My Subaru is giving me grey hairs...and I'm only 23!



Hi everyone. I have a 2000 Subuaru Legacy that I purchased last year with 142,000 mi on it (yes, I should have gotten a lower mileage car). Shortly after I bought it, the check engine light has come on probably 20X, it has two new oxygen sensors, a knock sensor, a catalytic converter, an alternator, a cleaned throttle body, a MAP sensor (all dealer installed)…and that darn light just came back on again! The car stalls at low speeds and doesn’t seem to have the power it once had. I’m about to cut my losses and buy a Honda… Thanks for any input!


Sounds like you are ready to join the Subaru Owners Club. Joining the Honda Owners Club is not much of an upgrade…


If you keep the car, you will likely get even more grey hair. The previous owner sold it for a good reason. He had worn off all the good part, and problably did little or no maintenance.

A car such as yours is very suitable for a retired engineer or mechanic, who don’t drive much and have lots of time, and know how to keep this vehicle running .

My advice is to buy a lower mileage, SIMPLE car with 2 wheel drive only and minimal accessories. A 3-4 year old Hyndai Elantra, for example would fit that category. Mazdas, Corollas, and Honda Civis would fit that description as well.


How about getting the car scanned at AutoZone, Checkers, etc. for codes. They will do this free. Post any results back here as a first step in trying to figure out what’s going on.

I wouldn’t lay all of the blame on the car. Any problems are more than likely caused by the previous owner who either neglected the car or just flat abused it.

Do not buy into the perception that Hondas are infallible. They break just like everything else. The only difference is that a larger number of people are willing to give them a Get Out of Jail Free card; a.k.a., perception.


Look, you have to expect some maintenance on a vehicle with 142K miles. That said, your list of work done is entirely too much like what one would expect if the mechanics at your local Subaru dealer were fairly clueless. May I make two suggestions:

  1. Next time the Check Engine light come on, find a good independent mechanic and let him (or her) take a shot at the car.

  2. Invest in a $70 or so OBD code reader at AutoZone, Sears, or some other car/tool store. Learn to use it. When the Check Engine light comes on, read the code(s) and look them up. Yes, that’ll take hours of your time, but running the car off to a shop (again) is time intensive also. At the very least, it may save you a morning and another $50-100 the next time you forget to tighten the gas cap. More important, it’ll give you an idea if you have one problem or many problems and where they lie.

Stalls at low speeds and/or lack of power can have lots of causes, but in most cases a good mechanic should be able to isolate the problem pretty quickly. That’s part of why I wonder about the abilities of your dealer’s shop. It’s possible that they are competent you have a tough problem and/or a lot of bad luck, but it’s sure not certain.


As has been said, buying a car with over 142k on the odometer is just setting yourself up for a situation of a lot of repairs, particularly if the previous owner(s) did not maintain it properly. On that topic, do you KNOW that the timing belt was replaced already? It was due at 105k or 7.5 years, whichever came first.

If you can’t confirm that the belt was changed, then you have to assume that it was not.
When the belt breaks, the damage will likely cost about $2k to repair. The money that you have spent already will seem insignificant at that point.

Buying a used car means navigating a veritable minefield of poor maintained vehicles and frequently wading through a shark tank of used car salesmen. The best defense is to only buy a car that comes with full maintenance records–and that is rare. Even if you have access to maintenance records, any potential used car purchases need to be vetted by your own trusted mechanic before you sign the check for the purchase. Did you do either of these things?

Even if you buy a used Honda (which you falsely perceive to be bullet-proof), you still need to obtain maintenance records and have the car inspected by a mechanic of your choosing. I can tell you that I have owned many makes of cars, including a Honda Accord–all of them purchased as new cars. They all disappointed me in one way or another in terms of reliability, until I bought an Outback in 1997. That was the most reliable car that I ever owned–until I bought my '02 Outback, which is even more reliable than the '97 model was. Maintenance is the key to reliability and durability, and I strongly suspect that your Subaru had very little maintenance.

Live and learn.


So far, you have told me not that surely you have a bad car, but that you probably have a bad service/repair technician. I can’t tell for sure because I don’t know the codes that were obtained with the CEL came on.