2008 Subaru Outback Excessive Repairs?

October,2013 I bought a 2008 Subaru Outback with 106K. It needed tires & brakes and since then the right front ball joint, serpentine belt, battery have needed to be replaced. At the 120K service today the dealer told me it needed a right rear wheel bearing. drive shaft, drivers side axel and ball joint replaced for an approximate total of $1,900. With regular oil changes, & these additional repairs this car will cost me almost 6K in maintenance over 18 months and 15K in mileage. Does that seem excessive to anyone else? Anyone want to buy this Subaru? Thoughts, Insights welcomed…

It’s possible that all of those things could be needed. The mileage is a bit low for some of those things but it’s certainly possible. A lot depends upon road surfaces, environmental conditions, etc.
The battery, brakes, and belt should be considered normal and not part of the discussion.

Being used, you never know if the car has been flooded or has been driven through deep standing rainwater.

My suggestion is to price repairs like this at a reputable independent shop as it could save you some money.
The higher prices at a dealer does not mean they’re gouging you. The dealer business model is different from a smaller independent as the dealer has far more expenses than the indy shop and someone (the customer) is the peson to make up the difference.

Not meaning to rain on a gloomy parade but where is this car at in regards to the timing belt?
Has that been changed or brought to your attention?

I’ve got a 1999 outback with 154k miles and have never had the ball joints, drive shaft, or axel replaced. And our roads are so bad that my stabilizer bar broke a couple of years ago. Sounds like this one might have been driven kinda hard by the previous owner. I agree with getting a reputable mechanic to give you a second opinion if that’s feasible.

If all of that is needed I’d say the estimate sounds like about what I would expect to pay.

I’m not sure that I would spend that much money on repairing this car, but then again, I might not have bought it in the first place. Buying a used car almost always has the potential for buying the result of somebody else’s abuse and/or neglect of a vehicle, and I suspect that this is what the OP did when she bought this vehicle.

For the record, my first Outback (which has passed from me, to my brother, to a young relative) now has in excess of 160k miles, and it has never needed wheel bearing, axle shaft, drive shaft, or ball joint replacement in its 15 year lifespan. My second Outback–which I kept until it hit ~110k miles–never needed any repairs, with the exception of replacement (under warranty) of a solenoid in the evaporative emissions system. My third Outback just hit 55k miles, and it has not needed any repairs.

I think that ok4450 was on the right track when he theorized that this car likely was driven through deep water, as that type of circumstance would potentially explain all of the repairs that were mentioned. Replacing tires, brakes, battery, and serpentine belt are NOT repairs, and are merely maintenance items that normally come up at certain intervals.

I can’t advise the OP as to whether or not to repair this vehicle, but I suspect that it was not taken care of particularly well by the previous owner(s), and that could mean that more expensive repairs are on the horizon. For example…how many times has the transmission fluid been changed? If the answer is…I don’t know…or…never…then a transmission overhaul is likely in the very near future. (Just for the record, the trans should have been serviced 4 times so far)

And then there is the timing belt. If this car has the standard 4 cylinder engine, the belt was supposed to have been replaced by 105k miles. If the OP has no documentation that this was done by the prior owner, and if she herself has not had it done, then the engine is likely to self-destruct in the near future, when the belt snaps–with no warning whatsoever.

The lessons to be learned from this experience are that timely maintenance is invariably cheaper than the repairs that result from lack of maintenance, and that used cars need to be examined by a mechanic of your own choosing prior to purchase. If this car had gotten a careful inspection prior to purchase, it is likely that most of these repairs could have been avoided–by avoiding the purchase of a damaged/neglected car in the first place.

Your Outback has been driven hard by it’s former owner. Did you have a mechanic look this vehicle over before you bought it? I think I already know the answer to the question but I just had to ask. BTW…a good independent mechanic will save you money. A dealer is the last place to take a used car for repairs.

I also vote for a second opinion and an estimate by a good independent mechanic. Note that some of these items can cause a crash if they fail, so don’t wait too long to get this sorted out.

You can’t really lump the cost of repairs in with the cost of maintenance. Maintenance is needed on any car.

Methinks the STEALERSHIP is seeing dollar signs because its the 120K service interval… Great time to reccommend a bunch o crap you DONT NEED EH?

If you needed a rear wheel bearing…you WOULD HEAR THAT…would sound like you had Knobby tires on the car or snow tires …would be a Rrrrrrrrrr sound constantly. You only need axles if the CV Boot is broken and puking the grease all over the place. Or you hear CLICKING when the front wheels are turned in either direction the more severe the cant of the wheels the greater possibility of noise/clicking …it will click when power is being applied.

You would also hear a CLUNKING Sound over bumps if a ball joint was coming apart. Time for an Independent looksie…and dont tell the next shop you bring it to what the Stealership said it needed.


Second opinion from an independent shop would be warranted. Don’t tell them what was suggested. Just let them tell you what they think is needed.

If you notice drivability symptoms that could be related to the recommended repairs, you might get another opinion. Take it to a different shop and describe the problems. They will likely want to drive the car to see for themselves. If you don’t notice any problems, get a new mechanic.

I agree with @jtsanders . There is nothing inherently wrong with needing these repairs. But, on my two Subbies, I never need quite so much this early. Check elsewhere.

Always get a second opinion, its just good business.

I respectfully disagree about bad ball joints making clunking noises

It could happen that way, but I’ve seen plenty of worn . . . that means bad . . . ball joints that simply made squeaks when slowly going over bumps and dips

But it wasn’t very loud, and if you weren’t really listening for it . . .

Of course, with the vehicle in the air, you could grab the tire at 12 and 6 and feel it

So that dealership mechanic that said the ball joints are bad just may be competent and telling the truth


I second db4690 about the ball joints. I’ve seen bad ones that made no noise at all and in some cases were not even loose.

Regarding the latter, sometimes a flat spot would develop on a ball stud and while the joint was tight it would cause a bit of a hitch in the steering that may be erratic or near unnoticeable.
This happened a few months ago with my daughter’s Mustang. The ball joints had been replaced about 30k or so miles ago (MOOGs) and went south already on both sides. The joints were tight but the car had a tendency to veer a little and took ongoing course corrections to keep it straight.

Once the control arms were off the car the flat spots could be easily felt by rotating the ball studs.

Hi OK4450 & db4690,

Thanks for the thoughts on ball joints. This car is making noises, started a few days before I took it in for 120K service: when I drive up a hill only from a standing position, (my driveway is a steep hill), there is a chain clunking sound like something heavy is being pulled. When I make a tight turn to the left there is a slight grinding sound. Overall the car feels unstable to me; like it wobbles. :slight_smile:

I got a 2nd opinion from the shop that I originally had check this car out prior to purchase and they said - all normal, good car - $1500, (vs 1900 dealer cost). They have a good reputation, (22 years in business), and specialize in Subaru.

The car has broken down on me 2x, the first time w/i a month of purchase, (original seller fixed R/F something, don’t remember at n/c), the 2nd breakdown occurred, (at about 112K) the day after I had brought it to the dealer to check a noise that sounded like it needed transmission fluid, (slight growning sound) - they said nothing wrong and the next day it stopped while I was on the highway - the dealer said the tensioner broke, serpentine belt stopped, which then no longer drove the alternator and wore down the battery. That is when they replaced all the above except alternator.

Any thoughts on the history? Thanks!

@Alice44 I’m glad to hear you got a second opinion

The fact that the shop’s been around for 22 years hopefully means they’re competent and honest

Anyways, the $1500 versus $1900 makes me think their labor rate is nearly as high as the dealer, and hopefully they’re using high quality parts

Ask them if they will warranty the parts and labor for 12 months

All in all, it sounds like the car basically just needs typical wear and tear items, which would be typical for its age and mileage