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1998 Subaru Forester - All the oil came out

This is my son’s car, he was driving and all of his oil just dropped out from the bottom… can’t put more oil in it so he hasn’t been able to start it since… he was told that it was the cam seal? I have no idea but I think the guy just wants to buy it from him as scrap for 150 … doesn’t seem right, the car is sound besides this oil situation… What do you think??

20 year old vehicle that had all of it’s oil drain out , that means a very expensive repair and not worth it to me. Of course you are getting second hand info . If you really want to help you should at least talk to the mechanic , get a clear picture of what happened ( did engine make loud noises before quitting ) and go from there.

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I’m sorry if this isn’t going to help, my son (manchild) is 19 and utterly indecisive and confusing when it comes to the laying out the details, clapping out the story, articulating the order/series of events even though it is ONLY to help him… Go figure right…?! This is what he said:
{ It literally just leans out. That’s it, when I was driving it leaked out onto the exhaust headers ]
[ That’s what happened! I was driving I started smelling the oil I pulled over it all leaked out. That’s literally it ] [ It puddled up on the ground under it at the gas station, most likely a cam gear seal ] [ No. I didn’t put any in, I’m assuming it doesn’t just pour onto the ground no, Slowly but not all at once }

Ok, I sent a screenshot of the remaining conversation, SMH in frustration


So, does that help you help me? Now you simply can’t tell I have ZERO automotive related experience can you?? Thanx for anything you may be able to contribute…
** the guy I mentioned that told him it was the cam seals is a mechanic but he is also a tow truck company and Junkyard /Salvage place owner so not real sure how dependable that info is, as I mentioned, I believe he may have ulterior motives… The vehicle as far as I know is not drivable and is sitting on his property and he is pushing hard so I need to make a decision as to what to do, let him scrap it for 150 cash or get it out of there (another expense for towing) with the belief it is salvageable and worth more than 150 scrap value (we have about 4k in it at this point) my son honestly got screwed by a used car dealer on this vehicle… I believe it was intentional, that this dealer withheld information, knew it was a lemon, found an easy target and here we are, my 19 year old sitting with a broken vehicle while the dealer has his perfectly good vehicle that they traded… you know he worked really hard for the money to purchase his vehicle and was so excited at an opportunity to improve his investment, to gain experience and knowledge, only to literally have his ass handed to him by this crooked man and possibly trying to be handed it AGAIN by another… please help me save him somewhat, if you can
Thank you so much for your time and attention

I’m no Subaru expert but I suspect a confusion in terminology. A cam SEAL if it exists would be an internal leak with no external loss of oil. A cam COVER SEAL on the Subaru’s horizontally opposed would cause an external leak and could result in oil smoking on the hot exhaust. I’m reasonably certain all of the oil would not leak out of the cam cover. Has anyone checked the crankcase oil level with the dipstick?

the engine does have an oll level dipstick. you use it to check oil levels. the owners manual even describes how to remove dipstick and check oil level. i think your car had an oil leak. maybe the level was so low the red oil pressure light came on? or it started to smoke from oil dripping and your son stopped to look? you or anyone can add oil. its easy.

You can look at it and see if you can determine where the oil came out, but I think at this point just tow it to a shop where you can get a real estimate. I had the timing chain go out on my Riviera about 50 miles from home. I had it towed to a local shop and rented a car. The guy said the car was shot but wanted to buy it because he had a wrecked Toronado that he could use for an engine swap. I declined and had it towed home for $100. I spent another $150 and a weekend putting in a new timing chain and gears and worked fine for at least another 100,000 miles. I never hesitated to pay for towing to get it someplace where I could deal with it better. Any doubt, tow it out.

Your screenshot is not working for me.

Yes, on that engine it’s possible that a cam gear leak will leak down to the exhaust header. So the story is plausible. Does that make it true? No idea. We’d need to see the engine.

As for getting ripped off, that’s not a given. Your kid bought a 20 year old car. It’s not going to be new. The salesman probably doesn’t know what problems it has because he probably doesn’t know how to work on cars - if he knew how to do something useful, he wouldn’t be selling ancient used cars.

Did your kid get a pre-purchase inspection? That’s something that should always be done before buying a used car. Any time you buy a car from a dealership, assume they’re trying to screw you. They very well might be, and even if they aren’t, they probably don’t know what they’re talking about anyway and you’ll get screwed via their ignorance. Always do your own research and have your own inspection done by an independent mechanic you trust.

As to the repair guy screwing you over, I don’t see why a mechanic who also owns a salvage yard would lie to you about a needed repair any more than any other mechanic. Owning a salvage yard does not automatically make you a crook.


Your son traded in a perfectly good car for a 20 year old Subaru? Is there some unknown allure in an old Subaru?

If the car didn’t have an engine problem they might offer your son as much as $650 for the car, salvage yards don’t pay top dollar for their inventory.

Someone will have to inspect the engine to determine if it is beyond repair.

I would suggest another opinion. Generally speaking, it will take a while for all of the oil to exit the engine past a camshaft seal.

The unknowns is how much oil is left in the engine and whether or not the cam seal is the culprit. First step should be making sure the engine is not locked up. If you hit the key and the starter motor make a heavy clunk sound the engine is likely seized. That can be verified by trying to turn the crankshaft pulley bolt manually.

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Your son is 19 years old, he should be making his own decisions. Why isn’t he writing to us?

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I wish I could re-live the 17-20 year old years and re-do a few things. Might even run that back to 16. Dad wasn’t as dumb as I thought he was. This would be the cold and wet weather we’d be out hunting ducks in the boat but I wouldn’t want to re-live that part.

This isn’t a direct quote, but Mark Twain said something to the effect of…

When I was 16, I couldn’t believe how dumb my father was. By the time that I reached the age of 21, it was amazing how much Dad had learned in just a few years.