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Subaru Legacy: Typical high-mileage repairs?



  • brake fluid and coolant; two things that can cause some really expensive repairs if allowed to corrode or become contaminated. It's a good idea to change all fluids every 30,000 miles, but if you haven't by 47,000 miles, it's still not too late. Your plugs should be OK until about 60,000 miles, and I'd change the wires then also.
    For about $12, the Haynes manual is a great guide to performing your own maintenance. It's inspired me to order parts from Darlene at QSubaru and replace my own brakes and rotors, something I would have been completely scared to do previously.
  • Our beloved & faithful 93 Subaru Legacy was stolen and recovered within 24 hours. It was found over 300 miles away with the thieves still in it. Now that we have it back it has a new engine noise. Our insurance company told us to have it checked out and they would pay to have it fixed. We have been told that it is the AC bearings making the noise. The insurance appraiser says that they will not pay for the repair because it's something that would have gone on the car with normal wear and tear and couldn't be related to the theft and possible mistreatment of the vehicle (racing, prolong idling with the AC on, etc) while in their possession. First of all we live in Maine, we hardly use the AC. Secondly there are only 72,300 miles on it. Is it really possible for the AC to go so soon with so little use? We were given an estimate by the local dealership of $700 to fix it. How soon will we NEED to get this fixed, it's more than we can afford at this time.
  • Is the noise only heard when the a/c is on? I'm assuming that the $700 estimate is for replacement of the compressor. I had a '92 and the compressor failed at about 90,000 miles in late '97 (after 6 summers of heavy use). I agree that it is unlikely that the car thieves had anything to do with it; just a coincidence, I think.
    I was able to get a compressor from a salvage parts dealer for $200 and had it installed by a mechanic for $100. But I knew I was selling the car soon. If I planned to keep it 3 or 4 years or more, I probably would have opted for the new one, unless I knew that the donor car was much newer (the repair isn't a bargain at $300 if it only lasts a year).Of course, you can wait until late spring, so you have lots of time to source a late-model used or rebuilt one. You'll have to find out which years use the same part as your '93 and try to get one from a newer one. Getting another 7-year-old compressor doesn't make sense, unless it's really cheap. Better still, if you know how to install yourself. This is also a good time to convert the system to the newer R-134a refrigerant instead of the extremely expensive R-12 in your car now.
  • The noise is there when the engine is running and increases when you step on the accelerator and doesn't really change when you turn the a/c on.
  • I own a 97 Legacy GT and I have a few questions and concerns:
    1) I get a pretty crappy gas milage, about 22-23MPG on the highway. The exhaus smells clean, no unburned gas.
    2) The engine redlines at about 6,500. How far can I push it without any real concern for engine damage. The manual says not to exceed 4,000, only go higher in emergencies.
    3) At about 65-75 miles going on the highway, the car develops a shudder that goes away when I slow down or go beyond the listed speed. A similar message was posted on another web board and no concrete answer was posted. It does not seem to be a wheel allignment problem. Any suggestions?
  • Sorry, I don't have an answer for you; I assumed that the a/c components are dormant until it's in use. Obviously, this is not the case, unless the diagnosis you got is incorrect. If the component is active even when the a/c is not, then you will need to address the repair now before the bearings seize or burn up.

    '97 SubaruGT: I have the same car (automatic).
    1) I'll get 24-25 highway driving at typical speeds of 75-80. Try increasing tire PSI to 33-35.
    2) Pushing to redline for short bursts shouldn't hurt it; I do it all the time when using full acceleration. The transmission will allow redline peaks before upshifts. But if this type of driving is typical for you, be extra sure to use a high-quality oil and change it frequently.
    3) I had a similar problem at similar highway speeds; as expected, it went away when I bought new tires. Balancing all four wheels should solve the problem, unless you have a tire that is out-of-round or with a belt that is out of alignment. If you're still on your original Potenza RE 92's, it's probably time to change them anyway.
  • I drive a 97 Legacy GT and I to have experienced the shutter between 65 and 75 mph. My mechanic checked his Mitchell repair software and their was a repair bulletin on that particular problem. It seems that a template has to be added to drive shaft to balance it. I have not yet had the opportunity to return my vehicle to the dealership but I only have 30k on my Sub so I think I have plenty of time.
    The tires are new and the alignment and balance are good and the problem still exists.
  • I just bought one of those anomalies of the Subaru world, a FWD Legacy (where I live the snow isn't too deep and doesn't last too long). It only has 44,000 miles on it, and seems to have been babied. However, like a previous poster, I've noticed that the mileage doesn't even come close to what my old Jetta got. Granted, that was a lighter, less powerful 5-speed and this is an auto, but I'd expect a little better than just over 20mpg. Any suggestions on improving this? Other than that, it's a great car, and I think from now on I'm sticking with Subies.
  • ...that was only FWD, and it didn't get very good mileage either. The combination of automatic, 16 valves and 3,100 pounds does not equate to great mileage. I only averaged over 20 when it was only highway usage.
  • Bring in a check made out for $14,210 + tax, whatever that total is based on your sales tax rate. Explain that that will allow you the $500 for tires and alignment, and the $200 you will need for a radar detector driving a red ticket- magnet. Tell them you also suspect the car needs brakes, and you need to allow for that, unless they wish to replace the pads all around.
    The secret is being willing to walk; I'm guessing they won't let you walk out with the check in hand (especially if it's certified). If it's a Subaru dealer, explain that you will be using their service department, even if you don't plan to. Be prepared to drive the car away by having a salesperson allow you to drive it home with the dealer's tags on it, and making arrangements with your insurer so that it's insured when you get it home and the dealer tag comes off. Find out what your state charges to register a vehicle before allowing the dealer to do it for you at what is often a ridiculously marked-up charge.
    Finally, unless you have service records, assume no fluids have been changed and change 1) coolant, 2) brake fluid, 3) ATF fluid, 4) oil/filter, and 5) differential fluid.
    I'm surprised the previous owner didn't remember what they got in trade, or maybe they just didn't want to share it with you. The bottom line is it really doesn't matter. Maybe they got a great price for their trade but paid sticker for their new car. Or maybe they got only $12,000, but bought the new car way below cost. The dealer knows what they need for the car, as well as what its market value is. If they let you leave, check in hand, you'll know they really won't go lower. You can drive around for 5 minutes, go back in, and agree to their firm price with a new set of floor mats, or the next two oil changes free, or whatever other minor thing you can get just to close the deal and feel like you got a little extra. But I don't think it will get to that point.
    When I bought mine, I paid the dealer only $400 less than his asking price because I was afraid if I called his "final price" bluff it would be gone when I went back a week later. Good luck.
  • FrankMcFrankMc Posts: 228
    ... that is AWD 5 speed and I get 28 in town and 31 on the highway. I think 20 mpg seems low.

  • dnuggetdnugget Posts: 17
    ...just got back on a 500 mile trip with my 92 Sube legacy with no problem, thank goodness. Timing belt did not snap, good thing otherwise we would have been stuck on a cold and rainy trip. I still have plans to change the timing belt probably next 2 months to be safe, would you experts out there recommend changing the water pump too even though nothing seems to be wrong with it but to save on labor cost should it break ? Also, i've read several posts stating performance improvement when using K & N air filter on legacy turbo model, but would it be beneficial for the base L model too? The only complaint I have right now is the wind noise from the driver side window, windows are shut tight and no water leak when it rains. Any comments ?
  • pat455pat455 Posts: 603
    There have been suggestions in our "Timing Belt Replacement" topic that you go ahead and do the water pump at the same time. Do a Topic Search (left side of this page) and check out the posts for yourself.

    Community Leader/Maintenance & Repair Conference
  • change the water pump, especially if you're doing the work. Most of the labor is done when you're there changing the T-belt, they're not very expensive, and do have a finite life. Do it and it's one less thing to worry about down the road.
    Based on what Frank said, and what I have heard from others, a major difference in mileage seems to be related to the issue of manual vs. auto transmission. The sticks seem to get much better mileage. Could be that the auto's different power transfer system creates more friction, or the auto trans. isless efficient. Or maybe Frank just drives like a sissy (just kidding).
    Try cleaning and conditioning the rubber seals around the window. Frameless windows do tend to get noisier as the rubber ages. It could also be mirror noise; try folding in the mirror just to experiment. I don't know why, but they stopped making folding mirrors in subsequent years, probably to lower costs. But they're a great mirror-saving feature if it hits something or if you park in cities.
  • Hi guys. Thankx for the help on the previous topic. I was just curious, is it worth getting that zMax stuff for the transmission and engine that supposedly cleans the carbons out of the engine and transmission? Has anyone tried it and does it work? Is it worth spending $40 on it?
  • in your engine and tranny except the fluids recommended in your owner's manual. The only exception is Slick 50, which I have read (in an article by a reputable syndicated columnist) has excellent and superior chemical make-up compared to other similar products. It is also marketed by Pennzoil/Quaker State, which is the only company to offer a free 250,000 mile engine warranty for your car if you use their products. I have their oil warranty and it's so ironclad solid that using synthetic oil isn't an issue for me; the warranty is effective using either, as long as you have it changed by an authorized QS installer every 4,000 miles. You have to sign up within 48 months or 36,000 miles.
  • I'm currently thinking about purchasing a 1990 Subaru Legacy and am wondering what kind of repairs I should be prepared to face in a high mileage car?
    What kind of mileage can I expect from this vehicle? I've never really looked at one before.
  • pat455pat455 Posts: 603
    If you haven't already, you can read back through the posts here to see what our members have discussed. You can also check out our Used Car Prices page for links to pricing, reviews and other data.

    You may also want to check into any other Legacy topics here in Town Hall by using the Topic Search feature on the left side of the page.

    This particular conference focuses on maintenance and repair issues for our members existing vehicles, rather than shopping advice.

    Good luck, and welcome to Town Hall.

    Community Leader/Maintenance & Repair Conference
  • I've got a problem w/a '92 DL 4X wagon. The taillights (running lights)blow their fuse instantly, but will light with activation of the switch back of the steering wheel. Can this be only a short someplace? How can I track it down? These days it is dark most of the time in Alaska...Thanks for any ideas out there.
  • I have a 91 legacy turbo with 58,000 miles on it. It drives great except when I stop and let it idle, it will idle at 1100 rpms and then slowly drop down to 500 rpms and start to shake and vibrate like it is about to stall out. It just had a tune up done at a subaru dealership also. Also in cold weather, when you start it, it will idle at about 2000 rpms until it warms up. Thanks for any help out there.
  • My first Subaru was a 90 Legacy and after a few years or so I also had the same problems. The 2000 RPM at cold weather start is your engines automatic choke until the engine is warm. (The dealership told me this.) The hesitation and rough idle that I experienced was due to the amount of dirt and gunk that had built up in my intake manifold. My mechanic cleaned it out and the problem went away for about six months or so and I noticed that it began to idle roughly again. I cleaned it out again myself and the problem went away again. This could possibly work for you but I would check with my mechanic first if I were you. I sold that subaru with 240k and it was running well. My wife and I currently own a 97 Legacy GT and plan on buying a 6 cyl Subaru one day. I hope this info helps and good luck.
  • I have a Legacy L wagon with 135,000.
    Overall I have been very happy with the car and would definitely consider buying another.Although they are a bit pricey, even used.
    I have same problem as JEI, the center differential. In fact, the last several months I have the 4wd disengaged. Dealer gave a price of $1,100. They said I might as well replace the tranny for an additional $1,100.
    tranny is fine, have yet to chg tr-fluid. afraid to now!
    They charged me $30 to disengage the 4wd until I decided what to do. I will likely take it to a local garage. The car doesnt drive well in 2wd.
    I had 2 broken transmission mounts replaced,seems to me it was related to the center differential problem.
    Other things; time belt, cv boots, serv engine light (replaced an old battery, still goes on), wheel bearings (cv related)
    Happy Holidays
  • I'm pulling the heads to investigate a blown head gasket or cracked head. Can I reuse the head bolts, or must they be replaced? Car has 140K & the water pump failed, causing overheating. Anyone know for sure about those head bolts? The dealers here don't seem to stock them, so maybe they just keep on re-us in' them?!
  • dnuggetdnugget Posts: 17
    I recently noticed a grinding noise coming off the front left wheel that increases as you accelerate. Brakes were checked 4 months ago so I know its not the problem. Could it be the wheel bearing ? If somebody there has had this problem before, can you tell me what symptoms you had and how much it cost you to have it fixed ? by the way, I have a 92 Sube Legacy L. Thanks!
  • My 97 outback limited with 114,000 miles had to have the main rear seal and the front oil seal (oil pump replacement) repaired. Not a cheap job. Has anyone else with high milage subarus had to do similiar work on the oil seals?
  • I just gave my 93 Legacy its FIRST timing belt change at 116,000 miles. Decided not to do the water pump, my mechanic said it was a waste of money. Its nice to have an honest mechanic. The only unexpected repair I have made is CV-joints, this is a common Subaru problem. You can disengage AWD by putting the fuse in. Spending 30 bucks for something that literally takes a few seconds is outrageous. Read your owner's manual, its all in there.
  • I saw a '91 Subaru Legacy AS I think is a good buy at $2,200 with 144,000 miles. However, I would like to know more of what to expect from a car this old in terms of maintenance, particularly the engine. It's an automatic with power doors/locks. Is there a particular problem that I should look for in this car? Thanks for any info.
  • blaneblane Posts: 2,017

    As with ANY brand or model of vehicle that you may choose to buy with 144,000 miles on the odometer, be prepared to spend $1,000 to $3,000 for repairs within the first year or two. You may not have to, but don't be surprised if you do.

    To review ANY manufacturer's Technical Service Bulletins for possible weak points in vehicles, you should check out the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's website at:

    Just type the make, model and year of the vehicle that you are researching in the right-hand box and press "Search". You can then know which areas of your chosen vehicle should be checked by your mechanic first. This may also be a good tool for reducing the price that you pay for the car.

  • s1ginss1gins Posts: 51
    I have a 96 Legacy with 71000 miles. So I was getting a brake job at Midas (Don't bother ever going there, they have no respect for the customer and don't know much more than the basics.) and noticed a bit of gunk by the front drivers side half-shaft. I then listened more intently to the sounds fromt he car and notice a slight clicking in turns. I figure it may be a either a leak and therefore a seal is bad or the axle/half-shaft is bad. How much should this cost to get repaired and are there anyother opinions.

    Thanks in advance
  • My CV boot split on my `93 Legacy, which led to a clicking noise when turning that got louder and louder. It was cheaper to get a remanufactured half-shaft then replace just the boot. Cost was $150. I've noticed a lot of Subaru owners have had problems with CV joints and boots. Climb under your car and check your boots/joints yourself first.
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