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Broken Thermostat, Missing Pieces (overheating 94 legacy)


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My 94 subaru legacy has been overheating. it used to do it just every once in a while, but recently it started overheating and actually smoking every time i drove it more than 5 minutes or so. There was coolant in the system, so i figured the best place to start would be the thermostat. I bought a new thermostat, but when i went to take the old one out, only the outer ring was left (see pics). The rest of it was nowhere to be found. took it out, and haven't put the new one in yet, the car is parked and not in use until i figure it out.

Where should I look for the missing metal pieces? is it absolutely necessary to get them out? The next stop in the cooling system is the water pump, but it's a pain to get out (I have to remove a ton of parts to get to it).

If there was essentially no thermostat (just a hollow outer ring), then it shouldn't have made the car overheat, since it was essentially "failed open."

Could a broken waterpump be what's causing the overheating? or is it something more serious?


Any Suggestions or Ideas would be much appreciated.

I don't have a huge selection of tools (just a basic socket wrench and some screw drivers), and i'm a bit of an amateur when it comes to car repair, so if it's too involved or mysterious I might just take it in to a shop. But i'd like to try to do it myself if i can.



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  • 1 month later...
not the first owner. I think i'm the 3rd of maybe 4th. I've had the car since January. I called a mechanic who said that subarus from this era actually WILL overheat when there's no thermostat, or it's failed open. He also didn't sound too concerned about the missing pieces. So i put the new thermostat in to see if maybe that would help but after running the car (in park and giving it just a little gas) it started to run too hot after about 10 minutes. He said I should try putting the new thermostat in and if that didn't fix it, it sounded like it could be a head gasket (this was all over the phone and he said he couldn't be sure without looking at it). Also, he pointed out that if it was the water pump, it would be making really loud noises when I drove, and there weren't any noises, just smoke. I've been really busy and getting by without a car so it's been parked for about a month now while I decide what to do with it. I haven't taken it anywhere yet.
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Ah, i was going to say that i'm pretty sure it's the head gasket if this is the 2.5L engine. The previous owner might have seen it overheating and actually removed the thermostat innards so that the engine will run cooler. It overheats b/c the combustion gasses get into the coolant, someone pulled the same thing on a 98 legacy my father bought two years ago. The smoke is the engine burning the coolant that made it into the cylinder. That turned out to be a head gasket and a $2000 fix :(
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