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!
Last week, I decided to replace the ol’ spark plugs on my 2005 Subaru Impreza RS. While the car was running perfectly fine, I figured that they were due since the car had 105K miles on it. Luckily for me, yanking the spark plugs out of a non-turbo Subaru Impreza is completely drama free. Within a few minutes, all of the old ones were out and they clearly looked worn out. Their gaps were twice what the factory called for, and then some. It’s really amazing that the Subie wasn’t running rougher.
Before long the new spark plugs were tossed back in, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a noticeable difference in engine smoothness at idle, and while accelerating. I hadn’t realized that it wasn’t smooth before, until I felt the new smooth. Sure enough, the new smooth is considerably better. I’m hoping that this will gets me the other mile per gallon that I need to hit a consistent 30… We’ll see!
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.
Just when you thought that the automotive world had nothing left to offer this week, I bring you this. It’s a 2002 Subaru WRX with what I would call “tank tracks”, instead of wheels. Now, I know what you might be saying “I already saw one of these in the Ken Block video, so it’s not cool anymore…“. Yea, I know, but Ken Block’s wasn’t able to be bought either. This one most certainly is. Just imagine if you added an external roll cage and some spot lights to the roof. Not only would you be ready to take on a pack of rabid wolverines, but this car would instantly be a force to be reckoned with in our Zombie Apocalypse vehicle collection. No doubt!
The seller says:
“This WRX literally floats through the deepest of snow as its ground pressure is only about 1.25 lbs per square inch. It handles great and turns very well. Its also amazingly quick! The car includes decent tires and wheels. When you don’t need the tracks, you can put the tires back on and use the car as a daily driver. It takes about 30 minutes to remove the tracks and put the wheels back on.”
So if the vampires, zombies, and cyborgs don’t end up attacking, you can swap the summer tires back on in less than an hour, and take a leisurely ride through the country roads to get an ice cream with your family. Is buying this car your destiny in life? Does 196,000 miles in a turbo Subaru make you nervous? Is $17,500 cheap for an AWD turbo snowmobile? Well, those are questions that you are going to need to sleep on tonight. Until then, this Subaru WRX Tank will be waiting for you on eBay.
As you saw a few weeks ago, I recently purchased a 2006 Subaru Legacy GT Limited that was missing compression in cylinder #3 due to a burned exhaust valve. Long story short, it runs again, but getting to this point was a fair amount of work. Here is how it played out:
I recently picked up a great new toy in the form of a 2006 Subaru Legacy GT. Much like all vehicles that I buy, it needed some major work before hitting the streets again. When I first heard about this car, the local Subaru dealer had just declared that it needed a new engine. Technically speaking, it did still run. However, it was running really rough due to lack of compression in cylinder #3. With the higher mileage that it had, and the repair being a seriously labor intensive job, it just wouldn’t make sense for the owner of the car to have it fixed. For me though, I get a weird thrill over fixing cars that other people condemn. Before long, a deal was struck, and the red Subie landed in my driveway.
The first step of any repair is determining what the problem is. Since I already knew that one cylinder was missing compression, I began the diagnosis by determining where all of that compression was going. I knew that if the piston was damaged, the compression would have to be filling the crankcase like crazy with air, so I started the car and yanked the oil filler cap off. I then waved my hand around above the oil filler tube. If the piston was damaged, there would have been massive amounts of compression pumping out of there. Luckily for me, there wasn’t. This, along with a quiet running engine, told me that the piston & rings were probably in good working condition. Next on the check list, and really the only other option, were the valves. I shut off the car, and installed a cylinder leakage gauge into the spark plug hole. I then set the engine to TDC on cylinder #3, and pumped 90psi of air into the cylinder. Sure enough, all of that air immediately flowed right out the exhaust system. Tada, an exhaust valve was damaged! This meant that the engine was coming out, and the heads were getting pulled off. Most of Saturday came and went, and the picture above is what I discovered.
So what causes burned valves? Well, from what I have read about these engines, the valves aren’t known to be the best quality to start with. Compile that with the fact that the valves were never adjusted in 140K miles (which is rarely, if ever, done by anybody with a Subaru), and the valves were given the opportunity to hang open just enough to burn. Yeap, a total bummer for sure. This car though, is getting a second chance at life, with new valves, head gaskets, timing belt, water pump, etc. I cannot wait to get it back together!
Over on VWVortex, there is never a lack of greatness being posted from people that are far more creative and talented than myself. This video is from one of those posts. From what I have gathered, the creator of the video’s friend (did I lose you there?) bought a Subaru WRX, but that isn’t his only claim to fame. He can also tear up a basketball court like he invented the dang Reebok Pumps. Naturally, the two friends decided to combine these two passions into one cinematic adventure that strangely makes me want to purchase something at the end. I just can’t decide whether I want some classic Air Jordan’s, or a new WRX. In any case, it is amazing what a couple of talented folks can do behind a camera. A simple idea turns into something that could easily be a great TV advertisement for……. something I have yet to decide. Well done!
Video originally posted by: “bmashbat” over on VWVortex