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A very close friend of mine recently had their engine fail in a 2013 Subaru Impreza CVT (2.0L, non-turbo) with around 85k miles. They came to me as their "car guy" but I feel out of my league, so I told them I would ask other's opinions and help interpret the responses we get.

Essentially, while driving down the highway at 60mph they lost all power after hearing some "spurting" noises. Even with their foot on the gas, they were losing speed. They were able to coast to an off-ramp by shifting to neutral and called a tow-truck. The shop they took it to said the engine was locked up, fluid levels were all OK, and nothing that they could see without breaking into the engine could explain the failure. They are now offering to replace the engine with another (24k miles) for $2,600 (labor included). This would not come with any warranty.

From my experience, that is extremely low for an engine replacement, which makes me worried.

First, this shop is where they have had their recent maintenance done, including an oil change ~1 month and a few thousand miles ago (they drive a lot). I know that this engine is known to consume a lot of oil and even had a successful class action lawsuit against Subaru that would put it under an extended warranty. However, the shop says the oil level and filter were both fine. I'm a little skeptical since they were the last ones to touch both of those items.

Second, we don't even know what is wrong with the current engine. I think it would probably be over $2,600 no matter the fix though, which leads me to my third point...

We don't have any information on this "new" engine. The shop just said it had 24k miles on it, they could get it tomorrow, and have the work done next week. This sounds too good to be true, so I think it is.

So I would like your opinions on three things:

1) Does the proposed repair sound reasonable? To me, its too good to be true...

2) Should this just be brought to a dealer due to the known engine oil issues? This shop said the oil levels are fine but I'm not convinced. We are currently trying to contact a dealer for a counter offer/their thoughts.

3)* What would be your estimated timeline (total time and man-hours required) with this little information? I want to at least find out what is wrong before paying for a repair/replacement, but if the shop can really get the engine replaced in a week I think its worth it.

*Edited the third question to fit within the rules/guidelines.

Thank you!

  • Hello, and welcome to the site - please note that the last part of your question is off-topic as we don't allow price-shopping questions here (they're too localised and go out of date very quickly - especially as there are 20 different dollar currencies!) - could you rephrase it to something like "how many hours" or similar? – Nick C May 30 '18 at 15:15
  • Unless they can prove the mileage on the used engine it is a fairy tale. You can buy used engines with warranties these days. Don't have the work done without some sort of warranty. – Moab May 30 '18 at 15:57
  • Question 2, Yes all they can do is say no to an out of band warranty, does not matter if there is oil in it, these engines are prone to all kinds of oiling system failures and Subaru knows it. – Moab May 30 '18 at 15:59
  • Thank you for the response. I already said not to take any engine without some warranty, it just shows the shop has some confidence in it as well. I was leaning towards the dealer but didn't want to pay the towing fee if it wasn't necessary, but I suppose it sounds necessary. Thanks again! – user2731076 May 30 '18 at 16:30
  • I'd get a second opinion on whether it needs an engine or not first. I think R&R on spark plugs is 2.2 hrs so half that to pull them and another 1/2 to 1 hour to stick a boroscope in there to check for valve damage or whatever they suspect is wrong. I'd have them prove it before replacing an engine when it could be something else like hydrolock etc... – Ben May 30 '18 at 22:41
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Engines locked up are usually one of two issues.

1) Overheat. With aluminum pistons the pistons can over-expand and literally seize in the bores. The second (and IMHO more likely) is that the valve seats came loose and jammed the valves.

2) Timing belt. My understanding is the Subarus have a timing belt that needs to be replaced every 60K miles. One forum said "Inspect at 30K, replace at 60K) and with Subarus having an interference engine, a loss of a timing belt would be catastrophic. Lots of bent and crunched valves.

If you do get a used motor, standard procedure is to replace the wear items (like timing belt), all the fluids, and while your at it, maybe some of the emission control devices. If I remember correctly some Subarus have knock sensors that are difficult to reach... Consider things like new water pump as well.

As for having someone do the work, insist on some kind of warranty. The used motor typically comes from a junk-yard (sorry "used auto-parts" place) and they typically come with a warranty - at least a short one - 90 days etc. The shop should at least agree to the labor during those 90 days.

  • The 2013 Impreza base with the FB20B H4 DOCHC 16 VALVE 2.0 engine has a timing chain, not a belt. My recommendation would be to get more quotes - one from the Dealer, and another from a Subaru specialist. – PeteCon May 31 '18 at 3:21
  • So in either of those scenarios, a "new" engine is going to be cheaper. The dealership the car got towed to last night is now offering an engine with 17k miles and a 1 year/unlimited mile warranty with installation for ~$3500. But as I mentioned in a comment on my question, I'm still pushing to at least get some idea that something simpler isn't the problem. My immediate thoughts were jammed starter or hydrolock....? – user2731076 May 31 '18 at 13:25
  • To test for engine lock. Remove spark plugs, put transmission in neutral (or park) and get a big socket and attempt to turn the engine. Even if the starter motor is still engaged, it will turn. Typically this is the first thing a mechanic would check. – Dirk Broer Jun 11 '18 at 15:43
  • PeterCon. I concur with what you say. I looked it up, seems the H4 changed around 2013. Any chance that was a mid-year change? – Dirk Broer Jun 11 '18 at 16:03
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I decided to come back to this to write up what ended up happening (even though almost a year has passed) to hopefully help others in the future...

It was towed to the dealer where they gave us a similar diagnosis as the first shop, stuck engine that won't rotate at all using a ratchet. My friend was getting fed up with not having a car and being an intermediary between me and the shop and sprang for the used engine. As I mentioned, it was installed for roughly $3,500 USD (parts and labor) and had a 1 year unlimited mile warranty. The engine was said to have 17k miles on it.

Eventually my friend heard from the shop that their engine had a spun bearing (I'm guessing main but my friend couldn't remember exactly what they said). With the oil being pretty new I guess they just got unlucky. However, the shop did say that the oil should be changed more often, even though my friend was very religious about following the manufacturer schedule (oil change every 7,500 miles, I believe filter was every other oil change?). My friend would actually call me worried when they hadn't noticed an upcoming trip would put them 50 miles over the "next oil change" mark and I would have to reaffirm that it would be fine.

Essentially, the dealer said that the engine was known to burn oil at a high rate (they said something like up to 1L/1000mi, which makes no sense with their maintenance schedule) so the schedule is too far between changes.

Overall it was very frustrating, with Subaru essentially saying they were not responsible even though they admitted their oil change schedules aren't great and knowing my friend had had all the maintenance done on time. But the saga is over and the car has been running fine over the past year with another 15k miles put on the "new" engine. I now help my friend with oil and filter changes every 5k miles or twice a year, whichever is sooner, just like on my own vehicle.

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