psrivats' 2005 TJ Rubicon mild build

My experiences with Subarus has not been good. While the mid-eighties wagon I had was indestructible, the 2006 and later 2011 models gave me nothing but problems. Both suffered from head gasket related issues, and constant emissions system check engine lights, before hitting 60K miles. I switched to a Honda CRV and was much happier. Others say they had no issues, so maybe I just wasn't meant to drive a Subaru. :(
 
Sorry to hear about the Subi. A body shop with a good computerized rack might be able to tweak it back to get it to align for not too much coin.
 
Sorry to hear about the Subi. A body shop with a good computerized rack might be able to tweak it back to get it to align for not too much coin.

Good to know, I know one shop in the area that's been in the business for 25+ years .. but they are just booked up till like Thanksgiving. I may get an opinion there since I know the owner through another contact.

Below is one of the tell tale signs I mentioned earlier (rear control arm mount shifted from subframe).

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Yet another non-TJ update.

I was able to get the Subaru fixed at a body shop. They replaced the rear driver side knuckle and made the needed adjustments to get the alignment properly back in spec, which was great. I also took it to a local mechanic that they recommended and got everything looked at. Vehicle is in good shape, and I decided to get new pads/rotors and new full strut assemblies and new spark plugs (and new fluids/filters of course). They said the head gaskets look OK for now and I will keep a close eye on it, but I budgeted for a replacement so I have no worries.

The car drives and handles really well now and I am happy with the outcome. As always, it takes someone who knows what they are doing and who wants to help people solve problems. I don't miss the XJ and I am happy with this old Forester as a daily driver, it's just the right size.
 
Fellow Sooby guy here, psrivats. I just happened into your thread for the first time. We've had three Subarus over the last 20 years. They are great little cars, but they do have a few issues, as you know. We've had a 1998 Impreza, a 2002 Legacy, and a 2021 Impreza (and still have both Imprezas). The '98 and the '02 both had head gaskets go, but when they did go, we drove them for thousands of miles before doing something about them. They aren't a typical catastrophic failure. Both just leaked and/or burned oil and/or coolant, so I just kept them topped off until it was needing to be topped off more often than I was willing to do.

With the '98 (my Daily Driver), by the time I pulled the engine (probably 10k to 20k after the head gasket initially failed), I had to literally beat one of the heads off because the corrosion around one of the head studs from the coolant leaving the water jacket through the head gasket and into the stud well was horrible. The block cracked slightly from that, but my neighbor, who builds hot rod LS motors for a living in his home shop, welded the crack and re-cut the deck for me. Believe or not, but it's still running almost two years later with no oil/coolant leaks or consumption! The '02 was my wife's DD, so when the head gasket went, I eventually sold it cheap and got her the '21 new so that we had one car I don't have to work on.

The '98 has almost 400k on it now, and it's currently on my lift awaiting a transmission rebuild. I'm about 60% done rebuilding the 5-speed MT in it. This will be the third transmission in it. The second transmission was done by a transmission guy I've always trusted, but I need to give him some feedback because his shop is not as good as I thought. When I tore it down a few weeks ago, I noticed that the front diff, which is inside the transmission on MT Subarus, was a 4.111, which is odd because the car came stock with 3.900s in it. I pulled the rear diff, hoping that his guys were smart enough to swap the rear to a 4.111, but, no, they weren't. They put it back together with a 4.111 front and a 3.900 rear (and 1:1 transfer gears, for those who know that some turbo-charged Subarus have 1.1:1 transfer gears). I then pulled the center diff, which is not serviceable and no longer made, and it was smoked from the speed mis-match! Good thing I had a spare transmission to pull one from!

If your Forester has the 5 speed in it, be aware that that transmission is pretty fragile. There's a large ball bearing at the rear of the main shaft that eventually wears out, and when it does, you'll start occasionally popping out of fourth or fifth gear because the main shaft can then move axially up to as much as a quarter inch, pushing the drive and driven gears out of mesh. I've heard several theories as to why that bearing fails, but I haven't been able to figure it out. I just keep rebuilding them. Everything else in there seems to hold up okay.
 
If your Forester has the 5 speed in it, be aware that that transmission is pretty fragile. There's a large ball bearing at the rear of the main shaft that eventually wears out, and when it does, you'll start occasionally popping out of fourth or fifth gear because the main shaft can then move axially up to as much as a quarter inch, pushing the drive and driven gears out of mesh. I've heard several theories as to why that bearing fails, but I haven't been able to figure it out. I just keep rebuilding them. Everything else in there seems to hold up okay.

Thanks for the detailed write up. You are dedicated to have kept the vehicle going upto 400k! Crazy that they put mismatched diffs, that's just awful. I have an auto trans and vehicle has just 49k miles on it, I don't feel any bad behaviors and hopefully will stay that way.

Well aware of the head gasket issue, and have budgeted for that so not worried too much at the moment, It is just like planning for a regear with 33s and 42RLE :ROFLMAO:
 
Our '02 Legacy was the auto trans - probably very, very similar to yours. It was still running strong when we sold it at 211k, so hopefully you have good luck! Here are a few other odd things to look out for that we dealt with on that Legacy, which may affect your Forester since they have identical engines and trannies:
  • There are a couple of very short rubber lines connected between the chassis fuel lines and the engine fuel rail on each side at the front of the engine:


  • 1699313537126.png
  • For several years, we'd smell gas in the fall, and it took me a while to find the source. It seemed that over time, the hoses lost elasticity, and when the temperature changed, the rubber hoses expanded at a different rate than the steel lines on each end, resulting in leaks. If yours has the same hoses, and you smell gas when temperatures drop in the fall, look at those hoses. If they seem to be the source of leaking, replace them, but use the Subaru OEM hoses and clamps. Tightening the clamps will temporarily work, but eventually, the hose will fail from too-tight clamps. Also, aftermarket hoses and clamps seemed to always repeat the problem the next fall. I think I still have some OEM hoses, and maybe clamps, in my spares box for that car, and I'll be glad to send them to you. I'd rather see someone use them than have them rotting in my shop! Even with the low miles on your Forester, it's old, and I'll bet the hoses are a bit stiff now and due for replacement. I'll look for them tonight and let you know if I still have them.
  • The EVAP system for that vintage Subaru is fragile. Don't let the fuel hose overflow when filling because the raw fuel will overwhelm the charcoal canister (I think Subaru put out an advisory on this back in the day.) I replaced the purge valve about four times until I realized that the canister was shot, and carbon was being drawn through the purge valves when the canister was purged by the engine control module. The tiny pieces of carbon were causing the purge valves to fail open. It's really easy to tell when this happens because the car will be hard to start, and rough-running once it does start, immediately after fueling up because fueling stirs up vapors in the tank that get drawn into the intake, creating a rich condition due to the open purge valve. I ended up replacing the canister because the carbon was loose in it, and after that, no more purge valve problems. So, if you have a purge valve failure, check the canister before replacing it because those purge valves are pricey! You shouldn't hear loose carbon in it when you shake it.
Those were the only issues, other than the head gasket, we had in 9 years and 157k miles of ownership of that Legacy, but they were a pain to deal with because it took me a few years to find the root causes.

Every one always dogs on Subaru owners, and for good reason. Unlike Jeeps, there are very few Subaru owners who actually know what they are doing when they work on their cars. I have seen some of the dumbest technical comments on Subaru forums! For that reason, all the Subaru forums can't be trusted to give reliable information. If only all model-specific Internet forums had the great folks that this one does!
 
Our '02 Legacy was the auto trans - probably very, very similar to yours. It was still running strong when we sold it at 211k, so hopefully you have good luck! Here are a few other odd things to look out for that we dealt with on that Legacy, which may affect your Forester since they have identical engines and trannies:
  • There are a couple of very short rubber lines connected between the chassis fuel lines and the engine fuel rail on each side at the front of the engine:


  • View attachment 471901
  • For several years, we'd smell gas in the fall, and it took me a while to find the source. It seemed that over time, the hoses lost elasticity, and when the temperature changed, the rubber hoses expanded at a different rate than the steel lines on each end, resulting in leaks. If yours has the same hoses, and you smell gas when temperatures drop in the fall, look at those hoses. If they seem to be the source of leaking, replace them, but use the Subaru OEM hoses and clamps. Tightening the clamps will temporarily work, but eventually, the hose will fail from too-tight clamps. Also, aftermarket hoses and clamps seemed to always repeat the problem the next fall. I think I still have some OEM hoses, and maybe clamps, in my spares box for that car, and I'll be glad to send them to you. I'd rather see someone use them than have them rotting in my shop! Even with the low miles on your Forester, it's old, and I'll bet the hoses are a bit stiff now and due for replacement. I'll look for them tonight and let you know if I still have them.
  • The EVAP system for that vintage Subaru is fragile. Don't let the fuel hose overflow when filling because the raw fuel will overwhelm the charcoal canister (I think Subaru put out an advisory on this back in the day.) I replaced the purge valve about four times until I realized that the canister was shot, and carbon was being drawn through the purge valves when the canister was purged by the engine control module. The tiny pieces of carbon were causing the purge valves to fail open. It's really easy to tell when this happens because the car will be hard to start, and rough-running once it does start, immediately after fueling up because fueling stirs up vapors in the tank that get drawn into the intake, creating a rich condition due to the open purge valve. I ended up replacing the canister because the carbon was loose in it, and after that, no more purge valve problems. So, if you have a purge valve failure, check the canister before replacing it because those purge valves are pricey! You shouldn't hear loose carbon in it when you shake it.
Those were the only issues, other than the head gasket, we had in 9 years and 157k miles of ownership of that Legacy, but they were a pain to deal with because it took me a few years to find the root causes.

Every one always dogs on Subaru owners, and for good reason. Unlike Jeeps, there are very few Subaru owners who actually know what they are doing when they work on their cars. I have seen some of the dumbest technical comments on Subaru forums! For that reason, all the Subaru forums can't be trusted to give reliable information. If only all model-specific Internet forums had the great folks that this one does!

Wow, this is incredibly useful information. Thank you so much for taking the time to write and explain this stuff.

I will talk to my local mechanic and I will have them take a look at those hoses. You are too kind to offer me those hoses and I very much appreciate the offer (and I will take you up on if you can find them). I will also be careful with fuel fills. This is the kind of stuff that will nickel and dime on old cars and I am really thankful that you shared this information.
 
psrivats, I have three of those hoses, and they are yours. PM me your address, and I should be able to get them in the mail tomorrow.
 
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I need to make this the Subaru Forester thread instead 😂

The OEM lights are pretty dull so I got new HID retrofit headlights from a company in Colorado. I was very particular that I wanted a high quality OEM style light and not something that looked alien with DRL/halos etc. Good experience ordering/discussing from these folks and I am very happy with the lights. The output is fantastic, bright but not glaring to oncoming drivers and with a nice cutoff. The lens looks darker in the close up but it looks more like what you see in the first photo.

The XJ is a distant memory.

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The originals for comparison -

1707542344965.png
 
I need to make this the Subaru Forester thread instead 😂

The OEM lights are pretty dull so I got new HID retrofit headlights from a company in Colorado. I was very particular that I wanted a high quality OEM style light and not something that looked alien with DRL/halos etc. Good experience ordering/discussing from these folks and I am very happy with the lights. The output is fantastic, bright but not glaring to oncoming drivers and with a nice cutoff. The lens looks darker in the close up but it looks more like what you see in the first photo.

The XJ is a distant memory.

View attachment 499435

View attachment 499436

The originals for comparison -

View attachment 499439

Looks great. My neighbor has the same generation but an xt that he's in love with. Great cars.
 
Looks great. My neighbor has the same generation but an xt that he's in love with. Great cars.

Those turbo cars have good acceleration and don't have the head gasket issues so people really like them.

After 2008 the models generally got bigger and blander every generation in terms of looks, but I guess the market liked the bigger rear seat area and cargo area. In terms of looks, I don't mind the 2009-2013 but I think 03-08 is really the peak era.
 
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After some deep thoughts about what I really want, what aspects of this jeep were/weren't ideal, what I want to do with a vehicle like a TJ in the future - I decided to bid goodbye to this black jeep this past weekend. It's hard to believe I had it for just over 7 years, but it really feels shorter than that thanks to the sense of time compression from the pandemic.

I have learned a lot and made some wonderful people connections through this board and I am very thankful for that. This will be the summer of the Subaru Forester, but I expect to be back in a TJ again eventually. The next one will be a forever vehicle. I still have the CJ-3B - that one I will not sell. I will be around here on the board as well too, can't rid of me that easy 😂