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30,000 mile checkup

I have a 2009 Subaru Forester and want to have the 30,000 mile checkup done. Do I need to take it to the dealer to have this done? If not, is the “to-do list” pretty standard for the 30,000 mile checkup? Do I need to provide to my mechanic the checklist from the owner’s manual?

The dealer’s 30K checklist is padded with costly extras. Therefore no matter where you take the car YOU need to go over the 30K recommended items as per the manual. If you take it a dealer be prepared to say no to some of the items on the dealers to do list.

You can take the car to your mechanic. If the service involves fluid changes (brakes, transmission, etc) you could buy Subaru brand fluids and give them to your mechanic to use on your car. Fluids are important and I do this for my Honda, especially coolant, trans fluid, and differential fluid. Your mechanic can do the job as well or better than a dealer tech and you’ll save money, perhaps a couple of hundred bucks.

Dealer 30K service is a profit generator and they go for all your money they can get.

Definitely make use of the list from the owner’s manual. Otherwise, whoever you use may add unnecessary items.

The 30k service is much more than a “check-up”, and is actually what I would call a major service interval.

No, you don’t need to take the car to a dealership, but for the sake of your car’s mechanical well-being, I suggest that you only use a mechanic who is familiar with Subarus. I say that because a fairly common (and fatal) mistake that can take place is the result of confusing the oil drain plug and the transmission drain plug, which look identical and are only inches apart on a Subaru.

If the person servicing the car mistakes these two plugs, the usual result is draining the transmission fluid, rather than the motor oil. The fallout of that mistake is a dry transmission that is ruined within a couple of minutes of driving, and a grossly overfilled engine crankcase that results in severe engine damage within a few days.

The list in the Owner’s Manual–IIRC–does not mention changing the trans fluid, and only states that it should be “checked”. That is mistaken economy. For proper trans functioning and long life, the trans fluid should be changed every 3 yrs/30k miles.

In fact, all fluids (motor oil, trans fluid, coolant, brake fluid, both differentials) and all filters (oil, air, fuel, cabin) should be changed every 30k miles if you want your Forester to have a long, trouble-free life.

My suggestion is to copy the list from the manual, add the words, “drop transmission pan and change trans fluid” to the list, and bring that list to either an indy Subaru specialist or to the dealership. Whatever you do, DO NOT take the car to a Quicky Lube type of place unless you want poorly-trained, overly-rushed young kids making errors in the servicing of your car.

Incidentally, if you get the Subaru Mastercard, you can potentially have your major services done at almost no cost by the dealership. I charge everything possible on that card–including my utility bills–and as a result I receive $100 vouchers a few times each year. These vouchers are redeemable at the dealership for service, parts, or can even be applied to the purchase of a new vehicle.

I accumulate these vouchers and as a result, I usually wind up paying something like $50 for the 30k, 60k, 90k, 120k major services. And, I still had enough vouchers left over to be able to get an additional $700 off the price of my 2011 Outback, after I had negotiated a very good price.

Unless the dealer provides the service for free, there is no need to have the dealer do any maintenance. If the manufacturer is providing the service for free, it is possible that you must use their service to keep the warranty valid.

If there is a recall from the manufacturer, you will need to take it to the dealer or pay for it out of your pocket.

For most people neither of the above applies.

Your dealer may offer free service, generally used to find something that is not covered by their free service and will cost you a bundle.

Your dealer may offer you a pre-paid maintenance service. I suggest you avoid this one.

Then there are those recalls etc that are free and generally you should have done.

OK now we are down to standard maintenance service that you are paying for. The list is in your owner’s manual. Make sure all those items listed are done as recommended.

Who should do it? I recommend a local independent shop. Generally independent shops are less expensive and no worse (or better) than the dealer. Ask around of friends, neighbors, family etc. to find a good local shop. A good shop will know if they need to use dealer specific fluids etc. and will be able to get them.

Now add one more thing.  It may not be on the list in the owner's manual, but an automatic transmission should be drained filter cleaned or replaced and refilled with the proper fluid about ever 20,000 - 40,000 miles.  For some reason everyone seems to have dropped that service and the number of failed transmission is evidence that you do need it.  Waiting until it starts causing problems is too late. 

Maintenance is your best automotive investment.

All the good 

OK so now we are down to what you should do.


The todo list for a Subaru is actually more comprehensive than other makes that have gone the route of less maintenance for better or worse.

Mechanics and dealers recommend different amount of items when the term 30k service is given. I would use this list >>> and compare the prices.

You do not need a dealer to work on a Subaru unless warranty related work comes up which are under both powertrain and bumper to bumper.

You save lots of money using a independent.

Case in point I was quoted $680 for a new timing belt(only) on my Subaru Legacy at dealer. My indepedent did the entire job for $440 and also included an additional item called a tensioner that part cost is an additional $130.

As others have said, the 30k interval on Subarus is a bit more extensive than other cars. I bit the bullet and had it done on our Forester at the dealer. You especially want to have the coolant changed with Subaru-specific coolant, they’ve had issues in the past associated with inadequate changes or incorrect coolant use. Just go through the manual and see what it recommends. I also had the transmission and brake fluids changed.

Is Subaru a holdout in regards to including a maintenance package with the purchase price of the car? With BMW mainteance is inclusive (including brake rotors) up to what I believe is 50K. I think there exists a win/win situation in this arragement as the owners car has a better chance of being a candidate for a CPO car. If there is no maintenance history on a car it cannot be considered “CPO worthy”.I have seen people use their maintenance package fully but include an “extra” oil change in from an independant. Some feel the intervals on package deals to be too long and also want to save a few bucks on the oil change that takes up the percieved slack.

Thanks for all the helpful responses. I’d love to support an indie mechanic, but can’t seem to locate one within 100 miles that specializes in Subarus. I may end up going to the dealer with this extra knowledge in my back pocket.

There is no real need for a specialist on Subaru. If a mechanic has seen one they are quite similar at least in the last 20 years.

Do what is most comfortable to you of course.

Make sure you get that Subaru Mastercard!