97 Subaru Legacy Outback – A Mechanic’s Stroll in Nightmareville

97 Subaru Legacy Outback – A Mechanic’s Stroll in Nightmareville


Every once in a while as a mechanic, you get into a car that you wished you hadn’t. I’ve definitely had worse, but this car was a bit of a mind boggler. This car came in for an engine swap, so we thought “Hey, why not? Not like we haven’t worked on about 100 of these cars anyways”.

The customer had paid us in full when they stopped by the shop, and said they would tow the car in later on in the week. When the car was towed in, this is what we found:


The customer had torn the engine apart in a attempt to help us with the deconstruction!! Now let me note: This picture was taken about 40% of the process into assembling the new motor. When our team opened up the hood and back gate for the first time, our first thought was “This is going to be way more work than an engine swap”. Everything from the power steering assembly, all the way to the AC condenser and intake manifold had been taken apart.

A repair job like this often comprises of a few hundred bolts to say the least. Different sizes and lengths. Clips and clamps of all dimensions and shapes. All mixed up into a few bags that literally sent shivers down our technician’s spine. Its a good thing we know these cars like the back of our hands. A REALLY GOOD THING.

We skipped a few steps with documenting the process, but we caught back up at about the 50% mark. Here, you’ll see the heads off the new (used) block we bought. Just finished polishing it, and its ready to go back together!


We’re going the full 9 yards with this install. We’re replacing the head gaskets, valve cover gaskets, timing belt, water pump, belt tensioner, pulleys, rear main seal, and re-seating the valves. Re-seating the valves will get rid of the annoying lifter tick commonly associated with Subaru’s.

Heads are back from the machine shop!


These heads look goregous! Central Cylinder and Head is one of Portland’s longest standing and most trusted machine shops. They did a great job! Now, lets put it together…


This is Fernando. Our resident motor expert. The ridiculously long wrench he is using is called a Torque Wrench. This wrench makes sure the bolts are tightened in order, and at the factory specified tightness. Its a process called torque spec-ing the bolts. Important to do when putting together any head gasket job.

Things are starting to come together! Both Heads are in and we’re dropping the motor in.


Intake manifold assembly, CHECK.


At this point, we’re in the home stretch. We have the power steering pump assembly, air conditioning condenser and pump, alternator, air intake, radiator and a few more things.


New Motor is now installed!! Looks and sounds great. We love finishing a job the right way. John the customer went the whole 9 yards and the motor swap went swimmingly. No lifter ticks, no burning oil, no head gasket leaks, no belt squeaks!

By | 2014-07-07T15:14:39+00:00 July 7th, 2014|Subaru Repair|Comments Off on 97 Subaru Legacy Outback – A Mechanic’s Stroll in Nightmareville

About the Author: