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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:24 am 
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Car: 1996 Subaru Legacy GT

Problem: Took the wife out to dinner last night, car ran fine on the way over, after dinner wouldn't start.

The steps taken to get the damned thing started:

First tried cranking it. Cranked fine, plenty of juice in the battery, starter sounded like it wasn't having any issues which lead me to believe the problem was lack of spark.

Second, jiggled wires on distributor and spark plugs, tried cranking again still no fire.

Third, removed and reinstalled each wire on the distributor, tried cranking and it started right up with a little sputter due to being flooded (from the prior attempts at starting).

Solution: My best guess currently on the solution to this issue is to replace the distributor and the spark plug wires, figure one or more of the connections on either the distributor or on the plug wires is corroded bad enough to give intermittent connection.

So... anyone with a better guess on what the issue was?

It had to be electical, which means starter, battery, distributor, plugs, or plug wires. Wasn't the battery or starter due to the no issues cranking. Wasn't the plugs because it started up without an issue after dicking with the plug wires. Which leaves me with the above conclusion.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 1:14 pm 
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Sounds like you're on the right track. Might want to look at the coil wire and possibly the coil as well.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 1:16 pm 
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Was the car still hot when you came out from dinner? Was it cold when you initially started it?

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 1:16 pm 
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American_Infidel wrote:
Sounds like you're on the right track. Might want to look at the coil wire and possibly the coil as well.


I was thinking coil/coil wire, myself.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 1:20 pm 
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Regular Guy wrote:
Was the car still hot when you came out from dinner? Was it cold when you initially started it?

It was still hot when it wouldn't start.

This is the first time we've ever had an issue with hot starts, hell any starts for that matter, with this car.

Will look into the coil/coil wire after work tonight. Thinking about just replacing the distributor and plug wires on principle since I don't want her to get stranded somewhere since it is her commuter car.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 1:23 pm 
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Red_Snow wrote:
Will look into the coil/coil wire after work tonight. Thinking about just replacing the distributor and plug wires on principle since I don't want her to get stranded somewhere since it is her commuter car.


Cheap insurance, for sure. Has there been a recent tune-up on the engine?

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 1:24 pm 
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I had a VW Cabriolet that would start when it was hot. Lemme check with my buddy to see what he says....Be back in a bit.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 1:31 pm 
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TravisM.1 wrote:
Cheap insurance, for sure. Has there been a recent tune-up on the engine?

There was a check engine light on about a month ago, took it to the subaru shop and had some work done. There was a sensor carboned over, but for the life of me I can't remember which one right now.

Also found out at the time that the previous owner had put 80/90 gear lube into the automatic transmission :cry: :cry:

Oh well, for the money we got this car for, its worth spending more on the repairs.


edit:

after googling some stuff for the car, looks like what I was thinking of as a distributor was, in fact, the coil. The black block on the top of the engine with the four terminals for plug wires. Is that the ignition coil?

This is the fist Subaru I've owned that we've had to actually work on...

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 2:10 pm 
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Pull a plug wire out. Stick a screwdriver in the end of the wire. Have your wife hold it close to the engine block, but not touching. Crank it over so she can see if it's sparking. It should be a bright blue spark. Yellow or orange = a weak spark. Another way is just have her hold the metal shaft of the screwdriver. If she starts cussing you it's getting spark.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 3:43 pm 
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Red_Snow wrote:
after googling some stuff for the car, looks like what I was thinking of as a distributor was, in fact, the coil. The black block on the top of the engine with the four terminals for plug wires. Is that the ignition coil?

This is the fist Subaru I've owned that we've had to actually work on...



IIRC, yes that is the coil. Replace it, and the wires if they look old (cracked, worn, corroded). They are probably all OEM :P

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 4:46 pm 
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warlock4u wrote:
IIRC, yes that is the coil. Replace it, and the wires if they look old (cracked, worn, corroded). They are probably all OEM :P

They sure look OEM. I know the 98 we had before this 96 still had the entire ignition system original equipment when we sold it before moving.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 11:50 pm 
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An easy way to check plug and coil wires, no matter how old they are-
Get you a spray bottle (windex, power dissolver, etc). Fill it with water. Wait until after dark (easier to see), then start the car and mist the wires with the water from the spray bottle. If you see sparks, replace the wires.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2010 8:40 am 
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Is your timing belt intact?

Subaru's switched over to belts awhile back and IIRC they aren't interference motors, but yours being a GT you might want to check...

Black plastic cover at the front of the engine...see if the cam gear is spinning when you turn it over...

If it doesn't spin...well...it might be a pain. :(


Edit to add :

2.2 liter is non-interference engine, 2.5 IS. means pistons WILL contact valves on 2.5 liter. :(

Belt is to be changed, along with tensioner, at either 60K or 100K depending on maintenance schedule for that engine.

hope this helps, but also hope this isn't your problem. :(

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2010 10:26 am 
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An engine needs 3 things to run: Fuel, Spark, and Air.

Sounds like you've been dedicated to a Spark (Electrical) direction since the start. syntax_error's recommendation to run an airgap from the plug electrode to ground (Usually use the intake manifold on Subarus) is the best way to make sure that your ignition system is OK If you see small blue sparks jumping from the plug to the ground point, you've got spark.

Any chance it could be a fuel pump/filter issue? I'd start at the fuel pump fuse and work my way from there.

Let us know what you find out.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:06 am 
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Timing belt was taken care of a couple months ago when the engine was re-sealed. We had a fairly serious oil leak out of the rear main develop shortly after purchasing.

Scoob,

All the fuses are brand new, when we bought this thing most of them were starting to corrode into place so we pulled them all, cleaned up the terminals, and replaced.

Fairly certain it isn't a fuel filter issue as this problem never happened before and it is acting entirely like an electrical issue.


anyhoo:

New symptom; fired it up the other night after going to the gym, starts OK, idles pretty rough. Put it into gear and let off the brake, roll out of the spot maybe two feet and the car dies like someone turned the switch off. Turn key all the way off, let it sit for a second, and crank it again. Fires up without an issue and runs all the way home.

New coil and plug wires are purchased going to try and get them installed sometime in the next couple of nights and see how that affects things. If that doesn't fix it, back to the shop it goes for them to try and diagnose the issue. Living in apartments sucks since it means I can't tear into this stuff on my own...

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:18 pm 
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Red_Snow wrote:
New symptom; fired it up the other night after going to the gym, starts OK, idles pretty rough. Put it into gear and let off the brake, roll out of the spot maybe two feet and the car dies like someone turned the switch off. Turn key all the way off, let it sit for a second, and crank it again. Fires up without an issue and runs all the way home.

New coil and plug wires are purchased going to try and get them installed sometime in the next couple of nights and see how that affects things. If that doesn't fix it, back to the shop it goes for them to try and diagnose the issue. Living in apartments sucks since it means I can't tear into this stuff on my own...



I hope the plug and wires take care of your problem, because that kind of sounds like a fuel pump issue.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:24 pm 
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warlock4u wrote:
Red_Snow wrote:
New symptom; fired it up the other night after going to the gym, starts OK, idles pretty rough. Put it into gear and let off the brake, roll out of the spot maybe two feet and the car dies like someone turned the switch off. Turn key all the way off, let it sit for a second, and crank it again. Fires up without an issue and runs all the way home.

New coil and plug wires are purchased going to try and get them installed sometime in the next couple of nights and see how that affects things. If that doesn't fix it, back to the shop it goes for them to try and diagnose the issue. Living in apartments sucks since it means I can't tear into this stuff on my own...



I hope the plug and wires take care of your problem, because that kind of sounds like a fuel pump issue.

My first thought too.

When you turn the ignition to on without actually starting the car, do you hear the fuel pump running?


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 7:04 pm 
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Things I happen to know from several years in the auto industry...

1. Subaru 2.5L motors (EJ25) from that vintage are known offenders for head gasket issues, which could well cause your problem. If it needs head gaskets, go directly to Subaru. They found the problem with the gasket design and fixed it. If you take it somewhere else and they replace with an aftermarket part, you may end up doing this again before too long.

2. Another probable cause of your problem is the crankshaft position sensor. When they go out, on any given car, the symptom of not starting when hot, but starting when cold is most prevalent. In extreme cases the motor will die while driving when hot.

3. The problem with newer cars (yes 96 qualifies as newer, 89 does if it's fuel injection) is that they have so many electronics that trying to diagnose a car without being right beside it is almost impossible. Even then, unless you have the right hookups and sofware it can still be a nightmare. Modern fuel injected vehicles are a mess of wires and sensors. On the bright side, 1996 is the year all auto manufacturers standardized the diagnostic system in vehicle to OBD II. One cable/scanner will fit them all.

I hope this helps you get this solved. I've yet to own a Subie, but I've been a longtime Legacy/Outback fan.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:13 pm 
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not to hijack the thread, but Subaru's in general have always been kinda legendary for their reliability. A million years ago when I was still a mechanic I worked primarily on imports. I remember having to swap a clutch out on a 1982 Subaru DL sedan. Finished up the job in less than three hours. Got into the car to check the odometer for the repair order...over 450,000 miles logged. Customer told me that was his first clutch. He was a salesman who did a lot of driving especially up in the north-west and had never had any issues. He was smart and had the Ziebart undercoating. Damn car looked brand new.

Personally I was always partial to the Brats. They looked cool. :) Figured 'em for a Japanese Ranchero.



Back on topic...you CAN get a decent OBD II reader from Autozone for about 100 bucks. I got an Actron from them and it will give you real time data stream as well as being able to upgrade the unit. CP9575 is the model number. That and a decent digital multimeter from a pawn shop or Sears and you should be able to figure out most things no problem.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 2:43 am 
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The likelyhood of wiring or the coil pack being the issue is slim. When a epoxy type coil fails, it normally fails completely. The symptoms you describe would more likely describe the crank/cam position sensor.

That having been said, when it dies, do you see any activity on the tach? (RPM guage)

Take any spark plug you have laying around, and when the failure reoccurs, put it in the end of a plug wire. Ground it to the head or block and crank. If you only get one spark when you stop cranking, it's the position sensor. (You get one spark as the field collapses)

If you have good spark, take a can of ether, or a bit of gasoline in a small bottle and put a small amount... say a 1/8th of a cup... into the intake manifold via your favorite vacuum line, and crank it again. If it sputters to life and dies, it's your fuel pump or the Crank/cam position sensor not triggering the injectors.

'96 Legacy? the part is about $20 and takes 5 minutes to swap out. as the hall-effect sensor gets worse, it will fail more often. It is a greater issue hot than cold.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 8:19 am 
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If it was rainy or wet out, I'd suspect water in the wires or connections. Probably wires, if the old insulation is cracked.
Do a tune up, but do it one component at a time:
Put in new wires, drive a couple days.
Put in new distributor cap, drive a few days.
New plugs, etc.
I'm betting that a new cap and wires will cure it. Make sure you use conductive grease if that's recommended, to keep water out and to provide good contact.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:55 am 
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curry.style wrote:
1. Subaru 2.5L motors (EJ25) from that vintage are known offenders for head gasket issues, which could well cause your problem. If it needs head gaskets, go directly to Subaru. They found the problem with the gasket design and fixed it. If you take it somewhere else and they replace with an aftermarket part, you may end up doing this again before too long.



Just a note on this bit right here.

To make _SURE_ that you get the best gasket, order the head gasket 2.5l turbo motor. It works for the NA 2.5's and is a much better gasket. I think this is what subaru decided to do to "fix" the problem.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:56 pm 
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A head gasket won't cause intermittent no-spark/no fuel conditions.

The crank/cam position sensor is the most likely, followed by wiring a distant second.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:28 pm 
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I was gonna say crank position sensor, but then...You said it started, idled rough, then died in gear at take off? Check your throttle position sensor. If it's dirty or out of spec it will prevent a hot engine from starting AND cause rough idle AND cause one to die when in gear off idle because of the already low idle set. Either next time it starts and idles rough; turn on the AC and see if the idle clears up. Or take the TPS out and see if it's really bad carboned up and not moving smoothly. Also, a TPS on it's way out will be intermittent.

BUT, also verify the plugs, wires, and coil pack is in good condition. The crank sensor can be checked by just removing it and checking for build up on the magnet or scoring on the tip.
If you own an OBDII car you should have a basic code reader. That way even if the check engine light is not on you can check for historic codes.

So, once you've verified:
-the actual spark plugs condition.
-plug wires.
-coil pack.
-TPS function.
-Crank sensor condition.
-fuel pump operation.
-historic codes.

Check back. Also, with a multimeter and a good manual you can perform actual tests on the sensors via flow chart trouble shooting. Or take it to a shop and pay through the nose for someone else to check and fix it, but that's against my religion!! :D

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