Beloved Subaru

I have a 97 Subaru outback station wagon that I love but it has a few problems. I?m having a hard time deciding if I should just sell it, most likely to one of those cash for car places, or invest the money and repair it.

First off it has rust, all over ? around the windshield, around the wheel wells and a few spots here and there. The rust around the windshield is so bad that it has let water through when it rains heavily.

Other problems - I?ve got no AC, a makeshift repair on the exhaust system, breaks that squeak every now and then, a growing crack in the windshield, my fog lights point in different directions.

Otherwise it runs great. Should I invest the money or just get rid of it. Also, I live in the city and don?t drive it that often.

I kind of know the answer but I need to hear it from a trained professional.

Besides all the other problems, the rust issue is the deal killer for me. Exhaust can be fixed inexpensively. A/C is more expensive, but do-able. Rust is a cancer, and as bad as your describing, into a 3rd stage and terminal. It can be fixed, but will be prohibitively expensive at this point. Have it checked for rust problems in structural areas, like under the car in the unibody frame and rocker panels. If it is deemed unsafe, let it go now.

I have to agree with Busted… The rust is the killer. There are no cheap fixes for rust and it is just going to get worse. The rest of the stuff would be worth repairing without all that rust.

I agree with Bustedknuckles. There’s a good chance this vehicle has rotted to the point of being unsafe.

If that growing crack in the wndshield suddenly appeared one day that could even be a dead givaway. Your windshield is a part of the structure of your vehicle, part of its “frame”, if you will. If the rot elsewhere has progressed to where the windshield is carrying loads beyond its design intent, it could even have manifested itself as that crack.

It’s time to go shopping.

Like BK, I would be VERY concerned about the rust issue.

This car, like almost all cars made nowadays, uses unitized construction, which means that instead of a separate frame, the entire chassis and body structure together constitute what is supporting everything and holding everything together.

In addition to the rust that you see, there is likely to be even more in areas that you can’t readily view. The result is that the car no longer has the structural integrity that it should have in order to protect you and your passengers in the event of a collision. The best evidence of this is the “growing crack in the windshield”. This crack is growing because the lack of structural integrity of the car is causing everything to flex. Other areas that are likely no longer secure are attachment points for suspension and steering components. In short–it is unsafe to drive–or will be unsafe very soon.

Don’t be deceived by an engine and transmission that are still serviceable. The rest of the car is ready for the junkyard and the car should be replaced as soon as is practical for you.

The window already is a structural area. If it’s leaking in around the window, then the window isn’t being held as securely as it should. And the window does play a role in rollovers - it helps keep the window frame’s shape, which acts as a front-side rollbar. It’s time to junk the car, unfortunately.

If the rust is that bad around the windshield then one can only imagine what it’s like underneath the car; especially around critical attachment points for subframes and suspension components.

My suggestion is to apply some black silicone sealer in the windshield rust holes to hold out rainwater and drive the car to the end without fixing anything. A/C repairs will be pricy, the brake squeak (while they should be checked) may not mean anything, and the other items are liveable.

Forget selling it to a cash for car outfit. Your car is essentially scrap metal and it’s unlikely they would offer you, if at all, any more than 100-200 bucks for it. Since it apparently gets driven lightly and around town I’d say that the value of having 4 wheeled trasnportation around if needed is worth far more than that.

Weissman, I am curious–in what city does a 1997 car rust away like this? I just sold a 1998 Honda that spent a winter in upstate NY and the rest of its life in Maryland (it snows here and they use salt). From 10 feet away it looked new–no rust whatsoever.
Oh yeah–have a mechanic look at it. There is a big difference between surface rust/oxidation than the structural rust that the other posters are imagining. I just can’t imagine a 1997 car with this much structural rust. Can you post a photo?

I was wondering the same thing.

My old '97 Outback had no rust when I sold it to my brother several years ago, and it continued to have no rust when he gave it to another relative about 2 years ago. Based on my experience, it would appear that this model had very good rustproofing.

Was this car used at the seashore? Was it never washed? Something does not add up here.

Rust = death

I’ve seen rust belt cars rotted out that were not nearly as old as this one. We had a 4+ year old Subaru from Minnesota into the shop one time that was rusted so badly that I could, and did, sit a pop can on top of each front tire - through the gaping holes in the tops of both front fenders.
Needless to say, this did attract a few of the other techs who got a laugh out of this one.

A few years ago my son and I were passed on the Interstate her by 2 car transports, both of which were loaded down with SUVs and small pickups. (A mixed bag of brands) Every one of those vehicles had MN plates, were all very late model, and every one was falling apart due to rust.
In many places one could easily insert a flattened hand or a balled up fist at any point around the rear wheel arches. They were that bad and to be honest, I don’t exactly know what was preventing wind blast from blowing the beds off of the small trucks.