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Subaru Domingo tips/maintenance thread

Discussion in 'Microvans' started by anthill, Jun 25, 2010.

  1. anthill

    anthill Member

    UPDATE OCT-2016: Van is sold, in need of exhaust replacement! Thanks for the good times.

    Not many Domingo owners out there, but might as well start a thread for O&M tips specific to the FA8 / Domingo / Libero / E12 7-seater. Post your tips below!

    One parts reference is www.opposedforces.com and while for a "Malaysian edition", it seems to be accurate. Another is at http://jp-carparts.com

    Other Domingo discussion forums: gisu.de (German), subaru-libero.cz (Czech)

    Specs (1.2L, FA8 model):

    Power(hp@rpm) : 54 @ 4600
    Torque (Nm@rpm) : 97 @ 3000

    Weight (equipped/full): 980/1600 kg
    Size (L x W x H, mm): 3525 x 1415 x 1925
    Rear Hatch (W x H, mm): Ranges from 1040(min) x 965(A/C) to 1180(max) x 1140(no A/C)
    Cargo bed length, rear hatch to driver seat (mm): 1830
    Cargo volume: ~ 2500L

    Last edited: Nov 4, 2016
    arthur viana likes this.
  2. anthill

    anthill Member


    The car body is same as Subaru Sambar, so wheel fitment from other threads should hold.

    Stock tires are 155/80/R13 on 13x5.5" rims with 4x100 bolt pattern, 45mm backspacing and 59.1mm centerbore.
    Can be replaced with 165/65/R14s on 14x5.5s with +45mm backspacing, with only a little tire poke from the wells. Can also be replaced with 175/70/R13s, apparently.

    Recommended alloys are from 1980s to mid-90s Nissan sedans. Sentra wheels work well.


    Is your jack (under the middle bench) missing its handle? Look under the passenger seat - fold it back and check next to the battery panel.


    I assume the Domingo has the same alignment specs as the Sambar.

    Camber 1° ±45'
    Caster 3°50' ±1°

    Front IN: 1 ±3mm
    Rear OUT: 2 ±3mm/m

    Rear toe-out is unusual, but the specs are comparable to the Justy's. I had my van aligned to these specs, and it handles fine so far. Previously it tended to understeer on any slippery surfaces or during hard braking so these are probably correct. Someone please advise me if I'm wrong.


    Sources: this German tuning site and German Ebay
    Front struts:
    • Subaru part # 20301TA530
    • NOT KYB 343294
    • NOT Sachs 155512
    Rear shock absorbers:
    • KYB 442037
    • Sachs 312971
    • Boge 27J620


    I'm just learning about the brakes, but here's a diagram of the front pads:


    CV Joints

    Dorman Universal Quick CV Boot Product#15-1909-0
    is known to fit.


    To rotate the front seats to face backwards:
    1. slide the seat forward until the arrow marks on the door rim and seat rail line up
    2. tilt the seat back forward
    3. reach under the front of the seat and push the center locking tab down. Lift the front seat lip up
    4. hold the locking tab down, and the seat should be free to spin
    5. note that you have to spin the drivers' seat first! (no backwards-facing passengers on the road)
    To fold middle and rear bench seats flat, pull the side locking lever up, tilt the seat forward, then push the side locking lever down and tilt the seat the rest of the way.

    To slide middle bench seats forward, look on the left side near the floor for a button and lever. Push the button in, then pull the lever up. If you find the middle bench hits the drivers' seat when folded flat and won't lock in the forward position, try tugging at the backrest to shift the double hinge.

    Sleeping arrangements are cozy, and probably require an air mattress to be comfortable (the seats don't fold perfectly flat). There are two widths and two lengths you will want to consider - the narrower width if you want to leave a small interior space for putting on shoes etc., and the shorter length if you don't want to rotate the passenger/driver seats. Mattress size references are here.

    Smallest mattress: 95cm x 190cm = Single/Twin, 39"x75"
    Largest mattress: 122cm x 200cm = SuperSingle Xtra Long, 48"x80" (very odd size, sometimes found in waterbed replacement mattresses)

    Anything larger like a Double mattress will be too wide in a Domingo and you'll never manage to shut the sliding doors.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  3. anthill

    anthill Member

    Changing spark plugs

    The engine mounting position on the Domingo is hard on spark plugs, and makes it a pain to change them. Despite a rubber boot covering the plug area, road debris and water collect around the plugs, making them rusty and dusty.

    Don't try to change your plugs unless you have a compressed air gun handy to blow dirt and grime away from the plugs before removing them (or a jerry-rigged vacuum setup). Otherwise you'll end up with debris in the cylinders, guaranteed.

    Spark plug numbers are NGK BPR6EY-11. Depending on your engine condition you can run a different thermal type plug - The stock plug is BPR5ES, but reading my plugs suggests a 5-thermal spec runs too hot.

    Electrical problems:

    No power to your rear defog and rear cabin heater? A tiny grey fan control unit is to blame, it's tucked way up behind the glove compartment, and is notorious for having bad solder joints..

    Distributor cap grounding/contamination problems are also common. The Domingo has a very strange distributor arrangement, with a top vent and bottom drain hose running around the engine compartment. Why? Good question! Anyhow, your distributor cap and rotor might look as bad as mine, so change 'em! Unfortunately I doubt that Justy parts will fit.

    Worn Battery:

    My Domingo came with a stubby battery, with non-N/A-standard 1/2" clamp posts, with a mileage 50,000km ago scrawled on it. Time for a change. Luckily, the (Honda civic?) 51R size battery fits! Size is 9-3/8" x 5" x 8-3/4". It required chopping and re-terminating the ground lead, but fortunately the positive leads on the Domingo end in washer/hoop crimp connectors which are easily transferred to the new post clamps. 430CCA is much better, the cabin lights barely dim on startup now.


    The alternator on the Domingo is a Mitsubishi 23700KA640. It seems to be similar (but mirrored!) to the Justy's BOSCH AL475X / ACDELCO 3341928 / REMY 14975. One place to check (preventatively!) is the positive alternator terminal - the rubber boot fits badly, and if (road salty) water pools inside, it can corrode the copper wires leading to your battery. If these wires corrode and get high resistance, the alternator regulator will crank the voltage to compensate, eventually burning out a diode.


    The starter motor assembly is a Denso 128000-2551 or -2530, Subaru part number 23300-KA032. Your local starter re-building shop can most likely work on it.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2016
  4. anthill

    anthill Member



    Similar to the Subaru Justy, but different oil quantities (due to different oil pan and gearbox I assume).

    Engine oil: 3.6L of 10W-40.
    Front differential: 0.8L of 75W-80 or 75W-90 GL-5.
    Rear gearbox: 2.1L of 75W-85 GL-4 (or possibly GL-5 without limited-slip additives).

    I tried changing my transmission oil to 75W90 GL-5 LSD Castrol Syntec but the shifting turned pretty bad. From what I've read, limited slip differential additives in gear oils prevent synchros from spinning up properly. Since the Domingo has a sealed Viscous Coupling, not a limited-slip diff, LSD gear oil additives are not needed. Attached is a spec sheet for an old Shell Gear oil supposedly intended for Libero transmissions. Most of its properties are met by 75W-80 Red Line MTL which is widely available and seems to work fine so far.



    DOT3 fluid (which should be interchangeable with DOT4). Bleed order should be Right-Front, Left-Front, Left-Rear, Right-Rear (I think!!!). Refill the brake reservoir often while bleeding, it's pretty tiny and could run dry!


    For fuel injected Domingos, the thermostat should be an 82C/180F model. If your van has 4WD, a 88C/190F model will overheat the viscous coupling in the transaxle, causing tire wear and risking major axle / CV joint damage!


    Oil filters for the Subaru Justy will fit (beware crap quality aftermarket brands though). FRAM PH6607 is one of many that fit.
    Fuel filters for the Justy will not bolt on, but should work fine if you replumb the fuel hoses.
    Air filters for the Justy will not fit. MotoMaster 23-3129-4 is known to fit.


    Timing belt can be replaced with a Gates 5313XS - 91 teeth, 19mm wide. Not to be confused with the Justy belt, which is 89 teeth. Do the seals, water pump and tensioner at the same time!

    Accessory belt (for alternator and A/C) is a standard K4 profile, 380mm long. Easily found in auto parts stores. A 385mm won't work, after stretching it will use up all your adjustment.
    Tension on the belt should be enough so 10kg force applied to the middle of the belt span deflects it 10mm. If the belt squeaks, and your alternator & AC pulleys spin freely, scrub the pulleys with a wire brush then tension the belt further. I applied about 100lb-ft to the alternator. Remember to retighten it after a few hours' driving as the belt stretches.


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  5. anthill

    anthill Member


    Headlights can be serviced and aimed from inside the car. The aiming screws are covered by 1/2" rubber plugs, at knee height under the dash.

    The only way to convert to proper LHD lighting is to retrofit Subaru Libero headlights which requires some hacking but is doable. The Libero's autoleveling headlight motors (Stellmotors) won't fit, so don't waste money on them. Easiest place to find Libero headlights is by watching ebay.de for libero scheinwerfer.


    My van was missing some headliner fastening plugs. The small 1/4" ones are perfectly matched at the Fastener Warehouse. However I still haven't found replacements for some of the 1/2" and 3/4" ones.

    The stock curtain rails can be replaced with RECMAR 32124, but beware that making bends is impossible without special tools (nylon inserts). Curtain carriers can be replaced with RECMAR 7124, but unfortunately they stick out a lot further than stock :(.

    Sticky outside sliding door handles? If you pull the outside handle back all the way, you'll expose a little metal tab. Give it a shot of silicone spray lube and it should free up. You can also un-snap the paneling from the inside of the door, peel away the water -seal , and (very carefully) bend little S-curves in the door handle linking rods to shorten them a tiny bit. That will compensate for wear in the nylon bushings.

    Engine Control Unit

    If you want to check out the ECU settings on your Domingo, you're in luck. Subaru tuners and Volkswagen Vanagon enthusiasts have bankrolled a great piece of software, Evoscan. You'll need a laptop to run the software, plus a Subaru Select Monitor (SSM) OBD1 cable to plug into the yellow 9-pin Scosche Su02B connector down by the steering column. Unfortunately the Domingo is pre-ODB2 standardization, so popular gadgets like the ScanGauge won't work.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  6. anthill

    anthill Member

    Fuel economy

    I'm getting about 7.5L/100km (30mpg) in summer, but winter conditions will be worse.

    This Suzuki fan site seems to be a good site to troubleshoot poor fuel economy.

    If you found any of this handy, click the starburst of satisfaction at the bottom left!
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2012
  7. tasos

    tasos New Member

    hi, just bought my E12 libero

    Hi I am new to the forum and also a new owner of a E12 libero 1997 Subaru. Thank's for all the information you posted.
  8. mumibear

    mumibear New Member

    Hi guys - had a Domingo for several years now but been off road for about a year due to a fault with auto gearbox. Keep getting clutch temp warning light coming on & then the engine cuts out. If you leave it for a couple of weeks it will start again. I am female with very limited mechanical knowledge. Can anyone help me get my baby back on the road?
  9. anthill

    anthill Member

    Sorry but I don't we'll be of much help here, mumibear... there are only three Domingo owners on the forum (and I think all have the manual transmission).

    Since the ECVT auto gearbox on the Domingo is the same as the Subaru Justy, I'd say your best bet is the Subaru Justy Forums.

    Two threads look promising:

    Clutch Temp Warning
    ECVT Mystery Solved

    Also you could try reading through Dusty's Justys. Half way down this page they give advice on ECVT problems.

    But - if changing the transmission fluid & filter doesn't work, you're unlikely to fix the ECVT transmission without lots of mechanical knowledge. Sad to say, better look for a good Subaru mechanic.
  10. franck2cv

    franck2cv Member

    Just noticed this dedicated tread......NICE !! Thank you for sharing all this info Anthill! Much appreciated.
    Now, 7litres/100kms is not bad at all? Does that inlcudes city journey as well?
  11. anthill

    anthill Member

    City driving is a bit higher - 8L/100km. Highway I have gotten it as low as 6.6, although there is probably room for improvement there.

    Finally found some headlights, but the guy wants 140 euros for them... $190 CAD seems a bit high to me. What do you think?
  12. franck2cv

    franck2cv Member

    6.6!!! ;):cool:

    Headlights.... Too expensive indeed. The demand is low for those item.

  13. KleinerMuck

    KleinerMuck New Member

    I'm new here to that forum. I'm owning a Subaru Domingo/Libero/E12, too.
    Thank you for your postings so far, anthill!
    Instead of using compressed air, I'm using always our vacuum cleaner for such jobs - as long as my wife is not complaining. ;)
  14. franck2cv

    franck2cv Member

    Hi there :)
    Good to have yet another E12 owner to talk to.
    Where are you located? Any picture of your van?
  15. KleinerMuck

    KleinerMuck New Member

    Hei Franck,
    I'm German, but I'm living in Norway.
    Where are you from? Wasn't it you who imported a Subaru Domingo from Germany to the States(?), I believe?
  16. franck2cv

    franck2cv Member

    Subaru E12 Documentation

    Whilst trying to figure out a way to scan my french owner's book rapidly (might actually be photographing), Here are two German brochures and a french press clip that I found recently. Enjoy!

    Attached Files:

  17. franck2cv

    franck2cv Member

    Here is the french press clip (had to reduce its size!)

    Attached Files:

  18. WalkToFreedom

    WalkToFreedom New Member

    1991 E12 Domingo Fuel Economy

    Greetings Domingo Owners!

    A few years back I bought a really nice Subaru Domingo GV 4WD 1991 E12. I really like this van, it always amazes me what I can fit in it, apart from 7 people! My wife and I even used it for camping etc.

    Anyway recently we were thinking about selling it because I've discovered that fuel economy is actually not very good. For 30L we only seem to get around 260KM, driving around town. I've been told because it's a full time 4WD it will use more fuel but I was wondering if someone could give me some advice what I should expect for fuel economy for this van and what things I should check to improve it.


  19. anthill

    anthill Member

    Hi Matt! :)

    11.5 L/100km is unusually terrible in my (limited) experience. 4WD is not your problem, odds are your engine is out of tune. There's nothing special about the Libero engine when it comes to the usual suspects:

    • Is the engine starved for fuel or air? Replace the fuel filter and air filter.
    • Is the fuel/air mixture right? Check the carburetor (if your engine has one) or pour some fuel injector cleaner in the tank (if it's EFI).
    • Is there a vacuum hose leak? Any loose or cracked tubing in the engine compartment?
    • Does your engine get a good spark? Replace the spark plugs at least, but better yet wires too, and optimally distributor cap/rotor/coil if it's been without service awhile.
    How many km on your E12?
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2010
  20. WalkToFreedom

    WalkToFreedom New Member

    Hi. Anthill. Thanks for your quick reply!

    I'll head off to the mechanic armed with your advice!

    Firstly, I'd better make sure I have the E12. I checked on wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subaru_Domingo) and I'm pretty 99% sure the engine is 1189cc which would make it the E12 right?

    The engine has done approx 140,000 km.
  21. anthill

    anthill Member

    Matt - the 1189cc came in two versions - carbureted and fuel injected. Your mechanic will know the difference.

    140,000km is getting up there - if you don't know your Domingo's service record, chances are it is overdue for some other non-fuel-economy related maintenance. When was the engine oil/filter changed? The coolant system might be worth flushing while you're at the lube shop too.
  22. WalkToFreedom

    WalkToFreedom New Member

    140,000km is pretty low for a van of this age in New Zealand! She is still a spring chicken!!

    I have had it regularly serviced. I.e Every six months I when I get the warrant done. I don't know the service history prior. The engine oil was changed on the last service about 6 months ago, no sure about the filter.

    I should ask you about some strange behaviour that it's pretty much always had which may have something to do with it. The engine seems to stutter a lot, even when it's hot?

    One thing I was thinking about the other day as well, is that I don't know whether the cam belt has been changed. When I bought it about 3-4 years ago, it had 104,000km. I guess there is no easy way to tell if it's been done?

  23. anthill

    anthill Member

    The stuttering would suggest there's poor ignition on at least one cylinder which would account for the bad fuel economy.

    If I was doing the work myself I would start by changing the plugs (cheap @ $10), and if that didn't work, move on to wires, cap, rotor, coil in that order (at increasing expense). However, if you're paying a mechanic to get it on the stand, might as well spend the extra on replacing the whole lot at once.

    Regarding the cam belt, the good news is that if it snaps, you won't mangle your engine. It'll just mean a tow truck.
  24. WalkToFreedom

    WalkToFreedom New Member

    OK! That's great info. I'm going to print it off and go see my mechanic for a quote. I'll get back to you on what he says. Thanks a lot, really appreciate it!
  25. KleinerMuck

    KleinerMuck New Member

    I guess it's best when you do so as Anthill says, and have your car checked by a (Subaru experienced) mechanic.
    My car takes 7.5 liters/100km which I find reasonable. My engine has already seen 230.000 km.
    When yours is stuttering there is definitely something wrong!
  26. anthill

    anthill Member

    Hmm, microvan section... :D

    Plus side: keeps all the weenies in one place, easy to talk about curtains and folding camper seats.

    Minus side: for engine, transmission, and most every technical question, we'd end up asking in different truck forums anyhow.

    The Domingo is a special case, since its engine/transmission is different from the Sambar.
  27. anthill

    anthill Member

    OK, well, we're on our own now...

    PM kmoneil with threads that should be moved here so it's not so lonely. I recall one quebecois Sambar camper van setup, for example...
  28. WalkToFreedom

    WalkToFreedom New Member

    @KleinerMuck. Thanks for the advice. It's tricky to describe the stuttering. It can just start stuttering out of the blue, especially when driving up hill. I don't think I can afford to take it to a specialised Subaru mechanic...they are so expensive here, but I do have a very good mechanic so armed with the knowledge from this forum, I'll see what he can do. Thanks!
  29. WalkToFreedom

    WalkToFreedom New Member

    For the record I like Mircovan. My sister calls my van Vanbina. HA!
  30. anthill

    anthill Member

    If the van stutters more when hill-climbing, it's probably a fuel system problem (filter!). If it stutters more when it's humid, more likely to be electrical.

    As far as names go, I like Franck's "Subinette"

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