Maintenance for a high mileage used 4th gen 3.6R

There seems to be many people asking about buying used 4th gen 3.6R’s which as this point are mostly high mileage. I figured I make a thread about things that I have had to do on my 4th gen (2010) to get it up to speed and up to my standards. These things are simply what my experience and research has been on the 4th gen’s with the EZ36D engines, your experience may be different or there may be other things you have to deal with. I’ll explain what I have had to do and what typically needs to be done on the cars.

Some insight into what I was dealing with:
I picked up my 2010 3.6R Limited (with tow hitch) a few months ago with 156,000 miles on it. It was a neglected family hauler for the previous owner with virtually no maintenance records and owned by a guy who knew nothing about cars. To top if off it was being sold by his “friend” (actually his employee) who was trying to be a shrewd negotiator but knew very little about these cars, car repairs or selling cars. These typically sold for between $10k and $13kCAD depending on mileage, this one definitely was higher in mileage by about 40-50k km than most of the others listed for sale. It had cracked windshield, dented front quarter panel and a passenger side mirror that was taped on. It was listed for $4500 and sat for 8 weeks on Kijiji (Canada’s version of CL) and no one wanted to touch it. When I went to see it the coolant reservoir was empty and the radiator was missing just under a quart of coolant. The bottom of the engine was covered in oil as was the front near the oil fill neck. The drivers side head gasket was covered in oil on the top but the passenger side was clear. The ECU had been reset and had not completed it’s full drive cycle so there potentially were CEL’s that weren’t showing up yet. The front passenger side brake would vibrate like the ABS was kicking in under hard braking and the oil was over filled to the top most dot on the dipstick. The front control arms bushings were torn as well and the drivers seat leather was all torn. The interior smelled like dog piss and was absolutely filthy and full of day to day garbage. Front head lights were foggy and paint was a swirly mess and the moon roof binded and clunked but still worked.

I was convinced it had a blown HG and had a top price of $3000 to pay for the car. I ended up settling at $3200 because it came with 4 winter tires. I wanted it because it had the least amount of under body rust I could find in any other 3.6R I looked at or saw online. All the suspension components were solid (passed my pry bar test) except for the aforementioned front control arms bushings. The brake pads were new premium pads. My plan was to buy the OB as my family hauler when going up to my in-laws cottage with “luxury’s” that we have never had before in our previous sub compact economy cars – things like Bluetooth, heated seats, auto climate control etc. I needed the H6 as I also needed a vehicle capable of towing a 2000lbs track car on a tow dolly and one that was capable of passing trucks on rural roads when fully loaded with cargo and a family of 4. Keep in mind I asked the seller if he was fine with me putting the car up on ramps and looking at it. I would never had bought the car if I was not able to do this. I spent 90 minutes looking under this car, the seller started getting pissed but at least I found out what I needed to know.

Now to the point of the post of what I had to do – I’ll exclude aesthetic fixes as that is specific to my car and it pretty obvious from the description of my car.

Things I had to fix to immediately pass a safety to license the vehicle:
-front control arm rear bushings (hard)- I swapped them out with new Mevotech control arms that came with bushings and ball joints. This job sucked as the rear control arms bolt seizes inside the bushing sleeve. Only way to get it out is to burn out the bushing to access the sleeve with a sawzall. You then have to cut slits in the bushing sleeve so you can spray penetrating fluid in there and relieve the pressure on the bolt and use an impact to finally spin it out. Just remove the whole knuckle from the car, don’t try to leave it in the car, you will damage the knuckle (ask me how I know). Plus it is much easier to get the old ball joint unseized from the knuckle with it off the car. Everything went back in the car covered in antiseize. If this hasn’t been done already to a 4th gen then it needs to be done, these bushing take a lot movement and will be cracked at this mileage/age.

This was technically all it needed to pass a safety here in Ontario.

Things I had to fix to make it squeak and creak free:
-front sway bar end links (easy)
-front sway bar bushings (easy)

Things that I had to fix to get the car up to my safety standards for my family:
-Coolant full drain and fill (easy)
-complete brake fluid flush (easy) this also fixed the brake shudder I experienced – the front passenger side brake has a tremendous amount of air in the caliper.

  • ATF complete flush with new Maxxlife ATF (moderate) – I used the trans cooler lines to complete this job DIY found HERE
  • transfer case fluid drain and fill (easy)
  • rear diff drain and fill (easy)
  • drain and fill power steering fluid with Maxxlife ATF (easy)
  • oil change (easy)
  • headlight buff and polish (easy)
  • Fix the passenger power seat which didn’t work – corroded connectors, I spliced in a new (used) one I got from a wrecker. (moderate)
  • empty and recharge a/c system (moderate)
  • replace oil cooler gasket to fix leak (easy)
  • replaced the ground straps on the head of the engine (easy)
  • added a ground strap to the engine block direct from the batter (easy)
  • changed the power steering pump o ring to fix a minor leak (easy)
  • cleaned the throttle body and MAF sensor (easy) and ran a can of seafoam through the engine via the intake.
  • replaced all spark plugs (moderate)
  • all 4 door check straps were worn out causing the doors to not stay open on their own – ground down the strap for a DIY fix (moderate)
  • cleaned and re-lubricated the moon roof (easy)
  • rear passenger side tail light housing was yellowed and damaged – replaced with a tail light from the wreckers (easy)
  • full paint correction and ceramic coating to outside of car
  • full interior detail to get rid of dog piss smell and stains on leather seats
  • rear lift gate struts failed causing the lift gate to drop – replaced with aftermarket ones (easy)
  • 4 wheel alignment
  • all new filters – cabin and intake (easy)
  • drive belt and pulley bearing replacement
  • new Costco flooded lead acid battery group size 34

-Ultra gauge to keep an eye on coolant temps and fuel trims
– fixed the horn as it would randomly go off during sharp turns – 2 out of 3 of the plastic insulator clips were broken, I fixed it with a makeshift plastic washer cut from plastic I found in my recycle bin (easy)

Things that failed within the first couple months of ownership:

  • cylinder 5 coil pack failed causing a P0305 misfire code – replaced the coilpack (moderate) – I since replaced all coil packs due to their mileage and propensity to start failing at this mileage
  • front driver side CV axle cracked boot – replaced the front CV axle with a used one from a wrecker (easy)

-passenger seat switch failed – replaced one with a switch from a wrecker (moderate)

  • front driver side wheel bearing is going bad and possibly one other – will fix in the spring
  • Bank 1 catalytic converter has failed and will be replaced in the spring
  • bank 2 VVT solenoid has likely failed and will be replace in a couple months – they tend to start failing around this mileage

-passenger seat height adjustment failed – I have to still diagnose but it is likely a motor that failed internally – a new used seat will likely be the fix
– front drivers side fog light bracket broke dropping the fog light into the housing – replaced with a new aftermarket one (easy)

Things to note about the 3.6R’s:
-The EZ36D is more reliable than the 2.5i’s but they are not immune to things like HG failures. They tend to have HG failures at high mileage (upwards of 160k miles) and when they do leak they tend to weep oil as opposed to drink coolant and over heat. In my case my drivers side HG has failed but it has been fine as it is just leaking oil through the top (hence the large oil leak on the front of the engine I noticed originally). This will be dependant on coolant changes and maintenance. I plan to just run my engine until something major fails and then just put in a low mileage used one. It is not leaking at a fast rate and I never have any drips under the car. I just clean the engine block at each oil change and eventually it gets covered in oil again. My upper oil pan is also a source of a leak which I’m not going to bother top fix at this point.

– the 5 EAT transmissions are not the smoothest or most advanced but they get the job done well, are easy to maintain and will continue to run for a long time. They are typically used on higher torque vehicles so are over kill for the 3.6R OB and therefore should last a long time. I recommend frequent ATF fluid flushes to maintain them.

-Expect to spend a handful of money on maintenance items if you want to purchase a high mileage 4th gen 3.6R and have it last a long time. If you can find one that has been previously maintained very well and has minimal rust then go for it. My situation is likely a worst case scenario due to how neglected the car was. That said, my family had the budget it had so I worked with what I could.

-The 3.6 5EAT combo is a traditional engine/trans set up with the normal dipsticks. Nothing fancy like CVT’s so fluid changes are what you would be used to on an older vehicle. Used low mileage EZ36D’s are relatively cheap to purchase as there are a lot of them available due to the lack of failures in these engines.

– Radiators tend to fail around the 10 year mark where the plastic neck snaps off and you immediately start haemorrhaging coolant. This can very easily lead to an overheat situation and severe engine damage. I plan to install a new radiator and hoses in the spring to preventatively avoid this issue.

The wholesale price of the OB when I bought it was around $9.5k CAD so I ended up paying around $1k in taxes (Yay government…). I put about $1600-$2000 into the car just in fluids and replacement parts to get it safetied and up to my standards. This was not including the things that broke within the first few months of ownership. All in all I spent about $6200 CAD to have the car running smooth, license and safetied. Not to bad when you consider that 9 years ago the MSRP was somewhere around $41,500 CAD (according to online sources). Now someone might say I could have spent $11,000 and had a similar OB with lower mileage that was safetied already. IMO I would rather have the vehicle I bought. I now know everything that was replaced on it and anything I replaced I covered in anti seize so any of those parts can now be removed in minutes instead of hours. The piece of mind knowing what has been replaced and having spent time under the car inspecting it is very important for me. A safety here in Ontario is no guarantee of reliability so even if I could have paid more for a pre safetied OB with slightly less miles, there is no gurantee it wouldn’t need any of these things (except maybe the control arms). This is why my used cars are so valuable to me and I hang on to them for a long time, I know everything about them and nothing is ever seized on them once I have worked on it.

I rust proof the car every spring and due to the condition of the body I have no doubt it will last for another 6 years. I wouldn’t be surprised if I need to put a new engine in it by then but the trans runs perfectly smooth and should last. An engine swap is actually not very hard in these engines, Subaru graciously put a huge connector on the back of the block so you can disconnect the entire engine harness with one connector. It will be much simpler to just put a new low mileage motor in then to have to reseal a high mileage motor with almost 300,000km on the piston rings and everything else. Pull the bumper, radiator and condenser off the front and a new engine easily slides right in. I will also eventually be replacing all the struts and springs with 2014 suspension within the next year as the suspension on this car is starting to get tired.

Buying a vehicle this old can net you a great deal but don’t think it will be cost free. Older vehicles will need to be cared for and money spent when needed if you want a safe and reliable vehicle. The rear suspension on these cars are pretty involved but tend to last a very long time as they are simple bushings and don’t face a lot of stress. I had a 4 wheel alignment done when I replaced the control arms and the rear were all completely within factory spec. There is no slop in any of the rear arms or bushings. They rear is also not known as a weak point or point of failure.

A buddy of mine once told me “you don’t make money selling cars, you make money buying them” this is very true if you are into buying used vehicles. If you are willing to do what no one else wants to do then money can be made or saved. In my case no one wanted to touch the car because it needed a lot of work aesthetically. I was able to see through that and factored in the costs and realised that I would still come out on top. The aesthetic stuff was very easy to fix and the car looked phenomenal for its age once properly fixed and detailed.

I have drive about 20k km on the OB so far and I love it. It has more character than any car I have previously owned and the AWD is amazing. It also put the biggest smile on my face when I went hooning around the block in the first snow storm in the middle of the night earlier this year. I’d like to keep this as our family’s workhorse for as long as possible.

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