P0325 on a 99 Forester "running on two cylinders"

I took my car to my previous shop for a P0325, Knock Sensor Circuit Malfunction. They wanted nearly $500 to fix it. My new shop said that I just needed some engine treatment and the code went away for a week and a half, but it came back yesterday, and my engine ran a little rough.

I heard what sounded like a very rough engine and it was my car. The technician came in saying that I was only running on two cylinders, but that sounds like far worse of a problem than I had been experiencing. They say that I need a $266.80 valve adjustment, which is all labor, but the total is $300 more than that:

Engine Light diagnostic: $44.99
Shop Fee: 35.00
Tune up package
Remove and replace spark plugs: 60.03
Additional access time - remove: 64.20
and replace spark plugs:
NGK Spark Plugx4: 9.96
Adjust Valve Clearance: 266.80
Pepguard Limited Extended Labor: 58.65
BWD Custom fit ignition set: 36.39

Parts: 46.35 Labor: 436.02 Other: 93.65 Tax: 6.55 Total: 582.57

Of course, my roommate, who is upset that I am not continually pouring fluids into leaky power steering and AC systems butted in and said the entire thing is preposterous. Problems with cylinder firing are invariably the result of bad spark plugs and\or wires.

Well, they say that I need to replace those, which cost $46.35, the least expensive entry in the entire estimate. They just want to charge $124.23 to replace them.

Why don’t I replace them myself and see if that fixes my problems?

They say that if the valve clearance adjustment does not fix the problem then I need new cylinders and valves.

Regretfully, I have a “service plan:”
“Engine: All internally lubricated parts contained within the engine block, cylinder head(s) or rotary engine housing(s); oil pump; timing belt or chain, timing gears and timing tensioners; water pump; engine block, cylinder barrels, engine head(s), rotor housing(s) if damaged by the failure of an internally lubricated part. Dipstick and tube; harmonic balancer; oil pan; timing chain cover.”

I cannot imagine that it would cover a valve clearance adjustment and they would only cover cylinders and valves “if damaged by the failure of an internally lubricated part.”

So, ride my bike eight miles tomorrow, replace the spark plugs and wires, and hope that it is enough?

I live in Arizona!

It was running fine except for the CEL right? Then some kind of engine treatment was done, and now it’s idling rough? I guess the first thing to determine is what exactly was done as part of this engine treatment. I think the best plan is you want to get it back to where it runs ok, but the CEL is on, then fix whatever is causing that. It may be the original problem was just that the knock sensor electrical connector had come loose.

George! Thank you for your response!

Yes, my car seemed fine, and my original mechanics told me that I could drive my car for a while, my engine wasn’t knocking, except that when I moved eight miles and went to a shop two miles closer (kind of), they said that my engine was knocking. However, it did not start idling rough until yesterday morning, a week and a half after they replaced my timing belt. Curiously, I read that the Check Engine light can come on if the gas cap was loose–the mechanics left it that way after they worked on my car! The gas door was open, too!

I really do not think that I will pay them anything more than necessary, I asked them if I would have been able to notice half of my engine not working and if it would have affected my mileage. I have an Ultragauge and it showed my MPG where it normally was. It certainly did not show:

P0301 Cylinder 1 misfire detected
P0302 Cylinder 2 misfire detected
P0303 Cylinder 3 misfire detected
P0304 Cylinder 4 misfire detected

How do I get them to fix what they broke?

Is on of these shops a PEP Boys? You just had the timing belt replaced? Perhaps you need to go back to the shop that did the timing belt, a hose may not be connected, or the timing belt may have jumped a tooth or two.

If you have a really good mechanic, go out of your way to get the car to him. I think the shop(s) you are using now aren’t the sharpest guys out there. If you don’t trust any particular shop, then I’d go to a Subaru dealer. Pay more for the service, but get the real problem(s) identified and fixed. Sometimes cheap shops get you cheap jobs that end up costing you more money instead of less.

Also, a 4 cylinder Subaru running on only 2 cylinders would be very - Very - rough running. It would have so little power you’d hardly be able to get it moving at all.

If you can change the plugs yourself, do it and see what happens.

Hey guys! Thanks for your responses!

Whatever was going on en route to the shop was barely noticeable.

The local Subaru dealership is over forty miles away, which would take quite a while if I cannot get the cylinders firing.

The second shop is Pep Boys and I thought they were great after they replaced my timing belt, but now I have considerable doubts!

Is it running now? Did you replaced the wires and plugs?

No and I am not sure when I will be able to work on it.

I wish that I had rented a car, although that would have been complicated. I asked a friend to drive me, but it seems like everything takes twice as long when I have “help.” At 8:27 I received a message from O’Reilly informing me that my parts were ready. I called Pep Boys at 9:05 to say that I would be picking up my cars, talked to the guy at O’Reilly, who said to change the spark plugs and wires and see how my car ran, but when I arrived at Pep Boys at 10:55, they said that they did not know that I was coming, my car would not be ready until 12:30.

I had already lost too much time. I needed to go home.

Hopefully I will have time to work on it in a few days.

I think the phrase “only running on two cylinders” maybe is a bit of mechanic-speak, just hyperbolic rhetoric. Probably they just didn’t have the time at that moment to explain further . They may have had other customers waiting for their cars in other words.

A place like Pep Boys is a reasonably good choice for a timing belt replacement, but the codes you refer to above are a drivability problem. Fixing this kind of problem-- or just determining whether it even is a problem – often requires a mechanic with specific Subaru expertise. Subaru specific electronic tools may be required to figure out what the cause is. Better to use a dealer or an inde mechanic who specializes in Subarus. Ask the mechanic at the shop if he can measure “fuel trim”, that’s a good indication he has the tools to do this job.

Also, one other thing you should consider, the Forester has had some problems with failed head gaskets. You can problbly see threads from other Subaru Forester owners here about this head gasket topic if you search around. I’m not sure if this problem applies to your model/year, but a failed head gasket could cause misfiring symptoms. It may just be a coincidence it occured after the timing belt replacement.

George, I appreciate your responses.

I have seen something about Subarus and head gaskets. I never wanted to purchase a car from a dealership and I always took my cars for inspections before I bought them, which I could not do at a dealership, but with 93,000 miles, and they showed me the reconditioning that they had done, I felt confident, but I still took it to a shop for an inspection, and they told me the car was in great shape.

The salesman showed me the paperwork, they had identified a head gasket leak, but it was too small to be worth fixing.

I imagine that very few car problems actually get better over time and I cannot imagine that this could be one.

Well, I read through http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_signs_of_a_blown_head_gasket. That was a very long and worrisome list, mostly just contemplating the various ways a car can break down. I will definitely inspect my spark plugs and try to see if there is water or coolant in my oil or oil in my coolant.

Oh boy.

However, my engine has not ever overheated, and if it is going to do that anywhere, it might just be more likely in Arizona–at least once I fix the air conditioning.

My car ran a little rough when I drove it to the shop, but it sounded horribly rough when they were working on it. I am very worried that I need to figure out what they did wrong and fix it.

Thank you again for your input! Please enjoy your weekend!

They could have installed the timing belt wrong and the valve timing is off.

knfenimore, that is not a happy thought. How could I check that?

Thank you for your suggestion!

You could remove the cover and check to see if the timing marks on the cam are aligned to the timing marks on the block when crak is at TD0. Or take it back and have them check it for you.

Knfenimore, I will follow your advice, thanks!

Apparently, Pep Boys ran down my battery. They also got my floor mat all dirty. I actually still had the paper one from my old shop, which they removed, and then tracked grease into my car. I had error codes P0301 and P0303–cylinders one and three misfire, but I changed the spark plugs (and air filter) and the codes are gone, but the engine is still running horribly. It is kind of scary to see how much it shakes.

I had Autozone charge my battery, but they said that it was bad. It is from AAA and says that it has a three-year warranty, while AAA says that the average battery life in Arizona is twenty-two months. There was a code on the sticker, 1108, which one guy said meant that it was made in August of 2,011, while the other said that it was made in November of 2,008, but I told him there is no way that it would have lasted five years.

I ran the car while I finished up.

I never got any error codes, though.

The girl at Autozone told me to go to the closer Pep Boys and tell them that I took my car to the other location, where they made my problems worse, and I needed to know what they were going to do to fix it.

I’ve been a bit hesitant to offer advice on this problem as there is so much murkiness behind the problem.

Did this shop provide any information about how they arrived at a valve lash problem, compression problem, etc?

Does the engine smooth out when you rev it or does it continue to shake?

Actually, what should be done whenever an engine performance problem exists a compression test should be performed. You have adjacent cylinders setting a misfire code and normally it’s assumed that whenever 2 cylinders side by side are not right a head gasket is the cause. That is not always the case.

As to your battery, that should read as November of 2008 and it’s entirely possible for a battery to last 5 years or more in areas with high temperatures.
It gets plenty hot here in OK and the battery in my oldest son’s Camaro just recently died. That battery is about 8-9 years old so it was due.


The month is generally listed first, which would mean your battery lasted about 4-1/2 years, fairly typical.

However, if your battery was manufactured in August of 2011, that would mean it lasted less than 2 years. That would make it an absolutely pathetic battery. The vast majority of batteries last far longer than that.

Hey guys, thanks for your responses. I can only repeat AAA’s statistic, which agree with my experience, and the lady at Autozone kept telling me how Arizona was extremely hard on batteries.

I wonder if the battery somehow sat on a shelf inside for a while before being installed.

Yes, the engine does smooth out at higher RPMs. When I approach red lights and take my foot off of the accelerator (why do I seem to be the only one doing this?!), my car actually seems fine! Then, at the light, my engine runs rough, and when the light turns green, I have poor acceleration.

Valve lash adjustment actually seems relatively simple. I read a few how-to’s and one said that it should take an hour, although I would want specific directions for my engine, those were for V6s.

Someone on subaruforester.org suggested that the faulty knock sensor is causing the misfire. Is there any possibility of that?

A knock sensor notices a very small vibration and sends a signal to the PCM to retard the timing. Since timing is involved with smooth running it could be a bad knock sensor. But since the car is vibrating at idle it could be something else.

At this point it seems this motor issue is “over the head” of the OP and the advice from friends, counter sales people, and AAA is not really helping. I’d advise the OP to bite the bullet and stop dealing with chain shops and sketchy mechanics. Take the car to a Subaru dealer, or an independent shop that specializes in Subaru. The dog chasing his tail never catches it, and I don’t think you are ever going to resolve this chasing after leads given by folks who mean well but don’t really know the car and symptoms.

He wrote:

Just my experiences. When my knock sensor failed I had to limp it home, I got two misfire codes in the process. Once the sensor was replaced and the codes cleared it ran great.

Taking my car to a dealership over forty miles away is a complicated prospect. I think that I will replace my knock sensor, which I already purchased, and if that does not fix the problem, then on Monday I will drive up there.

Do you approve of my plan of action? :slight_smile: