By on April 1, 2015

95% Subaru, 5% Saab…100% Awesome?

Adam writes:

Hello Sajeev, I have a classic “keep it or sell it” question for you and the greater TTAC audience.

Two years ago I bought my wife a 2005 Saab 9-2X Aero (sadly an automatic, which was a non-negotiable requirement for my wife). You may remember these as being rebadged Subaru WRX wagons, and that was the main reason I bought the car at the time. I assumed that since the underlying platform was basically a “reliable” Subaru, repairs would be infrequent and parts would be plentiful.

The reality is that I’ve never spent so much money trying to keep a car in good running condition. The car is now at 127,000 miles, and in the past two years we’ve done the following work: valve cover gaskets (twice), rebuilt heads and head gaskets, new power steering pump, replaced valve breather assemblies, new radiator, just to name a few things off the top of my head. None of these pending repairs were brought to light through the very thorough pre-purchase inspection, and the car appeared to be well cared for when we bought it.

The head rebuild alone cost us almost $3000 and kept the car in the shop for almost a month, mostly due to parts availability issues, which really surprised me. Even after all these repairs, we are still dealing with a mystery oil leak that periodically drips onto the exhaust somewhere and fills the cabin with a wonderful burning smell.

My question is one of sustainability. Even though the car is comprised of 95% Subaru parts, it seems that the 5% that was supplied by Saab is becoming increasingly more difficult to come by. Things like plastic body panels (rocker panel covers, bumper covers, etc.) are nearly impossible to find now, and even the struts are specific to the Saab model, having been tuned specifically for the 9-2X. Even if I have taken care of most of the major repairs for the foreseeable future, is it really a great idea to hold onto a car that is losing replacement parts support? Even the Subaru parts seem much more scarce than they should be.

I should note that despite all these issues, the reason we haven’t already replaced the car is that we really enjoy driving it. It’s a fun, powerful car that’s good in Minnesota winters and can haul a decent amount of stuff with the seats down. I have no idea what I would replace it with if I did sell it.

I am open to any and all suggestions and advice!

Thanks,
Adam

Sajeev answers:

The answer is clear by the overall tone of your message: put it on Craigslist, wait for the right buyer because it’s still in good running condition.

You really like the car, but not enough to deal with the crap.  Saabs are hard to live with because of parts/repair costs, Subarus are the same (to a lesser extent).  What’s the benefit of being 95% Subaru when their motor popped the head gasket?  Exit now, before you spend thousands more on a 10-year-old car at the bottom of the depreciation curve.

I can see why you might consider the alternative: all my old cars are in some state of serious disrepair. Only a fanboi fool like me does all this for no good reason. If I was a Saabaru fan, I’d love your car too.

Best of luck, and remember there are plenty of AWD hatchback utilities on the market for you and your wife to consider.  Test drive them all, you have nothing but time!

[Image: Saab]

Send your queries to [email protected]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.

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130 Comments on “Piston Slap: Saabaru, The “Reliable” Subaru?...”


  • avatar
    palincss

    I had my 1992 base model Saab 900 3-door for 100,000 miles and other than routine maintenance, the only thing I ever had to fix on the car was the A/C compressor. As for this Saabaru, I’m guessing a Forester would be the ideal replacement.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I always thought these were awesome, but evidently not so much. Dump it for the Saabistas or Suburites to squander over.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      Yup one guy had to do the heads in a saabaru guess they all must be bad.

      The tribal knowledge on this site is ridiculous, it’s like a science experiment to see what happens if you pass the same anecdotes back and forth constantly. Apparently they become truth to the ignorant tribesmen.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I really don’t know anything about Saabarus or even Subbies of this period aside from many of the Subbies though MY08 blow head gaskets which is fact. He also brought up parts availability issues which isn’t broscience. What would you recommend?

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          You are thinking of the NA Subarus, turbo motors had no head gasket problems.

          I’d recommend keep driving the car and get a new mechanic, one that doesn’t take a month to fix the car!

          As I mentioned below the saab specific parts are cosmetic, so you can keep driving this car and not worry too much, maybe carry collision insurance to transfer the risk of cracked up body parts to the insurance company?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Thanks for the HG info, I was not aware.

          • 0 avatar
            EAF

            I’ve replaced head gaskets on 6-7 Subies to date and they were all turbocharged WRX’s. One of them was a well cared for low mileage STI. I’ve also replaced a handful of shortblocks do to spun bearings and heads do to failed castings.

            OP; Continue to drive it until the first turbocharged Civic hits the market. If you need to have AWD then go for an Evo or Focus RS.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        +1

      • 0 avatar
        CreepyMayne

        My parents bought a brand new NA 2003 Subaru Forrester. They were so proud and happy, it was like 10 years since they bought their last new car. The head gaskets went before 30,000 miles. It was covered by the warranty of course, but my parents were not as fond of it anymore like they were before. Unfortunately, that generation 2.5 boxer motor is just as famous for eating head gaskets as the Northstar. It’s not some kind of internet myth.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Yup. My sister’s 2001 Forester did the same thing, but out of warranty. Her take on Subaru after 13 years: years 1-3= low maintenance; years 4-7=moderate annual costs; years 8-10= everything that breaks is expensive; years 10+ = just patch it up as cheaply as you can and look for another car.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Ahhh, the legendary Subaru quality of a 2005 WRX derived platform.

    Yup – it’s a legend.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      More like a myth, allegory, or epic poem.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      It is to me. 150,000 miles and counting. I know there were issues with the 2.5 turbos that came along in 2006. I sort of kicked myself buying a Subaru at the time when I could have probably gotten the SAAB for a lot less, but ten years on as I’m looking at fixing some fender rust maybe I made the right choice after all. Thank goodness the hood’s aluminum.

  • avatar
    dwford

    If they love it so much, why not dump this car and get the real thing of a similar year?

    • 0 avatar
      WRC555

      The real thing, a 2005 WRX wagon, does not come with STi steering rack and rides quite a bit stiffer. It’s also 35% to 40% more expensive on Craigslist than the 9-2x Aero. The WRX badge carries a cult status premium surcharge in the used market nowadays.

  • avatar
    kmoney

    Trade it for an 08-09 TrollBlazer (Saab 97x Aero) and start the Saab-but-not-a-Saab love anew.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Trouble with Trollblazer is the drivetrain is fulltime AWD and chews through expensive tires.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        Wang Chung Industries doesn’t make tires in that size?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          These have come down, Tirerack has some off brand I’ve never heard of for $109/tire. Good tires are in the 230s.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Still my favorite TBlazer iteration, after the beloved Oldsmobile Bravda of course.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I have this perverse habit of looking at tire brands as I’m walking through a parking lot sometimes, and judging people for their choices :p

            “Arizonian?” “Wan Li?” Uh oh. Even Big O brand tires are an upgrade from that. Next on the totem pole are Mastercraft, Douglas, Kelly. I used to put General in this category as well but wow, I’ve bought 3 sets of General Altimax tires now, one set of the “Arctic” as my 4runner’s snow tires to compliment the General Grabber HTS that I have as its summer tires, and just in the last month 2 sets of the RT43 all seasons, for my girlfriend’s Camry SE and my Civic LX. Very pleased with the low levels of noise, good dry and wet grip. I have noticed that they transmit just a bit more of the road surface into the cabin than what was on the cars before, but nothing bad. My understanding is that General tires these days are basically 2-3 year old Continental technology, since that is their parent brand. My girlfriend’s 17 inch Altimaxes were actually manufactured in France!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            In my mind, the Trollblazer replaced the Buick Rainier which replaced the Olds Bravada although Rainier was offered in RWD only trim which the Olds and Saab were not AFAIK.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            No love for the Rainier?

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            Pretty sure the Rainier was offered in AWD as well as RWD. IIRC it was the only short wheelbase V8 version you could get.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Rainier was offered in both trims but Bravada/97x were only offered in AWD.

            “The Saab 9-7X was the last of the GMT360 SUVs. It was one of the first Saabs to feature standard all-wheel drive, along with the Saab 9-2X. It was the only GMT360 SUV not available with rear-wheel drive.”

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saab_9-7X

            ADDITIONAL:

            I was wrong on the Bravada

            For GMT360 only:

            ” Rear-wheel drive was available for the first time as well, making this the first rear wheel drive Oldsmobile since the 1992 Custom Cruiser.”

            Previous incarnations were AWD only.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldsmobile_Bravada

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I thought the 9-7X was a SWB version? It never looked especially long to me.

            It was always interesting to me that on the S10 versions, the Bravada got its own AWD system, totally separate from the 4WD of all the other versions. #luxury

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @CoreyDL

            Which can create headaches for owners, dealers, and indy shops. Much better to go with a standard but the marketeers felt they had to differentiate Bravada/Trollblazer even if that comes at the expense of mfg (one model using its own unique/more expensive driveline) and owners (paying more for parts for said driveline or incurring unique problems due to said driveline).

            Lincoln still does this with air ride, which drove us bonkers back in the day because it ALWAYS fails. It was like an additional tax on a used car you knew you’d eventually have to pay (kinda like a timing belt!).

            #airridefail

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Just imagine how much better the Bravada would have been…

            If they didn’t develop a special driveline, and instead put ALL of that money into making the interior better.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Stop making sense.

            Don’t get too excited though, in RenCen logic the money saved would not have gone into the Bravada and would have simply funded another model in a financial black hole.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You’re right, then we’d of got a Pontiac Montana S10 SUV as well.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    How have the 2008-2010 9-3’s been holding up, reliability wise? The prices are VERY tempting on those, but maybe it’s just too good to be true.

    • 0 avatar
      toplessFC3Sman

      9-3’s are much different cars, and can be a great buy on the used market as long as you dont get a first-year model (2003). 2007 – 2009 or so had some issues with the valvetrain – IMO a well-cared for 2005-6 is the best option

    • 0 avatar
      LUNDQIK

      They are fine, especially 2007+ 9-3s. They were mid cycle re-designed and made even more “GM”. The interior electronics were simplified. The 9-3s run a variant of GM’s ecotec motors. Many engine parts (and some suspension / driveline bits) can be taken off that generation Chevy Cobalt, or the current Cruze / Opel cars. So some parts are still even in production. These cars also aren’t prone to engine sludge or bad “cassettes” from Saabs past.

      There is one glaring issue with the refreshed 9-3s though – intake valves. Overtime they will deform and no longer seed correctly resulting in loss of compression and hard starts. Its $300 in parts and a weekend if you are mechanically inclined, or typically a $2k repair from an independant. Few 9-3s, especially in cold climates, make it above 100k before exibiting this problem. So if you go after one with this kind of miles, the work has likely been done, or its one of the cars that isn’t effected.

      This issue does not impact 2003-2006 cars, 2007MY is a hybrid (all the interior and engine updates of the 2008+ cars w/o the new front end and tail lights). 2007s are hit or miss on the valves issue and appears to be the year the switch over occured. 2007s that have been reporting this issue (over at Saabcentral) have late build months. 2008+ seem to be more effected.

      Other than that they are good, stout little catrs. Fun to drive, and, if you choose, easy to modify. Contrary to popular belief parts are readily available and reasonably priced. These cars can and do frequently last, well over 200k.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        Mmph, that intake valve problem looks nasty, now that I’ve read up. I’d certainly have to have documented proof of repair. I will still consider this car though. Thanks!

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Better off buying one that needs the repair for a price that reflects that it needs it. Then you KNOW it was done, and done correctly.

        • 0 avatar
          LUNDQIK

          Eh, the way I looked at it when I bought my 9-3 was that they are a great value (tough to find that level of car for the money). Its typical for many cars to have some sort of an achilles heel. Nissans got SMOD and has over heating tranmissions, the 3-series had sub-frame issues, Subaaru’s eat heat gaskets, AWD fords eat PTU seals, etc, etc. As long as you go into a used car with eyes open and spend time on the forums – you’ll know what to look for and usually even how to fix it.

          Yes, when I read about the intake valves (and for that matter SMOD on my X) it was frightening. But these are samples against a wider range of sales. I wouldn’t consider a 6+ year old Saab 9-3 to be any more or less reliable than the average used car.

          Anyway, kvndoom don’t be turned off to Saab. Especially if you were thinking about one as an extra car.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’m curious to know how the late 90’s-2002 93s are, the models that were basically updated 900s.

      I can find them in fine shape on the cheap but I’m just worried about electric gremlins.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        See my comment lower in the discussion,

        TL;DR: they’re really not that bad, but like all used cars, highly dependent on previous maintenance history, in this case with respect to timely oil changes with high quality oil.

    • 0 avatar
      Zelgadis

      I know you didn’t ask about the 9-5 specifically, but since I own one, I figured I’d add another possibility to your list. I have a 2007 9-5 Aero with 140,000 km. I drive it in all of the worst conditions imaginable here in Canada. Snow. Salt. Traffic. Everything. So far, only one major issue has popped up: the alternator died. For that and other minor issues, parts have been easy to come by. I’m finding this a very, very solid car that is crazy fast for a sedan. I wish they were still made.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        I saw a 2011 9-5 at the park when I went walking yesterday. I loved its looks. Very rare, but these $50k cars can be found for under 20 grand when they do pop up! AND can be bought with a manual. The older ones look great too, and more space is more good.

        I love my Altima, but I have to admit it doesn’t have a lot of soul, which is why I might not get another one when I hand it down. We’ll see.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Here’s what my mechanic said about that final 9-5. I had asked him about one parked in the little lot of the shop, which was brown and caught my eye.

          “It’s a car they sold before it was finished. And they threw every piece of half-baked tech they had at it.”

          “They look great, and they’re fine when running – but that isn’t very often.”

          They’re seemingly awful from a reliability standpoint.

  • avatar
    Toad

    You are bumping up against the “Sunk Cost Fallacy:” you have poured so much money into repairs that surely the car must be mostly OK now. Nope. You have seen the future with this car and it consists of pouring more money into it. Cut your losses.

    For a great read on Sunk Cost Fallacy: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-02-13/happy-valentine-s-day-now-cut-your-losses

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      not that we can tell the future here…but it seems to me most car owners go the other way with this, getting rid of a car right after they fix it.

      They are worried something else will go wrong. That is sort of rational, but other than some sort of nightmare lemon, what else will go wrong? No more than the average used car likely, and any used car you might replace it with that is more than a few years old will need work right away.

      The guy got unlucky, head gaskets dont usually go in a turbo Subaru. The oil leaks can be fixed. The saab specific parts are all cosmetic. He likes the car. Despite groupthink here the wrx is a tough little car, and all the parts you need are available and reasonably priced despite what sajeev says.

      I think the guy needs a new mechanic, maybe a Subaru specialist, should not take a month to do the heads there are no parts in that more than a day away. Don’t blame the car for a bad mechanic.

      • 0 avatar
        Brumus

        Power6, you’re on quite the rampage here to defend the sullied name of Subaru.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          I guess it might appear that way! I just happen to speak up when I know something about the subject. You don’t always find that on the Internet lol. I’m not a fanboi just had a number of subarus myself as well as few in the family, know Subaru mechanics etc.

          Somebody has to bring some rationality to the “derp derp subarus are unreliable and volkswagens all blow up” drivel that goes on around here ha

          • 0 avatar
            Brumus

            You agree that the Crosstrek is underpowered?

          • 0 avatar
            Grahambo

            +1000, Power6 (and Dal below). Head gaskets are just not an issue for the turbo boxers the way they are for NA boxers of that generation. More broadly, I’d say that turbo Subarus of that era – while not Honda or Toyota – acquit themselves very well in terms of cost of maintenance/reliability when compared to cars of the same era (or any, really) with a similar degree of fun/practicality/performance. In fact, there are precious few cars with such a mix to begin with, which is part of the issue. Turbo – and NA – Subies do seem to get an unwarranted amount of negative attention on this site because they don’t live up to some Platonic ideal of perfect Japanese reliability and immunity to mistreatment.

          • 0 avatar
            bunkie

            You forgot to mention the Northstar. All of which, as we know, are the equivalent of Schroedinger’s hand grenade.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I agree with this 100%. The time to dump it was before spending all that money on it. It’s fixed now, drive the thing. If it need struts, put WRX struts on it, I doubt very much you will notice the difference.

        And as I always say, there are a LOT more bad mechanics than bad cars. A month to do the heads on a Subaru? That dude was spending his money on a 3.5 week vacation.

        Though I will say, the myth of Subaru baffles me. They have never been all that, and I say that as someone who had one as his first car. At one point my extended family had 11 Subarus – there are very good reasons why the current count is zero. Too much money for not enough payback on a lot of different levels.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          They seem no worse or better than any other car. Certainly not deserving of some bulletproof old Toyota class reputation. What sort of problems did you and your family have? You and I might be rational car guys but I find others might have typical troubles or even atypical troubles with a particular lemon and say “I’ll never buy one of those again” for irrational reasons. Lord knows people buy cars for completely irrational reasons.

          My moms 325i spontaneously burst into flame in the driveway. She won’t buy another BMW but I don’t take that to mean BMWs are unreliable and have inordinate number of problems. So I don’t take whether anyone I know is a repeat buyer of a make to mean anything in particular, but that is just me.

          • 0 avatar
            derekson

            I don’t think Subaru has terrible reliability, but there are certainly legitimate head gasket and oil consumption issues on a number of version of the boxer 4s. It just seems kind of bizarre that they’ve gotten such a mainstream reputation for reliability at this point though. Is it just because people think Japanese cars are all automatically as reliable as Toyotas or Hondas have historically been?

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          RUST. Right up to the mid 2000’s cars, which was when the last in my family were bought. And they just cost too much for what little gain you get these days. My cousin just got rid of the last one in the family, a 2005 Outback, because it is rusted beyond economic repair at only 10 years old. Not just body rot, but brake and fuel line rot too. It would probably be on the road in a state with no safety inspection, but it is a goner here unless someone can fix it themselves on the cheap. She sure can’t. And it HAS been an expensive car to keep on the road as it has aged.

          Fear of repairs would certainly not stop me from buying a new Subaru now, all cars need repairs. I just think they are poor value vis-à-vis the competition today, and I have zero use for awd on a pavement bound vehicle. Back in the early ’80s they were a TON cheaper than a Toyota or a Honda due to not being established yet. That is what got my family into them in the first place, but those days are long gone.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            You are skewed since you are in Maine. No doubt the old 90’s and early 00s Subarus were rust buckets even around Boston you can probably hear the GC Imprezas rusting if you walk by one. We don’t salt the roads here to a pearly white like NH and ME though.. The 2002+ Impreza and 2005+ Legacies don’t rust worse than any other here. We are still driving an 05 Outback XT it has no rust at all on it. My sister is driving her 07 with a ton of miles on it no rust. 9 times out of 10, and you probably know this, when a car has inordinate rust it is because the factory protection was compromised. For example my old Lexus has two spots where I am holding back rust, both on body panels that were obviously (only to a car guy of course) repaired from previous accidents. Here is another case where someone says “Oh mine rusted out those cars are junk” and almost every time it was some compromise that is not the cars fault.

            At any rate just one state south Subarus don’t rust out any more than normal. It is ironic though you would think with their geographic sales regions they would have the best rust protection in the biz!

            Agreed the resale value on a Subaru makes them tough to see the value, I liked them better when others didn’t like them. We could argue all day about AWD especially on this site! You don’t like AWD, I do on my performance cars, you are the prolific torch carrier of paying extra for BMW performance so clearly you understand why a FWD WRX would not be quite as fun. Normal people like AWD because they can run all season tires and not get stuck. My sister got stuck in her Beetle all the time. Most of the time in her apartment parking lot. The Subie plows right through. She likes that. Stop pretending people need to be rational when you yourself aren’t in the least!

          • 0 avatar
            LUNDQIK

            It would be interesting to know the Saab differences on the Saabaru 9-2X. Saab did galvanize many of its components – so rust on this paticular model may not be as bad as past Suubarus.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            I assume every car for sale in the US today has double side galvanized panels except the roof? Probably any car made after 2000 does. Or is this not true?

      • 0 avatar
        csj

        Subarus are different enough that it is worth finding a good specialist mechanic. I use one, and he turns around blown head gaskets in 2 or 3 days at a reasonable rate.

  • avatar
    Power6

    Sajeev, nevermind European make parts, price out some parts for a Toyota and then compare to Subaru they are actually some of the most reasonably priced OEM parts!

    I always thought of making a parts index like a stock index, for each make, maybe each model. Something to compare parts pricing across manufacturers. I think consumer reports used to do this for body parts? Nobody cares about such things any more though…

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I have to somewhat agree with you. Around the same time I replaced the front bumper covers on my Impreza, and my sister’s Fusion. The brand new Subaru bumper was $250 retail from the dealer. The bumper from Ford was just shy of $500, and didn’t include any of the trim that it required. I ended up with a reman bumper for the Fusion at $350.

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t doubt you because that’s not surprising, but which Toyota? Don’t say Supra or LS430! But seriously, I would love to see a parts index like that, and I betcha the overall parts index for a Toyota sedan based on the Camry (or the Camry itself) will overall be lower than a Subaru, forget about the Saabaru.

      More to the point, buying OEM parts at this age isn’t necessarily a bright idea: what’s gonna happen when you include parts prices from Rock Auto in your index?

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        Its an ES300, a damn Camry and some of those parts are expensive! The ES specific ones are worse though.

        You open up a whole ‘nother battle about OEM vs Rock Auto…Do you want to buy parts designed to last for the 120k miles the first part lasted, or do you want to buy cheap Chinese parts designed to last juuust long enough for you to forget the mechanics name that put them in. There are reports from the Toyota Forums of aftermarket ball joints lasting just a year or so. I have a tough time buying aftermarket for that reason. Nevermind the abysmal tuning and quality of say shocks and struts, but there go the owners ripping out perfectly good solid OEM stuff for cheap “quick struts” that ride like a truck and blow out after a couple years. I’m such a bad old car owner it costs me a fortune to use OEM parts nevermind having the dealer install them.

        Where was I, oh yeah an aftermarket parts index would be nice too.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          This is a great post.

          What do you think of Moog’s Problem Solver quick struts?

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          The trick is to find out on the forums who the OE supplier is. I bought an Aisin fan clutch for my 4Runner, absolutely identical to OEM, for $100. Radiators are Koyo, belts are Gates, shocks are Tokico. When I was buying pads for my Tundra-caliper shod brakes, I bought made in Japan “Advics,” again, the OE supplier for Tundras from the factory, for $40 for the set.

          Some non critical or well reviewed aftermarket items I’m okay with, or ones that cant’ really fail in spectacular fashion. I had Moog swaybar end links installed since if one breaks, I’m not ending up in a ditch. The camber bolts in the lower control arms are now Moog units, which are greasable, unlike the originals. Likewise I went with Moog for the lower control arm bushings, we’ll see where I end up with that in a few years. When time comes to replace lower ball joints, I’m going with Toyota OEM. At $80 a side, they’re probably twice as expensive as a Moog unit, but the forums’ decree is to not skimp on these things, the consequences can be dire. I’ve found many OEM parts for the 4runner to be perfectly reasonable, like $40 rear shocks.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I just put Moog control arms with integrated ball joint on my Pontiac (81K) and what a difference they make (as well as solving an annoying noise). In the case of Toyota, the OEM parts quality may already be top notch thus OEM is the way to go. GM parts quality on the other hand is abysmal, hence me looking at what I believed to be quality aftermarket solutions. In the case of my RWD Volvo, I go OEM which surprisingly you can still get for some parts.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            @getmnykh agreed on all the points. I bought the Deeza sway bar end links, because really if I have to put new ones in every couple years…maybe I won’t even have the car in a couple years. I’ve heard many of the parts like wheel bearings for the Camry chassis you get from Rock Auto will be the very same NSK parts as OEM.

            Springs, and shocks/struts are a different animal, Tokico and KYB makes struts for everyone. You can only buy an ES300 strut that is tuned for the chassis (the forums members call it that Lexus ride) from Toyota though which I beleive is KYB. They sell an aftermarket KYB, which is cheaper and the exact same part is spec’d for a Solara, Avalon, ES and Camry, so not tuned for a specific car in the least. Most don’t care but there are a ton of people wondering why their car rides so bad after they replace the struts. Don’t even get started on springs, I tried a set of Moog springs when I replaced the ES struts, the springs were completely different coil configuration, totally different rate and ride height, painted with black paint that immediately flakes off when you compress the spring…had to pull them out and get proper OEM powder coated correct rate springs. This is for a Camry chassis if they can’t get that right there is no hope.

            28-cars I am generally in favor of Moog parts. The fully assembled struts, no matter who makes them though, are built to such a low price. You take something that OEM prices (a compeltely new strut springs mounts rubber and all) which would cost $300 per corner to assemble, maybe $150 with quality aftermarket parts. You price that down to a few hundred a set. The price ahs to come out of somewhere. These fully assembled struts are made for cheap lazy mechanics to swap out quickly and overcharge customers. The only thing “correct” about these parts is that they physically bolt in and hold the car up, not much else good beyond that.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Power6

            Thanks for the reply. I’d used Moog successfully in the past but apparently Moog has discontinued its “Problem Solver” brand and replaced it with “R-series” for half the retail price. I was told it was to compete with Dorman and other aftermarket shops who always sold a lesser product at a lesser price. I viewed it as a misguided quest for volume over quality on the part of Federal Mogal. I ordered 2 “problem solver” control arms for my Pontiac and 4 “problem solver” quick struts for my Saturn SL2 from Rock Auto as I wanted to get the good Moog model before they were completely unavailable. I put the control arms on the Pontiac and am very happy I did, but I have yet to put the quick struts on the Saturn because it doesn’t need them yet (it had 37K original miles). Since Saturn is gone and SL2 is *long* gone, any “OEM” parts which would be available I assumed would be inferior to what is on the car (esp since my 2008 Pontiac has had a number of inferior grade parts in its short life from the factory). GM seems to have beancounted hard leading up to the bailout from my own personal experiences and what others have told me.

            IIRC the Moog quickstruts on the Saturn SL were right around $100 a wheel, the control arms were $109 apiece. I know in the case of the Saturn, the rear sway bar links I purchased around the same time were on clearance for $12.95/pair marked down from $40/pair, maybe the quickstruts were on sale because the SL model was so old?

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Power6 you’re right on the Moog springs, I fell for the siren song of $50 for a pair of rear spring for my 4Runner off rockauto, I think they’re way too soft and if not for my height-adjustable Monroe air shocks (which are pretty sloppy at damping), they’d already be sagging.

            My next order of business is to order OEM Toyota parts to redo the rear suspension: OEM Toyota springs for about $70 a piece, made for the 1999 4Runners, a smidge taller than the 96-98 springs and a full inch taller than the 00-02 springs. Along with that I will get the correct OEM rear shocks for $40 a side. I should have done this from the get-go, “you buy cheap you buy twice” applies here in full. I put KYB ‘gas-adjust’ struts in front when I first bought the truck to replace shot original pieces from 1996, and I don’t have any complaints, namely because it’s such a dramatic improvement from the wallow-y worn out originals. I’m sure buying the OE struts would yield an even smoother yet still controlled ride.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            There really is nothing better than some quality 90s OEM Toyota parts LOL. The powder coating on the springs is the toughest I have ever seen, you couldn’t scrape the stuff off with a hammer and chisel.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I’m somehow always surprised when people blame the manufacturer for things like engine or transmission issues on a very used car with unknown previous owners. It doesn’t sound like this was some tuner kid’s car, but maybe the previous owner had a tendency to drive it hard before it was fully warmed up, or overheated it once and immediately decided it was time to sell it before the effects become obvious.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I don’t see this owner “blaming” Subaru or Saab for his woes, he is just wondering if he throwing cash into the fire by keeping it and is concerned about parts availability.

      If anything, I’d say if the 9-2x is generally considered reliable and this one is proving to be an exceptional basket case then he should probably sell it because it likely did suffer abuse.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        I’m commenting on the comments as much as anything, though the owner did expect that he was getting “basically a “reliable” Subaru”. In reality, he wasn’t buying a Subaru so much as he was buying the previous owner’s treatment of a Subaru, to paraphrase Mr. Lang.

        Anyway, it sounds like the major issue has been addressed, it’s in good condition overall, and is enjoyable to drive, so I’d want to hang on to it. The Saab-specific parts shouldn’t be too hard to locate in this internet age, and it’s mechanically just a common Subaru.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    It sounds to me like this car was driven hard for its entire life before you got it. That’s normal with WRXes and one reason they’re a very difficult used buy.

    Assuming you don’t bend up any bodywork, you’ve probably gotten through the worst of it by doing the engine repairs. I should second that head gasket issues are not normal with turbo boxers, so you got unlucky. Everything else that goes wrong is likely to be small and niggling, although it may add up — as with any 127,000+ mile car.

    If you really want bulletproof reliability, you probably need something a bit newer/less used. If you decide to keep the car, I’d try to find a really good Subaru specialist. (Easy for me to say because I’m in Seattle.)

  • avatar
    fozone

    The writer doesn’t state where he’s from, but i’m guessing it isn’t anywhere in ‘Subaru Territory’. The tip-off is a mechanic who had no idea what he was doing.

    The parts are plentiful, the head gaskets (along with the valve cover gaskets, which you should do while you’re in there…) should take a decent mechanic familiar with the brand no more than a day to complete.

    Yes, it is a grand or so.
    And yes, that sucks.

    But once you’ve replaced those well-known failure items, it’s done. If the repair was done properly, you won’t have to do it again. And unless the car has had the absolute snot beaten out of it, you’ve just tackled the most expensive repair you’re likely to run across.

    Regardless, if you CL the car, it will be sold quickly; you probably won’t even take too bad of a loss..

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    Coming from another fanboi (mopar though),i keep cars running far longer than they should. Sajeevs advice is good, run while you can from this.

  • avatar
    mechaman

    To quote the late Billy Carter, “You both got screwed.” You paid too much, he charged too little. I’d dump this turd.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I had the same model. It was a decent car, but I dumped it when I knew Saab was going under because I was afraid the resale value would tank. But it was the perception that I was worried about, not any actual ownership issues.

    Honestly, they really are just Subarus Imprezas with a few cosmetic differences, so I wouldn’t worry about the fact it’s a Saab and what to do about parts and service. About the only time you’ll run into that is if you say needed a new bumper or hood.

    They really were sharp looking in my opinion, better looking than the same Subaru model. And they are worth almost nothing, so if you’ve done major service, i would vote to drive it into the ground.

  • avatar
    vadonkey

    As someone who owned a Saabaru, I can understand this person’s dilemma. Only 10K of these cars were built and while 95% is Subaru, it’s the 5% that’s an issue. Good luck finding a front or rear bumper cover that isn’t tore up. the interior is Saab specific (seats, door trim, etc)

    The head gaskets fail on these, just like any Subaru…mine were leaking…they all leak. rear wheel bearings fail, the paint is crappy.

    Adam, if you haven’t checked it out saab92x.com is a forum for the owners of Saabarus

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I don’t follow the Subies much anymore. I had a bought brand new WRX wagon 02′ MT.

    I had the car for 9k miles. In those 9k I had a new rear gear installed and a turbo and found the car to be not that fast, tons of turbo lag, when it was over 90 degrees outside it just did not want to run. Oh and it enjoyed pump gas like a pickup.

    I live at altitude, so perhaps that was the issue with the heat and the mpg and the general lack of sportyness.

    Dump the car, no good will come from keeping it, seems to me the table has been set with how this dining experience is going to go. There are a lot of options available, heck even a newer WRX if you must.

  • avatar
    kutanks

    I also have a saabaru, only mine is the n/a model and a 5 speed. Check out saab92x.com, the owners forum for the car, very full of good information. The issue with these cars is that they are really subarus with a tux. Most of them were serviced by saab dealers when new, who didn’t always know what they were doing. Take it to a subaru speciality shop and tell them it’s a wrx. All the mechanicals are identical to the wrx of the same year. I was lucky that my car had only 60,000 miles on it when I bought it, but I knew going in it would be a bit more maintenance than my previous maxima or Prius. I could have gotten a wrx of the same year as my 92X for about the same price but double the miles. To be honest I never would have considered the Saabaru if I could have found a manual subaru with low miles for under $10,000. If you do decide to sell it post it on saab92x.com to get the most money for it. It’s a relatively rare car, only about 3,000 of the 10,000 made were the aero (turbo) version.

  • avatar
    VW16v

    Adam, are you taking the car to a Saab “European” shop, or a Subaru shop for mechanical issues? Those European shops are going to be way more expensive and will not know your Subaru like other Saab’s. Not saying you should keep the car, even though it sounds like you have rebuilt 80% of the engine. It may just be best to sell the little car. Have you looked at a newer Impreza sport? Very reliable, and has that sport wagon look of your Saabaru.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    its the rear main seal or the piston access panel. when you buy a subaru the opportunity for oil leaks are over 9000.

  • avatar
    hotdog453

    I’m a huge Subaru fan; love em to death. Still have a 2002 WRX, bought a 2015 WRX recently, and the family has 3 others in the fleet,

    That said, here’s the issues:

    1) The cars themselves were never super reliable. Especially of that generation; the motors are turbocharged, run hot, need good oil, need good maintenance, need love.
    2) Used Subaru are either:

    a) Owned by Bros, who beat the snot out of them, even if they do maintain them.
    b) Owned by non-Bro normal owners, who by virtue of not being “Car people”, don’t really take good care of them. Less often oil changes, crappy low viscosity oil, etc etc.

    3) Yeah, they do rust.

    That said, to the original author of the question?

    The car is now at 127,000 miles- It’s old.

    valve cover gaskets (twice)- Assuming it got to 120kish miles without this being done, I’d assume the first one was done incorrectly. No reason it should immediately fail again after a proper install.

    rebuilt heads and head gaskets- WTF? Why were the heads rebuilt? And why did that cost 3000$?
    new power steering pump- 127k miles.
    replaced valve breather assemblies- 127k miles.
    new radiator- Lemme guess, the plastic cracked and spewed? Yeah. 127k miles.

    This is less an issue of “Is Subaru bad”, more of an issue of “I bought an old car and am now surprised it costs money to maintain”.

    That said, what would I do with the car? I’d sell it. On NASIOC. People will eat it up and fight you for it. You might even be able to get two guys in backwards baseball hats to fight over it, to the death, if you price it right.

    • 0 avatar
      rustyra24

      This is the most honest Subaru post I have ever read. The owners thing cracks me up. You have to buy a Subaru new or it will have problems and that might not even save you.

      I had the heads on my 2005 outback xt rebuilt because the stock tune burns the valves on cylinder 2 and 4. Pretty common issue on the EJ25T.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “You might even be able to get two guys in backwards baseball hats to fight over it, to the death, if you price it right.”

      Hah! Although the automatic transmission will probably turn off a lot of people.

      I agree on the common theme here being an incompetent and/or greedy mechanic, not necessarily a terribly unreliable car. $3000 would almost get you a low mile, warrantied used motor installed, but that’s not even what I’d do. There are good sources of well rebuilt heads, and they cost much less than $3000. Between that and a careful cleaning and surfacing of the mating surfaces, along with using a good quality head gasket, there is NO reason for any remaining oil leaks. If I paid someone $3000 to ‘rebuild’ my heads and it took them the better part of a month and I got back a car that leaked oil, I’d put a screwdriver through their ear.

      Oh just had another thought on the ‘mystery oil smell,’ check your CV boots. The exhaust cooks them to a crisp, they split and then start flinging grease all over hot metal = burning oil smell.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      id probably put it on an ebay auction, but get the info out to those clubs. make a decent listing, tons of pics of the good/bad/ugly, and no reserve. that way you get exactly what top bidder is willing to pay. and no guilt, either.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I can’t believe this is even a question.

    Dump it, and don’t ever buy another Subaru, or Saab for that matter.

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    As far as I know the turbo motors had a different HG design and weren’t prone to failure. Valve cover gasket replacements are a normal occurrence on these cars though I think.

    Subaru’s are durable cars, but require a lot of maintenance and wrench spinning to keep them going. If you have the time or energy for it then you can get them to pretty high mileages. But for it not to cost and arm and a leg, you need to be open to doing it yourself.

  • avatar

    The comments about selling on Saab and Subaru specific forums are spot on.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      Its worth mentioning, although having an automatic transmission probably dampens this particular car’s appeal, the Subaru lovers covet these turbo Saabarus and if it is in good shape could probably command a pretty penny in the forums, and for that reason alone might be worth selling it now!

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Going off of anecdotal evidence, namely what I see rolling through my brother’s shop:

    1st gen WRX (2.0L turbo): made it to 210k with rather indifferent maintenance, before oil starvation due to not topping off/timely changes spun a bearing and the rod blew a hole in the block. But no HG issues, and I was frankly impressed with how well this little car held up given the negligent maintenance regimen. Fair amount of rust on the subframe and some on the rear quarter panels, the car lived in upstate NY and Boston for most of its life. You really need to use a good synthetic and change it regularly on these hot-running turbo motors, and keep an eye on the level, that 210k motor would have made it a lot longer that way.

    00-04 outback 2.5 NA: more than one instance of blown HGs, he’s got one in the shop as we speak getting a used engine put in after a poor HG repair by a previous shop caused a repeat issue, with the block actually cracking on one of the cylinder walls necessitating the used motor option ($1300 for a motor of somewhat unknown provenance)
    .
    05-09 outback 2.5 NA: likewise, I’ve seen an 07 come in the shop with somewhat over 100k miles come in that needed new head gaskets, along with the requisite CV boots.

  • avatar
    mattthemountainman

    I was a long time lurker on TTAC, but finally decided to register so I could comment. I have owned an 05 turbo and now own an 06 for the 2.5 liter.

    If you sell I am in agreement with the comments about NASIC or saab9-2x.com, you will get a much better price. Put in the time to make a quality post too.

    It is also good advice to take it to a good Subaru shop, body panels are pretty much the only Saab parts.

    It does sound like this is a case where the car was beaten by a previous owner who might not have been on top of the maintenance.

  • avatar
    facelvega

    When the Saabaru came out, I thought for sure I would eventually own one– a sleeper WRX with better looks for cheaper than the normal one, why not? Since then, I have owned a late 90s Subaru and a late 90s Saab NG900. I will never have another Subaru (great I guess if you don’t like cars and interiors don’t matter to you), but would absolutely buy another NG900.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      My brother speaks highly of an early 9-3 of his friend’s, one of the 98-02 cars which are highly revised NG900s rather than the newer sedan/wagon only bodies. Super practical hatchback shape, not than the ‘chopped butt’ hatchbacks but that longer fastback shape that leaves good trunk length. The motors are plenty sturdy for the most part, I’ve heard of DI cassettes (sort of a pack of coils that sits on top of the sparkplugs as a single unit) failing but that might be linked to neglecting to change spark plugs in a timely manner. Also some talk of engine sludge, but that might be exclusive to the 9-5s? In any case, the one my brother regularly works on has over 170k at this point, the most serious repair was installing a used transmission (5spd manual) after the owner did something awful to the original one while rocking the car out of a snowy parking spot. I think that was a $700 job, not earth shattering. Besides that it’s pretty standard stuff: a window regulator here, a CV joint there, and just maintenance stuff. Nothing you wouldn’t see on any other older used car, Japanese or American or otherwise.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Of all the Saabs I have owned, the ’95 NG900SET was by far my favorite, and the one I wish I still had the most. It was just a great little car.

        A few thoughts on NG900 (’94-’98) vs. 9-3 (’99-’02) Saabs.

        1. NG900s and the ’99 9-3s are basically immune from sludge other than simple neglect (i.e. 50K mile oil change intervals). Different motor than the later cars. ’00-’02 9-3s ARE prone to sludge if not meticulously maintained beyond what Saab recommended at the time, especially automatics. Manuals are better. Not quite as bad as an early 9-5, but not much is! That said, by now most of them that were going to sludge have done so, and it is not hard to check for. Remove the valve cover and LOOK! ’00-’02 9-3s also have an electronic throttle body which will fail eventually, though they are not expensive to have rebuilt compared to what the dealer will want for a new one. The older cars have a cable.

        2. The NG900 has a nicer interior and I think they are built a little better. The 9-3 drives better but has some evident cost cutting in the interior and they seem to rust a little bit worse for some reason even though they are newer. Probably more environmentally friendly paint and undercoating. If you aren’t in a big hurry, the NG900S non-turbo is an absolute cockroach of a car, they just never seem to break. Probably the ideal car is a ’98 NG900 as it has all the suspension improvements of the 9-3 while still having the nicer interior. A ’99 9-3 still has the stouter motor of the NG900, so that is an excellent choice too. The earlier NG900s can be upgraded to the later suspension, and even the hydraulic clutch setup for not a ton of money, which improves them greatly.

        At this point, they are pretty old cars, and will of course have typical old car issues, but I think they can be very, very good cars for very little money if bought carefully.

        Overall, the new 9-3 (’03-’10) was an even more improved car, but they are a lot more expensive, and a lot more complex, and much less DIY friendly as that is when Saab started marrying a lot of electronic parts to the car and requiring mothership access to replace them. On the older cars it is really only keys and the stereo that are married, and you only need a Tech-II to deal with them. I think the chance of needing the intake valve fix is still worth getting an ’07 and up car, as the other changes more than outweigh that risk. MUCH simpler interior electronics, and while that stereo may be shared with a bunch of Chevies, it is actually GOOD, unlike the esoteric crap they put in the older ones that fails. And IMHO the rest of the interior is a big improvement, as is the exterior. Those light tubes on the headlights are sooo cool. Plenty of other interior electronics gremlins in the older cars too. I bought an ’08 SportCombi brand new, and liked it a lot (but not as much as the NG900 overall). Sold it to a friend who still owns it and loves it, and has had very little trouble with it over the years. At about 100K with no sign of the intake valve issues.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I’ve always thought that a base model NG900 non-turbo would make a practical runabout, those hatches hold a LOT of stuff.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Thank you for the in-depth post, I’ll have to keep an eye out for later 900’s, either that or pick up a regular VW Golf.

          Saabs have some of the better interiors I’ve ever experienced on a car, things like the ignition might be placed weirdly, but the seats are something else!

      • 0 avatar
        facelvega

        The DI cassettes do go, but though they are a couple hundred bucks online, yes more than normal coils, they are about as difficult to change as a windshield wiper blade. I kept a spare one in the back until my original one died a few months ago at 150k miles.

        What surprised me was riding in a friend’s LS400 of the same year as my Saab: it seemed like every piece of the interior and mechanicals of the Lexus was on its last legs, while the Saab, though just a beater, is completely intact.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      That’s funny, I see it a different way I’m sure our own biases from experience shape what we think is a rational opinion!

      From a regular guy standpoint the Saab was in a bit of a different league than Subaru so I would hope if you pay more you get more in a car.

      Now you mentioned WRX so when we talk about “if you don’t like cars” I would say that more applies to Saab. I’ve driven regular Saabs and have extensive driving in the holy grail of the NG Saabs the mightly Viggen. That chassi is made of rubber and the Viggen is a joke of a performance car although cool in Yellow. Any WRX would run circles around a poor FWD Saab smoking its front tires in hopeless floppy chassis. Lots of Bros drive Subarus but is a special Euro Bro who passes up the proper handling of a BMW, or Audi, or VW…for a Saab.

      In all my years of track days, auto-x, driving schools, rally spectating etc I’ve seen maybe a few Saabs out there on the track to the hundreds of Subarus romping through mod, pavement, rocks and snow. I’ve driven enough Saasbs to know why that is. But hey they might be somewhat more reliable than a Subaru so there is that. Never understood the appeal of the Saabs, if you like the premium euro feel, the German makes are a better drive. Saab, much like Subaru, lost their quirkiness long ago.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I agree – a Viggen is so hilariously inept in chassis tuning compared to the stupid amount of power that they make that they are so bad they are fun in their own right. But that is no way to make time. But I think the lesser cars have a decent blend of performance and extremely good utility for the money.

        I currently have an ’11 BMW 328i wagon, 6spd, rwd, which replaced an ’08 Saab 9-3 SportCombi, 6spd, fwd. I sum them up as this – the Saab was 85% as good as the BMW for 50% of the price. Which made it the deal of the century at the >$13K off discounted price I paid for it. At the 85% of a BMW MSRP, not so much, the BMW is well worth the extra money. But the Saab was a very good car, just too expensive for what you got at MSRP. As a used car, we are back to 85% as good for about 40% or less of the price today. Can’t go wrong either way really.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          Mmm yes we must not forget price! That Viggen as mentioned was bought by a good friend, 3 years old…never titled so sold as a new car, for half MSRP. Half! At 40 something it didn’t hold a candle to the M3, at 20 something it was an interesting car. Since my buddy was the first owner of the car, he got the “Viggen flight school” except they had long since cancelled the school since all the other Viggens had been sold off years before. They sent him to some other Saab school instead.

          Still, just IMO and I love me some FWD, the Viggen was just a mess, not even of the fun kind. My SRT-4 was fun. The Viggen…just didn’t have anything going for it, other than rare yellow, and oddly shaped phallic keyfob.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I don’t disagree about the Viggen at all. Fun for a short while, nothing I would ever own. Just too much engine in too little chassis. Half price though – THAT is a sweet deal. Afterall, you don’t have to stick your foot all the way in it all the time…

        • 0 avatar
          facelvega

          My 6spd BMW wagon is a ’10, and I would say that my ’99 9-3 is only about 65% as good, so by triangulation the newer 9-3 was a full third better than its predecessor, which ain’t bad. Still, I’ll be keeping the BMW.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I’d agree with that assessment for sure. And yes, the new 9-3 was a massive leap from the old one, which was an old car at that point. And one based on a fairly crap platform. But it did have its charms in its blend of practicality and kind of sporty kind of luxury.

            As I said, at MSRP, there was simply no comparison between the newer 9-3 and a 3-series, which is why Saab took a dirtnap and BMW has record sales year after year. But factor in that you could at times buy TWO 9-3s for the price of a 3-series, if money is an issue you had to consider the Saab. If money is no object, then BMW is pretty much THE answer in this class of car.

      • 0 avatar
        facelvega

        Yeah, when I said “if you don’t like cars” I should have said “if you don’t obsess about the way cars are designed and engineered.” An NG900 is a decent handling car for a daily driver, with a good cornering/comfort balance, but not really sporting. Working on a Subaru just doesn’t give the same feeling of soul as a Saab.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          Huh A Camry has good balance but not really sporting. That’s spot on for my ES300. So its a Swedish beigemobile. We can argue about soul all day totally subjective, I guess the Saabs didn’t do it for me, I grew up with Audis.

          I wouldn’t have owned an Subarus had it not been for the WRX. I’m not really interested in the normal models. Again there used to be a bit of quirk to them like the Saabs had in the 80s and 90s. Like an old 9000 Turbo hatch, now there was Saab with soul.

          • 0 avatar
            facelvega

            I would still probably do an SVX, maddening ownership prospect though they are. But soul, for sure. The NG900 isn’t beige, just almost accidentally practical, as opposed to an ES300, which is just straight up a sensible luxo-beater.

            I had a beautiful Audi 5000 wagon once, which was a pleasure to drive but would just turn itself off in the middle of the road every few hundred miles and refuse to turn back on for a random amount of time between 3 minutes and overnight, and two specialist mechanics couldn’t tell me why. It also leaked mineral oil from the steering rack like crazy, so I replaced the rack in my brother’s front yard in the middle of the winter, and the new one leaked at exactly the same rate. I now have a Mercedes of the same year as the 5000 and a BMW that is 25 years newer, but never yet dared to try another Audi. And I like both the German cars better than the Saab.

  • avatar
    r129

    When my mom was shopping for a new car back in 2006, one of our stops was the Saab dealer. There was a leftover Saabaru that was a great deal, so I encouraged her to drive it. I don’t know why we even bothered to go on the test drive, because she instantly hated it. Just from sitting in it, my impression was that it was too unrefined to be sold as a “premium” vehicle. I mean, it’s fine for what it is as a Subaru, but it just didn’t work as a Saab.

    She ended up buying a 2007 9-3, which gave her 8+ years of trouble-free service, with the exception of the headlights burning out at an unusual rate. Now she has just ordered a new Subaru Outback 3.6, which in her mind is a “premium” vehicle. More anecdotal evidence that former Saab buyers are now Subaru buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      King of Eldorado

      Wasn’t there a short time near the end of the 9-2X’s run when GM held an everyone-gets-employee-pricing promotion on all GM cars, and the 9-2X became a terrific bargain to the tune of several thousand dollars as compared to the equivalent Subaru-branded Impreza?

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        @King yes there was quite the fervor in 2005 over these since there were a couple unique aspects of the Saasbaru at the time which you could not get in the equivalent WRX model: Quicker STI steering rack, leather, HID headlights and since it was a Saab, 3 years or something like that of free maintenance. I understand when the GM employee pricing for everyone hit the 9-2X aero was cheaper than the WRX that didn’t have those things.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      One irony is that people were calling the 9-2x “the most reliable Saab ever” when it came out. It’s now 10 years later, and any 9-3 or (especially) 9-5 from those same years is much more likely to be running well today.

      The 9-2x Aero (turbo) listed at about the same price as a base 9-3, and there was absolutely no comparison between the two. The 9-3 was the much better car. I’m sure your mom wasn’t the only customer to come in for the 9-2 and leave in a 9-3.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    You could replace this with another small, powerful, odd AWD hatchback which is not Subaru and will be more reliable.

    The Inifniti EX.

  • avatar
    Imp

    Has anyone asked why he paid $3k for a $1.5k MAX job? I’d be talking to the ‘mechanic’ that did it.

  • avatar
    rustyra24

    The 2.0 liter turbo engine in the first Saabaru and WRX platforms is more reliable than the later 2.5 turbo engine. I have heard of the turbo 2.0 having head gasket issues over time. It still doesn’t have the issues the 2.5 is known for.

    The later EJ25 in the STI, Legacy, Forester, 06 Saabaru is know to have plenty of issues. The worst being broken ring lands and burnt valve issues. The Legacy and Outback eat turbos because of banjo filters and bad shaft design.

    It seems like injectors and coil packs go bad on a regular basis as well. Another fun thing these cars do is destroy the transmission shaft with the throw out bearing. This requires a new transmission.

    Subaru of America is also well know for not following their own warranty and will try to get out of fixing cars.

    I own a Subaru and it drives me nuts.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      That is the worst part of owning a Subaru…sure every car has issues but Subaru steadfastly refuses to warranty in so many cases. The bros on NASIOC say it is because “you probably modified it” and other Stockholm Syndrome excuses. Unfortunately the problems that do happen on Subarus that are real issues like banjo bolt, ringlands, and head gaskets…it would simply put SOA out of business to recall and fix the issues nevermind if they had re-engineered the EJ motor enough to fix the fundamental issues. So the reps blame everything under the sun to get out of a warranty claim.

      My buddy has an S4 and that thing has had issues. But each time he just shows up at the dealer…right this way sir lets get you into this A8. Going on vacation? Sure take the car across 6 states with your family while we fix your S4 up good as new. Heck even Dodge treated me great with the couple minor issues I had on my SRT-4. I’ve heard GM dealers are downright generous with their performance car warranty claims.

      There really is barely any difference between an in warranty and out of warranty Subaru, either way Subaru is not likely to fix it. So while the drum beats on about unreliable Subarus and awesome Saabs (with only a *few* critical issues LOL) here, this is the real reason I am not likely to buy another Subaru. The company just doesn’t stand behind them.

      • 0 avatar
        rustyra24

        This was a very big deal when the 2005 legacy and Forester came out. Subaru’s oil change interval was 7000 miles. They had turbos blowing up left and right. Subaru changed the interval to 3500 miles the following year.

        When people went in for bad turbos because of infrequent oil changes. They had to have prove they changed oil on a timely basis. Sometimes they wouldn’t warranty the repair because they did 7000 mile changes based on Subaru’s recommendations.

        It is nuts. If the turbo grenades its always owner abuse or infrequent oil changes.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          Yes this was a complicated situation, I believe there is some legal issue to go back and change the maintenance schedule so all Subaru could do was change the schedule for the new cars and “recommend” the 3.5k oil changes for the previous years. Many that didn’t know kept on changing the oil every 7k. And Subaru wouldn’t fix the turbo if it went. Plus add the 05-06 turbos were somehow not as indifferent to long oil changes and partially clogged banjo screens. Its these little things they get wrong and then refuse to fix, sort of like JB describes Porsche in that respect.

          • 0 avatar
            rustyra24

            I think the VF40 and VF46 turbos were fundamentally the same. They just changed how the air routed through the turbo created more low end on the 07-09 cars. I think the turbine shafts on both turbos were extremely small. This lead to their quick demise if not properly maintained.

            The newer cars 07-09 also addressed the oil issue. It primarily being that stupid banjo filter.

            Subaru still hasn’t addressed the ring land and soft pistons issue. I hope they fixed the problem with their new F series engine in the 2015 WRX. The 2015 STI still sports the old EJ25 turbo motor with all the problems.

            I have researched this quite a bit because I own an 05 Outback XT. It has been a maintenance nightmare.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            Apparent reports from the Subaru forums seem to indicate the VF40 broke more often, whatever the reason.

            Subaru never fixed the banjo bolt issue they still have the filters. I had an 09 WRX, which is virtually the same motor as the LGT with a VF52 turbo. Still had the banjo filter, I removed it.

            I have an 05 Outback XT my wifes car, closing in on 130k miles now. I wouldn’t say it has been a nightmare for us, we have done the turbo, control arm bushings, valve cover gaskets, and the driveshafts. More maintenance than I want on a used car. But what do you expect it is a fast family wagon that holds a ton of stuff and handles better than one of those CUVs but jacked up enough to drive on the beach and other CUV stuff. Who else made such a do everything car in 2005?

          • 0 avatar
            rustyra24

            My 05 XT only has 105,000 on it. I have replaced the turbo with a VF46, 2 injectors, 3 coils, 1 oil control valve, wheel bearings, and had heads rebuilt due to burnt valves. It also needs CV boots.

            It was a fun car to drive when it was operational. I had an 03 WRX that I drove like a moron and I never had any issues with it.

            The Subaru runs good right now but I always worry when I drive it. Apparently when one turbo goes you have a very good chance of it happening again. I pulled the oil pan off the car and tried to see if it had metal contamination. I cleaned up everything the best I could.

            I replaced the oil pickup as well. I forget to mention that they destroy Subaru’s on a regular basis.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            I see you have had worse experience than I have! No coils or burnt valves or oil control valves here. You know those oil control valves get the same feed from the filtered banjo. Its actually the first sign that the screen is getting clogged before the turbo gives in from starvation. Lots of perfectly good valves replaced for that reason.

            Did you remove the banjo screen? If you did not replace it or remove your turbo is sure to blow again. If you did address it you are just fine. I actually replaced our turbo with one that had *higher* milage since it was dirt cheap and in good shape. So the car has 120k or so, and the turbo has 130k. Proof positive that the turbos are just fine, as long as the car is maintained. The Outback forums guys said I was nuts but here we are 20k miles on and still going great and did I mention the turbo was dirt cheap.

            I think you need to stay away from the forums, makes every problem seem like a sure thing. Yes we know the spin welds on the oil pickup failed in some cases due to manufacturing flaws. If it hasn’t happened in 105k it ain’t going to happen.

            I’ve built up more trust in the car as the time goes on, once we fixed the big stuff it has been working great. The first year was rough.

          • 0 avatar
            rustyra24

            The OCV that went bad was on the drivers side. I removed all the banjo bolts when I removed the turbo. I had Subaru remove the one behind the timing cover when they did the head work.

            There are some Legacy’s and Outbacks with 150k and it blows my mind. Good luck of the draw I guess.

            I have an oil consumption issue now. When I pulled the pan I found some chunks that appeared to be piston and ring parts. I do have good compression but it still consumes oil.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            Don’t freak out about the ring lands, the Subaru mechanics say you will know if you lose one, it is not something you wonder about.

            If we keep at it both of us will be those people with 150k Subarus. I don’t plan on making 200k though.

            My sister bought her NA Outback with 120k, the engine block was shiny new and all the markings of a Subaru OEM longblock, she’ll make 150k just fine I bet. It’s more reliable than her 01 Beetle with less miles was.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Radiator and valve cover gaskets are pretty typical items at 120k for any car. If you can’t tolerate some oil dripping down the exhaust once in a while, you shouldn’t be driving something that old to begin with. I have that oil burning smell on oil pan gasket leak from my Integra as well, and it is an Integra that is very reliable (250k miles).

    Sell it now and get a new car instead.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      The flat motor arrangement in a Subaru makes the car prone to leaks since the lower gasket is bathed in oil constantly, as well as making small leaks annoyingly smelly. By contrast my old Lexus seeps from the valve covers and a little bit burns off but is not nearly as smelly as a Subaru that needs a valve cover gasket.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Great article. My wife owned a Subaru Brat back when and i thought they had solved those problems. I think we can write a book about Subaru. My first kick in the head was when the fuel pump went and Subaru told me to pound sand. For the life of me i can not see how Subaru could increase their sales. My son-in-law owned 3 Subaru’s and finally gave up. One was enough for me. Subaru’s seem to be OK up to about 90,000 / 100,000 miles. Then the fun begins. Head gaskets (If you complain they give you little pills to put in the radiator) wheel bearings, drive shafts, loose interior pieces, I could go on but why bring back bad dreams. I still like to work on cars and at 79 years of age i now have the time. Problem is i sold my 1991 Mazda Miata because it was running fine and my two VW’s are trouble free. I might spend the weekend going thru Craigslist for that special car.

  • avatar
    bcjammerx

    This all raises many red flags to this being a bad mechanic, every single aspect if the story in fact, can’t believe this wasn’t pointed out by the article writer! According to my research everyone that had this issue were using the single layer gasket and once replaced with the multilayer it didn’t occur again. The mechanic could have done many things wrong, too many to go into, but everything in this story reaks of a bad mechanic not a bad car design. From what I found the 2005 and earlier engines used a single layer head gasket, it had a coating that deteriorated and caused leaks. In 2006 engines they went with a multilayer gasket and no more issues. Thanks to me using subpar quality parts I’m replacing some bent valves (only using aisin or oem timing belts from now on) and my 06 9-2x has multilayer gaskets, 115k and no leaks. Mine is the 2.5i (na) and also I religiously change fluids early using high quality synthetics.

    How ironic I used a subpar timing belt…at the time I didn’t think it was. Word of warning, don’t use dnj timing belt kits, the tensioner was also leaking when I took it off…it lasted 14,000 miles.

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