Piston Slap: Of Cost and Axle Differentials?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
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piston slap of cost and axle differentials


We have three cars in our household that see regularly use, but we are considering going down to two vehicles in an attempt to save some money. However, instead of just getting rid of one of those three cars, we are trading in two of them toward a newer vehicle that we plan to keep long term.

The two cars we plan to get rid of are a Toyota Camry (180,000 miles) and Honda Insight (260,000 miles). While the Camry is mechanically in fine condition, it’s also 10 years old, including six years of kids doing what kids do best to interiors: destroying them. The Insight is five years older than the Camry, has a check engine light on, IMA light on, and recently a deer decided to headbutt the driver’s side door.

We have narrowed our choices down to two options: Subaru Crosstrek or Acura TSX Wagon. Pretty far apart from each other on a number of fronts, but each would meet our requirements in different ways. Given our penchant for wringing the life out of cars, which one of these, with proper maintenance, will reliably see 250,000 miles?

Sajeev answers:

Both will reliably see 250,000 miles with proper care. That’s not my concern. Instead, my concern is twofold: which one is a better ride for your needs and your wallet?

If the Subaru’s trademark ride and handling demeanor is your cup of tea, just buy one with good service history (assuming you are looking used) and go forward in a state of bliss. If not, consider the TSX for repair related reasons. There could be fewer repairs because front-wheel-drive vehicles have fewer moving parts than their all-wheel drive counterparts. And with a traditional inline four-cylinder (not a boxer) in that Acura, the labor involved could be cheaper.

That said, the Acura’s surprising thirst for premium fuel is disappointing. The Subie’s economy isn’t handicapped by its AWD performance. Therefore, the fuel cost differential will likely make up for the Subie’s extra differential, if you catch my drift.

Unless you must have the Acura’s entry-level luxury trimmings, go with the Subie.

[Image: Subaru]

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.

Sajeev Mehta
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  • Theonewhogotaway Theonewhogotaway on Feb 10, 2016

    I'd split the difference and go for a Crosstour. Heavy discounts will be at the TSX price and get the AWD. If not afraid of heights, a CR-V should probably be on your list as well...

  • Phxmotor Phxmotor on Mar 08, 2016

    You guys crack me up... I've had a dozen Subis over the last ten years. Living n the mountains in Calif where 4-600" of snow is normal...at least when the snow does come... (We've had a few dry years lately). Subarus OBs and Legacys have more Made In America content that any of the Big 3 Pickup trucks. They really are made in Indiana with 85% American made content. It's amazing how many small factories across the Midwest are making almost all the parts in Outbacks and Legacys... It makes ya feel good. Asside from that ... they are a useful tool when awd is needed. And used ones are used ones are ubiquitous. After living in Ann Arbor recently for a couple years...doing hybrid research work at UT in Toledo...I came to understand the rust problem as I never before did. My god...salt is illegal in California. Now I understand why. Cars in salt and ice area rustvawsy in ten years.. Yet... I normally won't buy a car until it is at least ten years old. And I've never had rust...not a bit... on any of the 325 cars I've owned since I was 16. All my Subis have zero rust issues. And I never buy a car until it has hit at least 100,000 miles. Yes...yes...yes... the head gasket issue is real. It's comical to see TTAC people opining about newer vs older 2.5s head gasket reliability. It's a fact:.... Every Subaru 2.5 will need a HG job. When it happens is unpredictable... but it's a 100% guarantee that it will happen. When I hear of heads cracking I gotta laugh...they never crack...that's unscrupulous shop talk when an unscrupulous shop is doing a number on a Luddite. (hapoebs all the time) ...But... resurface the head and use a FelPro gskt and it will never ever leak again. (& Machine the head for god sake) It's such a big topic on TTAC about the nasty costly horrendous Subaru HG job...yet...its just not that bad. my wife and I working together complete a HG job within 5-6 hours. Literally three hours one afternoon... a nice restful dinner and a movie...then three hours the next day. And a total cost of $350 including WP and pullies and the notorious oil pump o-ring. And exh gskt and etc And we are both 63 years old. And I've been living with a seriously bad back. To read how you guys (and the occasional woman) on this sight ...in your 20's and 30's ... and are healthy able-bodied men...are afraid of a straight forward shade tree repair. It's perplexing. Come on guys step up already. I Current have an SVX, two Outbacks 00 & 01... a fantastic 95 Impreza... and a Forester... We have bought and sold a half dozen other Subis that needed HGs just as a hobbie...for fun...something to do on an otherwise boring weekend. And not one of these engines needed to be removed. All were done shadetree style. A bit of sailer mouth when replacing the drivers side head (it's a bit of a Chinese puzzle & needs two people doing a grunting and cussing ballet of heavy metal "surgury")..but it isn't all that hard. Anyway... Anyone who loves cars as much as TTAC people seem to... yet are intimidated by common straightforward repair jobs ..I just shake my head. . How the heck is this country ever going to win a war again? My gosh people...I'm not talking about rebuilding the block...I'm talking about a simple HG job. More time is spent here debating... why there is a bit if oil usage...? why 2.5 HGs fail and 2.0s don't... Why not spend more time on this site facing reality... and just doing the job when it rears its head... Let's get real... Even brand new Subarus will do this ... it's just not a hard job. And if you really can't do this simple job... And you really need it done for you... Heck: It's never more than a $1,500 job. And heck... Look at it this way: At 100k ya gotta do a full WP - Seals - timing belt - valve adjustment - etc...anyway...and that job is going to cost 5-600 anyway... So... ...even when a HG job is needed...its only going to be an extra $700 to assure the car will hit 300,000 miles. Do what's the big deal? Oh... Of my five subarus...two are at 250& 275,000 miles... The other are at about 175...& they all drive as if they have maybe 75-80,000 miles. Geese. The SVX is the inky 6cyl of them all and it gets the best mog...on long drives it actually breaks 30mpg. How GH mileage is not a big deal. We take long drives all the time without worry... 1,800 mile drives once a month ... at least to Phx. And we've never been a stranded or broken down on the side of the road...not once. My point being: if you do not live in a salt and ice area...your Subarus will last at least 300,000 miles with very few .. Yet predicable repairs. It's not a big deal to keep this cars going at a very low total cost of ownership. And with wonderful safety in the snow and ice. (As far as cost effective luxury cars though... I have to admit.. I love older Lexus LS400's... Certainly not good for the snow...but so cheap & reliable.. With a very low cost of ownership. And the most silky smooth and quiet driving car available at an amazingly low cost) Sorry for this list BG post. I'm just tired of a never ending discussion on TTAC about the Subaru HG issue. The bottom line is this: all 2.5's will need a head gasket job. All. My point is that it's not that big of a deal because...unlike many cars...when you fix this in a Subaru... It stays fixed. Ergo: it's just not a big deal.

  • 28-Cars-Later "But Assemblyman Phil Ting, the San Franciscan Democrat who wrote the electric school bus legislation, says this is all about the health and wellbeing of Golden State residents. In addition to the normal air pollution stemming from exhaust gasses, he believes children are being exposed to additional carcinogens by just being on a diesel bus."Phil is into real estate, he doesn't know jack sh!t about science or medicine and if media were real it would politely remind him his opinions are not qualified... if it were real. Another question if media were real is why is a very experienced real estate advisor and former tax assessor writing legislation on school busses? If you read the rest of his bio after 2014, his expertise seems to be applied but he gets into more and more things he's not qualified to speak to or legislate on - this isn't to say he isn't capable of doing more but just two years ago Communism™ kept reminding me Dr. Fauxi knew more about medicine than I did and I should die or something. So Uncle Phil just gets a pass with his unqualified opinions?Ting began his career as a real estate  financial adviser at  Arthur Andersen and  CBRE. He also previously served as the executive director of the  Asian Law Caucus, as the president of the Bay Area Assessors Association, and on the board of  Equality California. [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Ting#cite_note-auto-1][1][/url][h3][/h3]In 2005, Ting was appointed San Francisco Assessor-Recorder in 2005 by Mayor  Gavin Newsom, becoming San Francisco’s highest-ranking  Chinese-American official at the time. He was then elected to the post in November 2005, garnering 58 percent of the vote.Ting was re-elected Assessor-Recorder in 2006 and 2010During his first term in the Assembly, Ting authored a law that helped set into motion the transformation of Piers 30-32 into what would become  Chase Center the home of the  Golden State Warriorshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Ting
  • RHD This looks like a lead balloon. You could buy a fantastic classic car for a hundred grand, or a Mercedes depreciationmobile. There isn't much reason to consider this over many other excellent vehicles that cost less. It's probably fast, but nothing else about it is in the least bit outstanding, except for the balance owed on the financing.
  • Jeff A bread van worthy of praise by Tassos.
  • Jeff The car itself is in really good shape and it is worth the money. It has lots of life left in it and can easily go over 200k.
  • IBx1 Awww my first comment got deletedTake your “millennial anti theft device” trope and wake up to the fact that we’re the only ones keeping manuals around.