Question about 1995 Subaru Legacy

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The odometer has stopped working on my 1990 Subaru Legacy wagon and now the coolant sensor has stopped working causing both fans to run all the time. What could be the correlation between these two problems?

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  • johnmoncher Nov 09, 2010

    First, the engine check light came on. Then I discovered that both fans were running all the time even when the engine was cool. I had the coolant sensor replaced and the computer reset. This worked for about 48 to 72 hours and then the engine light came back on and the fans as well. The engine has never overheated. I'm now told that the source of the problem is the odometer cable where it connects to the gear assembly in the transmission. The gears are stripped and the odometer and the speedometer are not working. To correct the problem the transmission needs to be dropped and the odometer gear/sensor replaced. I'm having difficulty connecting the coolant sensor problem to the odometer/speedometer problem. The vehicle is a 1990 Subaru Legacy wagon. Thanks in advance for your help. The vehicle has 297 K miles on it. Still love the car.

  • johnmoncher Nov 10, 2010

    Thanks for your helpful reply. As for the trans. # I suppose it stamped on the transmission housing somewhere? All I know it's an automatic stock for the 1990 Subaru Legacy station wagon. I should also say that not too long ago I had the power steering rack and pinion replaced with a rebuilt kit. I had to take it back to have the mechanics install a new exhaust manifold gasket as it was compromise while the work was done to the power steel. Could something have happened to the wiring nearby to cause the PCM to detect a fault?

  • johnmoncher Nov 10, 2010

    I've taken the vehicle to a Subaru dealer and they say the computer reports three faults : 1. for the odometer/speedo cable which is not working because the gear in the trans is stripped; 2 coolant sensor and 3. engine thermostat (which they say is sticking and yet the engine is not overheating). On the dealers invoice it reports only two codes; 21, and 33. They reset the computer and the fans stopped running for about 10 minutes and then came back on with the engine check light. The dealer wants to replace the engine thermostat and the coolant sensor. They claim this will fix my fan problem. Another mechanic disagrees. He says as long as the engine check light is on because it's also reading the speedo sensor the fans will continue to run all the time. he also says that if the engine thermostat was sticking the engine would overheat. The engine is not overheating. Could the engine thermostat stick in the open position? At present I have two differing diagnoses. The coolant sensor that was replaced is in the engine and the car is equipped with a temp gauge.

  • johnmoncher Nov 11, 2010

    Again thank you for your helpful analysis. I suppose once I replace the engine thermostat the next step is to reset the computer to clear code 21. I guess the easiest way to do this is to disconnect the hot lead from the battery terminal; or, is there another way to clear codes from the computer? Lastly, since I do not own a manual for this vehicle is there a web site that I can go to to look up where the engine thermostat is located on the vehicle? Thanks again for all your time and expertise.

  • johnmoncher Nov 11, 2010

    Hopefully your received my latest email about planning to replace the thermostat today. I'll let you know what results. Thanks again for your help.

  • johnmoncher Nov 13, 2010

    As promised, I would let you know what resulted after changing the engine thermostat and cooling sensor. As long as the engine check light was off the fans worked as they are designed to work. Once the engine check light came back on, probably due to the speed sensor, the fans defaulted to running all the time. I guess the only way to fix the fan problem is to also deal with the speed sensor problem which is a costly repair. I was hoping to solve the cooling fan problem but evidently the computer program for this vehicle is designed to link the speed sensor and cooling sensor together some how. At this point, I'm back to square one.

  • johnmoncher Nov 13, 2010

    Perhaps we are calling the components in question by different names? The engine thermostat that I replaced yesterday is not connected to a sensor. The image you sent me showing where this device is located is the exact device I replaced along with the coolant sensor (which was replaced by my mechanic some two weeks ago). As I understand it, the engine thermostat is in the closed position until the water temp. rises to a set degree then and only then does this mechanical device open to allow the water in the radiator to circulate throughout the cooling system. One would think that if the engine thermostat is working properly along with the coolant sensor the CPM should not get a fault code. At this point I'm baffled by the problem. Final note, it is my mechanic would insists that the speedo/odometer sensor in the trans is related to the radiator fans running all the time.

  • johnmoncher Nov 13, 2010

    Yes, I was helped by the Guru and appreciate the time he devoted to the problem. Thanks again.



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Is the odometer not working and speedometer is? Please clarify. There is no correlation between the two issues. The fans are always running, could it be the engine is running hotter than normal? How many miles are on the car?

Posted on Nov 09, 2010

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  • GetMeOttaHere Nov 10, 2010

    At this point, the odmeter issue is not related to the fan operating even when the engine is cool. Beginning with the check engine light, this liight is lit because the PCM (computer) sences a fault in a circuit and also has stored a trouble code in the PCM. What needs to be done is to have this code retreived from the PCM. This will give a place to start a diagnosis, otherwise, we could end up replacing parts for no reason, this gets expensive.

    As for the trans, what is the number on the trans?

  • GetMeOttaHere Nov 10, 2010

    It is possible that a wire or ground connection is the issue. Your vehicle has the ability to communicate that there is an issue with a DTC (diagnostic trouble code). This would be the first place a tech would check and then proceed from there. When you say the sensor was replaced for the cooling fans, where was the sensor located? In the engine or radiator? Does the vehicle have a temp gauge or light to display tempurature?

  • GetMeOttaHere Nov 11, 2010

    Code 21 = Coolant temperature sensor fault. This sensor could be the cause, but it could also be the thermostat stuck open, causing the coolant readings to fall out of spec, or the values that the PCM monitors. Your code 33 is the speed sensor circuit and if the gear is stripped causing the sensor not to spin, then this will require extensive work to replace the gear inside the trans.
    The easiest thing to do at this point is to replace the thermostat, and clear the codes and see if the code 21 comes back, I'M THINKING IT WILL NOT. The sensor was already replaced. and I do question the sensor located in the radiator, which is different than the one mounted in the engine.

    The Legacy has 2 Vehicle Speed Sensors (VSS): VSS1 is located inside of the transaxle; VSS2 is located in the combination meter assembly. To verify if the sensor is turning correctly, I have listed a test that you can perform, just in case it is just the sensor and not the gear.



    1. Disconnect the electrical harness from the transaxle.

    2. Connect an ohmmeter across the transaxle's electrical harness terminals 9 and 16.

    3. The resistance should be 450-650 ohms.

    4. After testing, reconnect the electrical harness.


    1. Remove the instrument cluster from the instrument panel.
    2. Disconnect the electrical connectors and the speedometer cable from the instrument cluster.
    3. Connect an ohmmeter or continuity tester across the combination meter terminals 7 and 11.

    4. Insert a small screwdriver in the speedometer cable drive socket
    5. Rotate the speedometer drive and note the continuity across the VSS terminal. Continuity should turn ON/OFF 4 times per speedometer drive revolution.

  • GetMeOttaHere Nov 11, 2010

    To properly clear the codes, they should be erased using a code reader that has an erase option. Most readers do. You can pick up a reader from an auto supply store for around $40.00 or so.

    As for the thermostat, it is located under the front of the vehicle and all the engine coolant will need to be drained.I have posted an image of what the thermostat looks like below.

  • GetMeOttaHere Nov 12, 2010

    I did receive the email. Just be sure the engine is not hot when changing the thermostat. you did mention you have a manual, so I'm sure you already know this.

  • GetMeOttaHere Nov 13, 2010

    What your diagnosis is stating does not make sence from an Engine mangement stand point. The engine coolant sensor controls emissions and fuel delivery. The engine thermo valve controls the cooling fan assembly.

  • GetMeOttaHere Nov 13, 2010

    ok, go with the mechanic.



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please rate me if you would
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