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  1. #1
    Senior Member Michigander's Avatar
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    Question for those who know Subarus.

    My friend has a Subaru Outback Legacy, it's a 97 I believe. Has over 200 grand on it. It started making a nasty noise, then he noticed it was dripping oil. The transfer case has a big crack in it. At least that's what I think that part is called, the smaller part up front that powers the front wheels, that appears to be separate from the larger RWD part. I know cars pretty well, certainly better than I did 2 years ago, but I don't have much experience with AWD's, I know very little about the way that transmissions work beyond how to install one, and I am very new to Subaru's.

    The fix for the problem is obvious, replace the busted part. But since it would be damn expensive and he wants to do it himself when he has the time, what I want to know is if he could get away with temporarily driving it anyway, I guess just powering the rear wheels, leaving the front wheel drive part to grind away since it's trashed regardless. One guy seemed to think it would mess up the tranny to do that, and I would like to know if that's true or not. Anybody know?
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    Ho-Jahm Hocam's Avatar
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    If it's dripping oil then don't drive it.

    1. If he drives it for long enough, the crack could get worse and he could loose more oil than he realizes and seriously damage the engine.

    2. All that oil runs off into streams and groundwater, do you really want to keep doing that?

    3. If the oil gets to a hot part of the engine, it may catch fire while he's driving.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Michigander's Avatar
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    The small amount of oil from that part is GONE. Nothing else is leaking. The crack is big, and that part is small. I think it's basically like a differential on a RWD car. Probably just full of gear lube, or at least it was. And again, it MUST be trashed already.

    I don't get it. Why would it trash the engine? At least to my some what experienced eyes, it looks like you have the intact RWD portion separating the engine from the busted part. If anything would blow, I'd have thought it would have been the tranny.
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    Senior Member Michigander's Avatar
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    I just talked to my friend who has a good understanding of ricers and transmissions. He said that to the best of his knowledge, either the tranny would be blown, or the transfer case would seize up. So basically, don't even consider driving it until it gets fixed.

    That said, I don't think he ever owned or worked on a Subaru, so if anyone knows of any reason to believe otherwise, please let me know.
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  5. #5
    Hello :D kidonabike's Avatar
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    Put it this way, oil is there to lubricate a moving part. If there isn't any oil no lubrication is occuring. No lubrication equals friction, friction equals heat. High amounts of heat + metal = fused part

    Fused part means that something that is supposed to be moving isn't moving. This leads to failure in whatever that part is. Failure is not good and should be avoided at all costs.

    In short, listen to your friend.

  6. #6
    BikeForums Founder Joe_Gardner's Avatar
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    Speaking of Subaru's... are they rather well built and reliable for the most part? I'd love to trade in my Jetta for a Subaru Wagon, quite a few higher mileage ones all over Craigslist.
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  7. #7
    Hello :D kidonabike's Avatar
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    As far as reliability goes they are OK. The few that my family members/friends have owned have lasted to around the 180k mark before dying.

    IMO Honda and Toyota are the two best for reliability if thats what your really looking for. My uncle drives a 97 Tacoma from San Diego to Los Angeles everyday and the thing has 350k+ on the original engine and 140k+ on a 5yo transmission.

    That being said I would love to get my hands on an '04+ WRX sedan

    Maybe in a few years...

  8. #8
    Senior Member Michigander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe_Gardner View Post
    Speaking of Subaru's... are they rather well built and reliable for the most part? I'd love to trade in my Jetta for a Subaru Wagon, quite a few higher mileage ones all over Craigslist.
    This one has a great engine and rest of the tranny. Not even much rust. And it's a Michigan car with 214 thousand miles on it.

    My aunt out in California had one that she put just over 250,000 miles on, then gave it away. That was like 5 years ago. It's still in use as a daily driver.

    I've seen American cars that went that long on the original drive train, but not many.
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    They get popular out in the country every time gas prices go up. People park the f150's and but Suburaus for the AWD to get through the snow in the winter. Then in a few years you see a bunch of Suburaus for sale as they found them to be underpowered so the gas mileage drops off trying to pull up and down the hills to where they are not getting any better than the trucks they replaced. Then they find out they use a timing belt instead of a chain so they spend a week at the dealer for "maintenance" Then they find out the little things like starters and alternators still fail as often as any other vehicle but cost twice to replace. Then they find out they eat tires and need alighments mosr often than a simple part time 4x4 system. If you keep it in town on flat land they do ok but don't try them in rural areas. Then in a few more years gas goes up again and the next generatoin buys them and goes through the same issues and sells them in a few years and the cycle repeats.

  10. #10
    Ho-Jahm Hocam's Avatar
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    Enine, it's funny you talk about them needing alignments. My parents old subaru legacy needed an alignment at least twice in like 5 or 6 years.
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  11. #11
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    Twice in 5-6 years isn't bad, Im talking like once a year. Rural roads get potholes fixed later than city or you hit small rocks/branches and such that fall on the road. A couple times in 506 years ir probably avergae for a front wheel drive car. My truck for examle had one aligmnet in 150,000 miles and that was because someon drove into my front wheel.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Michigander's Avatar
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    I met a redneck who had been using a Subaru AWD wagon to pull a small boat back and forth for years. At 180 thousand miles, the clutch went out for the first time. He said it was one of the best cars he'd ever had. Didn't say anything about the alignment, but I don't think a wheel alignment is a really big deal provided you don't have major component failure to cause it. But I think most any car that you smash around on rural washboards will need to have the suspension system replaced frequently.
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  13. #13
    Body By Nintendo Psydotek's Avatar
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    I love my subaru.

    And now for some gratuitous picture whor-ing:



    Anyhoo... Does your friend have an automatic or manual transmission?

    While technically it's not a front transfer case, subaru transmissions have the front differential housing integrated into the main transmission case. In a manual transmission, the gear chamber and the differential chamber both share the same transmission fluid where in an automatic, the front differential uses it's own fluid separate from the AT fluid in the rest of the transmission. So far it sounds like it's an automatic so if all the fluid leaks out of the front differential chamber the transmission technically will still work to power the rear wheels.

    At this point, i'd wager the transmission is already going to be messed up regardless of what you try to do. However there's been afew people who have converted their subies to RWD usually by pulling out the front axles. There's a little more work to it than that, but pulling the axles is the main part of it.

    I'd personally stop driving it and start looking for a used transmission to swap in. Check the classified section on www.nasioc.com (one of the bigger subaru forums around) for a used one nearby. The great thing about subarus is that they're kinda like legos in that alot of their cars have interchangable parts.

    With that out of the way, my car has almost 140k miles on it, manual transmission, and i've done my part to take good care of her without pampering her. Most of the modifications i've done are with the suspension/handling aspect with minimal engine modifiction. Engine power is still at stock levels. Clutch is still original (which is good because clutch replacement labor usually cost alot for subarus). I generally get an alignment once a year (or whenever i get new tires) as part of my routine maintenance espically since it's good for tire wear. I love the car and would totally buy another subaru when it's time.
    Last edited by Psydotek; 12-05-08 at 09:36 AM.

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  14. #14
    Senior Member Michigander's Avatar
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    2 drain plugs, so definitely a automatic.

    I was never in this car while it was moving, so I can't say this for sure, but he said all it did was make a nasty noise, not have trouble shifting.

    Help me out here, I'm new to Subaru's. Assuming the tranny is intact, would it be reasonably easier to pull the axels than to replace the dif housing?
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  15. #15
    Squirrelly Member trsidn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michigander View Post
    My friend has a Subaru Outback Legacy, it's a 97 I believe. Has over 200 grand on it. It started making a nasty noise, then he noticed it was dripping oil. The transfer case has a big crack in it. At least that's what I think that part is called, the smaller part up front that powers the front wheels, that appears to be separate from the larger RWD part. I know cars pretty well, certainly better than I did 2 years ago, but I don't have much experience with AWD's, I know very little about the way that transmissions work beyond how to install one, and I am very new to Subaru's.

    The fix for the problem is obvious, replace the busted part. But since it would be damn expensive and he wants to do it himself when he has the time, what I want to know is if he could get away with temporarily driving it anyway, I guess just powering the rear wheels, leaving the front wheel drive part to grind away since it's trashed regardless. One guy seemed to think it would mess up the tranny to do that, and I would like to know if that's true or not. Anybody know?
    That's a bad sign.
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  16. #16
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    To the OP - 97 outback = awd, can't spare the transfer case by electing only rwd, parts will be grinding

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe_Gardner View Post
    Speaking of Subaru's... are they rather well built and reliable for the most part? I'd love to trade in my Jetta for a Subaru Wagon, quite a few higher mileage ones all over Craigslist.
    Shame on me, Subaru fooled me twice, now I am happy w/ a VW.

    In terms of reliability, they are respectable (my 98 much more so than the 83...) but in terms of gas mileage, look somewhere other than a tank of an AWD rig.

    In terms of performance, they have been just beyond limp-wristed, except for the recent explicitly sporty ones. I think there were decent imprezas outside of North America in the 90s, and then they have the performance ones here in the last I don't know 8 yrs, but those are pure rockets and not really aimed at the crowd that I more typically see driving the outbacks...

    The 98 impreza had goofy design problems too, like an artistically shaped hatch that meant you couldn't put, say, a dresser that would fit inside just fine past the wings sticking out from the frame. The cargo capacity isn't much use if the door is too small.

    But it's the underpoweredness that sticks with me. Could not accelerate up a hill.

  17. #17
    Senior Moment Member Gee3's Avatar
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    Like it was said earlier haunt the Subey forums and ask your questions. NASIOC.com was one I used to check out when I was a ricer. Although I drove an Integra but ran on a road course at a NASIOC Subey event in TX.

    Good luck!
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  18. #18
    fishologist cohophysh's Avatar
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    check the bone yard for a wrecked subi with the engine/diff intact.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member ritepath's Avatar
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  20. #20
    Caustic Soccer Mom apclassic9's Avatar
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    I'm driving a 2000 Outback with 326,421 miles on it. The check engine light has been on since 65,000 miles, and I only worry when it goes out....

    Over the course of the past 8 years, I have had to get a new front axle (welcome to WV roads!), a front right wheel boot, have had the muffler pipe patched, and the biggie - I had a leak in the head gasket. When the local subaru dealer took the engine apart to put a new gasket in, they took a picture of my engine - it's the "poster" engine at Royal Subaru in Charleston, WV - so clean & shiny! That was at @197,000 miles. I have the oil changed every 3500-4000 miles....

    Oh, and one time, I had to have the transmission mantle replaced, courtesy of the electric company digging huge ditches in my road after the ice storm in 2003.

    Last time I went to the dealer, the car was smelling bad, and they told me I needed a new transmission - took it to a local wrench for a 2nd opinion, and he found a $2 O-ring that had rotted out in the differential dip-stick hole.

    This Subaru replaced a 1995 Impreza, which I surrendered to my son in 2000 with 220,000 miles on it. He drove it for 5 years, and when it needed a new gas tank, we sold it to a friend's son for $500. That kid replace the gas tank, and called me about 6 months ago when THAT car hit 300,000 miles. I just saw it over Thanksgiving - still scooting along!

    I only wish that Subaru would get it together to make a car that gets OVER 30 mpg! I'm thinking my Outback will make it through the winter, but I'll be needing a new car soon!
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  21. #21
    Why not? EthanYQX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe_Gardner View Post
    Speaking of Subaru's... are they rather well built and reliable for the most part? I'd love to trade in my Jetta for a Subaru Wagon, quite a few higher mileage ones all over Craigslist.
    Yes, as long as it doesn't do this.

    No, it's not headlight fluid.
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  22. #22
    The Rock Cycle eofelis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apclassic9 View Post
    I'm driving a 2000 Outback with 326,421 miles on it. The check engine light has been on since 65,000 miles, and I only worry when it goes out....
    My 2001 Outback has a mere 115K on it.

    This is my 3rd Subaru and I've had extremely good experiences with all of my Subarus.

    My first was a 1991 Legacy wagon. Bought in 1994 in Massachusetts with 75k on it. Drove another 100K it all around the country, including a 10,000 mile 2 month road trip. Just replaced usual things like clutch, struts, CV axles. I parted ways with that car in 1999 at 175k. (I let the ex-h have it.)

    I then bought another 1991 Legacy wagon with 113k on it. It was a Wyoming car. Paid $5000 for it. I drove it for 8 years with no major problems. Had to replace struts, tires (once), CVs, a few engine seals. I sold it a year ago with 165K, it had the original clutch and the original brakes (no kidding).

    I bought my 2001 OB for $4600. They sold it cheap (private sale) because the factory paint job is spiderwebbing. I've had it for over a year, it has yet to go in a shop for a repair.

    Check engine lights seem to be a regular Subaru thing. My second 1991 car had the check engine light on for most of the 8 years I had it. My 2001 has the light come on occasionally, and then it goes off for a while. I had it checked out and it was the 02 sensor code. As long as it runs ok I don't worry about the light.

    Check out subaruoutback.org. Lots of good info in the forum there.
    Last edited by eofelis; 12-06-08 at 07:33 AM.
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  23. #23
    Senior Member Michigander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrankshaftYQX View Post
    Yes, as long as it doesn't do this.

    No, it's not headlight fluid.
    Too much boost perhaps?
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  24. #24
    Why not? EthanYQX's Avatar
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    Yup. Way too much. Just over 20 I believe on an internally stock engine.
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  25. #25
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    He's correct. The transfer case is shot. Time to hit the junkyard for a part.
    Quote Originally Posted by Michigander View Post
    I just talked to my friend who has a good understanding of ricers and transmissions. He said that to the best of his knowledge, either the tranny would be blown, or the transfer case would seize up. So basically, don't even consider driving it until it gets fixed.

    That said, I don't think he ever owned or worked on a Subaru, so if anyone knows of any reason to believe otherwise, please let me know.
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