfully installed! The only bummer is that I JUST bought sway bar bushings and sway bar end links... but maybe I can return them or since they were so cheap, just keep them in a closet with the original OEM exhaust manifold for the future if I decided i need to put it back to stock... I DID have to remove the stock hard plastic skid plate but I may just go ahead and cut it now that

OK so guys here's the crazy thing - after the install of this header, my cruising MPG SKYROCKETED. I have been to my mom's from my place multiple times on the same highway route... the first time I got 24.1 MPG via my ScanGauge II. The second time I got 25.6 MPG. After the aftermarket cheapo header? 32.2 MPG. I always put it on cruise at 70 MPH. Dude, this is absurd. It doesn't sound that different except for at idle. There's much smoother power in the low range and it really does sound fantastic.

And here's the crazier thing! I LOVE the way this car feels without the front sway bar! I was worried at first that there would be too much body roll.. but for how I drive this is perfect. Remember, this is a dog car. I want the smoothest ride possible for my baby. I actually can feel the difference between the front being removed and the rear being there, but I actually really like the way it feels with having the rear end being so solid at the moment.


Here's a pic of it installed! Minus the sway bar...
View attachment 481341
She's a lot cleaner then my outback man !! I'm a Honda guy all the way Accord's and CRVS...I have 2001 Accord 3.0 EX 1994 and 1994 Accord 2.3 and a handful of 1st generation CRVs Ranging from 1997-2000 just getting ready to do a Kswap on the 99...just got my first Subaru 2001 outback wife has had a few and loves them and if she can't kill one then I'll give em a try
 
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