Wednesday, August 17, 2011

the Subaru that saved the day

When we last left off with our intrepid blogger (yours truly), I spent the past winter driving a 1990 Volkswagen Jetta Gl diesel. If you read my last blog entry, you know I didn't enjoy it one bit. I was going to hold off selling it until spring, but I just reached my limit with the car's issues, and decided to sell it and take my chances finding a replacement car.

I was on Craigslist within an hour of selling the Jetta. I got a lead on a low mileage Subaru Impreza in Connecticut. I called the seller, and very shortly was on the road to go see it. The Impreza was an hour away from me, and I had cash in hand from the sale of the Jetta. Unfortunately, I was only five minutes away from the Impreza when the seller called me back to let me know it had been sold.

So, after wasting a bunch of gas, I turned around and headed home. I checked Craigslist again, but nothing suitable showed up. The next day, after I got home from church, I hit up Craigslist again and found another candidate. This car was also an hour away, but in the opposite dircetion, in Lynn. I called the seller, and pretty soon, I was on my way to see it.

Before I knew it, I was outside a dirty mechanic shop in Lynn, which was shockingly busy for 4 PM on a Sunday afternoon. Shortly later, the seller showed up. It was around this time that I realized that this was a small time car dealer, and not a private seller. I've only ever dealt with private sellers before, and if I'd known this was a dealer, I never would have made the trip in the first place. But, since I made the trip, I figured I'd check out the car.

We walked half a block down the street to a dirty storage lot. There, along with other cars, was a maroon 1995 Subaru Legacy. 5-speed manual transmission, EJ22 engine, AWD - just the configuration I was looking for. So, I checked it out.

The ad said that the interior was clean and that all the car really needed was a new rear muffler. I opened up the car and found that although it had been vacuumed, the car had been smoked in and the upholstery was dirty. The body was fairly clean and straight, so I started it up. With a rusted out rear muffler, it was loud, but ran OK. I had nothing to lose, so I took it for a test drive. The car seemed to run OK and track straight.

I thought about it, and knew the dealer was asking too much based on the car's condition. I also knew that because he was a dealer, he wouldn't be too flexible on the price. I offered $200 under asking price, and he agreed. We did the paperwork in the back of the aforementioned busy shop, and I was out of there shortly. I would have passed on the deal entirely, but this car was configured and optioned the way I wanted it, and I was having a hard time finding a comparable car. So, I figured I'd just deal with any issues the car had. Aside from condition, this was exactly what I was looking for.

I had driven there in the Vanagon, and now I had two cars to get home. Luckily, I had a plan. I put my plates on the Subaru and drove it a mile to the Lynn commuter train station. From there, I walked back to the shop where I'd parked the Vanagon. I got in and drove it to my office in Cambridge. From there, I took the red line (subway) into Boston and caught the evening commuter train out to Lynn. I picked up the Subaru at the train station parking lot and started on my way home. On the drive out of the city, I noticed that the Subaru's CV axles were clicking. So, I knew I had to replace those along with the muffler.

(actual video of the rotted muffler)

(video I did, after the fact, of replacing the axles)

I took the train back into the city the next morning and drove the Vanagon home. I ordered the muffler and axles for the Subaru, which arrived in around a week. I replaced those, registered the car, and put it into commuter service.

Of course, as luck would have it, on my way home the first day driving the "new" car, the brakes failed, due to a rotted out rear hydraulic line. I had to go back to driving the Vanagon until I could fix the brake line the following weekend.

When all was said and done, I replaced the rear brake lines, front CV axles, tie rod ends, and steering rack rubber boots. A couple of months later, I did a full tune-up, as I had no service record on the car. That included spark plugs, wires, pcv valve, all hoses, belts, fluids, water pump and timing belt. Here's another long video of all that work:

Although the car needed a lot of catch-up maintenance, I knew how to do all the work, as this car is, mechanically-speaking, nearly identical to my old 1994 Legacy. So, it was time consuming, but not really challenging. So far, I've put around 10,000 reliable miles on this car and am pretty happy with it. I've long since given the interior a deep cleaning, and have only a few minor outstanding items to fix.

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