Wednesday, July 27, 2011

catching a break - the Impreza

I debated doing a blog entry on this one, as I don't actually consider it to be my car, but since my name's on the title, and it has a story... I guess it belongs here.

Right before I sold the Rabbit, I was poking around on Craigslist again (see a pattern here yet?) and I saw an ad for a $250 1993 Subaru Impreza listed as a parts car. I was very happy with my Legacy, and didn't need another car around, but I was curious as to what a $250 Subaru would be like. I figured that there was a 1 in 100 chance the car was worth a damn. I didn't contact the seller for a few days, but in the end, I sent off an email to the guy and we agreed to meet at his house.

The ad said that the Subaru had a dead alternator. The seller told me that he had AAA try to jump start it but the tow truck driver told him that the alternator was bad. I got to the seller's house and saw the Subaru sitting in the driveway. It looked like it had been parked in one place most likely for a few months, though the inspection sticker was six or seven years out of date. As best I can figure from the looks of it, the Impreza spent most of that time in the seller's garage. It was far too clean to have spent all those years outdoors.

The right front fender was dented and there was a dime-sized rust spot over the right rear wheel well, but other than that, the car looked very nice. The seller told me that he'd taken it off the road when he'd started working from home years earlier and had only used it occasionally to haul a few bags of trash down to the neighborhood dumpster. I think he mentioned that the car hadn't been started in months.

I popped the hood and took a look. It was filthy, but everything was there. I turned the key - nothing. Completely dead. I pulled the battery out of my Legacy and hooked it up the Impreza. The car cranked, but without much fanfare. Eventually, it did start. The car sounded horrible at first. It stalled, but I restarted it. Eventually, the idle smoothed out a bit and the car sounded a bit better. I asked if I could take it for a spin around the block. I put the car in "drive" (automatic) and it didn't budge. After abusing the gas pedal a bit, the car did move forward a bit under its own power.

From its behavior, I believe, to this day, that the car hadn't been started or run in YEARS, not months, as the seller told me. I think he was mistaken, not lying, for the record. Either that, or I misheard him.

After a few cycles of driving a few feet, stalling, and restarting, the car did eventually stay running and make a loop around the block. I immediately noticed that one of the CV axles was shot. When I parked the car back at the seller's house and shut it off, I could hear the radiator boiling - not a good sign.

Still, the car was clean. I offered $100, and we settled on $175. I called a tow truck and had the Impreza dragged home.

I got to work almost immediately. The gas tank was almost empty, so I made two runs to the gas station with my 5 gallon gas can in the trunk of the Legacy. I filled the Impreza up and added a can of fuel system cleaner. Less than an hour of idling in the driveway, and the Impreza seemed to be running normally. The boiling sound went away on its own. I think it may have been a temporarily stuck thermostat.

I replaced the CV axle (the first one I ever replaced) and gave the car a much-needed full tune-up (plugs, filters, timing belt, water pump, coolant, ATF, etc). When I was done, I was amazed at how it turned out. It was a very presentable little car and ran almost like new.

After daily driving the Impreza for a few weeks (out of necessity, due to a broken transmission in the Legacy), I turned the Impreza over to my wife to replace her decrepit 1993 Legacy. In two years now, the Impreza has been nearly trouble-free. Aside from some basic maintenance (brakes, etc), and having to take the car in to get one of the rear wheel cylinders replaced, it's been very reliable and has covered over 50,000 miles in that time.

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