2003 WRX Owner's Tale of Woe
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This is a discussion on 2003 WRX Owner's Tale of Woe within the General Maintenance, Troubleshooting & Accidents. forums, part of the Tech & Modifying & General Repairs category; I have a thread going on about this is the New Member forum, but I thought this might be a ...

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    Registered User UncleMidriff's Avatar
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    2003 WRX Owner's Tale of Woe

    I have a thread going on about this is the New Member forum, but I thought this might be a better place for it.

    My tale of woe:

    I bought a 2003 WRX with 46,000 miles on it from CarMax on July 18th, 2009. I drove it around for awhile, had it checked out by a mechanic (though I'm fairly certain they saw that it had four wheels and called it good), and finally decided to keep it. (With CarMax, you get 5 days after the purchase date to bring it back for a refund for any reason.)

    18 days later, the Check Engine Light came on. It had been idling a little rough when it would first start up in the morning, so I wasn't all that surprised. Driving around, though, it felt fine, with no hesitation or anything like that.

    So, I drove it to AutoZone and had them check the code. It was P0302, cylinder 2 misfire. Shortly after that, I took it to the CarMax service department to get it fixed. They replaced an ignition coil and I had my car back a couple days later.

    It ran fine for a few days, and then, starting it up one Saturday morning for a trip to a nearby city, it felt particularly rough, and the CEL was back. Damn. I drove it back to AutoZone to check the code, and once again it was P0302. It felt fine on the drive their, so I decided to go ahead and make my trip.

    On the trip there, it performed as perfectly as it ever has. No roughness, no hesitation, just smooth sailing.

    Once my wife and I got settled in our hotel room, we decided to go grab a bite to eat. On the way to the restaurant, we noticed that the AC was blowing hot air. "Crap!" I thought. "Oh well, just another problem to have the guys at CarMax look at." Then I looked down at the temperature gauge in the dash.

    The temperature gauge was pegged out, all the way up to the "H." A bit frantic, I slowed down as much as I could on the highway, and the gauge settled down a bit. It was still indicating a high temperature, but it was not a panic level. As we were close to the restaurant, I limped into the parking lot, parked it, and tried to enjoy the meal.

    Getting back in the car after the meal, the temperature seemed to be alright, so I decided to head back to the hotel. On the way to the hotel, the temperature gauge began behaving erratically. It would shoot up way high, then fall back down to normal, seemingly at random. However, it remained mostly normal the entire way back to the hotel.

    After it sat in the parking lot for a fair bit, I went out and started it up and let it idle for quite awhile. During that time, the temperature gauge never rose above a normal level.

    The next morning, feeling a little bit pissed off at the car and having a generally ****-it-all attitude, I decided to drive the thing back home. For about the first 1/4 of the trip, it behaved wonderfully. Then the temperature gauge started to creep up a little bit. I slowed down. The gauge crept up faster. I sped up. The gauge crept back down. It seemed to particularly dislike any sort of incline in the road. Deciding to be particularly stupid and throw all common sense and caution to the wind, when I came up to the next inclined section of road, I cranked the AC up as high as it would go and put the peddle to the metal. The gauge plummeted downward.

    After that, anytime the gauge began to creep up, I would give it a little more gas, and then the gauge would settle down. When we got back to town and into normal street traffic, the gauge climbed all the way back up again. So, I decided to pull into a parking lot and wait awhile to let everything cool down. After that, I drove it the last couple miles home, the gauge higher than normal most of the way there.

    The next morning (this morning), I called CarMax to have it towed in to get fixed. I wasn't able to talk to them much at all today since I was busy at work, but I do know that they're sending it to a Subaru dealer to have the ECU updated/looked at/replaced/or something. I plan to get more details first thing tomorrow morning.

    So, other than having a massively stupid person for a driver*, what do you all think is wrong with my car? What would cause the temperature gauge to behave so erratically, to settle down in situations that I would have thought would have freaked it out?


    *In my defense, I was able to keep the temperature gauge down to a normal level for the majority of the trip. All told, it spent very little time significantly above normal.
    Last edited by UncleMidriff; 08-10-2009 at 07:38 PM. Reason: typos

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    Registered User UncleMidriff's Avatar
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    I got a call from the mechanic today, and it appears that my number two piston is cracked. He said he didn't think that's what caused the overheating, but he seemed relatively certain that's why I was getting the CELs.

    They're planning to replace the cracked piston. This is all covered under the 30-day CarMax warranty, so I don't have to worry about paying anything out of pocket. What I'm wondering now, though, is what else I should be concerned about given that I have been driving around with a cracked piston.

    Given that they'll have my car in the shop for about a week while they wait for parts, is there anything else I should have them take a look at while they've got things torn apart?

    My main concern is about anything that may have gotten damaged while it was overheating, and what caused the thing to overheat in the first place since the mechanic doesn't think the cracked piston caused that. He suggested that the overheating could have been caused by the CarMax folks not hooking something back up correctly when I brought it in after the first CEL.

    Any help you all can offer is greatly appreciated.
    Last edited by UncleMidriff; 08-13-2009 at 08:23 PM. Reason: typo

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    Registered User wrxnews's Avatar
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    Well if they are going to be pulling the engine out to replace the numberr 2 piston you might beable to talk them into rebuilding the entire block. You never know it might be the best time to go all forged internals.

    How has Carmax been to deal with in this matter. I bought a Kia Sorento for my wife with 15k on it and now it has 28k. Not a single problem with the car so far, are they easy to deal with when it comes to warranty issues?

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    Registered User UncleMidriff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wrxnews View Post
    Well if they are going to be pulling the engine out to replace the numberr 2 piston you might beable to talk them into rebuilding the entire block. You never know it might be the best time to go all forged internals.
    What all is involved with rebuilding the entire block. I know very little about the internals of cars.

    Quote Originally Posted by wrxnews View Post
    How has Carmax been to deal with in this matter. I bought a Kia Sorento for my wife with 15k on it and now it has 28k. Not a single problem with the car so far, are they easy to deal with when it comes to warranty issues?
    I've been flip-flopping about CarMax. On the one hand, they sold me a car that presumably passed their gajillion-point inspection and was declared "Max-Worthy," and it has a cracked piston. -10 points.

    On the other hand, I doubt even a somewhat-thorough inspection is going to entail tearing apart the engine to make sure the pistons aren't cracked. I doubt they have the time to give each car they buy that kind of detailed inspection, so I'm sure they're just as surprised by all this as I am. +10 points

    I'm kind of miffed that I took the car in once for a misfire CEL, and then not 150 miles after I get it back, I got another misfire CEL for the same cylinder, plus crazy overheating. -20 points

    However, I'm sure it just makes more sense not to assume every misfire is caused by a cracked piston or something equally serious. Plus, I doubt their mechanics have the time to take every car they repair on a full-on road trip to make sure the problem is really fixed before giving it back to the customer. But, they likely introduced whatever was causing the overheating, so I'm not exactly happy about that. +10 points.

    Also, since this happened within the 30-day warranty period, I haven't had to pay for anything. They haven't even grumbled about the repairs they're having to do. Plus, my entire life growing up, whenever my parents had to put a car in the shop for repairs, they just had to make due without that car for as long as the repairs took. CarMax has given me a loaner car to drive each time they've had my WRX, which was unexpected and very helpful. In addition, I spoke with the service department operations manager, and he seemed very sympathetic and understanding. I told him that I really was blown away at how easy buying a car from them had been, and that I would love to be able to recommend CarMax to all my friends and family, but that having to put that car in the shop twice within 30 days of purchasing it made it kinda hard for me to do that. I also told him that since my car seems to be having some pretty serious problems, that began within the 30-day warranty period, I was kind of worried that my warranty would run out before it was all resolved satisfactorily. He said he understood, and that they will add another 30 days to the warranty period when I get my car back from this repair (in addition to the 6-month, 6,000-miles warranty on the specific repair they make).I realize 30 days isn't very long, but it's more than he technically had to do, so I appreciated it. +25 points

    Final Score: Positive overall. This has been a crappy situation, but Carmax seems to have handled it pretty well so far.
    Last edited by UncleMidriff; 08-13-2009 at 08:20 PM. Reason: typo

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