Owners of aging Subarus, a question for u

Am first-time owner of a Subaru. My 2002 Forester now has 150,000+ miles and is in shop to get new timing belt. I was planning on driving it to ~200,000 m. before I started to think about replacing it … but now am wondering if that’s unrealistic? How well do these cars hold up?

If maintained as required, Subarus live very long lives. By now the head gasket problems have been solved.

We have owners on this site reporting 250,000 miles or more with no major problems. However, precise maintenance is required, and overheating is something Subarus don’t handle well. If I was in your shoes I would replace the water pump and belt tensioner when replacing the timing belt. And flush the cooling system regularly.

Other regulars and owners can comment more.

I trust it is in the shop for its SECOND timing belt.

If they are well maintained, as good as any car. Neighbor has 200+K and turned over to kids…keep it churning.

I never bought any make of car more than once until I experienced a Subaru. My first one, a '97 Outback, is now with its third owner (a distant relative), and has somewhere over 190k miles with only 2 repairs, and these repairs both took place after 160k miles. Neither one was expensive. (There was also, of course, the head gasket replacement at about 110k, but since Subaru went “halfsies” on it, I didn’t complain too much.)

My current Subaru, an '02 Outback, will shortly have over 100k miles, and the only repair that has ever been done is to replace the bearings in the tensioner and the pulley for the serpentine belt. No other make of car that I ever owned (and that includes Honda, Ford, Chevy, VW, Dodge, and my accursed Volvo) ever required so little repair over its life span.

When I trade in the current Subaru sometime next year, it will probably be replaced with another Subaru. Why argue with success?

The Subarus friends and I have owned over the years are high mileage cars. One was purchased with 170,000 on the clock and now has over 250,000. Major issues are timing belt, head gaskets and keeping the check engine light off. Subaru coils are on the top of the engine and have a tendency to arc to the engine case. Mis-fires create check engine light issues as well. If you live in a state that requires safety or emissions checks this could be an on-going and expensive problem. Old Subarus last longer here in high and dry Colorado but rust to death in the North East.

The good news is that lots of new or used spare parts are available at reasonable costs.


Needless to say, I am much cheered/feel better informed by these replies (even tho am in NE)! Since several of you have mentioned it, did head gasket issue impact certain years and/or models?

Some years are more likely to have head gasket problems, but not all cars have them. I wouldn’t worry about it unless you start having symptoms like loss of coolant or engine overheating.

It’s not unrealistic to plan to drive the car to 200K miles, but it’s unrealistic to plan to do it without some maintenance/repair costs along the way.

Following the factory maintenance schedule for ALL fluids, and making sure you have four matching tires at all times, will go a long way to preventing expensive problems.

Late 90s naturally aspirated 2.5 liter engines. Supposedly problems persisted somewhat into the 2000s, but by about 04 they were gone.

From here:

The subarus that have had problems with them are the N/A 2.5l cars. Have an EJ22? Don’t worry it’s bulletproof. The first EJ25s were especially bad, so if you’re looking at a 96-99 2.5 impreza or legacy make sure they have been changed. Subaru has finally made a new gasket for the cars that will be trouble free (a thicker sti gasket), but for some reason they kept putting the crappy ones in for quite some time. The new gasket hasn’t been out for more than a few years and the part number is 11044AA610 (phase 1) or 11044AA642 (phase 2). The big difference between the two phases is that phase 2 uses SOHC heads which have a bigger volume so the headgaskets are thinner. If your n/a 2.5 does not have those gaskets, chances are they’ll leak at some point.