1998 Subaru Outback overheating, front end shaking

  • AWD
  • 232,000 MILES
I just got this car about a month ago. My first manual. Noticed recently for a couple days in a row while driving the temp would be topped out. I thought It was just the way I was shifting. Well after heading home the check engine light went off, flashed n stopped but still stayed on. Lost all power on parkway while stopped at light in fast lane. Merged over n car began smoking seemed pretty heavy at one point too. Checked fluids n noticed one we had missed prior to checking others, the coolant was completely empty. Left car sitting went n got coolant filled er up as well as a second check on oil. Left it sitting over night. In am the needle had finally dropped, tried getting to work with it, got off n well didn't make it very far. Left it there for a couple days n just this morning went to get her n maybe made it just short of 5 miles from my house before she began overheating again. Where I'm at is currently 38 degrees figured it wouldn't over heat.
Been told possibly thermostat?
(Fingers crossed)
Help idk where to go from here. Screw mechanics when it comes to being a female. They intentionally screw us over cause were made out to be car retarded. Dont feel like throwing my money away. But thanks for being not caring.
So please any info will be so much appreciated!
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Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 AT 8:43 AM

1 Reply

Due to a major house fire and no internet, I drove 21 miles round-trip to try to help, so the least you can do to help me help you is take the time to type coherent sentences with full words. Is it hot or cold where you are? Is that 38 degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius? I'm in the U.S, and it's nice and toasty here. 38 degrees Fahrenheit is freezing to me and would make overheating your engine less likely.

For the record, I taught Automotive Technology for nine years, and three of my top students were girls. The guys had a lot of respect for them, and they're doing well in their jobs. There are just as many guys out there who are clueless about the machines they trust to get them back home, especially since technology has far outpaced our need for it and our ability to keep up with it. A lot of what you perceive as being treated as a "dumb girl" is more likely to be a result of poor communication. Of course there will always be people who talk down to you and treat you with little respect. Those are the times to find a different store or person to work with.

When you visit most reputable shops, you will not even meet or speak with the mechanic. They are kept in back for a couple of reasons. First, they're busy fixing other people's cars, and those people are being charged by the hour. You don't want to pay for an hour of labor when the mechanic was talking with someone else for part of that time. More importantly, mechanics have notoriously poor communication skills. They can tell another mechanic in three words more about your car than what they can tell you in five minutes because they speak the same language. New car dealerships and other larger independent shops have service advisers who take what they think they heard from the mechanic and translate that into something they think you're going to understand. You know something is going to get lost in translation. Unfortunately every one of us has our share of customers who get seriously mixed up over some of the simplest things we try to tell them, then they blame us for trying to take advantage of them after a friend or relative explains the same thing a different way. Because of those miserable experiences, a lot of service advisers intentionally dumb-down many of their explanations in an attempt to avoid that confusion. That, and the fact that most service advisers never where mechanics, and they don't know much about cars, leads to a lot of miscommunication. That is not an intentional intent to defraud or take advantage of you. The point of this sad story is you can be expected to know little about cars, but you can't fall back on that being-a girl thing any more. There's a lot of sharp girls out there and there's a lot of clueless guys out there when it comes to cars. If you assume you're going to be taken advantage of, you're going to leave feeling that way no matter how honest the people at the shop were. In my experience, when interpreting repair bills for friends and coworkers, it's usually the people who were bragging about what a great deal or wonderful service they got who really were taken advantage of. They just didn't know it.

The first clue there was a problem was the temperature gauge reaching "hot". You should have immediately stopped the engine or tried a few things to see what might bring the temperature down. That's basic driver training and has nothing to do with the way you were shifting. No matter what type of weird shifting you can dream up, the engineers have taken that into account when they designed the car.

At that point there could have been a slow leak that caused a loss of engine coolant, or the electric radiator fan might not have been turning on. The fan isn't needed at highway speeds, so the engine would not overheat then. Regardless of the cause, continuing to drive with the engine overheating often leads to more serious problems. Knowing this, a lot of shops figure those expensive repairs into a repair estimate in case they're needed. We really hate having to call you and tell you more things are needed than we originally thought, so it's easier to just plan for those things ahead of time, then surprise you with a lower final bill when some of those things aren't needed.

To start now, you need to fill the coolant, then look around on the engine and on the ground to see if anything is leaking. You can use just water for now unless the temperature is in danger of getting below the freeze point. Once the overheating is solved, some of that water will be drained out, then antifreeze will be added. If no other engine damage occurred, and the leak is relatively slow, you may be able to drive for hours or days, but check the coolant level periodically. If the overheating occurs right away or within a few minutes, listen for the roar of the radiator fan. If you don't hear it turning on, you can still drive at higher speeds when natural airflow is sufficient.

If the overheating occurs at any speed, and with the fan running, a common cause is a leaking cylinder head gasket. We have a problem here with the diagnosis. Overheating the engine even once can cause a cylinder head to warp, and that can cause combustion gases to get pushed into the cooling system. THAT will cause overheating for reasons I can explain fully later if necessary. In other words, overheating can cause a leaking head gasket, and a leaking head gasket, (that occurs on its own), can cause overheating. We often can't know which came first or if one led to the other. Your mechanic can perform a quick and simple chemical test at the radiator to check for a leaking head gasket, but if he finds that, he still doesn't know if that is all that's wrong or if there was some other initial cause. This is where too many mechanics just jump in and tackle the expensive head gasket and give the car back to you, then you come to find out the engine is still overheating. The natural assumption is the mechanic did shoddy work, he didn't diagnose the problem correctly, or he performed unneeded repairs. There's no point in giving you a car back that is doing the same thing it did before. We know you won't be satisfied with that kind of service, so unless you have a reason to know better, assume the mechanic made a mistake or incomplete diagnosis before you assume he was intentionally out to defraud you.
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Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 AT 7:08 PM

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