Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Delayed by a major breakdown...

Apologies to anyone who's been reading in the past six weeks looking for updates on my regular projects. I really haven't touched the Vanagon or the 240D since early April. I've been busy with the Legacy.

Right around the time of my last blog post, the Legacy started running poorly and throwing a P0302 trouble code. I threw a few parts at the car, hoping it would be a simple fix (spark plugs, wires, a new coil, and finally, a fuel injector). None of this changed how the car ran, and no matter how many times I reset it, the code kept coming back.

So, after throwing money down the drain on non-returnable parts I didn't need, I did what I should have done in the first place - I ran a compression test:

The results were conclusive, showing low compression in cylinder 2 as the cause of the misfire. From the specifics of the test, it looked like a burned exhaust valve or a worn valve guide was likely the cause of the problem. So, after some brief soul-searching, I decided to go ahead and repair the car. The clearest path to that goal was replacing the cylinder head. Learning how to do that was enough without having to learn how to rebuild it myself.

I ordered a rebuilt cylinder head from F&S Auto Parts in Roxbury, CT, who I found highly recommended on several Subaru message boards. They rebuild cylinder heads to order, so I had to wait a little over a week for the part. In that time, I did something I hate to do - I commuted to work by train. Frankly, it's crowded, overpriced, uncomfortable, and the schedule is horrible. But, at least I was able to get to work.

For a while, I felt like an urban redneck. I had three cars at home, none of which I could drive. Finally, my cylinder head arrived, but not without difficulty. Let me paint a picture for you...

It was a sunny Saturday morning, around 11 AM. I was home, and, anticipating the arrival of the cylinder head, I went to look out the front door to see if the local mail carrier was on our street yet. I saw no sign of the mail truck, but found the day's mail in the mailbox, along with an attempted delivery notice indicating for my cylinder head. I needed the part, and in a panic, tried calling the post office (I got no answer). Not knowing what else to do, I started searching the neighborhood in my wife's car, looking for the mail carrier. I found a succession of trucks and carriers, none of whom were my mail carrier, but who were all helpful. Finally, one of them directed me to a street around a half mile away from my house, where I found another truck. I waited like a madman (as politely as I could) for the carrier to return. When she did, I was happy to find that she had the cylinder head, and was happy to let me have it just so long as I signed the delivery notice.

My prize in hand, I sped back to the house and started tearing into the Legacy. By the end of the day, I had the intake manifold off. By the end of the weekend, the new cylinder head was installed, but the engine wasn't buttoned-up yet. By the middle of that week, I had the car back on the road, running better than it ever had since I bought it.

So, on top of that, another weekend that I was horribly sick, and this past weekend, when I replaced a CV axle on my wife's car:
...I haven't had any time for the Vanagon.

But, I've budgeted most of the upcoming long weekend to wrench on the van. I am still planning on having it back on the road for the summer.


  1. I would like you to critique a trouble shooting guide I put together on the 300td. You can send advice to tfrentzAThotmail or view the post in progress at:


    I'm looking for additional helpful comments to improve the guide for others who stumble upon it.

  2. Hello!

    I have a 1995 Legacy Wagon Automatic trans, with what I think is an EGR problem. I went in to remove it to inspect and clean it. BUT I CAN'T FIND THE DAMN THING! It's not like its a tiny part and the pictures I've seen, should make it an easy find. I'm beginning to think this model doesn't have one.

    Can you please assist me in locating this part?

    Thank you,

    Tom Malcolm

    1. My car didn't have an EGR valve, but if you do have it, it'll be on top of the intake manifold on the driver's side.

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for the quick response. Yea, it's not there.
    That's weird huh? I had the auto parts store run the codes for me and one of them was P0403 which is "EGR Control Solenoid Circuit Low Voltage".
    I have an intermittent rough idle, hard to get rpms up, dies, etc. Turn it off, then back on and then it'll run great. Also, over heats when the ac is on for about 10 minutes in stop and go traffic. Coolant is good, pump is good, radiator is clean. It's like it the timing gets off and has superheated exhaust or some weird shit like that. Just started doing the overheating thing.

    Any ideas?

  4. Hey I just wanted to thank you for your videos and blog. I've been working on my boyfriends subaru and if it wasn't for you and the internet I don't know what I would've done. I do have the chilton, but it is not accurate. I was following all your videos with this misfire code, because his is 1 and 4 misfire. I'm glad to find what solved the problem! Maybe you should make a note on your last misfire youtube video for other people. Anyways, I tested the coil and it is bad, but you reminded me that I really should do the compression test before we spend all willy nilly. Thanks again, katie

  5. Well, if the coil does test bad, then that's most likely your problem (though I did buy a new coil myself by mistake). If you have a Harbor Freight near you, you can buy a cheap (but effective) compression tester to be sure. Best of luck.