I hate admitting this. I’ve rarely bought a bad car over the years, but my recent purchase of a Subaru Brumby is making me sweat, swear and wish I’d never set eyes on this little runabout.
I bought this car because a) I wanted a ute, and b) the Brumby has a reputation for being bullet-proof both in terms of longevity and reliability. The prices for these cars on the used market back this up. I knew that I paid a little too much for mine when I bought it, but it had very low mileage (just 100,000 kms) and it had power steering fitted (which was never an option for this model) so I took the plunge.
It’s been an exercise in frustration ever since.
First, the water pump failed the day after I bought it. Fair enough. Water pumps give up eventually and this could have simply happened at a bad time. Plus, it was relatively inexpensive to fix at around $90 for the pump itself.
I’m starting to get the feeling, however, that the water pump failure was evidence of a lack of maintenance in general by the previous owner. The fact that it’s got just 100,000kms on it is great, but even Subarus need maintenance during that 100,000km period.
Right now, I’m dealing with a jammed door lock that won’t let me lock the car. I tried to fix this last weekend but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the window winder off to get behind the door card. Damn you, special tools! I’ll get that one sorted.
But my biggest bugbear is the fact that the car simply won’t start on cold mornings. Once it starts, it’s fine. Getting it started, however, is frustrating beyond belief.
Despite being a car made in the mid-1990s, it’s based on late 1970s Subaru tech. That’s means a carburettor. And a choke. All of a sudden I have this sinking feeling that the carby’s going to need either servicing or replacing and when you’ve already paid over the odds to buy the car, the thought of having that extra spend is very unsettling.
Here’s what I’ve discovered, for those of you skilled in diagnosis:
- Fuel, Air and Spark are what’s required to get combustion. Air isn’t a problem and a new air filter was fitted when I had the car registered here a month ago.
- Spark shouldn’t be a problem, either. New plugs and leads were fitted last week, and a new battery was fitted just before I bought the car.
- That leaves fuel. I’ve had to pour some fuel directly into the carby on previous start attempts and that’s worked before, but this morning (with the battery wearing down from previous start attempts) even that didn’t help. My proposed course of action now is to move from least expensive to most expensive – fuel filters, fuel pump (though it works fine once the car’s started, so I’m doubtful on that) and then perhaps a carby service or replacement. An upgrade to a Weber carb is a popular one with these models.
The last two mornings, I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get the Brumby started in low temperatures (around 4-6 degrees C). The really frustrating part is that when I get home at around 5pm, after a day around 13 degrees C, the car starts just fine. It’s like a grumpy teenager that doesn’t want to get up when it’s cold.
On those non-start mornings, I’ve ended up having to open the garage and take my Alfa GTV6 to work instead. Who’d have thought a mid-80′s Alfa Romeo would be more reliable that a 1990′s Subaru?
I really, really want this car to live up to its reputation. My problem is that I’ve already paid a little too much to buy it and I don’t want to spend a whole bunch on making it what it should have been in the first place.
I have a feeling there’s a carby replacement in my future. Air and Spark should both be OK. It can only be the fuel and once the car’s going, that’s fine. It’s getting fuel to the combustion chamber on a cold morning that seems to be the problem. Or am I completely off base?
Your thoughts are welcome.