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Subaru Won't Start/Run

Car hasn’t run for a few years. Had been giving occasional trouble starting; last time it ran it was losing power, almost couldn’t get up the smallest hills, cut off several times and had to pull over and coeax it to restart, radio and light were getting weaker and dimmer, had to turn off all electric drains (radio, headlights, dash lights) to have enough power to limp home last few miles at about 15 mph. It sat a long time before I tried to get it running: new battery, rebuilt the alternator, installed rebuilt starter, new spark plugs and wires, new distributor cap, new air filter. I think I changed the oil and filter (don’t remember). Cranked great, plenty of power, but it wouldn’t start for more than a millisecond. Sent it to 2 different garages that both gave up on it. (Second garage burned out the starter.) I told one or both garages to change the fuel filter, don’t remember if that was done. Several more years have passed: I just put in another rebuilt starter and will put in new battery and change fuel filter. Was told by experienced Subaru wagon owner years ago (who learned the hard way) that there is a second in-line fuel filter near the gas tank that plugs up at about 115,000 miles and car won’t start/run no matter what until you replace it. Haynes manuel doesn’t tell me about a second filter. Could my informant have been referring to the fuel vapor separator? Could this be the magic bullet I need? Thanks.

In attempting to fix this yourself you maybe spending more money than what you would spend having a Subaru dealership diagnose and fix the problem.

You don’t give the year and model of your Subaru, but there is likely an evaporative fuel canister as part of the fuel system. If you top off the tank all the way to the top when you fill up the fuel vapors can overwhelm the charcoal in the tank, it swells and clogs eventually. This can disrupt fuel flow from the tank.

There is a screen in the tank over the pickup that can clog. You didn’t mention a new fuel pump, and the fuel pump can be shot. Replacing the evap canister isn’t that easy and might not even be the “magic bullet” you are looking for.

I’m the car owner. It’s an '88 Subaru DL Stationwagon, automatic. Was told by mechanics (who failed to get it running) the fuel pump was OK. I’m not a topper offer at the pump- learned long ago from Car Talk this was a bad thing, so I stopped that years before this car died. Haynes manuel says fuel vapor separator should be replaced as an assembly (bunch of tubes and canister, etc), which costs just under $50 from the dealer, and my labor is free. It would cost that just to tow the car to a garage. I’ll be doing the work myself.

If you have the Haynes manual and you can source the parts, it is worth a try. Since you are not a tank topper offer the canister might be ok. Hopefully it will work.

it is also very possible that since the car sat for so long with a low level of fuel in it, that there is an accumulation of varnish and dried out crud in the fuel tank and the lines both. I dont know what will cut this stuff, or if anything will, I have heard bad things about it though from guys who know a whole lot more than i do.

I think your model has a filter near the fuel pump and another in the engine compartment on the driver’s side. I’m not real sure about the one near the fuel pump though.

See if the engine tries to run by spraying some starter fluid into the intake. If it has trouble running there may be a problem with the timing belts.