2013 Subaru WRX, Oil Leak Repair
Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience, 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. Not somebody just giving them a gift, that's people actually voting for them and saying this is the best. These guys know what they're doing and we're talking cars. How are you doing, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing well. After an intro like that, it just puts a big smile on my face.
Mark: So we're talking about a 2013 Subaru WRX. It had an oil leak problem. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: Yeah, so the car came into our shop for a maintenance service and inspection, and one of the things that we found was there's some oil leaking from the front of the engine timing belt area, a variable valve timing solenoid, somewhere around that area, and it needed further exploration and repairs.
Mark: So what was involved in repairing those leaks?
Bernie: So all that was involved was actually removing the timing belt cover and accessing the timing belt, because it's all hidden behind there. We found some cam shaft seals leaking, as well as variable valve timing solenoid gaskets leaking as well.
Mark: So do you have some pictures?
Bernie: I do, I do, and by the way, so we replaced the timing belt at the same time and we can talk a little more about that, but let's just get into the pictures here.
So there we have our beautiful 2013 WRX. Awesome little high performance cars. There's a good view of the front of the engine with the timing belt off. The timing belt sits in this area here. If you can just follow the mouse pointer, it kind of loops around here. There's the crankshaft sprocket and this is a dual overhead cam engine so it has four cam sprockets. Cam shaft seals here, which we replaced. Water pump also, which is very important to do at the same time as the timing belt.
Mark: And this is a flat-six, right?
Bernie: Flat-four. Yeah, this is a turbocharged flat-four, inter-cooled turbo flat-four. Subaru doesn't make any turbo-sixes, although it'd be a pretty awesome option because it would go even faster, but yeah, this is a four.
Mark: And a lot of room in the front. Have you pulled out the radiator?
Bernie: We removed the radiator. Here's a view actually of the engine compartment with everything back in. You can see it's a lot tighter, but we did remove the radiator on this job. It's a standard transmission, so not too difficult, and just to access the bolts on the front of the camshafts, it's a little easier to access everything with the radiator out. Not difficult, doesn't add a lot of extra time to do that.
This is the whole package assembled. This is the intercooler. This keeps the charge air cool that's being blow basically blown into the engine by the turbochargers. As you compress that air, it gets hot. and so if you can keep it cool it has more density. Once upon a time, a long time ago, turbochargers never had intercoolers and this was a big performance upgrade to intercool a turbo. There's nothing that's been made in the last 15, 20 years that doesn't have an intercooler on it. And that's the same with supercharged engines too. So it helps boost the performance just by keeping the air at a certain temperature.
Now for other pictures we get into the meat of the job. So this vehicle has variable valve timing. This is one of the performance features of this engine. So these are the camshaft sprockets. If you look at some of our other podcasts and videos, you'll see that we do a number of timing belts on Subarus, but most of them are there the lower performance 4-cylinder versions and they don't have variable valve timing. So these sprockets are quite a bit more complex, more expensive as well.
There's one really good thing about this engine. Most vehicles with variable valve timing, you have to have special special tools to lock the camshafts in place. And this engine, you don't. These actually have pins that locate the cam sprockets on the engine, which is a fantastic feature because you can just look, put the cam sprocket on, just line the timing belt marks up and away it goes.
Whereas on most other engines you have to remove the valve cover, you have to lock the camshafts in a certain position by specialty tools to do it and then bolt everything up while everything's locked into position. So Subaru has made this job reasonably, I won't say easy to do, but reasonably easy to do. So it's kind of kind of a nice, refreshing treat. Less complicated of a job.
This is the variable valve timing solenoid and this is the gasket and this was one of the items that was leaking. So these solenoids control oil flow to the variable valve timing, the cam gears and getting against electrical signal. The engine has oil pressure, changes the oil flow through the cam, and that that changes the valve timing.
We talked about maintenance on cars, modern cars, this is why it's critical to change your oil at regular intervals. Any sludge, you can see there are very small holes. Any sludge that builds up in these will cause a malfunction of this system, or low oil level for that matter too. So critical to change your oil at the required interval.
Mark: Okay. There's a few issues here. So first, variable valve timing accomplishes what? It seems like a lot of complication.
Bernie: Well, opening the valves of the engine, the intake and exhaust valves, there's a certain optimum time to open them, but it's different at idle than it is when you've got the engine revving at 6,000 RPMs or halfway in between. So if you can vary the time the valves open and actually for that matter, vary the lift of the end of the valve, which this engine doesn't do, but some engines do. You can vary the lift of the valve, the opening. You can control the horsepower of the engine, you can improve the fuel economy and exhaust emissions. There's a number of things you can accomplish, so that's why variable valve timing is pretty much standard on most engines nowadays. Not all, but most.
Mark: Timing belts. Subaru, I thought they used dry chains. What are they using a timing belt for?
Bernie: Yeah, well interesting question. So, up until about, Subaru, the 6-cylinder engines, which they introduced around the 2000 model year, those are all timing chain engines, but the four cylinder up until about 2010, 2011, used a timing belt. Then they changed to a chain drive, but this engine still maintains the timing belt right up to modern, right up to, I'm not sure if a 2020 has gone to a chain, but certainly 2018 still has a timing belt.
So you might wonder, well, is that an inferior technology? And the answer is not really. I mean they've incorporated all the variable valve timing and everything that needs to be done. The disadvantage with a timing belt is that there is a set interval where you must replace it because it will break.
With a timing chain, it's theoretically supposed to last the life of the engine, but timing chains are very complex. There's a lot of pieces to them. Tensioners to keep them tight and things that wear out. We've done podcasts on Range Rovers where a number of them, this is a problem with that engine. 100,000 kilometres, the timing chains are rattling and you're faced with a six, in Canada, a $6,000, $7,000 bill to do the replacement. That's a lot of money for something that, like a timing belt job can be anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 depending on the car if you do it complete and there's a set interval to do it. So you know, Subaru so far, with the timing chains had been reliable but I owned a six cylinder Subaru, around 250,000 kilometres, I mean every once in a while I'd start the car and the timing chain would rattle. So, you know, that car is long gone because it kind of wore out. They're supposed to last the life of the engine, but a lot of cars they don't and they can be very expensive to replace.
Timing belts, at one time, also used to be kind of an inferior design. I mean I think of a lot of older, oh, take Subaru for example, they used to have an engine that had two timing belts. One went to the right bank, one to the left. Some of those would break at 50,000 kilometres. Fortunately there was no engine damage but highly unreliable. And you know, you'd be lucky to get a hundred thousand kilometres out of them. And there are many other cars, you know, in the eighties and nineties that were like that. You'd go like in the 1970s when timing belts started coming out, I mean they didn't last very long either, but they've made them very robust. They last a long time. You know, 150, 200,000 kilometres is not abnormal for a timing belt.
Mark: So do these WRX motors have the same head gasket issues on the older ones that other Subaru 4-cylinder engines have?
Bernie: No, they don't. These use a much more robust gasket and we don't run into the same issues. It's pretty rare. I mean over the years, the dual overhead cam engine is not just a WRX engine. They did put them in some of the other Forester models. We do the odd head gasket in those, but pretty rare and never done one on a WRX yet. So they're pretty robust. They're much better designed, much better built.
Mark: So there you go. If you've got some leaky oil issues with your WRX Subaru or any Subaru, the guys who specialize in Subaru in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive and of course every other make and model of car right up to Porsches and Teslas and all sorts of stuff. Guys to see are Pawlik Automotive, you can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead because they're busy. Or check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. Hundreds, over 350 blog posts, videos on repairing all makes and models and all kinds of types of repairs. All makes and models of cars and trucks. Over 350 videos on YouTube. Check it out. Pawlik Auto Repair. And of course, thanks so much for listening to the podcast. We really appreciate it. Leave your comments or your likes below. Thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks Mark, and thanks for watching.