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Subaru Legacy/Outback Wagons Maintenance & Repair



  • I have been driving a 2000 nissan maxima for 10 years and really like it. Also have a pathfinder. We really like nissan but for my new (used) car, thinking about Subaru. I drove a 2010 and 2012 legacy and really liked it. Also considering an older (05,06) infiniti g35x.

    I want a car that handles well and it sporty looking and fun to drive. Fast would be a plus. Of course want something dependable.

    A little afraid of switching brands as we have always been happy with nissan. So please tell me about cost of ownership. I know there are stories about getting 300k miles on your car but in reality, in a state that uses salt on the roads how many miles/years can be expected?

    We like to drive our vehicles for at least 10 years or more.

    In looking for a slightly used legacy are there things I should be looking for? different then the usual stuff?

    Thank you for any input.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    From a reliability standpoint, I'd recommend that you go with a car (assuming Subaru) that has an FB block rather than an EJ. The EJ25 was rather notorious for head gasket issues, and the likelihood of having to deal with that during a 10-year ownership period is not in your favor!

    But, then, you said you also want fast. That would steer you in the direction of the Legacy GT. It doesn't have the open-deck EJ engine, but also not as good of fuel economy. They discontinued the model, I believe, and I'm not sure what year that was, but I know you can get it in the '10 model year for sure.

    I drove a '10 Legacy Limited with a CVT a couple years back, and found it to be peppy and responsive. Quite a car, in terms of space and comfort, in comparison to the previous generation.

    As for switching brands, I cannot really comment too much. I have owned many different brands over the years, and while I like the familiarity of mechanicals when it comes to sticking with the same brand, I also haven't been "burned" by a car that was of a different marque. So, I'm not overly brand loyal. I do like my Subarus though; they're just so darned practical, I can't help myself. :P
  • Thanks xwesx. Haven't seen any GTs for sale anywhere around here. As for avoiding the EJ block, that seems difficult. From my limited searching it appears that I would need a 2012 legacy to get a FB. Not that I don't want a '12 its just that limits the choices and the cost.

    Sounds crazy but really not that worried about fuel economy.

    So the EJ should be avoided completely? I'm only interested in the legacy as I want a sedan with a power drivers seat (pet peeve).
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Look at a new Legacy with a 6 speed manual and the FB25 engine. Those should be adequate at least.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    No, I don't think you have to avoid the EJ. I've had four cars with that engine, and all did just fine by my standards. But, on the one that I took to 220,000 miles, I did have to address bad head gaskets (I got lucky and was able to take them to 192K)... and that wasn't an entirely painless (trouble free) process!

    So, in terms of maximizing your long-term happiness with the car in terms of maintenance vs. repair expenses, I think the FB would be a better fit. If you go in with your eyes open to the engines' differences, you'll likely have a good experience with either.
  • Kirstie@EdmundsKirstie@Edmunds Posts: 10,676
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  • msmbmsmb Posts: 41
    I am looking to buy a 2003 Legacy L with standard trans. The car only has 68000 miles on it and the price seemed to be right, around $6500 from a reliable private party. But when we took it in to the dealer for inspection it turned out that there is a problem with the head. Not sure if there was also a leak or if that is related to the head. Estimated cost for repair, including the timing belt (which the owner says he just recently replaced, so I expect the part can be reuse) is $2500. Dealer said that he was figuring conservatively, that was probably at the high end of possibilities. Present owner said he would cover cost of repair from the dealer. Since I am not familiar with Subarus I am seeking advice. Do you think the problem with the head is symptomatic of the car going into a decline, the period when a car begins to have problems, sometimes big and sometimes small; but about to become a nuisance. Or is the head a one time deal; once that is fixed the car is good to go and since everything else checked out and it appears to have been cared for, we should have few, if any problems. Can I get some opinions?
  • jd_24jd_24 Posts: 92
    A problem with the head seems a bit open. A 2003 will most likely have head gasket issues at some point. Why has the timing belt been replaced already before 68K miles? It wasn't due until 100K.
    To me a 10+ year old car for $6500 seems a bit high if it needs work.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Price does seem high.

    For the gasket, if the problem just started, and they change the gaskets, you should be OK.

    If it's been overheating and they neglected it, though, you get warping and the heads won't mate properly, so it could happen again.

    If you know/trust the seller, find out how long it's been leaking, and pass if it didn't just start happening recently.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,644
    You can't expect any kind of guarantee of future success with a used car--all you can do is improve your odds of success by going over the car with a fine tooth comb at the time of purchase.

    The head gasket issue is typical Subaru, although it occurred a bit earlier than expected. Most 2.5L Subies of that vintage will blow the gaskets at 110K to 130K.

    As long as the engine never overheated (you should be able to spot signs of that), and as long as no coolant ever got into the oil, you should be okay.

    I don't think I'd buy the car until it was all fixed up and road-tested, however.

    These cars are a dime a dozen--I don't see why you have to jump on this one.
  • msmbmsmb Posts: 41
    edited April 2013
    From everything I could see the previous owner did not have any idea about the headgasket problem. The dealer who has serviced the car did the last major service at 53500, about 15000 miles ago. But since the car has only been driven under 7,000 per year that was a few years ago. At that service the drive belts were changed, in addition to whatever else the normal service is. Seller used an oil change shop for regular oil changes. I called them and with the VIN they were able to give me the record. They say that the car has been brought to them since 30,000, every 3000 miles or less. They claim--who knows?-- that if coolent was leaking into oil they would have noticed this and reported it. The last oil change was about 2500 miles ago and it was not noticed, so presumably the problem is recent. They changed oil, cleaned battery, and cleaned the injectors. I find no sludge at all inside the engine when i stick my finger into where you pour oil, and the engine looks clean inside. The service rep at the dealership that has taken car of the car did an inspection for us. That is when the gasket problem was noticed. The dealer thinks that there is a very slight possibility that the engine block could be warped, but he doubted it. He thought the car drove too well to have any additional problem. Why this car? It is within the price range I had in mind and with such low mileage I am hoping for many years of use --headache free once the dealer replaces the head-- in a car I feel good about my child driving. How does the price seem to you: $6750? I have agreed to pay $4,000 up front to the owner and the ramainder was allotted for repair of the vehicle. The dealer said a conservative estimate on the repairs was $2500 (he said more realistically between $1900 and $2200) and I said that if I had anything left over after allotting $2500 and paying the dealer for the repair that, up to our agreed price of $6750, would go to the owner.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,644
    I wouldn't buy the car until the repairs were completed, using the owner's money. What if the engine is no good?

    The only way to buy this car is to presume the engine is toast, and in that case $4000 is too much for it.

    $6750 is retail dealer pricing and no bargain, so again, it's not a car you have to jump on.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    I think your approach is good. The car is young in terms of mileage, but not in terms of age. So, there could be other problems, such as split CV boots, ball joints, etc., over time, but that's the way of any car. Maintenance & repairs required!

    There are several types of leaks that can occur with the head gaskets: External oil, external coolant, internal coolant (into oil / combustion chamber), internal combustion into coolant....

    In my opinion, external oil is the best type, if it just has to leak(!), to have. I say that because generally this type of leak does not lead to engine overheating, yet it is noticeable enough to warrant action prior to any other, more serious, leaks occurring.

    If you continue to pursue the purchase, you are hedging your bets well that you'll be satisfied with it in the long run.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    I wouldn't buy the car until the repairs were completed, using the owner's money.

    I agree. I re-read the prior post and didn't interpret the wording that way, but my approach would be: Owner fixes, then I buy.

    The fact that the owner is even willing to do this (versus trying to foist the car off on an unsuspecting buyer) speaks volumes about the individual's integrity.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,644
    It IS true that the head gasket failures on Subarus are external leaks for the vast majority of the failures, but still, coolant loss is coolant loss and if the owner didn't pick up on it, it's pretty easy to bend the heads on an overheat.
  • msmbmsmb Posts: 41
    I made a mistake. Or, previous seller did. The drive belts were changed with the lat major service. The young man who sold the car thought they were the timing belts. But the dealer reviewed the history of service with us and it was never done. Thanks for your response.
  • msmbmsmb Posts: 41
    In light of the integrity of the young man who sold the car, which you have noted, i take his word that there has never been any problem with it. I did not specifically ask about overheating but he seemed intent on giving us an honest view of his car and there was no sign of overheating in the engine compartment. I have checked the history of oil changes also. The store that did them told me they would have noted any leaks and since they did not at the last oil change, about 2500 miles ago, my assumption is that the leaks must be recent. I did ask the young man who owned the car if he ever had to add oil and his answer was repeatedly "no." Hopefully it is all on the level.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,644
    Yes I hope so. You're in the best position to judge the seller's behavior and credibility.

    As for adding oil, the 2.5L Subaru engine also tends to use oil, so if you do buy the car, and you do end up having to add oil between changes, don't freak out.
  • msmbmsmb Posts: 41
    edited April 2013
    Thanks for that; i would have freaked out! I did buy it: $4000 and allotting $2750 for repairs. It is over at the dealership now for repair work this coming week.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    As mine became higher mileage, I would add about a quart every 3-4K miles, and that's when it wasn't leaking anything. ;)
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