Just bought used Subaru Outback Limited

I just bought a 2009 Subaru Outback Limited from a private seller.

Prior to the sale, I test drove it, had a mechanic - friend of my extended family - look at it and run codes and find nothing of concern come up.

The sellers were a young couple - college girl and her older boyfriend, who seemed very nice. The car was given to the girl as a Christmas present from her parents, weeks prior. It was shipped to them from a neighboring state and they said they never really drove it, which I could believe, as it was never registered, although it was titled, in its’ new state. The girl said they were selling it because she wanted to get a used Prius instead - for better gas mileage for her college commute, plus she had no need for the racks and trunk size, since they don’t have any kids or pets, for one thing. They also already have a truck. The previous owners were an older (near elderly) couple, apparently, who didn’t do a whole lot of driving.

The car has 82k miles on it and both the interior and exterior are in very good condition, with only a very few minor knicks, scratches and no dents.

I can change oil and tires, spark plugs and fuses if need be, on my own, but that’s about it. I’m no mechanic, to say the least, but the car seemed fine to me. It runs well, brakes seem very good, and it sounds pretty good when idling. The oil was very clean and it has brand new tires on it. I really like the car, in general, or I wouldn’t have pursued and committed to buying it. I got the sellers to come down on the

price a little bit, too.

My only concern was some amount - not terrible, but some - of corrosion under the hood. The family friend mechanic wasn’t at all bothered by it, nor was my spouse and another family member.

As it’s an 11 year old car, I realize that maybe a certain amount of corrosion is normal, perhaps, especially, considering that it’s spent most of its life in a SE coastal climate (South Carolina and now Florida).

I’m attaching some images of it to give a better idea of what I mean.

Also, what else could I do to check for any issues that may have been missed, initially?

I understand the importance of regular maintenance, but is there anything specific to this year, make and model of Subaru that I might want to keep a close watch over? The mechanic is a sweet guy with years of experience (not sure exactly how many, though) and I am grateful that he took time out to come look at the car, but I am not sure he really knows his Subarus well enough to advise more specifically, beyond running tests and doing a once over. Really, he just told me to make sure to change oil on schedule, which I already know.

Any suggestions or feedback is appreciated.

I do not see anything of great concern to me.

Thank you.

I asked as well, because, also, I wondered if I might want to consider replacement of anything in particular, to prolong the life of this used vehicle. Maybe a “it wouldn’t-hurt” type of replacement or maintenance that wouldn’t be overly excessive and worth shelling out some amount of money for (within reason) now, rather than waiting until later.

The family friend mechanic said I shouldn’t worry, that I “got a good car”. I just wanted to get further opinion on the matter.

If you want to be proactive, it may be time to consider a transmission fluid and coolant service if there are no records.

Proactive, yes. I do wish to be that.


Check the tires, make sure they are the correct size as specified by the sticker on the door. All four need to be identical, same brand and size, and need to be rotated with each oil change. AWD systems are sensitive to tire size and wear.check your oil level and add as necessary each week or each time you fill it with gas.

If this is the 4 cylinder engine the timing belt, the belt, along with the water pump, should be changed due to age. That service will cost a good bit but is necessary maintenance, a failed belt will destroy the engine. If the 6 cylinder, I believe they have a timing chain and does not require changing.

I agree with Barkydog on the transmission and coolant change.

Have work done at an independent shop or dealership, do not use a quick lube shop.


Might just be I’m reading this, but that part scares me.

This young college girl received this out of state car 2 weeks ago as a gift from her parents, and already has a title in her name ? And no current registration ?

How do you get a title without registering the car ?

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for example, you live in florida. the vehicle has a new florida title? doe title VIN match the VIN of the car? and perhaps a 2nd door decal that also has the same VIN?

She had the title put in her name, but, as she decided not to keep the car, she did not go through with the registration needed to make her ownership total and binding and allow her to get plates for it. That would not have been a financially wise thing for her to do. I can understand that and it doesn’t strike me as overly strange, given her reasoning. I know I don’t know the couple, and you never know, sometimes, what people might try, do or say, but all information about the car checks out, so far.

I haven’t been given any reason, yet, to assume that they were hiding or withheld anything about the vehicle’s condition. Didn’t strike me as shady characters, at all, for one thing, also.

I didn’t say 2 weeks, though I did say weeks. I guess I should have said over a month ago, as she got the car in November and put the title in her name in early December.

In all honesty, if I find out there is a problem that wasn’t evident, initially, I won’t be pleased, but I am willing to pay for it, unless it’s beyond 3k in cost for one repair…

I trust it won’t come to that, this early on.

The VIN # on title matches up with what is found inside the car, too.

Thanks, I’ll be looking into those things in the coming weeks, most surely.

Do you have any maintenance records for the car?

That level of rust on those parts is of absolutely no concern. They aren’t painted at the factory and will develop surface rust fairly quickly.

As long as you have the title, and the DMV lets you register it, then there’s nothing to be concerned about with the kid not registering it herself. If you haven’t tried to register it, do so quickly and before you spend any more money on the car to make sure they didn’t do anything untoward.

One thing to use care with is the oil changes., Be very careful not to drain the front differential by mistake.
No one could be that stupid you say? It has happened many times before and will continue to happen. It’s enough of a problem that Subaru issued a tech service bulletin on it.

Head gasket weepage. That can often be cured by retightening the head bolts. Varies by model but it may require modifying a socket or bending a long box end wrench into a weird shape. Don’t worry about torque or angle methods; just wrench them down tight as you can short of pulling case threads.

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Only have a service history of records from the Carfax report I ran on the car. There are 18.

A few of the records just say “vehicle serviced”, though, with no further info given. Not sure what that might mean.

The first owners and the only ones who really count, since the couple I bought the car from didn’t have it very long, could have been a bit more diligent with oil changes, in my opinion, but generally, they did ok.

The vehicle was last serviced with an oil and filter change included, about 60 miles ago, although the seller told me she had just had the oil changed herself, which would have been done after what came up on the Carfax.

Well, beyond oil changes and some other minor stuff, I’m going to have to trust a local Subaru dealer’s service shop or else find a reputable and trustworthy auto shop that has experience working on Subarus to bring the car to, I think.

That’s what we’ve done with our Forester - find local shops that know their way around Subarus. Go through the overall maintenance schedule and bring it up to date for anything you don’t know was done, along with replacing all fluids, even if not recommended. I’d use Subaru coolant, just to be sure, because of the long standing head gasket problems.

They’re solid, capable cars, especially if you truly need the AWD, but have some foibles.

Not to worry you, but have someone who knows how check for signs of being in a flood - this goes for all used cars.
Your’s likely is okay but if you find that it was, there are a thousand things that can go wrong, many electrical, many not right away, and you might want to unload it. A body shop or a truly experienced mechanic should know how to do this (ask what they look for), they may have to look in hidden places, especially if steps were taken to hide the fact.

As previously mentioned, matched tires, both by model and actual physical dimensions are critical to avoid damage to the transfer portion of transmission. Tire circumferences should be within 0.25in, of each other which is ~ 3/32 in tread depth, provided the tires are all the same diameter beneath the tread (this can vary). I know people who damaged theirs with mismatched tires.

See if the plugs have been replaced, clearances are tight but it’s a fairly easy job from under the car, especially if you drive the front wheels up on 2in. of solid wood planks (look for videos). Ease the brittle plastic connectors off carefully, replaceable if broken.

Check all the fluids, replace coolant religiously to schedule with Subaru’s juice, starting now if you don’t know what’s in there or for how long.

Check the CV boots, the inners tend to crack, especially when close to the catalytic converter - both age and mileage are about right for this. If you catch before the joint’s ruined, try replacing the boots and lube with a kit from NAPA, worked well for us.

Check the cabin air filter, these tend to be overlooked.

There’s a thin bicycle cable like wire linking the rear hatch exterior handle to the latch which can jump out of position when its holding slot bends. To fix, release the latch after removing a cover on the inside of the hatch, after opening remove the inside plastic trim piece (carefully, check videos for hidden screws and tabs), and expose the errant cable end holder. Close the slot, put the end back in position, and “safety wire” it in place. Just be ready for this because if it happens you can’t open the hatch.

Look to <subaruoutback.com> for details on your model.

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Thank you, for the advice/tips.

I used to have 5 Subarus in the past, 3 of them bought used, and if taken care of, they are OK as they age.
Let me give you few points to pay attention to.

#1 is the engine head-gaskets are prone to failure in all Subarus until the latest generation (where they have another engine and another set of “birth defects”), usually happens as vehicle gets past 100K miles

make sure you pay attention to the engine temperature, and if it starts overheating “a little bit”, your first suspect should be head gaskets…not radiator, water pump, etc… - do not allow mechanic just to start “throwing parts at the issue”, make them to check for the head gasket leaks if overheating

to reduce your chances of getting into this type of troubles, make sure to regularly replace your coolant, as old coolant will eat into the thin aluminum parts and this engine is really sensitive to the coolant issues

moreover, if replacing coolant, stop by dealership parts department and ask for “coolant additive” they sell, it is mandatory with that engines when replacing it

#2 your car is AWD and it requires additional attention to the differentials

you have 2 of them: one is obviously at the rear axle and one is hidden in the transmission assembly.
the front differential is NOT sharing its lubrication to the automatic transmission, it is SEPARATE!

BOTH diffrentials require maintenance, oil has to be replaced regularly to keep this super-compact marvel of engineering alive.

the dip-stick of the front unit is on the passenger side, very next to the firewall and a lot of owners do not even know it exists

I’ve seen an extensive damage to the front unit on the car of one of my friend’s friend: he never replaced oil in front differential and it also leaked slowly… they showed it to me for the complaint of noisy drivetrain, I found oil low and having metal shawings, fortunately after we flushed/refilled it the noise became lesser pronounced, but the unit is on it’s way to the graveyard due to owner negligence

#3 get transmission fluid replaced, it is on the maintenance schedule at 60K miles interval to my recollection, the filter is external and per Subaru does not need to be replaced (it is big in size and I trust them on this recommendation)

#4 given age, your brake fluid has to be flushed/replaced, it is every 30K miles / 3 years to my recollection by the Subaru schedule

#5 rotate your tires regularly (like 5-7K miles) and never mix tires of different models/sizes as it will damage AWD differentials, tires have to be equal-size and eqeal-wear on front&rear

other than that, this is great car to have, drive on!

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+1 on the need for the differentials to be well maintained. Make sure the correct fluid is used.

Someone else may know if you need a propriety blend, or if a widely used fluid (probably cheaper) meets the Suby specs.