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'08 Subaru Saga - Repair or sell?

I have a 2008 Subaru Outback, 104,000 miles. Last fall we brought it into an auto repair chain to have brakes replaced, and since we were at 100k, we had the head gaskets and timing belt done proactively. After we picked it up, it was not running great, and a short time later, the transmission light came on - luckily my husband was near the shop when it happened and brought it in. There was apparently a large hole in the transmission fluid filter and half the transmission fluid was gone - they replaced that for free.
It was still not running great though, and even after bringing it in again to have them look it over, they just topped up with trans fluid and sent us on our way without looking into it further.

Last month it was running extremely rough - took it to a different local guy - come to find out the timing belt tensioner was not installed correctly, and the brand new timing belt was half off its tracks. We contacted the original shop in complaint and they paid for our new mechanic to make the repair.

Now, we need to get our vehicle inspected, bring it to our new mechanic - we need a new catalytic converter - both front and back. He scoped it and the front converter was all eaten away, with the residue clogging the back converter.

Needless to say, it has been a frustrating and expensive couple of months. In addition to the cats needing replacement, there is a code our mechanic is unsure of - an Oil Switch Valve Solenoid Malfunction.

My question is – in your opinion, is any of the botched work done by the chain shop earlier a warning sign that there could be more serious issue down the road? Should we just sell it and try to get into something else, or is it worth the investment?

We just put 3k into preventative work, and will need to put another 1100 in to do the two cats, with fingers crossed that will solve things. The car is relatively low on miles, and the mechanic says there isn’t any troublesome rust (we are in Maine, so some is expected).
I’ve read about Subarus getting their Cats replaced then still throwing the cat code repeatedly, and I am wary.

Thanks for your thoughts and opinions!

Water under the bridge but head gaskets are not an item you do PM on. Sorry you got convinced that way and burned up the money.

None of the issues you have can be easily related to the original botched optional work you pursued.

I’d move on.

I am of the opinion that the substandard work from that car repair “chain” was the proximate cause of at least some of your current problems. That being said, I doubt if you would be successful in fighting the army of attorneys that are employed by that chain.

I am not going to weigh-in on whether you should repair this car or you should sell it, but I REALLY hope you have learned that car repair chains rarely employ the better mechanics, but they are really good about trying to weasel-out of liability for their lapses. In the future, I strongly advise that you have maintenance and repairs done by a well-reputed independent mechanic if the car in question is no longer under warranty. While a vehicle is still under warranty, I advise using a dealership.


Yes, we did learn our expensive lesson, no doubt! This was the first major repair we had done since moving to a new state with no local connections – in the past we have always used independent mechanics, and after this, will only do so in future.

Concerning head gasket replacement – we’ve owned a number of Subarus, and they are notorious for head gasket failure, so we thought preventative was the way to go.

My greater family is done with Subaru except my parents and their 2018 Outback.

At one point we had 10 difffernt “notorious” Subaru’s with those 2.5L motors run over 200k. Only 1 of them at 245k had a head gasket fail and traded in with some stop leak.

Well, this has been the winter of many lessons for us…
However, good to hear they all went over 200k - that’s what I’m hoping for!

Sort of a digression here. Friend has a late model Subaru. It labeled as a “Partial Zero Emmisions Vehicle”. I know that is a legal term used in conjunction with California’s CARB, but just think it is funny. Like labeling 80 proof vodka as partially alcohol free.


Preventive maintenance is taking a predictable and known failure and performing the repair at your convenience and before it causes further damage. Subaru 2.5 head gaskets are a known and predictable failure. I have one in my stall now. Second one in the shop this month.

I know of one shop that specializes in Subaru that no longer performs timing belt/water pump maintenance at 105K/120K. It makes far more sense to wait until the head gaskets start to fail at 140K and do the whole job then.

But back to the original question. Is it time to sell the car and buy another or should they keep on going with this one? If the mechanic you are using now is a reliable source, I’d ask that question there. Normally a good mechanic will dodge the question, because he doesn’t know the answer. But you can ask if, for a fee, he or she would survey the whole car and give you an educated report on the apparent condition of all the important systems.

They hadn’t fixed this issue by the 2008 model year? How about more recent years?

I’m not going to search all the history of every Subaru that has come through the shop but I’m pretty sure I remember a '10 coming through not too long ago.

Subaru claims they have fixed the head gasket problems on the flat 4 engines 5 tears ago. And I have heard that claim for 30 years.

Are the replacement headgaskets more reliable? I liked the Subarus I owned before this era (1990 and 1991), but I would be hesitant to buy a later one.

found an 08 legacy that goes into limp mode after it gets warm. seller wants 1500 or so. he says it seems sluggish at higher speeds. i wonder if it would be ok around town at <45mph? like my drive to work. all side streets.

Sounds like a ticking time bomb to me.

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maybe trans has never been serviced?