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Old 01-12-2016, 09:55 PM   #1
xull1x
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Pearl White

Default #4 ringland cracked on a 2010 WRX

I want to share my story and update you guys on what's going on. I would love to hear back from you guys.

A bit background about me,
I am a mechanical engineer, have my own shop with a cnc mill, cnc lathe, tig welder, and other fabrication equipment. I also have a FD3S RX7 w/ a V8 and twin turbo that I built. So I am definitely not new to cars and mechanical things and am not just book smart.

I bought the WRX a couple years ago with 20,000km (12,500 miles) as my daily driver. It replaced my 2003 Mitusbishi eclipse which had 450,000km (280,000 miles) on it. There were no modifications made to this car at ALL!!! I want to emphasize that. This is my DAILY driver, so there was NO reason for me to modify it. It was more than adequate for me in stock condition!

How did the treat the car? Oil changes every 5,000km (3100miles). Did I track it? No. Did I do clutch drop launches? No. Did I merge on the highway at WOT to legal speeds? Yes. Did I overtake cars on rural roads at WOT? Yes. I only filled 94 or 91 octane gas in this car from either Esso or Shell.

Over the holidays, I decided to go for a trip out to a remote place to go hiking on a remote trail. The closest town was about 160 km away (100 miles). As I am driving on the highway at 115km/h (70 mph), just cruising along, I suddenly notice on decel there was a hint of a knocking noise. I keep driving for another 5km (2 miles) trying to find somewhere to pull over. The noise gets louder on decel. I say screw it and stop in the corner of the road, even though half my car was on the main highway (this was a desolate road, so luckily no cars around). I turn off the car, check the dip stick, oil is full. Start the car, pull off the oil cap, and my worse nightmares are confirmed, there is massive blowby indicating some sort combustion leakage. Considering the noise only happened on decel, I concluded that this was a piston/ring related issue.

Now I'm stuck in the middle of no where and I can't get cell reception. I keep driving to get cell reception. 15 km later, total engine failure, blue smoke out the exhaust. I pull over, the car is trying to die. I quickly pull a screw driver and use it as a microphone. #4 is making weird noises. I'm stranded. After 8 hours, both me and my fiance are in survival mode, I finally wave someone down, and hop in with them. We go to a spot where there is reception and after many attempts, I finally find a tow truck driver who's willing to rescue us. It ended up costing me $3500 CAD ($2500 USD). By the way the car has 51,000 km (31700 miles) on it now.

Most of the reason the cost of towing was so high was because it was the holidays, and because I towed it back home in a panic not knowing where else to go. Home was 800 km (500 miles) away. Once the car was home, I could think more clearly. I tow the car to the local Subaru dealership ($150CAD/$100USD).
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Last edited by xull1x; 01-12-2016 at 10:43 PM.
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Old 01-12-2016, 10:17 PM   #2
xull1x
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Default

Now I get the typical dealership treatment. They tell me they can't look at it for a day or two. I'm like okay that's fine. They tell me that they need to charge me a diagnostic fee ($150CAD/$100USD) since the car is 8 months out of warranty even though it hasn't hit the 100,000 km powertrain limit. I ask them what are the chances Subaru will help me out since the mileage on the car is so low? They don't give me a definite answer.

A day later, they call me saying, they got the car to start and that it was blowing smoke everywhere indicating engine damage. They need to take the engine apart at a cost of $975 CAD ($700 USD) as the next step, otherwise Subaru Canada wouldn't even consider helping me as a "Good will gesture". I knew right away this was a "lets make money off this guy" scenario and tell me don't touch the car until further notice. It doesn't take a Genius to know that you could diagnose engine failure using a simple leakdown test and put a borescope through the spark plug holes.

I at this point call Subaru Canada customer service and tell them the story that I have written above. I ask them what are the chances they'll fix my engine if I go through with this $975 diagnostic. She tells me "Subaru stands behind their cars" -- but couldn't give me a yes or no. She also tells me "As long as you've maintained your car, not modified it or raced it, I think you should be okay". I ask her how do you prove a car has been raced or modified? She says I need to talk to the dealership about that. I tell her that I am worried that since I did my own oil changes, they will try to say I didn't maintain my car right, despite the engine ring land being failing catastrophically like this is completely unlikely due to oil. She says, doing my oil changes is fine, as long as I wrote down when I did them, and the mileage on the car at the time. She suggests to go through the procedure w/ the dealership.

I call back the dealership the next day and suggest to the service manager, about the compression test and bore scope method. He's like "we've never done this before" -- and he would need to talk to Subaru Canada about it. I also ask him how do they find out if I have been racing or modifying the car? He says that they could look at my clutch to see clutch dust. I'm like that happens under normal driving, that doesn't prove racing. Then he's like they can look at the piston and tell if it has been raced with. I'm like there's no way you can tell that just by looking at a piston. I tell him you know what, this is modern times, you must have some sort of datalogs stored in the ECU that you can extract to see how I've been driving. This will show you I wasn't racing. You can also check the ECU to see if there were any hints of modifications. He said he's not familiar with this method himself, but he will ask the Subaru tech line.


5 days later, He calls me and says that Subaru will take a leakdown as a valid diagnosis method. This will cost me another $150CAD/$100USD. I ask him what are the chances they will fix this? He doesn't give me a solid answer. Says I have to go through this to be able to start the process. I say, okay go for it. How about the engine modification/racing stuff? He tells me, he found a way to check. I'm like okay.


A week later he confirms that #4 piston has a "hole" in it and that the rod is bent. I ask him how did he find the rod was bent. He said they used a piston stop tool. The piston did not hit it at TDC. I'm like okay. I tell him, I think the piston chunk broke off and got wedge between the head and the dome of the piston likely causing this issue. He's like that is a possibility. I asked him about the modifications -- he said the car looks stock in his tech's opinion and the ecu does not show any changes made to it. He will submit this info the Subaru Canada for their evaluation.


A couple days later, he calls me saying that Subaru Canada has rejected paying for the damages. They said that #4 piston breaking is a common issue when people modify their cars. I'm like but you said I didn't modify the car. He says, yes I told him that and then they told me "he's out of the warranty period, so we are denying the claim"


What do you guys think? I'm starting a small claims court case against Subaru Canada. I am going to rebuild the engine and have my certified mechanic friend there as a witness. I will also show the pistons to other mechanics to get their opinion on the cause of failure. I might even do a FEA analysis on the piston (I really don't want to spend 3 weeks doing this though!). I really need as much feedback from you guys who have factory WRX's 2008-2016 era that have experienced this exact failure. I need this as part of the evidence. I would appreciate this very much.
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Old 01-12-2016, 10:18 PM   #3
xull1x
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Pearl White

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Sorry for the long post - but I am really upset by how a car with 51,000 km blows up so randomly. I've never experienced such catastrophic failure in any of the cars I've owned

Btw I did find these threads: http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show....php?t=1695936
http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show....php?t=1648372

but would really like to hear from the owners that went from this in this thread.

Last edited by xull1x; 01-12-2016 at 10:24 PM.
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Old 01-12-2016, 10:24 PM   #4
jason02wrx
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2002 WRB/2012 SWP Hatch

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Did you ever research this car before you bought it?
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Old 01-12-2016, 10:40 PM   #5
xull1x
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jason02wrx View Post
Did you ever research this car before you bought it?
Yes, but I guess I wasn't looking for the right keywords. I did not think in my mind once that modern engines could be so bad, that's why I didn't look for engine related issues. I always heard Subaru transmissions were bad, so I searched those issues and found out that around 2005-2006+, the transmissions became bulletproof.
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Old 01-12-2016, 10:50 PM   #6
jason02wrx
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Cylinder number 4 get too hot due to the longer exhaust header distance compaired to the other three cylinders. Combine that with crapish cast pistons, lean fueling approach, and lack of any egt sensor and you have what we have right here.
I have driven many a Subaru into the dirt without failure. Then I bought a 12 and it blew (rod bearing) at 60k miles.

This is why I will not own another late model ej. Not even if it was free!
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Old 01-14-2016, 04:14 PM   #7
MaddMax
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How do you know that the car wasn't modified before you bought it? It is all too common for these cars to have been modified and returned to stock.

Also, I highly doubt the rod is bent, but rather piston 4 cracked a ringland and/or spun a bearing. Failed ringlands in stock motors are very common to 2008+ STIs, not 2009+ WRXs. Failed ringlands are pretty common to both cars once you've taken them to Stage 2 (tune and downpipe) and beyond. My guess is your car was modified and returned to stock when the previous owner started noting wonky datalog readings suggesting a slightly cracked ringland. You got the car and the ringland issue became more and more severe over time. Yes, it is possible drive around with a cracked ringland for quite a while.

Unfortunately for you, you live in Canada and Subaru of Canada is nothing like Subaru of America (SOA). SOA is FAR more willing to work with people and do good will repairs.

Considering your background, you may just want to consider buying a brand new OEM shortblock for $1,800, cleaning and checking the heads and turbo, and do the work yourself. If it didn't spin a rod bearing, then your turbo, heads, etc. should be fine and not full of metal.

When driving these cars, I'd also suggest not going full throttle below 3,500rpms in any gear but 1st or 2nd. If you were in the habit of going full throttle at below 3,500rpms in 3rd, 4th, or 5th, then that may have spelled disaster for the motor. Too much load.
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Old 01-14-2016, 10:47 PM   #8
Elusivellama
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I saw your post on TSC, but there is way more info here. I can't even imagine being stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no cell reception and having to rely on the kindness of random strangers to stop and give you a hand, then having to pay a $3500 tow charge on a car that just blew up. I was really considering waiting for Subaru to make an STi with the FA engine, but I'm starting to think that I might not even bother with that - knowing what I know now about boxer engines and some of their issues related to their design. On top of that, two or three more current gen STis just blew up on iwsti in the past couple days, and Subaru just lost a lawsuit for the oil burning issues on their FB engines...
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Old 01-16-2016, 11:14 AM   #9
xull1x
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaddMax View Post
How do you know that the car wasn't modified before you bought it? It is all too common for these cars to have been modified and returned to stock.

Also, I highly doubt the rod is bent, but rather piston 4 cracked a ringland and/or spun a bearing. Failed ringlands in stock motors are very common to 2008+ STIs, not 2009+ WRXs. Failed ringlands are pretty common to both cars once you've taken them to Stage 2 (tune and downpipe) and beyond. My guess is your car was modified and returned to stock when the previous owner started noting wonky datalog readings suggesting a slightly cracked ringland. You got the car and the ringland issue became more and more severe over time. Yes, it is possible drive around with a cracked ringland for quite a while.

Unfortunately for you, you live in Canada and Subaru of Canada is nothing like Subaru of America (SOA). SOA is FAR more willing to work with people and do good will repairs.

Considering your background, you may just want to consider buying a brand new OEM shortblock for $1,800, cleaning and checking the heads and turbo, and do the work yourself. If it didn't spin a rod bearing, then your turbo, heads, etc. should be fine and not full of metal.

When driving these cars, I'd also suggest not going full throttle below 3,500rpms in any gear but 1st or 2nd. If you were in the habit of going full throttle at below 3,500rpms in 3rd, 4th, or 5th, then that may have spelled disaster for the motor. Too much load.
The chance of it being previously modified is nil. The car wouldn't have lasted 30,000 km with a broken ringland. When I bought the car, I took off the oil cap and checked for blowby. There was no abnormal blowby.

I also did a compression test on the same day I bought the car home to ensure all cylinders were perfect. This rules out a previously broken ringland.

I also bought this car certified preowned paying $4000 more than a private sale was going for at the time for the peace of mind that I was buying from a Subaru dealership.

I'm not familiar with the stage 2 modification terminology, if you mean this by stage 2:
http://www.cobbtuning.com/products/s...r-package-w-v3

It definitely was not done on my car, the dealership confirmed this. They scanned the ecu to see if it was modified and saw no modifications. They would have seen when the ECU was last flashed.
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Old 01-16-2016, 11:16 AM   #10
xull1x
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elusivellama View Post
I saw your post on TSC, but there is way more info here. I can't even imagine being stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no cell reception and having to rely on the kindness of random strangers to stop and give you a hand, then having to pay a $3500 tow charge on a car that just blew up. I was really considering waiting for Subaru to make an STi with the FA engine, but I'm starting to think that I might not even bother with that - knowing what I know now about boxer engines and some of their issues related to their design. On top of that, two or three more current gen STis just blew up on iwsti in the past couple days, and Subaru just lost a lawsuit for the oil burning issues on their FB engines...

I bought a new shortblock from dealership and a master gasket set for 2700CAD+tax and will be putting forged pistons and building the engine myself -- not a new territory to me. Just an utter waste of time when I could be making money working on other projects and other more important things.

I'm in the process of talking with the higher ups right now to see if we can come to some settlement prior to me taking this to civil court.

I will never trust another factory tuned Subaru engine again. The small ring lands along with a lean tune is a recipe for disaster. I am planning to do even more epic road trips in the future (Yukon, BC, Labardor) and guess which car is not going to be used?

It's funny I was looking to buy a generator recently and I saw ones made by Subaru at the local hardware store. I immediately looked away. Goes to show how bad Subaru's reputation is tarnished in my mind now

Last edited by xull1x; 01-16-2016 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 01-16-2016, 02:29 PM   #11
blue sedan
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Most likely the original buyer added an intake or other items without proper tuning to cause the failure. Best of luck with your new build!
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Old 01-16-2016, 02:43 PM   #12
xull1x
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Originally Posted by blue sedan View Post
Most likely the original buyer added an intake or other items without proper tuning to cause the failure. Best of luck with your new build!
Thank you! Please read the last post though, definitely would have caught any damage to engine from previous owner when I brought it home from dealership and did compression test.
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Old 01-17-2016, 02:25 PM   #13
Cheveyboy
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Originally Posted by xull1x View Post
Thank you! Please read the last post though, definitely would have caught any damage to engine from previous owner when I brought it home from dealership and did compression test.
Not necessarily. For two reasons that come to mind.

1. I've seen engines torn down with hair line fractures on the lands, with good compression tests.

2. The pistons could have already been weakened. Assuming the car was ragged on, or modified and put back to stock. Heck, could have just been driven by a moron who lugged the motor to much (IE Highway pulls).
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Old 01-17-2016, 08:07 PM   #14
heavyD
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xull1x View Post
Sorry for the long post - but I am really upset by how a car with 51,000 km blows up so randomly. I've never experienced such catastrophic failure in any of the cars I've owned
It sucks but you bought a car with an EJ257 engine in it and it's your fault. End of story. It's on you to do your research and not listen to the fanboys that say the ringland issue is blown out of proportion. EJ257's can fail at any time stock or modded and there's many accounts on the internet from people just like you that got burned. Next time you research a car where lots of owners complain of engine failure you will be better for it because of this life lesson.
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Old 01-17-2016, 10:21 PM   #15
BigRob74
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heavyD View Post
It sucks but you bought a car with an EJ257 engine in it and it's your fault. End of story. It's on you to do your research and not listen to the fanboys that say the ringland issue is blown out of proportion. EJ257's can fail at any time stock or modded and there's many accounts on the internet from people just like you that got burned. Next time you research a car where lots of owners complain of engine failure you will be better for it because of this life lesson.
and buying a used wrx was the 1st mistake. parting mine out and trading it in was the best decision. the first night without the car i got the best nights sleep ever knowing my new car wont be as fragile as the wrx was
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Old 01-17-2016, 11:11 PM   #16
MaddMax
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xull1x View Post
The chance of it being previously modified is nil. The car wouldn't have lasted 30,000 km with a broken ringland. When I bought the car, I took off the oil cap and checked for blowby. There was no abnormal blowby.

I also did a compression test on the same day I bought the car home to ensure all cylinders were perfect. This rules out a previously broken ringland.

I also bought this car certified preowned paying $4000 more than a private sale was going for at the time for the peace of mind that I was buying from a Subaru dealership.

I'm not familiar with the stage 2 modification terminology, if you mean this by stage 2:
http://www.cobbtuning.com/products/s...r-package-w-v3

It definitely was not done on my car, the dealership confirmed this. They scanned the ecu to see if it was modified and saw no modifications. They would have seen when the ECU was last flashed.
If uninstalled correctly, Subaru has absolutely no clue that you modified the ECU to increase boost, power, etc. using a Cobb Accessport which is the common tuning device.

Stage 2 is an ECU tune and aftermarket downpipe. Removing/replacing the downpipe is easy and you'd be hard pressed to know that car had ever had one if the previous owner was careful with removing/reinstalling the downpipe nuts and/or replaced the $5 set on nuts when they put the stock downpipe back on.

And yes, it's quite possible to have a crack ringland with no symptoms.

Again, it's VERY rare for a stock 09+ WRX to break a ringland. Spin a rod bearing? Sure. Break a ringland with no mods? Rare. STI's are the ones that commonly break ringlands, even in stock form. This is due to it's weaker pistons and different fueling system compared to the WRX.
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