By on March 7, 2012

 

Jim writes:

Hi,

I hope you are well. I have several questions regarding my 2011 Forester (5 speed):

a) I drive 8 to 10K annually and change the 5w-20 every 6 months.  Is this sufficient?

b) Subaru keeps sending me extended warranty offers.   This tells me that I likely don’t need it.  What do you think?    My favorite moment when purchasing the Forester: The F & I rep mentioning “If people want to drive around without the extended warranty, it is not my problem.”

I have been surprisingly happy with this car.  It handles well, is quick and I’ve been getting 23mpg city and 28 to 30 on the highway. I found this to be a much more enjoyable drive than a CR-V, RAV4 (not great at all) or the old Escape.

Best wishes,

Jim

Sajeev answers:

I am well, thank you so much for asking!  If my googling is correct, Subaru has a somewhat complicated service schedule for 2011 models. To wit:

  • 2011 Outback, Legacy, Tribeca, Impreza, (exc turbos): Some owner’s manuals will recommend using synthetic but not require it. Owners manuals printed around March 2011 presumably indicate all Subarus require synthetic oil.
  • All 2011 models use 5w-30 except the Forester X which uses 0w-20

Oops. This leads me to believe you are using the wrong oil (20 weight), and indirectly justy-fies (get it?) the North American Subaru Impreza Owner’s Club’s sub-forum for warranty problems. That said, I think your oil change interval is acceptable, based on your letter and my first hyperlink.  You could extend your oil change intervals to whatever the dashboard may tell you, but I don’t see the utility in it.

On to your warranty question:  most Subies fare quite well if they receive regular maintenance and are NOT owned by the stereotypical clutch-murdering, turbo-overboosting WRX owner. The mere fact that you wrote a nice letter with good detail implies you will take good care of this vehicle and will love it.  As such, no need for the warranty.

And go back and hug that F&I person for “not caring”, reminding them that this level of indifference is precisely what the automotive retailing industry needs to restore its regularly-tarnished image. Or not.

My last point: if you didn’t ask me how I was doing and wrote about owning (not leasing) damn near anything from Europe made in the last decade, well, that would be a different story.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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37 Comments on “Piston Slap: Seeing the Forester for the Trees?...”


  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Make sure to check the level. I don’t want to get too detailed until I move on to another car other than to say that the dealership helpfully pointed out that the idiot light on my ’09 non-gt Legacy only measures pressure. Apparently it is possible to have sufficient pressure (at the sensor anyway) without having any oil.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Very nice vehicle. Enjoy!

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    Since he has the 5-speed he doesn’t have a turbo and that oil change interval is more than adequate. Blackstone tests over on BITOG have shown that the normally aspirated 2.5s are very easy on oil. Use whatever quality oil you can get on sale, dino or synth is fine. The extended warranty is not needed.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    The F & I guy for our new car purchase got similarly huffy and offended when we (politely) turned down each and every add-on he tried to sell us. Undercoating, clearcoating, extended warranty, etc. I feel sympathy for someone working on commission selling extraneous garbage. That’s a hard job but one that probably shouldn’t exist in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      LessRantingPls

      The F&I guy for our new ’98 Civic told us that these cars are expensive when something goes wrong and that the extended warranty and other crap (paint protection) was a no brainer. Funny, the salesman, 5 minutes before, had just said what a great quality car we were buying.

      The ultimate insult to my intelligence was that the F&I guy was wearing a gold Rolex. Would you buy something overpriced from a guy wearing a gold Rolex?

      PS the Civic is still in the family, looking great, driving great. I’d buy another ’98 today if it got wrecked.

  • avatar
    Pretzel

    Definitely keep up on the regular maintenance, especially coolant flushes. My experience has been that Subaru head gaskets sitting in old (acidic) coolant causes problems long-term.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    My Subaru has the requested oil weight written on the filler cap. Both of the cars I’ve owned since new (four and eight years) have been fine with regular fluid, belt and plug changes, along with the occasional alignment and new brakes.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    the 2012+ forester definitely requires synthetic, as well as the 2012 impreza. thats about it for now.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      That’s not good. I tried using Mobil1 in my WRX for a few times and the stuff magically disappeared. After switching back to plain old Castrol GTX I’m over 120,000 miles with no loss between changes.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    The FB series engine requires 0w-20 weight oil, so start using that at your next oil change and you’ll do fine.

  • avatar
    slance66

    I had a 2007 Tribeca, and was also bombarded with extended warranty mailers as the warranty expired. The car was bulletproof and never suffered a single problem while we had it. Subie uses some cheap plastics in the interior and so on, but I find the build quality is more robust that what I see in Nissan, Toyota and even Honda. I’d skip the extended warranty.

  • avatar

    This car got so much undeserved hate from TTAC when it was released. Now look at it. Its one of the few small crossovers that has useful sightlines, a usable design, and isn’t overstyled to the nth degree. I’ll miss simple little tall wagons like this when Subaru redesigns it.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      It’s already gone with this generation of Forester. My parents are holding on to their 2006 with the same determination as when Honda made the Accord bigger in 1990 and my folks decided to keep their 82s for as long as possible.

      • 0 avatar

        Not as gone as you would think. It still has the big greenhouse, smaller body design that almost every other modern crossover lacks. Yes, its not taken the the awkward/awesome extreme of the old model, but it is still distinctly Foresteresque. I like the pre-2006s (in fact, I like them all), but he current model did add some nice refinements and a cleaner overall design.

      • 0 avatar

        The Forester has lost some of its original charm, but not like the Legacy.

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        Heartily agree with Advance_92. I don’t disrespect people’s choice to buy the current model, because it is preferable to the (U.S. market) competition in tall wagons, but I suspect most owners were not previously Subaru people (that’s definitely true for the two 2009 Forester owners I know).

        We have three pre-’09 Foresters in my extended family and would still have a fourth but for the sudden expansion of one family member’s family.

        Sajeev writes that the Forester “has lost some of its original charm” – to me that’s a massive understatement. I’ve driven the current design, and not only is the interior an unpleasant place to be (in comparison to our ’06), the car is simply… TOO… TALL. You can’t hustle around corners with the same confidence. And the visibility out of the ’97-’08 cars is still better.

        Sure, people like larger back seats, but that’s the tradeoff. To me a Forester with a wide back seat with plenty of legroom is about as plausible and justifiable as a Miata four-door.

        Also: The ’09 and newer Foresters are the only ones ever to come without fog lights as standard equipment on the base model – and the blanks that fill the gaps are hideous.

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      I don’t understand their hatred either. I think a lot of it stems from their basic lack of understanding of Subaru’s in general, but at least Sajeev is getting there knowledge wise.

      • 0 avatar

        Subarus lose a lot of value in my eyes if people don’t maintain them to the letter of their owner’s manual. Not using the right oil is the biggest problem.

        Once they get older and get the problems that all old cars get, if they have no service history, I run like hell.

        Otherwise, nice cars…if you actually need AWD and aren’t a poseur.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        I’d be just as worried about using the correct coolant and changing it at the proper intervals as I would the oil for any Subaru.

        The new FB series engine has much better flow to the heads, which should prevent head gaskets from going on a early vacation. The FB also uses same Super dooper blue Subaru coolant as the EJ did, but doesn’t require the coolant conditioner when changing it.

        It is also advisable to change diff fluid, brake fluid, tranny fluids per Subaru’s recommendations as well.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        The most frustrating thing about Subaru is the no choice AWD with every model. North Texas went through a winter with zero frozen precipitation on the roads and most years the roads are slippery for just a couple mornings. Rain comes in brief heavy downpours separated by many sunny days. AWD doesn’t make much sense for ordinary daily driver cars around here.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        @George

        You can get a 2WD Subaru BRZ in a few months. It’s a RWD sports coupe.

  • avatar
    Dawnrazor

    I found the F&I guys to be much more aggressive and obnoxious than the salesmen the last two times I’ve bought new cars. I’m guessing it’s because these add-ons are mostly pure profit for the dealers (wouldn’t be surprised if more profitable than the vehicle sale itself in some cases), so management probably probably keeps the screws very tight on these guys. Unlike 30-Mile, I have NO sympathy though; those guys’ only job is to complete the sales transaction and browbeat customers into going deeper into hock, and they can make some pretty good money doing so (not uncommonly outearning careers such nursing and teaching, which require considerable education and have truly high-stakes outcomes).

    I also think the 6 mo. interval is fine, and for what it’s worth agree that the Forester is the best vehicle in its class at the moment. As others have said, the 2.5 is a well-sorted engine and not particularly fussy with regard to whether the oil is dino, synthetic, or blended; I’d just double-check the recommended viscosity and make sure the 20-weight is approved. The rest of the vehicle is also well-built yet not overengineered or unnecessarily complicated, so I too agree that you likely don’t need the warranty. I think you’ve made an excellent vehicle choice and can look forward to many years of trouble-free service.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Your oil change interval is fine.

    Only get the extended warranty if you don’t want to pay for head gaskets at 120k miles. By the way, they’ll offer you an extended warranty for years to come, so you have some time to think about it.

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      This Forester has an FB engine, which by design, shouldn’t need new head gaskets at 120k miles like the old EJ series did. Hopefully not ever.

      If it would ever require new head gaskets, it’d be an expensive repair removing the timing chain, guides etc. Doing the head gaskets on an EJ series engine is relatively easy by comparison.

      EDIT: redmondjp see this post, or the above post on changing Subaru coolant every 30k miles for the old EJ series engine (which nobody does)

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Has Subaru ever fixed the head gasket problem on the non-turbo motors? A good friend of mine recently spent a few years as a mechanic at a Subaru-only shop, and they were constantly repairing leaky head gaskets on late-model cars with well under 100K miles on them. The turbo motors don’t appear to have the same issue.

    His wife drives a Forester, on which the head gaskets are starting to seep oil with approx. 65K miles on it. He’s disgusted with Subaru and is going to trade it in on a used CRV.

    So, the extended warranty may not be a bad idea after all IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      Our neighbors’ 2003 Forester 5-speed needed head gasket replacement after about 90K miles and was an expensive job. Our ’03 domestically produced Legacy wagon also needed it, but it was discovered by our dealer (I’d gone in for a coupon oil change) and Subaru fixed it free, without my even having to ask, despite the car being more than 5 years old because the odometer read less than 60K miles.

      We still have the Legacy and also an ’06 Forester, both 5-speeds. What I’ve read about the susceptibility of newer Subaru products suggests that the ’06 is new enough that it will likely not give us this problem.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    around 2009 or 2010 they improved the head gasket material. i troll the 4th gen outback forums frequently and do not see any complaints so far but its still early. I do love the EJ253 :)

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Actually it was 2005 when the head gasket was improved. HG failures in 2005 and newer Subaru’s are very rare.

      • 0 avatar
        Pretzel

        My 2006 Legacy HG disagrees with you. I think they just said ‘uh yea, we improved them, yep, 2010.’ Time to go find out…

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        I was going by Consumer Reports data and they show a cliff like drop off in major engine issues starting in 2005. I didn’t say it still can’t happen, but it is certainly a lot less common now. I think the mandated coolant conditioner may be helping to reduce failures.

        Now you have my paranoid about my own 2006 Legacy HG. ;)

  • avatar
    Jim Zellmer

    I appreciate Sajeev’s words and these comments. I mis-typed the oil information. The photo is close, in fact the color is correct, but, unfortunately, the turbo motor (hood scoop) is only available with a 4 speed slushbox….. I simply could not envision purchasing a 2011 car with a 4 speed of any type. Perhaps Subaru will update the Forester with the CVT. A 6 speed manual is of course preferred.

    Finally, I agree with a number of comments regarding the Forester’s size and market position. I drove the competitors and was largely disappointed with their dynamics. Perhaps Ford’s Kuga (US Escape) will improve their game.

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      The Subaru 4EAT is an ancient, but quite durable transmission that serves its purpose quite well for what it is. Subaru could probably sell a few more of these cars with the 5 speed auto that’s available in the Outback 3.6R, but these old 4 speeds are going to be phased out in favor of their in house designed CVT in the next year or two.

      The thing is, there are lots of 4 speed autos that are still being sold, or were being sold in the last few years because they’re good designs and were quite proven.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        The 4EAT is one of the main reasons that I want to get rid of my 2006 Legacy. It may be durable and reliable and most people wouldn’t notice a difference, but it just saps most of the enjoyment out of this car. The CVT in a friends new Outback is a definite improvement.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Speaking for the N/A powertrains, the problem is more about tall, heavy cars with weak low ends (and loudly protesting high ends) exacerbated by power sapping AWD than it is the transmission.

        The 4 speed is paired with extremely short axles to the effect that it essentially matches 1-4 in the 5 speed competition. Having a 5th to quiet it down a little bit on flat highway wouldn’t be a bad thing but it wouldn’t be any help for the go pedal.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        @Ubermensch

        I had an ’06 Forester with the 4EAT and didn’t care much for it, so I traded it in on a WRX with a manual. Drove that for a while and sold it and later ended up with an ’06 Impreza 2.5i with the 4EAT. The difference in weight between the Forester and Impreza makes the Impreza a lot more fun to drive, even though it has the same engine and transmission, but it’s 300 + pounds lighter.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Sajeev, I’m digging that obscure Justy reference as a pun. The Justy was Subaru’s answer to a question nobody asked; 4WD in a sub-compact, two-door, too tall, hatchback with a little over 5″ of ground clearance riding on those 13″ tires.


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