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2017 Outback Engine Rattling Noise Upon Start

I just purchased a 2017 Outback. I noticed a rattling noise (like marbles) coming from the engine upon startup in the morning only. The noise goes away after a few seconds. To me it sounds like bearings rattling due to low oil pressure, but the dealer says that every Outback and Legacy does this. It has a timing chain and the engines use 0-20 synthetic oil. Is this normal.

Go back to the dealer, and ask to start another 2017 Outback to listen if it makes the same noise.

If it does, then it’s normal.

If it doesn’t, then it’s not normal.


Without being able to hear it ourselves…I would recommend making another appointment with a different Subaru dealership. Because you are under warranty, it would cost you nothing to make an appointment with another dealership and get another opinion.


Why didn’t I think of that! I will do that. Thanks for the common sense solution.

Thanks. I will do that if things don’t work out when I go back to the dealer from which I purchased the car…

Just for kicks check the oil level before you go anywhere.


I have a 2014 Legacy with the 2.5 engine, timing chain and 0w20 oil. It has never rattled on start up. It should be a simple fix, the dealer should just put on a new oil filter and top off the oil.

BTW, for the time being, use only Subaru oil filters on this engine. Because of the 0w20 oil, the oil bypass valve in the filter is set for a lower pressure difference than engines that use 5w30 oil. It can’t afford for the oil pressure to drop as much.

I called the service manger at the Subaru dealer where I purchased the car, and he told me that the rattle upon start up was normal (due to the boxster engine design) , and that no harm is being done. He did say that it was low oil pressure caused by the car sitting for an extended period ( 8 hours or so). The noise is caused by the timing chain and tensioner and I presume the 0-20W synthetic oil that it uses. I will say that I am still a bit nervous. In my experience (I had an import auto parts business for 25 years) such a noise upon start up has never been a good thing. My brother who has owned auto repair shops and raced everything from Formula V to dirt track stock cars agrees. I will monitor it carefully, and if the “rattle” becomes more pronounced I will give the dealer a call.

If Subaru considers this noise to be normal, it’s one of the reasons I never recommend anyone buy a Subaru.



Trust me–it is not normal.
The OP needs to take the car to a dealership whose service manager is cooperative with customers, rather than throwing BS statements around.
Or, perhaps he should place a call to Subaru Customer Service at the corporate level, via the toll-free phone number that can be found in the Owner’s Manual.

Instead of a Subaru dealership, perhaps the OP should take his car to a Porsche dealer, as this must be the only Subaru with an engine from a Porsche!
(Subaru engines are of the “boxer” design. “Boxster” is a Porsche model.)

Next time the Op goes to this dealership…I’d be wearing hip boots…the craps getting pretty deep around there.

This service manager must have used to sell used cars, knows nothing about how an engine even works, and could care less if someone who spent good money…loses it all.

I think that at this point the OP should just call Subaru corporate as @VDCdriver mentioned.


I am going to get in touch with Subaru USA. As much as I want to believe the explanation that the service manager gave, logic and experience makes it difficult to do so.


"I just purchased a 2017 Outback."
Please elaborate. How long have you had it? How many miles on it?

I wonder if the problem was ignored by dealer employees and I wonder if was properly prepped.

Document everything. Get it in writing (repair orders, etcetera).

If there is a problem, I’d consider sitting down with the dealer owner/principal and asking/demanding for a do-over. They can give you another new car, in exchange for this one, repair it at their leisure and turn it into a demo. Any taxes or fees would be on them.

I’ve had the car for about 2 weeks, and there’s 130 miles on it. The dealer claims that the “rattle” is normal. The service manager did say that the rattle came from the timing chain and is caused by a lack of lubrication which he said is not damaging to the chain. I would like to believe the dealer, but a lack of lubrication even for a few seconds can cause damage especially over time. I went to another dealer and had a salesman start up an Outback, but there was too much ambient noise for me to be able to hear whether there was a rattle or not. I am going to go again next week with my brother and have him listen with the hood up.

Perhaps go to a different Subaru dealer

And then if you still get no satisfaction, ratchet it up with Subaru corporate

My initial thought is that the oil filters anti-drain valve is defective allowing the oil to drain out over night. A new $7 oil filter should fix that, the dealer should not balk at this.

If the timing chain is rattling, that is NOT OK. That is a serious problem, but a timing chain rattle should rattle about all the time, not just a few seconds on start up.

The other thing that would cause a rattle at start up would be defective hydraulic lifter. I don’t know if Subaru uses hydraulic lifters as the valves are directly actuated by the cam.

Discussing any possible reason for the “rattle” with the dealer is not an option as the dealer insists that what is happening is normal. The service manager said that lack of lubrication caused by the car not being operated for an extended period of time (overnight) was the reason for the issue. I’m not familiar with the properties of the oil that the car uses (0-20W synthetic), but I presume that the oil may be draining off of the chains, guides, gears, and tensioners sufficiently enough to be causing the “rattle.” I am going to write Subaru of America a nice letter and see what it has to say. But if anybody happens to be visiting a Subaru dealer, have a salesman start a 2017 Outback up and see if you can a rattle.

I’m not really familiar with Subarus, but I’m quite certain the service manager is full of it

If his theory was correct, EVERY single engine with a timing chain out there would be rattling on startup, after sitting overnight

BTW . . . overnight is NOT considered “extended period”

It’s clear the manager is just plain wrong, an idiot, just doesn’t want to deal with you, or one or all of the above

I would not stand for this for one single minute

They are clearly taking advantage of you

I like your idea of writing a letter. Keep records of everything. Who you talked to, when, if they returned your calls, etc. You might have to use it as ammunition soon

Word of advice . . . make that letter a “sign on delivery”

That way they can NOT claim they didn’t receive it

The letter should definitely be sent as Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested.
(I thought that it would be a good idea to use the USPS’s actual terminology.)


I believe your service advisor/manager misspoke. Rather than lack of lubrication the chain could be audible during start-up from the lack of oil pressure, the chain tensioners use oil pressure to apply tension on the chain.

Have you been able to demonstrate this noisy engine to the service staff? I get engine noise complaints during the winter when things are quiet during cold starts. Most of the time it is the normal sound of the chains, the interior of the cars are very quiet allowing owners to notice the slightest sounds.