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My fancy car is a great example. Nimble, safe, comfortable. As of… - The Veritable TechNinja [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
The Veritable TechNinja

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[May. 14th, 2006|04:42 pm]
The Veritable TechNinja
[status |stressedstressed]
[waveform |The Wiseguys - Start the Commotion]

My fancy car is a great example. Nimble, safe, comfortable. As of last Wednesday though, not so much. I was driving around in that nasty rain for at least an hour when my service engine soon light came on. Mind you, it had been making a bizarre buzzing noise for some time before this, which I had ignored as it didn't make any other signs of a problem and was more likely a stem in a fan than piston slap. At any rate, there were no other signs of a problem besides this and the SES light. So I made plans with my motorhead friend to take a look, he thought it might be a vacuum leak. Then, Thursday's drive home. I hit traffic, slowed to a stop, and almost stalled out. Very obvious lack of engine balance, the motor was trying to rock itself loose from it's mounts.

So I pulled off the freeway in Wayne/Westland, and stopped at a gas station to look for obvious stuff. No hoses loose, just a complete lack of balance at idle. No real problem once I got in to the gas, just idle. The problem, however, was I had no way to get home without having to idle a lot, causing more damage. So I asked a boyracer with a 90s Altima with ghetto rims where the local AutoZone was. He pointed me in the right direction, and I arrived after a short interlude in stop light hell. The prick behind the counter kept telling me I couldn't use the DTC reader, but wouldn't say why. Turns out that he didn't want to leave the other employee (a woman) in the store by herself. He did, however, point me towards another AZ up the road about 3 miles. Great.

So I head that way, and get the code reader. P0021 - Cam timing over-advanced. Sumbitch. Time passes, in which I freak out at the prospect of no car for several days and thousands in costs. I take it to the dealer directly. In the meantime, I check out the Legacy forum. Turns out that there's a common problem that throws that code. Oil contaminants, usually from a cheap oil filter, travel up in to the hydraulic system used to adjust cam timing on the fly, something that came out on a lot of 2004 engines. This leaves either a bubble or a chunk of fluff in the chamber that's filled or emptied to advance or retard timing. In worse cases, it sticks in the oil control valve itself, locking my timing at either the max or minimum on one side of my engine. Judging by the severity of the imbalance, I'm pretty sure it's the latter for me.

So I call the dealer the next day to ask them the deal. He says it's gone up from $85 to diagnose to $160 to investigate. I ask him if it's covered under powertrain warranty, which he denies. Even though it's a system that uses engine oil to adjust cam timing, it's not a powertrain component. Even though it's purpose is to improve emissions, it's not an emissions component. Pricks.

So while I'm at work thanks to a coworker that lives near me, I search our internal library of SAE documentation, and come across this paper that describes the testing that proved that the system used in my engine is succeptible to the problem I experienced. I discussed it with the dealer, and he had one of those ohhhh... moments. If I have to explain the problem with my car with the people most qualified to diagnose it, there's something wrong. None the less, they don't have the part, and I have to wait until "maybe Tuesday night" to have my own transportaion again. Nope, no loaner. Nope, no warranty. The best they can offer is to try to mitigate the tremendous cost associated with tearing down enough of the engine to get the thing out. Grr...

In other news, the show at Mephisto's last night went OK, another show under my belt. The Smarties brought a new vector, I actually had a drum mix. It was pointless to have one in that venue, but I had one. It was nice to fatten out a kick drum myself though. I'm left with two problems that I can't fix on my own at this point. One, the mics aren't that good at picking up dynamics. It's there or it's not. The Audix are decent, but just not what most vocalists are used to, causing bad sound through no fault of either party. The Sennheisers, however, are now officially retired to cabinet or drum duty only. I'd like a complete set of Shures, but I doubt it's going to happen and really doesn't need to if the bands will just maintain their cabinet volume. I think we can get away with an SM58. Next week I'm going to try to either use the Sennheisers to mic the cabinets or finally put the DI to good use.

(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: arcsine
2006-05-15 08:27 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't take my case as a permanent disqualifier for the Legacy/Outback, especially if you're going to do your own oil changes. I'm at least relatively certain that the OCV got jammed up with chunks of paper from a poorly-manufactured oil filter. I can tell you one thing, VVT isn't all it's cracked up to be. It seems it's a universal issue with vane-type cam phasers.
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