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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My brother in law’s daughter is going off to college in southern Oregon. He wants to get my niece a car he can afford without payments that will be reasonably worry free. He’ll do maintenance and minor repairs when she is home on breaks 300 miles south.

Many family members have Subarus so he is considering his first one for his daughter’s first car.

I’m his “phone a friend” since I currently own a 2015 Forester XT and a 2021 Ascent. But I’ve never had an Outback. I live 500 mi south of him.
He test drove a 2012 2.5 with 92k miles from Carmax. Below is his test drive experience and smoking engine issue.

My question is, does the smoke issue remove this one from contention? (I did find one 2012 thread regarding an unresolved smoking engine and it has me a bit worried)

Thanks everyone for your advice!

FROM HIS TEST DRIVE:
Checked out the Outback at Carmax this evening. Very nice. Car is loaded with backup camera, Bluetooth, sunroof, to name a few.

Drove very nice. New tires. Breaks felt good. Lots of pep!

Only issue was on way back to dealer I went in the freeway and got up to about 75 for just one exit. When we got back I popped the hood and there was some smoke coming out from under the shroud over the radiator. Car wasn’t hot...at least no dummy light... So, they will take into their shop and see what’s up and we’ll go from there. It comes with 90 day/4K mile warranty, but don’t want to worry about it. The sales guy thought cleaning stuff just smoking off... just not sure.

Thoughts?
 

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2010 2.5 CVT Limited
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1,810 Posts
Hard to say without seeing it and smelling it.
The "smoke" could be steam coming off the radiator. What is causing the steam? could be spilled coolant or leaking coolant. The latter would need to be fixed.
If it is really smoke, there are not many things up there that can give off smoke and not be a significant concern.
 

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Super Moderator
2008 OB Limited 2.5i, Portland OR USA
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Per @cardoc from another post:
White smoke = coolant leak into combustion chamber
Blue smoke = oil
Black smoke = unburned hydrocarbons

What did it look like? This matters as each one of the above has a different level of severity.
 

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2020 Onyx
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10,336 Posts
Is your friend able to check under the car to see evidence of fluid leaks? Any fluid that ends up blown onto the exhaust manifold will probably smoke, but it's hard for me to imagine what kind of cleaning stuff would cause that kind of smoke.


I'd be looking at a newer vehicle if possible, like an XV/Crosstrek.
 

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Super Moderator
Outback 2011 3.6R Premium
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2,280 Posts
I suspect the “smoke” could be a cleaning product as suggested by the salesman and it is probably nothing to be concerned about.

The other option is a coolant leak and if this is the case the workshop should find the leak and fix it OK.

The 2012 model is a good option for a first car as by this model Subaru was using Multi Layer Steel head gaskets which are much less likely to fail than the original type head gasket.

The 2012 engine was the last of the EJ25 engines and is a very reliable workhorse.

If the vehicle is fitted with a CVT transmission make sure the vehicle is inspected to ensure there are no known problems with the torque converter or CVT as the CVT is an expensive item to replace (around $6,000 to $8,000 for a new one from Subaru)

Seagrass
 
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2017 Outback 2.5i Limited
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Unless your brother in-law can get Carmax to allow a Pre-Purchase Inspection by a qualified mechanic then your brother in-law's option is to purchase the vehicle then get it inspected after purchase. Take the inspection back to Carmax and tell them to fix the issues or your brother in-law will be utilizing the 30-day money back gaurantee (up to 1500 miles).

Otherwise, I think an Outback is a great college car. In effect, it is a station wagon with lots of storage and your brother in-law's daughter can pack up all her gear and make only one trip to college at the beginning of the year and one trip coming home for the Sumer. I had a 1972 Pinto wagon that served me well where other student's were making multiple trips going and coming from college. Plus the Pinto was the go to car to transport kegs during the year, but that is another story. :)

Here's a reasonable checklist:
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you all for the great feedback!

@dukey33 Thanks, his response was it was a sort of rubber burning smell. It went away after about 30 seconds and didn't reappear idling for 5 minutes. Below is his response to me:
"There was no liquid under the car, and after the smoking stopped in about 30 seconds, he started the car and idled it for about 5 minutes. No warning lights or liquid under car.

I think my plan is to see what they say. If can’t find any issue or reproduce and they say cleaning chem burn off, then I’ll test drive again and see if I can reproduce. If doesn’t smoke then move forward with purchase."


@johnre I'm not sure what color it was. I'll ask. Thank you for the helpful debugging list.

@SilverOnyx Thank you. He didn't find any leaks on the ground. I'll ask him to look under and see if he can see evidence of seepage.

@seagrass He is going to get their feedback and then do another test drive to see if he can reproduce. And do some additional looking for the source. Thanks for the input on the engine and suggestion of checking the CVT. I'll ask him if it has a CVT. Is there an easy way to tell if the CVT is unhappy? (slow to change gears, long delays going into gear initially? inhuman noises :) ?)

@HammEERman Thanks for the advice and great checklist. I'm sure a keg would weigh more than her. Even a pony keg. But, I'm sure she'll make friends :cool: After all she is majoring in theater arts!

Thanks everyone for your comments, questions and advice. I will definitely close the loop and let you know how it comes out.

-OJoe
 

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Outback 2011 3.6R Premium
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Known CVT problems in the early models include hard shifting and/or a check engine light.

The most common torque converter problem was that the engine almost stalled when stopping.

Hope this helps

Seagrass
 
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