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Leaking struts, how serious is this?

The other day my 2003 Subaru Forrester was getting its oil changed and when it was done the mechanic informed me that my struts were leaking and needed to be replaced. A $2000 job, but he didn’t seem to think it was urgent or anything. He mentioned something about roll overs and the wearing of the tires, but I’m not entirely sure what this means for the car. It has 140K on it, and I drive it a lot on the high way. I’m also planning to go on a trip in Mid July that’s about a thousand mile drive.

So, how soon should this be done? What do leaking struts mean for a car? Is that really the going price?

I would agree with your mechanic that the repair work is not urgent. The possible consequences, including rollovers and tire wear, apply to struts that have outlived their useful life and are no longer performing their intended function. You would know it by a bouncy ride.

The $2000 price tag, however, seems way out of line. I don’t know if there is anything special about Subaru struts, but a similar job on other cars goes for half that price or less.

In any case, there is no reason to go to a Subaru dealership for this repair. When you are ready, visit the independent repair shops and ask for a quote. Also, you may not need to replace all four struts. Maybe you only need to replace a single pair. Ask to see which one(s) are leaking.

Other people said it seemed high too. I went to a Midas and not the dealership, and I’ve had pretty good luck with them. But yeah I’ll get a second pricing. Thanks!

The price is obscenely high unless it was a dealership price using complete Subaru OEM factory struts that are complete assemblies. In the aftermarket that job can be done much less IF needed.

My opinion is that you’re being fed a line of overpriced BS and the roll-over comment is a scare tactic to coerce you into buying into it.

I worked for Subaru a long time and Subaru struts hold up very well. Just about every strut I replaced was replaced because it was damaged due to a collision with another car, a hard curb strike, etc. I think you were being yanked.

I try to avoid shops like Midas. One scared my wife into buying an unneeded set of 4 shocks (before we met) using pure sales BS. $2,000 is way too high. Find a good independent mechanic (use the cartalk mechanic finder, it worked for me).

Just because they’re nice to you doesn’t mean they’re good, or honest.

While not automotive related, I’ll give an example of “nice” and perceptions.
A few days ago my wife told me after getting off the phone with her mother that they had to turn the water off due to a leak. Her regular plumber whom she’s used and trusted for years dropped by for a quick look and stated the pipes were rusted out, they would all need to be replaced for several thousand dollars, and it would have to wait a few days because he was so busy.

So I volunteer to go in Sat. evening to see if I could patch the leak in some way and get the water back on. I crawled under the house and saw no mud and no rusty pipes, only one small damp spot. Since something wasn’t adding up I turned the water on and noted a steady drip from a pipe but it was not the pipe that was leaking. The floor was slightly damp just above the pipe and water was dripping from that spot.

The hot water tank and central A/C unit was in a closet space just above that and when examined I found the leak to be a short 12’ connection pipe on the hot water tank. It had a pin sized hole and was spraying water on the wall and then leaking down.
Off to Lowes I went and when I returned this problem was cured in 5 minutes time for a total investment of 12 bucks and change.

Back home I go and 2 hours later my mother in law is profusely thankful to me for fixing this problem but was already defending the plumber. She states that he “probably just missed it”. Really? The pipes are NOT rusty and a blind man should not have missed this one. It took me all of 5 minutes to figure it out and another 5 to repair it.

She is also planning to use him in the future if need be. Go figure.

I would get a second opinion. I am always suspicious about the “leaking strut/shock”. Dishonest mechanics have been known to squirt oil on the shocks/struts to generate unnecessary repair bills.

OK4450, nice work. But I’ll offer a warning. If the tank has some years on it, consider replacing it.
I’ve had acidic water creat a pinhole in a copper pipe. I patched it.
A few months later, another developed. I patched it.
A few months later, I did another.

By the time I got around to redoing the system, I had 16 squares of heater hose on my pipes with worm clamps on them, a leak under every one.

That acidic water eats through water tanks too. Your MIL may want to keep you on speed dial.

Sincere best.

Actually, the water tank is only a couple of years old and was installed by the trusted plumber she uses.

The leaking connection pipe (copper w/brass ends) was also replaced at the same time and the leak appeared to be in the area of where an end had been soldered on. From the corrosion it also appears this thing had been oozing for quite a while…

Thanks for the advice guys. I hate going to mechanics anyways because I don’t know enough about cars to tell if I’m being taken for a ride. I try to find out what I can so that I can be better prepared but short of becoming one myself, there isn’t much I can do.

As for the leaking, I’ve been looking under the car to see if there’s any fluid and haven’t found any.

eta: another thing I found odd, the mechanic mentioned that the struts have to be looked at every 50K miles, so I’m long overdue. I’ve been seeing them awhile so I wondered why this wasn’t mentioned before.

Typically, during every inspection a good mechanic will look at them, but if there are no leaks, and everything seems OK with them, then no further action is taken. This is, of course, just my opinion.

Think of it like this: You walk up to your car in a parking lot, and glance at your car. You see the tires all have air in them, you think no more about it. If there was a flat, you’d stop and re-evaluate, how to get it fixed, put the spare on, etc.

A leaking strut does not leave puddles on the ground. All you would see are some damp streaks on the unit itself when the car is raised. Don’t expect to see any symptoms just by kneeling down to inspect.

Initial leaks are very small and don’t really affect functionality of the unit. That’s why we suggest that a replacement (if actually warranted) is not urgent.

While I don’t necessarily agree with the premise, Subaru of America (the corporate parent) states that a slight amount of oil residue around the top of the strut cartridge is normal and acceptable.
(This does not mean leakage to the point where it’s running down the side of the strut.)

Still, there’s the question of whether you need new struts and shocks. It would not surprise me if you did at 140k, but it’s not an emergency by any means, plenty of time to get a second opinion. And I wouldn’t worry about your trip, assuming the car handles fine right now. Do you notice anything unusual in the handling? How long have you owned it?

I went to a Midas and not the dealership, and I’ve had pretty good luck with them.

I hope you continue to have good luck, but most automotive chain shops have well deserved negative reputations.

I would suggest looking around for a good independent shop. All the better if it is a speciality suspension shop named 3rd street Auto Suspension or some such name.