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Broken Lower Control Arm and Swy bar

Dear Car Community,
Greetings! I own a used, 2003 Subaru Forester, with 162000 miles. I purchased it three years ago. I am dishing in a lot of money, as the car turned out to be a lemon. Repairing the car is costing me a lot of hard earned money and stress. On 3/11, my son I were driving out of the parking lot. We heard a big noise, sounded like some kind of metal breaking. The car stalled and the wheels got jammed. The temp was 30 degrees that day. We waited for four hours for a tow truck ( I will save this for another day). The tow truck driver said that, the control arm and joint were broken.
I towed the car to my mechanic. He called me back with an estimate. He found the lower control arm and sway bar link on the left side of the car broken and the right side, really bad and rusted. He said that he NEEDS to replace both the sides, as it is very dangerous to drive the car with rusted parts. After spending 650 bucks, I got the car back ( he put in used control arms, new sway bars, and labor).
To my surprise, when I goggled the issue, I came upon this information:
So, I called the NHTSA and the agent helped me lodge a complaint. Since I only had the car for 3 years, I am not certain if the car has been repaired after the recall. I will call Subaru today.
Please advice me, my next steps, and how I could prevent the rust issues. I live in CT which is considered a Salt Belt state. My mechanic recommended anti-rust treatment. Is it advisable?
Thank god, my son and I are safe. This could have been a nasty accident, if we were driving on the high way. Please advice. Thanks

On a 14 year old car?
Unfortunately, that type of treatment can’t reverse the apparently extensive rust damage on the chassis of this vehicle. In effect, the horse has already escaped from the barn and locking the barn door at this point is pointless.

My advice is to get rid of this vehicle as soon as you are financially able to do so, and to buy another, newer vehicle. Just be sure that any candidate for purchase is put up on a lift for a full inspection of the chassis for rust damage, and that the mechanic do a complete mechanical inspection at the same time. The $100 or so that you will spend for that inspection can prevent the purchase of another car with rust damage.


Thank you for your response. I decided to get a car from a dealer next time as well as get a full inspection done. Learning from expensive mistakes.
I am leaning towards a newer version of Subaru Forester or Crosstrek or Honda CRV.
Many thanks

nothing wrong with dealers. they sell cars. private party folks sell cars too. and both cars should be inspected.

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Will do thanks.

I agree. Buying a car with that type of mileage needs a lot of attention and full inspection. I’ve got a Subaru Forester with that type of mileage. I bought from a car dealer. I put miles into since I bought it. As always safety inspection is the key. Never forgetting timing belt and proper maintenance. The car is from 2004 and came from a Lady who put great care in it… I’ve been told by the safety inspection garage that despite some 4x4 sounds the car is an excellent shape. Subaru put great cares in building their vehicles and I’ve got proof. This was one my best buy ever. Again, Maintenance and regular inspection will go a real long way!
Long live Subies even the old Ones! Great luck for your next buy.

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A 14 year old car in a rust belt state with 162K, Sorry, I beg to differ, that is NOT a lemon, that is normal maintenance for a car of this age and mileage. You can’t expect a car with over 125K to be as reliable as a newer one. Your mechanic did you right.


…except for his recommendation that the OP should have anti-rust treatment applied to a 14 year old vehicle that already has demonstrably major rust damage. Does that mechanic think that anti-rust treatment will turn back the hands of the clock and somehow negate the damage that is already there?

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Well, yeah, there IS that…

Did you read the recall notice? It specifically mentions rustproofing the control arms, so it seems reasonable for this mechanic to consider doing the same thing.


Thanks for taking time reading the post and advising. I called Subaru today. I was told that the necessary recall repairs were done by the dealership in 2011. I asked them, why the replaced part got rusted and If they had any other folks like me, reported incidents like this?
They said they they cannot disclose information, given that the car is very old and I did not take it to the Subaru dealership to get fixed, this whole incident is null and void for them.
I will make sure to get a good car wash done at least for the rest of the winter. I will also consider rustproofing, I was planning to give the car to my son. Have to look for a newer, used car soon. This time, I will get full inspection. Thanks

Yes, I did read it, and–in fact–my 2001 Outback was subject to the same type of recall. I can distinctly recall the techs suiting-up in something like Spacesuits to do the prescribed recall on my car, circa 2003.

However, to do that “rustproofing” after the car has been on the road for 14 years is essentially pointless–especially since that recall work was already done in 2011. I think that the real problem is that the original owner of the car waited far too long to have the recall-related repairs performed. By that time, ~8 years had elapsed, and the damage had undoubtedly already taken place to a very great extent.


It’s virtually impossible to rustproof components on a 14 year old car that has lived in the Rust Belt and since the replacement in 2011 that is plenty enough time for new parts to rust in that area. The car is NOT a lemon.

Words of advice. You may note that many owners manuals refer to “inspection of steering and suspension components” in their regular maintenance schedules.

If this is followed then you won’t be facing sudden surprises like this. And it applies to every make and model on the road.


My mechanic has been taking care of this car for the past three years. He did a lot of work, such as timing belt, water pump, radiator, and regular oil changes. My thought was, how come he never noticed the rust. For that he apologized and said that, he never noticed the rust on the control arm, even during the oil changes, as the these parts are normally hidden behind some other parts( I forgot which ones).
I know that salt and other chemicals such as calcium chloride do harm the parts under the car.
I will make sure to add " inspection of steering and suspension components" to my to do list. Thanks

In defense of your mechanic, the control arm is made from a piece of formed sheet metal. It is formed into a long rectangular box section. After forming, the outside was painted. Over the succeeding winters, salt and moisture got into the interior of the box section and rusted it from the inside out, the paint holding up very well and keeping your mechanic from noticing.

Eight winters after the initial purchase, a rust proofing was sprayed into the interior of the box. Unfortunately, covering up rust does not stop it from progressing. You have to protect the metal before corrosion starts. Once it starts, it’s too late to stop it with a simple covering.

In my opinion, your mechanic should have gotten new control arms. I think used control arms was a mistake, even if they came from a non rust area like California. The rubber bushings will still be old.

Genuine Subaru parts would have cost 950 not including labor. Should have invested in new parts…
He did paint the used part ( maybe rust- proofed it ) before he installed it.
With the blizzard upon us, I felt the pressure to get it fixed…lessons learned…

Depends. If you can block water and oxygen from reaching it, it can virtually stop it. This is how POR15 works. But I doubt they’d spring for it. In the grand scheme it wouldn’t be all that much more expensive but they don’t seem to comprehend that fixing it right has many benefits. Some not as easy to put a dollar value on…

When you buy your next used car, ask your own shop to do a pre-purchase inspection first, before writing any checks. And after you’ve owned & driven it for a few months, take it to the dealership, show them the vin number and ask they check their database to make sure the vehicle has had all the recall and customer interest work done; next ask them if they are aware of any critical tsb’s pertaining to the car which they suggest get done .

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I would not blame the mechanic at all.
It could be he’s he type to do only what is asked of him.

It could also be that he’s been accused of needless upselling of other services in the past while pointing out issues unrelated to what the customer asked for.

That particular issue has been mentioned on this forum a number of times. Not by me.

Now where are you at on the timing belt situation…

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Hi! Timing belt, water pump, and radiator were done last year. I like the car and my mechanic is great!