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Fuel and braking problems with 09 Subaru

Hello everyone -

My Subaru Impreza has not impressed me at all, to say the least. Instead, it’s caused tons of problems and headaches. Right now, it’s sitting at the dealership - yet again - and I’m at my wit’s end. The dealership won’t really tell me what’s up with it, so I’m turning to this forum for any feedback. Thanks in advance to anyone that can give me some insight on my car’s problems!

To give you some background, this is a 2009 Sub. Impreza. I got it as a used car in 2010, and it had around 13,000 miles on it at the time. It had been a rental car in Georgia, and the Sub. dealership bought it at auction. The CarFax report said that it had experienced no problems, but I now question that. (Can rental companies “fix” cars without really reporting it to CarFax?) The dealership swore to me that it was a wonderful car, and I went ahead and purchased it. For the most part, I’ve liked how it’s driven, particularly in bad weather. But…

Only a few months after I got the car, I went to fill it up with gas, and the gas splurted back onto me. I took it to the dealership, and they figured out that it was some type of sensor causing the problem. Because the part was on backorder from Subaru, it took forever to get the part in to fix the car. This made me wonder if other Subarus have experienced the same problem. But, finally, the part came in, and it fixed the problem - for just several months though.

Yesterday, I had an important job interview, and I noticed that my car was about to run out of gas while I was on my way to the interview. So, I decided to quickly stop and put some gas in it. BAD MISTAKE!! I had a repeat performance of gas coming back out of the car and onto my new outfit. I was livid. I had to cancel the interview because I was absolutely soaked in gasoline, and I immediately took it back to the dealership. One of the service guys took the car to the nearest gas station to see if he could get gas to slowly creep into the tank. When this problem happened several months ago, gas would very slowly enter the tank if the nozzle was held at the right angle. But, this time, no matter what he did, he couldn’t get any gas in an almost empty gas tank. When I asked what was wrong, he just said, “I don’t know.” That’s was very inspiring for me to hear!

I also told the dealership about another problem with this Impreza. When it’s braking at high speeds, the steering wheel vibrates back and forth. If I take my hands off the wheel, it starts going back and forth at a frantic rate of speed. So, I’m worried about this problem too. In fact, I wonder if this problem could be related to something else that happened a little while ago…

About 6 months ago, I had a flat tire, so I took the car to a tire shop to have the flat fixed. The tire shop then noticed that the car had mismatched tires on it, and because it’s an AWD car, it’s supposed to have matching tires. The tires were all Bridgestones, but they were different types of Bridgestones. I just didn’t catch this. The tire shop told me to get brand new matching tires immediately, and they told me it’d cost around $750. I nearly had a cow. I ended up having a long and heated argumenet with the dealership, and after I wrote an email to the owner of the dealership, they finally agreed to replace the 4 tires for me. But, this leads me to wonder if the problem when I’m braking could be due to any damage that was done from driving an AWD car with mismatched tires.

I’ve had more problems with this car, and I worry about what the future holds for it. It only has 20,000 miles on it, yet it seems to be constantly in the shop. Could its history as a rental car be playing a factor in its problems? Maybe I made a mistake by buying a car that had been part of a rental fleet.

I’m sorry for this long post! If anyone has any answers to anything in this post, I’d appreciate it. At this point, I just don’t know what would cause the gas to spill back out no matter what we did. And, I worry about the dancing steering wheel while braking.

Thanks so much!! The dealership has me in the dark, so it helps to turn to forums like this.

I’m sorry to hear of your problems, which seem to result–at least in part–from a series of mistakes.

The first mistake was to assume that Carfax is really helpful in determining how the car was maintained prior to your ownership of it. Unfortunately, all too many people have fallen for the hype on Carfax, and in reality this “service” typically omits more information than it includes.

The second mistake (and I know that some will differ with me on this point) was to buy a former rental car. Many folks who rent cars wind up abusing them, either from actual ignorance or from a willful desire to mess around with someone else’s car. The result of this abuse may not show up for awhile, so the second owner is more likely to bear the financial burden of that abuse.

Some folks will tell you that rental cars are “maintained according to the book”.
I, on the other hand, believe that rental cars are given the absolute minimum of maintenance, in order to maximize the rental company’s return on their investment.

Then, you have a major difference in care between a car that is driven consistently by someone who owns it, and a car that is driven by a constantly changing cast of characters. In the former case, an owner is likely to try to resolve a problem that he encounters with his new car. In the latter case, most renters will not inform the rental company of mechanical issues that they have encountered with the car. The result in the latter case is that small problems can develop into larger issues.

The gas problem might have been caused by drivers and/or employees of the rental company forcing gas into the tank after the pump clicked off for the first time. This practice will do damage to the carbon canister, and possibly to the purge valve or other components of the car’s Evaporative Emissions System. It is clear that a problem in the evap system is causing this fueling issue, but the origin of the evap problem is unclear.

And, of course, the mistake regarding unmatched tires on the car did not help the potential lifespan of the expensive AWD components of this car. How badly the AWD mechanism was impacted by the mismatched tires is something that nobody can say with assurance, but it is almost definite that some of the normal life expectancy of these components has been diminished by this mistake.

In the short term, I suggest that you ask your mechanic if the brake rotors are warped, as that is the likely cause of the vibration in your steering wheel while braking at high speed. This could have been caused by someone who did not use a torque wrench to tighten the lug nuts after installing tires, or it could have been caused by someone overheating the brakes by “over-using” them on a steep downgrade. Again, mistakes by a person or persons unknown has likely caused this issue that you will have to pay to rectify. Don’t bother having the brake rotors “machined”. If they are warped, pay to have them replaced, and then make sure that nobody ever tightens your lug nuts without using a torque wrench to apply the correct torque to those nuts.

You should also ask your mechanic to check the functioning of the evaporative emissions system.

Did you make a mistake by buying a former rental car?
In my opinion, yes.
However, you could have mitigated this as a potential problem if you had paid to have the car inspected by a mechanic of your choice, prior to purchase.

As I said, this situation sounds like you are the victim of a long series of mistakes on the part of others and by yourself. Everything in life has the potential to be a learning experience, even though this learning experience is proving costly to you, but at least you will know much more when you purchase your next car.

Good luck!