Subaru 00 Lemon?

(I also posted this as part of the rotor discussion, but since this deals with a lot of issues I thought I would post it as it’s own question)

I just bought a used 2000 subaru outback with under 90K miles from a toyota dealer. I took it in for an inspection at a subaru dealer and they told me that the front brake rotors were warped ($125), The head gaskets and tube seal were leaking ($2412) and the transmission gear input shaft was leaking ($370). I took the car back to the dealer I bought it from thinking these would be covered under the lemon law, but they said nothing was wrong and that the subaru dealer service department was likely just trying to get me to use their service. So, all the toyota dealer did was rotate the the brake rotors and balance the tires. They wouldn’t do anything else. Who do I trust? The toyota dealer showed me under the car to impress upon me that there was no leaking, but I don’t know what I am looking at. It did look significantly cleaner than the car next to it, which they also showed me.

I’m pregnant and this has been really emotional for me. I was in a bad car accident last week that totaled our 2001 Subaru Outback that I loved. I like the safety of the Subaru, which is why I bought this one. I only paid $8K for this 00 model and to now have to jump in to pay almost $3200 with tax on fixes that I feel should be covered under the lemon law seems wrong. Any advice? I’m in NM in case that is beneficial information.

By the way it is manual car.

Thanks so much.

It is somewhat difficult to judge the conflicting opinions of the 2 dealers without inspecting the car, but certainly they each gave you the answer that most benefited them. I would strongly suggest that you take the car to an independent mechanic who specializes in Japanese vehicles and get another opinion.

Unfortunately, most used cars have no lemon law protection, in most states. Mostly sold as-is. The time for the inspection and time to have found out about the maintenance required and negotiated who would pay for that maintenance was before the deal was done.

Did they “rotate the brake rotors” or did they turn them to take out the warpage (and reassemble)? Or, did they merely balance and rotate the tires? Did you have any indication when braking that anything was wrong?

If you decide to get this work done, check with an independent mechanic to get their estimate for the same work. It is almost certainly cheaper than the dealer.

It’s hard to call an 11 year old car with 90,000 miles on the odometer a lemon. Warped rotors are not at all unexpected on a car that old, but do you feel any vibration when you use the brakes? If not, I wouldn’t worry about that. The fluid leaks are what I would be worried about.

Why didn’t you have this car inspected BEFORE you purchased it? It seems you’ve put the cart before the horse.

Get the car inspected by an independent mechanic ASAP, and if an independent mechanic says it’s fine, it’s probably fine, and you shouldn’t go back to the dealership that did the inspection for anything. It looks like they might have been trying to take advantage of you. However, if an independent mechanic confirms that these things are in need of repair, there is little you can do. You can try to get the dealership that sold you the car to make it right, but good luck with that.

Some points.

  1. There is rarely a reason to take any car to the dealer if it is out of warranty. Independent shops will give you a better price. Instead of the Subaru dealership, find an independent mechanic who works on Subarus and has a good reputation, and get a third opinion.

  2. In NM you have a warranty of 15 days or 500 miles. If you discover a problem within this time, you must give the selling dealer a chance to fix it. If the selling dealer refuses to fix it, you can cancel the contract and get your money back. But the problem will be proving that there is a problem if dealer #1 says all is well and dealer #2 says you have big problems. So get a third opinion first. Tell him the story, and be prepared to pay for some shop time, since you won’t be paying him for repairs.

  3. Brake rotors wear out. They can also warp if they get hot. “Turning” (not rotating) rotors is a cheap way of smoothing them out. You will eventually need new ones though. Rotors are thin and turning them made them thinner, this means they will be more likely to warp again if they get hot (such as if you make a sudden stop or do a lot of city driving). But this is normal wear and tear and every car needs new rotors every few years, so replacement rotors would not be covered under the warranty. (Unless the selling dealership made them too thin, so they are below minimum spec. Then the selling dealer would have to replace them. Mechanic #3 can measure the rotors for you.)

  4. Subarus of this time period have a known history of head gasket problems. Subaru eventually redesigned the gasket, if this car still has the original head gasket, it may well need replacing. The question is whether it is leaking today, and you need a third mechanic to verify it. You will also need a third mechanic to verify the leaking transmission.

  5. Document everything in writing. If you get written confirmation from third mechanic that these repairs are needed, go to the selling dealership. Offer them the choice of doing the repairs or canceling the contract and giving you your money back. If they won’t cooperate, call the consumer affairs department of the Attorney General’s office.

It’s hard to call an 11 year old car with 90,000 miles on the odometer a lemon.

New Mexico has a “Used Car Lemon Law” for any used car sold by a dealer. It’s basically a 15 day/500 mile warranty.

It applies to “any problem that significantly limits the use of the vehicle.” I suppose that even if a third mechanic verifies the problems, the selling dealership could try to argue that you can still “use” your vehicle, you just have to make certain repairs in the next few weeks. If that happens, I can only suggest you call the Attorney General’s office. “significantly limits your use” is so weaselly and non-specific that you would need a NM expert to tell you if your repairs qualify.

A lot of points could be made about this one.
Forget the word Lemon.

You should have had the inspection done before buying the car instead of after the fact.

What the heck is “rotate the rotors”? That’s really grasping.

Eight grand is too much for an 11 year old Subaru.

Subaru head gaskets can weep without leaving any spots.

I note the NM used car warranty law says you have a right of return (maybe the reason why the car was overpriced in the first place) but only if you jump through all of the hoops and do it in a timely manner.

I also note the NM law says that the use of the vehicle must be significantly impaired to get a refund. Brake rotor shudder, head gasket weeps, or minor oil leaks don’t meet that criteria because a vehicle can be driven anywhere in that condition.

Press on to return this vehicle or have them get the head gaskets fixed. Press on may mean contacting a lawyer or state office. Make sure the estimate is in writing.

You overpaid for the vehicle already so they should have the money around to fix it.

Good luck, sorry about your woes.