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93 Sambar Van 660cc - A few Issues

Discussion in 'Subaru Sambar' started by jacko, Apr 12, 2012.

  1. jacko

    jacko New Member

    Hey Guys & Girls,

    I have a 1993 Subaru Sambar Van 660cc and I'm running into a few problems as of lately. If anyone can shed some light I would be extremely grateful!

    1: My Steering light comes on I'd say 3 out of 5 starts and steering obviously becomes difficult. Does this year of van have power steering module or do I need power steering fluid? or neither? or both?

    2: I'm also wondering if I'm having transmission issues. If i press the gas pedal, sometimes it will take 2 or three seconds to engage and then promptly kicks forward starting at about 3 or 4 thousand rpms and then comes down to normal revs once i get going a bit.

    3: I have to put oil in on a tri-weekly basis. If i don't put oil in tri-weekly i get a gross "piston rattle" kind of a sound and when i am stopped at a red light there is terrible engine shake. As soon as I put oil in the engine shake stops for about a week, but then after that the engine shakes for the remaining two weeks until my oil light comes on and I replenish it. I don't see a leak anywhere so it must be burning. What could be some causes?

    4: I also get that gross "piston rattle" kind of a sound when cruising at 60-65km. Any speed above or below that is fairly normal sounding.

    5: I generally can't make it past 105km/h on a good day. (Not that i realllly want to rev 6 grand anyway)

    6: Lastly, my battery dies most days if the weather cools off slightly(i.e, 5 degrees or less). Otherwise it seems to be generally ok. The battery is not even a year old. I thought at first that the Pioneer Dual Din that was supplied when i bought the van was causing a draw, so i disconnected that and it worked at first but now the battery dies most days again. Could I be having an alternator problem? Or could it just be a bad battery? It didn't do this for the first 2 years I owned the van.
    ****a side note - If i leave the lights on for even 10 minutes with the engine off, the battery will die completely. Also, when I first start the van the fan and lights won't come on fully until i hit the gas pedal.

    Lots of issues! Any Help would be much appreciated!
  2. jacko

    jacko New Member

    Also I should mention that it has 98,000 Km's.
  3. Andrew.r.w

    Andrew.r.w Member

    Yeah, you need to get that checked.

    My two cents: Buy a new battery, keep the oil right up, and start looking for another engine.

    I can't help you much with the steering and the transmission. My trucks are Armstrong steering all the way and there is no dash light related to steering. Make sure your belt is tight enough. I have standard transmissions. If an automatic is flaring as you describe it is probably getting ready to kick off. Does the oil smell burnt? Is it dark and dirty (should be red and clean).

    The battery will behave like that when it is nearly at its end. One cold day it will just not work and that will be the end of it. Sitting for a long time is hard on an old battery, especially if the thing is not fully charged. In any case it is going to let you down some time. The battery might be a little hard to find based on the dimensions, so get something lined up.

    I have 2 Subaru Sambars (92 and 94) and yours probably has the same engine. They don't seem to run long after 100,000 from the sound of things. The noise you describe could very well be the bottom-end death rattle. If it is your days are numbered. Check the oil regularly and top it up when it gets a little low - don't wait for it to be down a litre! I've gone to 10-30 high-mileage oil. I add whenever it is down 200ml or so. It only holds 2.8 litres, so being down 1 litre really impacts the cooling function of the oil.

    Oh, and I rather think 105 km/h is outside the normal operating range for these things. I know others will disagree, but IMHO, 80km/h is about max. cruising speed. I occasionally hit 90, but not often and not for long. I think one has to consider these vehicles as not appropriate for freeway speeds.

    The best deal I have seen for an engine is from G&R Imports (e-mail parts@grimports.com). They seem to have a few choices for engines like used, rebuilt, and rebuild kits. I'll probably be buying one from them as they seem able to deliver soon and their prices are reasonable.

    One good thing about these vehicles, they are pretty simple machines. Most mechanics will delight in working on them because they harken back to a simpler time, when a lot of these guys were really comfortable with troubleshooting and diagnosing issues without computers.

    Good luck with all that ..
  4. jacko

    jacko New Member

    Thanks for the reply Andrew,

    In regards to my battery, the thing that puzzles me is that it is only a year old (if that). Unless I just purchased the wrong battery to begin with, maybe i just screwed something up. Actually to be honest, I didn't start having most of these problems until I purchased that battery.
  5. Andrew.r.w

    Andrew.r.w Member

    I don't think the battery could account for the steering, engine knock, oil consumption, or transmission issues. I suspect you may have gotten a bad battery or perhaps your charging system is faulty. These things can be tested easily and probably for free.

    Any 12-volt lead-acid battery should work, but only certain ones will fit in the mounting bracket and some have different contact posts. The technology is not that specific so as long as it starts and charges you should be good in terms of basic operation. Getting the right battery will make your life easier, but like I say, it's not that fussy.

    Where are you? Maybe I can recommend a place to get things looked at ..
  6. jacko

    jacko New Member

    Haha you're right andrew, the battery wouldn't account for all that. I was just being sarcastic.(I should use emoticons)

    I'm located in Saskatoon. There is a local shop that can work on it, but they don't like to because, according to him, "these are tough to work on and labor would be 3-4 hours for even an oil change". Unfortunately though, this shop is the only one in town that has a hoist with skinny enough arms to even lift my van up.

    As for the battery, since it's not even a year old I might take it in and try to get warranty. (After I test it of course!)

    Thanks for you help!
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2012
  7. Andrew.r.w

    Andrew.r.w Member

    You need to find another shop because I think that guy is full of it.

    These rigs are easy to change oil on, and any Mr. Quick or whatever should get it done for $40 or so. I don't know about the van, but working on the truck is a snap compared to any other vehicle I've worked on recently. Saskatoon is big enough to have several choices. You might want to get someone to give it a once-over (compression check, valve adjustment check, plugs, wires, etc) just to get a baseline on the engine condition. I did that and it took 1.5 hours including changing the bolts in the exhaust manifold and heat shield (so I could get them off my self later).

    Thinking about the battery issue, check and double check your grounding. Many problems arise when the ground is bad. Make sure the battery posts are clean and contacting solidly. That is one thing that is cheap, easy, and it would be the very pinnacle of humiliation to find it after spending a lot of money.
  8. jacko

    jacko New Member

    Thanks Andrew, I will check that this evening if I have time.
  9. fupabox

    fupabox Well-Known Member

    if you have the CVT auto tranny the sounds and feelings you describe sound noermal...engine revs are not instantly matched to road speed....
    +1 on the grounding as the battery problem..check engine ground strap...
    try a heavier oil...it may put off the rebuild and oil consumption issue for a while
    if you have electric power steering it will be erratic with bad charging/grounding
  10. jacko

    jacko New Member

    Does anyone know if this vehicle requires power steering fluid? If so where is the reservoir located?
  11. SpikeFiend

    SpikeFiend Member

    I think a lot of the vans have power steering, couldn't help you with the reservoir location though.

    The oil is pretty easy to change. A pair of ramps is really all you need. I use a 1990 Mazda RX7 oil filter for my truck (I would assume the vans are the same).

    I don't know if that's a transmission issue or not but I imagine that it should move somewhat proportionately with throttle, even a CVT. I'd check to see if your throttle cable is sticking. Open up the engine access hatch with the truck running and try pulling on the throttle cable right at the point it where it meets the engine and see if you get the same problem.
  12. DuncVan

    DuncVan Member

    I think the steering fluid reservoir is behind the little hatch on the right end of the dashboard. You will have to have the driver's door open to access the hatch. It swings up.

    I've haven't had to mess around with my steering but I'm pretty sure that is the steering fluid reservoir.
  13. SpikeFiend

    SpikeFiend Member

    Not sure about the vans, but on my truck, that's the brake fluid reservoir.
  14. DuncVan

    DuncVan Member

    I stand corrected. The message on the cap reads more like a brake fluid reservoir. (Clean before opening, only use new fluid...) Sorry for my mistake and thanks for correcting me SpikeFiend.
  15. jacko

    jacko New Member

    Thanks for the replies SpikeFiend and DuncVan. I'll have to try the throttle cable this evening.

    In regards to my battery issues, I've been doing some testing and I think the problem might be in the wire leads up to my battery. This morning I was having trouble turning it over, so I opened up the battery hatch and played with the red cable while I tried to start it and then it started. So I think a rewire is in order, both Power cables(which are frayed in some areas) and the ground strap. Strangely though the last 5 days I've had no problem starting it and then bam this morning I had trouble with it.
  16. SpikeFiend

    SpikeFiend Member

    I had a similar issue when I first bought the truck. The battery terminals were so corroded that they would lose contact every once and a while and not restart until I jiggled the connectors (of course it would happen after I stalled it at a stop sign on my first drive home/first time driving a standard). It also happened a while later when I changed the distributor cap, the starter wouldn't get enough power to turn over the engine, and I'm thinking the whole time I buggered it up because of something to do with the distributor! Some new battery clamps seemed to have fixed that issue for me.

    No worries. Now I'm curious as to where they put the power steering reservoir now though...
  17. jacko

    jacko New Member

    I think they are definitely corroded. I've been meaning to change them out for awhile. Somebody said earlier that bad clamps can also cause my Power Steering to screw up and it sure has. If I jump my van with an external battery I don't have Power Steering issues, but when my van struggles to start and eventually does, I sure have power steering issues. I'm going to change those clamps this week i think.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2012
    ddt likes this.
  18. jacko

    jacko New Member

    Also, for anyone that has the sambar van, does anyone notice problems driving on the freeway when it's windy? This morning I had to get off the freeway because I thought I was going to go off the road. Plus, I'm pretty sure the people behind me were thinking I was drunk(in the morning) or they were just scared because i had a pack of cars trailing about 30 feet behind me. I'm thinking of putting sand bags in places just to weigh it down so i don't, you know, flip over. ;)
  19. SpikeFiend

    SpikeFiend Member

    Yep! Even in my truck I notice the side winds push me around a lot. It's a good thing the truck is only a half lane wide so I've got room to blow around! One of the downsides to a tall* vehicle that only weights 1500 lbs.

    *I had to laugh when I noticed it's actually taller than my Sorento (I do have the hi-roof model though).
  20. jacko

    jacko New Member

    Ughh I thought i was going to die today! It's never been this bad, but i guess we were having gusts of 60 km/h or higher. The constant winds aren't bad, it's the quick gusts that almost force me into the other lane. It's funny to watch people trail behind me and then speed past me because they're scared.
  21. jacko

    jacko New Member

    Well every one of my problems was fixed last night by my mechanic and I. The solution: increase idle. I was idling low and the battery was only charging at 9 volts. So every time I would try to start it I wouldn't have enough voltage to crank. We went into the engine, used a phillips and a half a turn later my problems were solved. Now it idles well. No more engine shake. No dead battery. No Steering Light.

    Also. Seafoam works wonders! I feel like I have a brand new vehicle. It is so nice!
  22. bumbo

    bumbo New Member

    Jacko, can you share with me what size and make is your after market battery? I am looking for one but knowing the dimensions it might be difficult to buy one.
  23. jacko

    jacko New Member

    Hey Bumbo,

    I unfortunately sold my Sambar and bought a 1972 Volkswagen Bay Window Van, so I don't really remember the dimensions. I do remember being able to buy a battery at Canadian Tire/Walmart that was meant for a ride-on mower and it worked great!
  24. udidwht

    udidwht Member

    Bus not van.

    As for the Sambars they are NOT meant to drive at US highway speeds. Keep the engine at or near 'peak torque'. In my 1990 Sambar Try XS (fuel injected supercharged) peak torque is roughly 3800rpm but once you go past 4500rpm MPGs will tank. Speed in mine at 4200rpm is 80kmh and at 90kmh I'm at 4700rpm.
  25. Drain

    Drain Supporting Moderator Supporting Moderator Supporting Member

    Dude that post is from over a decade ago, try to limit the thread necromancy.
    rkrenicki likes this.
  26. udidwht

    udidwht Member

    No such a thing as useless information. And certainly no reason to start a new thread for one.

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