Car Wars, the Saga Continues.

So after getting the Double-Ott road worthy and driving it to work for the remainder of the winter and fixing the little problems that it had, I finally felt that it was ready for a new owner, my daughter and her husband, who had returned from China in mid April. (Long story worthy of another blog post all by itself.) I had logged roughly six thousand miles on the old girl and my wife had taken it numerous times to Albert Lea and back when our “good car” the ’05 Forester was making strange transmission noises. (Yet another pending blog story!) Shortly before the official ownership transfer, I had popped the hood to have a check of vital fluids when I noticed a small puddle of oil on the top of the engine, near the head gasket. This was not a good sign, said I. A few days later I performed the fluid check again only to find that the coolant overflow bottle had more in it than previously. A quick check of the radiator and I found out where it was coming from; the engine. This could only mean one thing. The head gasket on that side was not totally sealing, allowing the cooling system to be pressurized thereby pushing coolant out of the radiator and back into the overflow bottle. I told my daughter to keep an eye on the coolant level an let me know if the temp gauge got into the red zone. A couple days later she called and said that the coolant level in the bottle was quite high. Not good. This could only mean one thing; the engine would have to come back out and the offending head gasket would have to be replaced before any engine damage could occur. Bummer. Note to self: When rebuilding Subaru engines, don’t buy El Cheapo gasket sets from Ebay, unless you like replacing head gaskets every six thousand miles or so.
While this saga was unfolding, my stepdaughter started having issues with her ’97 Outback transmission leaking oil onto the exhaust pipe and creating quite a stink when up to operating temperature. A check of the transaxle oil level revealed way too much oil in there and it smelled like ATF, not gear oil, as it should. The transmission had probably blown a seal between the two and now it was causing problems. I changed out the transaxle oil and added some ATF to the transmission and sent her on her way. A couple days later we got a call from her. Seems the car would not shift out of low gear until it was driven for about ten minutes or so. Looked like it was new tranny time for the ’97. I started checking Craigslist for donors and found a couple, however, most of the parts cars were in the Twin Towns and needed to be towed. Not having a tow truck or dolly available was a huge handicap but then again, how many times would I put it to use? After about a week of searching, I stumbled upon a running ’98 Outback in Eden Prairie that was pretty cheap. Best of all, it ran and needed minimal work. That’s the best kind of used car, for sure. The plan at this point was to go look at and test drive the ’98. If it was up to my standards, (which are quite low, by the way) then we would buy the unit, drive it home and use the ’97 for parts. Since they were of the same body style, many parts will interchange.
Turns out that the ’98 was at a used car dealer tucked back in an obscure industrial park. (Thank goodness for Google Maps!) It did run just fine but had a small oil leak from the power steering pump and also a check engine light on, which turned out to be just a minor emissions code. We bought the thing and headed for home. Made the trip just fine. Whew. Now the next maneuver was to make one good car out of two, something I am quite good at after years of practice.
So at one point, I had two un-roadworthy Subarus sitting in the driveway, along with my wife’s good car, my ’89 Toyota pickup, the Geo-trike and my project VW Jetta that has been on hold for two months. The place was starting to look like a used car lot. Long story short, I just finished up on both cars last weekend and so that situation looks like it is resolved, for now. Hopefully, the Double-Ott will last another hundred thou or so and likewise with the ’98 Outback.

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