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2004 Subaru Forester XT with a bad turbo?

Hi…hoping for some help here. I’ve been reading threads on several websites about Subaru turbochargers failing early.

I have a 2004 Turbo Forester. It’s been maintained since purchased new at the same dealer with oil changes every 3500 miles or so and all the “big” required/recommended maintenance every 15000 miles.

After the 75000 mile check, I kept smelling a burning oil smell, especially when car was idling. I had it back to the dealer several times but they couldn’t find anything wrong. The car did not seem to be using excess oil, there were no “puddles” under the car where it was parked.

Today I brought the car in for routine oil change (78400 miles). On the way in, started smelling the burning smell again and saw smoke around the turbo charger. The mechanic saw “Moisture” (oil?) around a lower bolt on the heat shield around the turbo charger. He said it was likely a failing turbo charger causing oil to leak on making that bolt wet? (sorry…I’m not very mechanical and they don’t explain well). The “fix” will be almost $2000.

The engine is not making any noise, nor is the turbocharger, and there was no “check engine light” illuminated. I’m scared now to take the care elsewhere for a second opinion…don’t really want to drive it and trash the engine.

It’s out of warranty now, and this is a painfully expensive fix that couldn’t have come at a worse time on a car that’s been maintained “by the book”.

I’m reading a lot about this “banjo bolt screen” problem. Would that be something to find out about on a 2004 Forester? Is there anything else that could be causing the problem (mechanic couldn’t think of anything).

Hit the “enter” button too early…just wondering if anyone else has had any luck going after dealers (for not looking at/replacing/removing the banjo bolt screens) or getting Subaru to ante up for the repair on a known crappy design (IF of couse, that’s the problem).

I’m wondering, should I tell the dealership to wait until I’m present before they tear this thing down and check/replace the turbocharger? THey have the car right now while waiting for parts to be shipped…I have a loaner until the parts get here.

I’m upset that they didn’t catch this problem earlier, and also apprehensive/suspicious whether this is really the problem (before spending $2000 on the fix).

For what it’s worth at this point, I can think of a much more obvious and far simpler repair.
It definitely could be a leaking valve cover gasket. Oil would drip from the valve cover onto the hot exhaust manifolds and vaporize, creating the burnt oil smell. There would not be any puddles because a valve cover leak would only occur while the car is running, and most of the leaked oil would burn off as you drive the car and before the car cools off when you stop driving, and because a valve cover leak is generally a small leak at first. You might at best see some residual drops of oil under the car, not a puddle.
So long as the oil level is stable, by which I mean you do not need to add a quart of oil every ten miles, it is safe to drive the car to get a second opinion. Actually, so long as you do add it as often as needed, it’s safe.

If you still can, go to a different mechanic and ask about valve cover gaskets, not turbo chargers. The difference is about $1,900. I think your dealer is playing you.

Thanks…would hope they would have checked for a leaking valve cover gasket…but who knows. The rest of the car underside was essentially dry (as dry as it can be driving in all the slush slop on the roads here in Colorado today). The bolt with the oil(?) on it was pretty far up there…and there was smoke that seemed to be coming from the turbo area while the car was idling. I’ve read so many posts from people whose turbos failed catastrophically…just don’t want that to happen.

Before you deem the turbo charger failed. Have the oil lines supply and return checked to see if they are not leaking themselves.

I don’t believe the banjo bolt applies to the Forester XT engine. It is exclusive (unfortunately) to my 2005/2006 Legacy GT and 2005/2006 Outback XT only.

$2000 seems very steep especially for a non-dealer for a turbo replacement. Get a 2nd opinion. Do you leave in the Boston or New Hampshire area? I can recommend some good shops for Subaru.

The Subaru service bulletins seem to indicate that ALL Turbos are affected…won’t know till I talk to the dealership today. This is a dealer, not an independent…and the replacement with labor, parts, and all the extra fees they seem to always tack on comes to just under $1900. I’m in Colorado…where there are probably more Subaru dealerships than anywhere else in the country…it’s just that now that the thing is smoking, I’m scared to drive it very far.

Two things:

Before they do any work on the car, and replace any parts, have them SHOW you the failed parts on the car. If the filter in the banjo bolt is blocked up, have them show you the clogged filter in your car. If the banjo bolt is leaking oil, have them show you the source of the leak.

If the turbo is damaged, have them show you that the impeller is notchy or seized in the turbo, and rotate it with your finger tips, as you should feel this quite readily.

Also, if the cause is the filter in the banjo bolt, contact Subaru, and ask them if they can provide you with Goodwill Assistance, as you have maintained your car well, and now you have a major issue with the car through no fault of your own, and it was caused by their faulty design. They have been helping a lot of other Subaru owners over the years who have asked.


I have a Subaru Forester 2004 with a turbo. The turbo has blown three times. First time was around 50k miles, second one at 51k miles and now the third at 54k miles. Have done oil changes every 3k miles with documentation. First time Subaru paid only because we had our oil change docs which is what they immediately blame it on. Second time they paid half saying that they couldn’t verify that Jiffy Lube used the right oil if you can believe it and the third time well they are thinking about it. The car has serious design issues. Subaru can’t fix it (they’ve replaced each turbo and have done a complete tear down to try and locate the problem) and they know it but they will not admit it and keep fighting us all the way. Time to trade it in after it’s fixed. Will it be another Subaru? No way. I have a Tribeca that has had no major problems but that’s going to go as well in time for another brand.

The mileage on the car is low for an 8 year old car. You say the oil has been changed every 3500 miles. Oil changes are also time dependent so if the oil change time intervals are extended ones (along with environmental conditions) it’s possible there could be some sludging and this will kill a turbocharger quicker than anything.

There is nothing wrong with Subaru turbochargers. They’re the same ones used on many makes of cars and anytime a turbo fails it’s due to lack of oil, overheating, irregular oil changes, etc, etc.

In short<<<, have them find why the turbo is starved for oil and getting killed.

Long Version:
In my humble opinion the turbo charger replacements are due to a oil related issue inside your motor. Replacing the turbo without further explanation 3 times means there definitely is a problem. I am not familiar with the 2.5L used in the Forester as its unique in some ways to the Forester/Baja turbo only. It was not used till 2006 in the popular WRX and has very few issues there but they likely ironed them out.

Maybe visit a Subaru Forester forum and look at the common issues that occur with turbo Foresters of your year 2004/2005? For example my wife’s turbo Legacy in 2005 (different setup) that puts out 250HP instead of 212 HP like yours has an issue that DESTROYS the turbo.

Subaru decided to put a small fine mesh screen at the oil inlet line the 2005 Legacy/Outback turbo. This screen with negligent oil changes or time builds up with the debris and finally grenades the turbo. There have been cases where the turbo charger was replaced and talked about on this board and on another one where the mechanic’s/dealer did not replace or remove(Subaru 2006 design) this screen and the 2nd turbo suffered the same fate.

Here is a link that possibly can related to your issues: