2016 Subaru Forester - Questionable dealer services

I have had all the service inspections performed on my car and I get the oil changed every 6,000 miles. I went to a different dealer for a regular car service instead of where I normally take my car because repair work and customer service has nose-dived after an ownership change, I believe.
The new dealer gave me an expensive list of repairs it wants to do. My car drives well–no problems at all.
I had the spark plugs replaced 31,199 miles ago and again, I am having zero problems with the car, but the new dealer wants to replace them and will charge $499.99 before taxes. I read online that spark plugs should be changed at 60,000 and then 120,000 miles. Is that correct?
Also, the new dealer wants to perform a coolant exchange service at a cost of $259.99 before taxes. My untrained eye can see that the fluid is getting low, something the dealer that I previously used should have told me. Is a coolant exchange service necessary or can the coolant simply be added?
Lastly, this dealer is recommending a cam carrier reseal for $5,690.00 before taxes. I have never had a single drop of oil leakage nor has extra oil ever had to be added to the car.

I see no reason to replace the spark plugs unless you want to. I replace mine every 30K miles, but mine are the ordinary copper $2.50 each kind. Your car probably uses the much more expensive Iridium type, and 60 K seems correct for those. Coolant life is usually based on time, not miles. It’s good economy — engine repair fees vs coolant replacement cost — to replace the coolant every 2 years imo. But it certainly seems reasonable to replace the coolant on the schedule in your owners manual. What does it say? The coolant level shouldn’t go down more than a cup or two every year. If you are losing more than that, you may have a coolant leak. If so, that must be repaired with due speed. A coolant exchange won’t fix that. You might google the cam carrier issue. Ray M addressed this issue in a recent Dear Car Talk newspaper column as well, which you can probably find on this website’s front page. It can probably be deferred, but not indefinitely.

Below are 5 common areas to check for oil leaks. if you don’t see any oil leaks from these areas then you should be in good shape. but keep an eye out for leaks in the future because these are common areas for oil leaks on Subaru’s.

MC-10165512-0001.pdf (nhtsa.gov)

Do you have your owners manual???
If so it will tell you about the factory scheduled maintenance…

If it is not leaking on the ground and or the oil level is dropping between oil changes, then it is probable just seeping, a very slow leak, and I would not worry about it until it starts leaking…


I’m guessing the recommendation to replace the coolant and spark plugs was based on also doing the cam carrier work. The carrier job probably involves the spark plugs and the coolant, so replacing those proactively at the same time would make sense.

Thank you for the responses.
Yes, I have the owner’s manual. (The spark plugs were replaced at 60,000 miles; per the manual, they should not have to be replaced until 120,000 miles.)
I have not experienced any leakage on the ground, nor has extra oil ever had to be added. I get the oil changed every 6,000 miles and have not missed any maintenance services.
As noted in my original post, I took the car to a different dealer as the service from my original dealer has nose-dived after an ownership change, in my opinion. I.e., I had to take the car three times to the original dealer (May, June, and August) just to get a window wiper changed. The first time, it was not changed. The second time, the wiper was changed, but the blade would no longer lay flat on the window. The third time, it was finally fixed.
The new dealer hit me with about $7,000 worth of repairs; I had taken the car in for a regular maintenance service. The additional repairs included a coolant exchange service, a cam carrier reseal, changing the spark plugs, and a complete fuel service. My untrained eye tells me that I do need more coolant, something the previous dealer should have caught, but the other items are beyond my extraordinarily limited car knowledge–a retired teacher here.
The car runs well–no leaks, no overheating, no misfiring, no trouble starting, no fuel compensation problems, etc.
I have spoken by telephone with two independent mechanics. One wants $200 for a multi-point inspection. The other–found through CarTalk–wants $50 and he told me to just refill the coolant myself and he told me to not worry about the cam carrier reseal at this point since no oil is visibly leaking and the car has never needed extra oil. I am taking my car in tomorrow in tomorrow to see that mechanic.
Again, thank you for the postings. Any other thoughts would be appreciated. I thought this might be my last Subaru given my age and my limited driving, although the original and new dealers have both tried to sell me a new car. This is my fourth Subaru.

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My very simple math is telling me you are around the 90,000ish mile mark…

I have seen many times when a great dealership sells out or even a lot of times, in Nashville anyway, when the adult kids take over after Daddy passes on or retires, they go down hill FAST… That being said, I think the new dealer is just being very lazy and not checking maintenance history or at least coming to you and saying Hey Mr./Mrs. customer, these are the recommended maintenance for your scheduled services at your current mileage and past mileage, are you current on these services?? and go from there…

Now, there is No reason to take an out of warranty vehicle to the dealer for services, as any qualified shop can do most any services you will need… So I really hope this new mechanic you are going to has some great references from word of mouth and or google reviews and yelp and those other places I know nothing about… lol

So far I am agreeing with your new mechanic you are about to start using, hopefully he is honest and treats you fairly…

I just traded my 2016 Forester 2.5i Premium a few months ago. My dealer (McGovern in Acton, MA) was great, and a big reason why I kept the Forester as long as I did. They didn’t recommend anything not listed in the manual. In fact, they talked me out of plugs and a transmission fluid change because they were not due yet in miles. You may want to do the differential fluid change if you have not already. Unless you are past 100K miles, I cannot imagine why the coolant exchange would come up. How far out of warranty is your Forester? If my dealer offered a $5,700 job related to the engine, I would expect it to be covered under warranty, and I would call Subaru’s HQ for help if the vehicle was recently out of warranty. And if they would not help me, I’d ditch that car pronto as a trade-in. As a 4-time Subaru owner I have learned they are fantastic until they get about five or six years old. So that’s why I traded mine.

We followed the exact factory schedule on our Forester, dealers often add unneeded services.

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Dealer gave you an estimate for $7000 in work? Or you paid $7000 already?

The first thing to know is that the service writer gets a commission on every extra service he/she sells. Second, it is always good business practice to get a second opinion on anything with a major expense. Third, if you drove it in, you can drive it out, nothing is THAT urgent. Know these three things when you talk to a service writer. You can tell them you will get a second opinion and don’t let them panic you into an immediate decision.

Next, you already know the spark plug replacement was bogus. The coolant is recommended for 11 years or 110k miles which ever comes first. It only needs to be drained and refilled, flush is not necessary, at least not as long as you are within the service recommendations. Flush is when you waited far too long.

If you are a little low on coolant, yes you can add some. BUT, Subaru makes a cooling system conditioner that you should add at least once in the lifetime of the vehicle. In fact I think they now add it to the system in the factory. It helps to keep the 2.5L engine from blowing its head gasket. It must be used at the very first sign of coolant loss. If you start loosing more than a cup a month, then it might be too late. Certainly too late if you are loosing a cup a week.

It doesn’t cost much, I think I paid about $8 for a bottle (very small bottle), but I would add a bottle of it and then top off with some fresh 50/50. If the dealer charges more than $20, I’d be very suspect. You can buy it on amazon and add it yourself, with a little help from a car guy friend. It does have to be added to the radiator and not the overflow so do it on a cold engine.

You can also use plain distilled water to makeup for the coolant loss as long as it is only a cup or two (or three) and you don’t live in Alaska or North Dakota.

Edit: Cam carrier reseal? I know of only four things this could be. You have four cams, the rear of the cams do not have seals. There is a seal at the front and on the old engines with timing belts, a leak from one of these would shorten the life of the belt.

But you have timing chains and timing chains require oil for lubrication. Also the cam variable timing mechanisms and chain guides also require oil that leaks into this area. Oil that leaks into this area drains back into the oil pan. I one or more of those oil seals were to leak, if in fact they are actually seals anymore, it won’t harm anything. Sounds like a big fat BOGUS on that, but I could be wrong.


That new dealer you describe in your opening post is shameless. I feel sorry for anyone who falls for any one of those proposed services, at those prices. Your vigilance is warranted. Congrats on seeking advice. There are lots of Subaru fans and some detractors here, so you will hear a variety of opinions here. But I doubt anyone here has a good feeling about that new dealer you describe.

Now be sure to read the owners manual’s service recommendations. One decision is whether your usage amounts to “severe service.”

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This is a cam carrier


A big hearty thanks to all of you for your comments.

I met with a mechanic today who has been an independent Subaru mechanic for 40 years and has his own shop. I found him through Car Talk, Reddit, and Subaru forums and I checked out a host of owner reviews on way too many web pages about the shop.

This independent mechanic/shop owner inspected my car and concluded that none of the dealer-recommended repairs, including the cam carrier-reseal, are necessary. I thought the coolant was low–a photo is attached showing the actual level–but I was wrong about that.

He absolutely refused to accept any money for the inspection and his time.

Someone asked if I paid for the dealer-recommended repairs in an earlier post. Absolutely not. I was shocked because I made sure over the years that I got every single maintenance service done, had the oil changed every 6,000 miles, dealt with three recall issues, and took care of anything else that arose. While I am very aware that I know nothing about cars, the situation did not make sense to me. I had a thick a folder with me at the new dealer containing copies of all of the service invoices with multi-point inspections summaries arranged in order of my car’s mileage which I showed to the new dealer, stating that I would have to go through my records before I could make any decisions and thus, would not be going forward with any of the repairs.

I learned a lot of valuable information here from the posts and I am grateful for all of the help. I could have wasted money that I really do not have as a retired teacher on unneeded repairs without these posts.


Never hurts to get a 2nd opinion from and independent shop, My brother’s 2006 Legacy has been maintained by his local Subaru specialist from new, what they suggest for services and repairs are what they’d do on their own cars.

You can’t rely on service technicians to keep track of your maintenance, the tech sees no maintenance history on his service department computer and recommends the services that may be overdue. Since you have your Maintenance record that shows the spark plugs have been replaced, you can decline that service.

There are members of this message board who have stated they would never wait 10 or 11 years to replace the coolant, given Subaru’s history of leaky engines I wouldn’t push the coolant to the end of its service life.

Camshaft carrier leaks and timing chain cover leaks are rarely worth the cost or effort to repair. However, customers with extended warranties want their oil leaks repaired because they paid for the warranty and are entitled to the repair. Customers get upset when they learn of the leak a month after the warranty expires. The technician is obligated to document the leak, even when the owner feels the leak is insignificant.


It can be pretty hard to see the coolant level in those plastic bottles. I find it helps to hold a very bright flashlight against the side of the bottle, then push on the vehicle’s bumper to jiggle the fluid.

Thank you to all the helpful posts.