Subaru Forester Suspension/Steering Questions

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 9,403
edited September 2014 in Subaru
Discuss Forester suspension and steering issues here.


  • kavoomkavoom Posts: 181
    I put STi "Pinks" on. We will see. Boy it has really improved the ride. Much stiffer, less body roll. I stand on the back and it compresses just a tad. I will be putting the hitch on in about a month or so. Then we will see. It lowered the whole vehicle about 1 inch.
  • jimeejimee Posts: 9
    Hi, I am a former '04 XT owner who has just traded in for a new '07 XT. My issue concerns the suspension/carrying capacity of the '07. I have noticed a spongier ride with the '07, as well as reduced handling characteristics, when compared to the '04. This applies even to the pounded-on, 63k mileage '04 I traded in this late October. It also seems like I have to turn the wheel more for the same turn response.

    The biggest beef I have, however, is with the carrying capacity of the '07. This is a car for camp, and frequently I buy a big load of firewood and load up the back of the car. '04: no problem, barely a sag in the rear. '07: loss of at least 2 inches of ground/wheel clearance - this thing sags like a '77 Caddy which has never had its suspension replaced! This is a load that is not even close to 900 lbs.! Tire inflation was fine, too, although I noticed that there is no "range" for the rear tires given for the '07 vs. the 6 pound range that was given for the '04 depending on load size.

    Two questions: 1.) Did the suspension change drastically between the '04 and the '07? (BTW, I just drove a friend's '04 yesterday, and noticed the same thing, so it does not appear to be car-specific.) 2.) This is an unacceptable situation: what can I do about it? Can I get the self-leveling struts from the LL Bean model put onto my car? How about the STI springs? It seems to me that Subaru recognizes that this is a problem given the "high beam leveler" offered on the Canadian model, as well as the "self-leveling strut" on the LL Bean model.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    They gave it a lift starting with the 06 models, and my guess is they used a longer spring with a softer spring rate.

    So it starts out about half an inch taller than the old one. I'm not surprised that it'll sag more, then.

    The LL Bean struts should fit, but they are pricey. Get a Chase card and save up Subaru Bucks for that.

  • terry92270terry92270 Posts: 1,247
    The mini redesign of 2006 made some slight changes. I, for one, have not noticed the drastic changes you "feel". I can carry loads of wood, or building supplies, and have never seen any "sag". Sometimes in posting, users choice of words make things sound more alarming than they mean.

    Sometimes perceived changes, among those prone to being "picky" or big enthusiast's, make them more sensitive to those refinements. And they are more resistant to changes. :)
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Air-bags. Look into Air-lift for airbags that can be slipped into the coil springs to help keep it level when you have a load in it. I did this on my 2000 Isuzu Trooper for towing. Alternately you can look into springs from Australia that are stiffer, only downside will be a harsher ride when un-loaded. Or even get custom springs wound.

  • kavoomkavoom Posts: 181
    Aha, I'm not the only one to notice. I traded in my 04 for an 07 and am suffering from the same concern. I liked my log wagon ride. When they changed the looks, they obviously changed the ride so they could get more soccer moms to buy.

    I have researched it and found some of the reasons. They may have added .1 as in from 3.0 to 3.1 wheel turns from lock to lock...and then added boost to the power steering.

    Here is an article that describes it exactly...

    "This is where we don't necessarily like Forester's 2006 "improvements," even if it largely comes down to taste. The new suspension settings seem to have moved Forester a bit closer to the SUV side of the crossover equation and further from the car side. The steering feels a hint more numb than before, and the Forester more reluctant to turn, with more lean in the body through a fast curve. None of it seriously detracts from the Forester's handling edge compared to a truck-based SUV, and many drivers will never notice. But if you're inclined to attack a winding road, even in your little SUV-car, you probably will notice."

    Some others have told me they could have used softer bushings etc. and that in conjunction with the raise in height would add the roll.

    If you go to Scoobymods or the Subaru Forester Owners Forum there are people that can tell you how to "retune" your suspension. I am probably going to engage in some of the changes in the spring. Not sure which ones yet. I think I'm stuck with the steering difference.
  • kavoomkavoom Posts: 181
    "The biggest beef I have, however, is with the carrying capacity of the '07. This is a car for camp, and frequently I buy a big load of firewood and load up the back of the car. '04: no problem, barely a sag in the rear. '07: loss of at least 2 inches of ground/wheel clearance"

    Oh no... I tow a 1900 pop up and didn't extrapolate yet to this. Like you the 200 lb tongue weight barely lowered my back end on my 04. I am really going to be upset when I hook up and have the back end go down. I have explored the addition of the load leveling just for the heck of it before this and it sounds like it is very very expensive. The struts themselves...if you can get them are around 200 apiece. Then you have to change your springs etc.

    I believe the basic "metal" set up is the same as the 04 (which by the way was how the vehicle was originally engineered in a wholistic fashion)and it is just the big mushy bushings and things at the top of the struts between the frame etc that have done most of this.

    OH and many of the Australians who get load leveling struts on over half their models have issues with the load leveling struts and are asking about switching them out for regular ones...LOL. They go out surprisingly regularly but then again, they use them. There's even a poll on this on one forum. Oh the Aussies get dual range manual transmissions. Subaru tries to tell U.S. they don't exist.

    You can retro in STI suspension elements and really tighten up things I am told and with the bushing etc. changes it should be OK...but not cheap. Even if I or a friend does the labor.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Why not put in some HD rear springs?

  • kavoomkavoom Posts: 181
  • subearusubearu Posts: 3,613
    HD as in Heavy Duty

  • I was checking the fluids in my wife's Forester today and noticed that the power steering fluid is right at the "cold min" mark (car hadn't been driven in a day). I thought I'd pick up some fluid and add a little just to have some margin so I checked the manual for the type and I noticed the book says to "never use different brands together." I've never seen this warning before (though I've never had to add power steering fluid to any of my cars before). Does this mean I can only have the dealer top it off? Or should I flush it and refill it so I know what's in there and can top off if needed? (I don't suspect a leak.) Am I risking serious damage if I top it off? Am I risking serious damage if I don't?

    It's an 03 Forester XS, purchased in Sep 02. She doesn't put a lot of miles on (34k now) so we actually did the 3yr/36k service at 3 years in Oct 05.

    Thanks for any info.

  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    It should take ATF IIRC. I wouldn't worry too much about it and just top it off.

  • Right. It says "Dexron III" type automatic transmission fluid. I can find that easily enough, I just didn't know if the brand was a serious issue.


  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    I've never worried about it being the same brand on any of my subarus. The only one it mattered on was my XT6 which had electric PS pump and took special fluid.

  • I keep hear a clunking or groaning noise when I turn 90 degrees and the car is still cold (mostly in the morning or when it has been parked all day)

    I have mentioned this before when doing oil change at the subaru dealer and they don't seem to find anything.

    Any hints and tips on how can I find out what is the problem?
    Thanking you in advance, Elizabeth
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Wheel bearing issues were common up until model year 2002, so that's the first place I would check.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    You're basically driving a big Impreza now. :shades:

  • smilesdlsmilesdl Posts: 2
    I did not think it had to do with the wheel bearings ... as it is only heard after turning the drive wheel almost 90degres, like in a sharp corner... and the noise is like a "clank"
    ..."clank"... no grinding noise...

    What else would you think? Something that wears out ? what could it be that wears out in the drive train?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Do a visual inspection. Make sure the boots are intact.

    We had a 626 and an axle boot tore, leaking out all the grease. That created symptoms similar to what you describe. A sharp rock probably cut the rubber.

  • smilesdlsmilesdl Posts: 2
    Thanks very much... what you are saying make sense... we'll check this out ...

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Check out the pic below, this is what happened to our Mazda:
  • gagecalmangagecalman Posts: 11
    I have an 05 FXT with 17,000 miles on it. I hear a noise (mostly creaking) that seems to be coming from the front end whenever you hit bumps in the road. It seems worse when you ride over a series of small bumps that makes the front end move up and down. It also rattles like a loose shock. I just came back from the dealer. The mechanic told me that he hears what I am talking about but he can't find anything wrong. He said he tightened some frame bolts but that didn't help. I could use some help please.
    Thanks. Jim
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Sounds like an internal problem on the strut itself. Seen this several times. Or the sway bar mounts.

  • I have an 03 forester with a 2.5 engine. I started to see drops of thick blace oil on my garage floor. I took it to my local mechanic and he seems to think that the control arm bushing in the rear on the drivers side is leaking fluid. I checked with the Subaru dealer and he said there is no fluid in the bushing. Has anyone had thie problem? Is there fluid in the bushing or not.


  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    A bushing would have grease on the outside, but I don't see how it could leak.

    Check the axle boots. We had a 626 that leaked black grease from a torn boot.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Agreed, definitely not a bushing, it's either the strut leaking oil which would be thin oil, more than not it's the rear CV leaking. Costs about $200-250 to replace.

  • mrr5mrr5 Posts: 1
    hi - I've just bought an old 97 forester automatic from a vehicle auction here in the UK for my wife after her car was written off in an accident. I was expecting a few "hidden niggles" and, sure enough I got some. The rear silencer fell apart two days after I got it home. After phoning the nearest Subaru dealer and getting a quote for replacements I picked myself up off the floor and found a local guy who makes systems for the local racer crowd to make me a stainless system for a fraction of the cost (straight through, narrow bore finisher so its sounds snorty but not stupid). This morning I noticed the tail is two inches lower than the nose, defintely sloping down at the bac (its obvious when you look at the claerance from the door bottoms to the floor). A friend of my dads (who's a diehard Subaru fan) tells me the self levelling suspension can be a real dog and is prone to failing. What I want to know is will the back end sink down any further? I won't be towing with it so could I simply drop in some taller springs? Please help - I'm starting to love the old girl but I think I might have a lemon!!!!
  • p0926p0926 Posts: 4,423
    You have to expect a car that's 10 years old to have a few issues and since you got it at auction there's a distinct possibility that little in the way of routine maintenance was performed. Certainly it's no surprise that the shocks and exhaust are due for replacement (assuming they're the originals).

    So calling it a lemon seems a tad premature. I recommend you take it to a trusted mechanic for a thorough going over. Once you get it in good running shape, the odds are good that it'll give you another 10 years of service :)

  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    I would swap out the air suspension for a non-air suspension. Shouldn't be too expensive to do.

  • Hi Gagecalman,

    I'm wondering if you ever got this problem resolved and what was it? My car is being repaired now for a similar problem but mine also makes a noise when backing up to the left or right and when braking. They think its a bushing so keeping my fingers crossed but won't rest easy until fixed!
  • I bought a 2002 Forester a few months ago and have driven it about 8,000 miles. A couple of days ago an extreme vibration started that feels as though it is coming from the front drivers side wheel. It wobbles/vibrates at 30 + mph mostly while giving it gas and to a more violent extent around 50 + mph . The tires were in pretty bad shape and i have bought new tires , new brakes, and got the car aligned at a Firestone tire place. They did not notice any problems other than a bad battery and a slight miss. It is still as bad as ever and the new items did not help at all . Does anyone have any suggestions?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Educated guess: wheel bearing.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    I assume re-balanced the tires?

    I'd also move the tires around to see if it moves, that would indicate a problem with the rim or tire. If you move the tires and the problem is on the same wheel then it's either bearing or axle or both.

  • Hi Gagecalman, did you ever get this fixed? My 04 Forester is making the same noise whenever I go over a bump, especially a full-width speed bump. The noise used to come from all across the front of the car. The dealer replaced all the suspension bushes and for about 6 months the noise went away. It then began again, but this time just coming from the nearside. This time the dealer replaced the nearside shock absorber, for about a week the noise went away. It then started again, just from the nearside. The dealer has written to Subaru Head Office to get further advice, because they are at a loss as to what's making the noise.
  • Hi did you find out what the problem was with your forester(I've got a similar vibration at low speed-in car parks etc)
    Thanks Roy
  • Mine was/is not a vibration but rather a click/crack noise and it appears the problem is not with the suspension but rather the brakes. I have been told the axle nut became loose and caused excess play in rotor which caused the pads to creak and make all kinds of crazy noises when going over bumps, backing up and when applying the brakes. The dealer has been able to reduce the noise but its still present after many months. Hopefully this will be resolved next week as i have one more appointment. They are going to take the caliper apart and inspect the pads and replace if they have any unusual wear. I have been told that its normal for Subaru's brakes to make noises in similar situations and I think not otherwise these forums would be filled with peoples complaints like mine.
  • skarnes1skarnes1 Posts: 7
    Gagecalman did you ever get this problem fixed and what was it?
  • 2001 Forester L, 59+++mi., I had a passenger side front inner CV boot go bad and sling grease all over back and underside of engine and area. Especially on the catalitic converter and heat sheild. It smells real bad when warmed up. How and with what do I get underneath and clean it up? Regards, TimothyFC, Fort Walton Beach, Fl. 03/21/2008
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Hmm good question, usually I just let it burn off over time.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    You could pressure wash the underside, but avoid any rubber or plastic.

    You could engine de-gunk, but again, cover any electrical wires, rubbers, plastics. That may be hard.

    Do no use a steam-cleaner - that will get warmth and water on the electrical contacts, which is exactly what you do not want.

    It will burn off over time.
  • The dealer is f----ing you out of money, the axle nut has nothing to do with your brake rotors. The lug nuts are what keep the rotor tight.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    You are funny, because the axle nut being loose could cause that issue. We had this problem on our race car and thought it was a bad bearing. We tightened up the axle-nut and fixed the problem.

  • skarnes1skarnes1 Posts: 7
    well replacement/re torque did not work but for a few days and a mechanic I took the car to did not think the problem is in the brakes but said he would need to take the front end apart to find the problem so not good. He has been fixing Subaru's for 20 years and hasn't heard one like this before. i had a Subaru sales person drive with me in the car and she thinks the noise is coming for a loose bolt or one of the many rivetts that line the wheel well and surrounding area. She thinks every time I hit the brakes or driving or uneven pavement or over bumps the cars suspension gets tugged in such a way that the bad screw makes the noise. she said to get some silicon spray and hit every screw until I find the bad one but so far no luck. Many of the rivets are sealed so there is no way to get the lube in there. Anyway going back to dealership management to see if they can help sort this out. The saga continues...I hate the idea of getting rid of the car via trade in but that may be my best recourse other than the legal avenue via Lemon Law or other but I'm at my witts end with this problem.

    for a complete discussion of the problem you can find it on the page below with a subject line of #17737 of 17762 Subaru Forester suspension noise or what?[email protected]@.ef0d013/17725
  • I have a 2003 Outback Wagon with the exact same symptoms; I assume the suspension is almost the same. I received the same information from the dealer this fitting is a bushing only. I could find no obvious sign of tracking from a fluid leak (breaks, transmission, oil, coolant). All the CV joints look good. I suspect maybe a strut is leaking fluid and it is somehow tracking out of sight to the bushing and dripping out. I plan to inspect the strut to see if this is the cause. I will reply again if I find the cause. Did you find an answer?
  • I have a 1998 Forester. When starting from a stop up until about 15 mph there is a rumble when turning. There is no noise or vibration when going straight at low speed.

    Any ideas?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    My bet is it's the wheel bearings. Inspect those first.

    If not, check the axle boots, make sure they're not torn, maybe re-grease those.
  • Thanks. I was thinking wheel bearing. Subaru dealer told me today that it sounds like I need a transmission replacement (since repair would cost about the same $3K). They didn't see the car, just discussed over the phone.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Sure hope not, a bearing only costs a few hundred to replace.
  • simba7simba7 Posts: 1
    Given that the tires were in bad shape, it could have done in the viscous coupling, from what I have read on the forums!
    If it has, changing the tires won't fix the coupling which would have to be replaced!
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