My Subaru is good, but dealers are killing me

Hi, I love your show :slight_smile: And, I bought Subaru because you guys talk highly about it. And, I must say that I am extremely happy with my car.

However, I have been spending about $1K a year on maintenance / repairs for the last three years. so far, I have always been taking to the dealers (around Boston area) for maintenance. It has about 75K miles. They replaced brake pads and rotors once in 2 years (is this normal?), exhaust system once (cost about $600)… I am getting a feeling that something is not right, not necessarily with the car, but with dealers (and that the dealers’ advice is not trustworthy)… so, have decided to write to you.

I just took my car for an oil change… lo and behold, they gave me an “urgent list” to take care of… they are

  1. Left front axle boot torn, axle joint binding - $404.00
  2. right front inner axle boot torn - $256.00
  3. front brake pads about 15% remaining, replace front brake pads and rotors - $450.00
  4. Recommend 75K service - $240.00

I recently got major service done in May 2011 which cost me about $650.00…

Does this sound right to you? Any advice? Any local repairman recommendations?

independent shops are not any better. No matter what anybody claims.

I don’t see anything really abnormal there. Brakes are a wear item subject to terrain and driving habits. Torn boots are due to some sort of road hazard. (twigs, rocks, chunks of ice, etc)

The exhaust system is an oddity but that’s not really defined as to what was replaced and why it was replaced. (On a fairly new car the main reasons would be road salt or damage from road debris.)

Dealers make more money from their “service” department than they do from new car sales. The service dept can always find stuff to “fix.”

You don’t mention the year of your Subaru.

Find a local mechanic that you trust just to fix what’s really necessary. Look for recommendations here

How old is the car? What year is it? 2nd set of brakes in 75K miles is OK if you do a lot of city and stop and go driving. Torn boots is pretty common, and if all the grease has leaked out the joint(s) inside they do go bad. Can’t comment on the 75K service since you didn’t list what they would do, nor did you give info on what the May 2011 “Major service” included.

About the only thing that seems out of line is the exhaust system work. Most exhaust systems last at least 5 years on modern cars. What happened to your exhaust system? Rust? Cat replaced? New muffler? What?

If the dealers are killing you why do you go back?

There are many decent independents in the greater Boston area. Use them. Subaru’s are all over New England and the vehicle is not terribly hard to work on.

My Subaru is 2004 Outback (sorry, I missed it before). In May, Cat was replaced. I did not find anything wrong with it (nor did I complain), but dealer found out when looking under the car. I tried to question also, but I lack domain expertise…

The only reason I go to dealers is that “Subaru” certifies them and I did not find local mechanic who does Subaru repair through references… hence, this post :slight_smile:

Actually, the brakes are third set of brakes if I change it now as they recommend…

Overall, it appears that this is normal, and I better get adjusted to $1K per year…

Thanks everyone for your posts. Keep posting, if there are any additional thoughts.

I am an independent mechanic solely because the Stealership charge so much for their service… Word of mouth has been kind to me…or I should say my honesty and integrity have worked well for me… When you are good at what you do and genuinely feel for people and try to save them money…word gets out. Try to find a guy similar to me…a nice honest independent shop owner… They will become a lifelong friend to you and your car.

Didn’t you have less than 80K when the cat was replaced? I hope they didn’t charge you. I was sure that by law the manufacturer covers major emissions components up to 80K, regardless of other warranties. If this is wrong someone please let me know. :slight_smile:

The Federal warranty on catalytic converters is 8 years or 80k miles, whichever comes first.

The OP’s car is an '04 and this is near the end of '11. The warranty period starts when the car is first put into service; either as a sold unit to the original buyer or as a dealer demonstrator and odds are the car was put into service in '03.

The odds of that car going into service in May of '03 would be highly doubtful so I would hope the OP was not charged for this. If they were, then they’re likely due a refund if a Subaru dealer did this.

Oh I see, I didn’t know there was an 8 year cap. Do you know if the warranty is passed from owner to owner? Thanks :slight_smile:

I think murthyk said they were charged about $600-650 for the cat, so maybe they just missed the 8 year cap?

The Federal Emissions warranty is passed on no matter how many owners are involved.
The 8 years/80k miles only applies to the computer, converters, etc. Everything else has a much shorter warranty.

After going and re-reading the original post (referring to the exhaust) and a following post (referring to cat) it’s apprarent that murthyk was charged for a converter. If the converter was damaged to an accident or road debris then they should pay for it but it if was replaced because of an emissions problem then odds are they should not have been charged.

I can’t see an '04 being put into service in May of '03 but I suppose it’s posssible. Murthyk should really examine the history of when this car was put into service because if it was June of '03 or later and the cat was replaced by a franchised Subaru dealer because of an emission fault then someone needs to return 600 dollars to murthyk.

Wooohooo, that means mine is still under warranty. I was thinking of getting a smog or having it checked at 75Kish just in case. Do people do that?

Yeah its hard for me to follow what Murthyk was talking about. In the first post he said “exhaust system once (costed about $600)” and “I recently got major service done in May 2011 which costed me about $650.00” . Then in his second post he said “In May Cat was replaced.” so the cat was my best guess.

This reminds me of the reading comprehension portion of those standardized tests in school. Where they have this whole huge story then they ask you the one weird thing that was hard to figure out.

The ECM should set a code, or codes, if the converters are not working up to par. These codes could be present even if the Check Engine Light is not on. The chain type auto parts houses (AutoZone, Checkers, etc) will scan your car for free and provide any codes to you. Their job is to provide codes, not a diagnosis as the actual diagnosis gets a little murkier.
I believe that CA and Hawaii do not allow this free service but every other state is fair game.

In most cases, converters are good for the life of the car. Generally speaking, when a converter fails it’s often due to rust/road debris or something has killed it. The killer could be a poorly maintained engine that has been running badly, raw fuel leak such as an open stuck injector or bad fuel pressure regulator, or a coolant leak from a bad intake or head gasket, etc.
Usually a converter is not something that one should fret over. In the case of the OP it would be interesting to know why the cats were replaced because 75k miles is basically low miles and the converters should not have failed.

If this car is good, what does a bad one look like?

I haven’t seen anything posted by the OP that would denote the car is bad. Brakes are normal wear items, scheduled maintenance is also normal run of the mill, and torn boots along with worn CV joints are not Subaru’s or the owner’s fault.

Whether the OP was stiffed a bit on some possibly unneeded maintenance services is unknown as we do not know what was involved. The 600 dollar service (apparently referring to the 60k miles service ) is pricy because the 60k interval is major. Whether it was all justified has not been determined.

The bad cat is debateable but at this point we do not know why the cat was replaced.
If it was due to road damage or road salt rust that’s not Subaru or the owner’s fault either.

Dealers make more money from their “service” department than they do from new car sales. The service dept can always find stuff to “fix.”<<<<

Total myth that independent shops are necessarily better or cheaper. Using the above logic, repair shops make ALL of their money from their service department, so why would they be cheaper. Having been a service writer at a respected independent shop in th Boston suburbs, I can gurantee we were more expensive than any dealer, and didi noticeably lower quality work.

I work for a dealer in tn and can promise we are cheaper than independent and much better we do oil changes every day for 29 bucks and that includes a inspection and a chas lube also!!! stick with the dealer

Dealers here in Southern NH and Northern MA charge about $130/hr. The independents don’t charge anywhere near that. The couple of independents I’ve gone to are very knowledgeable and have 30+ years experience working on a plethora of vehicles. They only charge $70/hr.

Having worked for several dealers in the past, it’s been my experience that dealers are almost always more expensive than an independent shop. Yes, some may run $29.95 oil change specials, but when you get into real repair work, like a blow head gasket or more involved maintenance like changing a timing belt, the dealer will be more expensive 9 out 10 times. And yes a significant amount of the total income does come from the service dept, not as much as used car sales brings in, but I wouldn’t be surprised if new car sales income is very close to the amount of income the service dept brings in. At the Ford dealership where I worked at one time, their service dept had not fewer than 30 bays, and during my tenure there, I never once saw fewer than 24 of those bays go unoccupied.