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2005 Subaru Forester XT ate its turbo

Hi all. I’m new here but have a disaster and need some advice…

Cliffs: Turbo blew up on a 2005 Forester XT 2 months out of warranty. Car overheated when new due to a loose hose clamp. Is Subaru responsible or just eat it and install an aftermarket TD04?

I’m in a quandary about my wife’s 2005 Forester XT. It ate the turbo on the way back from visiting grandma (about 150 miles into a 200 mile round trip). The warranty just expired two months ago and the dealership of course wants money to diagnose the problem and / or 1000$ for a new turbo. I’m 99.9% sure it is the turbo that is crunched so I’m hesitant to have Subaru tell me what I already know and charge me for it. By way of extenuating circumstances this vehicle had an issue very early on ( in 2005 shortly after purchase) with a leaking coolant hose clamp. The dealership tightened the hose clamp and assured us that no damage had occurred, however as this is my wife’s daily driver I don’t know how often the temperature spiked or for how long, although it was obviously not long enough to blow the head gaskets etc… It seems suspicious that the turbo is cooked after only 56k miles and it seems likely that if any component would show signs of damage from those events first it would be the turbo. I think the leak was at the top of the engine so I don’t think the cylinders ever ran without water in the jackets.

My question is this: Should I pursue Subaru over this or just bite the bullet and install an aftermarket turbo and hope for the best?

The symptoms are:

-Currently a loud crunching sound when engine is running (similar to marbles or a fork in a garbage disposal)

-Using socket extension the noise is isolated to the intake turbine

-Crunching sound and related bad bearing sounds continue after engine shut off and crankshaft rotation stopped

-Engine will start and car will move but engine runs horribly (surging and other effects you would expect from a shot turbine)

-Loud crunching sound was preceded by the check engine light and cruise control light flashing (we thought we had not fully tightened the gas cap lid at fill up). Just before we completed the first leg of the trip (100 miles) I thought I noticed an almost imperceptible whining sound related to engine speed but not directly tied to engine / drive train RPM. I thought at first it was the rear end going out but on the return trip (about 50 miles) the very quiet whining turned into what sounded like the pop-off valve cycling, engine surging and then horrible crunching sounds.

The first question I have is how often is the oil changed in this car? A 6 year old car with only 56k miles points to a vehicle that sees comparatively little use and more than likely only short hop driving.

Turbocharged cars MUST have the oil changed on a very regular basis and if the turbocharger is wiped it’s probably due to coked oil, which means the oil feed passages are clogged up with aged burnt oil.

It’s unlikely the original overheat had much, if anything to do with this. If repaired, I’d stick with the original turbocharger. They’re good units and you should be aware that most turbochargers are manufactured by the same people; just like many other factory parts and aftermarket ones.

Agreed on most points, but (there is always a but) the oil changed character after the overheating episode. At that point is was a brand new engine which I meticulously broke in as per Subaru’s guidelines, The oil before and after change looked new (this might have been 1 or 2 oil changes), but after the overheating the oil would look cooked almost immediately after change. The car was serviced by the dealer at the recommended intervals for the first 46k+ miles through their pre-paid service plan. For the last 10k we have had it serviced at the recommenced 3k~ miles and although it is due for a change now the oil is full and looks as cooked as it ever has.

On the second point concerning the manufacture of the turbo, are you saying that if I can get an aftermarket TD04 for 650$ vs the OEM 1000$+ I should do it because they are all made by the same people? Just checking :slight_smile:

Thanks for the Reply!

I think it’s time the board administrators created a new “Topic” called “Subaru”.

It’s time the lucky owners of these cars have a special place all of there own to ruminate over the wonderful driving experience these vehicles provide…

Do you mean “think deeply” or do you mean “chew on previously chewed grass”? If you mean the former than your comment might be slightly useful, if you mean the latter than you are just a forum troll and have no useful input. Alternately, if you were trying to be witty at the expense of my misery than save it for the experts, your no Tom & Ray.

2 months over warranty, if you have frequented dealer, and 56k miles I would pursue Subaru.

However before you deem this a failed turbo I will only state my brother experienced similar symptoms with his 2001 Saab 95 Aero (turbo). A trip to the Saab dealer expected $1000’s of dollar bill turned out to be a minor issue in the turbo plumbing causing the engine to overboost. New sensor + labor was $100 and he was on his way.

Not sure on Forester however my wife has the 2005 Legacy GT(turbo) manual tranny wagon which we love. Subaru has silly oil recommendations (7500 miles on dino) however they reverted one or two years latter(2007?) in a letter recommending every 4months/3750 miles. We have 95k miles and no issues with car except some rear wheel bearings (extended warranty took care of recently) and a seized caliper.

Did you change the oil every 7500 miles? Not blaming but curious of reason for failure.

The cars apppear to be nightmares based on posts on this board.

Thank you. After hours on the phone and the internet that is the first alternate explanation with associated hope I’ve found. :slight_smile: It would explain the pop-off valve sound symptom but as a bit of a pessimist I don’t think the “fork in a garbage disposal” sounds would continue after the crankshaft has stopped turning at shut off (no more exhaust pressure or vacuum to activate any of the boost system and I still hear the “fork in a garbage disposal” sound as the turbine winds down.) If Subaru would diagnose the problem for free I’d take it to a dealer but they are adamant that as the vehicle is out of warranty any diagnoses would cost money. I can understand their position but this is not the only issue which makes me question this particular dealerships mechanical acuity.

Edit: The car was maintained under the pre-paid dealership service agreement for the first 46k miles and had all recommend service performed during that period. After the factory service period we were not as diligent but because of the coolant issues at the start of the vehicles life I was in the habit of checking the fluids every 2 weeks or so. As I did the oil changes myself after the pre-paid service period I can’t vouch for exactly when I did it but the oil never looked excessivly used at oil change time. I will mention however that after the overheating incidents the oil looked much more cooked than I would have expected in retrospect. As my only other vehicles are all 20+ years old I didn’t suspect anything at the time but as I recently acquired a '98 outback and see that the oil in that vehicle looks almost new after 3k miles I feel I missed an important clue that the turbo was cooked long ago.

You are likely done with your self oil changes with Subaru fixing this. They want documentation.

Oil color is meaningless in oil changes. You may have over exteneded the oil life for a turbo engine. (Subaru backwardly recommends 4months/3750 miles) and requires in 2008 that interval for all turbo vehicles.

There is a common theme amongst posters and turbo failures with lapse oil changes. Unfortunately they require diligent oil change habits and one lapse is too many for them.

yes, I just found out about the 2007 retro-active oil change recommendations. I presume this means that the dealership was only changing the oil at 7k as per Subaru guidelines. I don’t think the fact I can’t document oil changes for the last 10k changes much about the extenuating circumstances especially when you add that the dealership only changed the oil every 7k miles until 2007 IF they followed the Subaru guidelines.

Also there were (only in retrospect) issues with the turbo immediately after the over heat issue. Again this was my wife’s daily driver and when I drove this vehicle I was moving from a '95 civic. In retrospect the signs were obvious and if I were driving it I would have put the pieces together. It looks like I can get a used TD04 turbo from a WRX ricer for ~100 +/- 100$ including shipping depending on millage. I guess I’ll just give up on the dealers around here forever and maintain these things myself. This isn’t the only Subaru I own that this particular dealership has been incapable of maintaining (Ignored service bulletin for a deteriorating clutch hose and couldn’t find a leaking power steering pump return hose). I agree that turbo’s stress oil, but to retroactively change the oil change specifications and ignore a defect in manufacture as a possible cause of premature failure is nonsensical.

I was just pointing out that Subaru laments are the #1 thread subject on this board and they deserve their own Topic…Your misery is shared by many…I feel it’s time the Subaru was reduced to the same POS status as the Yugo…There are over 3000 threads on this board that back up my claim…

In regards to the oil turning color so quickly after oil changes which were performed after the overheating episode my opinion would be the following.
The car was not just overheated slightly but was likely severely overheated; a.k.a. cooked.

This will coke oil throughout the entire engine and fresh oil will pick up remnants of coked oil which will then discolor it quickly.
This is why when an engine is overheating one MUST stop immediately or risk turning a minor problem into a very major one.

Based on this information I can tell you what my first step would be. That would be to run a ocmpression test because if the engine got hot enough to coke oil then there is a strong possibility of damaging cylinder walls and piston rings. This means junk engine and yes, it can run fine (or so it seems) like this.

There’s nothing wrong with a used turbocharger as long as it spins freely, has no excess play in the shaft, and does not seep oil internally. The Subaru turbochargers are perfectly good units. This one did not fail because it’s a faulty design; it failed more than likely due to oil changes not being performed regularly enough or coked oil.

You state the oil was changed at the recommended intervals for the first 46k miles. Sometimes those recommended intervals are best left for Fantasyland. Many items on every make of car should be serviced far more often than the factory recommends.
As an example, Subaru also makes a “valve lash inspection” recommendation for a 100k miles+ but that is is also as bogus as can be.

Go to the next level with subaru. You are not trained to know if they originally fixed the water leak in time to save the engine. If you have any doubt take it to the zone rep. The original issue is enough to assert a claim so soon after the warranty period. If you wait more then not so good chances. Do I know for sure? No. But neither does the dealer who serviced the hose because he did not do a bench teardown on the turbine and check for burned oil particles there. Remember a dealers $1000 is like $450 to you and me. This is small change.

Honestly, I think you are SOL as far as getting Subaru to pay for the repair.
How long is the power train warranty coverage on the car? Usually, its for 80k miles, but since yours is a turbo, it might not have that longer interval.

Also, if the failure that occurred was a cylinder head gasket that failed, then I can see the over heating issue way back in time possibly being the cause. In this case, its your turbo that failed.

One thing I know is that there’s a small filter screen in the oil lines that feed the turbo. These can get clogged with sludge and debris on a long oil change interval, and are typically forgotten about come service time by the lower quality dealers.

Someone a while ago here had his Subaru Turbo fail multiple times because that screen had never been cleaned out, even between blown turbo replacements. Its also because of that screen clogging up that the oil change intervals was lowered from 7500 miles to just under 4k for the turbo cars.

The question you should be asking the dealer is if they had been cleaning that filter screen between oil changes, and if you yourself had cleaned that oil screen during your oil changes.

Also, were you using a high quality synthetic oil for your oil changes, or just typical conventional oil. Turbo cars should be treated to synthetic oil, because of how hard they are on the oil. Conventional oils break down quickly because of the heat of the turbo.


Thank you Blade and OK4450 for your reasoned responses. Much more like I would have expected from the thinkers I know frequent C&K.

Of course I’ve gone from disillusionment to anger to acceptance and I greatly value your input. I agree I’m SOL as I can’t prove anything and the best I could do I plead my case to a higher Subaru power. I think at this point I’ll just be a voice in the maelstrom but these hits on google add up and if Subaru has a clue they will make an example of me and give me a new engine. In this economy I’m not counting on that so I’ve got a 30k$ car worth about $5 now. I found a 60k mile used turbo from a nice WRX ricer in CA that had one laying around in his garage after he upgraded to a TD06. He can’t drive due to the resulting 3 speeding tickets in 6 months but hey, I was 20 once too so I know how that goes. I agree the motor is probably cooked but even a bad subaru motor can go forever so I’m not to worried about it… worst case my wife turned her saving $50 on 2 oil changes into a $400 tow and used turbo and $3k$ ish motor in a few years. Me thinks I’ll get the forester after this and she can drive the old outback :stuck_out_tongue: At least I’ll save the leather and seat heater switches from further breakfast briskets and coke spills and baby’s spilled milk on the carpet. sigh Now as long as I can get these fool rusted bolts off I’ll be fine :slight_smile:

If it’s any consolation (probably not!) I worked for a Subaru dealer who could not provide a particular car the customer wanted. The regional office had one and had one of their employees drive it up from San Antonio to Oklahoma City. (over 400 miles)

When this car arrived it had close to 500 miles on it and was left out front under the canopy. The employee promptly took off for the airport to catch a plane back.
When the salesman went out to get the car and send it back to detail it would barely run.

Yes, turbocharger absolutely fried. I had to change that unit under warranty and nothing would break the nuts and bolts loose. Some of them had to be torched off. After that the car had to go to paint and body to have the hood repainted; the paint was starting to char right above the turbocharger.

Since the employee covered this 400+ miles in about 6 hours which includes traversing several metro areas (Dallas/Fort Worth for one) and stopping to grab a burger one could assume he had this baby under full boost most of the time… :slight_smile:

I always had a bad feeling about this car and how it worked out in the long run for the owner based on how it was broken in.

The Legacy GT(my car)/Subaru Outback XT use the screen in front of the turbo lines. They also use a different turbo/engine setup. The Forester XT shares it engine design with the Subaru WRX. It has used the same turbo setup with rarer failures from 2002-2007 in the WRX. This setup has been very reliable in the WRX with few failures of the turbo itself except from owner neglect or small sample of failing.

The Legacy GT/Outback XT have had a high rate of failure due to that screen and lax oil change habits. My wife’s Legacy GT is at 95k with no turbo issues or really any other as we have changed the oil every 3k-4k miles albeit conventional.

Don’t assume that the motor is damaged, its probably just limited to the turbo.

You can pull the oil pan (and after reading the previous thread, you SHOULD pull it), and clean off as much carbon as you can, and see if there’s any debris on the oil pickup screen.

Make sure you find the line filter, and clean that up, too, before installing the replacement turbo.

If you were bored, and felt like doing it, you could even pop off the valve covers, clean those areas out, and re-torque the head bolts, to hopefully prevent head gasket failure in the future.

Good luck to you, and your car.


One other thing to ask is how she treated the car when she parked it. Did she come in off the free way, park the car and shut it off, or did she idle it for a minute or so before she shut it off?
I’ve gotten into the habit of letting my car idle for a good minute or two before I shut mine off(it’s turbo charged too), even if I’ve just driven 35~40 mph. It might not need to be done with more modern cars, but a minute or two each time is better than several hours in the shop waiting for the car to be fixed.

Caddyman’s right. Subaru’s reliability is in the toilet.

I’d take it up with Subaru corporate, explaining that a) less than 60k miles for a major engine problem is at least 3 times faster than engine problems on the average Honda, which costs less, and b) therefore the next time you buy a car, you’re going to have a hard time justifying returning to Subaru unless they acknowledge that the turbo died way too young, and help you out with the repair.

At the service schools involving turbocharging (SAAB, VW, and Subaru) they always stressed that it was preferable to let the engine idle down for a minute before shutting it off.
This was not as critical in mild-mannered driving but was very critical after hard driving was involved.

Turbochargers run extremely hot and it doesn’t take much to coke oil on something that is a heartbeat away from glowing red.