Starting Problems with 2004 Forester



Can someone tell me what is wrong with my 2004 Subaru Forester?

On July 10 I drove 450 miles and stopped only at familiar and well used gas stations where only pure gasoline-no ethanol is used. When I filled the tank with 11.1 gallons, at the end of the trip it took two tries to start the engine and then it ran rough for a few seconds, stalled and then restarted. I thought it might be vapor lock since it had been a very hot drive. Then the check engine light came on two days later. The car started and ran fine otherwise.

I took the car to the local Subaru dealer who checked the code. I saw with my own eyes what it read-evaporator canister valve inoperable.

On Thursday evening, July 19, 2007, right after the evaporator canister valve was replaced for $294, I filled up the gas tank with about 7 gallons of gasoline on my 2004 Forester at the gas station I always use. The engine would not kick over. As I kept trying and pumping the gas the engine started but ran rough until I got it in gear and ran it about ? a block. The car started fine after that.

On Saturday night the check engine light came on, again and stays on.

Sunday, July 22 I put 5 gallons of gas to top off the tank at the usual place. The engine would not kick over unless I pumped the gas pedal. It stalled out several times until I repeated the above procedure and kept the gas pedal down. The car starts and runs just fine, now. I fear filling the tank in the near future. Any ideas on what is going on here? I plan to go back to the dealer on Monday.


I assume you are aware that you should never overfill your tank when filling it. This can cause damage to the charcoal filter canister.

I doubt that there is a vaporlock problem but there may be a leaky injector causing this problem. You might try replacing the fuel filter also.


When the check engine light came on, it indicated that there was something amiss in the ‘evaporative control valve’ SYSTEM. Maybe, the evaporative control valve was faulty; maybe, it wasn’t. One hopes the dealers mechanics performed the appropriate checks…before summarily replacing the valve. If a fuel injector is leaking into the cylinder(s) after the engine is shut off, the fuel will accumulate in the cylinder(s) and cause a hard, rough start. To clear a flooded engine, hold the gas pedal to the floor while cranking the engine. As the engine starts, ease up on the gas. IF this technique helps the start, tell your mechanic.


I think your problem may be caused by your desire to “top off” the tank. Overfilling the tank is a common cause of evaporative system problems. When the gas pump nozzle shuts off, STOP filling the tank, and don’t refill it until it gets down to 1/4 tank.


Thanks for all the advice. I do not top of the tank. The mechanic said if it was the fuel canister, normally, I would not be able to fuel up the car because the gas pump nozzle would shut off too soon. However, the valve that failed could lead to canister failure. He is checking that again, today. Fuel filter has been considered, though it should not lead to the flooding that causes tough starts. Fuel injector is being looked at, though normally that would cause tough starts all the time and bad fuel economy, neither which are occurring. Air filter and air flow system are being looked at. Maybe a non-electronic valve in the gasoline system is sticking. Anyway, the mechanic is rippiing his hair out today trying to figure out the problem. I am curious aobut that the check engine code showed.
Any other ideas are welcome. I will publish the solutioin which I hope comes today.


I think there is still something wrong with the evap system. Until the fault is found, LEAVE the gas tank 1/4 low, or lower.


Final Resolution to the gasoline and starting problem.

  1. After the evaporation canister valve was replaced, the canister was found to have gasoline in it. The gasoline, maybe only a cupful, had caused the charcoal in the canister to break up and flow to the purge valve. The purge valve was stuck open causing the engine to flood upon starting. The canister and purge valve had to be replaced. The car works just fine, now. Total cost of all the work, $900
  2. Most likely cause of the problem. There are three of us that use this car. Quite often over 75,000 miles, after the pump nozzle clicked off, an extra 1-9 cents was added to round off the price to even cents. This is not much gasoline at all, but this accumulation must have caused the canister to collect gasoline which caused the valve to fail to allow more gasoline into the canister. Or, the valve was damaged by not letting it do its job when more gas was added. The Subaru fuel system is extra sensitive, so when it says no more it means no more at all.
  3. Possible, but less likely, is that the evaporation canister valve failed on its own causing the canister to collect gasoline and then go down hill from there.
  4. When the pump clicks off now, that is all that goes into the tank. Very expensive lesson learned.


I’m glad you posted back with a resolution to the problem (whether positive OR negative). Too few people do. I’m curious about the Trouble Code that came up. Was it, P0401 Evaporative Emissions System Incorrect Purge Flow? I cannot help but wonder if any checks were done on the purge control valve to determine what, exactly, was wrong with it? I think (someone can inform me, if otherwise) that the purge control valve could have been blown out, in the reverse-to-normal-flow direction, and cleared? That could (arguably) have saved you $294 for a new valve. — On fuel injected engines, a flooding condition is handled as in the days of old; that is, the gas pedal is held to the floor as the engine is cranked. Then, as the engine starts, the gas pedal is let up. Fuel injectors which are suspected of leakage into the combustion chamber intake after shut down, can be checked for with a fuel pressure gage attached to the engine. The fuel pressure should hold for 30 minutes plus, after shut down. If it doesn’t hold fuel pressure, several checks can be performed to find out why.


I did not see the code number, but did see the interpretation of the code on the machine. It said “evaporator canister valve inoperable.” This is why they replaced this first. The part cost $79.68. Labor,etc was the rest. I might have been able to save on labor if we had known all the problems involved in the first place. Even the dealer did not realize that adding 1-9 cents of gas after the intial shut-off would eventually ruin the canister. The mechanic has worked on Subarus for over 20 years and had not seen such a mess before because Subarus have only gotten more sensitve on the gas fillup thing since 2003. To anyone reading this, please do not add any gas once the nozzle shuts off on a Subaru Forester.