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HELP-Subaru XT Repairs

Hey there, first time poster here.

I registered just so I can ask these questions. I’m very new to fixing up vehicles. In fact, this 1986 Subaru XT is the first one that I’m fixing up. And what a project it will be.

It’s going to need: 5 new tires (spare included) as well as spark plugs, a battery, interior replacements, and air/heating units replaced as well.

Air/heating is where I’m getting trouble. Like I said, I’m new to this and am learning the ropes of this car repairing scheme so bear (bare?) with me.

Is it possible to throw a new battery in there from AAA and a new A.C. unit in there from modern day or does it need the stuff from it’s time? That’s the first of many questions so I’ll come back and update this thread with more of them including update pictures.


This is my grandpa’s Subaru and he absolutely loves it. I’m 17 and my all time dream is to fix it up and have him driving around in it again. The last time he drove it was 10 years ago to a baseball game of mine where it later wouldn’t start in the parking lot due to battery issues. Since then, it’s been up at my grandparents house (1200 feet in the mountains of Cali) covered up with mice eating at it. Kind of gross but I’m super hyped up to fix it. Back when I turned 16 they gave me $1500 to put towards a car I want but I never spent it. The same went for my brother so if we put our checks together then it would be around $3K to fix the whole car up. Probably not nearly enough which is why I’m getting a job in November and putting money towards the car.

I’ll add more to the story later when I’m not on my phone but hopefully my question(s) can be answered and I’m not posting this in the wrong section.

Have you at least put a wrench on the crank bolt and seen if the engine will rotate?

It runs. Sorry I should fix that. I meant it didn’t run then due to battery issues. He had it towed up there, charged the battery, then it ran but it had some issues still unknown.

Get a battery that is the correct size for the Subaru. And the AC unit (what parts are you replacing?) had to be the correct model for this Subaru also.

If it’s been sitting for 10 years, this will be a major job to get it on the road again, and the battery and AC are the least of the problems. Anything made of rubber will probably need to be replaced, for example.

I’d leave the AC for last, see if you can get the car running first.

If it was left with gas in the tank, that gas will have changed to varnish and could be clogging up the fuel lines and the carburetor (assuming it has one), or fuel injectors, if it has those.

But most important is to check the underbody for rust. It may well be, depending on where you live, that it is badly rusted and unsafe, which would require huge sums of money to fix.

I will definitely take a look for rust. I understand where you’re coming from where you say getting it back on the road first then replacing the A.C. I will do that first.

You’re also correct about the fuel sitting in there. We need to drain it out. Next time we get up there, I’ll update you on what other repairs are needed.

Inspect the wiring. Rodents love car wires, and there may be some damage you need to repair. I’m sure Cali has some strict rules about discharging the AC to the atmosphere. Put a gauge on the system to see if any charge is left. If there is, you should get it discharged at an approved facility before you replace parts on the pressurized system. Then take it back for charging after your repairs are done. This is another reason to do the AC last.

You’ll want a decent charger/maintainer to keep the new battery charged during this ordeal.

I’m sure California does have some rules behind that. He had mice in the car (not sure if they’re still in there) but I suspect they are and have most likely eaten up the wiring.

Your grandfather has been starting the engine on a regular basis during the last 10 years?

Additionally, all of the brake lines–both metal and rubber–will also need to be replaced due to the hygroscopic nature of brake fluid. In case the OP is not familiar with that term, it means that brake fluid absorbs moisture from the air, and after an extended period of time, the brake fluid will have a significant water content. In addition to being lousy as a substitute for brake fluid, that water will corrode all of the brake lines from the inside. (Translation=The first hard application of the brake pedal is very possibly going to blow a hole in one of the brake lines, and I would have a hard time envisioning a bigger safety hazard than that.)

The bottom line is that this car should not be driven until the brake hydraulic system has been flushed, the brake lines and calipers replaced, and fresh fluid added. It is also very possible that the brake master cylinder will need to be replaced.

This is a great site for getting a lot of good general information about cars and trucks, and so far you have gotten a lot of good information. But for a specific car, especially the restoration of a specific car from years past, it would be better to go to a site that specializes in that vehicle and has a lot of experienced enthusiast for that vehicle.

This site would be a very good site for you to join and get more information tailored to your project.

For someone who knows what they are doing 3000.00 might make it roadworthy but that is doubtful. If it hasn’t been tagged all this time you need to check with your Motor Vehicle Dept. Also will it pass Ca. emissions inspection.
I think paying a good mechanic about 200.00 to look at this thing before you do anything might be a good idea.

Why would anyone flush a brake system that’s going to be torn apart anyway?


I think you’re taking on a major headache; especially considering how long the car has been sitting.

The first things on the to do list is to drain the gas (assuming that’s what it still resembles and which is not likely), add fresh gas, new battery, and see if it will run.

As mentioned, brake hydraulics and rubber items such as belts would be a first step. Assuming it runs.

These cars were not one of Subaru’s finest efforts. I know, and that’s using the politest language I can.

That instrument cluster just dumbfounds me…

31 year old vehicle that has been setting for 10 years and being used as a rodent condo is not a project for anyone with limited funds and knowledge. Plus it will never have any value to speak of.

And you are exactly right in the sense of it being a rodent condo (love the wording). I don’t really have a motivation for selling it. It’s more of my grandpa being able to drive it again because it’s one of his favorite cars ever and he’s getting up there and I really want to see him driving around in and enjoying it.

He let it set for 10 years. I would not try to bring this thing back to life and let anyone I cared about drive it. I know you have good intentions but have you even discussed this with your parents because they may not want him driving this thing either.

It runs, start there, set your priorities, fix the safety issues first and if it is going to be too big a project at least you don’t have a planter with a good interior.

Good for you for keeping your grandpa’s car on the road. Sounds like a fun project. It’s something which definitely can be done. But it will require a good deal of patience and scheduling if you want a smooth and low cost experience doing it. Since winter is on the way, maybe defer the AC portion of the task until next spring. Focus on getting all the routine maintenance up to date according to what the owner’s manual says, and give a brake system thorough inspection at all four wheels before doing much road driving. Next get all the lighting working, each and every bulb. If the windows won’t roll down, the radio only plays classical music, the exhaust sound isn’t quite what you are after, those are problems that can be deferred. Brakes, lighting, and other safety systems cannot be deferred.

When you have some free time, or just tired of wrenching, here’s a good 4 part explanation of how the AC system works. The AC will probably be the most difficult part of this job if you plan to diy’er that part.

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