Subaru Forester Brake Questions

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,372
Discuss brake issues with your Forester here.


  • jeqqjeqq Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member Posts: 1,795
    You can mention it to your dealer at the next service, but Subies are known for squishy brakes.
  • lakepoplakepop Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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.

  • pretzelbpretzelb Member Posts: 64
    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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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.
  • once_for_allonce_for_all Member Posts: 1,640
    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 Member 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 Member 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 Member Posts: 289
    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 Member 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 Member Posts: 289
    . . . 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 Member 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 Member 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.
  • jimhefpghjimhefpgh Member Posts: 7
    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 Member 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 Member Posts: 72,587
    e-mail me if you want, I did get some pics.

  • erniesferniesf Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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... ;)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I had a hydraulic leak in my Miata's clutch slave cylinder. The pedal basically went soft. I would not want that to happen to my brakes, yikes!

    But yeah, it didn't just "give" suddenly, it was gradual, but I would not want to lose any brake pressure.

  • amyashamyash Member Posts: 12
    Stopped by a local tire distributor to replace a rear tire on my 2002 Forester yesterday. Car's only got approx. 34k miles and neither the front nor the rear brakes have been replaced to date. Last service (oil change), the dealer said the rear brake pads were at about 40%.

    While the car was up on the lift, the tech and owner of the tire shop both stressed the urgent need for rear brakes & rotors, going so far as to say that if I didn't do it today, the calipers could fail, etc (I have not heard squeaking or grinding, and the brakes feel fine). Quoted cost was $220. The hard sell made me uncomfortable & I declined. My questions:

    don't front brakes ususally need to be replaced before rear brakes?
    assuming I really do need new brakes, should I have the dealer do it, or shop around (Midas, Meineke, etc.)
    I've got the Subaru Added Security Gold Plus Plan. I'm assuming that this will not cover brake pads & rotors, will it? If not, what should I expect to spend?

  • terry92270terry92270 Member Posts: 1,247
    Some cars, like the Camry, are notorious for low brake life. It all depends upon the driver. If I had a dollar for every driver who has told me they are very light on the breaks, but really wasn't, I would have $1000 before me now.

    Go to Meineke and Midas, and get a quote and evaluation. Two would be more than enough, added to what you already have. If the majority agrees, you are pretty safe in having the work done, and with brakes, safe is really better than sorry, eh? If you are a Triple A (AAA) member, they usually have a list of approved places for work, that won't rip you off, and have shown to have good work.

    34,000 miles is almost three years of the average drivers mileage (36,000), so IMO not an abnormal mileage for replacement. Many owners need to replace their brakes every two years, so that shows you have used restraint in your braking application. ;)
  • once_for_allonce_for_all Member Posts: 1,640
    my rear pads are wearing faster than the fronts.

    It took me by surprise. At 55k the rears have about 1/3rd left, fronts are about a half.

    Generally, yes, the front pad material goes faster. But look at the size of the fronts vs the rears. That's the difference.

  • joseph50joseph50 Member Posts: 235
    I left my 2001 S, 68K miles, in a local Goodyear shop for a simple oil change and tire rotation. I got a phone call that my back brakes rotors and pads were totally "burned blue" shot. I gave them the go-ahead for the new installation, but I wanted to see the old parts before I paid. I must admit, those parts looked way past use, and I felt I would drive with more confidence after OK-ing the change. I believe I paid a hundred bucks more than your quoted cost, oil change and rotation included.
    (Aside: I can't believe anyone is "lighter on the brakes" than I am.)
  • terry92270terry92270 Member Posts: 1,247
    You should only consider yourself very fortunate to have gotten that many miles out of them. :)
  • speterson1speterson1 Member Posts: 228
    My Forester, like joseph50's, is also a 2001 with 68K miles on it (it's an L not an S though). In July we took a trip to PA to visit some friends and did some driving in the mountains that was hard on the brakes. Since I still have the original brake pads, upon returning home I took the Subie in to my favorite shop to get new brakes, assuming that the PA driving coupled with their age would have me ready for some new pads. The shop, which is excellent and has my complete trust, called me at work and told me they could of course replace them if I like, but the pads and rear drum were still at 50%, so I was probably fine without them. I couldn't believe it!
  • ozman62ozman62 Member Posts: 229
    I recently changed out the rear brake shoes (drum) on my '98 Forester L. They appeared to be at 40+ % wear remaining and my car has over 175,00 km (about 108K miles). To the best of my knowledge, they're the originals... My front pads also lasted over 100K miles, and the rotors were still fine. My car is a manual, and I beleve that that contributes to less brake wear. I couldn't be happier with the brake performance and longevity of my Forester (once I got used to the initial mushy feeling of the pedal). YMMV :)
  • deepdropdeepdrop Member Posts: 89
    I need new brakes on my "03 Forester and was thinking of doing this myself. There are many choices of brake pads and I was wondering if anyone had any advice. I understand that performance pads may not be great for everyday driving, so I don't know if kevlar or ceramic are going to be good for me. I live in NH with a fair amount of hills so I brake a lot.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Car & Driver had an article about pads and entire brake kits, and they got good results with Hawk pads.

    I just stuck with OE - quiet and durable. My front pads laster over 80k miles, the rear brake shoes are still original (90k plus)!

  • deepdropdeepdrop Member Posts: 89
    Wow Juice,

    I wonder what I"m doing wrong? At 27K the dealer told me that I would need new brakes by 30K front and rear and also that my original Geolandars were about shot.

    I always try to fix things myself because I like to understand how everything works, but this usually results in a minor catastrophe followed by an eventual (and sometimes expensive) happy ending. This usually involves plumbing...
    In this case I'll probably have another shop confirm that the pads are shot and then have someone do it.
    Any reason not to go with Goodyear, Meineke, etc.?
  • terry92270terry92270 Member Posts: 1,247
    Modify your driving habits. That is the number one cause of premature wear. ;)
  • deepdropdeepdrop Member Posts: 89
    MIght also have something to do with all the hills here in NH. When I lived in FL it was easy to minimize hard braking but here I have to accelerate up a hill and brake on the way down.
    Is it better to downshift an automatic transmission on the downhill?
  • terry92270terry92270 Member Posts: 1,247
    It is always better to use the engine brake, by shifting down one gear on descent, than to only use the brakes. :)

    You make a good point. I do lots of hill and mountain driving, and people tend to brake, going around right turns than they need to, simply because it is a hill, and they are going down. It is a human fear, I believe, that causes this. Some outgrow it. Most don't it seems. ;)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Don't change your habits at all. Brake pads are dirt cheap. If anything learn to install them. You can find pads for $17 a pair.

    Transmissions cost a fortune. Clutches are also expensive. So I'd stick with using $17 brake pads as opposed to using $400 clutches or multi-thousand dollar trans.

    I'm with you on this!

  • terry92270terry92270 Member Posts: 1,247
    He said he had an automatic.

    You must be driving junkers, to give advice so contrary to what professional drivers recommend doing...... :P
  • deepdropdeepdrop Member Posts: 89
    Thanks for the advice.
    I would like to change the pads myself. I'm generally pretty good at things like that although I've never done brakes before.
    Can anyone recommend a particular repair manual for my Forester or should I just follow the generic instructions on changing brake pads on any car?
    Also, any particular merchant recommended for buying the pads? I guess I'd go with the Hawks based on Juice's post unless anyone has other suggestions.
    Again, thanks a lot. I really appreciate getting help from you guys.
  • terry92270terry92270 Member Posts: 1,247
    I believe most Subaru parts departments sell their own. Also, any auto parts store will carry the major books, with chapters on every make and model.
  • deepdropdeepdrop Member Posts: 89
    I took off one of the front calipers today to look at my brake pads that were supposedly almost worn out. They look practically brand new at 28,000 miles.
    I think I'll change my brake fluid since it's about three years old, but I learned a lesson about trusting the particular Subaru dealership I go to.
  • logtraillogtrail Member Posts: 74
    I'm not so sure that the "mushy brake" syndrome is built into the Subaru. My 1999 Forester indeed had somewhat mushy brakes that I disliked. My 06 LLBean has brakes that are very firm but not touchy. A great improvement.
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