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Subaru Forester Brake Questions

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 8,333
Discuss brake issues with your Forester here.

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  • jeqqjeqq Posts: 221
    I just bought an '06 and I've noticed when braking I need to push down with a bit of force when wanting to stop. Almost feels like the brakes are not biting. I also have only 150 miles on the car. Do they need to break in? Is this normal for the Forester? I'll be going in tomorrow to the dealer, but wanted some feedback from other owners.

    BTW, the car is great, fun to drive and amazingly strong for a 4 cylinder.

  • dstew1dstew1 Posts: 275
    Funnily enough I can't comment on the brake feel of my own 06 FXT, because I'm so used to it I don't notice anything strange. However, the first 06 Forester I test drove was an X, and one of the first thing I noticed was how soft the brake pedal was; there was almost no resistance whatsoever until you pushed it almost to the floor.

    The car slowed just fine, it was only the feel of the pedal that wasn't as sharp as most other cars I've driven.

  • jeqqjeqq Posts: 221
    that's exactly what I'm feeling. I have the LL Bean which is basically an X. I guess they all feel the same.


  • raybearraybear Posts: 1,795
    You can mention it to your dealer at the next service, but Subies are known for squishy brakes.
  • lakepoplakepop Posts: 221
    I add my name to the list of people who would like Subaru to address the "squishy" brake issue.
    I have an 01 and have never liked the soft feel of the brakes....BUT I have always made all the stops needed.:)

    Would also like to have a 20 gal fuel tank . Note that I have amassed 87000 on the puppy and cannot find a reason to replace this seamless vehicle. I have had zero issues with it.
  • p0926p0926 Posts: 4,423
    Reviewers are always criticizing the Forester's brakes for their "soft" or "vague" feel. However, they work just fine and once you get use to them, most drivers don't even notice.

  • poodog13poodog13 Posts: 320
    My wife has a Forester and I drive a Maxima. I often drive her car when we are going places together due to better gas mileage and more cargo space, and I will definitely agree that it takes me a few miles each time to get used to the brakes. The car stops fine, but it just doesn't have the right feel.
  • lakepoplakepop Posts: 221
    Frank....I agree most people "get use to them" however I would prefer to get use to a firmer feeling pedal. All things being equal confidence level would be enhanced with the firm pedal vs the vague pedal. But hey...thats just my opinion.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    It's the dual-stage brake booster.

    Stage I is for softer stops, so you can coast up to a red light smoothly. Stage II bites down hard for a panic stop. So it's not quite linear.

    Look at the stopping distances, though, and they are at the top of the class. C&D compared them to a Porsche 911.

    I was rear-ended on a rainy day by a Saturn with no ABS, I stopped in time to avoid a crash in front of me, but she did not (no ABS). Wrecked my bumper and right rear tail light, but her nearly new Saturn wasn't even driveable.

  • I don't know if it helps but I had a similar issue with my Dad's Camry. I can remember him complaining about the brakes and me not noticing anything, then I would drive it and notice that it seemed they were "soft". The dealer never found a problem with them. I suppose it's something that happens from time to time on some cars.
  • jeqqjeqq Posts: 221
    I brought the car in to the dealer today and will pick it up tomorrow in the AM. I have to tell you even if they don't fix the car (only fooling), the experience has been amazing. Hot coffee, cinnamon buns, free rental car on premise and very professional and polite service personnel. I was in awe. My previous experiences in the last 6 years with my other car dealer does not even come close and that car is twice the price.

    Back to the brakes:
    They do stop the car but I feel like there missing that bite I am used to. I have to press down pretty hard to make the car stop. They need a little more power assist to them. Let's see what they are like tomorrow when I get the car back from the dealer but from what you guys are saying I don't think they'll feel any different.


    Only 200 miles on the car. Any tips on break in period and should I change the oil after that? Should I use synthetic or wait a bit and how often are you guys bringing in your cars for maintenance? My other car has free scheduled maintenance so I hope you don't mind my asking.

  • 10years10years Posts: 48
    Just had the 45K service on the 03 X. Dealer said the front pads were down to 2mm, down from the original 10mm. For the front break job they quoted $288. Subaru Bucks will help. The rear shoes are down to 3mm but they say that can go to 1mm.

    Just wondering how far other pre-06 Forester owners have gone on their brakes and should I consider doing the rears at the same time?

    Thanking you all in advance, Ted.
  • joseph50joseph50 Posts: 235
    My 2001 Forester S with 63K was diagnosed with "burned blue" back discs and shot, unevenly worn pads. The brake job almost exactly matched your quote. They mentioned nothing about having to do the fronts.
  • I have 47k on my '03 XS.

    Fronts are in good shape (about 50%) but I am keeping an eye on the rears. They are about 75% gone.

  • rjc9rjc9 Posts: 1
    My 2003 Forester 2.5X, required new front pads after about 30k miles. The pads were covered under the 3YR/36000 mile warranty. The dealer just slapped them on did not resurface the rotors. I also have had a perpetual problem with rear brake shoes on this model squeaking since the car had about 5K miles on it. The dealer originally recommended a clean and adjustment which set me back about $50.00. The problem came back about 2 days later, then a service manager advised me it is an inherent problem with the brake shoe design.
  • poodog13poodog13 Posts: 320
    My wife drives an '05 Forester and I occassionally drive when we are both in her car on weekends. I drive an '06 Nissan Maxima.

    I've complained to her several times that her brakes are mushy and that there seems to be little engagement unless pressed nearly all the way down. When brake engagement does occur, it seems to be abrupt rather than gradual. I've criticized her braking a being jerky in the past but am starting to wonder if it's her brakes and not her.

    She said she's asked the dealer to look at them twice and that they said there is nothing wrong and that's just the way Subarus are set up. Sounds like a cop-out to me, any thoughts or similar experiences?
  • smittynycsmittynyc Posts: 291
    I had the same awkwardness at first (and my wife still struggles with it), but now that I'm used to it, I love the way the Forester brake is set up.

    You just have to get used to letting the car tell you when the brakes are kicking in, not feedback from the pedal. Just practice gradual pedal action and you'll be amazed at how light a touch you can use to brake. It's actually extremely responsive once you get the hang of it.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    It's not that, they are in fact different.

    Subaru uses a dual-stage brake booster. The first stage slows the car gradually and allows for smooth stops, the second stage give full braking power.

    It takes getting used to, but press the pedal hard and stops are very good - the front calipers have twin pistons for instance. C&D magazine descrived their '98 tester as having Porsche 911-like braking.

    It's the opposite of Mercedes' touchy brakes. The lightest touch and BAM you get a jerky stop that would startle Emeril Lagassi. :D

  • smittynycsmittynyc Posts: 291
    . . . to the service manager at the tire place.

    He wasn't scamming me -- the brake pads were almost all gone. The dealer replaced them today for free, covered under warranty.

    My faith in humanity is restored. For a few hours, anyway.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I just replace my brake pads - they were totally spent. Right at the squeelers. Fortunately I caught it early so the rotors are fine.

  • kate5000kate5000 Posts: 1,271
    On my last service of Forester 2001, I had to replace rotors too -- they laster 150K miles. I've asked service manager, if I brought car in for service earlier - would it have saved the rotors? He said, no, break pads still had about 7% left on them so it was just the rotors wore out too much so many miles.
  • Can anyone give my some pointers on how to install new calipers, pads and rotors on my 2001 Forester S. Rear wheels.

    I've got the parts and a brake installation toolkit that I rented from my auto parts store - but any procedures that anyone could enlighten me on would be appreciated. I know I have to bleed the fluid a bit and I have never done that before.

    I'm going to save at least $400 by doing it myself.

    Thanks in advance!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Do a Google Search for "scoobymods brake", you'll be warm, keep looking there, threads of note. They have instructions for the Legacy's rear discs, and this should be similar. Edmunds rules don't allow me to link directly to the site.

    Forester is actually easier, becauser the rear strut suspension is not in your way, you have a lot more clearance to work with.

    Bleeding the fluid is the easy part. You'll find a rubber plug at the end of the brake line, it sticks out so it's easy to find.

    Remove that, use a plastic tube to plug into that, then put the other side in a jar with a little bit of brake fluid in it so that it doesn't suck air back in. I'm not sure what size but I used stuff that I had left over from my acquarium, which flexed enough for the job.

    Actually, the place that has Legacy brake install instructions also has brake bleeding procedures. The order is rather unusual, it's:

    1. Front right
    2. Rear left
    3. Front left
    4. Rear right

    I just did the front pads on my Forester, then bled the system, then bled my Miata, then the front pads on my dad's Outback, then bled those!

    Tip: get all your materials first. A quart (not pint, quart) of brake fluid for each car you do. Some anti-squeel compound, the stuff I got was red and gooey. And some high-temp brake grease for the sliders. The plastic tube/hose. A jar. A tool to push the brake piston back in, for me my C-clamp did not clear properly so I recommend the specialized tool. Torque wrench, 14mm and 17mm sockets, and a 10mm closed wrench for the brake lines.

    There may be more, but you get the idea, just be prepared. Get a helper. I got a hand pump to bleed the brakes and it did not work well, I kept getting air in the system. So I called my wife to pump the brake pedal the old fashioned way, while I bled them.

    DO NOT let the fluid level go low while you're bleeding it, else you have to start all over again, and I mean all 4 corners all over again.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    e-mail me if you want, I did get some pics.

  • erniesferniesf Posts: 3
    My car has 43,000 mostly city miles (San Francisco, and the car is a manual transmission). My mechanic just called to say that there are early signs of a rear brake drum leak. Isn't this early for such a problem? I'm the original owner and have been diligent about maintenance. (But I do not have an extended warranty.) I did a lot of research about cars before buying, and heard only good things about Subaru, but this is disappointing news to me. Am I being unrealistic in my performance expectations? Any guidance on this subject would be appreciated.
  • terry92270terry92270 Posts: 1,247
    "My car has 43,000 mostly city miles (San Francisco), and the car is a manual transmission....Am I being unrealistic in my performance expectations?"


    Given the amount of steep hills in San Francisco, one of the most congested cities in the US, all stop-and-go driving, all the time, perhaps you are. :P

    I am thrown off by the mechanics statement, however. Either one has a leak, or doesn't. Any kind of a leak can lead to you, or someone else, being killed, because one cannot know when a "small" leak will expand, and leave you without break fluid. :sick:

    Given that most of San Francisco is nothing but steep hills, this isn't something I would agonize over very long!

    Anything mechanical has a predictable life within certain operational parameters. When parts are constantly pushed outside of those "normal" parameters, failure can occur sooner. Likewise your clutch assembly will fail sooner there than someone living in, say, Kansas, due to the extreme amount of shifting one does where you live versus Kansas, or another mostly flat locality. I am surprised he didn't say your pads needed replacing as well....

    It only took me six months of living in Piedmont, and commuting daily into the city, to realize my next car would be an automatic. ;)
  • erniesferniesf Posts: 3
    Thanks for the quick, thoughtful response. And I am going to have my mechanic do the drum work immediately. As for the brake pads, he's replacing the front ones as I write this--I just didn't bother to mention that in my first note. So, this will be a fairly costly visit, but you are right, this is a city that is tough on cars! Thanks!
  • erniesferniesf Posts: 3
    A quick follow-up...I'm glad you questioned my detail about the brake drum. I just talked to my mechanic and it's actually the brake cylinder that's showing the first signs of a leak (I'm no experts on brakes, as you can tell!). Anyway, I'm still going to have the work done immediately because you are right, you don't want to fool around when it comes to brakes when you are driving in a city like San Francisco.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I guess he means the high-temp grease around the two pistons that line up the caliper is leaking through the rubber seals. That should not be hard or expensive to fix.

    Leaking brake fluid means you have no brakes at all!

  • terry92270terry92270 Posts: 1,247
    "Leaking brake fluid means you have no brakes at all!"

    Well, not really...

    A small leak will gradually deplete the fluid, and depending upon how fast it leaks, wouldn't be noticeable at first, then the brakes would turn very mushy and the pedal would travel a great deal in stopping. At that point, you are very close to not having any breaking ability at all... ;)
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