My ex's 1999 Subaru Legacy (4 cyl, 126K miles) began making some nasty
noises in the motor a week ago. She drove it 2 blocks and it's been sitting
in the driveway ever since, while she ponders what to do. Except for
warranty work, It's been maintained by one very competent mechanic
throughout its life. He's hesitant to mess with it because he says that
evaluation could require major engine disassembly which could cost so much
that no sane owner would want to even go that far just to find out that the
car is toast. Car is in otherwise excellent condition.
So, ***if*** we were dealing with a spark plug which was broken due to
incorrect length, wouldn't that have happened almost immediately after the
plugs were installed? Assuming yes, what else are we left with? Right
length, wrong plug (temperature)? Wrong torque? Defective plug? Seems like
some things could point to the mechanic, as unlikely as that seems based on
his track record. Or, manufacturer.
Any other thoughts on this?
On Tue, 08 Dec 2009 10:16:08 -0500, JoeSpareBedroom wrote:
What are the oil and coolant levels like? Any oil in the coolant expansion
All sorts of things can make "nasty noises" - are we talking knocking,
scraping, high-pitched squeal, something else?
At the bad end of the scale, valves hitting pistons due to worn timing
gear (although I'm not sure if the Legacy's engine is an interference
design where that could happen), or a major bearing fault. At the other
end of the scale, I had a locking tab break on a cam gear in an engine
once which made a heck of a noise, but it was maybe a $1 part and a ten
Can you get a second opinion? Maybe tow it to a garage if you have to so
someone can listen to it (just keep in mind that you're free to tow it to
more than one garage - don't feel obligated to leave it with the first
garage you go to)
Lots of mechanics will be able to narrow it down by ear (and experience).
What makes you think it's related to plugs? Was something changed recently
that you didn't mention in your post?
I would definitely have it diagnosed to find out exactly what the
problem is, rather than just guesses. If it does turn out that the
engine is shot, an alternative could be a wrecking yard engine. If the
car is in otherwise good shape,paid for, and she likes the car, it could
make sense to fix it, even if if it does cost $1000 or so. That would be
a judgement call on her part. Repairs may cost what 4-6 payments on a
replacement car would be. Larry
Unless one of the sparkplugs was changed just before starting it up
that time, that seems unlikely.
You didn't give us very much info about the problem... Was it running
badly or just making noise? Can you describe the noise at all? Are you
mechanically inclined enough to at least remove the spark plugs and
accessory belts and run the starter? That will narrow things way down
with a minimum of effort. (A lot of horrible "engine" noises turn out
to be failed alternators, water pumps, etc...)
Update: She had a nearby mechanic (not the usual one) take a look at the
car. He pulled the plugs and in fact, one WAS broken. That's as far as it
went. He said "No way to determine damage without major teardown - $1500 or
so." Our usual mechanic says "More like $2500 - not worth it for a car with
book value of $3000-ish". The latter guy is probably being cautious and
preparing her for worst case scenario.
What a mess.
On Tue, 8 Dec 2009 11:13:47 -0500, "JoeSpareBedroom"
You could probably get a guaranteed used engine installed for a lot
less than a rebuild of that one. Find a junkyard that has a low
mileage wreck with rear end damage. Selling and installing the engine
is almost pure profit for them. Negotiate!
All those costs exist without doing engine installs. It's gravy for
them. The point is that the materials are pretty close to zero cost.
It's all labor from employees who are on the clock anyway, and might
otherwise have nothing to keep them busy 100% of the time.
Go visit a wrecking yard, and then get back to us with what you
And the person running such an operation might be called "former
business owner" or even "bankrupt".
I have been to wrecking yards and have never observed employees hanging
around waiting for something to do and I am sure someone paid for the
buildings, tools supplies, maintenance and all of the other stuff that
goes into operating a business and that someone also will pay for the
new tools and supplies that are purchased. Add all of that up and
apportion it and nothing in a business is "zero cost".
FWIW, I had an Isuzu 4 cyl Diesel break the timing belt, and it was a
collision motor. Luckily, the valves are straight up and down, rather
than at an angle, and all it did was snap 2 or 3 rocker arms, which were
aluminum, or some other fairly soft metal. No other damage done Larry
Spoke to her a little while ago. She's thinking they may never have been
replaced. She's checking through a pile of receipts, while complaining that
our mechanic should've told her to do plugs at the recommended interval.
This is one instance where one of our mechanic's best selling points may be
at fault: While working on our cars, he'll point out stuff that needs to be
done in the future so we can plan our budgets. For instance, if he's
rotating tires, he'll say "Think 6 months for front brakes, unless you start
driving a lot more than usual."
BUT: He leaves it up to the customer to keep an eye on the car's service
intervals and request certain things, which I like. If (and this is a big
IF) plugs can fall apart due simply to age, who's at fault? The mechanic for
never saying "tuneup time", or the customer, for not keeping an eye on the
service schedule in the owner's manual?
And why am I in the middle of all this? :-) Don't ask.
It's a little weird with today's cars. Except for spark plugs, there
really is nothing to tune up any more. Cars don't have points or
carbs. With unleaded gas, spark plugs last at least 50K miles. I've
replaced plugs after 50K miles that looked like they could have gone
another 50K miles.
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