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#17679 of 19336 CEL Horrors - 2002 Subaru Outback
Feb 04, 2008 (7:53 pm)
I posted the following to the Outback/Legacy Check Engine Light Forum. I am re-posting it here in case there is another forum that would be good for this post. Thanks.
"I'll start off this post by saying that the dealer's service department that I have been using acknowledges that they have never seen a series of Check Engine Light (CEL) problems like the ones they have seen with my vehicle. I'm hoping that that is not simply a diplomatic way of saying I have a lemon (perhaps the only one on the roadways of Colorado).
Let me give a little history of these problems so that I can get your collective thoughts on whether they are all related and symptomatic of a larger or missed problem or simply unfortunate isolated incidents.
My 2002 Outback Wagon is the base model with a standard 4 cyl. engine, automatic transmission. It currently has approx. 93k miles on it.
Back in late 2005, when I had approx. 51k miles on the vehicle, I started getting constant Check Engine lights. The dealer pulled a Code P0420 and started off by replacing a Fuel (or Oxygen) Sensor. (The dealer indicated that these were the same things.) When the CELs persisted approx. 2500 miles later, and the same code reappeared, the dealer replaced the catalytic converter. I went 15k more miles and the problem resurfaced - same code. The dealer cleared the computer and told me to drive on it some more. At 73787 miles, when the CEL and same P0420 code came back, the dealer replaced the same fuel/Oxygen sensor. Then, at 76874 (now February 2007) -- same code came back and the dealer put in a new catalytic converter.
Up to this point, I simply got constant CELs and it did not really affect driving performance in any perceptible way. That changed this past fall, when I noticed that the vehicle would sputter and I would get intermittent engine vibrations, usually at idle or low RPM. Occasionally, the vibrations and sputtering would get more intense and sometimes at higher RPM (e.g. 2k). I also noticed that I would typically see the problems when the weather turned colder and in stop-and-go traffic or at higher altitudes (in the mountains at 9000 feet and above). The CEL would blink for 20-30 seconds and then turn constant.
When I brought the car to the dealer in November with approx. 89k miles, at first they could not pull a code, and simply cleared the computer. The problem reappeared and technicians were able to pull a code: P0302 (cyl. 2 misfire). I was up for my 90K service, so that was done, replacing the spark plugs, and I also had them do a fuel injector flush at their recommendation.
My problems came back in about 2 weeks and less than 2000 miles. This time the technicians pulled a P0420 code. They cleared the computer, told me to drive it some more, but warned that if the code came back I would be due for my fourth catalytic converter.
The same symptoms persisted but when I brought the vehicle back to the dealer in late January, with approx. 93k, the techs pulled a P0302 code (the cyl 2 misfire) again. At their recommendation, I had the ignition coil assembly and ignition wires replaced. Although it was not documented, the technician also told me he did a comprehension test, which came back with normal results. They told me to use better gasoline and drive on it.
The same problems -- engine sputtering/engine vibs, blinking CELs, etc. - came back within a week and less than 200 miles (using the better grade gasoline). The tech who worked on my car confessed that he was not sure whether the new coils and wires would solve the problem but all that the dealer can offer at this point is the recommendation that I continue to drive on it and keep putting in better grades of gasoline. Otherwise, they are out of ideas. (The service manager confessed that he did not think gasoline quality was really the issue.)
So the short questions I have following this long post are these: Are the problems interrelated? Has something been overlooked? (A friend mentioned that loose connections with the air filter may be a culprit.) Any thoughts on what steps to take next?
I would be grateful for any suggestions or advice.
#17680 of 19336 Re: CEL Horrors - 2002 Subaru Outback [tompaine]
Feb 04, 2008 (8:03 pm)
Ask the dealer to loan you a different ECU (computer) and let you drive with it for a few weeks. That will rule out a bad ECU.
#17681 of 19336 Re: CEL Horrors - 2002 Subaru Outback [tompaine]
Feb 04, 2008 (9:20 pm)
I like samiam_68's advice.
I don't suppose you are fortunate enough have a 100k-mile extended warranty?
#17682 of 19336 Re: CEL Horrors - 2002 Subaru Outback [tompaine]
Feb 04, 2008 (11:03 pm)
I am going to deviate a little.
First, I am always befuddled by dealers' insistence that the catalytic converter needs replacing when a P0420 code pops. P0420 is "Catalytic Converter Below Threshold." Basically what this means is that the measured differential between the oxygen content in the exhaust upstream and downstream of the cat is not great enough. This could be caused by several things, not simply a result of the converter not doing its job.
The fact that this code continues to recur quickly even after oxygen sensors and the converter itself are replaced leads me to believe that the primary problem is due to something upstream of the catalytic system; maybe even a slight coolant leak into the combustion chamber(s).
Tell us, who has thus far paid for all these parts randomly thrown at the problem?
I am tempted to say that the rough engine operation may be a separate issue. In the absence of spark or fuel as the cause, I am leaning toward a knock sensor or mass airflow sensor as the primary culprit.
#17683 of 19336 Re: CEL Horrors - 2002 Subaru Outback [xwesx]
Feb 06, 2008 (7:00 am)
Many thanks for all of your views to date. These are things that the dealer did not mention.
As for the financial burden of all of this, I wish in retrospective that I did have an extended warranty. However, over the course of time and with some haggling along the way, the way this breaks down is that I paid for one catalytic converter and sensor and the dealer or Subaru covered the other catalytic converter and sensor. I took the hit on the fuel injector flush; they took the hit on the ignition coils and wire -- and the comprehension test -- if that was in fact done.
Thanks again for your views on this.
#17684 of 19336 Re: CEL Horrors - 2002 Subaru Outback [tompaine]
Feb 06, 2008 (10:05 am)
what samiam_68 said.
See if you can talk the dealer into a loaner ECU to see if the problem reside with your ECU. Make sure it's for the AT and not manual. An ECU for manual in an AT car.... a kid with skateboard will beat you off the line and pull ahead with 2 cars length
If a loaner ECU is not available, then make arrangement with the Dealer to take your vehicle in at moments notice. You need to drive the vehicle and take it straight to the dealer the second the symptom(s) occur, not tomorrow or when you get off work; straigth away. When you get to the dealer, leave the engine running. Do not turn it off. They should have an AccessPort like tool to register the engine's performance where it will help them determine a more precise area to look at and/or proof that the ECU is the culprit.
I'm guessing they'll find that the engine is running lean.
#17685 of 19336 Re: CEL Horrors - 2002 Subaru Outback [hypov]
Feb 07, 2008 (7:47 am)
Thanks again. I'll keep you all posted.
#17686 of 19336 Functional Vents
Feb 10, 2008 (11:44 am)
Does anybody know if the Vents behind the front wheel well and the front bumper functional in the new STI?
#17687 of 19336 Re: Functional Vents [thepdmm]
Feb 10, 2008 (6:37 pm)
Yes, when we were at SOA last week, they explained how they help to vent engine heat and that through their testing they actually dropped temps significantly and help air flow over the IC better.
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#17688 of 19336 Forester dies at stopsigns.
Feb 10, 2008 (10:02 pm)
Does anyone have experience like this-when slowing to stop, our 2001 forester S will give a shake and the engine shuts off. Starts up fine and we're good to go the rest of the trip. Not everytime, but seems to be within 3 miles from starting out. My wife had it happen 3 days in a row at the same intersection. After my mechanic cleaned out the throttle body, she had it almost die again and the next day I had a similar experiance: had driven 190 miles, let the car sit 5 hours, and within 3 miles of starting out, it tried to die while I slowed to stop. Car has 144,000 miles approx, automatic, no codes logged or check engine light until that last one, Autozone checked-catalytic converter function below normal or something like that....tried to do it again this morning, within about three miles of taking off. Outside temp has been between 30 and 50 degrees through all this. Seems to run great other than this!