Stock 2002 WRX, 67k miles, blown engine?!
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This is a discussion on Stock 2002 WRX, 67k miles, blown engine?! within the General Maintenance, Troubleshooting & Accidents. forums, part of the Tech & Modifying & General Repairs category; Hey guys, used to lurk here a while back, but haven't been around in several years. Looking for some advice... ...

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    Stock 2002 WRX, 67k miles, blown engine?!

    Hey guys, used to lurk here a while back, but haven't been around in several years. Looking for some advice...

    I bought a WRX right after graduating college in May of 2002. Love the car. Ended up with a job pretty close to where I live in NoVA, and commuted by bike most of the time. The car, while 8.5 years old, doesn't have that many miles on it (Just under 67k).

    Last weekend, on the way to meet some friends for some mountainbiking, the car started making this nasty knocking/rattling noise. The engine quickly lost power and then died entirely. I ended up leaving it on the shoulder and getting a ride home.

    The following day, I got it towed to the nearest Subaru dealer. They checked it out and said that the turbo and shortblock were both dead. Basically the engine imploded. Their quote was $6900 to repair (replace the turbo and engine).

    The car is and always has been completely stock (aside from the stereo and tires). Its been maintained. The 60k service was just done a few months ago, before some road trips I took over the summer.

    I'm trying to figure out what could have caused an engine with so few miles to up and implode? I contacted SOA, but they declined to help with the repair at all, even after getting my maintenance history to make sure the car had been take care of. They did offere a $1000 rebate on a new car. I lost my job back in April and can't afford either a new car or a new engine (hell, I could barely afford to tow the car to the dealership).

    I'm not a car guy at all, but it seems weird as hell for a stock engine with less than 70k miles to just... die. Especially in a Subaru, which supposedly has a decent reliability reputation. Is this unusual?

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    Subaru Newb MainFrame's Avatar
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    Is it unusual? Yes. I've seen many cars that were highly abused last much longer. Hell, you could have probably driven the car that long with out ever doing any maintenance other than topping off the oil and it would last over 100k miles.


    If the turbo and shortblock really are both gone my best guess is that it had no oil in it at the time it failed (less than 1qt.). Something may have happened to cause the oil to drain, but it would be hard not to notice.



    It's hard to say what happened without actually looking at the car.

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    I pressed the dealer about what exactly caused it to fail, but they haven't really said anything except that they'd need to tear the engine down to figure it out. They did say that the oil level was really low. I've had it changed religiously for the life of the car, most recently about 2k miles/3 months ago when I got the 60k service done. Dunno what would have caused it to suddenly have no oil in it. I don't remember ever seeing any puddles under the car or anything, and up till now everyone who has changed the oil said the old stuff looked fine.

    The Subaru dealer and SOA seem pretty disinterested in figuring out exactly what happened. I'm just trying to find out if theres something I can press them on to look at. I mean, something had to be wrong for the engine to die, right?

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    Registered User 06scoobyrex's Avatar
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    Did you notice any oil leaking anywhere prior to the failure? Could it have been the stock catalytic converter breaking and getting sucked through the turbo into the engine? Just some generalized possibilities, but that just seems really strange.... was there anyother symptoms earlier then just that one day when it blew up on you? If not then it had to have been something all of the sudden...
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    Subaru Newb MainFrame's Avatar
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    I don't see how catalytic converter material could go through the turbo into the engine. I mean, the catalytic converter isn't in the intake.



    It's entirely possible that someone botched your last oil change, causing it to leak out ridiculously fast (but that's something you would probably notice). I've seen people at a dealership put drain plugs back in with an air ratchet, etc.



    You didn't notice any new sounds from the engine prior to the failure? When oil gets low valves usually get abnormally noisy..

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    Quote Originally Posted by MainFrame View Post
    You didn't notice any new sounds from the engine prior to the failure? When oil gets low valves usually get abnormally noisy..
    Hmmm... The engine definitely had a strange whine to it a few times after the service. In fact, I'd been planning on getting it back to that dealer to have them check it out over Christmas. But it seemed to be running ok.

    Definitely nothing like the noise right before it failed. I generally have the stereo pretty loud, but I heard that rattling/knocking even over the stereo. I remember turning the stereo down and thinking "WTF is that noise?!". I was trying to decide whether to attempt to nurse it home or pull over when it surged and died.

    I definitely noticed no leakage. I checked my parking spot (we have reserved parking, so my car was parked there almost the entire time since the last change) and I don't see any spots on the ground. I had the oil changed at a dealership near my dads house in PA though, so if the oil leaked out immediately afterwards I admittedly might not have noticed.

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    Resident meany-rator 06wrx4me's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jabberwocky View Post
    I definitely noticed no leakage. I checked my parking spot (we have reserved parking, so my car was parked there almost the entire time since the last change) and I don't see any spots on the ground. I had the oil changed at a dealership near my dads house in PA though, so if the oil leaked out immediately afterwards I admittedly might not have noticed.
    If they forgot to fill it up with enough oil when you had it changed, it would explain the lack of a leak.
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    Subaru Newb MainFrame's Avatar
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    Was it like a clickity clackity noise? It could even be possible that they didn't put enough, or too much oil in it at the last change. You never know unless you check.


    Everything aside, at this point it would be pretty hard to prove anything so you're pretty much out of luck, which really sucks. I feel your loss man. I bought an 02 when they first came out and took really good care of it for five and a half years before it died before its time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MainFrame View Post
    Was it like a clickity clackity noise? It could even be possible that they didn't put enough, or too much oil in it at the last change. You never know unless you check.
    I guess it was kinda clickity clackity. Only intermittently though. Almost a whine when the car was under power, with maybe a hint of rattle.

    Quote Originally Posted by MainFrame View Post
    Everything aside, at this point it would be pretty hard to prove anything so you're pretty much out of luck, which really sucks. I feel your loss man. I bought an 02 when they first came out and took really good care of it for five and a half years before it died before its time.
    I kinda figure this is the case. I appreciate the suggestions. A friend also recommended I check the timing belt. He says if it went prematurely (or was improperly tensioned) it could cause the engine to self destruct.

    I'm talking with an independent mechanic here in Sterling VA (who actually drives a 2003 WRX). He's looking into a used motor for me. Hoping to be able to get the car running for a lot less than the dealerships 6900 quote.

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    Registered User 06scoobyrex's Avatar
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    That sucks man... its always sad to see a subbie in pain...
    you might want to check nasioc classifieds to see if you can find a used engine... or even look into a shorblock... take the heads to a machine shop (if needed) and do a gasket change plus the normal things you'd replace when rebuilding a motor and have someone put it in for you...
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    This makes me a very sad panda poor subbie

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    Shame you never modded it.

    Very sorry for your loss.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MainFrame View Post
    I don't see how catalytic converter material could go through the turbo into the engine. I mean, the catalytic converter isn't in the intake.



    It's entirely possible that someone botched your last oil change, causing it to leak out ridiculously fast (but that's something you would probably notice). I've seen people at a dealership put drain plugs back in with an air ratchet, etc.



    You didn't notice any new sounds from the engine prior to the failure? When oil gets low valves usually get abnormally noisy..
    The early WRX's had 3 cat's, one was pre-turbo, that's why it was so popular to change the up-pipe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Micah View Post
    Shame you never modded it.
    Ironically, I never got into modding because I didn't want to risk the reliability of the car. Seems kinda silly now, doesn't it?

    A friend recommended a local mechanic, who specializes in Nissans but actually drives an 03 WRX wagon just like mine. He is looking for a used motor for me. I talked with him, and he says he blew up the engine in his 2003 a few years ago (racing) and managed to get a used JDM motor for around 2k and swapped it in. He's looking for something similar for me. Fingers crossed that he finds something. He's also willing to check out the old engine and see if he can determine exactly why it failed, too, which the dealer so far hasn't seemed willing to do.

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    Subaru Newb MainFrame's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by camino cielo View Post
    The early WRX's had 3 cat's, one was pre-turbo, that's why it was so popular to change the up-pipe.


    Correct.. that still doesn't mean that there is any way parts of it could go into the engine.

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