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2004 Forester XT 5MT
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I am posting here as a last resort after searching the internet for advice on this terrible situation that I am currently in. I reside in Reno, NV. I drove to San Francisco last friday with no issues at all. Got 23 mpg and almost 300 miles on my tank for the first time ever since replacing my clutch 1500 miles ago. I woke up Saturday, drove my car to get coffee and 5 minutes into my drive, my engine started to idle terribly at a stoplight and then die. I got the CEL and flashing cruise, but could drive it to park it to assess. Turned it off, checked the oil level (full), cleanliness (clean), erased the codes, and turned it back over. The p0011 code erased, but then p0301, p0303, and p0304 showed up with terribly low idling and wanting to die. Immediately turned car off and unfortunately had AAA tow it to the ONLY place that could accept it within range on a weekend after hours: The subaru dealership.

My 04 fxt has 150k miles currently with the vf39/Sti Tmic/turbo-back/catless UP/stage 3 ACN91 Cobb OTS set-up with the grimmspeed AOS. I bought the car stock with 105k miles >3 years ago. Did TB/valve covers at 105k/108k and the turbo swap at 115k. I have since then meticulously changed my oil with rotella 5w40 and only use subaru oem filters every 3000-3500k miles, on-time every time. I do not abuse this car at all and replace everything when it needs to be replaced with OEM or better fabbed parts and the maintenance is up to date with the SOA schedule. When I did the turbo swap, I removed the banjo bolt filters that were in the job which I believe were 2/3 for this current year. The most important ones removed were the turbo and avcs feed lines, which seem to be the common culprit for this CEL. I did a lot of research to find potential solutions to this and need some advice on how to proceed, given I am now in a terrible situation with being back home and my car at the hands of the dealership.

I do all the work on my car and I am very familiar with most of the components on it because I love this thing. When I called subaru to let them know the situation, I of course informed them of the TSB and the fact that I had already removed the 2/3 banjo bolt filters myself so that I was pretty sure it was the remaining 1/3 filter related to AVCS system or an oil feed related issue. On monday, Subaru called me and told me (after the $170 diagnostic) they wanted $5500 to take apart the engine to assess the head and valves simply because of the 3/4 cylinder misfire codes which i read for free on my AP. Having serviced the car for 3+ years now and not driving the car for longer than 50 feet after the incident, I knew the engine was not toast and that there was no loud screeching or smoke related to the turbo so it couldn't be that..yet. I had the DP removed when I did the clutch and inspected the turbo and there was no play or signs of fouling There are never any metal shavings or particulates in the oil (or filter) of concern when I change it. From what I've gathered at this point, the next step would be to replace the AVCS/VVT/OCV Solenoid (10921AA020) on driver and passenger side, monitor cam position sensor, and go from there. Knowing that my intercooler did have a little oil pooled inside and in the y-pipe, I figured my PCV valve assembly (11815AB711) would need to be replaced as well, but may not be related to the issue and would be more preventative.

Because of the price subaru quoted to re-surface the heads instead of dropping in a stage 1 IAG block, I obviously decided to have it towed back to reno so I could attempt to fix it here myself. After AAA not being able to find a suitable tow driver for two days to do the distance (200 miles), they informed me JUST today that they actually could not tow it back to reno because they only allow one tow per break down. They swindled me to increase my membership coverage to premium to include the 200 mile coverage, and then didn't honor it. I am now faced with having my car stuck at the subaru dealership in a different state, unable to have it towed back or fixed for a reasonable price. My main question is, how should I realistically go about this? I am waiting for a call back from the service manager so I can BEG him to just replace the AVCS solenoids, flush oil, and then the PCV (if necessary). Obviously, I am worried about not being able to trust the dealership and tell me they fixed it or that it didn't work after spending another $400 just on parts because I can't inspect it myself.

From what I've read, this solution either fixes itself after a couple of cycles once replacing the parts listed above or blows the turbo and then the engine around 1000 miles. I can check the AVCS cam and count the timing, but not when the car is out of my hands. I am a grad student and have learned to fix everything myself because of my monetary situation, but this is getting out of control, and I am wondering if selling would even be worth it. I unfortunately am in the worst case scenario possible with running out of time to move my car somewhere else before i get fined and also being 200 miles away from it. I had to fly back Monday morning because I teach etc or else I would've stayed there to fix it in the parking lot considering replacing the AVCS solenoids shouldn't take longer than an hour, but I also didn't know if it would solve the issue. I recently did seafoam around 145k and I read that potential sludge could have dislodged and clogged the solenoid/filters, so I am doubling down on solenoids. Advice? Thanks in advance for reading.

tl;dr Subaru has my car out of state and is charging $5500 to replace something that would cost me $160 and 2 solid hours of work. Sell out to fix it or sell the car?

- GG
 

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2010 X Limited, 2.5L NA, 4AT. Purchased as the second owner in 2020 with ~126K miles.
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-If you are confident your solution will fix the problem, tell the dealer what to do.
-Beg, borrow, or steal the money to have the car towed home.
-Sell it to the dealer at an inflated price. "As is". See how they like it. :)
 

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2004 Forester XT Auto
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Is finding someone, anyone else to work on it where it is an option? I imagine you should be able to get it towed to another shop, now that it's not the weekend. The dealership seems like they don't want to touch it, so they quoted you a moronic number to get you to leave. Perhaps someone from the area will see this, and can recommend a good shop.

I agree that the issue seems to be the solenoids or their oil supply, and I'd be replacing the same parts you are (though I doubt the pcv has anything to do with anything). A compression and leakdown test would also be good, and should cost a reasonable amount at an independent shop.


I totally understand how you feel, this situation would be close to my worst nightmare...no one gets to touch my car except me, and just the thought of it being at a dealership give me chills!

Edit: it's a bit unclear from your post...does one side of the engine still have a banjo bolt filter in? If so, is it the left side? If it is, the fix might very well be free and take 10 minutes.
 

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2004 Forester XT 5MT
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
-If you are confident your solution will fix the problem, tell the dealer what to do.
-Beg, borrow, or steal the money to have the car towed home.
-Sell it to the dealer at an inflated price. "As is". See how they like it. :)
I am confident, but cannot be with 100% certainty this will fix the solution as there are outliers in the forums claiming these fixes did nothing until they replaced the cam gear because the avcs cam gets stuck sometimes if you impact it when replacing TB instead of proper torquing, causing it to skip a couple teeth on timing or functioning properly. I don't think I have this issue, as I have never had any issues with timing or compression. My engine has zero leaks in it and runs and pulls strong (normally haha).

Is finding someone, anyone else to work on it where it is an option? I imagine you should be able to get it towed to another shop, now that it's not the weekend. The dealership seems like they don't want to touch it, so they quoted you a moronic number to get you to leave. Perhaps someone from the area will see this, and can recommend a good shop.

I agree that the issue seems to be the solenoids or their oil supply, and I'd be replacing the same parts you are (though I doubt the pcv has anything to do with anything). A compression and leakdown test would also be good, and should cost a reasonable amount at an independent shop.


I totally understand how you feel, this situation would be close to my worst nightmare...no one gets to touch my car except me, and just the thought of it being at a dealership give me chills!

Edit: it's a bit unclear from your post...does one side of the engine still have a banjo bolt filter in? If so, is it the left side? If it is, the fix might very well be free and take 10 minutes.
Thanks for your response. I do not have anyone else with the mechanic expertise or know of anyone local to take it on. I am the "subaru guy" around here, so naturally this is frustrating as hell when a "master tech" won't use their brain to diagnose and instead only rely on upcharge. Funny how every repair i've done myself was fixed off a sole comment from 2000 in this forum. not replacing the entire assembly. A local "subaru shop" here in reno quoted me a transmission replacement for 4k maybe 25k miles ago, which was actually fixed by just replacing the viscous coupler. Took me a day and $200. I don't trust anyone to do the work except myself unless the diagnosis makes sense.

Regarding your comment, I have removed the 2 filters related to the turbo when I did the swap. I believe there is 1 left behind the timing cover, but there seems to be confusion on this and whether or not there are actually 3 filters and I'd rather look at it in person. Regardless, the most important one in this scenario sounds like the inline feed to the turbo, which was removed personally by me. They already told me they won't check them out and that the engine is now coincidentally "ticking" at low idle which would also be a normal subaru sound at idle due to the valves. Not sure who is running this shop, but nobody wants to hear "do this and try this before YOUR idea" and it is sad that they were unwilling to help me or problem solve this. Truly incredible experience with subaru and their tactics. Still looking to find a solution because I am 100% the engine is not blown, and if it truly did, it is their fault because when I had turned the car off and had it delivered, there were no issues, no grinding sounds, no smoke, nothing. Just cylinder misfire codes, which can be cleared and never come back in some cases.
 

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If you have an 04, you will have 3 filters - one for each AVCS solenoid, and one for the turbo. If you left in one of the AVCS filters, and that's the side with the error, it's probable that a clogged filter is your issue.

Most dealerships are fairly useless, doubly so if you have an older car that's out of warranty and which you aren't likely to pay $$$$$ to get fixed. There must be some (or at least one!) independent shops in SF who could look at your car, and I can't think of any reason a towing company wouldn't be able to take the car from the dealership to another shop.

Coincidentally, another member also had a similar issue that was caused by a shorted out injector, so that's something easy to check as well.

If whatever tech listened to your car is used to much newer engines, I wouldn't be surprised if they claimed it had a "tick" at idle, when that's really just how EJ's sound, especially ones in older cars without a ton of stuff on top of the engine to deaden the sound.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
@Galaxywide I thought the p0011 code called for the passenger side bank, but I will check the other one when I get my car back . I planned to relpace both anyway, but just wondering whats worth trying to spend more money on until i see it. Thank you for the clarification on the 3rd filter, it will absolutely be removed if it is still in there.

I am going to contact some local shops around, but after speaking with AAA about this, they granted me another tow, but I have to be there in person to show my AAA card just to have them pick it up. So now I have to get back to the dealership for literally 2 seconds. Might be able to just ride back with tow driver though if I get it towed back to reno which is an upside.

Also, thanks for re-assurance on the tick because this is 100% something i've noticed with multiple EJs and everyone always says don't worry about it, including shops and mechanics. I dont have knock moments or anything crazy to be concerned about and the tick has always been there on every subaru i've ever owned. Luckily, I do have a back-up set of injectors. I checked cycle duty on the current set and they seemed fine. I will check all of this when I get it back. I did try to source a potential ej255 and they run about 1200-2500 for used lower mileage models. I can do the swap myself, just trying to explore potential options if it actually is a valve job in the worst case scenario. I will absolutely update whatever happens when I get the car. I am hoping it is this weekend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
UPDATE (11/10/21)

After making a trip out to Subaru in the bay area, finally got my car back on a Sunday. I saw the mechanic's write-up and they wanted 11.5k for complete engine tear down and machine shop with new OEM short block. I am busy with school so I've been working on what I can. I went ahead and drained the oil (2-3 small metal shavings in oil; have not done magnet test). Checked the right and left banjo bolts, sure enough, there were two filters in there. The p0011 code calls for the passenger side avcs bank and that filter was balled up in the base of the bolt; I had to use picks to take it out. The left side filter was fine but removed it anyway. Filled the engine back up with rotella t6 5w40 and an OEM filter (12A). I had reset the ECU at this point and let it idle for a solid 10 minutes and there was no CEL. When I initially turned the car on, it sounded like water was trickling behind the dash and there was definitely a ticking/thumping sound from the engine bay. I checked the coolant level and oil; both were fine and no bubbles. This thumping sound went away and the ticking returned back to a normal EJ sound after about 5 minutes into the 10 minutes I let it idle for, but still idled poorly. I monitored the OCV duty and both sides were at 9 units on idle and shot to 49-55 units on both sides when pressing the accelerator. Neither OCV appears to be sticking, so I didn't remove them to clean them. Idle is rough still and definitely sounds like it is missing. I have read that some techs will perform this avcs filter removal with the p0011 code, flush oil, run it hard for 15 minutes, then flush oil again. With no CELs but an audible misfire, I decided to drive it around my neighborhood. At higher RPMs, the engine ran fine and I was able to maintain boost and I did not see any smoke or hear any discernable sounds from turbo.

Pulled the codes regardless of no dash CEL and got p0171 this time with p0301/p0303 (right side cylinders). Checked for vacuum leaks and cleaned the MAF sensor. Reset ECU and started car back up again and let it idle for 5-10 minutes. This time, p0011 and p0301/p0303 showed up on CEL. Seeing that the right side was misfiring entirely, I did what anyone would've done and replaced the spark plugs and swapped the coil packs with working units. I tested the resistance for my back-up coil pack (0.63 ohms), cylinder 3 (0.83 ohms), and cylinder 1 (0.59 ohms). I went ahead and swapped the backup (0.63 ohms) to cylinder 3 and the coil with 0.89 ohms to cylinder 1. Both cylinder 1/3 spark plugs were covered in carbon/soot (burnt valves?), so I replaced the spark plugs with NGK Iridium LFR6AIX (same as left side). Reset ECU, started the car up and let it idle. No CELs on dash, but I pulled the codes after a couple of minutes anyway and same p0011 and p0301/p0303 showed.

I quit working on it right then and there. Sort of baffled, sort of not. Now I can:
  • Swap/Inspect fuel Injectors (I have a stock backup set from donor ej, not sure if they work or how to tell other than flow test and cylinder duty on AP)
    • Replace fuel filter
  • Remove and clean OCVs regardless of what appears to be working still.
  • Check PCV, most likely stuck open and causing blow by. Planned to replace anyway.
  • Compression/leakdown test (will try to buy gauge from local parts superstore Harbor F)
    • Vacuum leak test (brief p0171 code?) // causing car to run lean?
  • Remove Timing Cover, check cams/timing (also not sure how to safely crank engine without interference)
    • If skipped more than 1-2 teeth (which sounds unlikely due to being able to drive and not hear anything at higher rpms), then what?
    • Adjust valves; requires removing valve cover?
  • Remove heads for valve job, inspect shortblock, or replace with new low mileage EJ255 2.5L.
I have tried to be as thorough as possible in this write-up, but may have forgotten something. I have been very suspicious about the remaining AVCS banjo filter that is located behind cylinder 3 from the p0011 code, but this would be the one that I know for a fact I removed when swapping the td04 to the vf39. Regardless, I could be an idiot and suffer from memory loss so I will inspect later tonight, but now I am wondering what potential damage could have been done for misfire on same side after replacing plugs and swapping coil packs. I do plan to change my oil again with fresh 5w40 and OEM filter when I get home today and inspect for flakes after Idling the engine and going on a test drive for probably 2 hours total run time over the past 3 days. Thanks in advance for anyone who reads this. I am dedicated to getting to the bottom of it before selling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
UPDATE: FIXED

Well, I went in last night to swap out the cyl 1/3 fuel injectors from the advice given in this thread and others related to cylinder misfire, not p0011. Cylinder 1 is easy to get to. remove airbox (or s-tube/post-MAF hose), release clip to injector and then unscrew the clip that holds it down using a T25 torx. I used a flat head screw driver to pry up on the backside of the injector where the harness plugs in. When I removed the injector, there was gunk on the metal housing that surrounds the actual nozzle. The mesh screen looked slightly twisted up and unaligned as well. I picked out the best [looking] one I had, wiped it down, lubed the o-rings with grease and put it back together in the reverse order. Cylinder 3 is a PITA to get to without removing the coolant tank and intercooler so I was brainstorming how to remove as little as possible but still be able to swap the cyl3 injector. Upon doing this, I decided to remove the passenger side OCV anyway to give me more clearance since the bracket is in the way. Here is the kicker, trying to remove the OCV was also a PITA when it really shouldn't be from what I've read. I used my flat head and a rubber tool to sort of back it out gently. When I removed the OCV and looked at it, THERE WAS A 1 cm PIECE OF PLASTIC FROM THE EXPLODED FILTER. It was hung up in the OCV and was preventing the spring-loaded mechanism from functioning properly. I used a pick to dig it out and another to hold the valve in place to release pressure on the plastic so it could fall out. As soon as the plastic piece fell out, the spring extended right back to the home position. BINGO. Knowing this was most likely the culprit and being way too excited, I buttoned it back up, connected the battery, and let the ecu relearn idle. No more shaking, no more CEL, no more weird noises from the firewall. Took it out on the street once warm and hit some WOT 3rd gear pulls and hit 17 lb of boost. Haven't hit anything > 11lb in months.

Thanks for the responses, thanks for the advice, thanks for this forum. I was able to get my pride and joy back and running. It doesn't stop here though. At 150k miles, it's time to start thinking about what else I can do to keep the engine running more efficiently. I should absolutely get my car re-tuned and have looked at places like M45 in Sacramento and torqued performance in Sparks, NV. Don't forget to replace dry and cracked vacuum hoses, pcv assembly, clean your throttle body, check coil packs, plugs, ground wires, air filter, oil, exhaust gaskets, turbo gaskets, etc. These cars will last a long time if you take care of them. I can't vouch for the service history before 105k of me purchasing it, but all I know now is that I can keep up maintenance and hopefully get this thing to another timing belt job which I feel confident I can do myself now and save 1k in labor.

Now onto removing the tranny again and fixing my rear main seal leak and using the MS343 crankshaft repair sleeve....:)

Here are some pictures from the process I should have put in earlier:
Wood Art Sculpture Wrist Human leg
Product Gadget Communication Device Material property Audio equipment
Household hardware Engineering Gas Auto part Automotive tire
Automotive tire Finger Household hardware Nickel Gas
 

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Awesome! So glad you figured out the root cause, that's damn near the best feeling ever :) And fantastic documentation of your progress and troubleshooting steps, these are great posts for people in the future to refer back to and try similar steps. Those stupid little filters have really caused a ton of people no end of heartache, and it's honestly impressive that they're still lurking around after all these years!

Cheers to another older subie still on the road with a loving home, there must be at least a dozen of us still out there...maybe even dozens!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
@Galaxywide Thank you, me as well! I am also on 1" (front) and 1 3/8" (rear) strut spacer with full primitive skid plates and general grabber at2 in 215/70/16 right now. Was worried about axle geometry, but i saw your 2" lift and STi bits in your bio. I hope to be there one day just like you and @subaru_rob :)
 
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