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Subaru Legacy: Typical high-mileage repairs?



  • gtdrivergtdriver Posts: 67
    Bumper-to-bumper 36 mo./36k miles; powertrain 60 mo./60k miles. You can buy the extended warranty from Subaru. Be careful buying from third parties; the warranties often have weaker coverage. You should be able to buy it directly from Subaru; they sell it up to the end of the original warranty. Even if you are a few months out of the 36 months, they will probably allow you to buy it. Just for the record, I didn't buy it; I'm "betting" that the $1,000 or so sitting in the bank will grow and be more than enough to cover the repairs I need to do. Of course, if the auto trans. goes at 90k, I made the wrong decision. The warranty is transferable, which is a huge selling feature if you sell the car at around 75,000 miles (assuming you have the 100k mile warranty). I just like to believe that I'll sell the car at around 100k with no major repairs, and the warranty would have expired with no utility. Based on my '92 sold with 93K, I was way ahead without the warranty, despite the two repairs it would have covered.
  • mswtangmswtang Posts: 1
    I have a 98 Subaru Legacy Wagon with only 35k km. 1) I have been hearing a grinding sound every now and then with the front brakes. Took it to the dealer twice, and they serviced them, but the sound still came back. Now, at 35k km I have to replace the right front brake pads because it only has 5% left. 2) The window seal holding the side windshields at the rear of the wagon is leaking black "glue" or looks like it's melting.

    Has anyone else got these problems?

  • bubba66bubba66 Posts: 3
    I'm looking at a 1993 Legacy turbo wagon with 94000 miles. Its being sold by a used car dealer
    but the previous owner was nice enough to talk to me and told me that the transmission was replaced
    by a "new" rebuilt transmission 10k mile ago.
    Should this be the end of the transmission problems or is the turbo wagon likely to have them again? He also said to make sure the sunroof seals are checked. I was really impressed
    with how the car drove and am having it checked by a mechanic before making a decision, but would appreciate any feedback. This would be our first Subaru.
  • My wife and I had a 90 legacy wagon and luckily got over 200k out of it without any major problems. As long as the car is in sound shape and seems to run well it could turn out to be a good investment. Good luck with your purchase and "if so" your new vehicle. P.S. we just bought our second Subaru and are very happy with it.
  • bubba66bubba66 Posts: 3
    Thanks for the advice; tomorrow I'm going to the mechanic with the 93 Legacy.
  • ramonramon Posts: 825
    Legacy turbo? tre kewl! i wish i can get one of those babies! lucky dawg.
  • 3dogs3dogs Posts: 4
    My 96 GT Wagon averages 23+/- depending if I am driving or my wife.
    We are probably better than 70% on the highway.
    We also have a black gue on the drivers window
    approx in the center as the window is up.
    I think there is a problem with the lift mechanism
    as it does not seem to operate smoothly anymore.
    I will be bringing it in the the dealer within a month or two as I am approaching the end of my 80K warrantee.
    So far, Subaru is way ahead.
    Only claim to date was a leaking pwer steering pump and valve cover gaskets.
    Both covered!
  • ralphe3ralphe3 Posts: 1
    I have a 96 outback and manual calls for 89 octane gas. 87 is much cheaper and seems to run the car without any knocking. Is this injuring the engine doing this.
  • My wife and I just bought a 2000 Legacy GT and we just love that car. We live in the mountains of Tennessee and I have already had a chance to test it out in the snow. I was amazed at how well the car preformed in the snow. I have a 4wd truck and the GT felt more stable and handled better that my truck but the car has already developed chips in the paint on the hood. I do not know it is just real world driving or is it a problem with the paint.
  • cptpltcptplt Posts: 1,075
    My Winestone 92 LS had chips appearing from day one, my 98 Rio Red GT hasn't had anything after 42K. They are either getting better with their paint jobs or its intrinsic to the paint color!
  • gtdrivergtdriver Posts: 67
    Using 87 octane probably won't hurt the engine in the short term, as the knock sensor will protect the engine by retarding the ignition timing which stops the pinging or knocking that might otherwise occur.
    But (and this is a big but), retarding the timing also reduces the engine's power, decreases fuel economy, and may lead to a buildup of residue on the valves. Lower octane prevents the engine from performing at the specifications at which it was designed to perform.
    I had a '96 with the 2.5, and I admit I "cheaped out" with the fuel I purchased. The car ran fairly well, but I absolutely could tell the difference when I put in higher octane fuel. But mine was a leased vehicle that went back with 43,000 miles. If I had owned it, I most definitely would spend the extra money for 89 or 92 octane.
  • steve_csteve_c Posts: 1
    I have found a 96 Outback Legacy with 2.2L engine and 5 speed. It's exactly hat I've been looking for in a car except it has 145,000 miles. According to salesman at Subaru dealership it was a company car and appears to be very well maintained. Interior is flawless and still seems to drive well. Judging by the lack of door dings it must have spent most of its time on the highway.

    I plan to have a mechanic check it out but wondered if anyone could give some insight into how much life this car might have left in it and how much it should be worth.
  • Hi, all! This looks like a great forum. I'm looking forward to exchanging ideas with everyone. I may be buying my first Subaru in 7-10 days, but I have a few concerns about it. It's a 97 Legacy GT wagon with 50k on it, and the car from top to bottom is in very good condition, except the tires. What puzzles me is that only the inside edge of all four tires is worn, so badly that they are beginning to bulge in a few spots. The outside edges are not even close to being near the point of replacement, with maybe 50% or more tread left. Also, on the test drive I can hear a thumpthumpthump, apparently from the front end that follows the wheel speed. Not loud or hard, but noticeable. That may have been due to the condition of the tires, but I'm wondering if some condition caused the wear in the first place. Some people have told me that if the tires are not rotated regularly, they will wear like that. Is anyone familiar with a problem that would cause this on this model? It has the 55-series 16" tires, so they aren't cheap to replace!
    The other concern was about the timing belt replacement. Most of the postings I found so far discuss older model engines. How often will I need to replace this one in the 97 2.5l engine, and about how much does it run?
    I usually keep cars for a long time, and I'm looking forward to being a sube owner. But, after shelling out almost $15k for the car, plus up to $450 for new tires, I don't want to get hit for a $300 timing belt and suspension/front end work right off the bat.
    I would appreciate any input. I'll be deciding in the next 7-10 days on this car, so I hope to hear from plenty of you before then! Thank you!
  • pat455pat455 Posts: 603
    Welcome to Town Hall.

    Did you also find our Wagons conference? If not, that would be a very good place to look for input.

    You can go there using the conference scroll down choice on the left side of this page, or you can use the Topic Search feature just above that box to look for topics discussing this vehicle.

    Good luck.

    Community Leader/Maintenance & Repair Conference
  • I can offer some firsthand experience opinions since I have a '97 GT with 50K on it.
    First, although I can't speak for the first 8,000 miles (it was driven by a SOA employee its first several months), I have had only two extremely minor problems with this car (a headlight lens with a bad seal, and a bad alarm control module), both fixed under warranty.
    The spark plugs are still fine at 50K, and are rated until 60K; timing belt should be changed at 105K (I believe it is either a metal, or metal-reinforced belt). However, if it breaks, the engine gets trashed as the DOHC engine is an "interference" engine. I think that a timing belt runs about $200 installed, but like most services, you'll find a wide variation in quotes from different dealers and garages.
    I just replaced my tires with Michelin Pilot XGT's at BJ's Wholesale. They include lifetime flat repair and tire rotation in the price, which was about $450. Dunlop D60 A2's, an excellent tire, are sold through Tire Rack for $65 each plus about $5 shipping. Then, of course, you have to get them mounted. You can also go toward ultra-high-performance tires and spend $200 a piece in that size, but the tires aren't necessarily expensive; only slightly more than a typical 15" size. By the way, I had the same inside edge wear situation, so it could be the nature of the setup (toe-in, camber, etc.)
    I suspect that the tires on the car you're reviewing are the original Potenza RE92's. If so, 50,000 miles is very good life, but it sounds like you'll need to visit an alignment shop and get a four-wheel alignment, which shouldn't cost more than $75, using a state-of-the-art machine that gives you a printout of the actual vs. factory settings.
    There has been much discussion about what I believe you are describing as the "thumpthumpthump" sound. If it isn't the rubber of the scalloped tires, it is a harmless steering box noise that is common on Legacies. There is no fix for it, and no recall or legal action since there have been no failures or accidents associated with it. But, there definitely is a knocking noise that occurs while making turns on bumpy roads. I originally thought it was the front struts until I read about it on this and other Subaru message boards.
    The nice thing is you'll have 10,000 miles of powertrain warranty coverage if you buy the car. With most other brands the entire warranty would have been done 14,000 miles ago. You are also considering one of the most durable, reliable and well-made cars. My '97 is my third Legacy (and not likely to be my last).
    Personally, I think $15,000 is a little high, especially considering the worn tires and required alignment, but then again, you're talking about a wagon. I would be happy with $13,000 for my sedan if I sold it today, and I have the Premium Stereo package and new tires (in fact, I'm waiting 2 weeks for my dealer to give me a price on a 2001 I test-drove and a trade-in price for my '97.)
    Another plus is that unlike the '96 GT, the '97 does NOT require premium fuel.
    One thing to check is the brakes; with 50K highway miles, they may need replacement. Mine lasted about 40K with mixed, aggressive driving. Rotor warpage is a common Legacy occurrence, and it is better to replace the rotors than resurface them. I paid $248.75 plus tax for new front pads & rotors at my Subaru dealer using a 15% off any service coupon.
    A final warning: do not let any garage tighten the lugnuts using an impact wrench unless they use a special attachment that limits the torque applied. Better still if they hand tighten the lugs and use a torque wrench (99% of mechanics own one, 1% use it on lug nuts). The reason: overtorqued lugs WILL contribute to rotor warpage.
    Good luck.
  • That was exactly what I needed to know! I'll have to print out your reply so I can keep it with our car papers.
    The "thumpthumpthump" noise is on straight, smooth roads, so it probably is the tires showing their wear. I didn't hear any noises on turning.
    The dealer originally had the car at $16,995, but we had him down to $14,910 by the time we left. I thought it was a little high, also. He insisted that for that price, we'd have to buy our own tires, alignment, etc. because he'd come down so much. The previous owners didn't remember what they got in trade for it. But, that was about four weeks ago, and the dealer is still sitting on the car, (so to speak) so maybe he has a little more room to bargain. It looks like we'll be selling our van on friday, so that gives us the green light to go work a deal.
    Thanks for the tip on the brakes and rotors, also. I wouldn't have thought about lug nut pressure warping the rotors. We'll be watchful of that.
    We're looking forward to being Subaru owners, especially after reading the postings here. Even if the dealer really can't come down any, it's the best price we've found on anything like it within 100 miles. If the next check and test drive turn out good, we might be bringing it home. (Wife loves everything about the car except the color - bright red!)
    Thanks again for the info!
  • Even though pricing guides vary widely and are often meaningless, the Edmunds used car guide lists a '97 GT Wagon at $14,280 (high end of Market price). If it's an automatic and has CD player and/or keyless, you'd be adding another $500-$750, BUT..... 50,000 miles is also higher than what would be factored into that price (probably 36,000). So, if Edmunds is accurate and reflects market value, I think $14,200 is more than fair.
    Keep in mind that for whatever reason, people prefer the goofy sister to the GT Wagon, the Outback Wagon. I don't think there is a big demand for GT Wagons, although there are proportionately fewer available.
  • I have a 1991 Legacy with 130,000 miles. So far no major problems (knock on wood) and a 1998 Forester with 54,000 miles. Both cars run great. I just purchased a new car. unfortuantely I could not afford a Subaru so I got an Olds Alero w/abs and traction control.

    I like driving the legacy better than the Forester. it has more pickup even though the engine is smaller (2.2 liters vs 2.5). It also handles more securely. We've developed some small annoying problems with the Legacy. Most of the door locks don't work, some rust spots and the visors don't stay up.
    I get teh oil changed at jiffy Lube every 3000 or so miles and have th cars serviced at ta Subaru dealer every 30,000 miles.
    Good luck to anyone who buys a Subaru. I hear that the new 6 cyl on Outbacks is awesome.
  • I just bought my first Subaru today. I followed your advice and went in to the dealer with a check for $14,210 plus tax. I told him I was going to buy a car today, either his or the 98 Forester on someone elses lot that I had told him about a few days earlier. We went into his office, I handed him my list of repairs and concerns about the car, then the check, and said that was my offer. By the look on his face, I don't think anyone had ever done that before. In the end, though, I did have to go up another $307 to close, taking it to $14500. I had run the numbers on Edmunds before, and market value was listed as $14685, so I don't feel I did too bad. He also agreed to set us up in one of the local tire dealer chains to get 4 new 70,000 mile Bridgestone tires for his cost ($86/each), as well as a 4-wheel alignment, also for his cost ($39.) So, that alone will save us some $'s.
    I'm taking it in to the local Subaru dealer friday for a complete check-up. Any pointers on what to look for? The rear differential appears to have been seeping oil for a while. Also, how loud is the "piston slap" noise? I noticed that when I started it this evening when it was cooler, there was a little bit of a tapping or popping, then louder whenever I accelerated. It wasn't real loud. If I had the windows down with lots of road noise, I may not have been able to hear it. After the engine warmed up, it wasn't there. Sure ran smoothly, though.
    A couple more quick questions, if you don't mind. Does the climate control have a light? This one doesn't, or it's out. Our RKE will lock all the doors, but will only unlock the driver's door. Is that normal? Have there been many troubles with the power window motors? LR window struggles to go up all the way. Maybe from disuse?
    Again, I appreciate all the info. I'm in unfamiliar territory with these, so it's good to know someone with some experience. Thanks!
  • ...I have the answers.
    First, you should check out the web site that this link leads to:
    It tends to be more "technical" than this Edmunds site and has answers to your concerns about the "piston slap" and other issues. I know that sound; mine does it, especially in winter, but it goes away once you're at operating temp. I try to drive gently until the engine is warm, and I have engine coverage for 250,000 miles under a Quaker State Lubrication Warranty. You can read about it at, but unfortunately, your car is not eligible (you can sign up with as many as 36,000 miles). The piston slap has to do with the short piston stroke or some other technical issue that I forgot; but it's not a design flaw, just an idiosyncrasy. While the engine is under warranty, it's a great idea to have a Subaru dealer perform a full computer diagnostic. Any problems (except maybe spark plug timing) will be corrected under warranty.
    As far as tires/alignment: $89 isn't a great price for a Potenza RE92, which isn't a great tire. Since you bought a GT, I'm thinking you are planning to do some "Grand Touring", as opposed to an "L" model, which could mean "Lame", or the Outback, which "On Unusual Turns Becomes A Cornering Killjoy". Therefore, you may want to consider some more serious rubber. Check out; they have a lot of comparative data, customer reviews, etc. I chose Michelin Pilot XGT HR's, which are considered "high performance all-season" tires. I did not want "summer" tires because I need to use the ones I got in the snow as well. You're not going to get 70,000 miles from those 70,000-rated Bridgestones, and the way things are going Bridgestone/Firestone may not be around to stand behind the warranty (kidding, sort of). I also opted for BJ's wholesale, which gives FREE tire rotation. At roughly $20 per rotation at 7,000 miles, that's a $140 value over the 40,000 miles or so life of the tire.

    The climate control slide knob and panel does have diodes (lights). This topic and replacement of bulbs is on that other website. Apparently, they blow out fairly often, and can be replaced if you're handy and enjoy that sort of thing. Mine still works, but I'd live with it out if it blew because I don't have the time to spend to fix it; I remember seeing that it's fairly involved. It's also covered only under 36K warranty, and will be expensive for the dealer to fix, but it's at least worth asking them.

    The rear diff. may look stained from oil being added that dripped, or a mechanic removing the top plug to check the level with his finger. It could be a loose plug (top or bottom), but like I said previously, you should change that fluid anyway.

    Power windows: I've found them to be slow in my three legacies (actually a good safety feature, intentional or not). Yours may last like that, or maybe the motor is dying. I had to replace the driver's motor in my '92. It was about $250 at a Subaru dealer. You can start shopping for a used one if you suspect it's dying, and save a lot on the part cost. I didn't have time; mine broke half open in January. (I did replace the a/c compressor in that car using a $200 salvage vs. the $500 new one. I don't believe that power windows are a Subaru trouble area. It'll probably work fine, albeit slow.
    Finally, the RKE will unlock all doors if you hold the unlock button down an extra second or two. Pressing both buttons simultaneously will sound the panic alarm, if yours has the alarm system. Programming a new remote is very easy. It can be done in literally 30 seconds with no tools. Shame on my dealer for wanting $22 for that "service".

    Enjoy your new ride.
  •! just joined in and bought a 1992 subaru legacy L sedan with 93K miles on it a month ago. I was hesitant to buy it first since I don't know much about this car, but i'm beginning to like it. just some concerns:
    - don't know if the timing belt was replaced at 60K, no records available. is there a cheap way to know if it has been changed other than taking it to the shop ? has anybody there gone past 90K without changing the original belt without any problems ?
    - reading in on all the postings here, oil drips seems to be usual problem. mine has a very small leak where the oil dip stick is, but does'nt even leak on the ground. took it recently on a 3 hr drive with a/c on, did'nt experience any problems at all. kept opening the hood and waiting for the oil to gush out, but happily disappointed. normal drip ???
    - i was also reading the postings on using synthetic oil vice regular oil, seen enough pro's and con's on both sides on different car brands. now wanted to know from subaru owners your success stories on this issue on both sides of the coin. is it too late to switch to synthetic oil, and what brand ???
    - lastly, i'm stuck with the old R-12 refrigerant which i heard is expensive to refill, and hard to find (?). how do you convert to R-143A and how much ?
    sorry for the long posting. see i'm in the military and live with modest means, lives on the hurricane belt and constantly planning to evacuate my family on short notice. can't afford a new car, but don't want to be stranded either, so i keep 2 used cars (94 toyota corolla) in good shape for back-up. my command said no to the humvee. any help will keep me feel safe while on watch, since i have to remain on my post if a hurricane hits. they have to go without me, either in the subaru or toyota. many thanks !!!
  • with 93,000 miles a few years ago. Had no drips, but had to replace the a/c compressor and the driver's power window motor. Other than those repairs, it was excellent all around. There is no way to tell if the belt has been replaced, and I've read of many high mileage (over 100,000) Legacies where the belt (or anything else) had been replaced). The good news is that I'm pretty sure that the 2.2 motor is a non-interference engine, which means no damage occurs if the belt breaks. You just tow it in and have it replaced. I paid about $200 to have it changed on the '92.
    If the oil is leaking out the top of the dipstick, that could maen the oil was overfilled. You'll be able to tell by looking at the level on the dipstick, and if so, a little can be drained.
    As far as the a/c, if it's working alright, I say leave it alone. The time to convert to R-143A is when you start losing freon. And I don't think it's too expensive when you need to do it (I think about $100).
    As far as synthetic oil goes, there's no question that it is chemically better than regular oil, but the marginal difference is probably overkill for most people and there is little benefit to justify the additional cost. The oil will, technically, hold up better in all applications, but since oil serves to suspend deposits, particles and all the other garbage produced in the combustion chamber, you need to replace the oil to remove the bad stuff. You should consider synthetic if you live in an extremely cold or hot climate, tow, race, or drive at excessive speeds (90+) over long stretches. In all other cases, regular oil will protect an engine more than adequately for hundreds of thousands of miles.
    Another point is that some high-mileage cars have been known to spring leaks when switching to synthetic, probably due to its faster flow and it being less viscous at cold temperatures. You also won't reverse any existing wear by switching to synthetic, so you're better off leaving your car on the diet it's used to, regular 10W-30.
  • ...thanks for the advice gtdriver ! yeah this baby so far has been good to me, handles and drives better than my 94 corolla and body shows no rust, original paint still looks shiny. i will save some money for the timing belt to be on the safe side. my driving habits fall under extreme driving condition, short driving, repeated stop and go in a coastal town, hot and humid weather. i'll try mobil 1 first and see if i feel any engine performance improvement but if any leaks occur, i would have learned a bad lesson. As for the leak in the dipstick, i re-tightened the 2 bolts holding it and seemed to do the trick, de-greased the engine and will observe. Will update on next post when i take the car for another 3 hour drive a month from now.
  • ...engine performance; maybe extend the life of the engine in the grand scheme of things. But...
    I've heard of situations where a radical switch in oil will cause some of the seals around valves, pistons, etc. created by deposits to loosen, resulting in leaks. This is a likely cause of leaks as well as the faster flow properties of the synthetic oil.

    When I had my '92, I noticed a tendency for it to ping on long upgrades, even though the knock sensor is supposed to correct for that automatically. I found that mid or premium grade fuel would cure the pinging and give a very slight increase in engine performance.
  • ramonramon Posts: 825
    Do not switch to synthetics if your car has more than 40,000miles!!! Reasons as stated by gtdriver.
  • ...and will stick with the conventional oil. I had the estimate on the timing belt replacement,
    parts and labor: $ 300.00 but still shopping around. later !
  • changed in my '92 at a Subaru shop for about $200 a few years back. If you figure two hours labor at $70/hour, plus the belt, you're still around or below $200. The question is whether 3 hours is a fair estimate of the time required.
  • Has any one ever change the plugs on the H-4 engine? It's almost impossible to get your hand on the plug wires. Also, the cars has 47k--what are some things to change, inc. fuel filter, transmission fluid(5-sp, differential fluid? Also, is there a good source to obtain info on how to perform these services.

  • Question: Where I live, there's only one Subaru dealer but they only have a small inventory of cars, they specialize more on the domestics so I don't know what their service rating is. Would I get a quality job if I opted to go to say... Firestone or Goodyear Master Care (and others) instead of the dealer ? Like I mentioned before, I'm going to Houston 2 weeks from now and out there, there are at least several Subaru dealers. If I have the job done there, and if I developed any problems, it's 3 hours drive from where I live. Any suggestions ?
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