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thestig99 Dork
2/11/18 3:53 p.m.

This thread probably won't amount to much. 

Unfortunately the same issues that caused such delays in getting my '93 4Runner on the road have now forced me to sell it to free up some cash and get something cheaper to run. Adulthood is a bitch. 

A couple weeks ago I was helping a friend, who is a wholsaler for a number of local dealers, move some cars around. Mostly joking he said "man, have I got a car for you! 2005 Outback with LESS than 212k and a 5spd!" He went on to say that it seemed like a halfway decent car and could be mine for $500. I took it for a spin across town and confirmed that it did actually seem like a halfway decent car. The wheels started turning... then another good friend bought the 4Runner for a fair price. 

So, yesterday I drove home my latest cheap Subaru. I have never been less excited about buying a car.

Lets find out what I've gotten myself into here! It's a 2005 Outback, 2.5i, 5spd, Premium w/ heated seats, 211k miles, and an expired inspection sticker which was recently traded in for bottom dollar. It DOES seem to be very decent  for any 2005 Subaru in Vermont, let alone one in this price range. The engine is quiet, the head gaskets are barely seeping oil (no care), no warning lights on, no weird noises, everything works, good snow tires... it drives great. This is certainly the best $500 car I've bought. Automotive Archeology reveals the previous owner has had it since 2012, all the radio presets are set to classical and NPR stations, and a suspicious number of paper clips. Interestingly, almost no dog hair (very uncommon in Subaru wagons in this area). Getting a good vibe that it might not be too thrashed.

Problems: exhaust leak. Needs a midpipe, pretty standard stuff there. Light rattle in the front end, I assume swaybar links. That's.... about it. I keep waiting to find the "catch".

The plan (short term): Fix exhaust for inspection, Jazzy Engineering Aux In Pro Kit (had one of these in my last '05 Outback and it worked great it's been 24 hours and I'm already sick of the radio).

The plan (long term): This is the question mark. I see two routes.

1) Embrace having a $500 car, give no berks, drive into the ground.

2) Put in a little effort and turn it into something I'm more interested in seeing parked in my driveway, and maybe turn it into something I like more. I have a few ideas here.

I guess time will tell if it's worth the effort.

In the meantime, pictures.

First order of business: take the supid, ugly, broken, useless deflector off the hood.

Still need to take the little bits of vinyl that protect the paint off, but it's much better. 

adam525i Reader
2/11/18 4:51 p.m.

Hey that doesn't seem so bad! I might be biased as I'm driving a 07 5mt Legacy wagon that is very similar. These cars will handle if you want them too (Legacy Konis or Bilsteins, you'll lose a bit of ride height but gain suspension travel which seems odd) and open source tuning really wakes the motor up (for a 2.5i NA).

Rallycross it, offroad it, slam it, do whatever, it beats a minivan! just not in a drag race.


thestig99 Dork
2/11/18 5:20 p.m.

Oh yeah, I should be clear...

This is my 8th Subaru. I'm very familiar, and I certainly like them. This is 100% the perfect car for where I'm at and I would be thrilled any other time, it is merely the circumstances that make me resent it. I'll get over it. laugh

I've never even considered open source tuning for n/a Subarus. Interesting. 

Lowering is definitely not in the cards for this car. Mud season is pretty legit where I live. Here is my last Outback laying rocker in the middle of the road. Fun fact: I later took over 13 POUNDS of mud out of that wheel.

Also, those BBS wheels ended up with the same friend who is buying the 4Runner. They may be available to me.

Rallycross is a strong possibility. Off roading is almost a certainty. If anything, a strut spacer lift is not unlikely. 

Brian UltraDork
2/11/18 9:07 p.m.

I'd go with number 2.  something I regularly do.

thestig99 Dork
2/12/18 5:15 a.m.

A wild clue appears....

I haven't pulled the code yet, but here is my operating assumption: P0420. 

My guess is the CEL got cleared when the car was traded in, either by the PO or the dealer. It took nearly 100 mikes to set a code while cruising at s steady 65mph - in my experience, the ideal time for these cars to set car codes. 

We'll see!

adam525i Reader
2/12/18 12:18 p.m.

An O2 sensor won't take care of the PO420 like it does in the earlier cars but that open source tune can easily disable nuisance codes like that. I'd do a bit diagnostics to make sure it is the Cat and not another problem causing the issue.


thestig99 Dork
2/12/18 1:20 p.m.

Purely conjecture at this point, not going to act without proper diag smiley

I looked into open source tuning some back when I had my WRX, but never did anything with it.

With the P0420 DTC disabled in the software, will the catalyst OBD2 readiness monitor still set as it should? This car needs to pass an automated OBD2 test annually. 

adam525i Reader
2/12/18 10:11 p.m.

That's  a good question, I'm very new to playing around in these things but I know the option is in there. I've heard of people doing it but haven't myself, I'll have to disable it and check the monitors after a day or so (we have the same OBD2 tests here in Ontario). The main factor for me was going from an 04 Legacy which wasn't fast but was responsive to the 07 with drive by wire and a very lazy tune that seemed to be geared towards making up the emissions/fuel economy deficit of all the GT's they were selling and not being satisfied. I think I'm back to where my 04 was and have set my throttle up fairly linear just like in the older cable setup, the only thing I haven't been able to remove is the bit of rev hang as it is programed into a table that hasn't been defined in my ECU.

If you want to play around with this you can download romraider or ecuflash and along with your stock tune here with a link to the definitions - http://www.romraider.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=9817 just to get an idea of how things look and work. To actually flash or pull a rom you will need the tactrix openport cable but a vag-com cable will work if all you want to use is the romraider logger which is a great diagnostics tool for a subaru.


P.S. I had the PO420 code soon after I had my car on the road and thought that was the reason whoever had it finally decided to get rid of the car. However, after clearing it I haven't had it come back so I think it was more a product of the car just sitting around on dealer lots and being thrown out of its more usual driving cycles. 

thestig99 Dork
2/13/18 9:10 p.m.

Very cool. I may end up picking your brain about it down the road.

I hate it when I'm right cheeky

Was able to get the car in the air tonight and give it a closer look. Thankfully no real surprises! It seems to be in remarkably decent mechanical shape, the only thing added to the list is a VERY slightly loose inner tie rod. 

Having confirmed it's not a massive heap, time to order some parts... 

NGTD UberDork
3/2/18 9:22 p.m.

Next time you find another one of these for $500, give me a call. Especially with a stick!

thestig99 Dork
3/10/18 7:36 p.m.
NGTD said:

Next time you find another one of these for $500, give me a call. Especially with a stick!

They're around! Just generally they're as E36 M3ty as I expected this car to be. 

Somehow, this thing has actually been really solid.

In terms of an update, the first issue was the exhaust. The midpipe is a VERY common failure in these. Typically they start to leak in the "V" where the center pipe splits to feed the two rear mufflers. This was already a pretty crappy looking aftermarket piece, and the pipe iteslf had failed elswhere... 

New piece, $120 shipped from Amazon.

Unfortunately I didn't realize that there was a difference in the midpipe between cars with California emissions and federal emissions. This car is federal, the pipe I ordered is California. As a result... it didn't quite fit. 

In addition to the length the flange for the left side muffler needed some tweaking...

With some cutting and welding (thanks dad!), it worked out in the end.

This was Saturday, and made the car inspectable. Then Sunday, this happened...

My (cardboard) temporarly license plate got soggy and disappeared somewhere on I89. FUN FACT! If this happens, VT DMV will not issue a new one. They tell you to go back to the dealer who issued it... but the dealer can't issue a new one either. And nobody will inspect it with no plates.  So I got to daily drive the car for a week with no plates and no inspection Somehow I never got pulled over. A dirty Subaru wagon really is an invisibility cloak in Vermont. 

During which time my Jazzy engineering aux in kit arrived. Yanked the headunit out and installed that

Here's the guts of it. It utilizes a silent CD in the OEM CD player and intercepts that signal for its 3.5mm aux cord. (or some science stuff)

Unfortunately, it turns out the headphone jack in my phone is berked, so I still can't really use it.  I thought it was just my cheap earbuds being wonky. Oh well, appointment to get my phone fixed this coming week. 

Thankfully my permanent plates showed up the same day, so I was finally able to get that almighty inspection sticker:

More good news: I'm starting to actually like this car. Definitely much better than my last '05 5spd Outback. Need to baseline the maintenance, then I can hopefully get to the "making lemonade" phase and make it a little more "nice".

thestig99 Dork
6/23/18 6:15 p.m.

Best, most boring, car ever. I dumped a quart of oil in it the other day - that and washing it once is all the maintenance I've done in the past 5k miles (note to self: should probably change the oil).  The CEL fixed itself, it's just been turn key driving. 


Budget check?

$694 - Purchase price, including tax/title/reg

$119 - Amazon, exhaust midpipe

$50 - Napa, oil, filter, exhaust gaskets

$75 - Jazzy Engineering Aux In Pro Kit

$3.99 - 1qt of the gas stations finest 10w40

Total: $941.99

Fun math: This car averages 22-24mpg where the 4Runner it replaced managed 11-12mpg.  According to my math that 11mpg delta adds up to a fuel savings of 454.5 gallons over 5000 miles. At $2.95/gal for 87 octane that is a savings of $1,340.78 in fuel alone.surprise


thestig99 Dork
6/24/18 4:49 p.m.

Was cleaning today and found my roll of yellow tint. All Subaru fog lights should be yellow. I am not interested in counter arguments. 

I also found the mounting brackets I used to put the Hella 500 driving lights on my last Outback (pictured below). I have another pair of 500's somewhere floating around. I've been thinking about putting them on my Miata, but maybe they'll end up on the Subaru instead. 

IMG_3948 by Brian, on Flickr

thestig99 Dork
7/16/18 8:01 a.m.

Since I bought this car I've been slowly picking away at getting it detailed. This weekend I spent some time on the exterior which brought the whole car several steps closer to "respectable looking automotbile" so I thought I would share a few pictures.

This is what the interior looked like when I bought it:

Partway through cleaning the seats

I still have some work to do on the carpet, especially in the drivers footwell and around the center console (it appears the PO was a habitual coffee spiller), but this is the general state of things now:

Moving on to the outside... this car sure needed some love. 

13 year old 218k mile dirt road daily driver Vermont Subaru... and the paint shows every bit of it. I've washed this car precisely once and who knows how long it had been before that. Let's get started.

Iron remover doing stuff:

The transformation is never as striking on a light colored car and silver hides scratches very well in photos so you'll have to trust me that it was in rough shape. Here are some before and after shots of key areas that will help illustrate it:

Surface contamination? Yeah we have some of that.

(After claybar, before polishing)

Hatch before:

Hatch after (disregard my shirtless reflection that I just noticed cheeky):

1/4 and door before. Notice the big iron stain under the door handle, there were several of these around the car. I wish you could see all the scratches in this area.

1/4 and door after:

Finally, some general "finished product"* shots:

*It's worth noting this was very much a "quick and dirty" polish job. There is still a lot of room for improvement up close.

Now I want to fix and repaint the bumpers frown

thedanimal HalfDork
7/16/18 8:04 p.m.

As a detailer, I love bringing cars back to life. While light colors don’t always show the biggest improvement. This thing really looks a lot better overall. Good job!

CJ Reader
7/16/18 8:32 p.m.

That has to be the best looking $500 car I have ever seen.

adam525i Reader
7/16/18 9:36 p.m.

Road trip to challenge? It is wagon year...

Car looks great, I should really clean mine but I’ll rallycross it instead in a few weeks. 


thestig99 Dork
7/17/18 7:58 p.m.

Thanks guys!

Maybe it's my years at dealerships speaking but, to me, the most enjoyable part of detailing is bringing a car from 0 to 75%. Going from 75% to 90 or 100% just lacks that reward.

Adam, this one will be back to exploring class IV roads in no time laugh

Also, submitted an expense report for ~$200 in mileage on this car this morning. Should that go in the budget? cheeky

thestig99 Dork
10/10/18 5:59 p.m.

This car went on a bit of a hiatus. The noise I had been ignoring under the assumption it was the rather chopped tires turned out to be a wheel bearing getting rather loose. Loose enought that I had the car towed to my parents house, where I proceeded to all but forget about it for a couple of months.  Finally, with the leaves turning and a chill in the air, I did some wrenching last weekend. 

While waiting for the last of the parts to arrive I got the important stuff done; painting the wheels, installing the roof rack (replacing the useless OEM cross bars with Thule stuff to fit all the attachments I already own), mounting the Hella 500's. With that out of the way I moved on to the trivial things like actually getting it back on the road. 

I took a startling lack of pictures during the process, but the work was largely pretty boring. Oil change, rear struts, right rear wheel bearing. The only mildly interesting part was making the 1" HDPE strut spacer lift. Make templates of the strut mounts in CAD (cardboard version), replace the mounting studs with 1" longer bolts, trace templates to material and cut with jigsaw + hole saws. 

The end result looks sort of like this, except MUCH uglier. 

Drove it home without a hitch and was taking these pictures within 24 hours. 

10/8/18 by Brian, on Flickr

10/8/18 by Brian, on Flickr

10/8/18 by Brian, on Flickr

10/8/18 by Brian, on Flickr

10/8/18 by Brian, on Flickr

10/8/18 by Brian, on Flickr

10/8/18 by Brian, on Flickr

IMG_5783 by Brian, on Flickr

IMG_5778 by Brian, on Flickr

IMG_5786 by Brian, on Flickr

IMG_5880 by Brian, on Flickr




Previous budget total: $941.99

New stuff:

$243.94 - Rockauto - Rear struts, rear wheel bearing, rear swaybar links*, hatch latch*

$45.03 - Amazon - 12"x24"x1" sheet HDPE

$42.27 - Napa - Oil, filter, 1 can wheel paint

~$30 - Hardware store - misc hardware

$60.00 - Craigslist - Roof rack

$7.99 - Amazon - stickers

$0.00 - Stuff I already had laying around - Hella 500s, mounting brackets, roof rack attachements

* - yet to be installed

New Total: $1372.22

barefootskater HalfDork
10/10/18 6:18 p.m.

Around here that is a $2500 car and it needs head gaskets and a clutch. Super jelly. Looks great and aside from that awful, hateful white stuff that is some seriously pretty country. Party on.

Kasstastrophy New Reader
10/10/18 6:41 p.m.

Cool thing is, you can enjoy it for a while and then turn around and sell it and still clear a profit.

livinon2wheels New Reader
11/9/18 6:00 p.m.

In reply to adam525i :

Hey Adam, tell me more about the open source tuning and what it gets me for my efforts....I have a 2007 version of this car that is stock and well...weak...underpowered...yeah 2.5i slushbox....talk to me please...email works if you dont wanna post here...livinon2wheels@yahoo.com ..... thanks in advance.



thestig99 Dork
11/17/18 6:32 p.m.

I'm all for some tuning discussion devil

With the arrival of that awful, hateful, white stuff this has become my only car again so some more changes were needed.

First up was a battery - the old one was pretty weak already and the car sitting for a couple months didn't help, so a new one was in order. 

Next was the lift - the car was sitting about 1/2" lower in the front, so an additional 3/8" of HDPE strut spacer leveled it out nicely. 

(Don't judge too hard - they were cut out freehand with a jigsaw :lol: )

Finally it was time for some new snow tires. Happily Discount Tire Direct was doing $100 off any purchase of $400 or more on eBay, so I snagged some slightly taller 215/70-16 Hankook I-Pikes for $304 shipped. 

Old Budget: $1,372.22

Battery: $112

HDPE: $11.95

Tires: $304.00

New total: $1,800.17

With that done and some fresh snow on the ground, some field testing was required (naturally).

Outback 11/16/18 by Brian, on Flickr

Outback 11/16/18 by Brian, on Flickr

Outback 11/16/18 by Brian, on Flickr

Outback 11/16/18 by Brian, on Flickr

Outback 11/16/18 by Brian, on Flickr

thestig99 Dork
11/25/18 12:49 p.m.

To those of you who don't live in the rust belt - it's nothing personal, but sometimes I hate you. 

Let's back up. Last time I had the car in the air I found a bad left front wheel bearing. No worries, it's an easy bolt in affair. Ordered the part and headed up to my parents' to throw it in. Should only be couple hours, tops. 


The caliper bracket had other ideas. The first bolt came out HARD. The second didn't come out at all. The slide pins were seized, anyway,  so I'll just order a new caliper bracket with hardware and re-evaluate. Did a caliper service on the other side and put it back together, but that bolt that came out hard doesn't seem to want to thread in very well. See where this is going yet? Made it about halfway home, hit the brakes, and what little was left of the theads in the bracket let go. The caliper hitting the wheel sure makes a funny noise. That one's on me, should have known better than to even try. 

Side note: it takes AAA a long time to pick up a car on the side of the road at night in rural Vermont. Approximately three hours. With the car towed back I sourced a used caliper bracket with hardware from a local Subaru rebuilder and got back to it. Pulled the whole knuckle off the car in once piece and did some cutting and torching to get the rest of the siezed hardware apart. Only one more bolt didn't survive surgery. Assembly went smoothly at least... with copious amounts of anti-sieze. 


Glad to have that behind me surprise First time I've had a full week off work since 2010 and this wasn't how I wanted to spend a day and a half of it, but such is life. 

A couple days later I get a text from my bother informing me that the dealer he works for took in a running but terminally rusty 2005 or 2006 Outback XT 5MT for next to nothing. After convincing myself that I don't need to rescue it, I gave the sales manager some beer in exchange for swapping some parts. (The beer was free to me, so I'm not counting it in the budget devil). Sadly, the leather wrapped steering wheel was trashed but I did manage to get some other odds and ends that I'm happy about. The leather shift knob and a clean shifter surround really helps, along with the aluminum door sills and rear head rests that were missing from my car.

Previous budget: $1,800.17

Wheel bearing: $82.68 (Amazon)

Caliper bracket: $35.00 (Local)

New total $1,917.85

BeardedOne New Reader
11/25/18 5:07 p.m.

This wagon is cleaning up nicely.  The lift and tires makes it look mean and capable. I’ve seen a similar build on a Volvo V70 XC that made me want to build something like this. No need for it in Florida though.  Looking forward to updates and some trail days. 

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