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'03 outback limited, '01 Outback Limited, '01 Legacy L wagon, '96 Legacy Brighton wagon
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I think I found out why so many of these cars get rusty wheel wells.

Started on my '96 this evening, getting ready for tomorrow. Subaru did a very nice job running a bead of seam sealant along the back vertical portion of where the inner and outer fenders come together, but NOTHING from there forward, presumably because of lack of easy and direct-view access - the rear shock tower structure gets in the way.

It would not be quite so bad, but where the bead ends ( top), there was a big lump of it sticking up that created a very effective dam, keeping any moisture from being able to drain out - that is a low spot, so any moisture can and will settle in there as a nice puddle for a while.

The first picture shows the hole I have to fix.

The second is a closeup of the hole, with the lump of sealant visible - a bit hard to tell what is what there, but it is the lighter bit at the right of the rusted opening.

The third picture shows the sealant bead from the inside, with the lump at the top.

I would be willing to bet that just about all Subs have this same problem.

For those willing to dive into removing their rear interior panels, if the lump is present, it can be removed. Once removed, you can decide for yourself how to tackle sealing the seam from there forward - I'm going to go with somehow brush/pouring in rust conveter, then drown it with a few application of red Rustoleum primer, and then rubberized undercoating.

I haven't checked as yet to see what there is for a drain hole behind that area, but will tomorrow. If there isn't one, there will be by the time I get done! :)

It will be a couple more months before I get at the '01 Legacy wagon, but when I do, I'll post again about what I find - that one is worse than this.

Still not sure where the water is coming from, but most likely it is condensation.
 

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1999 30th Anniversary Legacy Outback DOHC 2.5L 4EAT, 2008 Impreza WRX 2.5L 5MT, 2008 Impreza Wagon 2.5L 4EAT
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1,224 Posts
I think just about every First Gen Outback I have seen has this issue. Maybe if your car was new to Arizona and lived there all it's life maybe not.
 

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Premium Member
'03 outback limited, '01 Outback Limited, '01 Legacy L wagon, '96 Legacy Brighton wagon
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2,666 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Would have been nice for it to have been an Arizona car, but I had no such luck!

Seems the moisture also crept down behind the sealant and started rusting there as well. Had to cut down a lot further than I had hoped for. Thankfully, from there forward there seems to be little to no rusting started.

Haven't looked at the other side of the car yet, but at least there are no signs of rust from the outside, so I may be in luck.

Now to start hammering sheet to fit.
 

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1997 Outback 2.5 AT
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186 Posts
wow thats crazy rust.

my car lived for 5 years at the beach (salt water air) and was the PO's surfboard car (so salt water dripping onto the paint) and only has a rust spot the size of a quarter (ok half dollar) bubbling up about mid-span under the rear driver side window.
 

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'03 outback limited, '01 Outback Limited, '01 Legacy L wagon, '96 Legacy Brighton wagon
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Up, it is crazy. But, that's what happens when a low spot is formed that can trap water. Had I been smart and dove into it 4 years ago when the first sign of rust started showing, it would never have gotten this bad.

Haven't pulled off the inner panels on the RH side yet, but since it has no outward signs of rust, I'd bet that the same sealant blob is not present.

Got the new metal tacked in, but haven't fully welded it yet - next weekend, I hope. After that, it is "drown the seam with rust converter and rustoleum" time, then on to the bottoms of the 2 front doors.

I was especially surprised that that the rest of the wheel well seam was not sealed - cheezy move on Subs part.

My 2 '01's have this same problem, and since those are my "long-term keeper" cars, with the extent of the rust I'm seeing, it will probably be easier to replace the quarter panels, even if a lot more expensive - my body doesn't like doing the sort of work down on my knees any more!
 
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