Dealer responsibility for engine trouble

We have a 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i, at 72,000 have been told by dealer short engine block needs to be replaced due to engine sludge & caking. Have been told this is due to not changing oil often enough. We’re missing a few receipts (one garage we used has closed, can’t get receipts reprinted), but had oil changes every 6-12,000 miles. Never had low or v dirty oil on dipstick, never had oil light on.

First sign of trouble at 57K, all dash lights on, error codes re: cam shaft & timing, & dealer said oil found v low & dirty, flushed x 2 & changed. 9 months later, same lights & codes, oil changed (diff’t mechanic), brought to dealer for timing belt noise other mechanic heard & had pulled same codes. Dealer wouldn’t investigate further. 10 months later, same lights & codes, dealer changed oil & said fixed - but I pushed since 3rd time same lights & codes, THEN they investigated further, after ~3 weeks came up with offer to replace short block but only pay 1/2, leaving us with $3K cost.


  1. does it sound like correct diagnosis, & entire problem due to us changing oil less than perfect every 6K mi?
  2. is replacing only short block a smart idea (other parts could be damaged, rest of car out of warranty); would rebuilt or junkyard engine by other mechanic be reasonable to look into?
  3. given problem 1st showed up while under warranty, is offer of Subaru to pay only 50% reasonable?

Look forward to thoughts of others, esp. if you’ve had similar experience.

This is going to be one of those situations where you, the customer, have to “prove” the dealer wrong. Meaning producing all receipts for all oil changes.

Are you the original owner, bought it brand new? If not, you can’t prove anything about the maintenance prior to your purchase of the car.

Personally, I think changing the oil every 6000-12000 miles, per your admission, is a bit too long. That certainly doesn’t help with the argument against the dealer.

I’d get another diagnosis, myself, just to be sure. You can try a junkyard engine, but you’re getting into another bucket of unknowns there. It may make more sense to fix the one you have. And get the oil changed more often…


Thanks, that’s helpful perspective. Still unclear what the original issue was, but it may be worth digging harder for previous receipts.

You said that the oil level was never low, but you also said that the dealer found the level to be low. Which is it?

How often does your owner’s manual say to change the oil?


Another possibility is that OP was charged for oil changes that were not, in fact, performed. Perhaps that’s why the garage closed?

Not that it’s all that helpful, seeing as this would absolve Subaru from responsibility and put that responsibility on whichever garage cheated on the oil changes, and proving that would be nearly impossible unless a lot of other customers came forward with similar stories, backed up by evidence.

At any rate, yeah I think 12k is too long for an oil change, but I’m surprised that it would sludge up with that kind of mileage even with the neglectful oil change interval. Maybe with a turbo, but I don’t think the 2.5i had a turbo motor. Could be wrong on that though.


What is Subaru’s recommended oil change interval for this engine? If they recommend 6k miles and you didn’t change it until 12k miles at some point (maybe I misread that), you technically voided the warranty and I think it’s pretty decent of Subaru to offer partial payment.

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Trust me, it’s not 12k miles. Most likely, it is 7.5k miles or 7.5k months, whichever comes first.

But, rather than trust to my memory, the OP can supply this detail by opening the little booklet titled Subaru Maintenance & Warranty.

What they told you was correct. This is a customer inflicted problem and I’m surprised they even offered to cover 50%.

Six to 12k miles can be way too long between changes because there are other factors involved. Time, driving habits, dusty locale, and high humidity are also offenders.


From what I can gather. The OCI for this car was either every 3k miles “severe service” or every 6k miles “normal use” and it required synthetic oil 0W-20. It seems the OP exceeded the OCI, habitually, and I wonder if the garage he/she was using was using the correct oil for the application.

It sounds plausible

Maybe, depends on what kind warranty if any the third party mechanic would provide and what the price difference is between the various options

Since it seems that you weren’t as diligent with the oil changes as you should’ve been in order to satisfy your car’s warranty requirements, I’d say they are being more than fair.

You are correct, but I think that the OP needs to understand that he/she voided the warranty by going way past the manufacturer’s specified oil change interval. A warranty is–in effect–a contract. The mfr. will pay for repairs IF the vehicle owner holds-up his end of the deal by maintaining it in accordance with the specified maintenance schedule. Failure to maintain it properly essentially voids the contract/warranty–at least on the engine in this case.

I think that the dealership’s offer is more than fair.

More accurately should be titled, manufacturer responsibility. It’s not the dealers fault for sludge issues due to maintenance intervals.

Nor is a vehicle mfr responsible for negligence on the part of a vehicle owner.

A problem w/the PCV system could contribute. Suggest to minimize the chance of a recurrence – besides a periodic inspection of the pcv system and pro-active replacement of the pcv valve – going forward to change oil & flter around 5K miles, use a major brand for each, the correct oil spec listed in the owner’s manual, and maintain using the same brand of the oil for the life of the car.

I doubt you’re going to get much further help from the dealership beyond what they’ve already offered. Doesn’t hurt to ask though. Suggest to phrase your communication so that it will invite the dealership to respond favorably: “I like driving Subarus and would like to feel comfortable buying more cars from this dealership in the future.” The message won’t be lost.

I would take them up on that offer of $3K to fix before they change their mind


I agree. I am as cheap as the day is long, and I don’t see you getting a better deal than what you have been offered.

I’d like to know the exact codes, but you said they were for

This engine has variable valve timing and that is very sensitive to the oil. It must be the right grade and it must be synthetic.

You do have two oil lights, one amber that tells you the oil level is low, the other red that tells you that you have no oil pressure and you engine is about to become a brick.

I don’t think you need a short block. Oil tends to sludge around the heads and the oil drain back passages. BTW, unless the dealer disassembled the engine, he has no way of knowing if there is any sludge. But having said that, you mentioned timing chain noise and that could be due to sludge accumulating in the chain tensioners.

If I were you, I would change the oil immediately and use a really good quality 0w20 synthetic oil, at least Mobil one EP. The EP has more detergents in it than the other Mobil one oils. Then change it again in 500 miles and again 500 miles later. Change the filter each time and use only the Subaru filter, get from the dealer. The do three more oil and filter changes 1000 miles apart. This will gently clean out your engine.

If you’re having the oil changes done, they will be around $80-100 each, but that is a lot cheaper than the $3k the dealer wants.

BTW , most of your problems are in the timing chain area, not in the short block.

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Sorry for lack of clarity. We never had any warning lights that indicated low oil or other oil issue until the error codes and dash lights all came on suddenly. I have been pretty diligent about checking oil level via dipstick, & especially remember checking it right after each instance off dash lights coming on (now 3 times, over 19 months), & finding dipstick either at very top or at least 1/2 way between marks on dipstick.
YET, at least the 1st & most recent time, dealer service TOLD us oil was low & sludged. Hence the confusion.

I suppose replacing a short block is $6000 and replacing a long block is more? Would a long block have timing belt components? Sprockets? Tensioners? Or is that extra also? Seems a new motor would be $7800? Or so?
I “think” they said shortblock is $6k since that was a low priced repair. When a complete new motor would probably be a better repair. Would they pay 1/2 of a complete motor?
A complete motor may have a longer warranty too.

Some food for thought is that when they say “meet halfway” more of that half is on the customer rather than on SOA as the customer is led to believe.

Good Luck…I’m DIY that change many friends and relatives oil,some engine used oil some don’t,alway’s missing is owner not checking oil level and add if needed,I noticed 1 quart to 4 quart used before 6000 miles,Like 2004 rav4 got one quart out of 4.5 quart capacity,06 Honda Oddessy got 1.5 quart of 5 quart sump.Usually one quart low before 6k miles.They say oil cheap engine not.I always encourage the owner check oil level at least once a month plus check the rest of fluids like brake fluid,washer fluid,coolant etc a 5 minute work.