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Old 10-17-2012, 08:37 PM   #1
tantric rex
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Hey everyone. Trying to figure out if a new motor is the only solution to my recent problem.

Noticed my stock 2008 WRX with 150,000 miles losing a little highway power over a weekend trip to the mountains (before I hit any inclines). Stopped to check it out and had to crank for a good 5 seconds before the engine turned, running very (read: violently) rough at low revs but relatively smooth at high revs, etc. but no smoke from the exhaust, no gasoline smell, and no fluids leaking from the engine. Didn't have any choice but to finish the trip. Dumped a can of Seafoam in a full tank of gas when I got home on Sunday, drove 2 miles and idled 20 minutes. Monday morning the car started right up and was running much smoother but I still took it to my reputable local shop (Shop A) for diagnosis.

They pulled codes P0301, 302, 304 Engine Misfire. So...compression test:
#1 : 110
#2 : 0
#3 : 110
#4 : 110
[they said tolerances for my EJ255 engine are 140-190]. Assuming they tested on a cold engine I'm not as worried about the 110's as I am about the total loss of compression on #2. They said the spark plugs looked fine. Recommendation: REPLACE ENGINE.

New motor (parts only) from Subaru seems like $6k-$7k, rebuilt EJ255 is around $3.5k. Car is worth $8k-$9k.

I talked to another shop (Shop B) who immediately diagnosed over the phone as burned valve(s). They said it's common on turbos and offered to do a valve job for under $1k.

This is my first turbo engine and the first time I've had misfiring cylinders. The valve job seems like a more reasonable fix than trashing the whole engine but I'd hate to get into that and realize it's not the right fix. Anyone out there have any insights to help figure out what's up?

**Edit: Found that I have blowback from the oil filler this morning. Started the engine, removed oil filler cap and felt puffs of air coming up. Other posts suggest this could indicate ring failure. Shop B says this is completely normal. Anyone have a 3rd opinion?

============================
IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING...
============================
Timing belt/tune up service was in March at 130k miles by the same shop that provided the above diagnosis.

This is a commuter car. I don't drive like my grandma but I am a pretty responsible operator...don't race, drop the clutch, rev/redline the engine, etc.

I am the original owner and switched to Mobil 1 5W30 synthetic oil & extended life filter pretty early on. I've been changing oil/filter every 7 - 7.5k miles...which I am now learning is likely too long an interval for the turbo engine. I've also learned I should probably use 10W40 now that the mileage is so high.

Full Disclosure: Check engine light has been on and off since June due to intermittent vapor in the gas tank. I figured no big deal and I'll get to it when I can. I suppose at some point the lights stayed on steady but I didn't realize that MAYBE there was another issue. Completely ignorant and irresponsible, I agree.
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Last edited by tantric rex; 10-18-2012 at 10:47 AM.
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Old 10-18-2012, 06:18 PM   #2
tantric rex
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UPDATE 10/18/12

Spoke with another shop (Shop C?) who pulled a TSB and says it's a cracked piston. what?

started a new thread with info and question on the TSB here: http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show....php?t=2422072

Last edited by tantric rex; 10-18-2012 at 07:36 PM.
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Old 10-18-2012, 06:24 PM   #3
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Puffs of air at idle are normal. Rev the motor a little and it should stop. But there should never be smoke.
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Old 10-18-2012, 06:33 PM   #4
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Zero compression on cylinder 2? Is that possible while still being able to drive the car? You should recheck that number again for sure. A diagnosis over the phone should be taken with a grain of salt. Maybe others can chime in. I've never read anything in here with a compression test reading 0 in a cylinder. That sounds very strange.
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Old 10-18-2012, 07:34 PM   #5
tantric rex
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@boosted25: thanks for the confirmation. no smoke to date

@some dude: i spoke with the tech who ran the test when I picked up the car. he also said he was shocked to see *zero* compression and that he checked his guage on another cyl to make sure it wasnt malfunctioning. are you suggesting i have another shop run a compression test? (don't have the tools or the knowledge to do it myself) if so, is there anything else that might be worth checking out while the hood is up?

think a leakdown test, or maybe even just checking my timing, would help sort out if i need a new motor or just some tinkering?

Last edited by tantric rex; 10-18-2012 at 07:42 PM.
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Old 10-18-2012, 07:49 PM   #6
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Honestly the motor is probably pretty tired anyway with the mileage. But a badly burned valve won't seal so you wouldn't have compression. I have seen a completely dead cylinder with 0 compression a few times due to a bad valve. Bent, burnt, or whatever other reason that causes it to not to seat.
Might be a long shot but maybe find a place that has rebuilt long blocks that use yours as a trade in kinda thing for some money off and just swap it out.
Google is your friend
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Old 10-18-2012, 08:44 PM   #7
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thats some insane mileage! im about to turn just 50k on my 08 wrx. good luck with your problem.
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Old 10-19-2012, 05:27 AM   #8
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Hopefully a pro can chime on. My guess would also be a valve not closing properly. If it isn't that, then your piston is screwed in a major way. you should be able to hear air in the intake or exhaust if it was a bad valve right?
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Old 10-19-2012, 05:45 AM   #9
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Boroscope into Cyl #2. Check for any obvious damage to piston face. If you're lucky you might be able to inspect the valves as well.

Boroscope is going to be your best bet to see any physical damage, short of pulling that head off, which isn't cheap but you'll probably have to do either way.

If it's just a valve and no damage to piston face, count yourself lucky.
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Old 10-19-2012, 11:45 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 424wrx View Post
thats some insane mileage! im about to turn just 50k on my 08 wrx. good luck with your problem.
Me too. I was pretty glad to see he got 150,000 out of it!

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Old 10-19-2012, 02:15 PM   #11
tantric rex
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alistairh View Post
Boroscope into Cyl #2.
Never 'scoped an engine before, and none of the techs I talked to suggested it but I'll start asking. Thanks for the idea! I'd love to get more recon to help make a decision...but it's gonna have to happen quick!

Anybody want to suggest a shop in the DMV that might hook this up?
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Old 10-19-2012, 02:19 PM   #12
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UPDATE 10/19/12

Thanks for the input and well wishes everyone!

Talked to the dealer today for more info on the TSB mentioned in the OP and he was also impressed that the WRX ran for 150k.

Although the car's been great, I'm not sure it justifies the cost of dropping a new (rebuilt) motor alongside a turbo, trannie, and suspension with 150k on them...I think other things will start to go sooner rather than later.

What I'm thinking right now is to have the dealer give a 2nd opinion on the compression test and do a leakdown. Unless bad valves are completely ruled out I may give a valve job a shot before I throw down for a 2013 WRX...for peace of mind if nothing else.

ALSO OF NOTE:

Last night I ran about 3/4 bottle of Seafoam through my vac line. Being a little impatient, I barely let it soak for 10 minutes before I ran it for another 10. Blew a bunch of smoke. I started the car earlier today and drove a mile and the engine is still shaking but seems to be running slightly smoother at idle and low revs (under 2k). Might try to run another bottle through tonight. Do these results mean anything to anyone?
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Old 10-19-2012, 03:39 PM   #13
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Put bluntly, I'd stop with all the sea foaming. You're bound to start messing up sensors or even possibly risk hydrolocking the motor. Something mechanical is broken in your motor and all the sea foam in the world isn't going to fix it now.
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Old 10-19-2012, 03:49 PM   #14
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Put bluntly, I'd stop with all the sea foaming. You're bound to start messing up sensors or even possibly risk hydrolocking the motor. Something mechanical is broken in your motor and all the sea foam in the world isn't going to fix it now.
This.

If it's a piston the motor has to come out. If it's a valve the motor has to come out. I would have a shop pull it to investigate, then go from there.

tantric rex I think I met you a long time ago.
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Old 10-19-2012, 06:22 PM   #15
tantric rex
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@MaddMax thanks for pulling me back from the ledge.

@Matt_H ditto. we did meet at a woodbridge meetup when both of our wrxs were fresh from the dealer! 150k miles later i might be shopping for a new one. hope yours is doing better if i remember you had a badass white rex with tinted windows and tail lights?

you wouldn't want to recommend any local shops would you?
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Old 10-19-2012, 08:08 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tantric rex View Post
@Matt_H ditto. we did meet at a woodbridge meetup when both of our wrxs were fresh from the dealer! 150k miles later i might be shopping for a new one. hope yours is doing better if i remember you had a badass white rex with tinted windows and tail lights?

you wouldn't want to recommend any local shops would you?
That's the one, I traded it in for a 08 STI. I actually just got low compression last week and I just parked my car yesterday. Started knocking on the high way and I did a compression test the next day. I have a motor in the works to drop in which I'm hoping happens in a month or so.

If I remember correct you're in the Springfield area? I would recommend Andrewtech. I would be having them do my block if I didn't get in on a group buy.
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Old 10-19-2012, 10:13 PM   #17
tantric rex
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wow you lucky dawg! congrats! ...on the sti...bummer for the low compression. thanks for the heads up on andrewtech too. i'll give them a call on monday and see when i can get my car up to gaithersburg. i hope they're equipped to scope the engine like Alistairh suggested.
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Old 10-22-2012, 12:38 PM   #18
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With zero compression on one cyl why are you seafoaming? The ZERO compression pretty much solidifies that you need a new piston installed at the VERY LEAST.

Also, Mobil1 5w-30 is garbage for these motors. Can't say it caused your engine failure.....unless it burned away like it does on many Subaru motors and then you were running low on oil many times over. You might want to research Mobil1 5w-30 and Subaru before using on your next Subaru or replacement motor.
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Old 10-22-2012, 12:45 PM   #19
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After you get 0 compression, they shouldve done a leakdown or boresocped it to determine the actual cause.

And stop putting in seafoam, there is no point.

M@
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Old 11-06-2012, 12:00 PM   #20
tantric rex
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Quick update, still working on this one. Thanks to suggestions, I took the Rex to a local shop that has a little fiber camera. He removed the plug on one cylinder on the passenger side and called me out to see the display. Showed some gouging on the piston head (very visible thanks to seafoaming we figured) and what he said were damaged valves. I don't think this was my #2 cyl with zero compression but he told me that to check all of the cylinders would be considerably more work because they weren't as accessible.

However, he gave a very confident diagnosis that the timing belt had jumped, causing bent valves. Also says that the timing jump explains zero compression since valves would still be open when they needed to be closed to create compression. Bad tensioner maybe? Anyways, after listening to the engine under load he felt comfortable that a valve job and redoing timing belt service would keep me on the road.

I can follow the logic in his theory, but does it make sense to anyone else?
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Old 11-06-2012, 03:23 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tantric rex View Post
Quick update, still working on this one. Thanks to suggestions, I took the Rex to a local shop that has a little fiber camera. He removed the plug on one cylinder on the passenger side and called me out to see the display. Showed some gouging on the piston head (very visible thanks to seafoaming we figured) and what he said were damaged valves. I don't think this was my #2 cyl with zero compression but he told me that to check all of the cylinders would be considerably more work because they weren't as accessible.

However, he gave a very confident diagnosis that the timing belt had jumped, causing bent valves. Also says that the timing jump explains zero compression since valves would still be open when they needed to be closed to create compression. Bad tensioner maybe? Anyways, after listening to the engine under load he felt comfortable that a valve job and redoing timing belt service would keep me on the road.

I can follow the logic in his theory, but does it make sense to anyone else?
Sounds to me like he's a pretty decent mechanic.
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Old 11-06-2012, 04:24 PM   #22
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That's what I would think it is. Maybe you busted one valve completely, that's why you're getting 0 compression. Check the turbo to make sure it didn't eat it...

Edit: Pistons may need replacing too with the damage. Probably go with a new shortblock?
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Old 11-06-2012, 06:11 PM   #23
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Subscribed. Thanks for the updates. I can't offer technical advice that hasn't already been offered, but I'm interested in the outcome. Good luck man.
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Old 11-06-2012, 06:26 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drewvdw View Post
That's what I would think it is. Maybe you busted one valve completely, that's why you're getting 0 compression. Check the turbo to make sure it didn't eat it...

Edit: Pistons may need replacing too with the damage. Probably go with a new shortblock?
If the pistons are gone he might as well get a new engine between a valve job and timing belt and a shortblock!!!


Just curious. had the belt been replaced at 105k as is suggested maintenance or is it the original belt?
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Old 11-06-2012, 06:49 PM   #25
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He said he had a timing belt job done before. And you may be right, the heads could be damaged as well.
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