Javelin SuperDork
Dec. 30, 2010 10:17 p.m.

Looked at an 02 WRX wagon tonight. It was exactly what I wanted, World Rally Blue, stock, a bugeye, and a 5-speed. But holy hell did it raise EVERY SINGLE WARNING FLAG!!! First, the car had been repo'd in October in Texas, sold to a dealer in Oregon, who sold it to a guy, who signed the title (and didn't match the name of the guy I was talking to). The inspection was even worse:

  • Missing heat shield on turbo
  • ABS and CEL lights on
  • Aftermarket shift knob not installed correctly (felt like a home-made short shifter)
  • Remnants of a CAI under the hood (the couplings)
  • Missing jack/lug wrench
  • Wiring strewn and cut everywhere (previous "system" in the car I'm sure)
  • Locked ECM that my AutoTap couldn't read (meaning it had an aftermarket tune, but no tuner box)

But the biggie? It was running when we got there, which is always suspicious. I turned it off after the test drive to pull out the laptop and AutoTap and poke around under the hood. When I went to restart it it had the very distinct sound of dry pistons scraping cylinder walls and would barely start.

We laughed and left.

So... Moral of the story is, ask GRM and then listen to what they tell you and don't be afraid to walk away.

Anybody have a WRB WRX wagon for sale?

Raze Dork
Dec. 30, 2010 11:21 p.m.

nice pass, don't blame you, buddy of mine went after a newer Legacy GT wagon which still had the 'COBB' sticker on it, needless to say I waved him off and he ended up with a lower mile old lady babied car for less money, moral of the story, just because you 'have' to have it, don't be stupid, pay attention, I'm glad you did!

mike Reader
Dec. 31, 2010 12:10 a.m.

Great cautionary tale. Not everyone is naturally cool under fire when it comes to buying cars. Reading stories like this helps to temper that "gotta have it NOW" feeling.

SilverFleet HalfDork
Dec. 31, 2010 12:16 a.m.

That car sounds like a mess!!! That should be a good baseline of what NOT to look for.

Cars like that one are all too common these days. Since they have gotten cheaper over the years, they've started to become the "my first turbo" car. You need to find an unmodded one, or one where at the very least no one messed with the tune, turbo, exhaust, etc. It's increasingly hard to find the earlier ones in this form, but the good news is that the wagons are less desirable to the tuner crowd.

Some other warning signs that there might be issues:

-"serviced with Mobil 1" as a selling point- it sounds strange, but run away. These cars HATE M1 products. The transmissions get notchy and hard to shift, the rear diffs get noisy, and the motors burn right through it. Also, they like to spin bearings with M1. I had M1 75w90 in the tranny and rear diff for about 1,000 miles in my 2002 WRX, and it was so bad that I had to replace it right away. Check the countless threads over on NASIOC about this.

-Check the dash clock out. Is it working? If not, it most likely had gauges in a pod there at one point, and no one bothered to rewire it. The clock harness is where most people wire in aftermarket gauges.

-Sniff around for coolant under the hood. The very first WRX I ever looked at in 2005 was a 2002 World Rally Blue sedan, and I kept smelling coolant on the test drive. I kept my mouth shut until we got back to the dealer. The entire time, the sales man was talking about how he personally new the car because it was his buddy's car. I asked him about the coolant smell after the test drive, and he couldn't smell it. Yeah right. A quick search on some local forums after I got home showed the former owner with the car and the turbo swap he botched. That coolant smell was due to the improper reinstallation of the stock turbo.

-A compression test is never a bad idea. Later 2.5L engines had problems with the ring lands and a compression test could detect a crack.

Keep looking, you'll find the right car out there.

Javelin SuperDork
Dec. 31, 2010 1:02 a.m.

I don't know if I could do a compression check on a private sale car, but the AutoTap will warn me of just about anything. OBDII is actually a wonderful invention!

Yeah, I was disappointed to not get the car, but it wasn't worth it, even at half the price. Should have known when I opened the hatch and the engine bay undertray was busted up and laying in there.

rcl4668 New Reader
Dec. 31, 2010 2:17 p.m.

In reply to Javelin:

Nice save my friend.

Strizzo SuperDork
Dec. 31, 2010 2:35 p.m.

locked ecu is probably an accessport from before the car was repo'd. good call to run like hell.

SilverFleet HalfDork
Dec. 31, 2010 3:00 p.m.
Strizzo wrote: locked ecu is probably an accessport from before the car was repo'd. good call to run like hell.

Yep, you are correct!

Osterkraut Dork
Dec. 31, 2010 4:08 p.m.
SilverFleet wrote: -"serviced with Mobil 1" as a selling point- it sounds strange, but run away. These cars HATE M1 products. The transmissions get notchy and hard to shift, the rear diffs get noisy, and the motors burn right through it. Also, they like to spin bearings with M1. I had M1 75w90 in the tranny and rear diff for about 1,000 miles in my 2002 WRX, and it was so bad that I had to replace it right away. Check the countless threads over on NASIOC about this.

Produce some. I'm not finding anything beyond the "ZOMG your oil is craaaaapppppp" business.

HappyJack Reader
Dec. 31, 2010 4:20 p.m.
Raze wrote: nice pass, don't blame you, buddy of mine went after a newer Legacy GT wagon which still had the 'COBB' sticker on it, needless to say I waved him off and he ended up with a lower mile old lady babied car for less money, moral of the story, just because you 'have' to have it, don't be stupid, pay attention, I'm glad you did!

What is a "COBB" sticker? This an American thing? Or have I just missed something all this time?

sachilles Dork
Dec. 31, 2010 4:36 p.m.

Cobb is a tuner for subie and others. If you have a cobb sticker, they likely had the cobb accessport which tunes the ecu of subaru, one of the basic mods for these cars. Silverfleet, the clock not working may not be an indication of gauges. It was pretty common on early wrx's and forresters that the clock would fail. There was a solder joint that would crack. Most people didn't realize you could just open it up and zap with a soldering iron, and it would be fine.

RexSeven Dork
Dec. 31, 2010 4:39 p.m.

Cobb's website:

http://www.cobbtuning.com

They've been around for a while and make some high-quality stuff for Scoobies, Evos, and the like. I have some Cobb-made stuff for my Speed3.

SilverFleet HalfDork
Dec. 31, 2010 4:45 p.m.
Osterkraut wrote:
SilverFleet wrote: -"serviced with Mobil 1" as a selling point- it sounds strange, but run away. These cars HATE M1 products. The transmissions get notchy and hard to shift, the rear diffs get noisy, and the motors burn right through it. Also, they like to spin bearings with M1. I had M1 75w90 in the tranny and rear diff for about 1,000 miles in my 2002 WRX, and it was so bad that I had to replace it right away. Check the countless threads over on NASIOC about this.

Produce some. I'm not finding anything beyond the "ZOMG your oil is craaaaapppppp" business.

I haven't looked into it for a LONG time (like dating back to 2005, that could be why no one's giving the details anymore, it's almost legend over there now) but I can tell you from experience. The only time I ever burned any oil with either one of my WRX's was on M1 5w30. I burned through 2 quarts when my car had about 30,000 miles on it in 3,000 miles. I switched to Castrol Syntec 5w30 for a while, and never burned a drop again. I also used Shell Rotella 5w40 full synthetic from about 50,000-88,000 miles and increased oil change intervals to 5,000 miles. Never burned a drop after switching from the M1, and my car had lots of mods.

In the transmission and rear diff, I've read on Bob Is The Oil Guy (again, years ago) that their gear oil has an additive package that makes the oil too "slippery" for the synchros, and they have a hard time meshing. When I changed from the stock fluid to M1, I felt an almost immediate change. It was hard to shift gears, and it would grind a lot especially from 2nd to 3rd. I switched to Redline almost 1000 miles later, and never had a problem again. The rear diff began to whine after filling it with M1 as well.

Also, ask fellow member Pseudosport about his wonderful bearing spinning experience on M1 in his old 2002 WRX. We were running the same tune, with the same mods, in the same car, at the same dragway with really high temps, and he spun his bearings, but somehow I didn't. Could it have been coincidence? I don't know, but the only difference our cars had was what oil we were running.

SilverFleet HalfDork
Dec. 31, 2010 4:47 p.m.
sachilles wrote: Cobb is a tuner for subie and others. If you have a cobb sticker, they likely had the cobb accessport which tunes the ecu of subaru, one of the basic mods for these cars. Silverfleet, the clock not working may not be an indication of gauges. It was pretty common on early wrx's and forresters that the clock would fail. There was a solder joint that would crack. Most people didn't realize you could just open it up and zap with a soldering iron, and it would be fine.

Yeah, this is true too, but it's definitely a red flag in my book. I've helped a few friends look at these over the years, and I've seen that a few times.

Tyler H Dork
Dec. 31, 2010 4:50 p.m.

Cobb stage 1 reflash would be my first purchase for any WRX, especially the 2.0l. The stock engine tuning sucks, and is jerky under partial-boost acceleration. Having a Cobb AP alone would not affect my decision to purchase one of these cars.

DIY tuning with tactrix cable would scare me a hellfuva lot more than a Cobb AP.

SilverFleet HalfDork
Dec. 31, 2010 4:57 p.m.
Tyler H wrote: Cobb stage 1 reflash would be my first purchase for any WRX, especially the 2.0l. The stock engine tuning sucks, and is jerky under partial-boost acceleration. Having a Cobb AP alone would not affect my decision to purchase one of these cars. DIY tuning with tactrix cable would scare me a hellfuva lot more than a Cobb AP.

You can upload a Cobb-esque free "off the shelf" map with a Tactrix, data log with it, and tweak it yourself (or have someone else that knows how to). The Tactrix cable costs $179 and the Accessport costs $599 and you have to buy their Street Tuner software for an additional $200 to be able to mess with the tune. It's honestly not all that hard. On my old car, I had a full turbo back exhaust, some suspension mods, AND a tune for what an Accessport costs.

RexSeven Dork
Dec. 31, 2010 4:59 p.m.
SilverFleet wrote:
Tyler H wrote: Cobb stage 1 reflash would be my first purchase for any WRX, especially the 2.0l. The stock engine tuning sucks, and is jerky under partial-boost acceleration. Having a Cobb AP alone would not affect my decision to purchase one of these cars. DIY tuning with tactrix cable would scare me a hellfuva lot more than a Cobb AP.

You can upload a Cobb-esque free "off the shelf" map with a Tactrix, data log with it, and tweak it yourself (or have someone else that knows how to). The Tactrix cable costs $179 and the Accessport costs $599 and you have to buy their Street Tuner software for an additional $200 to be able to mess with the tune. It's honestly not all that hard.

Used Accessports can be found for less than $500, however, and the Street Tuner software for individual use is free. At least, that is the case with the Mazdaspeed3/6 Accessports.

SilverFleet HalfDork
Dec. 31, 2010 5:02 p.m.
RexSeven wrote:
SilverFleet wrote:
Tyler H wrote: Cobb stage 1 reflash would be my first purchase for any WRX, especially the 2.0l. The stock engine tuning sucks, and is jerky under partial-boost acceleration. Having a Cobb AP alone would not affect my decision to purchase one of these cars. DIY tuning with tactrix cable would scare me a hellfuva lot more than a Cobb AP.

You can upload a Cobb-esque free "off the shelf" map with a Tactrix, data log with it, and tweak it yourself (or have someone else that knows how to). The Tactrix cable costs $179 and the Accessport costs $599 and you have to buy their Street Tuner software for an additional $200 to be able to mess with the tune. It's honestly not all that hard.

Used Accessports can be found for less than $500, however, and the Street Tuner software for individual use is free. At least, that is the case with the Mazdaspeed3/6 Accessports.

I'm pretty sure it still costs money for the Subaru ones. It is free for MS3 guys though!

Ignorant SuperDork
Dec. 31, 2010 6:13 p.m.

I will say that for daily drivers and especially daily drivers for my better half, I am very wary of any used car with ANY modification.

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