I have a 1997 Subaru Legacy which seems to be running quite rough. The way it
drives is comparable to when my last car had a blown Gasket, but not nearly as
I had thought it was a potential blown head gasket, until I realized the timing
belt was soon due to be changed. I did some googling and Some of the symptoms of
a needing to be changed timing belt was similar to how my car is running:Mainly
being a ticking sound, slight misfires , but no oil leakage I can notice. When
taking off in first gear, the car takes a while to pick up even if my foots
hitting the floor on the gas, it does eventually pickup, but it's quite rough
and driving the car overall can be quite 'jerky'. The ticking noise does often
occur. A few weeks earlier the car wouldn't start up properly and was blowing
petrol smelling smoke out(hasn't happened since).My question is, is this likely
due to the timing belt needing to be replaced, or what could it be? Any
help/Hypothesis's are welcome. Cheers.
My thought would be that it's a digital rather than an analogue situation.
There really aren't any symptoms of a timing belt "needing" changing. It
works right up until it breaks at which point the engine quits.
It's not like the increasing fouling of spark plugs which deteriorates
performance more and more- or the gradual aging/hardening of windshield
wiper blades that increasingly smear.
The fastest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
As the timing wears, it stretches and that throws off timing. The OP
never mentioned taking his car into the shop for a timing job. Other
symptoms can be poor fuel economy, smoke from exhaust (since it isn't
getting burnt), sluggish acceleration, hard starting, backfiring or
pinging, rough idling, and low power because the worn and stretched belt
causes mistiming. Missing teeth on the belt means the belt slips at
higher RPM causing odd behavior above, say, 2000 RPM. A bad tensioner
(or idler) causes squealing, rattling, or a flapping noise along with
driveability issues under high load or high RPM. If the belt is not
properly tensioned, mistiming can result.
A ticking noise (which the OP mentioned) is a sign of a worn timing
belt. The ticking could also be due to low oil pressure to a hydraulic
lifter or a bad lifter which will effect mistiming on that cylinder. As
the engine warms up, the valve lifter noise gets quieter but may not go
completely away. Sometimes replacing a quart of engine oil with a quart
of Seafoam (alcohol, naphtha, kerosene) or Marvel Mystery Oil (light
oil, wintergreen oil), or a mix of them, and some in the fuel tank might
help. Basically you're cleaning the engine. Since these thin the oil,
wait for the tick noise to go away (if it does) and then do an oil
Putting ethanol in gasoline wasn't to help your engine last. Quite the
opposite. It was to continue qualifying a federal subsidy to corn
growers, move corn oil from cattle feed (that caused atherosclerosis) to
human consumption (oh great, we die sooner), and instigated during the
"global warming" contrivance trying to figure out how to further tax
humans (since the Earth for its thermal fluctuations and Sun for its
gamma radiation fluctuations that affect cloud cover cannot be taxed).
Supposedly reduces emissions but at the expense of your car while
creating more carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) and oxygenates must be
added to reduce the carbon monoxide from the combustion of ethanol.
Ethanol causes more smog, not less (proven way back in 1995 - API vs
EPA). Harder starting and lower mileage (due to lower energy density),
corrosion of metal, degradation of rubber and plastic parts, settles out
of gasoline which attracts moisture, and reduced engine life. Using
ethanol'ed fuel in small engines results in a carb job in a couple
The OP never mentioned if he got an OBD2 reader so he can see any
history of events (whether or not an error got generated when the ECM
decided there are enough events or with enough severity to flash a light
on the dash). The light only comes on when the ECM decides the
situation is really bad but that doesn't preclude problems up to then.
There are many symptoms of a failing timing belt or tensioner. The
question is whether the driver notices them or not. Some drivers just
turn up their radio when their car makes more noise. Seems the OP has
sufficient symptoms to warrant taking his car into the shop.
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