2004 Subaru Baja - Burning Oil

Hi -

I just bought a '04 Baja Turbo, and I’m having some trials and tribulations with it

and was hoping to get some advice.

It’s an '04 Baja Turbo, factory stock with 118k on it. I’ve owned it for about a month/few hundred miles. A couple of

days ago I noticed a puff of smoke when I pulled away from the curb, and over the course of 48 hours, it’s become a full blown plume of burning oil out of my tailpipe - white-ish/blue, doesn’t smell sweet like anti-freeze.

It’s ok when sitting at idle for a while, but as soon as there’s any acceleration/load, it’s billowing out. It doesn’t do it on startup or while the engine is cold.

The background on it is that the previous owner replaced the oil pump/pan/intake and the turbo at 100k (carfax)

About 2 days after I brought it home, the check engine light came on and it started idling like crap. I brought it back

to the dealer where I bought it, and they found low compression in the #2 cylinder and offered to pay a bit over 1/2 of the cost for doing a valve job.

During the work, they found that in addition to a burnt valve, the piston rings were bad as well, and replaced them.

The ‘Subaru specialist’ they brought in to do the work suggested that when the oil intake failed, a bit of the ring broke

off, flew through/damaged the valve, and then trashed the turbo.

I can’t tell if it’s the new valves/stems/seals, the new rings, or if it’s in a different cylinder. It idles fine, and there’s no trouble codes present.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance,


Any used car is a gamble.
A used car with a turbocharger is an even bigger gamble, simply because many owners beat these engines to death with overuse of the turbo, incorrect oil, and oil change intervals that are too long.

All I can say is that I sincerely wish you good luck. Hopefully, the “specialist” will root out all of the problems that are lurking, but this vehicle could have gotten some really hard use and inadequate maintenance from the previous owner(s), and that would not bode well for its longevity.

Try replacing the PCV valve and see if that helps.

Other than agreeing with VDCdriver and Cougar, I can only add that simply replacing the piston rings is a delicate job and if not done properly is a waste of time.
There’s a number of reasons why new rings may not take hold.

The oddity I have here is this. It’s claimed a burnt valve was discovered during this valve job and “during the work” they found “the piston rings were bad as well”.
How does this happen? How does one discover the rings are bad unless the cylinder walls are gouged up or they removed the pistons/rings, etc.?

If the car were mine I would run a compression test. Post any results back here for discussion because sometimes what someone defines as “good” leaves a bit to be desired. This could be especially true if the outfit doing the testing has a financial interest (the dealer where you bought it) in sending you down the road.

@Cougar -
Thanks for the suggestion. I hadn’t thought about that as a possibility, as my background is antique Caddys and hot-rods (and that was many years ago.) It does make sense as there seems to be a lot more pressure inside newer engines. It’s gotta be ordered, so I’m going to try inspecting/cleaning/screwing around with the existing one and see if that makes a difference, and then order the new one for next week.

@ok4450 -
The initial work was the valve job, but after the tech put it back together, the compression was still crap, so they went back in and found the problem with the rings. I didn’t talk to the tech himself since he was subcontracted to come in, but he did leave a nice detailed note on the work he did. My summary is below:

The initial diagnosis was that the #2 cylinder had low compression - 75psi vs 125psi on the others. (Code P0302 - I confirmed this with my own scanner before bringing it in) Leakdown check showed 90% leakage with lots of air coming through the exhaust port. The cylinder head was removed, the head was resurfaced, and a valve job was done replacing the burnt exhaust valve.

On reassembly, the idle was still rough, and he re-did the compression/leakdown finding that there was leakage into the crankcase from the cylinder. Cylinder wall was visually ok, but ring lands were broken from detonation.

He honed the cylinder and replaced the piston/rings as well as the timing belt/tensioner/idlers, the cam seals, and (of course) the head gasket. Compression were then good and he brought it back for me to pick up.

If it’s not the PCV valve, I’ll check the compression and report back.



I brought it in to a shop here in SF that specializes in Subaru’s, and they
pinged it as a blown turbo in about two seconds. When the previous owner had
the turbo replaced, the @#$$!! shop that did the work didn’t bother to replace
a $10 in-line oil filter screen and it was totally plugged which killed the

They did a full work over on it, and otherwise, the engine and transmission
are in great shape, so I should be good for (hopefully) a long while.

The “blown” turbo and the clogged filter screen both point toward oil change intervals by the previous owner(s) that were far too long. As a result, I would expect that there are other areas of the engine that also have the same type of sludge/crud that was found in the turbo filter screen. If the oil screen in the crankcase and/or the oil passages are similarly gunked-up, the consequences will be very bad.

If I were you, I would do my next two oil changes at very short intervals–possibly as short as 1,000 miles–in order to try to get as much of the accumulated crud as possible out of the engine. Thereafter, I would adhere to a schedule of every 3 months/3,500 miles for oil changes.

In fact, a couple of years after your vehicle was manufactured, Subaru changed the oil change schedule for their turbo-charged engines to every 3,500 miles, as too many of them were experiencing problems similar to yours.