In the interest of shining a light on the OEM vs aftermarket truth, I wanted to show off a little something I noticed during my travels. Not too long ago, I replaced my timing belt, pulleys, hydraulic tensioner, and water pump on my 2005 Subaru Impreza RS 2.5 SOHC (booo no turbo, I know, I know, it was a good deal). As you can imagine, I got part number GAEEK00038 from 1A Auto (Hey, I can throw a subtle ad in here if I want, amirite?) Anyway, the timing belt kit that I purchased was made by Gates, who is a very well known, and reputable brand in the auto part world. When I opened the box, it was a bit of an “Ah Ha!” moment. Mixed in with the Gates brand water pump and belt, were OEM pulleys! They had all the same markings as the OEM ones that I pulled off of my Subaru. Yes, 100% totally identical in every way. Cool right? (New ones on the left, old ones on the right)
Much like I had seen in the past, even though it is considered an “aftermarket” part, it may actually be OEM. Now, obviously this is not the case every time. In fact, I would say that it is the minority. But, hey, it happens more than you might think. Beautiful “aftermarket” …ehem… OEM… parts at a bargain price!
Those of you that follow the 1A Auto Blog may remember the 2006 Subaru Legacy GT project car that I bought a few months ago. If not, you may want to start off by reading Part 1 and Part 2 of the project before jumping head first into today’s post. Then again, maybe you just want to dig right into the meat and potatoes. For that, I can’t blame you. In fact, that makes you a straight shooter, and that’s what I’ve always liked about you.
Okay. Here goes…
The new-ish VF40 turbo on the 2006 Legacy GT destroyed itself in hellacious fashion recently. Yes. It was quite an experience that I won’t soon forget. Raining, muddy, on a steep hill, on a high speed road, and then shrouded in disappointment from my “towing service” who shall remain nameless. If I had only known a month ago what I know now, this horrible event would have definitely been avoided. So now, I want to inform turbocharged Subaru owners far and wide of this absolutely simple maintenance that can make a destroyed turbo totally preventable. For me, I can only blame myself for not researching this car & EJ25 engine more, because this info is already out there if you just search for it. Sadly, I just didn’t realize that I needed to. Research, research, research when you buy a car that you are unfamiliar with. Hit the car forums. Ask the people that drive them. Be your own automotive advocate. It WILL save you cash and stress.
Now let’s get to the good stuff! Once the red beauty was towed home and placed in the dry, loving surroundings of the garage, I found that the shaft inside the VF40 turbo had been completely starved of oil, and it broke in half at the center bearing. This left the turbine wheel dancing around inside the turbine housing, which is never optimal for peak performance. With the engine running, the sound could have been mistaken for somebody feeding steel chains into a wood chipper. I immediately asked myself “how the heck did this happen?!” The car had brand new oil in it, only about 2000 miles on the oil that I got it with a couple of months ago, and I knew that the previous owner took amazing care of this car because she loved it. I hit the internet in search for the answer.
Much to my surprise, there was 350+ page thread on Legacygt.com that discussed this exact problem in detail, because hundreds of other Subaru owners have had the same exact problem as me. The cause – the banjo bolt (also known as a “union” bolt) that is part of the oil feed line to the turbo. Inside this banjo bolt is a tiny little (stupid) filter. Over time, this tiny little filter does its job and filters contaminates from going into the turbo. Great, right? No. Not so much. Because most people rarely, if ever, replace them. Left untouched for too long, the filter becomes clogged, and your turbo is starved of oil, which quickly leads it to an early death.
Needless to say, I am no longer a fan of this bolt or the filter that lives inside it, and I decided that there was no way that I was replacing it with the same style system. There just had to be something better out there, like maybe an oil feed line with a washable filter, and more oil volume? ALAS! The internet saved the day again! A company called “Infamous Performance” in California created an oil feed kit that appears to be far superior to the factory system. The kit that they sell completely eliminates the factory oil feed, and grabs engine oil from a “better” location. It also has a terrific looking, larger oil filter than can be cleaned out easily at your leisure. Since I also needed a new turbo, I went with a hybrid 16G VF40 from BNRSupercars. Both parts got to me fast, and worked perfectly without any drama whatsoever. The car now is now fixed, the birds are singing, and a beautiful red 2006 Subaru Legacy GT is back on the streets again.
Now, for those of you with turbocharged Subarus, don’t freak out yet. The first step is to find out if your car even had this banjo (union) bolt with the filter inside it (Not all Subarus do. In fact, the majority don’t.). For the cars that do have it though, it is located on the back of the passenger side cylinder head, and it holds down the turbo oil feed line. A super helpful Subaru owner known as “niemkij” on iwsti.com did a fantastic write-up of how to replace one of these bolts yourself. Currently, a new “union” bolt is around $17 new from a Subaru dealer, and probably take between 15 minutes and an hour to replace, depending on your level of expertise.
For all intents and purposes, replacing this banjo bolt with a new one from the dealer is all you really need to do. I go overboard on everything that I do, so I went with the whole new feed line & fancier turbo instead of the OEM stuff. The moral is, this tiny little turbo oil feed filter needs to be replaced on a regular basis. If you don’t replace it, or don’t know when the last time yours was replaced, you may be risking the life of your turbo. Check it out, and report back your findings. I want to hear about your Subaru.