2000 Outback shakes at low RPMs

I’ve been having some trouble with my 2000 Outback wagon. It starts, but seems to be really struggling at low RPMs. When it’s idling, the whole car shakes pretty bad and the check engine light comes on. Sometimes it shakes so violently that it stalls out.

I brought it to my mechanic during the winter. He thought I might have moisture in the tank and suggested putting some isopropyl alcohol in the tank. I couldn’t find the really pure stuff at the drugstore, so I sprung for a few bottles of HEET. That seemed to work, but only for about five or ten minutes each time.

Mechanic thinks I might have even more water in the tank and suggested I keep pouring the alcohol in there. I’m skeptical. Is there anything else it might be or that I could try?

What codes were pulled from the computer?


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A different mechanic as the one you are using don’t seem to have a clue about what the problem is.


might be time for a new mechanic. take 2 aspirins and call me in the morning. its pretty much what he told you.


You didn’t mention what codes came up when your mechanic scanned the vehicle’s OBD system.
If he failed to check the stored trouble codes and merely told you to keep dumping alcohol into the tank, then he is absolutely not a competent mechanic.

Also–how many miles are on the odometer?
Have the spark plugs ever been changed?


I’d also start with the spark plugs, plug wires, or coils.

Of course, on a 20+ year old car, it could be a lot of things.

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… and if the OP continues to go to his/her current “mechanic” the problem might not ever be resolved.


I guess the mechanic figured with all the alcohol, the engine would get drunk and forget it had a problem and would run right.


If I recall correctly from the first time I brought it in, they told me the engine was misfiring (or had misfired?).

That’s what I was afraid of. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options in my remote rural town. I’ve tried the competition and they’re even worse.

There is a dealership in town, but I’m hesitant to pay their premium prices.

Well it seems you are not getting anything for the money you spent now so the dealer might be less expensive in the long run.


Car’s in the shop right now, otherwise I’d run out and check the odometer. I think it’s around 160,000?

Not sure about the spark plugs. I’m no expert under the hood, but I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. Is changing the spark plugs relatively straightforward on this car?

Good point.

There is a code set when the check engine light goes on, ask them to read it and tell you what it is. It’s something like P0123 (for example).

I tried getting drunk myself, but the problem remains. :beer:


Will do. I’ll ask when I pick it up.

How to Replace Spark Plugs 00-12 Subaru Outback - YouTube

And the “mechanic’s” suggested fix was to just keep dumping alcohol in the tank?

Since a misfire can result in VERY expensive damage to the catalytic converter and the engine, it is important for the OP to get this resolved now, by somebody who is competent.


While I think, given the circumstances, that the dealer may be your best alternative here…bear in mind that the dealer is typically more interested in selling you a new car than fixing your 20 year old one with problems. So take whatever they tell you with a bit of salt.

I have always heard that you will not find the answer to any problem at the bottom of a glass. :laughing: :laughing: :beer:

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