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Snow packed under Subaru Outback

This winter when we have had a lot of snow, the check engine light in my 2005 Outback comes on after I have been driving through a snow drift. If I take it to a car wash or the temperature gets above freezing, the check engine light goes out. Otherwise it continues on for a day or two until I take it to a car wash. I have an appointment tomorrow with the dealer, but when I explained the the problem over the phone, I was told that the check engine light going out after a car wash or warming was just a coincidence and that the computer will tell what the problem actually is. I am concerned that they will have me pay for replacement of expensive parts, when I know it is a problem with snow getting packed in somewhere underneath. It has happened 4 or 5 times and each time the check engine light does not go out (and always does go out) when the underneath is warmed. Also when I first bought the car, I found that on slushy days, I had a problem getting the shift into park. I think it was the same problem with slush getting in somewhere underneath. Has anyone else had this problem?

That CEL (check engine light) is just a kid in class waving her hand trying to get you attention because she has the answer. You need to have the codes read. Some places will read them for FREE. Try Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts. Get the exact code (like P0123) not just their translation into English and post it back here.

Regarding warning lights:

  1. if the coolant temp light comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

  2. if the oil warning light comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

  3. if a FLASHING MIL/CEL comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

    ASAP means driving to the berm of the highway right now and not waiting for the next exit.

But if the MIL/CEL is not flashing, then it’s not an urgent indicator.

Dealers are no better (or worse) than independent mechanics for almost anything you might need done on your car.  They will almost always charge more per hour and often more for parts and supplies.  They also tend to look at repairs a little different than the independent. 

   There is no need to bring your car to the dealer for any service other than service that is going to be paid for by a recall or original warrantee.  During the warranty period be sure to document all maintenance work.

I suggest that most people would be better off finding a good independent (Not working for a chain) mechanic.

I took it to the dealer and was told that the computer indicated all cylinders not firing. They felt the problem was water in the gas. They put in dry gas and told me to have the tank filled. I have had no more problem, except once more briefly the light went on after I was stuck in snow.

The CEL light comes on when stuck in the snow since your likely spinning the tires. The spinning the tires but no movement throws a VSS(vehicle speed sensor) CEL for a period that clears. I have a similar car the 2005 Legacy GT wagon and got stuck when I had the cruddy worn/OEM tires and could not back up the car on icy pavement causing the CEL to illuminate, cruise control to flash, and abs light to stay on for about 30 miles.