By on July 12, 2016

2010 Subaru Outback Rear 3/4, Image: Subaru

Nigel writes:

I own a 2011 Subaru Outback that just reached 107,000 miles. The past four bills I’ve received for it have cost anywhere from $300-580 a pop (two were for maintenance, plus the timing belt and new brakes up front).

Should I get used to high bills for it, or am I just getting ripped off by the dealership?

Sajeev answers:

Not knowing the exact wear items and labor hours needed for your visits, I’d wager those prices are within reason for vehicles crossing the 100,000-mile threshold at any dealer or nationally franchised repair shop. Or not?

So instead of playing detective without repair invoices, consider these uber-genericized thoughts for the future.

  1. From the obligatory oil change to the always-neglected driver’s side floor mat, every part has a finite lifespan. See what needs replacement at what mileage/age on the Subaru forums, then brace yourself for the repair(s) at those intervals.
  2. Check your dealership’s labor rate versus local independent and franchised shops. For certain brands (BMW, Saab, etc.), seek out brand-specific shops. Labor rates differ, and so do the level of customer service (read Yelp/Google/Facebook reviews), workmanship guarantees and even waiting room amenities (free WiFi, coffee, donuts, etc.).
  3. Learn each shop’s preferred parts vendors (factory parts, decent aftermarket brand, garbage brand) and learn their retail price. Mark up is common and you can ask for a discount in lieu of a warranty.
  4. Ask if a shop will install parts you’ve procured (possibly online) for less money.
  5. Don’t forget those cheap garbage parts are sometimes re-boxed factory parts if you get lucky.

Do the legwork and you’ll be confident in which shop and which parts you’ll need in the future. You’ll also be confident in the cost of those repairs. That knowledge eliminates phrases like “ripped off” and “high bills” in your next query to TTAC!

[Image: Subaru]

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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96 Comments on “Piston Slap: Taken Outback and Ripped-off by the Dealership?...”


  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Stock up on motor oil to top off between changes. Some it is just a character of the beast in a Subaru boxer engine and some of it is pcv/low tension piston rings letting oil by and burning.

    About 6 months after trading our 2012 Forester and sinking close a case of my finest reserve, we received our class suit regarding oil consumption. Too bad I didn’t keep my receipts!

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Said Outback is an EJ25 (timing belt, SOHC, eats head gaskets for lunch). Your g/f’s Forester has an FB25 (timing chain, DOHC, drinks oil like a sailor). Different engines, different problems. Very much 100k mile Subaru problems, though. My advice is to ditch them around 80k before the problems start appearing and take advantage of the high resale value.

      • 0 avatar
        VW16v

        The whole drinking of the oil is getting a little old and has evolved over the years on auto blogs. I’ve owned many cars that have needed additional oil between oil changes. Most of them over a quart between oil changes. Example, Honda Prelude vtech and CIVIC Si, VW GLI, Volvo, Saab, Nissan 300zx. They all used up oil between oil changes. And none of those manufacturers rebuilt the engines like Subaru is doing for thousands of cars. For Nigel, I would not be surprised if he bought another Subaru after realizing the resale value of his current 2011 Outback.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          Subaru has issued TSBs for oil consumption on the FB engines and is repairing cars based on a class action law suit. That is a bit beyond urban legend driven by blogs.

          I’ve never owned a car that required oil between changes… including the 3 EJ equipped Subarus if we are playing the anecdote game.

          • 0 avatar
            VW16v

            Yes, Subaru sent out a TSB on oil consumption. But jumping on the bandwagon that Subaru’s drink oil sounds a bit uniformed. Currently many autos drink oil. If people were a bit more truthful on there favorite auto brands we would see that it is almost uncommon to find an engine that does not use oil between oil changes.

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            Except I didn’t say that all Subarus did. The early FB25 were/are more prone to drink oil. My whole point was that Norm’s concern about oil consumption isn’t even relevant to this post because the 2011 Outback doesn’t even have have an FB engine.

            I’ve been a huge Subaru fan since 1999 when I got my first Impreza. I was the founder of a Subaru owner’s club when I was in college and in the car scene (I’m rather embarrassed to admit that now). I currently own a Subaru in Scion drag. That doesn’t mean I’m blind to their faults.

          • 0 avatar
            VW16v

            Never thought about Subaru in drag = Scion. Hilarious!

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            I actually seen circa 2011 Outback with “4 SALE” shoe polished on the windows. My fiance and I got a chuckle we saw the “new motor”.

    • 0 avatar
      American Rambler

      The repair costs look in line with what I experience. Unless your doing just a basic oil change, almost any time you open the hood your spending over $200. When I am considering a vehicle for purchase, I check into the long term maintence needs. I try to avoid vehicles which require things like timing belt or chain replacement routine maintenance schedules. I try to determine what kinds of repairs to expect over the longer term. A few years ago I had taken one of my cars in for service and waited for the repairs to be completed. I was sitting close enough to the cash counter where customers were paying their bill, so I heard the prices they were being charged. In most cases these were routine types of repairs you would expect on cars new to about 10 years old. The median price was in the $650 range with most prices being about $300 to $800. This was for common vehicles, not premium high dollar or high performance ones. I have liked Subarus for what they are and have driven them but have never owned one myself. The people I know and have met that do in general have been very satisfied with them. They do seem to have certain things that go wrong over time. Your maintenance seems quite in line with what I have heard about.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Now that’s a nice little wagon. Before they jumped on the bandwagon of pinching-off rear 3/4 visibility.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Sajeev, did you make this letter up? How could anyone reasonably expect to put over 100,000 miles on a vehicle and not incur some expense? Just how little did Nigel think brake jobs, timing belts and general maintenance should be? He should be counting his blessings.

    • 0 avatar

      I accept accusations of fabricated Piston Slap queries ONLY when they involve Panther Love or LSX-FTW.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      My thoughts exactly.

      Especially when there are some well-known alternatives out there, such as doing some of the work yourself (if you can, and have the space), shopping around for an independent mechanic, or trading it in and replacing a “cost anywhere from $300-580 a pop,” with the same amount per MONTH.

      I’m amazed at the number of people who claim to have chosen the last option “to save money,” without actually doing the math. Often it’s just self-talk to justify the purchase a new vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        ““cost anywhere from $300-580 a pop,” with the same amount per MONTH.”

        At least the $580 is going toward a new car vs. keeping a heap on the road.

        • 0 avatar
          BuzzDog

          For many, a five-year-old car with reasonable reliability and slightly over 100,000 miles hardly qualifies as a “heap.”

          My apology if I seemed to imply there is anything wrong with wanting to own a new vehicle – there’s not – but it’s amusing when justifed as “a wise investment.”

          • 0 avatar
            pragmatist

            I haven’t purchased a car with LESS than 100k in over 30 years.

          • 0 avatar
            GeneralMalaise

            ‘For many, a five-year-old car with reasonable reliability and slightly over 100,000 miles hardly qualifies as a “heap.”’

            Certainly not, if it has been well-cared for.

            If Subarus are known for head gasket issues and burning oil, that’s a brand that should be of interest to masochists only.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          jmo that’s some pretty flawed logic IMO. Assuming the car is in otherwise good condition, once you’ve tackled the timing belt and brakes, as well as serviced the diffs and transmission fluid, you won’t have this recurring payment like you would with a new car. Now something else might come up in 20k miles like a CV boot or a wheel bearing, but things would have to be going horribly wrong for him needing a multi-hundred dollar repair consistently every month. like Buzzdog said, it’s ridiculous to call a 5 year old Outback a “heap.”

      • 0 avatar
        pragmatist

        Once you’re out of warranty, time to develop a relationship with an independent (and possibly do some of the stuff yourself)

        I’ve been dealing with one guy for quite a few years. No appointment needed,just drop it off in the morning, 95% of the time it’s ready the same day. I have a gas tank leak in an 89 Jeep from rust and rock damage. He located a tank and got installed by the time I got out of work.

        The other side of the coin, I treat him fairly. Don’t give a hard time over prices, I want him to still be in business next time.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Sajeev’s Piston Slap inbox must be drying up for a letter so light on detail to get posted. No specifics on the maintenance bills in question and he wants to know if he is being ripped off?

      I think it’s a moot point; if Nigel thinks occasionally dropping up to $580 on a car with more than 100k miles might be a ripoff, then out-of-warranty car ownership is not for him. Refer him to the recent post on how leasing works and be done with it.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    yeah, that doesn’t sound out of line for a car cresting 100k miles. The whole “my Honyota Cressbox went 500,000 miles on just oil changes” meme is a MYTH. People will overlook/forget all sorts of minor repairs here and there so long as none of them disable the car or otherwise prevent them from getting somewhere. Subaru fans tend to be like that; they’ll claim they got 250,000 trouble-free miles from their car but if you dig a little, out comes the “well, there was that time it needed a head gasket, and I think it needed axle shafts a couple of times…”

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      To be fair and balanced, I am a little irritated my ’13 needs read brake pads AND rotors at 60k. Pads? Yes. Rotors? Doubtful. If I was ambitious/mechanical I would DIY and save $400. The coolant and tranny flushes are understandable.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Don’t many manufactures use lighter brake rotors to reduce unsprung weight thus requiring replacement? It looks like rear rotors are $60 for a pair so it seems like a fair trade for +3 years of improved ride quality.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I’ve come to accept that rotors will fail unpredictably and often, and that that’s just life. My independent shop just recently discovered in the course of replacing my 47,000-mile Lexus’s rear pads that the factory rear rotors had become worn beyond factory spec. I expect they must have been turned at some point, and who knows why they needed turning… overtorqued lug nuts, previous owner abuse, wrong phase of the moon. So new rotors it was.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Yep with rotors sometimes it’s a case of “them’s the brakes!” :p

          My parents bought a used ’09 RX350 with only 15k miles in 2012, the front rotors must have looked like potato chips judging by how awful the shaking in the wheel was on deceleration.

          A car sitting outside for an extended period during wet weather (a month) can cause problems, driving in a road-salt heavy environment combined with that standing around can REALLY accelerate a rotor’s demise. I had a rental ’15 Camry this year with 30k miles with completely rusted up rotors. My fiance’s ’12 SE has plenty of pad material and the rotors have at least a year left in them before I will either turn or replace them (rust creeping in from the edges).

          Living on a steep hill combined with certain braking techniques (ie riding them, not engine braking at all) can warp even good quality OE rotors on a new car, especially depending on the make.

      • 0 avatar
        sfvarholy

        Some manufacturers, like Audi, BMW, and Volvo, recommend new rotors when you change the pads. Both my BMW and Volvo rotors were so soft they “lipped.”

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Doesn’t help that most Subaru fans come from the land of redblock Volvos, decent cars often ruined by cheapskates.

      Subarus are just kinda average cars ruined by cheapskates, without wagons or 4wd they would have never taken off.

    • 0 avatar
      Coopdeville

      Have to admit the new Honyota Cressbox looks pretty good. Hopefully it’s as reliable as the old ones were.

    • 0 avatar
      Krivka

      Have a 2007 Outback with 98 k on it. Loose window, $200.00. CV joints, $400.00. Rear struts, $200.00. Tires at 93k, original brakes, muffler repair $60.00. Local Subaru guy will do the timing belt for about $325.00 labor. It is in very good shape and runs nice and it hauls enough stuff. Oh, shifter cable was bad, cost about $120.00 replace. Would have done some of the work myself back in the day. I am on the fence about selling it though. May as well get the timing belt changed and see how it goes form there.

  • avatar
    Krivka

    If he got by with $580 for timing belt, that is a pretty good price. In this area they are between $800 and $1000 including water pump.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      That’s what I’m thinking as well.

      The timing belt price is suspiciously low, which means they may not have done a full job (perhaps because the customer was pressing them too hard on price).
      Subaru water pumps last longer than one timing belt, but not as long as two timing belts.
      Same issue with tensioners and idlers. You have to replace them with good (OEM) parts when you do the timing belt, or else you will have to pay for the whole job again.

    • 0 avatar
      Fard Barkle

      The labor is pretty low on a Subaru EJ25 timing belt. It’s right up front and easily accessed due to the engine orientation.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Here in the Dayton, Ohio, area the dealers charge around $700 for timing belt/water pump/idlers replacement. Labor rate is advertised at $90/hr. which mostly goes to the dealership; the mechanic is probably lucky to see $18/hr for himself. The complete timing belt kit including water pump, idlers and belt from Subaru OEM costs close to $400; the Gates kit for the same parts is around $200 on Amazon. Add the labor and $700 is pretty fair, at least from the dealer’s point of view. Pretty standard maintenance for an EJ25 engine which requires belt replacement at 105k miles. Most engines with a timing belt from any manufacturer require replacement of the belt at around 100k miles.

  • avatar
    maserchist

    If Nigel really wants to prevent heart attacks, he will figure out someway to avoid the cylinder head gasket(s) that will be forthcoming in his not so distant Scoobie’s future. I hope, for his wallets sake, that I am wrong. But, they always break/wear out & they never fix themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      If he got the 6 cylinder he shouldn’t have to worry about headgaskets, just rust n wheel bearings n tires n oil, thats all.

      • 0 avatar
        davew833

        Subaru 6-cylinders are not trouble-free as far as head gaskets go. In the past three years I’ve purchased three EZ30 H6 equipped Subaru Outbacks at auction, and two of them had bad head gaskets. I bought into the belief that the EZ30 is “bulletproof”, but it wasn’t so. Mere coincidence? Perhaps.

    • 0 avatar
      B_C_R

      You’d be surprised to learn that Subaru FINALLY fixed the headgasket design for the venerable EJ25 in 2010.

      https://allwheeldriveauto.com/subaru-changed-there-head-gasket-for-the-2010-25l/

      Too bad the new design isn’t backwards compatible with the older EJs.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        Just like they supposedly fixed them in the mid-00s…

        A friend of mine traded his 2011 Outback in on a 2015 when they found the head gaskets leaking. I didn’t say anything because he didn’t solicit my advice, but I have a hard time recommending a Subaru these days. If you want a fun ride, the WRX and BRZ are fun enough to deal with the pain, but there are better options out there for the rest of the lineup. At least the resale is high on them, so you can afford to pitch them before the issues arise.

        • 0 avatar
          B_C_R

          Yeah, I finally threw the towel on on Subaru. I honestly loved all the ones I owned, but the cost of long term ownership was pretty eye watering — even with Subaru stepping up to cover the cost of the last set of heagaskets I replaced on my ’06 Impreza. They had supposedly fixed the design on that one too!

          I think the F series engine that replaced the EJ is a much better engine, but those are plagued with oil consumption issues, although Subaru says that’s how the engines are supposed to be. Either way, I’ve owned a half a dozen Subaru’s and they were all pretty unreliable, I certainly won’t own another one.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I’ve never owned a Subby, but I did shop them frequently in my used car visits. Their overall poor quality and expensive repairs turned me away.

            Understand that I was looking at Saturns, W-Bodys, Hyundais, and rwd Volvos too. I wasn’t exactly expecting a Mercedes.

          • 0 avatar
            ivebeenrued

            My family has five FB-powered Subarus and they have been 100% reliable. No oil consumption or anything. They range from 50K miles through 137K miles. To say the least, we will be sticking with Subaru for a while. No more GM cars for us.

        • 0 avatar
          davew833

          Yep, I was told they fixed it in 2003, so I bought an ’04 Legacy with the EJ25. A year or so later, it began leaking coolant externally (the earlier ones leak internally).

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I think it’s pretty much settled that you want multi-layer steel (MLS) head gaskets if you want longevity.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Its a Subaru, anything at just three figures will be a blessing. Expect wheel bearings, four new tires, oil oil OIL, and rust in your future.

    Oh yes, and headgaskets.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    100k is when things really start to wear out, those kind of bills are to be expected. I’m surprised you got the timing belt done that inexpensively to be honest. $300 for an axle worth of brakes if it included rotors is pretty par for the course.

    The following suspension things all cost between $2-300 per incident to repair and could happen in the medium term based on your mileage. Not to mention I’m talking per corner of the car here.

    – Wheel bearing
    – Tie rod end
    – Ball joint (plus alignment!)
    – Shocks (plus alignment!)
    – Bushings

    Add in regular maintenance where you’re doing valve adjustments, plugs, fluid flushes (coolant is the big one here), etc. at around the same prices and you see how it adds up quick.

    What I’m saying is that yes, it is normal to see these kind of bills. You can drive on worn shocks or bushings, but the rest of those items need replacing when they go bad. Anyone who says they just did gas, oil, brakes, and belts up to 300k is either lying or seriously deferring maintenance on the rest of their suspension and steering components.

    • 0 avatar
      VW16v

      Agreed, not sure what Nigel is so surprised about. Things wear out. And the price he was charged for a timing belt replacement was damn good.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Why an alignment after balljoint replacement? Are you talking about replacing the whole arm?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The question is not why an alignment after a ball joint, it is why no alignment after a tie rod end.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Haha didn’t even see that. Yeah must be a typo!

          • 0 avatar
            duffman13

            I must have been copying and pasting and threw it on the wrong row.

            On the topic of ball joints/control arms, with what ball joint labor costs it’s almost more advantageous to get a new control arm over replacing the joint. It costs roughly the same give or take $75 a side, and you end up with all new bushings in the process.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            it depends duffman, my 4Runner has seperately bolted on ball joints $91 per side for OEM Toyota units. A whole arm is more like $250 per side. However, having pressed in new control arm bushings (Moog = mistake) and having to chase down a clunk 2 years later, I wish I had just ponied up for new OEM arms to begin with. On my Maxima you are totally correct, why mess with pressing a joint out when the whole lower arm is much quicker to pull off and replace.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            I did the ball joints on my SE-R since I decided to put urethane bushings in the arm anyway.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Congrats to TTAC on the “NEWSY” video ad for Tesla that inserted itself in the middle of the article, pretending to be news, and which then doubled down by auto-playing, with sound, its OWN ads (Yo dawg, I heard you like ads…) multiple times, replaying them unstoppably again after the *main* ad the other ads were playing on had been manually stopped. Oh, and then even THOSE ads had other little ads covering THEM up!

    Another few weeks and this place is gonna look like Answers.com. I really don’t want to have to adblock TTAC, but it’s truly getting ridiculous.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Glad that I am not the only one thinking that Nigel here is getting away with some affordable maintenance. $300-$580 a pop for repairs….

    Indy mechanics need to feed their family too. If brakes were new rotors and pads installed, which at 100k, I could see the need. If the car was bought new, who knows how many times they have been turned. Either way, $600 for new rotors, pads installed by a competent wrench is not out of the ordinary to me.

    Finally, Sajeev, any chance you can ask the author in cases like this what part of the country? That makes a huge difference in terms of labor rate.

    • 0 avatar

      One of my cousins drives from here to another state (into a more rural area) just because it cuts the labor rate in half.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Thirded. I think at least part of the issue is the dealers’ labor rate, but once you factor that in the total bills sound totally reasonable. Using a competent independent should have you in equal or better hands in terms of quality of work, and should cut about 30-40% off the labor rate.

      The DIY route is of course an option for those that are into that scene (yours truly included). I just did the front rotors/pads and am about to tackle the rear axle, $150 all in for parts (Powerstop, a good brand), and a couple of afternoon sessions in the driveway for the installation (assuming existing tools/lubricants). Next up are struts all around, got a nice rebate and snagged 4 full pre-assembled Monroe Quick-Struts for $340 shipped. That’ll definitely be more labor intensive just in terms of the size/rustiness of the bolts so I’ve already been presoaking things in my good friend PB Blaster.

      With a bit of elbow grease I’ve polished out most of the paint oxidation, and with $50 worth of body work supplies and paint am well on the way to tackle some cosmetics. I’ll be farming out the rusty radiator support replacement to my brother when the time comes.

      To the non-DIYer this new beater of mine would be a financial disaster if they wanted to fix it up like me (driving it as is would obviously be an option), and frankly even I’m second guessing my PPI skills at the moment, but I’m still on track to have it all buttoned up, looking/driving good, and ready for 50k+ of happy motoring with a total investment of less than $3k including purchase price.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        This isn’t on the 4Runner? What did you get?

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          2 Owner ’00 Maxima SE with 145k miles for $1600. A “bit” of body rust and minor damage on the driver side dog leg. My post-purchase tinkering uncovered some potentially structural rust on the lower radiator support that the engine cradle/mount bolts to. Will be going through the process of welding in a new lower rad support some time this summer/fall. Aside from that it’s got dead shocks, a torn front lower balljoint boot, a few CEL codes, a slightly holey y pipe, and needed brakes. Sounds like a mess, but it drives great (on smooth roads) with a smooth shifting auto trans and sweet running engine. Bridgestone tires are almost brand new, and it tracks wonderfully thanks to recently(?) done tie rod ends. A nice project car that I’ve been commuting in and fixing up on a budget. My cherry 4Runner this is not, and that was the whole point initially: scoop up a cheap winter beater to keep salt off the ‘yota.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Sounds like a good rehab candidate. That era was the time when Nissan was flirting with bankruptcy, so sensors and other electronica tend to be junky.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Re. ” Ask if a shop will install parts you’ve procured (possibly online) for less money.”
    This can be a difficult situation if something goes wrong. Did the part fail? Or was there something wrong with the installation. Or another failure that had the same symptoms?
    If the part failed and the car owner purchased it how will that part get removed from the car so it can be returned to the vendor for warranty consideration? Will the car owner pay the labor or will the shop be expected to do the work on a part that they did not sell?
    When I ran a shop, after some of these problems, we would not install customer provided parts.
    There were other problems as well. Customers would bring either the wrong part or a substandard part. Some would want us to ‘exchange’ the part for the correct/good one even though it was something we would never sell and had no dealings with the vendor.
    Space could be tied up while a car waits for the correct part.
    Re-boxed OEM parts often have no warranty or a lesser one. I have found “OEM” parts sold through the aftermarket because the car maker rejected a production run because of a high failure rate. This is particularly true with electrical and electronic parts. Part looks OK on the outside, has the correct part numbers, and works. For a while or maybe not correctly.
    CAVEAT EMPTOR
    YMMV

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Whenever a shop has let me do this, it is always with the understanding that there will be no warranty on the work. Even then, I think it was only allowed because of all the other business I give the shop, and I don’t do it for every repair trying to squeeze every dime out of them that I can.

      Most shops are not going to take customer-supplied parts unless you already have a good working relationship with them.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Local custom muffler shop was willing to install a Dynomax Cat-back system I bought for my F150 on FleaBay but with no warranty. I only bought it online because the shop only carries Flowmaster and Magnaflow products.

        I was so happy with the quality of the work I later had them install headers back custom system for my 67 Mustang and a custom cat-back for my 2010 Highlander.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    That’s not unreasonable at all. My 2012 Impala needed service at 88,000 miles due to a once-in-a-while drip from the front engine cover. GM covered that, thankfully because it was a known issue, plus they threw in a water pump, but I did spring for the timing chain assembly because I plan on keeping my car ’til the wheels fall off because it’s a great car and I love the beast!

    Total cost for that trip including replacing coolant and front rotors came to about $800.00. Not too bad if you ask me. After all, nothing is free.

    I’ve done research, and the Chevy dealership I deal with has prices in line with the outside repair places. In other words, they are very competitive, so why not get GM’s backing on maintenance and repairs? Works for me.

    As for buying parts and expecting someone to install them – if it were me, I’d say take a hike! Shops have their sources that makes it better for them.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Seems reasonable to me.

    When my now departed ’01 Accord V6 crested 101k miles, I did the timing belt, water pump, new exhaust gasket, and front brakes. Even using a shop that a friend worked at – got a lot of stuff at cost – I had a bill just north of $1k.

    I won’t even go into my recent Mini Cooper dealership woes.

  • avatar

    117k on the Mazda3 and all it’s needed recently is a brake job, throttle body cleaning, new air filter and I’ll probably opt for new plugs, because why not.

    I’m starting to think I might have an issue with a motor mount because of the roughness at idle, but we’ll see.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Those prices look low. My method for picking parts is to reach out to third party distributors. Germanautoparts.Com for my wagon. They sell enough to have complaint rates and feedback in general for every tier of parts. I can find out everything from wheel bearing durability to pad and rotor noise levels on a supplier by supplier basis.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ll be kissing my toolbox when I get home tonight.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Hell yes! If it weren’t for my toolbox, bruised knuckles, blistered fingers and scraped elbows, we would not have been able to keep all our vehicles going.

      They say that “necessity is the mother of invention,” and my car repair needs often forced me to be inventive, when I didn’t have a hoist to jack up the vehicle and work under.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Timing belt might be about right but for brakes and minor repairs, yes this seems high. Best to avoid the stealership if possible.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Based on the letter Sajeev posted, how do you have any idea what Nigel paid for brakes? Even with the timing belt we are all assuming that work lines up to the $580 bill mentioned, and we have no idea if any other work was performed in that visit.

      Parts alone for brakes cost me about $300 per axle (Brembo blanks, either Pagid or Jurid pads, wear sensor) buying them online. It might be a BMW, but there is nothing exotic about the brakes. I would expect any car with similarly sized rotors to cost the same. If the $300 Nigel mentions is for “new brakes up front”, it sounds perfectly reasonable for rotors and pads.

  • avatar
    mchan1

    “…2011 Subaru Outback that just reached 107,000 miles. The past four bills I’ve received for it have cost anywhere from $300-580 a pop…”

    That’s relatively cheap repair costs considering that it’s a 5 yr old vehicle with more than 100k mileage as many vehicles generally start needing more maintenance around 100k miles, mainly due to wear and tear.

    Nigel should consider himself lucky that the repair bills are still relatively low in cost. If he’s going to complain about it, he could always DIY on the repairs.

    When the repair bills for the Year reaches ~$3k or so, then start complaining or start looking for a newer vehicle.

    Guess he’s never owned an old vehicle with high mileage before.

    Find a good auto repair shop/mechanic in your area and make friends with them. The rates will be lower than bringing in the vehicle for repairs to the dealership.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      In my view $3K per year, every year, in repairs is for rich people.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yeah that is insane for repairs or repairs and maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        That sounds about right for a high-mile luxury car. Not for a used Subaru, though. They should keep going for a nice long time on $1500 per year, probably less some years. Mostly, that $1500 will go to 3750-mile oil changes, tires, brakes, CV joints (that get overheated by close-by exhaust manifolds), and timing belts.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    When making the “Keep vs Trade” decision, you should take into account potential repairs down the line.

    Brakes, tires , even water pumps aren’t necessarily deal breaker expenses. But do your homework. If the car you have has a TimeBomb Issue that’s gonna cost $1000+ to fix looming in the future, there’s little point in putting good money after bad .

    Cadillac Northstar cars are a good example. Even if the vehicle is holding up nicely at 100,000 miles, sooner or later that head gasket WILL fail. When it does , the obscene repair cost means the car’s a write off. This also tends to be the fate of most German luxo cars past a certain age.

    Not all vehicles have a TimeBomb Repair , but theres no point putting money into the ones which do. If the Subie is destined for a 4 figure repair at some undefined point in the future, trade it while it’s still running and cut your losses.

  • avatar
    EAF

    Timing belt jobs on boxers are easy indeed, however, as with any t-belt job there are things that can go very wrong. The last boxer was a nightmare and a half for me. The allen cam bolt on the pass side intake cam was on there stupid tight. The junk bolt stripped and I was forced to extract it. I spent a ton of time extracting it and trying not to harm any of the surrounding hardware.

    I sound like a broken record I’m sure, but I don’t understand the boxer craze. They are not very powerful or reliable, not particularly durable or exceptionally economical, they sound like crap to boot. Valve cover gaskets and spark plug access is a PITA.

    No thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      People who buy Subarus don’t care about the boxer engine. They care that the cars are well-packaged, inexpensive, and have good AWD.

      The boxer used to be essential to offering good packaging and good AWD in the same car, but because the better transverse AWD systems have improved dramatically in the last few years that’s not really true anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        EAF

        I do mostly agree with you Dal, yet there are plenty of Subaru owners I talk to that are aware of the boxer and can recite its more favorable attributes…. as if read from a brochure. These are not “enthusiasts.”

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    My sister bought a new Forester in 2001. She kept all the receipts from dealer service (there was no independent who would work on Subaru within 25 miles). The cost curve started out flat but rose to near-vertical after 100k miles. Her repairs like brakes, struts, etc. were in the $300-$600 range, with head gaskets and half shaft replacement costing much more.

    After 14 years and 145k miles she finally traded it in for a new Forester, and the bills are now minimal, with most items still covered by warranty. I think my sister’s experience is typical. Any decent car with regular maintenance will last well past 10 years and 100k, but at that 10y/100k point, the cost of keeping any vehicle well maintained makes keeping it a losing financial proposition.

  • avatar
    NickS

    This is typically vague. What was the exact service done to the car, which part of the country, and a bit more info would make it possible to give some relevant advice to make an informed decision.

    Where I live timing belt service is about $1200 at an independent garage, and it more or less doesn’t matter how easy it is for a given car. In high cost areas, shop rate is high across the board.

    The default answer is that you are always getting ripped off by the dealer. Nigel should ask independent garages that specialize in Subies what their shop rate is etc. At the dealer you *may* have some peace of mind for the quality of the work, but most of these jobs are quite easy to even DIY so any qualifies mechanic will do just fine. You need to look at reviews and try a few shops out to see what service they give you.

    And all the talk of selling it to get a new one is pure speculation on the part of the B&B here. All Nigel is asking is if this is typical cost or if it’s the dealer factor? At that mileage and age the car is practically new.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    Every little bit you can do yourself is money in your pocket, and stuff like brake pad replacement is easy. youtube is full of how to videos.

    if you cant or wont DIY, find a local subaru tech with his own shop and good yelp reviews.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Any Subaru can be a money pit after 100,000 miles. Buddy of mine has owned 3 Subaru’s over the years and everyone had the same troubles after 100,000 miles.The last Subaru he had broke down the day he left on vacation and he broke down 100 miles from hone. Had the wagon towed back to his mechanic and the verdict was the engine was frozen due to lack of oil. Replace the engine and cross his fingers or buy a new car. Brought a new Honda last year and is quite happy so far. Tells everyone he knows do not buy a Subaru. Their warranty will not cover many repairs and it is always the drivers fault not the car. I learned after owning just one Subaru.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    My son’s GF had a 2007 Subie Forester that her parents gave her. It had 145K miles on it when she was hit from behind while in a left hand turn lane. She never changed the timing belt despite my son’s pleas to do so. The only maintenance was tires, brakes, batteries etc. Her insurance company deemed the car to be totaled and paid her $7k for it. Not to shabby.
    She ended up putting the $7K towards a new Impreza for $19K, and is quite happy with the new car.
    Subarus are not my cup of tea, but they have crazy high resale values.

  • avatar
    Avid Fan

    Test drove an Impreza on a lark. Really liked it and bought one a few months later. I had to have the dealer find one for me. Just happened to meet the guy that drove it back to the dealer. “Has a shimmy in the front end about 50 mph.” Yay, not a good sign. Salesman says drive it 500 miles see if it gets better. Can’t do any warranty work til after 500 miles. A few short months later I use the “dealer’s” web site to set up an oil change appointment. And by dealer I mean an abandoned bus stop that sells Subarus. Place hasn’t been updated or cleaned since 1979. I arrive on the appointed day and time to a practically empty service bay. Great, I think, shouldn’t be a long wait. Talk to service manager and he asks do I have an appointment. I said I had set one up on the website. Oh, “We don’t use that for service appointments.” Oh the things you overlook when buying a new car. Then the capper to this was that the first good rain had water puddled in the passenger side floor board and condensation literally running down the windows inside. Again, I get a computer generated service appointment only to be told, “they all do that.” What, take on water like the Titanic? “Yes.” TL/DR? buy a Honda.
    And another thing. Who among the B/B think Subaru would still be in business if they weren’t AWD?

  • avatar
    lot9

    I have a hand full of friends that own Subarus. Alas, they all have had some serious problems with them.
    If you google problems with Subies, there are lots of them.

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