2007 Subaru Forester: tires and accountability

Hi, first full-disclosure. I know almost nothing about cars, car insurance or car maintenance. I pay very little attention every day to how my car is doing, although I love driving it. I am a woman if that makes any sense to you at this point.

Today, my front driver’s side tire just tore itself when I was parking. The tires haven’t been changed since I purchased it four years ago. Uncomfortable to change my own tire (I know, lame, but I was in my work cloths), I called Subaru roadside service. I have “added security gold plus,” and was told on the phone that someone will be dispatched to change my tire soon.

Upon looking at the tire that tore out, the dispatched specialist said I should have my alignment looked at before I put the new tire on, because it was strange how both sides of the tire were so worn out when the central part is just fine. I had my regular oil-change back in June, and the dealer shop didn’t say anything about alignment. Since June, the car has had a month vacation in a garage, and when driven normal amount of driving per day (less than 20 miles).

So I made an appointment with the dealer shop to figure out about the alignment. After one look at my front passenger side tire, the technician said that this tire, too, is about to explode. I asked why the technicians didn’t look at alignment or rotated the tires back in June. Subaru technician said their shop doesn’t have a way to check alignment. But I wondered how long the tires have been so worn out.

Basically I have to purchase all four tires. I can’t afford that right now. I checked with local tire store to see if I could get by with two new tires for ten days, and then purchase two more and fix the alignment. But the store personnel said it was illegal for the shop to change just the front tires on Subaru because the differential between the rear tires and front would be too confusing for the computing system in the car. (Sorry if my lingo is a bit off, but this is how my brain translated what was being said).

So here are my three questions:

  1. Would it be reasonable to assume that the alignment has been off in June?
  2. If that’s the case, why would Subaru shop not recommend that I have alignment checked out in June?
  3. Is there any way I can claim this through comprehensive coverage in auto insurance? Would it be wise to call them to find out?

I could attach pictures of the tire if that helps. I apologize in advance if my questions are rudimentary in nature, but I just really don’t know much about car maintenance, insurance, or car in general, and I also don’t know any person who would know and be trusted about car.

The way you describe it (worn on the edges, good tread in the middle) is more like underinflated tires, not mis-aligned tires. That also goes with the tire failure, that’s often caused by under-inflation. How often did you check the tire pressure?

It’s not illegal to install less than 4 tires on a Subaru, but it is a bad idea. If you installed 2 new tires on the front and you have two old tires on the back, then your front tires will have deep treads and will be slightly larger in diameter and circumference than the back. That means that the back tires will turn faster than the front tires. This is bad for the gears that distribute power to all four wheels, and can cause serious long term damage to the transmission and differential.

You need four tires so don’t risk ruining your AWD and facing a $800-$1000 repair. Subaru extended warranty you likely have will not cover this.

My suggestion is simply start calling all the tire shops around and ask four four tires for a Forester (give specific model/year) and an alignment.

Tire shops are one place you save serious money by simply calling around. Case in point I replaced a set of tires on my wife’s Subaru Legacy with performance tires for $680 for same exact tires instead of $950 and $1000 quoted 10 miles closer to my home. The shop/sitting area was very old school with simply a phone and lots of books. But service wonderful.

When a vehicle comes in for an oil change, it is a common tactic to recommend additional service. That requires a pretty thorough inspection of the vehicle and that takes time.

Many folks find this very pushy and react badly to such recommendations. It’s quite possible that the guy doing the oil change was pretty busy and did EXACTLY what he was supposed to do - change the oil.

So I think your idea that somehow the Subaru shop should have told you about the tires is a little misguided - and certainly they were not respionsible for what ultimately happened.

And - No! - your insurance does not cover this.

I agree that the wear pattern described is indicative of tires that have been chronically underinflated. While it is perhaps also possible that the car’s alignment is “off”, the primary cause of tread wear on both edges is chronic underinflation. So, I think that what we are looking at here is chronic owner negligence more than anything.

Even if someone is not knowledgeable about cars, he/she can still manage to master the art of checking tire pressure, the engine’s oil level on the dipstick, and various other very basic vehicle checks that are vitally important for the safe and economical operation of the vehicle.

No car owner should ever be in the position of needing someone else to point out dangerously worn-out tires. The simple act of getting “up close and personal” with one’s tires every few weeks in order to check the inflation pressure also allows one to do a visual inspection of the tire tread and to note any unusual wear patterns. This is not rocket science, and a car owner who does not take a few minutes every few weeks to check tire pressure and the level of the motor oil is going to wind up spending far more in the long run in order to repair the results of their negligence.

The fault of the guy who changed your oil? Not really.
The responsibility of your insurance company? Ummm…no.
Whatever happened to the concept of personal responsibility in this country?

I think it’s worth pointing out that if the tires were severely underinflated, like almost flat, they could have worn out like this in just a few miles of highway driving. My wife drove to work on a flat tire one time (got a nail in it) and by the time I got there to change it, the cords were showing on the inside rim. Because @turboinside said the tire “tore apart” when he was parking, I wonder if it was flat. And if both tires were flat or nearly, I might suspect vandalism.

Please answer a few questions for us. How often have you been checking your tire pressure? Do you make sure it’s set to the value on the sticker on the door jamb? I agree with everyone else who says it sounds like these tires might have been badly underinflated.

With a Subaru (unlike many other cars), you need all four tires to match in circumference to prevent damage to your car. This means all four tires need to have the same tread depth and you need to rotate them on schedule (as they wear at different rates). Unfortunately, this does mean you need four new tires now. (If it was just one tire involved, you might consider having it shaved down to match the other three, but for two tires this doesn’t make financial sense.)

From the tone of your posting, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re not doing things such as checking your oil and other fluids regularly. If that’s the case, you could easily end up with other problems that you also can’t afford to fix. Women can do these things too, not just men.

Who is accountable for your tires? You, the owner and driver. As soon as you leave a shop after a service anything can happen and a tire can pick up a nail and then have a slow leak. The owner is the one who should keep an eye on the tires for low inflation and wear.

Your front tires must have been operated with very low tire pressure for a long time to wear on the inside and outside edges. A bad alignment would cause wear on the inside or outside edge, but not both edges at the same time. Under inflating the tires causes that type of wear.

With very low pressure the sidewall of the tire is flexed beyond its intended limits and is susceptible to being “cut” and torn by the action of moving the steering wheel rapidly as in a parallel parking maneuver.

On a Subaru due to the AWD system you need to replace all 4 tires. The tires need to match in tread wear, if they don’t the AWD system is easily damaged and it is VERY expensive to repair and replace. You risk much more expensive repairs if you take the cheap route on tire replacement with a Subaru. Find the money and get 4 tires.

Have the tire shop show you some “worn” tires and compare them to your new tires. It is easy to check front tires for wear, just turn the steering wheel full left or right, get out to the car and take a look at the tread on the front tires. Rear tires are harder to see, so some day when you are in gardening clothes get on your hands and knees and look over the rear tires. Have the shop show you how to check tire pressure with a pressure gauge, then buy a gauge and keep it in the glove box. Radial tires don’t look “flat” until they have very low pressure, like 10 to 15 lbs. Driving with low inflation is dangerous, so you need to check the pressure at least monthly.

In the end you are responsible for this basic car maintenance. In addition you should be checking your oil level at least once a month too. If you don’t know how ask a neighbor to show you or check in the owners manual for directions on “how to”.

Lots of comments on flat under inflated tires.

But given this is a 2007 would the car have TMPS? Subaru has it just cannot recall when this system was introduced. This poster is a perfect candidate for it.

First, I’m not going to make the assumption that the wear pattern indicated only an inflation problem. I’m going to assume that the vehicle has been neglected, an actual look at the wear pattern may have more information to tell us, and there may be more than one problem here. I’m also not going to make any assumptions about the condition of the wheel. The comment that “the tire just tore itself” suggests that you were and are completely oblivious to what’s going on with your car.

So, I suggest 4 new tires (which you clearly need), along with a 4-wheel alignment, and when they put the tires on they should inspect the wheels…all of them. Who knows what else has happened?

I’m also going to suggest that you
(1) familiarize yourself with the recommended maintenance schedule that came with your owner’s manual and get anything that you’ve been neglecting up to date.
(2) learn to check your tires and fluids periodically. Oil should be checked at least weekly, along with a look-see of the other fluids. Tires should be visually checked regularly and the pressure checked monthly.

By the way, you did the smart thing by not trying to change the tire yourself. Doing so incorrectly could have cost you your life.

Oh, and there is a system in Subies that allows differences in the diameters of the front and rear tires, but only minimally or only mementarily. Daily driving with tires of different diameters can damage this system. It’s discussed in your owner’s manual. I suggest a good reading.


You have just learned one of the things that makes a Subaru a Subaru:

The need to change all 4 tires at once when one goes bad.

I would write more, but it probably won’t help.
Have fun writing a check for 4 new tires.


Thanks for all these comments, suggestions, and criticisms of the implied negligence on my part. I regularly send my car to check oil, fluids, pressure by a professional shop. During the times that I was temporary relocated, I stored the car in a garage: putting it on cinderblocks, and released the tire pressure. I was advised by Subaru technicians that this will help extend the lives of the tires. (But in retrospect, I am not sure if that made any difference. But then again, I’m not sure what causes deflation of tires.)

The consensus here seem to me that I should actively do these routine check-ups on my own, so I’ll try to learn to do them every month. Also, the consensus is that the most efficient and reasonable thing to do is to change all four tires by calling around for the best value.

Is there anything beyond brand names that differentiates these tires on the market? In other words, when I make calls to tire retailers with the model and make of my car, is there anything specific that I need to ask for? Or should I trust the judgement of retailers in recommendation?


The tire choice depends on the area of the county you live in. If you encounter a lot of deep snow, that is different than just rain. If you are happy with the performance of the tires on the car now, see if you can find the same tires at a decent price. If you are in a “snow” area I’d go for an all season tire with an “open” tread design. Open means a wide area between the grooves in the tread.

Thanks so much, Uncle Turbo!

I’ll be sure to get open tread design since I do live in the middle of Michigan.

Thanks again for all your great advice, very much appreciated.


You might ask friends, relatives, and coworkers for advice on local tire shops. The quality of these shops can vary widely. As for which tires, you can go to tirerack.com and go through their tire selection routine, it’ll identify brands and models that will work well for your situation.

"You might ask friends, relatives, and coworkers for advice on local tire shops. " This is good advice.