2003 WRX Diagnostic Nightmare, Please Help...
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This is a discussion on 2003 WRX Diagnostic Nightmare, Please Help... within the General Maintenance, Troubleshooting & Accidents. forums, part of the Tech & Modifying & General Repairs category; Well, to start off, I'm new to the forums.. I have however been reading them for the 2 years that ...

  1. #1
    Registered User sourcekode's Avatar
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    Red face 2003 WRX Diagnostic Nightmare, Please Help...

    Well, to start off, I'm new to the forums.. I have however been reading them for the 2 years that I have had my subie, and the great diagnosticians here have probably saved me upwards of 4k in repairs by figuring it out myself, and conducting my own repairs.. Unfortunately now, I am in need of some serious help.

    The car is an 03 bugeye wrx wagon, some mods I know about, some I dont as i bought it used a few years ago. I have put a spectra short ram, sti tmic, forge bov, samco hose kit, new maf, apexi 3" catless exaust, and recently changed nearly every vacuum line in the entire car.

    The car used to run perfectly, pulled extremely hard, about 1.7 bars of boost, steady idle, zero problems, may have well been brand new. Then I deployed for a year to iraq, with the car left to my wife's vices, and returned to a much different machine then when I left.

    The problem started a few months ago, the battery in the car had gone dead from it sitting while the wife was on vacation for a few weeks, she returned, replaced the battery, and as far as i can tell this started a downfall of nightmarish problems.

    First the car lost the ability to idle on its own, she took it to a shop here, and they said it was the IACV, replaced it, same problem, she took it back, they replaced the bov with the stock recirc and said that should fix it. The car eventually seemed to fix its own idle issue, but the recirc had nothing to do with the problem. Then i returned. I jumped in the car and started to drive like usual (I.E. Like a bat out of hell) went to WOT and BAM, Hard stutter under boost, maybe hit one bar, and then just shook the car to hell. Researched on your forums, and found it may be fuel cut, No CEL, and didnt seem to match all symptoms because the car began having trouble accelerating under any boost at all.

    I began thinking that it was possibly a vac leak somewhere around the engine compartment (The biggest problems are usually the smallest things, right?) so i got some carb cleaner and started spraying around every vac connection in the engine bay listening for a change in the idle.. nothing, but i figured it would cost me about 12 bucks, and new vac lines couldnt hurt anything, so i replaced them all anyway.

    Then i heard it could be boost leak or boost creep, I've been told that boost leak is usually very loud, so it seemed unlikely because the car isnt making any unusual sounds, and boost creep could cause me to hit fuel cut, but now the car isnt cutting fuel, its just not accelerating AT ALL. The car runs fine until there is any load on the engine. If im driving and i can keep the boost press in the negatives, it seems like its perfect, but the second i hit a small incline and the car goes over 0 bar it will quickly jump to .5 bar and loose all power. the engine stays running, but it will not accelerate until i drop the revs and get the boost back under 0. there doesnt seem to be any real misfire, but i have noticed now that when i downshift into second i am much more likely to get a backfire, this however is not setting off a CEL either. I have checked the restrictor pill, its still there, and i tried putting the car into diagnostic mode to see if i could hear a click, but no dice, I have heard mixed messages about weather this actually will cause it to click or not.

    I LOVE my car, and it is making me severely depressed to watch it sit in my driveway day after day as i drive my wifes mitsubishi to work everyday. Any help, suggestions or things i havent tried are welcome. Im desperate, I would sever my wrist and pour blood into the throttle body if someone told me it would work at this point. There some automotive geniuses on this site, some come on outta the woodwork, and lemme know what stupid thing i have missed thats gonna fix my baby ;-)

    Thanks again everyone, and im hoping the solution comes out of this!

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    Moderator Donkey's Avatar
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    First thing would be to take the intake off. That Autozone POS is horrible and is doing more harm than good. Either get a decent intake or go back to the stock airbox. Boost leaks don't always present themselves with an audible noise. To properly test you need to make an adapter that allows you to pressurize the system with a air compressor. Running 1.7 bar of boost with no tuning is just asking for trouble. Not smart at all. I'm assuming you have an MBC? And what octane gas has your wife been using?
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    Registered User sourcekode's Avatar
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    I know the air filter is cheap, im working on getting a better one atm. I will see if i can pressure check the intercooler for leaks at the tuner shop here on oahu, the boost controller is stock, my wife was running 93 octane pump, with 10% ethanol. Is it possible to just pipe the turbo to the intake on the throttle body without the intercooler and see if the problem persists? Or can I just eliminate the turbo from the loop by just removing the tmic and attaching the air filter to the intake on the tb and see if it just runs? I may not be able to afford the repairs atm but im trying to find a temporary solution that wont turn it into a permanant problem. I dont know if the previous owner had it flashed or tuned, but it was fast as hell, and i would like to get it back there :-). Thanks again for your reply!

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    He simply abides. SD_GR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sourcekode View Post
    about 1.7 bars
    Please confirm this number. I find it alarming.
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  6. #5
    Moderator Donkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sourcekode View Post
    I know the air filter is cheap, im working on getting a better one atm.
    Well it's not just the airfilter,it's the whole thing. Read this:
    CobbTuning.com - Aftermarket Intakes
    Quote Originally Posted by sourcecode
    Is it possible to just pipe the turbo to the intake on the throttle body without the intercooler and see if the problem persists? Or can I just eliminate the turbo from the loop by just removing the tmic and attaching the air filter to the intake on the tb and see if it just runs?
    Absolutely not. And 1.7 bar is 24psi. Stock boost is 13.5psi. If your doing this on the stock turbo and injectors your doing serious damage to the motor and turbo. For one the stock injectors can't even flow enough to handle that much boost,so now you have a lean condition. Second that POS Spectre intake is a 3" tube. The stock MAF housing is 2.8". That is another lean condition. Honestly it really sound like your in over your head. You probably have a buch of compounded issues that are now rearing their head unless you have a bunch of mods you do not know about. I'm seeing a lot of red flags. It might have felt like it was running great but on paper it looks like a ticking time bomb. Thinking the car runs great and knowing the car runs great are two different thing and is a common mistake made by many. Just because a car runs doesn't mean it's running good . The first thing I tell people is do not buy a modded car unless you know how to fix it. That means understanding functionally how things work in able to troubleshoot because 50% of the time your buying someone else's problem/headache. I know you don't want to hear this but you really need to take the car to a professional tuner shop for a once over to determine what state of tune the car is in and identify all mods/issues. Or maybe post in the regional forums to see if someone maybe is close by that can take a look at the car in person. It's very hard to diagnosis a problem like this over the internet as there a lot of variables,posing issues and no hard data to view. Alot of members have the ability to datalog the car and post it along with pulling the ROM image from the ECU. I would start with cleaning the MAF,check the fuel pressure,change the fuel filter,compression/leakdown test,boost leak test. You need to find out 100% exactly what mods are on that car.
    Last edited by Donkey; 08-15-2011 at 09:15 AM.
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  7. #6
    Registered User sourcekode's Avatar
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    Yes, between 1.5 and 1.7 bars peak, With the intake there are 2 interior fittings in the maf housing to shrink the interior diameter of the pipe to the correct size, and it is not piped completely to the turbo, it connects to the original piping where it was fitted to the box. I do a lot of dirt track so it was a benefit to be to get a cheap rinse oil and re-use filter instead of constantly having to get new airfilters for the car.I am taking the car to the shop today to try to get more information on what mods the car may have that im not aware of, im sure that it had to have been flashed or something to have been producing the amount of boost it was without hitting fuel cut or blowing up... if i can get a data-log i will post it here for scrutiny. Hopefully after all is said and done, i dont end up needing a new engine after this. any idea what components in particular may have been damaged if the car were running in an extremely lean condition for an extended period of time? this could save me some hassle at the shop... Thanks again for your response..

  8. #7
    Moderator Donkey's Avatar
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    Lean condition could have caused detonation,burnt valve,excessive EGT's,blown ringlands.
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    Registered User sourcekode's Avatar
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    Ok, quick update on situation.. took to STS808 today to have the guys there take a look at my ride, the guys there pulled a favor for a friend of mine and checked it even though they really specialize in euro tuners.. drove it around a bit, examined engine. They pulled it apart and said that the engine is mechanically fine, all seals are intact and physically the car is fine, turbo checks out as well. Suggested it was possibly a fuel problem because all fuel on the island contains 10% ethanol, so i should again change the fuel filter and check the catch that is on the pump. Changed fuel filter just now, and strangely noticed an improvement, but its still cutting out. Im checking the catch on the pump tommorow, and next thurs im taking to munkey wurks in honolulu to check the tune on the car. Ill post once I have some data from the computers and dyno down there. Until then, wish me luck!

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    Registered User sourcekode's Avatar
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    Update

    So Took the car to munkywurks in honolulu, had them check it out. Turns out there are are a lot more modifications to the car than I had initially thought, it has a 20g turbo, 3" cobb up pipe and down pipe, aftermarket injectors, aftermarket fuel pump approx 350, partial sti conversion, all suspension, intercooler, has a cusco sway bar, rear is sti, tranny still the 5 spd though. on the dyno did 389bhp 342 ft. lbs. tourque. Problem ended up being a hole in the intercooler silicone piping on the bottom of intercooler where it connects to the turbo, the boost blew a hole in it essentially, but it was original and from 2003, so im replacing with samco kit as soon as i can, its been running rich with the hole, the problem happened when the MAF told the ECU that it was bringing air, and the ECU would dump fuel for it, and then the air never came, so the car freaked out. Thanks everyone for all your help! Looking forward to hitting the strip again, will post a video with link once its all back to cherry ;-)

  11. #10
    Moderator Donkey's Avatar
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    Good deal! Glad you got it sorted out.
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