Subaru Outback Forums banner
  • Hey everyone! Enter your ride HERE to be a part of this month's Ride of the Month Challenge!

1 - 20 of 32 Posts

·
Registered
2002 Outback Limited Wagon 5 Speed Stick!
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys!
I really need some advice for what to do with my Outback. I've had this car for 2.5 years and it seems to be a lemon when it comes to emissions issues.

Right after I bought the car the CEL came on and that's when all the trouble started. It turns out it "just needed" a catalytic converter, or so I thought. I guess these cars have two as well as a pair of O2 sensors. Well after replacing the whole lot, the light went away long enough to get an inspection sticker, but came back a month later. The guy warrantied out the cats but I'm guessing he might have just used an aftermarket part since I hear they fail quickly if you don't use OEM.

Later the car started misfiring, it was the head gaskets that were gone, so I had those changed by a second mechanic who knows Subarus much better and immediately knew what the problem was. Also had an overall engine tuneup.

I think what had happened was that the head gaskets were really the problem, so the first set of replacement cats failed because the head gaskets hadn't been done, ruining them.

Well as you can see, the car quickly turned into a money pit and now my inspection sticker is due at the end of the month and the CEL is on again for the catalytic converter. (Cat inefficiency it says I think).

Looking back I shouldn't have put so much money into the car in the first place, but it seemed like a runner when I bought it and otherwise is a great car. Love it in the snow!

Can you think of anything to help pass the inspection? I definitely can't spend another $700 or whatever on a catalytic converter not knowing if it will even solve the problem. But at this point the car isn't worth a whole lot as a trade in and I'm not really at point to be able to buy another car right now anyway.

I would love to keep this car as it runs great minus the stupid CEL light! haha

Any help is appreciated!
Thanks!
 

·
Premium Member
01 VDC, 05 R Sedan, 06 BAJA EJ257
Joined
·
15,483 Posts
Read through here for one: http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/66-problems-maintenance/49537-p0420-diag.html

We all learn from errors. Errors in thinking and errors in trusting in someone who is supposed to know and doesn't.

Where are you located?

Do you have a scan tool? If yes, does it read live data?

Do you have a laptop? There is free software available for gathering data from your car which can be converted and uploaded to this forum for those of us that can read and understand the data. You do have to buy a cable to connect your car to the laptop though. VAG cable or Tactix Open Port for Subaru. There's a discussion thread here: http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums...426-freessm-complete-access-your-ecm-tcu.html .

The 420 code is telling you there is a performance problem with the engine an you have to correct it before it damages the CAT. It is rare that a 420 code means the CAT is bad. I rarely replace CATs.
 

·
Registered
2005 OBW 2.5L, 1989 Subaru Justy, RIP Blu
Joined
·
7,355 Posts
HOw much did the cat cost to replace. i bet they used a cheap aftermarket cat and aftermarket O2 sensors.

Subaru Cats are rarely bad. Usually it is a bad O2 sensor, and the front one really should be OE as aftermarket ones tend to be one size fits all and subarus don't work like that.
 

·
Registered
2002 Outback Limited Wagon 5 Speed Stick!
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
I live in the Northeast in Mass and this car definitely has seen its fair share of winters. No scan tool, I have just been going to AutoZone to borrow theirs you know the basic one they loan you if you toss them your license.

I have a laptop but it's a Mac, but the idea of self diagnosing with live fed data intrigues me. I will see if I can borrow a windows laptop. I looked on ebay just now for the Vag-Com KKL 409.1 cable and it mentions VW/Audi/Skoda but not Subaru, this is still OK?

I think the Cat was around $700, but honestly, I'd have to dig out the paperwork for the car and find out. The first mechanic I always used with my old Pontiac Bonneville and he was great and helped me out as a student with discounts. He didn't know Subarus the best though and so I think it was an honest mistake at first with an aftermarket catalytic converter since you can probably get away with it most of the time.

Thanks for the quick replies guys!
 

·
Registered
OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
Joined
·
12,385 Posts
Check out and ask questions here first next time, we can help you purchase, maintain, repair, and get lots of easy reliable miles out of the car if you can use this forum well.

Install the $15 extenders available all over ebay on the rear O2 sensor and be done with it. There's a reason ebay is flooded with them. The P0420 code is a debacle not worth messing with (and is a problem for lots of people/manufacturers, not just Subaru), if you can work around it for $5. Older subaru's don't even have that code and run to 200k....300k....400k...and are never hampered by "catalyst inefficiency" or whatever it is - it's a joke.
 

·
Registered
OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
Joined
·
12,385 Posts

·
Premium Member
01 VDC, 05 R Sedan, 06 BAJA EJ257
Joined
·
15,483 Posts
Lets say, just for giggles, that the engine is running lean causing a P0420. Or, its like what I showed with the 02 LL Bean and the thermostat was sticking closed causing a P0420. Or one that has a thermostat stuck open causing a P0420. Or, fouling plugs and a clogging fuel filter are causing a P0420. Then you have the much needed front AF sensor that helps meter the fuel trim going south that causes a P0420. And the winter blend gasoline that causes a P0420. The E15 gasoline that causes a P0420. A failing MAP/BARO causing a P0420. What about carbon build up in the intake or on the valves causing a P0420.

Does the bung repair these issues also? Hm? No. It can't. Its a bung that takes the rear O2 out of the stream of gases coming from the CAT. It hides a problem allowing it to fester and grow and domino into a more severe issue. Forget the older cars. We are in to heavy computer programming running these engines and transmissions not just for emissions but for more power while meeting emissions standards. My car is a perfect example of running lots of HP and torque while burning clean. Nothing but hot air out the tailpipe with a little rumbling. Cleaner than when it was new. And yes, I want that sensor functioning the way it was designed so if something happens I know about it and my investment is secured.

Please, enough with the $5 "fix" because it is not a Repair.
 

·
Registered
2002 Outback Limited Wagon 5 Speed Stick!
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the info! I would only consider the 5 dollar fix as a temporary measure in order to pass inspection. I ordered the above mentioned cable so that should come tomorrow or Friday and hopefully I'll get some help interpreting the data I collect from the engine! Thanks a lot!
 

·
Registered
2002 Outback Limited Wagon 5 Speed Stick!
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
The vag-com cable came in the mail today. Man that guy ships quickly! In any event, I should have access to a windows laptop on Saturday so with any luck I can get the software up and running then.
 

·
Registered
Onyx, 2008 LL Bean 3.0R and 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
Joined
·
4,111 Posts
I should have access to a windows laptop on Saturday
I saw this here here (The link from above) http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums...426-freessm-complete-access-your-ecm-tcu.html
Laptop, desktop, Car PC whatever floats your boat. (Linux, Windows)
Our Macs run on a Linux system, so you may be able to load it on your Macbook and have it for future use without having to borrow a Windows laptop. The site also had a screen shot of a window that lets you choose the GUI (appearance) from a drop down menu. It may have an OS X option. I have both and will give it whirl when I get around to this, probably in the spring. In the meantime, you could be the guinea pig for the Mac folk. Use Time Machine in case it all goes bad though.
 

·
Registered
2005 Legacy 2.5i Wagon 4EAT; 2005 Forester XS 4EAT
Joined
·
672 Posts
I saw this here here (The link from above) http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums...426-freessm-complete-access-your-ecm-tcu.html
Our Macs run on a Linux system, so you may be able to load it on your Macbook and have it for future use without having to borrow a Windows laptop. The site also had a screen shot of a window that lets you choose the GUI (appearance) from a drop down menu. It may have an OS X option. I have both and will give it whirl when I get around to this, probably in the spring. In the meantime, you could be the guinea pig for the Mac folk. Use Time Machine in case it all goes bad though.
That would be nice, but OS X is based on UNIX, not Linux.

One option would be to run Linux (Ubuntu, Linux Mint etc. all free) in a virtual machine using VirtualBox (free), Parallels or VMWare Fusion (both paid). I wouldn't advise trying to install Linux using BootCamp. I tried it once, and the end result was a restore from Time Machine.
 

·
Registered
Onyx, 2008 LL Bean 3.0R and 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
Joined
·
4,111 Posts
Oh yeh, UNIX, Linux, Linus, Charlie Brown. I can't keep them all straight. Wait, what were we talking about again?

I ran a beta of Windows 8 in a VM and it was a bit buggie. I don't remember if I used Parallels, VMWare Fusion, or Virtual Box (maybe that one is Windows only?). I do log onto my Windows 7 machine from this Mac through a VPN to the VM at my office using MS RDC and sometimes CoRD. The scary part about all of this is I am a graphic artist who began at a drawing table in the early 80's and now has to be a bit of a computer guru in able to do the creative stuff. Although, I'd never want to go back to the old methods for most of what I do now.
 

·
Registered
Somebody Else's XT
Joined
·
14,439 Posts
Oh yeh, UNIX, Linux, Linus, Charlie Brown. I can't keep them all straight. Wait, what were we talking about again?

I ran a beta of Windows 8 in a VM and it was a bit buggie. I don't remember if I used Parallels, VMWare Fusion, or Virtual Box (maybe that one is Windows only?). I do log onto my Windows 7 machine from this Mac through a VPN to the VM at my office using MS RDC and sometimes CoRD. The scary part about all of this is I am a graphic artist who began at a drawing table in the early 80's and now has to be a bit of a computer guru in able to do the creative stuff. Although, I'd never want to go back to the old methods for most of what I do now.
Ok so I'm about as Mac as it gets, but for diagnostics in the garage? I went to the pawn shop and blew $100 on a netbook with windows 7 and that's the car computer now. I don't care how much grease gets on the keys. When it stops booting or catches a trojan I will throw it in the trash and go back to the pawn shop for another. Much easier than trying to get rr to run in a foreign environment, easier than just trying to keep the good computer clean, easier than dealing with fixing windows.
 

·
Premium Member
01 VDC, 05 R Sedan, 06 BAJA EJ257
Joined
·
15,483 Posts
Ok so I'm about as Mac as it gets, but for diagnostics in the garage? I went to the pawn shop and blew $100 on a netbook with windows 7 and that's the car computer now. I don't care how much grease gets on the keys. When it stops booting or catches a trojan I will throw it in the trash and go back to the pawn shop for another. Much easier than trying to get rr to run in a foreign environment, easier than just trying to keep the good computer clean, easier than dealing with fixing windows.
See, its simplicity. :D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
144 Posts
Agreed with cardoc: I bought my OB with a P0420 that the girl just couldn't figure out. Her mechanic was always giving her quotes on the catalytic converter, part of the reason she sold the car.

I didn't even bother diagnosing it. Went straight in and replaced the head gaskets, cleaned the TB, changed the thermostat, water pump, and t-belt+rollers. The car has gone 200-300mi now and all of the monitors are OK with no codes stored. No idea what fixed it but it could have been anything. Glad I didn't waste money on O2 sensors or a cat! That's what I did with my first Subaru and it was a mistake.
 

·
Registered
2005 Legacy 2.5i Wagon 4EAT; 2005 Forester XS 4EAT
Joined
·
672 Posts
An update on mine.

After cleaning the PCV valve, new fuel & air filters and Seafoam treatment of the throttle body, the light would still come and go, but not as frequent.

I decided to reset the codes over a week ago to see if it would make a difference. So far, the light hasn't been back on after several hundreds of miles.
 

·
Registered
2002 Outback LL Bean H6
Joined
·
20 Posts
Hello, I am the new owner of a 2002 H6 LL Bean edition with a similar situation....

Thanks to this forum, I have the free SSM program installed and can collect data for a diagnosis. Which parameters do I need to check on to diagnose the P0420 code?

Should I have the engine warmed up and idling for diagnosis?

Super thanks in advance for any help, comments!
 

·
Registered
2002 Outback LL Bean H6
Joined
·
20 Posts
Here are the details of my situation:

I bought the car at a discount from a small dealer with 120k miles. The CEL was on and the dealer replaced the rear O2 sensor and added the Ebay adapter. The previous owner replaced the cat system with an aftermarket style.

What I have done: gone through several tanks of good quality premium fuel, seafoam in the gas tank, new air filter, replaced both front AF sensors (OE Denso from partsgeek - wish I had read about the free SSM program first), REMOVED the Ebay adapter from the O2 sensor.

Notes:

I have been resetting the code after each change...the CELcomes back on after 30-40 miles.

When stopped at a red light the car idles a bit rough. It idles better once I take my foot off the pedal. I suspect I have a vacuum leak. I replaced the brake booster hose to no avail, must be somewhere else.

The car runs and drives great otherwise. The temp gauge moves to about the halfway point and the car does not overheat.

I love driving it and don't mind a little time and effort...I have wanted an LL Bean Outback for years!
 

·
Premium Member
01 VDC, 05 R Sedan, 06 BAJA EJ257
Joined
·
15,483 Posts
Hello, I am the new owner of a 2002 H6 LL Bean edition with a similar situation....

Thanks to this forum, I have the free SSM program installed and can collect data for a diagnosis. Which parameters do I need to check on to diagnose the P0420 code?

Should I have the engine warmed up and idling for diagnosis?

Super thanks in advance for any help, comments!
RPM, ECT, LTFT1, LTFT2, CalcLoad, MAP, AF1, AF2, O2 (rear O2). The STFT will show you what the ECM is doing immediately, the corrections being made due to bad plugs, fuel delivery, vacuum leaks, etc..

If you read through the P0420 Diag thread, you may have seen the video of the LL Bean. Same parameters. You always start data logging from dead cold so you can see what the ECM is doing through the warm up cycle.

EDIT: Any other codes besides the 420?
 
1 - 20 of 32 Posts
Top