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Trying to help my friend - he is stranded in the middle of nowhere Nevada right now

2001 Subaru Outback Automatic 4cyl

- Was at highway speed in cruise control, car made clunk and shut off
- tries to start it, no crank sound or clicks, just whirring noise
- lights work, power seems to work otherwise

alternator? - it died while in motion, makes me think alternator as this happened to me in another car
Battery?
Starter? could starter failure ever cause car to stop while in motion

- tried having him turn off radio, etc and start - no luck
- tried having him clean corrosion from battery terminals - no luck
- tried having him rock car back in forth while in neutral and then shift back to park, - no luck
 

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Nothing obvious from the symptoms.

A Subaru tell-tale with failed alternator is usually the gauges going crazy. Speedo, tach, tank & temp all flipping peg-to-peg. They do that when the system voltage goes critically low as with a failed alternator on a long trip until the battery is exhausted.

That won't happen if there's a sudden electrical failure like a fuse or fusible link opening up or a switch spontaneously failing.

That model will have a rubber timing belt, and those are always suspect in a sudden stop- though it doesn't really line up with the electrical side of this. Even if the belt broke and the engine crashed valves and froze, you'd still hear the starter solenoid clicking when you try to restart it.

It's worth pulling the inspection panel off the timing cover and having a look-see. Then more detailed electrical testing to see if a fusible link or ignition switch or relay broke.
 

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2008 OB Limited 2.5i, Portland OR USA
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Perhaps the starter pinion gear failed and somehow fell off, locked up flywheel, and stalled the engine? That would explain the clunk.

Weird part here is that the whirring sound while attempting to restart could be the starter motor turning but not engaging anything. It's hard to imagine it still working, though.

I'm kind of grasping for ideas here.
 

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2005 OBXT Limited, VF37, STI intake, 5MT
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First things first, try to turn the engine over by hand. a 22mm socket on a ratchet or breaker bar on the crank pulley.

If it's loose, I'd then pull the starter and have it bench tested. You could have a failed bendix (no "throwing out" to engage the ring gear teeth). Rare, but possible.

Was the car making any odd noises before? Ticking, knocking, clattering?
 

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(formerly) 03 H6 OBW , (presently) 06 WRX Sportwagon & 2021 Honda CR-V
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good ideas above

flex plate?


if your friend needs a tow, flatbed only

post his location, might get lucky and someone knows a good shop nearby.


anyway - just subscribing to learn.
 

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timing belt snapped. remove 3 10mm bolts to remove the side timing cover and check. or ask if the timing belt and lower cogged idler have ever been replaced. when you hear "no" to either of those questions, that's a highly probable suspect.

the "whirring" is the engine turning over faster than normal because there's no belt, pulley, cam, valve loading on it any longer and there may be shards of remnant belt material moving around.
 

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2001 Outback Wagon 5 speed, 2.5L
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First things first, try to turn the engine over by hand. a 22mm socket on a ratchet or breaker bar on the crank pulley.

If it's loose, I'd then pull the starter and have it bench tested. You could have a failed bendix (no "throwing out" to engage the ring gear teeth). Rare, but possible.

Was the car making any odd noises before? Ticking, knocking, clattering?
Back in the 60s & 70s it wasn't rare at all. Remanufactured starters & alternators were good for about 2 years. :(
 

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Back in the 60s & 70s it wasn't rare at all. Remanufactured starters & alternators were good for about 2 years. :(
Back in the 60's and 70's we could still buy rebuild kits for a few bucks and rebuild the factory starters and alternators.
 
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