NHTSA — Engine And Engine Cooling: Engine Problems


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
54,214 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

1998 Subaru Legacy engine problems

engine problem

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1998 Subaru Legacy Owner Comments

problem #15

Dec 022006

Legacy 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 144,000 miles


My 98 Subaru Legacy outback 2.5 liter, 144K miles was sporadically overheating while driving on the highway through a snow/rain storm. The temperature gauge would go up, and the cabin heater would start producing cool air. I pulled over and let it cool down, filled the radiator back up with water (it had overflowed) and drove slowly home. When I took it to the mechanic, he suggested when hearing the symptoms that it was a blown head gasket, and that this Subaru engine was notorious for this. He even suggested a class action suit. After he checked it out, it was indeed a blown head gasket. After some web research on car forums, I found several other people with exactly the same problem with this particular engine.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #14

Apr 162004

Legacy 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
While driving 75 mph vehicle stalled. Consumer was not able to restart the vehicle, and it was towed to the dealer for inspection. Mechanic determined that the engine needed to be replaced.

- Santa Fe, NM, USA

problem #13

Jul 232004

Legacy 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,580 miles
While driving 60 mph vehicle stalled. Consumer was unable to restart vehicle. It was towed to a garage for inspection, and mechanic determined that the head gasket needed to be replaced due to a blow out. Updated 02/24/06

- Oakland, CA, USA

problem #12

Nov 012003

Legacy 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


Oil leaking from oil pump. The leaking oil comes in contact with the header and burns.

- Colorado Springs, CO, USA

problem #11

Feb 232004

Legacy 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 149,000 miles
Vehicle requires replacement of head gaskets, as part of the engine coolant system. Original service complaint was the " check engine light came on". after three days at dealer service, it was determined that the head gaskets needed replacement for the cost of $ $2,700. Because the engine has to be removed to access the gaskets. Labor will involve 3 days. The dealer has admitted that this is a design problem with the Subaru and models from 1999 will be covered. I feel the cost is excessive because of a design defect. I am will to pay but not $ $2,700. I was expecting $ 400-$500 dollars. For a $ $20 dollar seal! while not a safety defect; it certainly is a design defect!

- Stratford, CT, USA

problem #10

Jan 012004

Legacy 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 108,000 miles
Coolant leaked from the engine head gasket. The consumer took the vehicle to dealer, and they replaced the gasket head/gas, and holes.

- South Salem, NY, USA

problem #9

Jan 282004

Legacy 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 108,096 miles


Head gasket failure.

- South Salem, NY, USA

problem #8

Jan 232003

Legacy 4WD 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 48,528 miles
Dealer wrote: "noise from valve train...advised owner these are solid lifters and are noisy when cold, also characteristic of this engine is 'cam walk' which also will be noisy for a few minutes when cold then goes away." That wa at 48.5 K miles, now at 53000 miles, noise is much louder when cold, and still perceptable when warm. Bought car used form dealer--resale value is now much lower due to noise. Their explanation is nonsensical. Obviously dubaru does not want to deal with this issue--I wrote to Subaru usa and they refered me back to dealer.

- Hastings On Hudson, NY, USA

problem #7

Feb 042003

Legacy 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 78,000 miles
At the beginning of February, 2003, blown engine in a 1998 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT. Dealer stated that the problem was due to cold weather in the northeast, and that there were 4 other Subaru's with blown engines in his lot awaiting repair. I had the engine replaced with a 1999 Subaru at a trusted mechanic's (at a cost of $4000), and today the alternator on this 1999 engine died ( this had been a recall on the '98 Subaru's).

- Ballston Lake, NY, USA

problem #6

Apr 212003

Legacy 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 35,000 miles
Asked dealership to look at knocking noise in engine 2 years ago, no problem identified. Asked another automobile repair facility about the noise and they claim Subaru had a history of piston slap that will eventually get worse resulting in burning oil and engine damage.

- Pittsfield, MA, USA

problem #5

Mar 272003

Legacy 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


Engine noise when cold. Sounds like a lifter is sticking. It disapates when the engine warms up, however, can last up to 15 minutes or longer depending oh how cold the engine was when started. When I drove this vehicle to the dealer for its 30000 service, I thought a rod was going to shoot through the engine wall..it was that noisy. It lasted at least 10 miles of driving until the noise disapated. This auto was purchased by my mother in law (now deceased), is in her estate and has two months before warranty expires. The dealer will not repair due to alleged Subaru bulletin. Subaru of America says it is normal, will not cause a problem over the life of the engine, however claims they have not produced nor will produce a Subaru bulletin on this issue. This is not a normal operating noise and it will no doubt damage the engine over time. I would not buy this car with this sound and would not expect anyone including any Subaru dealer or Subaru of America to purchase with this engine noise, let alone try to sell one in this condition. In my mind it is a manufacturing defect and a responsibility of Subaru to fix. This is a problem Subaru needs to step up and take the responsibility for an inferior engine design. Or post a warning on every car warning potential buyers that their car may develop an engine noise due to engine design, that will effect their ability to sell the car at a later date.

- Mill Creek, WA, USA

problem #4

Oct 272000

(reported on)

Legacy 4WD

  • miles
I am getting a loud slapping noise from the engine on cold starts it last for about ten to fifteen minutes or untill the engine warmes up, the dealer says that it is a piston slap and that is normal. I do not agree, when I first bought the car it did not have that noise, and it is getting louder, I do not want to wait to have this problem fixed, my warrantee will expire soon

- Carmel, NY, USA

problem #3

Apr 052000

Legacy 4WD

  • miles
Loud engine knocking at start-up/Subaru has "internal" service bulletin to replace pistons?

- Dover, DE, USA

problem #2

Apr 011998

Legacy 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Grease seals on drive shaft failed.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #1

May 301998

Legacy 4WD

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Oil leak from oil filter seam, causing fire. (qcaw)

- Manhasset, NY, USA

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