Question about 1997 Subaru Impreza

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97 Subaru Impreza Outback Wagon Occasionally Will Not Start

Occasionally, for no apparent reason, my 1997 Subaru Impreza Outback Wagon will not start.  When the key is inserted into the ignition and turned all the way to start the engine nothing happens.  All of the power is on but there is no discernable attempt to start the engine.
At first, I thought that an after-market alarm system that was installed by a previous owner was engaging the starter kill feature.  No matter what combination of buttons was pressed, the first several times the starter kill engaged, it would eventually disengage with the passage of time (ranging from 10 minutes to an hour) of waiting, trying again, and the engine would start.
Recently it seemed the starter kill of the Audiovox alarm system engaged again and after days of waiting and trying, it would not disengage.  So I had the vehicle towed and the alarm system removed. The car always started fine -- and, in fact, made electronic noises never previously heard when starting and going through the test sequence of warning lights -- until the other day.
Once again, for apparently no reason, the car would not start after being turned off to refuel at a gas station.  When the key is turned the warning test beeps come on, all powered options work, but no start.  Not even an attempt.  Nothing.
A Subaru service tech thought maybe the car had a bad starter.  I do not understand why it starts fine most of the time and then, for no apparent reason, will not start at all.  I hope to return to the vehicle tonight, 24 hours after it refused to start, and find that it will now start. But I have my doubts, which is why I am writing for help.
Thank you in advance.

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  • Anonymous Apr 27, 2009

    I have the same problem as listed above - it just started this weekend - 

  • cronus1987 Apr 29, 2009

    The same thing is happening with my 93 impreza. The problem happened twice before and now on the third time, it still won't start two days later...

    I've done some reading on the internet and it could possibly be the coolant temperature sensor or the camshaft position sensor. I know the position sensor was going out because the car idled at only about 200-300 rpm. I don't know WHY the sensor being bad would 'cause the car to not start, but i'm sure it's some sort of fail safe with the ECM. Neither sensor is very expensive (around 50-60 for both) from an autoparts store, so that's what i'm going for unless i find out something else.

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Hello, I was a Subaru tech for a few years and I agree w/ the other tech about the bad starter. Subaru starters are known for this exact kind of behavior when they are close to the end of their life. Forgive me, but I have to assume that everyone I help knows nothing about cars. You sound like the kind of person that is not convinced until you know exactly what is happening, So here's the breakdown. What happens, is when the starter engages the internal motor causing it to rotate. the positive and negative points (Brushes) make physical contact w/ a cylindrical shaft w/ separated plates providing power and ground to the copper wire windings surrounded by permanent magnets. Considering the enormous drag/load on this system from the engines resistance to rotate due to each compression stroke, a very high peak Amperage is channeled only through those two little brush contacts. They continuously spark inside of the starter, eating away at the brush contacts until they eventually wear away causing them to ground out. What's most likely happening w/ your starter is that whenever you start the vehicle, occasionally, by chance or (kind of like a roulette table) the brush contacts land on one or more of these grounded out spots. Even when you try to start the vehicle and nothing happens, the starter is still being influenced by amperage is trying to turn past this dead spot only very very very very slowly. This is why after you try to start it a few times it will eventually start, especially when you let it sit your actually letting the starter cool down. The more you try to start the vehicle the more the starter will become useless. The easiest test we techs have come up w/ when we get a no start concern, is to go out to the vehicle w/ a 3ft long bar, have someone sit in the vehicle and try starting it. If the starter brush contacts are stuck on a dead spot, we give the starter a good thud and if the starter starts working immediately we know it needs one. Some times it takes a few bonks to get it to work. If the starter is too far gone however, this test will not work and other procedures need to be performed in order to rule out all else as the cause for the concern. I hope this info helps...(subytech1)

Posted on Aug 13, 2009

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It could possibly be a bad earth/battery conection

Posted on Aug 21, 2009

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