Non-Subaru Catalytic Converters are setting off Check Engine Light- Just bought car

I just purchased a used Subaru Outback 2004 at an unfamiliar family dealership. As I was in the process of purchasing the vehicle the car was in the shop having the gasket replaced and 2 new catalytic converters. I drove it a mile when it came out and the Check Engine light went on, I took it to the family mechanic before back to the dealership and they said that this particular car has 3 converters and they only replaces 2 of them. So I took it back to get the old converter replaced. (I haven’t yet mentioned that I moved 31 hours away to Montana in this new-used vehicle and mid-trip the Check Engine light went on and Cruise stopped working. I took it to a Subaru Dealership and they told me that Subarus have weird computers in them and the Converters that were put in aren’t Subaru parts so the Sensors are failing. I got an estimate on parts for the replacement and it totaled $3,600. I sent a respectful letter and copies of the mechanic’s notes to the dealership and she’s looking for a “quick fix.” I don’t know a lot about cars but I don’t want her to try to take advantage of me. Is anyone that knows Subarus familiar with these problems and have advice for how I should go about handling this? Much appreciated!

To be honest, I’m having a hard time following the complaint. What does gasket mean; a head gasket?
An unknown here is what diagnostic codes were set and how the converter diagnosis was arrived at.

I also do not understand the comment by a Subaru dealer that Subarus have “weird” computers in them. That sounds like a clueless service writer talking in an effort to get through the next moment in their lives. Subaru does not have “weird” computers.

If you bought the car “AS IS” you should have a copy of the disclaimer and that usually means you’re out of luck unless someone is feeling benevolent.

Personally, I would have never purchased a vehicle that was currently in the shop for what appears to be major repairs.
Guess that sums up my near total lack of information… :smile:

" As I was in the process of purchasing the vehicle the car was in the shop having the gasket replaced and 2 new catalytic converters."

Why would you do this? Why would you buy a car that clearly has serious problems?

The only possible recourse you might have is if you live in a state that prohibits the sale of vehicles that won’t pass emissions inspection. Document EVERYTHING and file a formal complain with your state’s Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection. Hopefully, if they initiate an investigation, you’ll get your money refunded.

And don’t do this again. Before signing any paperwork, have any car you’re considering buying gone over by a trusted mechanic. And if the CEL is glowing when you test drive it, don’t even bother. Look elsewhere. Um, you DID test drive it, didn’t you?

“Why would you do this? Why would you buy a car that clearly has serious problems?”

When the red flags fly…it’s time to say goodbye. To the deal that is.

If the paperwork reads as is and you do not have an extended warranty ( mostly worthless ) the so called family dealership ( whatever that means ) does not have to do anything at all. 3600.00 is real close to the value of this vehicle in good shape. You might have to take a loss and find something else to drive and watch for red flags.

How is the car running? Is the fuel mileage reasonable? My son-in-law is driving a '98 Grand Prix that has had all the warning lights (except oil light) on for the last 5 years. Do you have to pass a smog test in Montana?

First thing to do is to get the code read and post the actual code here. It will be a P followed by four numbers like P0420. When you post that here, you can get some more help. BTW, Subaru computers are no weirder than anyone else’s. Autozone will read them for free, but get the code, not their opinion or what their computer says.

Thank you to everyone who provided helpful responses! To everyone else poo on you! I have my own mother to scold me for purchasing this car. I was moving in two weeks and kind of in a pinch- needless to say it obviously wasn’t the best decision, but I need to move on from there and figure out where to go from here.

You should be skeptical of that Subaru dealer. The “weird computer” statement is total BS so that tends to place other things you were told into the dubious category.

You might get another opinion or two without saying anything about what you’ve been told previously. There’s always the offchance that the problem could be far less serious and far cheaper than what you’ve been told.
That 3600 sounds like sensors and kitchen sink both… :smiley:

If you can provide the diagnostic codes involved in this problem it’s at least possible that we can make a few wild stabs in the dark at it.

“I just purchased a used Subaru Outback 2004 at an unfamiliar family dealership.”

I’m surprised a Subaru dealership would use non-Subaru converters (or any other parts for that matter).

“To everyone else poo on you!”

You might not like what you heard, but they’re just telling it like it is.
Consider this fiasco as tuition for the school of life.

My suggestion on where to go from here remains the same; document everything and file a formal complaint with your state’s Atty General’s Consumer Protection Office. I think you have a very good chance of getting your money back, and you can minimize the loss.

This vehicle clearly has serious issues, and if your description of the transaction was accurate, you’ve clearly been screwed. Many states have statutes prohibiting the sale of a vehicle that doesn’t comply with emissions requirements, and all have criminal statutes against fraud… and both might apply here.

I truly believe that trying to hold onto this car instead of fight back will prove to be an exercise in futility… a very expensive exercise in futility.

Whatever you decide, and however you interpret this response, I wish you the best.

Funny. I have been driving my Subaru 2004 outback around with the engine light on for a while. My Subaru dealer said it would not hurt the car. My car runs fine but I’m still bothered by the light. I’ve read about emissions causing this and faulty gas caps. I bought several gas caps with the recent one from the dealership. I’ve heard also that water can cause the light to go on or the emissions sensor to be bad but it’s in a hard place to replace. I just run it with the light on. My car runs great but sounds like a truck. It’s got 185000 miles on it and takes hills like no car I’ve had. It’s name is Like the Wind because of its great performance. But I did buy a lemon of sorts due to head gaskets needing replaced which is common for this model. I bought my ar in Colorado and it had hail damage from like Virginia. I love the car but it puzzles me at the same time.