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1999 Legacy advice please

First time in a forum folks. I’d be very appreciative if I could get some
advice. I can’t afford a shop right now so I’m going to try it myself. Again, thank you for your time.
1999 Legacy Outback 2.5 105 k miles
Check engine light lit up a few times and would go out after a few days then 3 months it lit up and car was running rough so I parked it in garage and didn’t do anything until recently. Car started right up but didn’t drive it anywhere. It needed a new muffler for a while so I removed it and got another one from salvage yard. Very good condition but wasn’t the exact same shape or length and wouldn’t fit under the car. I told the salvage yard the specs of my subaru and got a different shaped pipe that goes into the muffler on opposite side of tail pipe. All of what I just explained may or may not be important. Anyway, I cut off the pipe and put old pipe into the new muffler and installed. Very quiet but it’s a little short so I use metal wire to secure it.
Ok, moving on now, Someone I know who’s a little more experienced with cars looked at the engine and said I needed a new coil pack and one spark plug. Got them and he put them in and car sounded good, no Engine light on and I drove it about 4 miles and noticed slight sputtering then car died at traffic light. Started right up again and immediately started hearing clicking sounds coming from behind steering wheel in the dash area. Sounded like random clicking but constant. Like Morse code. Car sputter was more intense and could tell it was going to stall. I pulled into a parking lot. An hour later someone started the car up to listen to the engine and said I shouldn’t drive it home because there was hesitation while pushing accelerator. About 6 blocks from home but bad place for car to die.
A few days later someone who has a little knowledge about cars started car up and told me it sounded good even when I accelerated it in parked gear. No hesitation or stalling when driving it home. Seemed ok, and then decided to go to store just a few blocks away and suddenly on my way back home the same symptoms as before. Hesitation and stalled when I got to a stop sign. Started up again first attempt and that’s when the clicking sounds started. The last 1/4 mile home it felt and sounded like it was going to quit on me. Clicking noises very clear again like it was in the steering column or behind it in dash. Barely made it into the garage. Please note there was no clicking until after the car stalled when stopped at light both times. Car seemed pretty good for the first 5-10 minutes then not good.
Is this a spark plug issue? Should I just replace them all? Does the muffler have anything to do with this? Incorrect installation maybe causing problem?
That’s all I can say so thanks for the any advice that might help me. It’s not that I won’t take to mechanic. I can’t afford it or I would.


Did it look like this? Not hard to install

Based on your post, there really isn’t enough information there for anyone to help you. One thing that is glaringly absent is whether your check engine light has come on or not. Even if it hasn’t come on, you could have pending codes stored in your PCM (computer). It would be a big help if there are codes and you tell us exactly what the codes are, not someone else’s interpretation of them.

Without codes that would help us narrow down the problem, we could give you a list of parts that could be at fault. If you replaced them all, you would spend a lot more money than you would if you got a proper diagnostic and only replaced the defective part. I know that is not the news you want to hear but it is the truth.

BTW, you can get the codes read for free at most auto parts stores like Auto Zone. Just insist that they give you the actual code. It will be in a letter and 4 number format like P0300. If they give you a cash register print out of the suspected causes, it will have the code on top of the print out. If it doesn’t, write the code on it yourself.

Check the plug wires for any damage to them. The clicking you are hearing might be due to one of the wires arcing to ground. I suppose a faulty plug could cause that to happen. If the plugs haven’t been changed then they are due anyways. The timing belts are also due for a change if that hasn’t been done already. Folks usually changeout the water pump when doing the timing belts.

The ECU is located near the steering column but there are no relays inside it. The sound you are hearing could possibly be from a relay. The Main relay and Fuel pump relay may be located on the passenger side of the car. You should invest in a factory service manual for the wiring at least. It will show you where things are located and how they are connected. Ebay is a good place to get one for a small price.

Did the clicking noises increase in tempo as you revved the engine? If so, I concur with @Cougar - your plug wire(s) are damaged and arcing to ground. On that age of car, you can probably get a whole set from for a very cheap price.

I always consider valve lash adjustment. The car is a 99 and per the odds it’s quite likely the lash has never been even inspected before.

Tight valve (tightens as engine warms) leads to low compression which leads to plug fouling which leads then to a spark arcing from the plug wire and eventual coil failure if left unattended.

The easiest way to determine if something is going on is to connect a vacuum gauge to an intake manifold vacuum source. Any reading should be steady. Ideally at 20" inches but a bit lower considering the age/miles. This won’t tell you which cylinder is at fault but can lead you to the problem. A compression test would be a followup to narrow it down.

Sorry I can’t be definitive here but that is the possibility I would consider.

As posted above, hard to say given the incomplete nature of the description. But if this is of any help, as I read the post I was thinking either faulty idle air control or battery/alternator problem. OP should focus however on getting the diagnostic codes read.

Continuing the discussion from 1999 Legacy advice please:

Yes, that looks like the muffler. The original muffler was old, rusted and pipes on both ends were detached from muffler.u it The new one from the salvage yard looked like the same but the pipe is shaped different, meaning it bends in different spots so the muffler doesn’t conform to the underside of the car. So thank you for taking the time to reply Cavelle.
Now Kieth, I wasn’t aware I could get diagnostics at Auto zone. If I can get up there I’ll do it but until I do it’s going to be just like you described. Also, I forgot to mention that the check engine light was no longer on once the spark plug and coil pack were replaced. Thanks to you as well. I know it’s frustrating to read posts from the DIY people when were in over our heads.

[quote="Cougar, post:4, topic:15424
been done already. Folks

Continuing the discussion from 1999 Legacy advice please:

Hopefully my reply gets posted.
Thanks to everyone for trying to help me with this problem. Here’s what happened yesterday; I knew I had to get the car up to autozone if I wanted to get the car checked so I started the car and this time immediately the car was huffing and puffing and choking and died within 30 feet. The clicking started immediately. I got it back into the garage but I guess the good thing in my opinion is that I need the spark plugs anyway as they’re due for changing so I’ll walk to Auto zone cuz it’s basically unanimous that it sounds like a plug issue, thanks again.
Just a quick message in case I come across as a knuckle head or that I thi


I’m not sure what I or any of the fine folk here can possibly tell you based on the post above. Not much information for any of us to go on here. If you still need help… type up another post with more details as to the particular problem you are having, when it happened, what the condition was prior to any issue…etc. The more info you provide the better we can help you.

Let us know…