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Subaru Crew Problems & Solutions



  • Hello Guys (and Girlcarbuilder). I have had a strange love affair with my 2002 OBS. I bought it off the showroom floor in Minnesota in August of 2001 after my Hondar Civic SI was stolen out of my St. Paul driveway in the dead of night - loved that car (1990). Any way - from the moment I bought the Sube it was noisy. Countless checks by dealers and non-dealers never discovered the cause. As I wrote in this forum about 30 months ago - I took it in to get the timing belt changed and was told that it might not be worth it because the entire undercarriage, subframe was severely rusted out. I told them to change the timing belt anyway because I don't throw my toys away. This was at 9 yrs and 88,000 miles. Well when they opened her up to change the belt - turns out the timing belt tensioner was never totally bolted together; this was the source of my noise all those years!!!

    Ok - anyway.... I was/am now in Pennsylvania where the salt isn't so bad - so I replaced my entire subframe . I have since had my exhaust fully replaced, new catalytic converter, rear struts, numerous wheel bearings. Always stayed on top of oil changes. It has never run so well. Quiet and getting about 25 mpg. Heading into year 13 with about 115,000 miles. I want 200,00 miles.....

    So here is my question.....I have about $800 in credits from using a Subaru credit card. My last official Dealer Maintenance was at 60,000 mile interval. I don't want to throw the money away but I do want to prevent problems. I am about to contact my dealer to bring it in. I need an oil change but what should I tell them to do? I don't think I ever had the belts changed. They look ok. One thing for sure my a/c is on the fritz only get about 5 minutes of cool air when I start up. Change fluids? - which ones? It is a manual transmission.

    But how do I best approach the dealer - are there things you would just tell them to do or leave it up to them? (BTW, my check engine light is always on but I don't believe in them :)

    Any tips or phrasing would be great. I do have a slow leak in one wheel. If I was made of money I would buy 4 steels wheels - I am all about function - never care about how my car looks - just care about performance.

    Ok - that's it - I am sure I forgot some stuff but will check in later. Thanks Everyone Peter.
  • jfljfl Posts: 1,385
    I've got a 2000 Legacy with ~265,000 miles.

    Based on what you've written, I'd go thru the maintenance manual and see what's recommended for 120,000 miles and pick the items you'd like the dealer to perform.

    My mechanic and the dealer both replace the water pump, timing belt tensioner, and "fan" belts when they change the timing belt. You might check your receipt to see if the belts were already replaced.

    Personally, I do a lot of my own maintenance. But I don't do timing belts on Subarus. The last time I took it to a dealer was to add freon to the a/c...paid with Subaru bucks.

    Be ready for all the "recommendations" for additional work they'll want to perform! Good luck.
  • Thanks for the reply JFL.

    I am going through my list now to specify what I want them to do. As I said I have credits but don't want to go crazy - the car has never run so well. Plus, I have a friend that owns a Midas and I will let him inspect my brakes, wheel bearings, boots, ball joints. For now I want all connections and fluids replaced; engine is looking a bit old. Timing Belt already replaced. Any suggestions/deletions welcome.

    Here is my to do list and have two questions - the thermostat and general lubrication:

    Rotate Tires

    Change Oil/filter

    Change front and rear differential oil.

    Change Radiator coolant and replace all hoses.
    (Should I have them change the thermostat or if it ain't broke....)

    Replace power steering fluids and hoses.

    Replace brake fluid and and hoses.

    Change all drive belts p/s, a/c and alternator - throw old ones in car.

    Charge the a/c system - not as cold as usual.

    Change Spark plugs (and wires?).

    Replace fuel filter - inspect the lines.

    Replace Air filter.

    Replace battery cables.

    Right rear door needs lubrication...should I have them do other areas?

  • Forgot. I think I mentioned it was a 5-speed manual with ~115,000 miles. What about the clutch - it seems ok. Is it worth inspecting if it feels alright?

    Thanks again...
  • girlcarbuildergirlcarbuilder Baton Rouge, LAPosts: 218
    edited August 2013
    Stackman1.....this is all weekend simple stuff! If you want, do the engine oil one weekend, the diff the next and so on. You could even fix the tire on the side of the road when you read what I have below! Save your bucks for now. At 115K the maintainance is still quite low. I am concerned about the low miles though. Subaru's have a deal about head gasket failure possible due to low usage. See . Now I do not want to scare you but get her out on the road more!

    This past year I have pulled two units down, 94 auto & 97 manual, down for head jobs from our fleet and have one more, 03 manual, on the books due for this headache. I plan all of the maintenance work at one time. If you pay attention to what goes on with other units like this, you will pull way past the 300k mark.

    So, what I say here goes for everyone. 105K pull the OEM belt and replace it along with crank and cam seals. 210K pull everything off and replace. idler rollers, belt, seals, water pump and tensioner. Change your coolant and stick to Subaru's coolant and additive. Now if you have a non highway unit, you may have already had a dance with the head gaskets. If you have not, always watch for the red flag of temperature gauge going up as you increase load. As long as she holds steady, you are fine. Make sure you know where your normal mark is on that gauge.

    Change the oil, change the tranny and rear axle fluids yourself. Easy to do and you know it is done! When you drain out the fluid, measure what comes out to know how much to put back in. Too many times someone was paid to change/check the diff and they did not. I come along at a major maintenance point and check to find out they had not! Needless to say, my client fires that shop shortly afterwards. Given you are in the north, I would consider the proper synthetic gear lube over the regular stuff. Also, if you are not running it, consider synthetic oil for the engine if you are not losing it out of the rear oil galley plate. Look for leaks between engine and trans. As for the tire, Slime it! Look for that at Wal-Mart. It will seal up any leak in the tread area. It will not seal bead or side wall leaks. Can't balance the tire afterwards is the only problem. But from what I am seeing in terms of wear here. That does not matter.

    If you can, save your Subaru points for the dreaded head job when it, if it happens. The next one I do will be the 03 which will have work on all sides of the motor since it leaks from the rear oil galley plate, due for T belt change and everything else up front, and is know to have head gaskets beginning to fail. I plan to make that job real easy and just pull the dang motor out to deal with it. Being a manual trans, that will need a new clutch as well because the old one is oil soaked. Oh, this unit I believe is about 250K miles sitting 700 miles away from me. Always best to group repairs as much as possible. Exactly why my hair has not gone totally gray yet like my brothers! Otherwise you find yourself going back and tearing stuff back down to do something else you wish you did the first that $40 water pump! Oh, I have learned to cuss better than a sailor over those times! So since I plan to behave like a Lady, I change those headaches out. Like I say when it comes to major work, if in doubt whip out the new part. On the other hand like a 89 DOHC Volvo sitting here right now, there comes a time to no longer hold 'em, just fold 'em.
  • Thanks Girlcarbuilder - I was hoping you might spot the post.

    I realize it is low mileage but it is driven 6 days out of 7; 11 miles to work. Long trips ~ 4 times a year - 1000 miles or more. Never had any leaks. I'm hoping since I got screwed with the undiagnosed broken timing belt tensioner and the rotted out undercarriage - I will be given a dispensation on the dreaded head gasket replacement. I did have the timing belt changed but not the water pump.

    And while I have done my share of driveway oil changes back in the day. Never did a differential change. And while it might not be a mind- blower....I'd need to get the thing off the ground. Not as skinny as I used to be. If I wanted to do all I listed myself - do I buy a Chilton's manual and two ramps? But shouldn't the car be totally level when draining fluids like differentials? How do you get the car evenly off the ground - safely?

    Listen, I'm not bitchin' - just asking.

    The accessory belt work worries me - not sure I would tighten belts properly. Is it really that easy?

    How about my a/c. It only lasts for about 10 minutes now. Is that just a case of adding freon?

    Leave a working thermostat alone?

    Any thoughts will be appreciated. Maybe I'd just have them do the belts and a/c charge for now????

  • Forgot. I think the one tire issue is a seal on the rim - not a puncture. Slime-it is no good for seals right?
  • Hmmm,,,,,looks like Chilton and Hayes didn't bother with repair manuals for 2002 Impreza OBS's
  • Hey GCB and Crew

    You convinced me about doing more stuff myself. I will hold my SubaruBucks for now and just have them perform an Oil Change tomorrow. But as I noted, the after market repair manuals seem to be lacking. I will definitely need a go-to source if I start doing more of my own work.

    I have a 2002 Impreza OBS - I found a couple of places on the web with exploded diagrams but not much text. I need a bit of hand holding.

    Where do you guys go when you need assistance on how to tackle a task?
  • once_for_allonce_for_all Posts: 1,640
    years ago, I bought a 30 day subscription to the factory repair manuals. I recall that it was a Subaru site. That gave access to the entire PDF library. I downloaded everything.

    If you can't find a paper manual, scout around for an electronic version.

  • girlcarbuildergirlcarbuilder Baton Rouge, LAPosts: 218
    edited August 2013
    There is a consumer grade manual from Haynes. Found it on Covers 2000-06 Legacy and Forester and other models. My experience with Subaru is the basics change little over time. Looks like part# 89101. Just verified that as correct. $18! I recommend Wal-Mart full synthetic oil. With a WIX oil filter. That is the same company that makes the NAPA oil filters. If you have an old Subaru manual, Haynes 90-98, hang onto it. Little has changed. As for that oil, I have the MO people change every 10K miles. Those cars do a bit of interstate running. I have seen one get as high as 15K miles once with still a bit of slipperiness in the oil,,,,,but as I told them, I frown on that kind of distance between changes.

    Now, when things get really tough, I pull the professional grade manuals out from the library or the ones I have already bought. That is very rare. We also still have contacts with dealer parts supplies who are very happy to share some of their mechanical nightmares and how they solved them. Needless to say, we share ours as well when they need help. For example, I do not replace the oil galley gasket with just silicone! I make a paper gasket and coat both sides with a thin coat of silicone. Needless to say the paper and the silicone must be correct for the application. has become a good repository of repair info from many of us as well. Just search a topic and read. Lot of stuff there that will open your eyes just surfing and reading. Lot of stuff that will keep you out of trouble before you get in it. This info I have even used before buying a new car to see what kind of headaches people are having. Before buying the Yaris, I solved the problems others were having before the first dollar went out. Now there are 4 Toyota Yaris's in service replacing the Subaru's. 36-40 mpg is a real good deal and the maintenance needed is a lot lower than Subaru engines. NO timing belt!!!! But before you jump up and down on that one, timing chains do require service eventually. Ignore it, and you bang pistons into valves!

    Bottom line, the more you know about your own car yourself, the less likely you will get screwed by a mechanic, the more likely you can head off major trouble before it comes and the longer that car will serve you. Not to mention you begin to know what parts fit what years! Huh....can you imagine knowing more about that car, like can you push it into at the rate you are age 30 with the original driveline!? Yes, if you can still get parts! I know, because I have a few up in that age bracket!

    So much for shop talk today! This is what the pros use to get the tips they need for talk. Go get that Haynes book on Amazon.....that is your first textbook! Back to school! Imagine this it less than an inch thick and you will use it more than your college textbooks that were several inches thick! What a deal!

    Back to edit.....another thought. The local library here has a subscription to Alldata. I rarely use it, but when I need it, it is there. Helpful when it comes to stuff like that DOHC 89 Volvo which has even less info available. So check your local library to see what resources they may have available.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,572
    edited August 2013
    My local library has Chilton's online and it seems pretty worthless. Lots of generic "filler".

    Try here too:

    Online Repair Manuals
  • Hello Everyone - wanted to follow up. When I went to my scheduled appt with the local dealer, I limited my service to an oil change and re-charge of the a/c - (thanks for the advice). I plan on doing all the things on my wish list but will need to use my SubaruBucks judiciously.

    They called me mid-day to say that the a/c compressor was not working. They had already charged it with freon. I paid $155.25 at pickup ($37 oil change - $118 a/c charge ). The a/c is working fine now but I haven't had it on for more than 20 minutes at a time.

    They performed a multi-point courtesy inspection and here is what they itemized:

    New a/c compressor w/ Labor - $920
    Rear wiper blade torn - $16
    Both Drive Belts (I assume P/S and Alternator) - $150
    Both front marker bulbs - $26
    Front left axle needed (torn boot will dry out?) - $340

    $1452 - the above work + Tax

    GirlcarlBuilder - I ordered the book from Amazon. I am in the process of moving to Long Island from Pittsburgh - where I will have a big driveway.
    Any suggestions about stuff to buy for driveway work....pans, tarps, ramps?, whatever... greatly appreciated. As I said before back in the day I used to be able to slide under my oldsmobiles, however today, I am a bit more well nourished. :)

    Thanks for the input everyone
  • jfljfl Posts: 1,385
    Note: when you change the diffy fluid, remove the FILL bolt first. You don't want to drain the fluid and discover that the fill bolt was installed by a 1000 pound gorilla.

    Other than this, it's pretty simple.
  • Thanks for the tip JFL. What do you do about access? do you use jackstands?
  • jfljfl Posts: 1,385
    Sorry for the late reply.

    I used jack stands the second time.

    The first time, one of the bolts WAS installed by said 1000# gorilla.

    So, with the car on the ground, I set-up the wrench with a long cheater bar, used a jack to apply pressure on the bar, then bounced on the car to break the bolt free.

    YMMV. This is information only and I'm not responsible for injury or damage to anyone replicating my actions.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    For my Miata I used ramps for the rear tires.

    Also 2 bolts, removed the top one first. I bought a cheap hand held oil pump to pump diff oil UP in to the pumpkin. It's full when it spills out.

    Your sig other will hate the smell of gear oil cologne. ;)
  • Does it make sense that my a/c compressor is the problem if I get cold air for the first 10-15 minutes? Got the 2000-2006 Haynes manual for the Forester and started to take a look at my a/c lines etc.

    When I was walking away from my car I noticed that my exhaust was leaking water. Something it has never done. Please tell me this is not the head gasket issue.....

    It seems that whenever I take my car into a dealer all my problems get worse. I have been through the mill with this car. Ugh....
  • girlcarbuildergirlcarbuilder Baton Rouge, LAPosts: 218
    Hello! That is exactly what my brother said when he quit seeing them years ago. I see each car about 1-2 times a year.

    As long as you are not seeing the temp gauge take off under load, forget head gaskets. The nature of this beast is there is always small amounts of leakage. It starts out very small and builds gradually to the point of overheating under load. This can take years in some cases.

    Compressor shutting down early? Check your Freon levels. Check to be sure your cooling fans are running.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    edited October 2013
    A little water/vapor in the exhaust is not unusual. Make sure the engine gets a chance to warm up, so when you shut it off it evaporates and doesn't leave water sitting in the exhaust system.
  • I bought my first Subaru in July 2012. It is a 2012 Forester Premium 5-speed manual. In the 15K miles I've driven so far, I've generally been happy with the vehicle due to the great traction in snow and fuel mileage higher than advertised. It gets 31 - 32 MPG on long trips and 28 MPG on my suburban commute. One thing I've been less than thrilled about is oil consumption. It uses around 1 quart for every 3K to 4K miles driven. My previous vehicle, a 2005 Toyota Matrix, never used oil in the 91,000 miles I drove it, and my other 2 current vehicles: a 2000 Honda Odyssey with 170K and a 2010 Toyota RAV4 with 43K don't use any oil either.

    My questions for those with more experience with Subarus: is this oil consumption typical of the boxer engine and is this oil consumption something I should be concerned about?
  • GCB -

    When I took my car in they charge the a/c system ($118) and then told me my compressor was shot. They quoted $900+ to replace compressor. I can't afford that but I really don't want to go without air next summer. The a/c is fine for the first 15 minutes but then loses its ability to cool. Does that sound like a compressor. If so Can I buy a rebuilt one and dIY?

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I think that's not exactly common (our 2009 does not burn oil), but falls within the industry standard tolerance for oil consumption. A quart every 1000 miles is considered acceptable.

    I think we used to change oil every 3k miles and probably never noticed. With a longer interval more common nowadays, we might.

    Are you doing changes every 3750, 5000, or 7500 miles, or what?
  • girlcarbuildergirlcarbuilder Baton Rouge, LAPosts: 218
    edited October 2013
    I would have to have a set of gauges on it to see what is really happening. But if your a/c has been working fine prior to the last trip to the dealer I can only wonder if someone contaminated it with some moisture intentionally. With too much moisture in the lines you will have ice slowly build up at the refrigerant control to the point that it will eventually block the flow. That will at that point shut down the system, hopefully. High side pressure will go up and should cause the high pressure switch to shut down. Low side will go down more than normal. If this is what is going on, then there will be a lack of lubrication to the compressor which will cause it to self destruct eventually.

    I should add that this all assumes there is a correct charge amount on the system. If the charge is marginal it will begin to cycle on/off, but not a total shutdown.

    Personally, around 200k miles or so, I like to pull the system down, pull a vacuum on it and a new filter dryer on it. There is some moisture invasion over time which is another reason I like to dry out an older system. Lot of the newer stuff is integrated in different ways. The new Toyota Yaris's we have, have that filter system inside the condenser now. Unless you have refrigeration experience, best left to a good pro with a specialized shop that does a/c work exclusively.

    Rebuilt compressor......I do not care for them. I do know that Tri-State refrigeration in Louisiana has a rebuilder he swears by for Subie compressors. Otherwise I prefer new. They specialize in semi-trucks and may have a branch near you.
  • I have it changed at the dealer about every 5K to 6K based on the time interval of 6 months, even though I could go up to 7.5K if I drove it more frequently. Subaru specifies synthetic 0W-20, which seems very thin, but it should help lubrication and fuel economy.
  • That's a non-issue IMO, as ateixeira notes (1 qt./1k = generally acceptable tolerance)... my '09 burns little or nothing between 5k oil change intervals using synthetic but a quart every 3-4k is not a concern IMO.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    0w-20 is thin, seems to be a new strategy to eek out every last MPG in the EPA ratings.
  • About two months ago the a/c started behaving as follows. Turn it on and it worked fine for 10-15 minutes. I thought it needed to be charged with Freon so I took it to dealer. They charged it, charged me $118 and told me the compressor was broken. That is the way it continues to operate.

    As a layman - it would seem that everything is fine but then something shuts down/fails. Does it make sense that it is indeed the compressor?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,868
    My 2010 Forester doesn't use any oil (normally!) for all practical purposes, over the ~12K mile OCI I run it. In the absence of any other issues, it will still be a little above the "fill" mark on the dipstick when I do the oil change after that many miles. But, mine is the EJ25, not the FB25, so your thinner oil may make the difference (I use 0w-30 as compared to your 20-weight).

    I wouldn't worry about that consumption level unless it has changed over time. If the car didn't use any for 30K, then suddenly started using a quart every 3K, that would be worth inspecting.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
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