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Old 01-23-2013, 03:38 PM   #1
bddgsxr
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Default 08+ Multiple Piston Failures (long read)

For the record I like to ramble a bit (okay, much more than a bit) so those of you who don't like to read long boring sob stories click the back button I won't be offended. I'm not the most articulate, intelligent individual nor am I a writer I like to consider myself a babbler so have fun bashing me

I am looking for a place to share with others who have had the same or similar story and try to find some reason for my problem but mainly just to vent. Call me selfish I don't care. Who knows maybe this will help someone else.

My story: It all started when I was just a boy... Wrong story, sorry.

There is probably a bunch of this story that I'm forgetting and there is always the other side of the story but it's my story, so there...

I bought a 2008 STi in Oct 2011 with 18,000 miles. The previous owner is a close friend and customer of mine and I was confident that the car was cared for with the utmost attention (he recorded every time he waxed it). I reviewed all service records and carfax. I researched the STi before I bought it and felt comfortable that the car still had a bunch of powertrain warranty still intact. The previous owner and I are both middle aged men (like that matters). His recollection is that around 15k miles he brought the car to the dealer for loss of power and some other minor issues and the dealer informed him that there was a computer update that needed to happen. They also told him that cylinder 4 compression was out of operating limits and they would replace the piston under warranty. Three days later he got the car back and it ran perfect. However, he has no paperwork from the dealer about the piston repair (different story). Kinda fishy I think now but I thought it would be ok.

List of modifications completed prior to my purchase:
perrin 25 mm sway bars front/rear
perrin end-links
h & r springs front/rear
kenwood navigation

After a long drive to his summer home where the car was being stored for the winter I finally was in the driver's seat but I was so excited to get moving I forgot the spare keys, stock springs and sway bars and the service records (foreshadow). I got the car with 18k and the first thing I did after my drive home was change the oil, plugs, air filter, wiper blades , battery and checked everything under the roof, including: all fluids, brakes rotors/pads, tires, engine compression, bulbs and everything else I could reach without tearing the drive train out. I install remote starters so I really wanted to put one in this car but I decided against it because of the balance of warranty and I wanted to avoid any possible issues, besides I forgot the spare key needed for the bypass. I read the owners manual to reset the rev warning light. He had it set to 6000 and that seemed to be a bit high for my needs so I set it to alert me at 5000 rpm. Everything was as I expected the car ran like a champ and handled like any race car I could imagine. This was the first day of owning MY new Subaru. 6 hours or combing through the car looking for problems. I took apart every plastic panel in the car and put closed cell foam around the edges to stop the squeaks and rattles. It is still a bit loud in the cabin while cruising but there are no rattles!

5 months and 6,000 miles later I noticed a bit of hesitation in the rain and at first I thought I was just slipping under acceleration. Boy was I wrong. The next day it was dry and the same thing happened. No CEL but the hesitation seemed to get worse so I pulled the plugs and did a compression test. With my results not good (#4 50psi and 150 on the rest) I headed to a local Subaru dealer for inspection. Keep in mind I didn't disclose my compression test results. The first thing they said was that my warranty was void if I didn't have service records. That is actually the first thing they said after I told them my concern. Knowing that the previous owner had kept such detailed records I knew this was not a problem (another story I actually had to drive 400 miles to get the records). The very next thing they said was the warranty was void if there were any modifications to the car. I asked if suspension upgrades would be considered. With an arrogant laugh I was told my suspension warranty has expired. I know jerk but that wasn't my question! (I didn't say it but I wanted to). They set me up with a rental, a 200k+ miles forester with a broken windshield and a check engine light! The next day I received a call to inform me that my turbo was bad and since I didn' have the service records in the glove box it would be repaired at my cost of $1800. At this point I am starting to get upset but the worst has yet to come. I asked f they had done a compression test and if they could call another shop to get confirmation of service records. They said no to both requests. Accusations of major engine modifications started to fly and short of calling me a liar directly they hung up on me. I called SoA. Holy crap this is terrible! So as not to end up in a verbal fight with the caller I decided to go the more civil route. I charged down there in my new forester with the broken windshield and CEL to engage in a fist fight. He was not there. So I got the keys to the STi and decided to take it to another dealer. I limped the car the 15 or so miles to the next closest Subaru dealer while on the phone with SoA.

The new service department was much more friendly. They offered to set me up with a loaner but I had arranged another vehicle so I declined but not before I asked what the car was. I just had to know if the 10 year old forester was a common rental/loaner for Subaru dealers. They offered me a 2012 legacy outback (I think) and they were not requesting I pay for it. Nonetheless this was starting to shape up into a decent experience. After a long trip to retrieve the service records, keys and suspension parts I left behind a few months ago I finally had the answer I wanted. My engine would be covered under warranty. They told me that my turbo, which was diagnosed by the previous dealer as bad, was actually fine. The remedy was to replace 1 piston. Woha! That has already been done and it didn't last 10k miles. That is protocol for the repair if they find no other issues I guess but to do it again. I didn't like the sound of this so I questioned why they would not just replace the motor. Well it so happens that there is no record of the first piston replacement. Whatever, I just wanted my car back, but now I think I should have pressed a bit more. They told me the car would be done in a week or so and satisfied my immediate desire. I asked them to do the 30k mile recommended service and check the brakes while they had it so I was expecting to pay for at least that. I figured I would be in for $800 plus or minus $200 for the service, so I was happy when they gave me a bill for $260. Wow, these guys were my heroes. Car ran like a dream for 30 miles until the check engine light came on. I plugged in the code reader to find something with the cruise control. Not to mention the 20 or so nuts and bolts that flew off of the windshield when I busted the u-turn to head back to the dealer. I got out and tried to gather up all of the bolts but only managed to find a hand full from the road and another hand full from the wind shield pocket. When I returned to the dealer the next morning they found that a wire had been pinched while installing the piston. I am totally cool with that because I have worked on cars and things happen but the bolts missing is a different case. From my count at least 25 nuts and bolts were not installed. They said it was an oversight. New hardware was used and the old ones simply had not been disposed of properly. They apologized and sent me on my way. When I got home I popped the hood as any car guy would do and inspect the work. I just happen to be a pretty confident quasi mechanic so I start digging and looking for missing hardware. You know the mystery bolts that went for a flight. There were so many missing nuts and bolts I don't know where to begin. Let's just say I spent the better part of that day installing the missing bolts just from the turbo heat shield alone. The great part of owning the car is that when I get in the drivers seat and switch the knob to s# all of my stress goes away and I forget about everything behind me.

Skip to 10 months later: Rough idle, skips on start up, smokes like john wayne, and burns oil. Oh boy here we go again! I just did a compression test and whaddaya know! Cylinder #4 has gone on vacation again. This is a common theme with my rig. Maybe I need to get a 5 cylinder audi so when one goes I still have 4. Just kidding my last car was an Audi B7 S4 V8 and that is not an option ever again... EVER! Glove box latch, $980 center console latch $850 finally selling the pig, priceless! But is the Subaru any better? By my count 3 pistons in cylinder #4 by their's its 2. I really think that because there is no damage in any of the others there must be a problem with the actual block by now. If they think another piston in the same hole will fix the issue I have to consider the thought that they 1. don't really care, 2. don't really know or 3. just want my damn warranty to expire already so they can get this nightmare out of their hair. Take a screw and drive it into some wood until it spins freely then back it out. If you put the same size screw back in it will still not hold. Metal is less forgiving and a small score will reduce the integrity.

After the last failure I decided my passion for the car greatly outweighs the disgust so I began amassing the components necessary to have a reliable engine. I have a freshly bored block, forged pistons, rings, rods, bearings crank and all the fixings to go with it. This was all supposed to happen next winter as I will have the necessary time and cash to finish. Keep in mind that I don't want more power and I am fine with the stock turbo, intake, exhaust, fuel system and tune. I just want the car to make it to 150k. Now is that too much to ask?

Right now I am sitting here passing time while waiting for a service rep to call about the delivery of the car. It sits in the garage sans coil packs and plugs, intake and battery from the compression test. Not to mention it is 8 degrees outside and the garage isn't heated so re installing everything is not an option right now. If there was a dealer out there that would agree to install my parts instead of the same crap that has failed on numerous occasions I would pull the car there with dental floss and my riding mower. If not I will be forced to do the motor myself. I'm not sure this is a good idea but I don't want them to throw another pile of poop at the pile of poop that has a pile of poop already on it. If I find a a dealer that will fight to replace the entire motor I will again drag it there with my riding mower if need be.

Thanks for reading this rambling mess and if anyone cares I might pop in here and there for updates.

Best regards

p.s. I love my car just not the motor.
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:01 PM   #2
ah2049
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Subscribed for updates.

I hope your new build goes well. Make sure you get it tuned (cobb ap, Tactrix, etc), that will increase the new engine's longevity.
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:10 PM   #3
Hoon Goon
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I enjoyed your story, minus the #4 nightmare of course. I feel your pain, but I am also glad that you are in it to win it man. It looks like you have the $ to play, but it still sucks that you have been given the run around a bit.

After I bought my car (of course) I started looking (still do BTW) for WRXs and STIs every place I saw one sitting on a lot. Just looking.... I kept noticing one thing that kept poking me in the eye; I kept seeing a bunch (most) of the 08+ cars and even a lot of 05-07 ones sitting on lots with VERY low mileage. Anywhere from 8,000 miles to the low 20s. A lot of them. I started (and still do) wondering "why are people trading these things in with such low miles?" The cars look to be in immaculate condition, so what gives? Most would have had to have been upside down still with such new cars. I even have asked some sales guys what is up with no real answers. I have my own theories. Do you want to read them? Good. I think a lot of these cars have been blown up or something, folks get the warranty work done, and then just say eff it and trade them in. I suspect most get blown up by "kids" trying to be Ken Block or something doing AWD redline launches and trying to drift the things in parking lots. Not all though. Now, this does not make me feel good at all. A lot of the guys on here that have been working on these cars forever say that the Subaru reliability is a myth with the turbo cars, and always have been. I don't want to believe them, so I won't. I guess that the N/A models are pretty reliable and that is where the myth is propogated. These engines by design are not able to handle 300HP+/- safely I am told due to the small rod and main bearing surface areas, along with some rod bearing lube defficiencies, "bad" factory tunes, and blah blah blah. They are not big ole V8s for sure and are already wound pretty tight from the get go. That is one reason I have stayed stock, minus the Stage 1 fun I have with my AccessPort. I have an 08 that I just turned 67K in and have not had any internal failures (knock on wood). I am a maintenance OCD person and it sounds like you are too. I could be just lucky I suppose.

I think you are right about them just wanting you to go away. It would seem to me that a blown piston would indicate another problem and at lease rate a good solid honing of that cylynder wall. Leaving all those bolts out would have set me on fire because it shows that they really don't care. Get that baby built up and have some more fun.

When I saw "2008 STi in Oct 2011 with 18,000 miles" it made me have to ramble as well because I thought about all the cars I have seen with that same low mileage sitting on all hose lots. I also thought out loud I think "How could anyone have one of these cars and only put 18K on it". i can't say out of my lowly WRX. BTW, I went with a WRX because I don't want too fool with all that electronic wizardry and witchcraft that is the STI ten years from now because I am keeping this thing forever, even if I blow it up tomorrow.

Good luck to you and keep us posted. I hope that I made you feel a little better by rambling right here with you.

Ramble on brother.
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:17 PM   #4
Nickcrsx
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Good Story.

Subaru motors are garbage. everything else is top notch.

Now to figure our how to put an evo 9 motor into a STI we would have gold my friends! GOLD!
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:53 PM   #5
bddgsxr
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I just had a conversation with my 3 year old son about my car.

"Daddy why did it break?"

"son, I don't know"

"Why can't you fix it?"

"If I knew what was actually wrong with it I would be a wealthy man"

"Well just figure it out so you can get rich and buy a better car"

Wow put into perspective from a 3 year old!
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Old 01-23-2013, 08:51 PM   #6
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I don't believe for a second that the first piston was ever replaced. Subaru would most definitely have record of it. The fact that Subaru doesn't have record nor the previous owner means it was never replaced in my book.

It sucks you've had two blown pistons now. I think there's likely an issue with the block itself.
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Old 01-23-2013, 08:56 PM   #7
Hoon Goon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bddgsxr View Post
I just had a conversation with my 3 year old son about my car.

"Daddy why did it break?"

"son, I don't know"

"Why can't you fix it?"

"If I knew what was actually wrong with it I would be a wealthy man"

"Well just figure it out so you can get rich and buy a better car"

Wow put into perspective from a 3 year old!
You got that right! I have a 6 yo and 4 yo (both boys) that I am trying to turn to the darkside. They both refer to my WRX as "turbo car". Here is a regular conversation when we go out for a ride.

"Oh look daddy, it is a blue turbo car like yours!!!!"

"No, that is a doggone KIA Rondo....."

"Oh look daddy, it is a blue turbo car like yours!!!!"

"No, that is an old Dodge Colt....."

"Oh look daddy, it is a blue turbo car like yours!!!!"

After about ten of those I finaly submit and......

"Oh look daddy, it is a blue turbo car like yours!!!!"

"Yep"

Perspective indeed!
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Old 01-23-2013, 08:57 PM   #8
roadtrip1098
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Man that blows, I had an 08 WRX that I bought straight off the showroom floor- tuned the crap out of it (19 psi) on 91 octane. I kept reading these horror stories about the STi's blowing up and thank my lucky stars that the dealership didn't have any STi's the day I went in (cause that's what I would have left with). The WRX had about 70,000 on it when I traded it in - must have gotten lucky cause that was one tough SOB.
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Old 01-23-2013, 09:01 PM   #9
Hoon Goon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaddMax View Post
I don't believe for a second that the first piston was ever replaced. Subaru would most definitely have record of it. The fact that Subaru doesn't have record nor the previous owner means it was never replaced in my book.

It sucks you've had two blown pistons now. I think there's likely an issue with the block itself.
I am with you 100% on that Max. Love the screen name! Who runs Bartertown?
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Old 01-23-2013, 10:31 PM   #10
bddgsxr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaddMax View Post
I don't believe for a second that the first piston was ever replaced. Subaru would most definitely have record of it. The fact that Subaru doesn't have record nor the previous owner means it was never replaced in my book.

It sucks you've had two blown pistons now. I think there's likely an issue with the block itself.
I just returned from dinner with a group of Subaru guys/girls that meet every Wednesday. I was telling my story and someone brought this same issue up and got me to think there is most likely way more to this story. I was asked one question that made me dig a bunch deeper. "Why did he sell the car to you so cheap?" I paid $22,000 for the car which was way under its value.

Simple answer: He had just traded a 2008 impreza sport for a new 2012 STi sedan limited and was going through a divorce. So he just had too many cars. The funny thing is that he had all of them at the same time and all of them were serviced at the same dealership. I am going to dig into this a bit further. Is it possible that one of the other cars is listed in Subaru's database as having piston 4 replaced. I think I might be on to something here. Either way it doesn't matter but I have to know.

As far as the block being damaged, the dealership told me to DRIVE the car to them to be diagnosed. If there is not extensive block damage now, there will be after I boost it the 35 mile trip.
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Old 01-23-2013, 10:48 PM   #11
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All you need is the last 8 digits of the VIN, even if the dealership that did and LOST the warranty paper work. The claim still gets filed in subaru national history, and will be on the the VIN report any subaru dealer can pull up. It is entirely possible the dealer filed it under another VIN, but the warranty claim would have been rejected as those part numbers wouldn't apply to another model.

Stranger things have happened though.
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Old 01-24-2013, 12:26 PM   #12
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Here's the thread I was talking about. http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show....php?t=1632634
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Old 01-24-2013, 12:45 PM   #13
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It is 8 degrees above 0 right now. I am frozen to the bone. The plugs, coil packs, intake and battery are back in. I guess the dealer just wants to bill someone to re-take apart everything just to do the compression leakdown test all over again. The tow truck is on the way. It's headed to the dealer so I will know a bit more later.
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Old 01-24-2013, 01:17 PM   #14
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Sounds like you have some great dealers out there
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Old 01-24-2013, 01:45 PM   #15
My_06WRX
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Honda k20 FTW. 9000rpm all the way to 115,000 miles from new. not a single thing wrong. heavily modded with full bolt ons, cams and hondata too. I'm scared to modd my new subaru now too. had a mugen civic si before this.
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Old 01-24-2013, 03:36 PM   #16
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i enjoyed your story and have my own story, altought i definatly had a great dealership that worked with me. long story short i bought the car with 30k miles and the previous owner was an idiot and beat the **** out of it and then sold it right before it quit. i bought it from a ford dealership. and within 50 miles it was diagnosed with bad rings and a bent rod. the dealership that took care of me is Hilton head subaru. they replaced the ecu, turbo, clutch, and short block. the service managers name is bryan, awesome guy as well as the head tech named hugo. another awesome guy. he took me in the back and we chatted about the car on numerous occasions showed me all defective parts and everything. these guys are legit. had i had a dealership like the first you stated i would probably cry out of frustration... then probably burn the place down.
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Old 01-25-2013, 02:45 PM   #17
bddgsxr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by myblusti View Post
i enjoyed your story and have my own story, altought i definatly had a great dealership that worked with me. long story short i bought the car with 30k miles and the previous owner was an idiot and beat the **** out of it and then sold it right before it quit. i bought it from a ford dealership. and within 50 miles it was diagnosed with bad rings and a bent rod. the dealership that took care of me is Hilton head subaru. they replaced the ecu, turbo, clutch, and short block. the service managers name is bryan, awesome guy as well as the head tech named hugo. another awesome guy. he took me in the back and we chatted about the car on numerous occasions showed me all defective parts and everything. these guys are legit. had i had a dealership like the first you stated i would probably cry out of frustration... then probably burn the place down.
My parents live in Hilton Head, maybe I should tow it down and take a vacation. I think the tow bill might get a bit out of hand but its worth the thought. I'm glad there are happy endings for some people. My only hope is that I babied the car throughout my ownership and they will see how well cared for the car is. It's a shame that I am afraid to drive her the way she was intended because she sure wasn't built that way. Just keep the revs below 4500 and never push the accellerator past 65% to be in the safe side. Like I said "what a shame"
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Old 01-25-2013, 02:59 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bddgsxr View Post
My parents live in Hilton Head, maybe I should tow it down and take a vacation.
dealerships arent any better here man. hilton head suby just opened up( dont think they service there) savannah subaru dealership, the service center is at their toyota dealer.
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Old 01-25-2013, 05:23 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by My_06WRX View Post
Honda k20 FTW. 9000rpm all the way to 115,000 miles from new. not a single thing wrong. heavily modded with full bolt ons, cams and hondata too. I'm scared to modd my new subaru now too. had a mugen civic si before this.
I bought a 2000 Si Sedan new and ran it up into the 200,000s before I understeered it into a ditch. Honda builds the most reliable 4-bangers for sure. B16A2 FTW! If they had AWD Civics I would be driving one.....
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Old 01-25-2013, 05:38 PM   #20
bddgsxr
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I have been a European car owner since my first car. A Porsche 944 turbo. Thus us my first experience with Japanese engineering. I am totally disgusted and frustrated with the lack of build quality. From the rattles, interior cabin noise, paint quality and a whole long list of inefficiencies I have found that you don't really get what you pay for.

There are so many things that I hate about the car I don't know why I love it all at the same time. It must be the way it handles because that's the only part if my car that isn't stock.

I just talked to the dealer. The car has finally arrived. I'm expecting to find more out tomorrow.
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Old 01-28-2013, 11:07 AM   #21
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The service writer just called to ask why I felt the need to do a compression test. The tell tale sign for me was the engine skipping a beat on start up, not to mention the extreme hesitation. I'm not sure why the service department would need to know why I decided to check the problem myself. I am hopeful that they are just exploring every condition and cause and not looking to screw someone for the diagnostic fee. I felt like saying "would you ask me why I decided to check the air pressure in my tires if I told you my tire was flat?" I didn't say it. I will say however, that so far I am pleased with the attention the service writer is giving to me. I sure hope it continues so I can become a "Raving Fan" and give the dealership/service writer a great review. I am keeping the faith, for now!
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Old 01-28-2013, 05:41 PM   #22
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subscribed.
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Old 01-29-2013, 12:28 AM   #23
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good luck with the fix!
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Old 01-29-2013, 09:34 AM   #24
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wish it were white

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I talked to the service writer yesterday. He said the tech took it for a test drive and found that the car isn't running poorly so he said he asked me why I did the compression test based on the tech's result. Now it makes sense. Then the tech did the compression test and said he is surprised that the car was running at all based on the compression of #4. The motor is now out of the car and they are going to "do some measurements". Please cross you fingers and do a rain dance or something in hopes that they will finally replace the block.

I said previously that I was going to drive the car to the dealer and boost it the entire way there but I decided that it would be bad karma to intentionally make it worse. I had it towed there and now I'm regretting not driving it. Is karma real? I guess we will find out soon!
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:44 AM   #25
Ride1226
Scooby Specialist
 
Member#: 201483
Join Date: Jan 2009
Chapter/Region: SCIC
Location: SoCal
Vehicle:
2010 WRX
WRBM

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My 2010 wrx made it to 38k before going down. I suspect the ring land on #4 was cracked prior to everything going downhill because I would get white smoke on startup occasionally. Turbo bearing failed and it went in for that, I get it back and its spewing white smoke, goes back, entire short block replaced.
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