All manner of Subaru repairs, maintenance, and modifications

In the months since purchasing the Outback Wagon (OBW) from my friend Brian… it actually spent a good deal of time sitting!  I knew it had the probable head gasket(s) leak, and then in the first week of commuting with it to run it, I got a check engine light for a misfire on cylinder #3.

An inauspicious start to owning it, I will admit.

Over time, however, I have accumulated maintenance, repair, and modification parts.  I have also spent almost all my down time at work and swathes of time at home, reading as much as I can about known failure points, repairs worth doing before they become a problem, and so forth.  This was and is my strategy with my Passat, and it has worked thus far there, so I figured I would replicate it.

Speaking of my Passat, the damned car died the other weekend of Mother’s Day, and after some diagnostics it seems that both 1) a cell within the battery went bad (so it tests as good but provides insufficient voltage to start) and also 2) the starter itself makes horrible noises and is apparently dead as well.  😡

This happened pretty much JUST as I entered the final stretch of work on that car.  Very frustrating… but also very bad for the whole ‘commuting to work’ I need to do on a near-daily basis.

I owe a LOT to the collective wisdom of SubaruOutback.org, for providing wisdom and knowledge to me as I have gone through the below projects!

Therefore, I embarked upon the following list of work, not necessarily in chronological order (the interesting ones will include photos of the process):

1) got an aftermarket remote key fob so I was able to disable the “Valet Mode” which made unlocking the car with the key set off the alarm every time.  This was a huge victory and such an easy fix!

2) the brakes and rotors were replaced all the way around.  Hell, I even bought replacement parking brake pads (which I didn’t need).  I went from ~~distressing wobble when attempting braking~~ to STOPS.  A good change.

3) I got some well-worn racing tires on a set of wheels for a cool $70, which got red Plastidip treatment and went on in place of the excellent tread-but sidewall dry rot tires which came on the car.

Red tires nearing completion

Red tires nearing completion

3b) the tires were well-worn enough that I have worries about it damaging the rear differential.  The best two tires went on the front, and I activated one of the few benefits of the automatic transmission OBW – you can add a fuse to the engine fuse box which turns it into a front wheel drive vehicle (meant for towing, or driving with the spare tire on).  I have gone nearly 2,000 miles with this in place.  By the winter at the latest, I hope to have new tires on the damned thing… 😛

4) I taught myself how to change spark plugs (as a diesel engine junkie, I don’t even fully believe in the concept of a spark plug) on Mother’s Day afternoon and in so doing removed the cylinder 3 misfire and check engine code permanently!

5) In doing the spark plugs I discovered that the stock air intake tubing had a sizeable gash in the flex section of it, letting all the air (which took forever to get there anyways due to the circuitous design of the intake) dump out before the actual air box.  I removed it and installed this modification:

 

Vacuum cleaner and/or air intake

Vacuum cleaner and/or air intake

My goodness gracious what a difference to performance and responsiveness… and also a sizeable fuel efficiency gain!!

6) I changed out the fuel filter, engine air filter, and didn’t necessarily see gains of any sort – I just now know exactly when the maintenance interval started!

7) I disabled the Daytime Running Lights (DRL) which cause the headlights to constantly run at 80% power.  These are intended as a safety feature but they a) fail to provide rear illumination and b) they just shine in people’s eyes unnecessarily for the majority of driving.  Instead, I operate the parking lights near-constantly during the day, for a little bit of light from long life bulbs rather than the shorter life halogen headlamps…

7b) … which I replaced with upgrade low beam AND high beam bulbs.  And then I refurbished the headlight lenses to look like glass:

 

One lens down, the other to go

One lens down, the other to go

8) I installed a transmission fluid cooler onto the front of the condenser, to help prolong the life of the rugged 4 speed transmission in the car.  As I plan to use the car for towing and also for offroad trips (both of which tax an automatic transmission quite a bit), I wanted to do right by the car for the long term.

Going in front of the A/C's condenser means the transmission fluid gets the coldest possible air to cool it across the vanes of this cooler

Going in front of the A/C’s condenser means the transmission fluid gets the coldest possible air to cool it across the vanes of this cooler

9) I then went ahead and flushed the transmission fluid and installed a new filter; and flushed the power steering fluid as well.

10) I removed the animal-lover bumper and rear window stickers, which were not at all my style… without damaging the bumper at all!!  The car finally got the wash, wax, and glass treatment with Rain-X it needed.

11) I replaced the Roadrunner-esque stock Subaru horns (they had a definite “MEEP MEEP” sound to them) with some throaty and intense Hella Supertones,  WHAT a difference to the “hey, I am here so move please” the car can put out:

Dinky stock Subaru horn; replacement Hella Supertone with red guard in place

Dinky stock Subaru horn; replacement Hella Supertone with red guard in place

12) I replaced the PCV valve and ran Seafoam through the engine, to burn out any stubborn varnish or other deposits through the system.  The Seafoam was sprayed directly into the throttle body (the part of the engine where the air filter delivers incoming air… so it worked to its FULL potential right away, as the white plumes of smoke here indicate:

Impurities burning off (and looking concerning, all at the same time!)

Impurities burning off (and looking concerning, all at the same time!)

In concert with some Lucas fuel additive and Marvel Mystery Oil in every tank of fuel, I shall strive to maintain this clean engine and fuel injector setup I now have.  The car DEFINITELY idles more smoothly, and at lower RPM, with these two tasks done!

13) I took the whole damned glovebox and its bracket out to get to… the empty space where Subaru left a slot for cabin air filters but never installed one!

Annoying to take the whole glove box and bracket out - but the air in the cabin smells noticeably better

Annoying to take the whole glove box and bracket out – but the air in the cabin smells noticeably better

14) offroad things!
a) Hi Lift jack (and accoutrements)

A 48 inch jack which doubles as a winch to pull the car out of a ditch or other obstacle = a good investment in my self-sufficient book

A 48 inch jack which doubles as a winch to pull the car out of a ditch or other obstacle = a good investment in my self-sufficient book

b) I mounted the Bajarack Mule roof basket and have begun to accrue the necessary fuses and so forth, to get it wired up for the front-facing LED light bar and rear-facing LED flood lights… and some ham radio antennas (for more on these antennas, see the next post on the blog!)

And so, I am tired after typing all that out!! Almost as tired as I was after doing all the work encapsulated above.  Stay tuned as the car becomes everything it was designed to be, by maintenance… and more, due to my insatiable interest in having an offroad camping vehicle capable of ALL sorts of tricks! 😀

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