My wife and I bought a used 98 Legacy Outback last year from a local Toyota dealer. Very clean though w/115K mi. on it and no history on the car I had them replace the timing belt as a precaution. They didn't get it right and it was leaking oil from the cam seals and front cover when they were finished. We took it back and they agreed to take it to the local Subaru dealer who replaced the timing belt. That was in Dec. 2007. Fast forward to Apr. 2008 - knocking noise from front of block prompts us to take it to our local mechanic who removes front cover to find the bolt securing the timing belt tensioner loose, and the inner 1/4" or so of the timing belt shredded. Belt otherwise intact. No other apparent damage without further disassembly which we decide to have done at the Subaru dealer (only one in 100mi) who replaced the belt in Dec. The Subaru service rep disclaims responsibility for the timing belt tensioner being loose, saying the tensioner failed causing the bolt to come loose, but agrees to replace the belt and tensioner and charge us only for the tensioner part, no labor charges. Supposed to get it back today - service mgr. calls to report they finished timing belt replacement to find knocking still present - propose head job on both heads and possible all eight valves - est. from $1,500 to $2K - though they propose to split cost.
Of course we're not too happy about this , considering the dealer replaced the belt back in Dec. and we've put very few miles (wild guess 2-3K) on since then. I'm not a mechanic, but I doubt their story about the tensioner failing and causing the bolt to loosen. Even if that were the case, since they replaced the timing belt in December we feel that if the tensioner were that close to failing they should have recognized it and alerted us.
Anybody out there have enough experience with 98 Subrau Legacy Outbacks to know whether the timing belt tensioner would fail so miserably on it's own just a few months after a belt replacement? Would a failing timing belt tensioner provide warning noises well withing the timie frame of a few months prior to failure?