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Old 07-30-2013, 03:30 PM   #1
dndnpc
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Exclamation Bearing shredded, camshaft snapped (pics)

Short version: After I had work done at my usual oil change shop, oil flow was blocked in the front of the head, the bearing overheated and shredded, and the shaft snapped in two.
I'm looking for advice on what may or may not have really happened, as the shop in question is denying responsibility.

So, the long version:

Some weeks ago, I got an oil change at the same place I always go when I don't want to do it myself (which I'll call ShopA). Later that day, I made most of my 7 mile drive home. At a stop light, my engine began smoking profusely. I called the shop and explained. They drove to me with a loaner to assess the problem and discovered an active oil leak. I had the car towed back to their shop and drove the loaner home.

The following day, I was informed that I needed both cam seals replaced. This took $600 and about a week. I was informed that oil is still burning off the engine components and it will probably smell or smoke for a while longer. This took at least another week, but appeared to resolve itself as they explained.

A couple weeks later, after my normal drive home, I noticed the engine smoking again, but not severely. The following morning, my car suddenly lost significant power and the engine began violently shaking. I brought it to the shop where I work (ShopB) in hopes of a quick and discounted fix (oil changes more expensive here). After testing and subsequent tear-down, they discovered catastrophic failure.

As best as I can relay the explanation: a cam seal was installed improperly (pushed in too far) which blocked oil flow to part of the head, eventually causing overheating and shredding of the bearing and the camshaft to snap "at the weakest point." Given the shredding of the bearing, there are now metal shavings elsewhere in the engine such that the engine needs to be replaced entirely. I informed the service staff of the recent work at ShopA and both shops went back and forth between them trying to resolve the issue.

The ShopB contends that proper oil flow was indeed blocked by the incorrect installation, also indicating a persistent oil leak from the same location that was observed before any testing, and finding scratches on the head and camshaft that were apparently made during the seal replacements. ShopA contends that it is impossible for the seal to have been installed incorrectly, and that the engine failure must have been the result of some unknown pre-existing problem.

I have spoken with Subaru Corporate a couple times so far, and I am waiting for another call to ask some more questions, but they made it sound like they wouldn't help, since neither the original work nor the tear-down was done by a Subaru shop. I'm at 70k miles, so out of warranty, as well. For 2 weeks, my car has sat in many pieces waiting for something to progress, as I can not afford the work up front myself. ShopA is standing firm on their denial, and ShopB is just waiting for somebody that will pay so the work can get started.

So, the big question: is it possible for a cam seal to be pushed in too far such that oil flow is blocked?

I don't know the terminology to explain these pics very well, but the techs at ShopB made the point that oil flow was obviously only blocked to that bearing, as the rest of the head looks fine.


3/4 view from outside



3/4 view from inside



straight on view. I learned about the oil port at the bottom there (and the matching one opposing it on the top half of the head) and how the flow is generated by the moving parts. I can't say I didn't at least learn some cool stuff as a result of my misfortune.



camshaft. Left is front, and that segment is positioned where it would be during operation.



another look at the camshaft



No idea what you call this part, but notice the sludge at the front.
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Old 07-30-2013, 04:54 PM   #2
auskip07
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ya know sometimes things just break. I doubt you could install that seal incorrectly
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Old 07-31-2013, 09:22 AM   #3
dndnpc
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What is it that could have "just broke" to block oil flow from all available channels to a single bearing?
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Old 07-31-2013, 03:59 PM   #4
auskip07
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dndnpc View Post
What is it that could have "just broke" to block oil flow from all available channels to a single bearing?
anything thats small enough to be sucked into the oil pickup and large enough to block the oil passage.

But i can tell you that you we prob will never know because it ran long enough to shred the bearing and the housing destroying any real evidence from what i can tell. That isnt a quiet failure. metal on metal is pretty loud.
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Old 08-01-2013, 11:01 AM   #5
dndnpc
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Quote:
Originally Posted by auskip07 View Post
anything thats small enough to be sucked into the oil pickup and large enough to block the oil passage.
We've mostly ruled out debris blockage. Such debris would need to be small enough to enter the head, yet big enough to block the ports for the bearing, and miraculously block all of them while somehow affecting nothing else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by auskip07 View Post
That isnt a quiet failure. metal on metal is pretty loud.
Are you suggesting I should have heard it sooner? The engine never sounded any different until the moment cylinder 4 dropped (presumably the same time the camshaft snapped). For that matter, we ran it in the shop liberally before pulling it apart (spark tests, compression test, etc) and there wasn't any sounds to indicate such a problem. Everyone thought what I did at first: that I just needed new spark plugs or cables. When the compression test revealed the dead cylinder, the next thought was a valve jam or collision. Nothing suggested catastrophic failure and breakage. How often does a camshaft snap in a car during normal operation? (And normal operation, it was.)
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Old 08-01-2013, 11:55 AM   #6
auskip07
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Absolutely, you should have heard something sooner. And smoke coming from the engine isnt normal.. possibly a fluke and the bearing was toast before they installed the new seal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dndnpc View Post
How often does a camshaft snap in a car during normal operation? (And normal operation, it was.)
Its not normal operation if the bearing has failed.
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Old 08-01-2013, 03:24 PM   #7
dndnpc
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As explained, there were no sounds indicating the problem. The smoke was the oil burning on the exhaust directly under where it leaked from. And by "normal operation," I of course mean I was using the vehicle in a responsible fashion according to its design.

More pics of this oddity: http://imgur.com/a/LebSl
In these are better views of entire parts, to reiterate the point that was made to me that everything is clean except that one bearing. Also, I took a closer look at the oil ports, both in the head and those in the camshaft; no blockages nor debris.
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Old 08-01-2013, 05:33 PM   #8
auskip07
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No real solution but lack of oil. if they installed the seal wrong i would imagine they would have changed the one in the other head also incorrectly.

But im guessing thats not the case. Its a bad situation but you have 70k on the car 5 years into ownership and you have to flip the bill. Call it bad luck or whatever. I wouldnt wait for anyone to claim responsibility i would get it fixed and get on with my life. Whats the total bill? you must get an employee discount of some type or they can put you on a payment plan.

What ever you do make sure you replace the oil a couple times after getting it fixed. Metal shavings in the engine might still be present so change within 500 miles and check the end of the oil plug for them (it should be magnetized.)
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Old 08-01-2013, 09:39 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by auskip07 View Post
What ever you do make sure you replace the oil a couple times after getting it fixed. Metal shavings in the engine might still be present so change within 500 miles and check the end of the oil plug for them (it should be magnetized.)
OP said in his original post that the damage was catastrophic and requires a complete engine replacement due to metal shavings distributed throughout the engine.
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Old 08-02-2013, 08:26 AM   #10
auskip07
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sgoldste01 View Post
OP said in his original post that the damage was catastrophic and requires a complete engine replacement due to metal shavings distributed throughout the engine.
I am aware

Given that they cant afford a replacement engine would suggest that they do the best they can with what they have. If that means new head and flush out the system then so be it.
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Old 08-02-2013, 09:41 AM   #11
dndnpc
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Indeed, regardless of the whys and hows, work needs done. And whether or not fault is legitimately placed or litigation occurs, I need to figure a way to eat the cost myself first if I want my car back any time soon.

The point of my discussion is to try to find out what happened, and avoid it happening again. It is possible, as anything, that mine was among the lucky few with slight manufacturing imperfections that took 4 years to reach fruition. Given the statistical likelihood that it was not, what other reasons could there be? I am confident that it was not debris, lack of regular maintenance, nor driving conditions or style; auskip is confident it was not a faulty seal replacement. What else?

As for the work, I am interested in thoughts regarding whether the whole engine really does need replacement, or if just replacing the head and attempting cleanup is a viable option. I'd have thought that the filter could handle such things, but I don't know well enough how the oil distribution/return functions. On a related note, does anyone in the New England area have an extra 09 Impreza/OBS engine?
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Old 08-02-2013, 10:49 AM   #12
kbaldi_29
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its going to be hard to make someone pay since its really hard to tell exactly what was issue! good luck
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