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Repair or Fuggetaboutit

We have a 2006 Outback Ltd 2.5 that we are fond of. It has 135,00 miles.The defroster stopped working and the car started overheating. The Subaru mechanic told us it has a leaking head gasket, the radiator is leaking from the seams, the radiator hoses are brittle, one of the radiator fans is not working, and the oil pan is rotted. In addition, the checkup found the following:
• Front and rear brakes are at 2mm, recommend new pads and rotors
• Both rear wheel bearings are very noisy/ worn
• Tail gate harness has many broken wires recommend new harness
• Donut gasket for exhaust very rotted recommend new flange kit
• Front and rear struts and mounts very rusted
• Front sway bar links and bushings worn
• Rear sway bar links and bushings worn
• Rear trailing arm bushings worn
• Due for major “ Level D “ service- ( all fluid changes, spark plugs, air filter, fuel filter, pcv valve, battery service, fuel additive, e-brake adjustment, lubricate suspension locks and hinges )
• Cabin air filter is dirty
• All wiper blades worn
• Heat shields rattling due to rusted heat shield clamps, recommend new clamps
• Recommend fuel injection service to remove carbon build up from intake valves and throttle body ( helps with gas mileage and engine performance.)
These repairs would come to around $9500. Our question is, is it worth it to restore this car? We’d like to keep it going and would spend the money but don’t want to face another huge repair in a few years. What else can go wrong down the line? The interior and body are all good. Thanks.

The defroster stopped working and the car started overheating. The Subaru mechanic told us it has a leaking head gasket, the radiator is leaking from the seams, the radiator hoses are brittle, one of the radiator fans is not working, and the oil pan is rotted. - OP

That alone convinced me; time to go shopping.

You aren’t “restoring” the car you are repairing it. These are wear items that occur over 10 years and 135,000 miles. The list is pretty long but if the engine was properly maintained and the transmission as well. you might get another 100,000 miles or more.

I’m not sure if Subie transmissions have any inherent problems or wear-out issues but that is an area that may cost you a $3500 rebuild sometime in the longer term - another 50K miles or more.

Bottom line is, if you sold it, the value is Blue Book minus the $9500 to repair it AND you’d need to pony up $30,000 or so for a new one or $20K for a low mile used one.

As I look at it, $9500 is about 19 new car payments. If the car goes another 20,000 miles without a major repair you paid off the work and you can start saving for the next major repair or a new car.

$9,500 for a 10 year old car with 135,000 miles? No thanks. For another couple of grand you can buy a four year old car with 35,000 miles that will give you many more trouble free miles. One thing to consider is how much of the recommended work is really necessary. The struts and shocks may be rusty but, if they are still working ok, there is no need to replace them now unless they fail the bounce test or are making a lot of noise. If you can cut the repair bill down far enough you might be able to make a case to repair and keep the vehicle.

I’d buy another car and maintain it on a more regular basis. It will cost a similar amount to maintain, but the cost will be spread over a longer time.

I suspect many of the repairs aren’t essential at this time

Here’s what I consider essential at this time . . .

head gasket
radiator fan
wheel bearings
oil pan

You can replace the cabin air filter and wiper blades yourself

unless your engine has a verified misfire or verified plugged injectors, SKIP the fuel injection flush

Most of that stuff is considered normal maintenance. One thing not mentioned is the timing belt.

I also agree with mountainbike about going shopping due to the overheating and head gasket issue.

There’s also mention of “very rusted” struts and mounts along with exhaust clamps so that raises the question of just how bad the rust situation actually is.

And no doubt a neglected valve lash inspection…


Start shopping; this one has been nearly run into the ground!

Outside of the head gasket and radiator, you could do all the rest yourself for a couple thousand. This stuff probably should have been done all along. If not, then move on for $10,000. Tires?

“The Subaru mechanic told us . . .”

I sure hope you’re not still taking this car to the dealership

They generally have the highest labor rates, and the highest parts prices

Anyone who wants to sell you a fuel additive AND fuel injection cleaning wants to take your wallet for a ride. If the spark plugs have ever been replaced, they don’t need it now. Strurs and mounts are rusted-so what. Car is due for a “D” service ? sounds like A Subaru Dealer. Get it out of there , any competent mechanic can replace head gasket, oil pan. radiator and hoses.

“Car is due for a “D” service ?”

I question that also, as the vehicle manufacturer doesn’t use that type of terminology in their maintenance schedule. It sounds like somebody is inventing maintenance schedules, very possibly to the detriment of their customers.

Yeah, my Subi dealer did that when I went in recently for an oil change. Some made up level of service to check things not required in the schedule.

I respectfully disagree that various levels of service such as A.B, and so on are something nefarious dreamed up by the dealers. It’s simply to denote service levels based on miles and/or severity.
I would suspect the Subaru in this post likely never saw any letter of the alphabet…

OK: That does not match the service manual at all. And the manual does not list it as ABCD either.

For example, the manual says rotate tires at 6k or 6 mo. intervals. this says 20k or 12 mo.

Engine air filter at 30/30, as opposed to 60k/36mo. And my dealer used a totally diff. number, 18k/18mo (and it had a letter code, don’t remember what).

A lot of confusion, don’t know what to believe… (actually, I’ll go by the manual)


When in doubt, go by the manual. My Toyota dealer has a long list of time based stuff I
"need" to have done. Most not specified in the owner’s manual. I go there for oil changes every 5000 miles because they do a good job an a reasonable price.

But they still pester me to have it done every 4 MONTHS!!!, which amounts to about 1500 miles since we drive this car very little. The car gets enough long drive workouts to stay clean inside.

The interesting fact is that this dealership is owned by a family who also have a Chevrolet dealership known for its poor service.