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New Car Owner and Poor Choices

I am a 21 year old poor college student in Vermont who got their first car a year ago. My parents wanted the best and not a used car so they helped me obtain a 2009 Subaru Outback 4 speed automatic/(manual mode). Recently I have tried to take my car on “class 4 roads” and bottomed out twice. I ended up ripping off my mud guards on both sides in the front, pushing up my right muffler and messing up what holds the bumper on correctly to the front end. I did not have any oil pan issues or CV joint problems, or any major damage, and should run with no problems according to a local mechanic who put my car up on a lift for me and checked out the undercarriage with me. Now I don’t know much about cars, I am attempting to learn more so I can fix things myself as much as I can.

Now the real problem is that I recently took my car on a dirt road to watch the fireworks from a private field. When I came down the dirt hill road I came to a T intersection and I went to go turn up the hill, to the left and all of a sudden I heard a “death screech” coming from my car on every side of my car each of the four tires and inside the car, it sounded like metal on metal high pitch, and I checked my brake it was not on, I was going up hill so I thought it may have been something with the transmition. So I turned to go down the hill, and I put the car in first gear first with my foot off the break as much as possible and then with my foot on the break so I was barely going 0.5 mph.

It continued this noise until I got to the bottom of the hill (which was about 1/10th of a mile from where I was.) This concerned me because I do not have much money right now for an overhaul if that is needed…

What is going on? Should I call in? or should I just bring it to a dealership and have it checked out?

-Thank you in advance-

I would call Mom & Dad…

The dealer will void the warranty if they see you’ve been driving it through fields and off road, but someone has to look at it. Also before your first term paper: brake vs break. You put the “brakes” on but you broke them and took a “break” to think about it.

I think you should have filed a claim with your insurance company after the first incident on “class 4 roads.” It probably isn’t too late to do it now.

I have taken my car off-road several times on fishing trips, yet I never managed to do this kind of damage. You must have really abused this car. Perhaps you should get a good bicycle until you learn how to take better care of a car.

Your first step at this point should be checking the engine oil level, the transmission fluid level, and the final drive oil level. The latter is not the same thing as the trans fluid although it is located in the same transmission unit.

Your first step before the carp hit the fan should have been to shut the car off immediately rather than push the issue. There is a decent chance that what may have been comparatively minor could now be comparatively major.

I would certainly hope that if this car is under any kind of warranty you don’t expect warranty to pay one dime of any repairs needed.

Thank you. I am horrible at spelling.

Yea… about that, its a long story… involving my GPS telling me that this class 4 road was 1.)actually basically impassable unless you had a truck in Mud Season, In Vermont, In the dark. I was being very careful with all the other ruts. My friend who is a rally driver told me to take care of my car when going on dirt roads during mud season and how to take paths that avoid the ruts but on this road (Devilswashboard) in the road but this one was on a narrow curve, and hind-sight 20-20 I probably should have inspected the 15+ inch drop into a mud puddle with a rock hidden under there… All lessons learned that should have been on a old car that would teach me how to take care of my vehicles properly before I acquired a newer vehicle.

So I’m guessing my warranty for 100,000 miles that I payed extra for is now null and void.

It’s possible that warranty could cover the repair depending on what it is but since the car shows obvious signs of being thrashed I wouldn’t want to wager any money on it. Anything is possible and if the failure is not directly or even indirectly connected to any damage there’s a possibility it could be covered; especially if it’s an extended warranty offered through Subaru of America. It’s probably going to be very very iffy at best.

I wished I could tell you what the problem is but there is simply not enough info known. A screeching sound could be due to an engine running dry on oil or the transmission doing the same.
After you check the engine oil you should check the transmission final drive oil level. Lack of oil here can cause screeching and it’s not cheap at all to fix.

Here’s a pic of where you should check the final drive oil. See the red plug at the bottom? The final drive is checked with the yellow dipstick just above that plug on the same side. The yellow stick on the other side is for the auto transmission fluid.

If the engine oil level is fine and the final drive is fine you might post back about that and we can continue with the theorizing.
Until the fluid levels are known to be good the car should not be started or driven.

Just curious, but how many miles on this car and is there a recent oil change history behind it?

With regard to the warranty of 100k miles there is NO nulling or voiding it. That is folklore.

However if they find damage that attributes to the failure of an item due to abuse, neglect, or lack of maintenance they can and likely will deny your warranty claim.

Your rally friend forgot to mention those cars constantly break down and are fixed by themselves. Also they do not go through puddles or roads at high rates of speed until they know the course or someone else does and reports back.

Clean the car up. I am sure it may be scrapped up. If the damage underneath is not too severe they will likely cover the repair. Just mention mud season.

Don’t drive off road…

Have you ever heard the saying, pay to play? That applies here.

I checked the oil level, and all the other fluids after I did this. I am not sure if I checked the final drive oil.The oil level is a little low, however this is after I have not gotten it serviced since April… (about 3,000 miles ago) There is 20,600 miles on it, and last oil change was a while ago… I am going to do an oil change this week however because I noticed I was behind on it.

I Have A Suggestion And A Question.

At 21, you’re an adult full-time and a college student part-time (temporarily). Rather than being a “poor college student,” you should get a job while you’re in college or if you have a job you should work more. That way you can afford to live without saying you’re poor. Everyone in my family worked before, during, and after college and graduated debt free.

However, I will concede that a new car wasn’t a priority until much later. Beater cars have been the college soup de jour for all of us. This helped us learn to be self reliant and saved a ton of money. We also learned to appreciate what we had.

Anyhow, by working while in school one has more money and less time to get into trouble or do stupid things. I have always found that one’s studying and grades improve when someone has less free time. I believe in the adage that if you want something done then ask a busy person to do it. Busy people become more efficient.

By the way, I’m curious. What career are you preparing for at college ?


Related to CSA’s cogent comment, I have a comment of my own.
During my three decades as a high school counselor, I quickly learned that young people who are given material objects invariably value them less than they value material objects that they have to pay for themselves.

Over the years, I lost count of the number of students who wound up destroying the car (usually new) that Mom & Dad presented them upon their 17th birthday. On the other hand, those students who had to hold down part-time jobs for several years in order to save the money for a car and for car insurance were almost always meticulous in their treatment of their car.

Whether it is a conscious thought process or an unconscious one, if you are given a car, there will be the tendency to feel that another one will be provided if the first one is somehow damaged or destroyed. On the other hand, if you had to earn that car through the sweat of your brow, you will almost always be much more careful with that expensive vehicle.

I am not faulting the OP or her parents, simply because most parents think that they are doing the right thing by gifting their child with such an expensive object. However, unless someone has an unusually responsible child, this gesture is not a favor in the long run.

We all need to learn how to place the proper value on material objects, and earning these objects is the best way to do it.

The entire car sounds like it’s on shaky ground to me, a “little low” on oil is not defined as to how much or why, and at this point even considering an oil change is a bit premature.

The reason why any warranty claims may be total history is that it will be very apparent upon inspection that this car has been flogged, and flogged badly due to what sounds like a latent desire to be a Baja racer. Since the flogging encompasses both the powertrain and drivetrain there’s not a lot left that would be covered.

A poor colleged student should really not even be driving an '09 model vehicle anyway. My 3 now grown kids all made it through college with 10+ year old vehicles with no problems as have many others.

I completely agree with not having a 09 model. However my parents being the ones who were helping me pay for it wanted the “Safest car” and was persuaded to buy the new model due to its stability control. I would have been perfectly content with an older model or a beater car, one that I could learn how to drive stick on also at the same time.

I am going majoring in Athletic Training. Thank you for the advice of being busy enough to not have time to go and do impulsive things like drive on class 4 roads and such.

I dunno. I think they should cover it. Look at the ads for the Outback. “Sport utility wagon.” They show it blasting through dirt roads, and streams, and all sorts of other harsh terrain, and try to convince you that the thing is a Jeep. Fine. They wanna advertise that, then their car should be able to withstand that.

That’s not saying that you were. . .wise. . to do it, but because of the car it is, you might be able to make a case if they deny your warranty claim.

Did you shoot some video of your “Class 4 Mud-Hole Adventure” and post it on U-Tube?? Please post the URL!!

She hasn’t filed a warranty claim,…Yet…

I think your plan to get the car up on a lift and check it out makes sense. You don’t have to go to the dealership to check the underside of the car. The noise could be some bent metal shroud rubbing on a wheel, brake rotor, or axle shaft. Hopefully, nothing serious.

Subaru does advertise the Outback as having off road capabilities and their ads are misleading. The car is OK on dirt roads, but not really good for off roading or on deeply rutted dirt roads. It doesn’t have that much extra ground clearance over a standard car. It should have some sort of “skid plate” protecting the underside of the motor and transmission but these aren’t sturdy enough for serious off roading. I think you’ve learned this lesson the hard way and will avoid unknown dirt roads, especially at night, in the future.

Your car likely suffered some “knocks” but should be OK once you identify and correct any damage from your adventuring.