Check Engine Light - 2005 Subaru Outback

I have a 2005 Subaru Outback 3.0 LL Bean. Last Saturday I was cleaning out my garage while listening to Bruce Springsteen (the subwoofer/amplifier makes the stereo in my vehicle the best sound system I have). After two hours I drained the battery and had to call my husband away from a volunteer project. He put a battery charger on the battery, low charge, and later in the afternoon she fired right up. Sunday afternoon I’m on the highway headed of town, about 12 miles, cruise control on less than 4 minutes when I notice a sudden decrease in the acceleration. The Check Engine light came on and the “Cruise” light starts flashing. I turned around and went home not understanding what could be the problem. The cruise control no longer works. Once I got the owner’s manual out a ligt bulb went on. I did not close my gas cap fully after re-fueling a week earlier. The owner’s manual says that it may take several driving trips to correct and to take to dealership if the light does not go out. My first question is, how many dives is “several”? I drive about 8 miles a day. I’ve driven it or six days now with some additional to my 8 daily miles and the light is still on. Second, if the light does go off in the next couple of drives, will my cruise control go back to working properly? Third, why did it take six days for the sensor to detect my absentmindedness?

Lastly, I purchased the vehicle in January and since then have had an issue with the seal around the drain plug. Made a huge mess on my garage floor (dealership replaced no charge); a headlamp went out ($40), the driver’s side window came off its track ($190), the tire pressure light came on (filled tires w/air - no charge) and now this issue with the gas cap. Peviously I drove '96 Ford Explorer and NEVER had any issues other than changing the brakes and new tires. I get this newer vehicle and it seems to be one thing after the other. Have I got a lemon? It only has 46,500 miles and I paid under Blue Book value. HELP!

The check engine light warning and cruise control outage may be related but could be two different issues. Places like Autozone will check your codes for free so you can find out what the codes are and see what needs to be done. The problem may not go away without some sort of service.

The amount of repairs you have done on this already makes me wonder what the past history of the vehicle was. The amount of issues the vehicle has had already is more than usual. Hopefully the problems will stop occuring for a while. I have the same car but a '01 model. It is frustrating to have problems with any newer vehicle since that is one big reason to get one. Subarus are usually very reliable and low maintenance cars.

More than likely, a problem with the drain plug seal is evidence of bad workmanship on the part of the person who changed your oil, and this can happen on any make of car. Headlamps do burn out on vehicles, and it is really unpredictable as to how long a bulb will last. It is your responsibility as an owner to maintain correct tire pressure, with or without a pressure warning system. A window coming off of the track can be bothersome, but I have to say that this has never happened to either of my Subarus, and that represents something over 220,000 miles of service between the two vehicles, so I think that this occurrence is somewhat unusual.

All of that being said, although you perceive that you have had problems with your '05, none of this is really significant. However, I do have to say that I have not experienced these situations with my '02 model Outback VDC, which is the upscale cousin to the L.L. Bean model (same engine, + McIntosh sound system, + a few extra bells and whistles). Actually, this is the most reliable vehicle that I have ever owned, and that includes a Honda Accord.

As to the check engine light, the stored codes should be checked before they are erased from the memory, as this could indicate something more serious than a loose gas cap. Hopefully it is just a gas cap situation, but having the codes read at AutoZone or another auto parts retailer (free of charge) would be a prudent idea.

Properly treated and properly maintained, your Outback should be a very reliable vehicle, but of course, a used car can always be the source of surprises since you don’t know how well it was treated by the previous owner. Hopefully your car will prove to be as reliable as mine.

I am happy to report that shortly after I posted my Subaru problem, I got into my car to run errands and when I started the car, the Check Engine light was not lit and once on the road I tested the cruise control and it worked properly. Whew! Just the evening before when heading out to a restaurant, I showed my husband the flashing cruise light. He, like me, hoped the problem would correct itself. Fortunately it did!

I purchased the car from a 50-something gentleman (off who lives 80 miles from my home and who ironically had moved recently to his new home from the town I live in. When I test drove the car the radio station was tuned to NPR. I took that as a good omen. He was a very genuine Englishman and neither my husband or I suspected any hint of “I’m not going to them about this or that.” He also had two cats, both of whom were rescued. As a cat person myself, I took that as another good omen.

He only had one oil change that was not done by the dealership and that was done at Wal-mart as evidenced by the sticker on the inside winshield. I had an oil change done by the Ford dealership in the town where I live (Subaru dealership is miles away). They did replace the seal at no charge but I suspect they were the culprit … recenty had forgot to put some sort of a cap back on in my husband’s F150.

The window issue, which I did not fully elaborate on, the seller did tell me that a car had backed into the door at a crawl. The dealership replaced the entire door. When I took the car to the dealership to have them repair the window, I advised them that it had been replaced by them in the last year and asked if they wanted to review any history using the gentleman’s name. They told me that that was not necessary. Ok. I’m not sure why other than to save time and get me in and out the door. Ka ching. Ka ching - she’s a woman.

In any event, my husband and I will be taking this vehicle on a hiking trip to southern Utah in September and we hope to encounter no issues along the way.

Thank you many times over for your suggestions and help!

Glad to hear that the issues cleared themselves. Hope you have a good time on the trip and the car has no more issues for a long time. It appears the car came from someone that took good care of it. The window issue is understandable now after your further explanation of what happened to it.

regarding your crankcase drain plug seal: the owner’s manual for our 03 Impreza 2.5L specifies that the oil drain plug gasket be replaced at every oil change. It’s a"crush" type washer, so can’t be reused. I keep a supply of them on hand.

your cruise fuse is blown