Jump to content

Hello All

Recommended Posts

Hey everyone, my name is Tom.


I'm from Madison, WI and i've been starting to get into cars the last two years. I currently drive a 1993 Honda Civic CX hatchback with a B16 swap, among other things. Although a lowered FF car doesn't fair well in the winters of Wisconsin, and i've resorted to looking for a winter car.


The car i'm looking at is a 1990 Subaru Legacy sedan, 5-speed of course. Is there anything i should know when looking at this car, look for, or ask about in general that might be different on a Subaru?


The car 200k miles on it, but a flawless body and impressively clean interior for it's age, so is the mileage something i should be worried about? I'm sure Subaru engines are as well built as the Hondas my family has loved for many years when i was growing up and to this day. In fact i hear the Boxer engines are incredibly smooth engines and because of their layout/orientation they can run for a very very long time. I just need some reassurance.


Thanks guys, i hope to be a future Legacy owner soon, who knows, i might have fun with this car despite it's winter responsibilities. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I live in MN and would hate to be stuck in a fwd car...I'd love to find a 1st or 2nd gen Legacy with a 5 speed and use it as my winter beater. Any car with 200k miles can be a gamble. If it was properly maintained (oil changes, diff fluid, coolant flushes, timing belts, probably a clutch or two, etc...) then it could have some life left in it. A friend of my mom's has a Legacy wagon with 500k on it, although he is a mechanic.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Be careful, it might not be an AWD model. AWD was an option on Subaru vehicles until 1995.


As for what's different (Or superior I should say) in a Subaru....

The boxer engine. It's far smoother and inherently more balanced than the inline 4, yet more costly to produce. They do have minor secondary imbalance due to the cylinder banks being slightly offset from one another, they are in complete primary balance as opposed to inline 4 cylinder engines, which are not in primary or secondary balance. That is why most inline 4 cylinder engines over 2.0L in displacement require balance shafts. The problem with inline 4 cylinder engines comes from the pistons themselves. The pistons that are reaching BDC are traveling faster than the ones reaching TDC, causing vibrations that are hard to cancel out without the use of bulky balance shafts that rob horsepower and add rotating mass. The boxer engine needs no balance shafts, very little weight on the harmonic balancer, and no crankshaft counterweights to make it run smooth. All its rotating components balance one another out completely. As for the secondary imbalance of the boxer, well it is very mild and all but eliminated once the engine is mounted in the car. The boxer design also helps considerably lower the center of gravity, since the bulk of the engine can be mounted lower in the engine bay than inline and Vee type engines. Boxers also have an incredible sound that doesn't sound like a ricer with a fart pipe, instead they have a nice grumble. They also have EXTREMELY good throttle response, due to the lack of rotating mass from crankshaft counterweights, a harmonic balancer, and bulky balance shafts. They also produce far more low-mid range torque when compared to inline 4 engines. In addition, the EJ22 engine in the 1990 Legacy is a non-interference engine, so if the timing belt breaks no damage will come to any rotating or reciprocating parts inside the engine.


Subaru also mounts their engines longitudinally (Long ways), rather than transversely (Sideways). This provides better handling through a more even distribution of weight. In most FF layouts, the engine is mounted beside the transmission. The transmission is, in most cases, far lighter than the engine. This can cause an imbalance in the side to side weight distribution, adding to body roll. Subaru mounts their transmissions behind the engine. This makes it easier to work on the engine and transmission (In my opinion), and enables Subaru to design the most durable AWD system. The low profile of the boxer engine also reduces body roll by keeping the weight of the car down.


The 1990 Legacy came with 2WD, Panasonic tape deck with equalizer, 4X 6 1/2" speakers, auto seat belts, tilt wheel, map lights, power windows, locks, mirrors, AC, a tach, 4 wheel disc brakes, and independent rear suspension as standard equipment. Options were leather, cruise control, AWD, air ride suspension, a sunroof and a few other gizmos. All in all it's a great car that can withstand a real pounding. It's not uncommon to see a 1990 Legacy with over 200,000 miles. The N/A EJ22 is one of the most durable engines Subaru ever made, far more durable than the EJ25 in the newer Legacy up to 2004 (Which suffered various head gasket leaks over the years) and even the newer EJ25 turbo engines in the GT's (Which suffer from oil starvation leading into the turbo. As far as the boxer design being reliable in general, this is fact. There are rarely internal engine faliures, it's generally head gaskets or oil starvation that causes the boxer Subaru engines to die. The smooth layout means less friction, wear, and tear on engine internals such as crank bearings. I'd say if the price is right and the body is clean then the car is probable in overall good shape. My Subaru reminds me of my Dodge diesel. Everything rotted away and stopped working/needed to be replaced, but the engine and transmission never quit. I had 300K miles on that truck with the original water pump, alternator, even clutch. Everything else died before the engine. Same with the EJ22 Subaru engine. It can easily outlast the rest of the car with basic maintenance.


Just make sure it's AWD if that's what you want. Don't just assume that because it's a Subaru that it is AWD. Even if it is 2WD, jump on it. You won't be disappointed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In addition, the EJ22 engine in the 1990 Legacy is a non-interference engine, so if the timing belt breaks no damage will come to any rotating or reciprocating parts inside the engine.


Wow, thanks for the info, it's really helpful, and the fact that even if the timing belt breaks nothing detrimental will happen is simply incredible!


The car i'm looking at is an AWD model, because most times people are honest and say if it is FF or not, thankfully this person stated they chose the AWD option for the snow in particular. They simply have gotten newer cars and don't have space for the older one, aka, the Legacy.


As far as things to watch out for, i mostly was wondering if Subarus had transmission problems, a particular gasket that wears out, idk, stuff like that which is "common knowledge" to a Subaru owner but not to most other people.


I have heard incredible things about the EJ22 engine, so i'm glad to hear it's true. The nice thing is my buddy is an exhaust specialist and is very keen when it comes to working on Subarus, he owns a 92 Legacy and says it's the best $1000 he ever spent, haha. Plus he loves the AWD drifts in snow covered parking lots, haha.


Thanks for the info!


Here's the car i'm looking at:









Link to comment
Share on other sites

There aren't really any transmission issues with the transmissions. The only transmission problems I've ever heard of Subaru having is the 4EAT automatic transmissions in the Subaru SVX. They are also the same transmissions in the first generation Legacy, but they don't seem to like the larger 3.3L engine in the SVX. Most SVX owners remedy this with an additional oil cooler for the transmission in front of the radiator. For some reason the 4EAT does a better job in the V6 Nissan Pathfinder (Subaru made those transmissions, pretty much straight out of the Legacy and SVX with a couple modifications and a different computer). You don't have to worry that much with the 5 speed. Other than the clutch wearing out you shouldn't have any problems. If the car doesn't show any signs of a worn synchromesh at 200K miles chances are the synchros are going to last forever.


The only thing to look for with the EJ22 engine are oil leaks. The valve cover gaskets can develop small leaks over time. Same with the cam oil seals. A lot of times the cam oil seals are replaced with the timing belt, so that shouldn't be a problem. The valve cover seals are relatively easy, the hardest part is getting at the bolts to remove the valve covers. Even these issues pose no threat to the engine, since most leaks are nothing more than drips and seepage that coats the engine. They don't really need any special attention other than checking the oil every once in a while. At 156K miles, my EJ22 has no oil leaks whatsoever, and it doesn't burn any oil either, not even through the PCV valve which I find astounding.


As far as mechanical stuff the car is pretty basic when it comes to maintenance. All the bushings are sealed, so there is really nothing to grease up. Just check the CV shafts before you buy and make sure none click. Make sure the inner and outer tie rod ends don't make noise and show no signs of play. Wheel bearings as well. Make sure no boots are torn on the tie rod ends and CV shafts and you should be all set.All these things are very cheap and easy fixes. When I bought my car I replaced one CV shaft which took an hour and a half to install and cost about $70. I recently replaced the left tie rod ends, inner and outer. The inners are $32 and the outers are about $40. Took less than an hour to install, but it's easiest to do if you drop the sway bar brackets that secure the sway bar to the chassis. Brake jobs are costly on any car, but with the Legacy they should be very easy to do since the car has 4 wheel disc brakes, as opposed to rear drums. The parking brake is a drum built inside the rear brake rotor. Replacing the shoes for the E-brake when you do a brake job is completely optional.


As far as that car goes... It's a steal. The paint actually still has some gloss as far as I can tell from the pictures, and to find one of those without rust is amazing. Usually if they rust the front fenders rust right behind the front wheels, the rear "Dog Legs" on the rocker panel will rust, and sometimes the rear quarter will rust. The interior looks clean on that car as well. A great find for a 19 year old car with 200K miles on it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To find a car of that age with not only no rust, but in pretty good overall exterior condition is not common now. I wouldn't guess 200k miles on the car, that's for sure.


Hell as long as it has oil and fluids, as I always say, the engine would still outlast the body.


Not all that much has changed over the years inside the engine bay. This is a good car to start out with if you want to learn about Subarus and its mechanicals. Get a shop manual for it, and you will be all set.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...

Important Information

Terms of Use