I just blew both catalytic converters on my 2001 outback with 120k miles. Driving from VT to Boston, the check engine light came on in NH, the car started bucking and then the accelorator stopped working. I pulled over on the side of the highway. It was going to cost $500 to tow to Boston, so it’s now in NH. Not sure if I should fix it, or trade it in…Estimated bill is $2,400, plus I’m told this is generally an end result of something else in the engine being wrong…Is it trade in time?
Two cats going bad at once is extremely rare, and it would indicate a serious problem elsewhere. Who’s making the diagnosis? If the car can be driven I’d get a second opinion.
Knowing nothing about the car’s maintenance history it’s impossible to make a recommendation regarding keeping it or trading.
$2,400 is not the end of the world. If that gets the car back on the road and it runs another 100K miles it would be worth it. If, on the other hand, the car has other problems, or needs other expensive maintenance, like a timing belt, it may be advantageous to trade it now.
Only you can decide.
Thanks for the info. It was diagnosed by a gas station, I’m having it towed to the nearest Subaru dealer. In terms of maintenance, I get regular oil changes, but I’m not great on other stuff. I don’t think the timing belt has been replaced recently/ever. I recently did the breaks. My last outback went flawlessly to 200k, I was hoping this would too. When the dealer gets it today and I find out what caused the cats to blow, I’ll prob be able to make a more informed decision.
Get a second opinion from a good mechanic. You don’t really need to take it to a dealer.
There may be a misunderstanding here. I did a bit of a look-see and discovered that the Subie 2001 cat converter is a pipe flanged on both ends with two canisters incorporated.
It’s more likely that one of the two converters’ honeycomb collapsed and plugged the pipe, necessitating replacement of the entire assembly with both converter sections.
It also appears that an aftermarket part is about $300 and is a direct-fit bolt in, which would make the $2400 price very, very high. If it were me I think I’d have it towed home and bolt in the aftermarket replacement.
That still leaves the question of why the honeycomb collapsed. I’d take a good look-see at the engine. Have you had any operating problems lately? Any gas smell?
I’d get a second opinion. You should be able to find an aftermarket part that will do the job. Since your car is out of warranty, there’s no reason to get a factory original as long as the aftermarket part meets the specs.
If you do get it fixed, by all means change that timing belt and water pump though, or you’re going to have a very unpleasant even more expensive surprise soon.
Thank you. From my online research, the $2400 price seemed high in comparison. I don’t recall any operating problems or smells. But I’m not the most attentive to my car…I’m hoping the dealer can detect any underlying issues that might have caused this issue. I’ll also have him do a quick assessment of things that should be evaluated at 120k. Because I live in Boston and my car is currently in White River Junction VT, I felt better bringing it to a dealer than a gas station with no online reviews. Hopefully it’s in good hands now. Tough to deal w/ a state away
Did someone scan the engine computer for error codes?
Failing cat converters don’t generally cause a sudden driveability problem.
Yes, the gas station it was towed to told me the code was the cat. He said something about also blowing out the spark plugs too? I didn’t write it down because I was on my cell trying to get home from NH.
The CEL came on a few days ago, I put in more oil, it turned off. I was just driving locally and then I got on the highway, the CEL came on again, the cruise control shut off, the car was bucking when I hit the accelerator. I didn’t know the area and was hoping to get back to Boston, so I kept driving. Eventually the bucking got worse and nothing happened when hitting the gas pedal. I pulled over, the engine was smoking so I called the tow truck to the gas station.
Oh-oh. I suddenly don’t like the sound of this.
Did you check the oil level before putting in more oil? How much more oil did you put in? Did you check the oil level after ading the oil?
I’m wondering based on this new information whether you overfilled the oil, causing foaming and loss of oil pressure. The oil comment combined with the operating symptoms and the smoking engine have me seriously wondering. I think you have more going on here than a simple plugged cat converter. You may want to get this to a good shop, give them the complete story, and have it look into properly.
Now I’m feeling very guilty. No, I didn’t check the oil level after filling it, and I know I should have (my dad would be very dissappointed) but it was cold out in VT and I was lazy. The oil was pretty low, so I put the whole bottle in. But that’s my usual MO - about 2,000 miles after an oil change, I throw in a bottle and I don’t usually have problems. I’m sure I’m making all of you cringe with my car maintenance tactics. I’m realizing how stupid it is as I type it.
A duck in a shooting gallery…The actual problem with your car is COMPLETELY unknown…You are at the mercy of the auto-repair gods…
You raelly should begin regularly checking your oil level instead of just throwing a bottle in every 2000 miles or so. As the engine wears, its needs change, and while a quart every 2000 may have been good once it may need more now. And, if the oil change guy left the plug loose and some is dripping out, checking it regularly will catch this before disaster strikes.
I have a sinking feeling that you lost oil pressure. This one will have to be looked at hands-on by a good shop. Post back with the results. We care.
So my car has been towed to a Subby dealer in VT. Their diagnosis is slightly different from the first gas station. The dealer said that my exhaust is leaking from every possible spot and that the gaskets on the cat converter are gone and need to be replaced. Also the cam shaft position sensor needs replacing. After they do that then they’ll see what shape the cat converter is in and whether it needs replacing. Hopefully not though.
The camshaft position sensor may be the real cause for your breakdown. IF replacing IT makes the car run, get the dealer’s price for the holey exhaust replacement, and then price the same job at a good independent muffler shop. It will still drive to one with holes. Keep the fresh air flowing in so you don’t get asphyxiated. Independent is not spelled Midas or Meineke.
Never rely on a check engine or oil pressure light to tell you when to add oil. Never rely on a gas station to do anything but sell you gas.
The Gods may have smiled favorably upon you…