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Subaru Outback - Cold weather starting issue

My current problem is that my Outback (92K miles) has begun to not start reliably when the temperature is cold. It's a 2.5 XT (Turbo). I first noticed it following a freak October ice storm. It also happens if the car has been allowed to sit in cold weather (below 35 degrees) long enough to cool down. If the weather has been cold overnight, when I start the car, it starts ok, but after mabye 15-30 secondst the idle settles in at around a wobbly 900 rpm and the car idles very roughly. If I attempt to drive it, the car will not go above 10 mph. I can let it idle like that for a period of time, but it doesn't improve. If I apply gas while in park, it will rev no higher than 1200 rpm. However if I turn the car off and then come back maybe 10 minutes after it starts ok most of the time and then drives ok. I also get a check engine light and the cruise light The dealer says the cruise light indicated that when I have a check engine the cruise is disabled. When my dealer checked it, the codes indicated some throttle body issue. (A friend with a home diagnostic unit also checked and the problem indicated had to do with a throttle body actuator.) How that could be temperature related I’m not sure but the service manager suggested cleaning the throttle body. That was his cheapest guess. The cleaning ran $160 and did not fix the problem. So that appeared to be a cheap guess and I’m out $160 with no value to me in terms of anything being fixed. The service manager’s next two best guesses were to replace the throttle body altogether and if that didn’t work, then maybe the ECM was sending bad codes and might need replacement. When I asked what those actions would cost his estimate was that each action would run around $1000!!!!! Simply put I am not in a position to pay $1000 a whack to have that service group check their guesses. If I’m going to pay $1000, I expect some assurance that the fix will clear the problem. Or that if it doesn’t I’m not going to pay $1000 for the effort. For example, I cannot believe that there is not a way to check the ECM to find out if the one that’s in there is working right short of putting a new one in. As things stand now, the service manager suggested I “live with it”. I also did a web search and this location had a similar issue, but did not appear to be temperature related.

Any suggestion would be valuable. The website I referenced claimed to have some success with replacing a relay behind the glove box, but I can't believe that something in that location would be affected by 30 seconds of idling in cold weather. Looking ove the Cartalk web issues, I could maybe believe that a sensor may be bad, maybe a temp sensor. But I'd like some backup on that. I di dnotice that my temp report on the dash has seemed to lag real life a good bit, but I noticed that when the car was actually running ok on the road.


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