When I started this blog, I had no idea how mechanical it would turn out to be! But when you own several old and tired pieces of machinery, as I always have, then mechanicking is something you have to do a lot of sometimes. However, this winter has been way crazier than usual in that regard.

After the tour with the Eco-Gals was over, I went back over to Astoria the next day and towed the broken-down Subaru home. I spent days looking for an engine, and found a few equally tired ones in junkyards, but many of them had almost as many miles on them as my dead one did. Then I stumbled across a clean, allegedly rebuilt 1994 Subaru EJ22 on Craigslist, for $800. It was complete and sparking clean. All I would need to do is swap my new clutch and flywheel onto it and drop it in. So I drove down to Portland and bought it, before someone else did.

After I picked up the engine, I ran around town and did some other errands and ended up stopping for pizza at Bella Faccia on Alberta Street. While munching on my pizza, I was absentmindedly looking at the living section of the newspaper and scanned my horoscope. “Not a good day for making major purchases, what you might buy today won’t turn out to be as good as you thought,” or something to that effect. Not exactly what I needed to hear right then, so I just folded up the paper, pushed it away and pretended I never saw it. Jeez!

The new engine is super clean and has obviously been rebuilt, with everything on it, alternator, wiring harness, and all the fuel injection parts. I started working on it on Friday after spending hours moving other mechanical projects out of the way so I could use the engine hoist. I finally got started on the engine swap at about 3 PM.

engine out

I was feeling pretty competent and I had thought of taking pictures as I went along at various stages and timing myself. It took an hour and 15 minutes to have the engine dangling in the air, and I was on the path towards a running car that evening. That is, until I noticed that the plugs that plug the engine into the car were totally different on the new engine. Damn that horoscope! That shiny new wiring harness was no good at all to me, so I spent the next two hours changing it out with the old one. Right about dark, I had the new engine in and bolted up, but not yet running.

one of these things is not like the other...

The next day I was able to get everything hooked up right and running, but had to change back to my old alternator after a quick trip to the gas station left me with a dying battery. That cursed horoscope again! Fortunately, that was about a ten minute job at the most.

I have to say, even with all the troubles I’ve had with this particular very high mileage Subaru, I am impressed with the design and layout of this series of Legacy. The ergonomics are great; everything is exactly where I want it to be. The engine is a very compact and simple design and pretty easy to remove and reinstall. There is no distributor either, the ignition is computer fired from a four way coil on top of the engine. When I was first learning how to work on cars, I was amazed at the Rube Goldberg-ness of the distributor on gasoline engines. It is a remarkable and convoluted device, and as much as I admired the ingenuity that went into inventing it, it is a complicated mechanical part that wears out over time and creates trouble. Even when it doesn’t wear out, it still needs regular adjustments and parts replacements. So I am liking this engine and its lack of a mechanical distributor. Maybe I’m just getting old…

The EJ22 engine, up to 1995 anyway, is a non-interference engine. This means that if you were to break your timing belt, the car would stop running, of course, but the pistons and valves would not collide with each other, and you would only need to change the timing belt for a new one to be on your way again, unlike many modern engines, whose tolerances are so tight that there is no room for things to miss each other in the event of a broken timing belt. Also, without considering the air conditioning belt, the EJ22 engine has only one accessory drive belt, running the alternator and power steering pump. The water pump is actually driven off of the timing belt, so as long as the timing belt is intact, your water pump is turning. Also a good design feature.

subaru running again!

A short postscript: Today, in the middle of the day and with no obvious cause, or warning, that dang transmission that I just put in a couple of weeks ago starting making a new and troublesome noise. Will it ever end? I guess that’s what I get for $90. Fortunately, this still has a warranty on it. If I can’t figure it out right away, I will exchange it next week for another. Crikey!