Piston Slap: Taken Outback and Ripped-off by the Dealership?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap taken outback and ripped off by the dealership

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 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.

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  • Avid Fan Avid Fan on Jul 13, 2016

    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?

  • Lot9 Lot9 on Jul 13, 2016

    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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