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May 06, 2014


A neighbor gave me the car for next to nothing. It had 212,000 miles on it. It needed engine work. He bought one just like it, same year with half the mileage... guess he likes the car - I know I sure do and I drove it 150 a day to work for a month before this week.

The car has next to no rust and is in fine shape other than the routine work needing to be done. The list is pretty long.

Replace both head-gaskets; replace the timing belt, the water-pump, and oil pump seals. Replace the clutch, maybe the front drive shafts - one on hand - one confirmed bad.

A brief history about me. My father was a Navy mechanic... used to work on the Corsair fighter planes. After I was born he wanted to open his own auto garage. It fell through. Money.

Somehow, instead he became a sales-manager for big industry. But being mechanical was in my blood... beginning around age 19 I began to do all my own car work. That was around 1973.

The repairs seem much more frequent back then, Cars today seem more reliable than back then.

Around 1984 I got an apprentice job working for Volvo as a mechanic. We were called technicians. I stayed there for awhile until I finished what I needed and moved on, to a specialty Saab/Volvo repair shop. I loved those cars back then, owned several Saab 99's, over those years. But they had problems and so did the shop. After about a year and a half I got laid off... for a couple months until I met the boss from the Volvo place and he said he was now the service manager at a dealership, and if I wanted a job I had one. I took it.

The goal is to assure you I know cars. I've been working on them for over 40 years.

Thus the prospect of pulling the engine out of my new 2004 Subaru Outback was simply a challenge. Like a - it's been 30 years maybe since I've done something of this complexity, Am I serious or insane???

Too late... half the jobs finished. I took the week off to pull the engine and replace the stuff it needs. Fortunately I had a garage to work in as the temps were in the 50's and none too supportive. Sunday and Monday was a matter of draining the radiator - a plastic bleed screw on the bottom right of the radiator. Both radiator hose clamps were rusted beyond reuse; the upper I simply wrenched until it fell apart. The bottom hose was worse... I had to cut that one. I''ll deal with replacing them later.

I have to say all the wiring is very straight forward, color and shape coded, so about the worst that might happen is forgetting to plug something back in. Intuitive type car to work on; but that's not to say it's for beginners.  This is what's called an interference engine by Subaru:

It's my engine on an engine stand in the garage. It was no small feat getting it to that pristine location.

What they don't tell you in the manuals or online:

1) The only thing holding the engine down are two engine mounts - they are generally easy to remove found outwards on either side of the underside of the vehicle. There is nothing holding the engine down directly center underneath. The rest of what's holding the engine connected to the trans-axle are 4 threaded studs, and I believe 4 bolts.

At the moment of the photo it was resting lightly on a stack of heavy cardboard, with a slight life by the hoist. At this point the clutch has to come off. And easy job with an electric impact gun.. From here it's time to mount to the engine stand.

I was certainly confused by how an engine stand worked, until today. They are sturdy stands with 4 swivels that both allow you to attach 4 bolts to the bell-housing (shown above) as well as have them firmly fixed to the stand - and this is accomplished as the mounts are able to swivel and slide.


2) I neglected the most important part. The how of how it got to be so beautiful on that engine stand.

The idea is to disconnect anything attached to the engine. That's a lot of work. Then you need to disconnect the air conditioning and power steering pump. Disconnect the exhaust manifolds and remove all the nuts and bolts holding the engine to the bell-housing and transmission.

Now attach the engine hoist, and - forgot, only because I found out about this later - a You-Tube Vidio on problems separating the engine. Maybe it will help others, it got me motivated at least:

The problem was this, despite every effort the engine would not part from the bell-housing. A friend showed up just then; a burly friend, a carpenter. He was happy to help, and like a true Viking he made that engine rock as I raised and lowered it. Not a crack emerged from all the rocking and shaking! Well, except he suddenly said there might be a crack here, on the right side... go get the metal 1" gasket scrapper. I reminded him prying at the seam was discouraged. He was like do you have a better idea?

I got the scraper, and he proceeded to hammer away on one side then move to the other side, until the gap was wide enough for a bigger wedge, and the engine finally detached.

In the photo above I'm showing where my friend first had to wedge the gasket scrapper ....

So all is good, right? Well it seems the manual doesn't say anything about moving the vehicle out of the garage to park it while doing repairs on the engine. Upon backing the car up - pushing the car out of the garage (I had left it in neutral, which was smart), the transmission rotated enough that the inner bearings fell out of the right-hand drive shaft:

The boot had split already and fortunately I had already bought a replacement drive shaft, planning ahead; just didn't think I'd have to replace it this week! I do now.

The picture above is the transmission/bell-housing, still in the car. That's the throw-out bearing and clutch arm in the center that will need replacing.

Now comes the fun part... rebuilding the engine.

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