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Hi all - just had my 2003 Outback in for service b/c the Check Engine light came on:

Subaru indicates that the problem is the spark plug wires (just over 36k on the car).

Doesn't that seem like an unusual problem at only 36k? Also - how hard is it to replace the wire set? I know the engine config makes getting at the plugs tough.


Thanks!

JZ
 

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That is a pretty strange diagnosis. Most plugs these days are made to go 100k +, if not for the lifetime of the car.

As far as I know, the wires are relatively simple to replace on the 2nd Gen. Outbacks...unless you've got an H6, in which case I've heard it's a real pain in the as$.

At least wires are a relatively cheap repair...try to make a deal with the dealer that if you buy the parts from them they will put them in at no charge due to the fact that it's so strange that they died so soon. Is warranty an option for you? I guess the wires might not be covered anyway.

Good luck, and welcome to the boards.
 

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that does seem a little low, but the hot ign systems used on modern cars fry the carbon-core suppression wire a lot faster than most of us are used to.

the job is WAAAY easy if you're using factory wire set and can be done in 5-10 minutes without tools by a mechanical neophyte. just do em one at a time, and start with the longest wire. and be sure to clip the new wires into all the routing clips; their purpose is to keep wires from heat and sharp edges.

if you really want to do it "right", get some dielectric silicone grease (any otto partz store, small tube is abt $4), and smear a little around the outside of each "tower" on the coil pack assembly so that when you install the wires, it seals the connection against water intrusion.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the quick responses. I was just concerned about getting at the plugs to remove the wires - I frankly haven't spent too much time under the hood of our Outback (except when changing the oil) but I realized already when we bought the car that getting at the plugs wouldn't be as easy as cars I owned in the past.

Here's another strange thing we found when we took the car in for service today:

My wife typically drives the car, but I've noticed for a while that I get some vibration when I apply the brakes hard at highway speeds. We had the car in for a 30k service and I was told the brakes were fine. that was at a different dealer (Subaru of Wayne in NJ).

Today I asked them (Subaru of Morristown) to check the brakes while it was in and they said front brakes were just 10%! The car has just 36,750 miles.

We questioned why Wayne didn't notice or comment at the 30k checkup. (pads are part of 3/36k warranty). I think Morristown was as surprised as we were - they can probably get the pads done for us under warranty.
 

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I had a bad feeling about Wayne Subaru when I went to pickup the car. They seemed to be just going through the motions there.

Morristown (for anyone who lives in Northern NJ) has given us very good service. A good example was when we brought the car in for an oil change. Without prompting, they identified a torn rear wiper blade and replaced it under warranty.

Sometimes it's the little things that make the difference. Customer service goes a long way!
 

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that's also proof of why it's a good idea to take the "intro to cars for non car people" class at your local comm college, so your family's safety doesn't depend wholly on someone else's competence or lack thereof, or profit motives. even if you never plan to do any work yourself.

when i was at the stealer recently, i inquired about some subie factory accessory and was told that "they don't make much for the older models", despite fact that my car, a 2002 OBS, is essentially identical to the 04 OBS they had on showroom floor. the message, of course, is "we don';t make much profit on you, you sleezebag. go buy a new car." why do i not believe that they really care abt my car living a long and happy life?
 

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agreed. Had it not been for the check engine light I probably would have eventually changed the wire set myself.

Are there any diagnostic tools available for Subaru engine codes?

I used to have a Ply. Neon and you could toggle the ignition a few times and the check engine light would flash the code for you to look up. Saved me some cash on a few occasions...
 

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cptoversteer said:
...and was told that "they don't make much for the older models", despite fact that my car, a 2002 OBS, is essentially identical to the 04 OBS they had on showroom floor. the message, of course, is "we don';t make much profit on you, you sleezebag. go buy a new car." why do i not believe that they really care abt my car living a long and happy life?
I wonder if that attitude has been fueled by the dawn of the internet/eBay age, where anyone can pretty much get any part they need/want online...making dealers less essential to all owners. The ironic thing is many times when buying online, you are purchasing directly from another dealer, one who has realized the potential cash cow that is selling parts online.
 

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I wonder if that attitude has been fueled by the dawn of the internet/eBay age,
NO, this was also the attitude well before the Internet existed. i got the same vibe from dealers in the 70s....if anything, it's a little better now than it used to be. i think the info spread due to net has been the driving force making dealers etc be more competent because they're dealing with more educated consumers.
 

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My sister and her husband recently visited, with a rental Jaguar. We looked under the hood, and could not even see any bit of plug wire. Lord knows what it takes to get any access to anything in that engine bay...
 

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FM--

mere words cannot convey my loathing for dealing with dealers......


JZ--
i think you will have to buy borrow rent steal scanner tool. all cars sold in Us since 96 (and 95 Subs) use what's called "OBD-2" protocol for error codes...effort to standardize codes between mfgrs. the approach you mentioned with your Neon is how one used to do it with OBD-1; i wasn't aware that anyone still had this feature with OBD-2 cars. i don't think Sub does. you might check Sccobymods.com to see if anyone there has a way to avoid scan tool purchase. i've had decent luck paying someone with scanning capability for an hour of shop time to just give me the diagnostic readout, and i then replace the part.
 

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Attempted spark plug change today...holy cow.

1. It was about 29degrees in the garage. Brrr.
2. My big ass hands could hardly reach in there to remove the wires from the plugs.
3. Once the wires were removed I couldn't get the plugs out. I don't have the right tools, need some type of flex ratchet for the drivers side, and the passengers side leaves about 1" between the frame/body and the plug hole. I don't know how I would even get the plug out, let alone getting a socket extension/wrench down there.
4. I gave up on changing the plugs (even though they REALLY need to be changed) and just changed the wires.
5. New wires were relatively simple to put on.
6. Gonna have to try the plugs in the Spring when it's warmer, unless I can find a shop that will install them for me, but most around here won't do installs unless you buy the parts from/through them.

I've noticed smoother shifts from the tranny (I don't know why that is, I might just be making that up in my head), slightly better throttle response, and less vibration at idle w/brake. I'll have to report on mileage on the next tank, but this current tank is approaching my worst numbers ever for the entire time I've owned this car; I think I'll be lucky to hit 230miles on the tank.
 

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I've changed the plugs on my mother's '02 Outback, didn't have any problems that I recall.

I'll be changing the plugs on my father's '03 Forester XS tomorrow, as part of the 30,000 mile service. I'll snap some pics so y'all can see how I did it... since some folks seem to be having issues...

Oh yeah, in regards to dealers and other mechanics in general: Only me, my father, or one other mechanic will ever touch my cars. I'm not afraid to tackle moderate (84 Toyota Supra top end rebuild) to big ('95 Chevrolet Lumina intake manifold gasket SHOT after only 49000 miles) projects, and if something doesn't work when the day's done, I know exactly who to blame -- versus the runaround at the dealer :D
 

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Cool etzel, I look forward to your reply and any pics you take.

I bought a little "stubby" 3/8" ratchet last night, I figure it'll be small enough to fit down there and I don't imagine it'll take too much torque to remove the old plugs so the handle should be plenty long enough.
 

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Allright, tune-up complete. I ended up having to take out the air housing on the right hand side of the engine bay, and the battery and washer tank on the left hand side of the engine bay.

...however I can't upload pics to my web space right now :banghead:

I'll throw something together when the server's back up and I can get to it .
 

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Here we go... the only tools that I needed to use were:
10 mm socket, deep well
12 mm socket, deep well with a 2" and 5" extension
small size spark plug socket


The engine most of us know and love (or hate?)


Plugs on the right side of the engine,
before tearing anything apart


Plugs on the left side of the engine,
before tearing anything apart


Removal of part 1 of air intake,
one 10mm bolt and a plastic fastener

Removal of part 2 of air intake, two 12mm bolts:
First bolt
Second bolt

Once those bolts are out, you can remove the airbox and
get to the sparkplugs


Yank off the plug boot (may require a bit of oomph), insert the wrench with an extension on it, and you're
good to go


Remember to
gap
your plugs appropriately and use
anti-seize

Snug the new plugs down in the heads and make sure you get the plug wire boot back on securely. You'll have to give it a good push to get it to click on.

Remember to do one plug at a time so you don't get the wires mixed up!

To do the left side, I ended up removing the washer fluid bottle, and the battery to get everything back together. While I don't have pics of the removal steps, I can tell you that to remove the fluid bottle, you need to:
-start with a bottle that's half full, or even less
-disconnect and remove battery
-disconnect the two electrical connectors to the fluid motors
-unscrew the two 10mm bolts holding the bottle to the shock tower
-move the bottle to where you can get your hands on the tubes and remove both tubes from the motors -- look out, the fluid will be running out
-remove the bottle from the car

When that's done, things will look like
this

After that, just replace the plugs as usual. Things may be a bit cramped but you should be able to pull it off :)

Hope this helps... and remember this is just for an '03 Forester, I know folks have different methods for different models :)
 

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Thx to both of you.
Peaty: That is the page I had printed out to use as a guide, unfortunately things on the 1st Gen Outback are slightly different.

I can tell now from both Peaty and etzel's pictures that Subaru got smart and it looks like they angled the plug holes up slightly on the newer engines, alowing the socket to go in at angle and use a long extension.

The EJ25, at least for my '97, have the plugs in completely horizontally, by the time you get the plug socket and a 3" extension in the hole, you are left with about an inch for your wrench, and with all the battery cables and hoses and other things, there is pretty much no way to move a normal socket around in that tight of a space. One could probably use one of those elbow/swivels, but I've never had any success with those things, that's why I bought the stubby socket...hopefully it works.
 
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