By on July 15, 2013

TTAC commentator markholli writes:

Hi Sajeev,

First, a big “thank you” to you and all of the contributors and commenters on TTAC for hours of free entertainment. Keep up the good work! Now that I’m done buttering everybody up I’ll get to the matter at-hand. I have a 2005 Subaru Outback 2.5i (base) which has been my wife’s daily driver.  (pictured above, literally – SM)

It is paid for (no loan) and has 108,000 miles. We planned to keep it at least 3 more years until we have a third child, then “upgrade” to a minivan. Because we thought we’d hang on to it for a while we just dumped about 1000 bucks into a timing belt, water pump, new belts and pulleys, and a new front wheel hub assembly. Good to go, right? Wrong.

A few days ago I noticed that the car had been quietly weeping black tears onto the garage floor. After determining that it was not a loose oil filter or drain plug, I took it in to a mechanic to have it checked out. The astute among you (and Subaru owners) have already figured it out and will not be surprised by this: head gasket failure ($1700). Oh, and while they were under there they noticed a bad axle with a torn boot ($300).

One more thing, that annoying torque binding at low speeds: transfer case clutch pack ($650). And because it is a material matter to this discussion, the car will also need new tires this year, which will be another $600, at least. Almost forgot: the cruise control doesn’t work, and I have no idea what that will cost to repair.

So here’s the question: trade, sell, or fix?

Option A: Trade. Clean trade-in according to NADA is $7000. This car has some issues, so they’d probably only give us $4500…if that. I suppose if I didn’t disclose the issues they may give me closer to $6000. A good CPO Outback (yes, we’re looking at another Outback…my wife loves the car and is not ready for a minivan yet) can be had for $21-26k. We would have a warranty, a more powerful flat-six, new-car smell, and be problem free for a few years until we need a bigger car. But then again, we’d have a payment.

Option B: Sell. List it locally as a “mechanic’s special.” Clean, problem free cars like mine with similar mileage are selling for about $9k. Maybe I could get $7000 from somebody who is willing to do the work on their own and save some money? Then I would use that cash as a down payment on the new car.

Option C: Fix. Let’s assume I deplete my savings account to the tune of $3250 to keep this thing: do I have any guarantee that another expensive problem won’t emerge 5,000 miles later? No. And experience has taught me that Subarus are, unfortunately, not on par with Toyotas and Hondas for reliability. Although the car has never left us stranded, it seems like it always needs something. Death by a thousand paper cuts.

I’m turning it over to you, best and brightest. What would a smart person do in my situation? We need to figure it out relatively soon because the car is leaving big oil stains wherever we go, and we don’t feel comfortable taking it too far from home, which limits our summer plans.

Sajeev answers:

It’s not every day you hear about an 8-year-old car with 108,000 miles falling apart like this. In the words of the Great Ron Burgundy, “Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast!”

Option A or B are the most logical, since you can afford a monthly payment and probably want another car.  Plus, your household cash flow sounds like it could be a concern, if something else happens with this car. Or anything else, like an unplanned family expense: option C is a non starter for me, literally.

So do you trade it in or sell private party?  Poking around Edmunds.com for a Subie like yours needing significant repair, I seriously doubt you’ll get $7000 if you go at it alone. Unless you don’t tell anyone about the problems, at the risk of detriment to your karma. The cosmos prefers truthful acts, and if you get lucky those will net about $4500.

Which could be an easy $1000 more than you’ll get on trade, unless you somehow manage to get a great deal on your replacement vehicle and then hammer them on the trade.  And not get hosed on your financing, depending on your credit rating.  Good luck with all that.

So my advice is simple: buy another Subie** and sell this one by yourself…honestly!

 Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

**Obviously not another Subie, but since you are adamant about burning money when you could save so much coin with a normal family sedan from Honda, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, GM, etc…who am I to judge after all the Panther Chassis talk?

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116 Comments on “Piston Slap: Time to take the Outback, Out Back?...”


  • avatar
    Speedygreg7

    I have the same car, but an ’07. The axle boots are normal maintenance items on Subaru Outbacks. The AWD and the boxer engine mean the exhaust is right next to the boot, causing it to dry and crack. I have not experienced the torque bind in 5 speed Subarus.

    Has your car been dealer serviced? Subaru is well aware of the head gasket issue and in many cases will consider customer “good will” and help with the repair. Who ever did your timing belt should have seen the head gasket failure and done it while “they were in there”. That is what my dealer did under warranty, thank you very much!

    These cars are far from perfect, but there is nothing else on the market that is comparable. No CUV or jacked wagon is really a direct replacement for an Outback.

    Lease a new 6 cyl for 3 years till you are ready for the larger car. In the meantime, pocket the difference between finance and lease for your next down payment. DONE

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      Yeah except pretty much every crossover is a replacement for an outback, cargo space, roof rack, awd. Except they are all more reliable. Keep drinking the granola yuppie kool-aid, this is the 21st century baking axle boots and blowing head gaskets on a design that they have been using since their inception is pure Bullshit.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        My 2007 2.5i MT suffered all the same issues except I dumped it at 63k miles with some extended warranty left. Best car, yet worst car, I’ve ever owned. Especially in Idaho. We went to 1 car: Accord. It’s been working out well as I use the bus or bike. Put a hitch on the Accord for a bike rack or small utility trailer.

        I’d dump the Subaru and never look back. I should have listened to Sajeev sooner.

        • 0 avatar
          TEXN3

          Not sure how my response shows up twice but I agree, the Outback seems unique but there is always a replacement for the vehicle needs. I forgot how scary it was the first time the rear end stepped out while going 30 on a snow/ice covered interstate (limit was 75). We have the Accord with x-ice3 tires for winter and when the boys get bigger I’m sure we’ll add a second vehicle again… Pilot-like but an Outback is tempting. Too bad I’m sour on them.

        • 0 avatar
          markholli

          @TEXN3, it has definitely been a good bad car. I love the wagon utility, and I love it in the snow–I still think Subaru’s AWD system can’t be beat in the snow. But other than that, I’ve been indifferent to it. In normal weather it drives like a floaty Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        100% Agree with mikeg216. I replaced my OutCash after severe expenses with a full size GM truck, and it has been much more economical to own, more comfortable to drive, more versatile, and I have tons more confidence in it. “Axle boots a norman maintenance item??” Hahahahahahaha!

        Having owned several of them (but never again), I can say from experience that Subarus DO NOT deserve their inflated reputation for reliability. Oh, the last car to leave me stranded was a Subaru.

      • 0 avatar
        Speedygreg7

        True, the axle boots and head gaskets are BS, but you buy the car knowing this and accept it as a trade off for the other benefits of the car. There is no direct competitor to the Outback. The driving position is that of a car, not a upright CUV/SUV. You are in the car, not on the car. Perhaps this is less true now with the current Outback than with the subject 3rd generation model which was also available with 2″ shorter springs as the vastly superior Legacy. The only other wagons are the Volvo with an inferior AWD and the overpriced tiny Audi.

    • 0 avatar
      JD321

      Have you looked at a new Outback from the side? It is a goofy looking jacked wagon…Almost laughingly so.

      I don’t know why people buy Subaru. They are probably better now that Toyota owns them but they are always money pits especially after 100K miles.

      • 0 avatar
        SCHONHAMMER

        Wow, talk about ignorant and close minded! Ding! Ding!
        You win on both accounts!
        First off, Toyota does not “own” Subaru. Toyota has owns just 16.5% of Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru).
        Please advise us as to what we should buy in place of the Subaru oh great automotive authority?
        Maybe they should buy a Generic Motors vehicle?
        How about a car for the “everyman” such as a Toyota? Perhaps they should purchase a Honduh or Hyunduh?
        Please tell us what you drive so we can be as educated and astute as you.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      “I have the same car, but an ’07. The axle boots are normal maintenance items on Subaru Outbacks.”

      I take a bit of a dim view on the mindset that any part that fails frequently is a “maintenance item.” I’ve even seen someone try to claim that the cam position sensors on I forget which model BMW are “maintenance items.”

      “Who ever did your timing belt should have seen the head gasket failure and done it while “they were in there”.”

      NO shop will just repair something because “they were in there.” The customer can refuse to pay for unauthorized work.

      • 0 avatar
        Jesse

        Also, you wouldn’t do the head gaskets “while you were in there.”

        I might be wrong, but the belt is a repair you can do with the engine in the car, but the head gaskets are an engine-out affair.

        • 0 avatar
          markholli

          @Jesse, you’re right. The timing belt simply involves removing the belts and pulleys, the radiator for clearance, and the plastic covers.

          And the car was not leaking oil when we did the timing belt. I really didn’t have any evidence of a head gasket issue at that point.

      • 0 avatar
        Speedygreg7

        Of course they are not going to just do the work without getting the OK first, but if the engine is half apart then the customer can save on paying labor twice. Happens all the time.

  • avatar
    Frankie the Hollywood Scum

    What really hit home is the death by a thousand paper cuts. With what sounds like two young kids your life if probably hectic enough. Since the ultimate plan it to get into a minivan why not just dump the Subi and do it early?

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      Solution buy a brand new grand caravan for 19k get the Chrysler lifetime extended warranty on every thing but wear items for $2500 sell the subie and bank the money and never look back

      • 0 avatar
        jdowmiller

        This. This, right here. The OP has a kid and another on the way? Get a minivan – this one mikeg216 specifically mentions – immediately.

        I can also comment on the OP’s current vehicle as I have one myself with 142,000 miles. It’s a craptastic vehicle that I sorely regret purchasing. I admonish you all: do not buy into any of the Subaru hype.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    off topic but I just have never understood why Subaru has never tried to think outside the box and come up with a more robust head gasket solution. I mean, this is not something that just came up on a recent new model…

    Anyway my 2 cents on your problem: it sounds like your wife is minivan averse, and that’s ok even though those of use who have one know how practical it they are for people and stuff moving, so why not take her around and find an alternative to the dreaded minivan. There should be a decent amount of three kid friendly rides out there if you look around. This way she does not dread the inevitability of the minivan in future and you can dump this money pit pronto.

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      The replacement headgaskets you get from Subaru when you do your obligatory rebuild are supposedly superior to the ones that came equipped from factory a few short years ago.

      I don’t believe it for a second, but that’s what Subaru says. The (hopefully) good news is that the FA and FB series engines that replace the aging EJ series engines have a completely different head design and supposedly will cool much better and shouldn’t have the headgasket woes that currently afflict normally aspirated EJ engines.

      I’ve owned a half a dozen Subaru’s over the years and frankly, I’m sick of their shoddy build quality and finicky everything related to the drivetrain. Subaru can do better than this, but I don’t think I’ll ever know as I’ve been replacing all my Subaru’s with Toyota’s.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Yeah, all the build quality and design woes of the Toyobaru twins make it painfully apparent which is the primary parent.

        • 0 avatar
          Marko

          Can you please name “all the build quality and design woes”? The only ones I’m aware of are endemic to early-run cars (fuel pump chirp and taillight condensation).

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You know I want Subaru to be good. I like the quirkyness, I like the styling (up til just recently) and I like the model options/trim/engine choices.

        But to look at used Subarus, and see about 98% of them with +80K miles saying “new head gaskets, CV, EGR, diff, etc etc” is just not acceptable. I checked out an 01 Outback (black cherry/black, limited) and the interior felt fantastically solid, and so did the doors. But it had wheel well and tailgate rust, and needed a timing belt, and the head gaskets hadn’t been done – so away I went.

        I just don’t get why they cannot get it together and build reliable engines and sheetmetal. They’re as bad on the metal front as Mazda.

        I had an old Impreza wagon (97) for a short time, and just was not impressed with it. It was worn out at 87K miles, the AC couldn’t keep up in Midwest heat and humidity, and was too tiring to drive. I also was only getting 22mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      My speculation: Subaru never had the cash to invest in fixing known problems. They justified that by fixing any issue with a problem under warranty.

      The same thing happened with the WRX/Legacy spun bearings, they stuffed the STI crank in to solve that. They never solved the ringland issues, or the turbo oil supply/banjo issues, 5MT gearbox strength…etc. It is cheaper to fix under warranty. But not a good feeling if you are an enthusiast who might want to modify, or you don’t have the problem while under warranty…

      Subaru put those resources into the brand new FA/FB motors. The EJ is almost dead.

      • 0 avatar
        DGA

        Ringland issue is not one till you shove more boost down it’s throat and even then it’s a hit and miss deal. 5MT gearbox issue has been resolved a looong time ago…stronger case as the one on Legacy 5MT. Banjo bolt issue has been as well, change the oil at least every 3750 miles according to Subaru. This was revised from their initial 7500 on both the NA and turbo cars to 3750 for turbo ones, or just take the screen out of the bajo bolt at the turbo that caused the clogging issue.

        Subaru does get a bad rep due to the countless headgasket issues on late 90′s and early 2000′s cars. That is a big issue, but again Toyota has had the same issue with their old 3.0L V6 engines, oil sludge issues with the later 6′s, etc., etc. My point being, as a machine they all have their charms regardless of who built them.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Ah, yes, this is the “Love” that Subaru is referring to in their ads. The love you’ll develop between your dealership and or mechanic.

    Mine is one year newer than yours, and has 50k less miles, but I’m way ahead of you in mechanical failures.

    Welcome to Subaru ownership. :)

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    My 2007 2.5i MT suffered all the same issues except I dumped it at 63k miles with some extended warranty left. Best car, yet worst car, I’ve ever owned. Especially in Idaho. We went to 1 car: Accord. It’s been working out well as I use the bus or bike. Put a hitch on the Accord for a bike rack or small utility trailer.

    I’d dump the Subaru and never look back. I should have listened to Sajeev sooner.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    +1,000,000 to what Sajeev said. 1000% spot on, including the ** don’t get another Subbie.

    To put this in a bit of perspective, at the risk of rubbing salt in a wound, I have a 2005 Saturn Relay FWD3 – largely considered one of the worst vehicles every built in the last 15 years. 136K miles and still going, original engine, tranny, etc. etc. etc. etc. I did do a CV boot about a year ago. The legendary quality of Subaru is just that, a legend.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Congratulations on your Vue. Good to hear that yours has lasted with minimal maintenance, and that was before GM’s reckoning.

      When I moved to the Northeast 13 years ago, I couldn’t believe how many people drove Subarus compared to Southern Ontario. Back in the late 90s/early 00s they were a niche brand since their designs were kind of odd to most people. But now that they’re making cars with more attractive designs and advertising the AWD thing heavily, they’re selling like crazy. I think they might be slowly pulling a malaise era GM where people buy them and then realize that they’re just not that good or affordable to own long term. AWD is great for the times it’s required, but a FWD wagon and a set of decent winter tires will accomplish pretty much the same thing. And for the times when AWD isn’t required, you’re hauling around some expensive parts (that will probably fail eventually) that are killing your fuel economy.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        >>but a FWD wagon and a set of decent winter tires will accomplish pretty much the same thing. <<

        Beyond better mpg, fwd or rwd drive w/ high tech snows are actually superior. Tirerack has the tests. (of course it’s their job to sell tires).

        Tests show the 2 wheel drive cars w/ snows were slower off the line but could stop, corner and handle better. All season tires are a compromise. Better to have 2 wd w/ summer and winter tires.

        Plus, it’s been my experience that many all wheel drivers haven’t a clue how to operate their machines when they get stuck, especially Q7′s types.

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        Oh, a Vue would likely be an upgrade. Hypnotoad’s ride is an uglified Chevy Venture… although, that said, they’re old-GM in the sense that while the little things can be expected to fail, the powertrain will just keep going, and going, and going…

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Took the reply from my fingers. Other than the God awful Ellesmere L81 54 degree V6 and the self-destructing CVT – the VUE wasn’t THAT bad ;-)

          All joking aside I’m glad the B&B got my context, if a Saturn Relay can get to 135K miles and still going (with no less than four prior owners I’ll add) a Subbie in complete mechanical meltdown at 108K miles is just – unacceptable.

          In all honesty, the weather beater van isn’t THAT bad. The 3.5L V6 is buzzy, weak, and on the thirsty side, but bows at the altar of torque and as noted will last well after everything else long died. Ditto for the 4-speed automatic, which really I have no complaints about at all.

          I gave up on the power sliding doors yanking the fuses and relays, the driver side heated seat no longer works, and the rear rotors are warped. But that’s it. Everything else – works. It started life as a GM press unit so it is well equipped with Stabilitrak, XM, remote start, etc. etc. etc.

          I do miss the heated seat (never liked power sliding doors in the first place) but $600 is fix falls into the, “not worth it,” category.

          I did look at the VUE when I selecting a weather beater – but I settled on the Relay because this one was very mechanically sound and an utter bargain – because no one wants one!

      • 0 avatar
        JD321

        I would agree with you that almost all AWD systems are just heavy and expensive mechanics that really didn’t do much of anything useful…but the new RAV4, Toyota claims their AWD system is active in cornering to help with stability…with only a one mpg penalty.

    • 0 avatar
      markholli

      Yeah, Subaru has somehow managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the consumer. I can’t believe the sort of loyalty they’ve engendered. Everybody I know with a Subaru has had major mechanical issues requiring expensive repair/rebuilds.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        When the Army sent me to Ft. Carson, CO, in ’93 from Maryland, I was astounded by what seemed like thousands of older cars still rolling good in the dry environment. Early Subies of the ’80s, if they were still running, were rust monsters on the East Coast so I rarely, if ever, saw one that wasn’t in the junkyard. In CO, the early hatchbacks and wagons were everywhere, and were sworn by for their bullet-proof reliability, massive capability to get to the ski-slopes in the worst weather, and decent gas mileage. This stigma seems to resonate in the American psyche, even though its long past due for a re-think. Good marketing is the ounce of prevention while Subie figures out the cure.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        Subaru isn’t really about the reliability, it is just a club for people to identify with, they then backwards rationalize it with superior AWD and reliability.

        Only the WRX/STI driving experience has been worth the trouble IMO, but even then you might crack a ringland at any moment, but according to the enthusiasts that risk is “overblown”

  • avatar
    SpacemanSpiff

    Owner of a 2007 2.5i automatic with fewer than 70,000 miles.
    Repaired so far:
    -Front Axles
    -Rear Wheel Bearings
    -Head Gaskets
    -Valve Cover Gaskets
    -Still have a clunk in the front suspension that my indy mechanic wasn’t able to diagnose. It’s getting worse but I haven’t had a chance to take it back in.

    I will LOVE the day when I am able to get rid of this thing and I can guarantee that I won’t be buying another! The Outback is giving me worse problems than my older Audi did with none of the German-luxury prestige, comfort and performance to make up for it. You fooled me once Subaru, you won’t get my money again.

    Everyone with a Subaru, be sure to sign up for True Delta and record all of your problems. Hopefully we can prevent others from making our same mistake!

    • 0 avatar
      Speedygreg7

      The clunk may very likely be the LCA bushing. It is very common for it to disintegrate on this car.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-X

      Here’s my list of woe on my ’99 Outcash, between 90 and 110k miles:

      Bad chassis vibration at 3000RPM.
      A/C compressor fried, contaminating the whole system.
      Transmission leaks, corrosion of filter/body, and in the end, poor shifting.
      Rear wiper froze up.
      Weird, snap oversteer at a certain steering input, like you crossed a fulcrum.
      Aluminum wheels that leaked air.
      Mediocre mileage drops 20% more in cold weather (more than other’s I’ve owned).
      Poor cold driveability.
      Speedometer works intermittently.
      Dash lights burned out.
      Power window switches failed.
      Seat bolster’s foam crumbled.
      AWD system is simply FWD till the fronts spin enough, offering no directional stability in snow.
      Rear liftgate handle corrodes and become inoperative.
      And of course that lovely, expensive, timing belt (Subaru dealership owner boat payment)
      …and dumped at a $8k loss as a trade-in, after four years and 30k miles ownership.

      JD321 is so spot-on… Pertaining to Subaru’s current marketing line… it’s not ‘Love,’ it’s ‘Rape’

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    These are big ticket items that make the proposition of repairing them one of rapidly diminishing returns. I could see one or two things, but this is quite the list. Cut your losses and run. I see many Subies around and I just don’t get the attraction. Land Rovers sound more reliable..

  • avatar
    brettc

    If I owned the POS that you’re stuck with, I would give it a good wash/wax and interior vacuum. Advertise it on a Subaru enthusiast forum first and disclose all the problems. If that doesn’t result in a sale, turn to Craigslist. Be prepared to not get what you’re expecting for it, especially with those problems. Just be glad to dump it and get some money out of it.

    Then, go buy something else besides a Subaru. Get yourself a Jetta Sportwagen with the gas engine if you have to have a wagon. Or else get a crossover that isn’t a Subaru. Don’t buy another Subaru unless you hate having money laying around.

    And thanks to TTAC for teaching me to never buy a Mazda (crazy rust problems) or a Subaru (crazy expensive mechanical problems). My VWs have been pretty solid long term cars compared to some of the Piston slap stories that have been posted here.

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      There are some engines in the Subaru lineup that are pretty stout, including the turbo EJ series engines and both the 3.0 and 3.6 H6 engines are known for being quite reliable.

      The aforementioned FA/FB engines are rumored to have been built off of much of the architecture of the flat six Subie engines. I can’t vouch for the validity of these claims however.

      I have such mixed feelings about owning Subaru vehicles as some of mine have been quite reliable, while others have certainly have not. They’re quite pleasant to drive when they’re working well, but will leave a bad taste in your mouth when they’re not.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        The turbo comes with its own problems. Clogged AVCS filter bolt…starving your turbo for oil, and taking out the whole motor if you don’t catch it in time. At dealer prices that is an 8k bill, my Subaru mechanic can fix it up for 5-6k with a new block and turbo. I was able to catch mine in time, put a used turbo on for now, a new one is 1k at discounted online price. The downpipe also bakes the right inner axle boot so that will go earlier in a turbo car.

        The turbo motors are known for rignland failures, due to changes for friction/emissions concerns. A bad batch of motors in late 08 caused a number of Legacies and WRX motors to spin bearings, some in the bad batch have not had the problem yet, once out of warranty they are pretty much screwed Subaru would only fix it if it blows.

        If I knew then what I know now, I would have bought an H6!

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      We have a dealer here in Seattle that sells both VW and Subaru. The line at the service dept at the VW side is always long – much much more so than the Subaru one.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Unless you sell to a moron, don’t expect selling it to a DIY will net you any more cash. If he/she gave you more money for the car because they can do the repairs themselves (instead of farming it out) they are essentially giving away their labor for a reduced (or no) cost. Why would a buyer do such a thing?

    If I’m buying a car intending to fix it up myself, I’m going to “charge” the seller what it would cost to have a decent mechanic do the work, and then I’ll save myself money by executing the repairs myself. I have no reason to go easy on the seller simply because I have skills and time to not rely on a pro.

  • avatar
    Immanuel Transmission

    Three years ago we traded my wife’s 05 Outback 4AT at 92K, much sooner than we had intended, when it had racked up too many problems for its age. It wasn’t as bad as yours, but already I had replaced both front axles (which failed with perfectly intact boots) and the rear struts were pretty well shot. In addition the driver’s window switch was acting up, the passenger seatbelt alarm was sounding when the seat was empty, and the transmission had an odd behavior in low-speed turns. I agree with brettc’s suggestion above–detail it thoroughly, take high-quality photos, advertise it for $6500 on the Outback forum with full disclosure of the known problems, and be prepared to take a bit less.

  • avatar
    markholli

    OP here. Thanks again, Sajeev for posting, and thank you all for the responses.

    I’m glad to hear that I didn’t just get the one bad Subaru. How I was so blind to their shoddiness beforehand, I’m not sure…

    I realize now the insanity of looking at another Subaru, and have been discussing some non-Subaru options with my wife. Like some of you have said, “Fool me once…”

    Any suggestions that aren’t minivans? We’re not quite ready for a minivan yet.

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      Previous gen RAV-4 with the 3.5 V6 is silly fast (for a CUV) and could be had with a 3rd row. The third row could probably house a toddler, but not much else. It’s on my short list of vehicles to replace my fragile Subaru.

    • 0 avatar
      Duncan

      Other than personal preference, I don’t think there’s much of a gap between the mainstream CUVs. The CRV, Escape, Sportage, etc. are all good bets.

      If you like being a little different and aren’t revolted by the design, the Accord Crosstour 4WD might be interesting to look into as an Outback replacement.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Take a look at True Delta before assuming there isn’t much of a gap. The CR-V is one of the most reliable cars you can buy and the Escape is one of the least reliable. That’s after Karesh changed his problem tracking methodology to exclude some of Ford’s most common issues. Since markholli’s already suffered one drawn out quality failure, he would be wise to avoid buying a new Ford.

        • 0 avatar
          Duncan

          Thanks for pointing that out, CJ. I just got back from True Delta and see that when my assumptions are replaced with statistical analysis of real data, the reliability gap between the CRV and Escape widens a quite a bit.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            No problem. People keep saying there aren’t any badly built cars anymore, but their real motivation is invariably that they’re trying to sell an inferior product.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You know I thought Crosstour as I was reading this, just by his language of what he liked.

        But if you’re gonna spend that much, hell just get an MDX.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      Mazda 5 is a good car if you want some sport with reliability and capability, plus gas mileage near 30 mpg. A roof rack cargo carrier like I have on mine significantly makes up for the lost of space inside when you need it.

      If you absolutely need the AWD, I’m thinking used Audi’s; A3 diesel and A4 Avant will give you similiar capability while you wait for the inevitable mini-van.

    • 0 avatar
      JD321

      I would check out the new RAV4 first then the CR-V. That is where people go who have been thoroughly Raped…err…”Loved” by Subaru and any other manufacture. There are good reason why they do.

      • 0 avatar
        zamoti

        I know that someone gave Mazdas a (deserved) knock about being rusty, but since I bought my minivan-averse wife a CX9, she’s been a very happy person. We purchased at a similar life period that it appears that you are in–two kids present, a third in the works. With the size of today’s giant child car seats, the CX9 has been very good at family hauling. The only major downsie that you’ll have to suffer through is getting child #1 into the third row with the car seats nailed into place (2nd row can slide, but not fold forward with the kid seats).
        I don’t think you’re going to get three car seats across the back of a CR-V or RAV4 unless you buy the Diono super-narrow seats; even then, mix in the rear facing seat and it still may not fit.
        It is absurd that we have to buy giant crossovers just to fit the car seats, but there aren’t many choices. Car seats are part of having kids and a family.
        Regarding Subarus, I don’t understand how they’re still so shitty. I had one years ago and it ate CV joints for lunch–until it blew the head gasket. I had recently considered an Outback XT 6MT for myself until I start looking and found that they STILL eat CV joints and head gaskets and the MTs eat throwout bearings. I was seriously planning on buying the XT and also planning for all the repairs, workarounds (crank snout repair, crappy radio, no bluetooth) and then realized how brainless my plan was. Now that the styling of the Outback “wagons” more closely resembles that of a potato, I find no compelling reason to get one. Shoddy mechanical quality, limited interior options (no xenon headlamps, no steering wheel controls nor bluetooth until just a year or three ago?!), please do NOT buy a Subaru. Don’t forget the fun and expense of replacing the timing belt.
        The market is well covered when it comes to all-wheel drive family cars that should be able to suit your needs. Sure, not all AWD systems are the same, but with all the variables such as driver skill, presence/absence of snow tires, etc. I think the competition stacks up just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      If you don’t want to go minivan and you’re looking in the similar size (so a midsize CUV/SUV) honestly, no one makes a pile of crap right now (Subbie experience aside).

      We’re in a golden era right now where certain segments (B-segment, C-segment, D-segment, fullsize truck (minus the Nissan Titan), compact CUV/SUV, midsize CUV/SUV) there just isn’t a dog/dud among them.

      Ya, the Edge is overpriced, the Terrain has very questionable styling, the Sorrento does say Kia, the Equinox has to live down its legacy, the RAV-4 is a big beige, but that is nuance. Hard to go wrong buying new right now.

  • avatar
    BMWnut

    How about a used Lexus RX? Looks good, quite luxurious, can do light off-roading and doesn’t fall apart. Or so I have heard. I am thinking of getting one myself, but I need to raise my income or cut expenditure to make it happen.

    • 0 avatar
      markholli

      The comments have steered me strongly away from Subarus, and the RX is actually one of our top contenders now, along with MDX. I would have to go a little older if I went that route in order to stay in budget.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    My friend and roommate’s ’98 Legacy wagon has double the miles and has by our mutual mechanic’s estimate, 15K miles left on its second timing belt (the first having been fixed around 105K, long ago).

    The thing is, the wagon has plenty of other problems: frayed seatbelts, unknown airbag efficacy, HVAC stuck on defrost, blown-out speakers and a broken tape deck, and lots of body dings. No rust though!

    Still, while a timing belt repair is cheaper than a new (used) car, it still costs a sizable chunk of what the Subie’s worth (which isn’t much).

    When she gets back from (what she hopes is not the car’s last) road trip, she’ll likely have a choice to make, since the belt could very well go before 15K…which would make the decision easier.

  • avatar
    DougD

    Isn’t head gaskets the cost of doing business with Subaru and therefore to be expected without surprise or moaning? Same as my Dodge Caravan has a transmission in it’s future, it’s just a given.

    Anyway, put me in the “take your lumps and trade it in cheap” camp. However I would suggest that with 2 children and another on the way you ARE ready for a minivan, despite any delusional thinking otherwise. Just get over it, once you experience the amount of kid junk a minivan can swallow, and get the chance to walk back between the rows of seats to play flight attendant you will appreciate, if not love a mv.

    • 0 avatar
      markholli

      It’s actually 1 toddler, one in the oven, and a third in a few years, if our family planning stays on track.

      We aren’t as minivan averse as some posters have made us out to be, but it just seems unnecessary at this point. That’s a lot of car for my wife to have to pilot around for just two kids.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        From the passenger seat of my Sienna, while the Mrs. pilots her favorite vehicle of all time across NYS at impressive speed: I’m seconding DougD. Unless you want to roll the dice on a well-used vehicle, you are looking at taking two steep depreciation hits in rapid succession over the next three years. Minivans drive well compared to any SUV and most CUVs, so why hold out?

        PS: 94K, 5+ years, zero repairs.

  • avatar
    Fenian

    I’ve owned two Subarus and never had the troubles that some others have had.

    The first, a ’95 Legacy FWD with the bulletproof EJ22, liked to eat axle boots, but beyond that, it was basically trouble free until I sold it with 170k miles.

    My current daily driver is an ’05 Outback Sport SE with a 5-speed. It has 90k miles and beyond a set of front axles and an air conditioning compressor pulley that squealed, it hasn’t given me any problems. The gas mileage is atrocious though, 23mpg mixed.

  • avatar

    Wow lots of Subaru hate going on today.

    Being that I drink heavily from the Subaru kool aid (Or in my case gin) quite heavily I would do these things.

    Get the head gaskets from Subaru, grab a set of after market studs, and stud the block. With the new generation gaskets and the studs the 2.5′s do not seem to blow the head gaskets near as often.

    The 4EAT clutch pack problem is.. well. A pain in the arse Dun bother doing it right now.

    Axel boots. There so far in all of my years (and about sixteen Subarus) there has only been ONE that has not been a boot eater. That would be our first gen Legacy. All the rest?, Well I pretty much have gotten to the point that I stock boots and am really good at popping the pin and the nut and pulling the axle to repack it. On ANY Subaru., I have also started shelfing repacked axles since my Leone III is a real outer boot eater thanks to the lift. So just do the axle yourself or find a good independent and walk in with a fresh axle in hand and go.. here you replace. They are raking you over the coals on parts mark up on that one. Because it takes 20 minutes to change one out, and reman they run less than 75 bucks.

    The cruise, you probably have a blown fuse or the vacuum line that runs from the suction pump to the cable/diafram assembly has a hole in it somewhere. I would have to pull out my big book and look. But I rarely have seen that system fail outside of a fuse or a bound up cable.

    Tires are tires, they are just a fact of life.

    Me I would stud it, gasket it, change the bad boot and run the dog snot out of it for two years. You will be saving payments (even at 200 a month that is 4800 over 2 years) of payments you do not have to make. (in reality payments will be more with, higher full coverage insurance costs to boot and you still have to maintain the new car). Then dump it and get something else.

    How bad will the Outback nickel and dime you. Who knows but having the majors done (You already did the 100K service and then doing the head gasket) Would at least mean that the rest of the car could disintegrate around you and it will still point A to B with no problems.

    I do have to say the newer Subarus are NO WHERE NEAR as reliable as the pre 98′s or there about. It is like GM bean counters got in there to do everything at cut rate costs. And the EJ25′s are about as big as a dud as the EA82T 1.8 Turbos. No I take that back… the EJ25 is WORSE than a EA82T. And the 82T’s are pretty rubbish, temperamental, and overheat worthy. Hell the normal EA82′s are not all that great either.

    So dump or keep. Two years tops, then dump it on someone you do not like. Go ahead and do the gaskets, the tires and the axle. Wait on the center clutch pack till it REALLY drives you nuts.. then dump it. Might save you some cash in the long run. Because there is the old thing of. How much payments are going to be… how much of a down you are going to put down, and how much trade in you are going to get. I mean if you have 300 a month payments..That is 3600 a year. Right there you just fixed everything in the Subaru for about 3300. Sort of a hard toss up. But just another angle to look at.

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      Not sure if it’s hate so much as it is with people having been burnt by Subaru ownership, present company included.

      Internet forums are not always the most accurate way go gauge the reliability of a vehicle or an overall brand for that matter, as lots of folks take to the internet to air their grievances. Nobody sends emails to Sajeev telling them how reliable their car is and how there is nothing wrong with it and what should be done next. Or do they?

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Same here. Admittedly ’93 is a long time ago but our ’93 Subaru was horrible, lived in the shop and in ’97 with just 44K miles we got rid of it.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      I agree that the cruise control might be simply a blown fuse; that’s what happened with our ’90 Legacy AWD wagon, which lasted 13 years (and succumbed to a bad head gasket).

      With its replacement, an ’03 Legacy 5-speed wagon, we were lucky – it was at the dealer for a coupon oil change about 5 years ago (usually we use an independent shop we’ve patronized since ’94) and the mechanics noticed a coolant leak, replaced the head gasket (on a different day) on their own initiative and at no charge; they stretched a point for me, in that the car was 5+ years old but hadn’t yet hit 60,000 miles.

      Now it has 101K miles and we’re coming up against the timing belt replacement. Of course we’re going ahead. No new car (certainly no new Subaru) has the proportions, low cowl, handling characteristics, etc., of the pre-2010 Legacys, especially those with 16″ wheels. If I had a big garage, or any at all, I’d find a nice ’06 (final year for the U.S. Legacy SE wagon with 5-speed and sunroof) and stash it for future use.

      • 0 avatar
        markholli

        I’m actually thinking the cruise control issue is related to an aftermarket auto parts brand hub assembly with the wrong magnetic strip in it. I don’t think the wheel speed sensor is reading correctly.

        • 0 avatar

          Possible, but you would have a ABS light on as well. Most (92%) of Scoobies I have worked on, seen or owned read off of the speedo signal (some read in the cluster, some have a fitting on the speedometer cable) or they read from the ECU or ABS. (early Legacy is hit or miss depending on ABS but most read from the speedo in the cluster) So I would not look to a mag strip (the ABS ECU will measure and find % value as to start and first time the brake is applied. IE self learn)

          But then to really know.. Dunno I would have to see it and put it on the rack that Giger and Frankenstein made. I dun think it could live with it’s self after.

          BUT! HA HA! I may have the simple solution. The clutch switch and the brake switch should be either three wire switches (Seen by me in a few up to 2001 Legacies) or duel switches. Look there too. Other than that, well. The cruise module (not all have it!) Or the relay.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    About the head gaskets:

    If the only symptom is oil leaking onto the floor, then just keep the oil topped up. Mom’s failed at 120,000 miles and we ran it to 215,000 (where it was scrapped) that way. Unless you are losing coolant, pressurizing the cooling system, or mixing oil and water, the head gasket hasn’t gone in a way that requires replacement.

    The axle’s a not-too-difficult DIY job, but you may want to get an independent mechanic to do it and the clutch pack at the same time.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Disagree. YMMV with head gasket failures is a big issue. It could easily go 100K miles – it could fail catastrophically tomorrow. Better to sell/trade with full disclosure in strength, than have a total failure at 1:30 AM somewhere. Dude has a wife and thinking about starting a family.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        + Sort of like those people who have interference engines and say “oh no problem the timing belt hasn’t been changed, and we’re at 110K miles.”

        I’m like – uhh okay, playin with fire. Have fun.

  • avatar
    IllumFiati

    I owned my dream car, a 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX Hatch and had it until November 2012 – insanely fast car for me. My job changed here in WA State and I no longer needed to travel across the mountains and sates her in the Northwest. I sold the car with 48K on it and got nearly $20K out of it on trade-in for a Fiat 500C Sport. It has been 8 months and have 4K miles on the Fiat and couldn’t be happier. The Subie was coming off warranty, had high insurance rates (I have a 16 yr old), and I was starting to hear a transfer case sound I didn’t like.

    Between the poor gas mileage, insurance rates, reliablity and the change in my driving schedule, I am very glad I dumped it. Saved me $$$$ in the long run. Trading a Bone Stock WRX in WA State during ski season…the trade in here is good.

    BTW – we have a loaded Odyssey that my wife drives and we love that car. She was NOT a minivan gal. it’s comfy and quiet for all 4 of the family, leather, DVD, and great reliability for 105K miles. That van takes a pounding. looks ok and still drives awesome.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Odd. Outbacks are commonplace here in Oregon, and Subaru repair shops I visited for routine maintenance were never crowded by dead and dying Outbacks. To its credit, Subaru has improved their engine blocks and gaskets, and their newer engines use chain drives for camshafts (no more timing belt replacements).

    FYI having driven RWD and FWD’s for years, it’s impressive how well Subie’s AWD minimizes wheel spin on gravel, wet or snowy roads. Granted, Subies, especially Outbacks, can be tail-happy when driven hard.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    As DougD said, you are prime minivan candidates now. Accept reality and get one, and you will be ahead of the game when the third child comes.
    I am amamzed at how effective the SUV brain washing during the 90s was to make one entertain the idea that they are “not ready” for the vehicle that really fits their needs. Unless you’re wealthy, style should not be dictating this decision.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      Having nearly talked my wife into a previous generation Nissan Quest (ugly duckling=great value) I am glad that I did not succeed. Why? Self esteem.
      Presumably, before they were our wives, they were “chicks” (yes, sexist whatever). We wanted to date them, call them, hopefully shag them. Well, these same women are now part of our lives, but they do not cease to be women, nor do they stop wanting to be desired.
      You put your wife in a mommy-mobile that every other woman her age (and older) is driving, you take a big bite out of her (perhaps perceived) individuality and self esteem. If you care to ever shag your wife on occasions outside of a birthday and/or wedding anniversary, you’ll be wise NOT to do things that chip away at her self esteem. Just as any man would not want to drive a car that they believe is depressing, crappy, or beneath them, no woman wants to be forced into a beige kid hauler for practicality’s sake.
      There is no finer way to haul children than a minivan, for it’s task it is indeed an extremely well refined appliance. However, unless you would like your wife to discover that you can be replaced with, um a different appliance of sorts, you may want to keep her out of the Odyssey.
      Hype, advertising, perception, whatever. You put your wife in minivan against her will and you may as well get her a macrame vest and some mom jeans. Reality is what you make it.

      • 0 avatar
        DougD

        Actually, minivans are great for a quick shag before/after a parent date. Kidsitters haven’t asked why we leave the bench seat on the porch, I understand stow-and-go has alleviated that problem somewhat.

        As you said, reality is what you make it. Sorry about your self-esteem.

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    As someone who lounges around in subaruoutback.org, and a current owner of on 08, I’ve heard my fair share of head gasket tales of woe.

    The 2nd gen and MYs 05-07 of the 3rd gen have well-known head gasket issues. Dealers will often repair them even post-warranty. For 3rd gens in general, they recommend the Subaru-rebadged Holts Rad Weld ($3-$5 at the dealer) for every coolant change at your 30/60/90 services. Another preventative thing to watch out for is to put in new tensioners when you do the timing belt/water pump at 100k to guarantee at least another 100k out of that area. But as far as systemic issues go, these 2 are the big ones.

    It could be just the time when I bought my 08 – but as many of you already know, 2008 was around the time when Toyota/Honda decontenting and cost-cutting was at its peak. Hopping out of a Legacy/Outback and into a Camry/Accord was like day and night. The Subaru just offered a much more confident touch and feel even before turning the ignition key. It also doesn’t hurt that I got a base model Outback for $18k & 0% financing.

    Anecdotal wise, being here in Seattle, every other person’s got a Subaru in their staple. Lots of friends and coworkers have them, and no one’s complained about them nor do you see lots of loaner cars from Subie dealers around here (unlike Audi or BMW). My 08′s got 70k miles and the only thing that broke was the dash clock – at 500 miles it started counting backwards rapidly like a time bomb.

  • avatar
    Phillin_Phresh

    Am I the only one (along with Michael Peerson) who would choose option C? Maybe I am an idiot and an automotive masochist (okay, I probably am).

    Just because you can “afford” a monthly payment doesn’t make it a wise allocation of your resources. Dealers (used and new) have refined their sales pitch to make auto loans seems more palatable as a reasonable cost to use a new vehicle. They rarely bring up the total lump sum, and they never talk about depreciation. Depending on the vehicle, depreciation for one year alone could be 2-3k.

    Think of what it would be like to put these repairs behind you and drive a paid-for, well-maintained Outback with minimal depreciation. Is there any guarantee that more problems won’t arise in the next 5K? No, but the risk is statistically very, very low. Consider the more likely possibility that you will have fixed the remaining “major” issues common to Subies, and the car will be trouble-free for another 50k miles and beyond.

    To mitigate the impact on your savings, have you considered approaching your bank for a loan to cover the repairs? You could do a 12-month term and keep the payments low, so long as you have the credit. This strikes me as a better option than a 4-6 year term of indentured servitude on a $20k+ car note.

  • avatar
    JD321

    I think the head gasket failure started in the 2001 MY when the new EPA emissions spec kicked in. Subaru had to raise the engine temperature to meet emissions and it probably caused the head gasket failures. I don’t know of any failures outside the USA. Subaru NEVER fixed the problem because of, um, “Love” most likely. The new FB engines don’t have head gasket problems but due to an inferior piston/ring/cylinder design, a lot of these engines are burning oil. Subaru says they are going to modify the design soon.

    Seriously though…Just get a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      No such thing with the thermostat Subaru has been using a 172 deg thermo stat for years on all their EJ engines from 2013 WRX back to a 93 Impreza, part number 21200AA072.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe it was ’97 or thereabouts, when the 2.5 engine came out. Both wife and sister had issues with their ’97 and ’98 respectively.

      When we bought her current ’05, we were under the impression that head gaskets were no longer an issue.

      Wrongo-bongo.

      We had them done about 110,000, same time as the timing belt.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        The 2.5 seems to be the start of the problems. I guess the early days it was pretty bad pretty much every pre-01 2.5 will blow a head gasket by 100k, by 2005 it was a less common there are some who never had the gaskets blow over many miles. Yet the turbo motors almost never blow a head gasket (they have other issues).

  • avatar
    Power6

    The head gasket issues were common around 98-00, less so later years but still happen. Basically non-existent on the turbo and H6 models, and the new FA/FB motor does not seem to have that issue.

    According to the best Subaru shops, you should pull the motor to do the headgasket right. I think even the dealer will not do that, so shop carefully and pick a mechanic that will do it right.

    Seems like 2005 is a relatively troublesome year looking at TrueDelta, we have the 05 XT and I have had some of the same issues, as well as the turbo going, fixed it before it took out the engine thankfully.

    You do have to remind yourself how much payments cost once in a while, you’ll blow through $4k pretty quick with downpayments and monthly payments. If you fix it there isn’t too much more to go wrong, motor is pretty solid. We had to do the axles and control arm bushings in ours, and the aforementioned turbo. We are at about the same mileage.

    If you would rather have trouble free-ness or are looking to justify a new car purchase, go ahead and get that new Outback.

  • avatar
    See 7 up

    The internet makes all cars seem unreliable.

    I’ve had 1 Subaru’s, my family 3. All have been dead reliable well past 150k miles. Go figure.

    But, each car can be an outlier. Given your current car’s condition and the fact you will want a minivan at some point – get the minivan now. Popping for a new car when you have a 3rd kid is not wise. Buy one now, it will still be reliable when the time comes and you will not have wasted money on the interim car (taxes, interest, depreciation)

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      I found it to be both ways, with my Lexus, there are 200k+ mile check in threads and plenty out there with 300k and 400k for my old ES on the forums. Maybe that makes them seem more reliable. But really any thread about “common problems” is just to watch out for the sludge issue, though most don’t seem to report that issue. The good is probably amplified too much, but this Camry chassis does seem to live up to the reputation.

      Head on over to Subaru Outback forums, there is a laundry list of possible problems…”but other than the many trouble spots they are reliable”

      Try logging on to a second generation Acura TL forum…guaranteed 5 threads on the first page about blown trans. I don’t think even the Internet can exaggerate the size of that Honda 5AT problem.

  • avatar
    IllumFiati

    I do agree that placing your wife in a Minivan may impact her confidence and her image of herself. The stereotypes abound for minivans, but when I traded the WRX and grabbed the Fiat, my wife had a renewed love for her hubby. Many of her friends asked their husbands about a new car and the Fiat. The Fiat Sport 5 speed is a neat, stylish little car that she loves driving and a nice compliment to the Odyssey. The payment is affordable too.

  • avatar
    mies

    I’d dump it and buy or lease a new car. I just had a similar experience with my 2005 LeSabre getting expensive and mysterious issues. The transmission would randomly shift very hard every month or so. Nobody could figure it out because I wasn’t getting a check engine light or any other codes on the reader. About a month ago, my turn signal went out. This was after dumping $500 into it for a new tie rod end, fuel filter, coolant flush, and an oil change. Changing the bulb, fuse, and flasher contorl unit, did not fix the issue.

    At that point, I decided to stop throwing my money away on that car. I would have liked to have gotten a couple of more years out of it, but I also don’t want to live in repair shops thowing good money at a bad car. I bought a Honda Fit Sport and have been pretty happy with it. I also feel more secure konwing I have a few years where if anything major goes wrong, it’ll be on Honda. Get rid of the Subaru before you have any more major issues and enjoy the new car smell :)

  • avatar
    wmba

    Well, now everyone has the Subaru reliability issue off their chests, and are sitting back feeling contented, I’d like to say I’ve owned two Subarus since 1998 and have had no issues at all. No headgasket problems, no 4 EAT problems, no rubber boot or axles or wheel bearings replaced, all the buttons always worked.

    The ’99 Impreza had a fuel tank filler neck rust out, that was the biggest repair in its total $760 out of regular maintenance cost, one set of front pads, the battery died after only 8 years and 95,000 miles. The ’08 Legacy needed new front discs and pads at 45,000 miles, and had sway bar and rear trailing arm bushings replaced under warranty. Nowt else, but I’m only at 55,000 miles. Neither has used oil.

    Before the Subarus I owned Audis for 20 odd years. Ah, ha, ha, ha. Yup. You got a spare evening for me to tell you the tales?

    And I wonder why Subaru gets such good reliability ratings at Consumer Reports … I know, all the owners are lying. Yes, that’s it. Sure.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      A 99 Impreza and an 08 Legacy? The latter has low miles you shouldn’t have much trouble at 55k, the 08 is a far better year than the 05, go check TrueDelta better data than Consumer Reports. Generally Subaru is pretty good but notice the first couple years 05/06 of that model Legacy/Outback were a low point.

      As for the Impreza, I assume you had a 1.8 or 2.2 since you didn’t say Outback Sport or RS model. For whatever reason only the 2.5 was plagued with the head gasket issues. Those little GC Imprezas were pretty good, and not much power very light weight, so they didn’t tax the trans and axles too much.

      I’m not totally soured on our Outback, great car to drive, but it has needed way more stuff replaced than the 4 year older “according to Internets over-hyped” Camry based ES that sits next to it in my driveway. Both have a little over 100k.

  • avatar
    redliner

    Sell the Subi and buy a used last Gen Honda CR-V or a Rav4, V6 if you want a fast and smooth engine. That’s what I tell all my friends who are looking for Subaru replacements. Or you could try your luck and look at an late-model off lease Impreza.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    I have an 03 Legacy wagon that has been beaten pretty mercilessly for 179,000 miles, (why shouldn’t I tow half a cord of green wood with a Subaru?). On the one hand, I’ve had to do a lot to it, Let’s see…head gasket under warranty at 27k miles. Clutch at a similar interval. One alternator and one wheel bearing under warranty. Shocks made it about 100k, springs about 150k miles. Car hates aftermarket axles. Center diff went out at about 160k, oil pan got a pinhole shortly after which got patched until 170k. Then I pulled the engine and did a clutch, all the outer gaskets, fixed the bodged timing belt job I stupidly paid the stealership to do wrong (idler pulleys were about to let go). Then at 175k the headgaskets let go again (oil leak).

    I think the biggest problem with the gasket issue is when the dealer does the gaskets, they just give the heads a quick zap with a Scotchbrite (or similar) pad on an air tool, instead of having them machined. When I pulled the heads to do the gaskets myself, I could see places where they’d done too much work and not enough work. Without a flat seal, even an upgraded gasket isn’t going to last forever. I had a machine shop deck the heads and check the valve train, and installed Multi Layer Steel gaskets. We’ll see how that does, I guess.

    Oh, I’ve also replaced all the bushings, the control arms, and the ball joints…which like to take the front knuckles with them when you go to replace them. I live on a crappy dirt road that spends two months of the year with MUD: PASS AT OWN RISK signs on it, stuff’s going to get beat up.

    Yeah, I’ve done a lot of work to the car, and it still could probably use a fresh front diff and some OEM front axles, but it has never once left me calling a tow truck(knocks wood), well, except for getting yanked out of ditches. It’s not perfect, but considering the amount of rampant abuse I’ve dealt this machine, I can’t complain. I hope to run it past 300k, I know it’ll probably need a gearbox somewhere in there, and I need to do some more rust work, but it’s a 10-year-old Japanese car (made in Indiana).

    Advice? If you live on normal roads, pick your favorite minivan and be done with it. If you live on crappy roads, fix the Outback and get something with all wheel drive, because the electronic nannies suck on snowy, dirty, icy roads (even with good tires). If you fix the Outback, get away from most of the dealers.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    We have a 1998 Legacy GT wagon that we bought new. It just passed 234k miles. Total repairs, not including stuff that I expect to wear out, have cost us $11k out of pocket. One would think it was high end German machinery, not Japanese.

    One thing that caught my eye is the distribution of unusual repair expenses over time. One would expect it to get progressively worse as the years and miles went by. Actually, 80% of the costs came during the first nine years. Since then, it has been pretty reasonable. It’s like my mechanic has had to replace the crap parts installed at the factory with decent ones.

    It’s still on the original clutch which is getting very thin. From time to time, the check engine light comes on. My code reader says it’s either poor catalytic converter efficiency or a misfire. My mechanic thinks the cause is exhaust valves. Since the interval between CELs ranges from days to months, I just clear the code and keep on driving.

    When the clutch starts slipping, we will have to make a decision. The hard part will be finding a replacement. A possible candidate is an AWD van that we can fix up for car camping.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Learn to be a man and work on your own car. NONE of this is really hard to do, and will cost you only a few hundred in parts (if you learn how to shop).

    Seriously, head gaskets? $100 parts, $100 tools, and a day as an amateur without a lift. Axles? A couple of hours for both in a driveway with a jack and hand tools. Clutch is r-tard simple and so is any suspension piece. Not to mention cheap.

    You want to be a “car guy”? Learn the simple tings we learned in the 70s as kids.

    • 0 avatar
      fiasco

      While they have a few quirks, once you know them, Subarus are pretty simple to work on. The biggest issue is dealing with rusted/snapped bolts on salt-strewn New England roads, but I have a MIG welder and torches to get around most of those issues. :)

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        Exactly. Scoobies are on par with HonDotas – that is, if you can’t work on *them* you really have no business even thinking about wrenching a car. They are stone-axe simple.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I would trade if possible. I recently sold a much older car in need of $$$ work with an unknown potential for more work, and trust me, the pool of DIY buyers is not as big as you would like to think. This doesn’t sound like easy suspension work you have lined up either. Even if you find someone willing and able to do that work, what they offer probably won’t be far off trade value. Not worth dealing with craigslist to find that person, IMO.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    There is another way to look at this. That is that this car is middle-aged, and needs its middle-age fix up. It could be that if you put $3,000 work into it, that you’ll get three more years out of it with minimal expense. Even if you can’t count on getting that lucky, the car with three grand worth of work done to it is much more saleable than one pushed to the auction. So you put the work into it and start seriously car shopping. You ride the Subie until you find the replacement that you REALLY want versus the one that you settle for because you are in a hurry. I recently had to buy a car under a time deadline because I was driving an insurance-paid rental. I think I could have done better if I would have had more time and less pressure. (By the way, many of you have read my posts know I drive a C-Max, I’m not talking about the C-Max, it’s great. I’m talking about our other car.)


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