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Matt B
Matt B SuperDork
8/18/14 3:17 p.m.

So we're seriously thinking about adding a WRX to the family (the wife wants one BAD, God bless her), but I have to admit the ability for them to pop engines doesn't give me the warm-n-fuzzies. I've read most of the recent threads on the subject, and it seems most of the horror stories come from the 06+ 2.5 motors. In turn, I'm wondering if the older 2 liters are a safer bet? The car will be used for commuting and maybe 4-6 autocrosses a year. Not planning on any real mods beyond a tune to ditch the crappy stock management and possibly some upgrades to the cooling system.

Also, just to get it out of the way - I understand there's no guarantee that I'll have problems it seems pretty fair to say it's a crapshoot, especially when dealing with the typical Subaru PO's. I know there's some on this board who haven't had any issues, while others blew ringlands before 100K.

Maybe I should have titled this thread, "How do I buy a reliable WRX?"

As always, thanks ahead for the input.

Desmond Reader
8/18/14 3:38 p.m.

I looked into buying a WRX. I remember that the general consensus was the 2.0 turbo engines were the best bet as far as head gasket issues go. The 2.0 N/As supposedly were problematic, and I too have heard a few horror stories about the 2.5 turbo.

captdownshift GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
8/18/14 3:53 p.m.

do you prefer catastrophic transmission failure or catastrophic engine failure?

Matt B
Matt B SuperDork
8/18/14 4:01 p.m.

Without knowing what they go for, I'd say transmissions are cheaper and easier to replace. Do the revised trannys bolt up to the 2.0 motors?

PseudoSport HalfDork
8/18/14 4:36 p.m.

Spun a rod bearing in my 02 2.0L WRX at 52K. Dealer split the cost of a short block with me because I was 2k out of warranty. Ended up trading it in on a 07 WRX with a 2.5L and didn’t have any issues with that car.

DILYSI Dave MegaDork
8/18/14 4:37 p.m.

Yeah, apparently they finally replaced the glass transmission about the same time they started putting in E36 M3 pistons and lean tunes.

Knurled PowerDork
8/18/14 4:44 p.m.
captdownshift wrote: do you prefer catastrophic transmission failure or catastrophic engine failure?

WRX + $2500 STI transmission = almost as bulletproof as an Evo or Audi.

BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
8/18/14 5:05 p.m.

I think that's the first time on this board that I've read the words "bullet proof" and "Audi" in the same sentence.

SlickDizzy PowerDork
8/18/14 5:14 p.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim:

Maybe if we're talking about a Typ 44...

Knurled PowerDork
8/18/14 6:42 p.m.
BoxheadTim wrote: I think that's the first time on this board that I've read the words "bullet proof" and "Audi" in the same sentence.

The weakest Audi transaxles are stronger than the strongest Subaru unit. An 800hp-worthy trans is silly cheap. The engines are brick S-houses and generally can take all of the boost you can throw at them once you upgrade the rods in the inline engines, or if you have a V8 then you don't need to worry about the rods because at 80ft-lb per hole, you CAN come to terms with drivetrain issues with a stock bottom end. Not that you'll get anything to hook up at those levels.

So, yeah, I'd call that bulletproof.

(My favorite example is the guy who paints a line on his axle sticks and replaces them when the line wraps 360 degrees around the axle... but the trans and rearend are as Audi built them. Supposedly 120mph sideways blasts up on-ramps are fun)

The downside is that Audis tend to handle like brick S-houses, too.

NGTD SuperDork
8/18/14 7:35 p.m.

I just sold my 12 year old WRX and it's still running for the new owner.

As I understand the tune on the 2008+ 2.5L motors is typically the issue. To pass emissions Subaru did some odd things and the cars get lean.

I do believe that in most cases the 2.0L engines are more reliable.

Get a well serviced one from a mature owner and you will be better off.

The whole "glass" transmission thing is blown out of proportion. Don't drive it like badly and it will be fine.

Why did I sell mine? - rust, thirst, and the price of premium fuel. It didn't fit with my finances right now.

Ojala HalfDork
8/18/14 7:48 p.m.

My favorite Subarus are the 04-05 WRX and of course the Saabaru. Those are getting on 10 years old though so they have the usual 10 year old car problems.

I have to agree with Knurled about the old Audi quattro drivetrains. They are very stout, but its too bad so many other systems let the car down so badly.

wawazat New Reader
8/18/14 8:34 p.m.

My used '02 WRX glass-box has held up fine behind my manual SVX for the last few years and about 4k miles. I don't do 6k clutch drops but do wind it up when launching off the line at an autoX enough to induce some tire slip...with the R comps

My other Subie has the infamous '07 2.5T. Original owner with 128k. I must be living on borrowed time twice.

Mr_Clutch42 HalfDork
8/18/14 9:10 p.m.

I've heard that the 08 WRXs are the ones that blow up because of the crappy tune and other problems. Mostly, the other year 2.5 turbo engines are ok.

Matt B
Matt B SuperDork
8/19/14 11:34 a.m.

In reply to Mr_Clutch42: I wish I had heard the same, but it seems like I keep reading about the newer ones crapping out as well. I remember Docwhyte(sp?) mentioning the new Sti's are still popping motors based on his research on the Subaru boards. I kinda hope you're right though - I'll look into it some more.

On the early transmission issue - it makes sense that the most likely cause would be abuse. It's not an issue I've heard a lot about, at least compared to the head gasket, spun-bearing, & ring land issues.

It starting to look like the only "safe" way to own a used WRX is buy one still under warranty and sell it as soon as it's out, vee-dub style. Either that or buy a 2015 with the new FA motor. Too bad they don't have wagon/hatches anymore.

kanaric Dork
8/19/14 11:35 a.m.

The best bet is the 2.0l engine that is the STI V7 JDM engine, lol. buy a STI, wait for failure, replace.

Matt B
Matt B SuperDork
8/19/14 2:50 p.m.

Yeah I read about that one (EJ207?). It's got some pretty nice features like forged internals, but this is going to be the wife's DD so the "not a project car" feature is higher on the list.

Plus, the whole point is to avoid engine failure.

kanaric Dork
8/19/14 2:59 p.m.

lol well you could fine one with that already in it. there are quite a few on NASIOC.

ssswitch Reader
8/19/14 3:05 p.m.

Most of the spun bearing EJ205s here are from cornering-induced oil starvation. A few of my autocrossing friends with 2.0s have spun bearings by now, and replaced them with JDM EJ207s. A lot of other (non-racing) people in the local Subaru club are doing just fine with their EJ205s with the occasional negligence failure.

I think most of the spun bearing problem is because the 2.0 oilpan promotes starvation (the 2.5 oilpans are significantly improved - yes, you can swap them) and also that a lot of the existing 2.0s have been run hard and frequently low on oil (whether that's because of worn turbo seals or general negligence). Check the oil frequently and I think you'll probably be alright.

Anecdotally, more people locally have grenaded their EJ205s from neglecting the timing belt service than from oil starvation or spun bearings. Tensioners and idlers should get replaced when the timing belt service is done, so make sure they didn't cheap out. Additionally, the timing belt interval is a little overlong for North America compared to Japan for no apparent reason.

The EJ207 is a relatively simple mechanical swap (just some wiring for the AVCS) but there's a bunch of small things that add up. The stock upper rad hose will interfere and needs to be shortened, and the tune on the stock EJ207 ECU is totally inappropriate for North American gas so you need to get an opensource tune done for it to be safe. I don't think I'd recommend it for a daily driver that you don't want to spend time tinkering on.

My 06 with an EJ255 was perfectly reliable; most of the engine deaths of the 08+ years have to do with the tunes (and one bad year of production where Subaru seems to have left a bit of swarf in the engines). The only thing you should really be afraid of in the 06-07 era (besides the rust that affects all 02-07 cars) is oil starvation from the oil pickup tube cracking (which doesn't seem to affect all cars, and didn't affect mine by the time I had pulled the tube to replace it out of paranoia).

The transmission failures are way overblown and are caused by the exact kind of person you'd expect to be breaking a lot of transmissions anyway.

The Subaru powertrains are definitely not as stout as 80s Audi powertrains but the Subaru motor also isn't an iron block with massive forged pistons in a car that costs twice as much new as what a WRX did.

jsquared New Reader
8/19/14 4:43 p.m.

Another thing re: the "glass" 5-speeds... IIRC the primary issue when you leave out the drag-launch doofuses is that for the '02 and '03 transmissions the case was two halves that bolted together on a longitudinal seam, the '04 and later are the normal "gear guts in a cast tube with end plates" type and are stronger. Then again last I read on that was ~4yrs ago so I'd hit NASIOC or IWSTI to confirm.

Knurled PowerDork
8/19/14 4:54 p.m.

The 2.5s spin bearings from oil starvation, too. The GC-era ones that is. I don't think the 2.2s have issues because they don't make enough power to hurt a bearing

ouchx100 Reader
8/19/14 5:10 p.m.

Whats up with subaru getting such a bad rep lately? Most engine failures seem to be either oil starvation or timing belt related and most transmission failures seem to be because most people don't know how to properly "launch" an awd car.

I've had my 06 since 90k miles and I've auto crossed and rallycrossed regularly with it the last 3 and a half years and now at 129k everything is still perfect. Remember to keep the oil topped off ( i keep it a little above the full mark on the dip stick when i go racing ) change the timing belt and slip the clutch when you go to get off the line.

I recommend getting an 06-07 because they have the biggest brakes of all the wrxs and the extra torque of the 2.5 is great when your off boost.

Matt B
Matt B SuperDork
8/20/14 12:34 p.m.

kanaric - the heads-up on the EJ207 is much appreciated, but this time around I don't want to be constantly second-guessing the PO's quality of work, choice of parts, etc. I know that's like trying to find a 3rd-gen F-body that never had a mullet inside of it, but there it is.

ssswitch - that is exactly what I'm looking for - thank you!

ouchx100 - well, there's a handful of board members here who've had some bad experiences with them and have been vocal about it more than once. While I think the problems are perhaps overblown by a few squeaky wheels, there's enough information correlating their stories to show I probably shouldn't ignore them. Some seem to be lucky, others not so much.

I'm pretty sure we're getting a WRX whether I like it not, so I'm just trying to walk in with my eyes open. Also, she won't be able to veto anything when it's my turn.

edit - at least she doesn't want any number of boring, expensive, bloated automobiles that some of her friends seem to like. I realized I'm probably sounding a wee-bit negative about the whole thing, when in reality I don't consider this a bad problem to have. Maybe I'll even get her to dirty up in the garage.

sachilles SuperDork
8/20/14 2:05 p.m.

My personal opinion. More important than the engine or transmission, is the status of the body with respect to rust. Have a good look underneath even if it looks fine on the outside. Reach up in the rear wheel well, as high as you can, if you find a hole skip it. While an engine or transmission can be a bummer to find out if they are bad, they are really pretty painless swaps and can be done inexpensively and correctly. 5 speeds are find for daily driving and will take race duty, but can't hammer them. The 6 speed will be bomb proof. I personally prefer the 2.0 turbo, but if you find a 2.5 turbo with good mileage on it and no problems, you'll be fine. The catastrophic issues happen early in life. I do suggest a tune, but someone reputable. I've had many turbo and N/A subies. I have only killed one 5 speed transmission, and it had 179k very hard miles(it died under full load at a hillclimb, with R compounds) The EJ255 turbo in legacies and others(plastic intake is the easy way to id one), has created a lot of angst. Bad turbos leave metal shards hiding in the engine, waiting to destroy replacement blocks etc and has made many folks sour. That being said, if you can find a legacy with a bad ej255, and are resourceful and smart on your rebuild, you can end up with a very good car for short money. So, long story short. Watch for rust. If motor and transmission seem ok, they probably will be.

Swank Force One
Swank Force One MegaDork
8/20/14 2:08 p.m.
Knurled wrote:
captdownshift wrote: do you prefer catastrophic transmission failure or catastrophic engine failure?
WRX + $2500 STI transmission = almost as bulletproof as an Evo or Audi.

Worst compliment ever.

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