Engine repair conundrum!

1999 Subaru Outback 2.5l 4 cyl

  • Replaced both head gaskets & timing belt, had the heads freshened up and machined (just a little). Did NOT replace the water pump because [reasons].
    Problem: reinstalled the motor last night and stared it up. Seems to run fine, but it is making an alarming rattly-scrapy noise. It sounds a bit like a metal shroud rubbing against one of the pulleys. Took that shroud off but the noise persists. It doesn’t sound like it’s coming from deep inside the engine, and it really doesn’t sound like any sort of impact (say, between pistons & valves from a bad timing belt install).

I did put oil in it, and the noise began as soon as the engine started. It does not have coolant in it yet. I know a power steering pump will growl when it gets hungry, is there any chance a water pump would be noisy if it’s dry?

Tonight’s troubleshooting will be to add coolant and then unbelt the AC pump, then alternator to rule out loose internal bits. Any other ideas?

I’ve never heard a water pump make noise simply because there’s no coolant.

Before doing any disassembly, use a longish screwdriver or something similar as a stethoscope. Put the tip on various items (alternator, P/S pump, etc.) and the handle right up to your ear. This may help you locate the noise. Everything will have some noise, but usually a problem sound is evident.

If you don’t find it that way I’d be inclined to remove the timing belt covers and carefully inspect everything in there.

Good luck!

Solution: buy a new Outback!

Sorry, I got nothin’.

Heh, actually this was a $300 car I got from a friend who was just going to trade it in (for $300) for a new car. I knew it had issues but also wanted a relatively consequence-free opportunity to practice my engine work. Hence I find myself somewhat frustrated with the current sitch, but in no means in need of another car.

Curiously, I know a kid who has the same car that has only a working engine–the rest is a death trap, complete with clanky/poppy transmission. It has crossed my mind to drop his engine into my car and give him the resulting monster. But his is an automatic, mine’s a manual. I don’t think it would be that easy. Besides, this just became a challenge.

On all the vehicles I’m familiar with it’s just a matter of transferring the flywheel, and possibly the pilot bushing or bearing.

My first suspicion would be a longer bolt in the wrong hole somewhere. This is kind of a common problem after front of the engine repairs are done. Maybe if you ran the engine with the fan removed you could feel what bolt if any is hitting something.

My first guess would be that removing the old, stretched timing belt and replacing it with a new, taut one is revealing that the water pump is worn out.

You may find that once filled with coolant, the water pump is leaking as well.

I was going to suggest a bad bearing in one of the rollers I seem to recall Subaru has. Gary T beat me to the stethoscope idea for pinpointing it.

I use a real long socket extension and it is very easy to locate bad components.

Mystery is unlikely to be solved. In trouble shooting I noticed oil getting slung out through a (old) hole in the timing belt cover. And then a puddle under the car coming from the seam between the cover and the engine. So some seal failed somewhere–maybe the main seal, maybe one of the head gaskets (I had suspicions that one wasn’t going to take). Based on the noise and the oil leak, I’d be satisfied with saying the front main seal spontaneously failed somehow, maybe from the stress of pulling and installing the motor. At any rate, “The operation was a success, but the patient died on the table.” I would do an auto-opsy but we’re moving tomorrow and have more pressing matters to attend to. Donating the corpse to a parts vendor.

spacer between engine and transmission left off?

MMmmmmno. I’ve seen that on some older Toyotas, but not on either Subie I’ve worked on.