Subaru catalytic converty warranty; what the dealership did

The car: 2008 Subaru Outback PZEV. Purchased at Metrowest Subaru in Natick, Massachusetts
The repair: on 6/9/2016 I took the car back to the dealership to have the catalytic converter and oxygen sensor replaced under a recall from Subaru.
The current problem: The car was running poorly and began to stall in January 2017.

I go to a local family-owned mechanic in Framingham, Massachusetts. The mechanic there first diagnosed the problem as the wrong size spark plugs that had been installed over 2 years ago by another shop. He changed the spark plugs, that seemed to stop the stalling but the car was still running rough. Two days ago the “check engine” and “cruise” idiot lights went on. I went back to the mechanic, he told me the catalytic converter had failed, but the heat shields were still shiny and looked new. He asked if the catalytic converter had been worked on fairly recently.

Well, yes indeed. Metrowest Subaru had indeed replaced the catalytic converter on 6/9/2016; that means that it failed in 7-8 months. I work out of my house, so I have low mileage on the car; only 7166 miles on that allegedly new catalytic converter.

Question 1. So, what do you folks think of that? Is it possible that the mechanics at the dealership did such a poor job on the installation of the new catalytic converter that it failed so quickly? A faulty part? Or did they not replace the original catalytic converter at all and scammed me? If so, how can I tell?

I called Metrowest Subaru Service Dept. and asked them to look up this service record before I told them what was going on. They did acknowledge that my repair record stated they’d replaced the catalytic converter and oxygen sensor on that date. I told them that my car was at a local mechanic and he’s told me the catalytic converter has failed; what is the warranty and are they going to do for me? The service manager at Metrowest Subaru pretended he didn’t know what the warranty was and transferred me to the sales dept. I called back and spoke to someone else in service who told me the warranty is 150,000 miles. He said something about California emissions regulations and a warranty repair and I hadn’t paid for the repair, as if… I don’t know what? I insisted he honor the warranty and replace the catalytic converter. Then he tried to weasel out of honoring the warranty by telling me that I’d taken my car to another mechanic and hadn’t brought it to the dealership. The other mechanic had only diagnosed the problem by reading the “check engine” code, he hadn’t done any repair. Of course, the local mechanic had to charge me for his time to diagnose my car and put some parts back together; $76. I had to demand that the dealership honor the warranty and schedule a repair.

Question 2. This is one of the reasons why I have not taken my car to Metrowest Subaru for repairs over the years. I have been unhappy with the quality of their service and had to bring the car back. Now I take the car to them only for warranty and recall repairs. They have tried to weasel out of warranty and recall repairs before, and tried to upsell me on repairs. The Service Dept. guys at the desk are always very pleasant, but I feel like the mechanics scam me because I’m a woman. This recent phone conversation yesterday was absolutely unacceptable. How do I complain and who do I complain to? Your thoughts?

Operating the car with the engine running poorly can kill a new converter. You also have multiple people with their hands on the pie so that can also create some problems.

The original converter may be warranted for a long time. The replacements not so much.

Maybe your refusal to go for any upsell repairs had something to do with this. And please, don’t play the gender card.

It’s possible that this is why your new catalytic converter failed, maybe even why the prior one failed. Considering the low mileage, it would have to be running poorly to damage it so quickly. If you’ve been keeping track, what’s your gas mileage been over the time you’ve owned it?

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Thank you for your response.
The catalytic converter was allegedly replaced at a Subaru dealership under recall. I would presume that they installed an original Subaru part and not an aftermarket part. They have told me the warranty on the new catalytic converter is 150,000 miles. There is 7166 miles on this allegedly new catalytic converter.

Is it not the dealership’s service department’s responsibility to check that the engine is running properly and the fuel mix is right after installing a new catalytic converter and oxygen sensor? Regardless of whether the service was done as a recall or otherwise?

As for the “upsell,” I also had a wheel alignment done and the fuel door replaced (the latch had broken) during the same service call. I paid for that work. The dealership does not do recall work for free, they are paid by Subaru. Metrowest Subaru didn’t do any “free” work on my car. Refusing upsell repairs has nothing to do with Subaru corporate paying for the recall work.

As for the “gender card,” walk 56 years in my shoes as a woman, and then we’ll talk about that. I now demand that mechanics give me the parts that they replace from my car. There was one occasion where the mechanic claimed he “couldn’t find it” less than 2 hours after repairing my car. I never went back to him. I have paid for new OEM parts, and then less than a year later the part failed and another mechanic told me the part replaced was either an aftermarket part or a used part. Come along with me the next time I go car shopping, stand at a distance so you don’t look like you’re my husband and listen to the salesperson tell me about colors and upholstery when I ask about the braking system.

Thank you for your response.

The original catalytic converter didn’t fail. The recall was issued in 2013, and the car was running fine. I didn’t get around to bringing it in for the recall replacement for 3 years because it was running fine and I was waiting for another necessary repair. So the original catalytic converter was in use for a year with the “wrong” spark plugs and didn’t fail.

The spark plugs were replaced as part of a recommended mileage milestone tune-up.
The gas mileage has been pretty much consistent for the entire time I’ve owned the car, 21-26 mpg depending upon where I’ve been driving. The gas mileage hasn’t decreased noticeably since last June. But that’s an interesting thought, and I will pay more attention to that in the future.

I agree with both of you. Yes, mechanics and car sales people treat women badly.

Where I disagree is they also treat men like that IF THEY THINK THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH IT… But, most men will not admit they were kicked around by those people. They boast how well they handled it even if they didn’t.

But, since you are told by everyone on the planet that it is because you are a woman, and you don’t know that men are treated the same way, you assume it is sex discrimination.

Since we have some very good mechanics on this board, I must add NAMALT. Not All Mechanics Are LIke That.


You come across a rather aggressive and pushy, if this is how you approached the dealer on the phone I am not surprised that they pushed back. I managed a customer service team for an industrial electronics company and folks who came across like that got the bare minimum to take care of their problem. Folks that calmly stated their case and did not antagonize us usually got a fair fix to the problem and frequently more than they asked for. Try the dealer again, factually state the problem and let them know what the other shop stated. Give them a chance to fix it. If after a reasonable try it does not work out, look in your owners manual for the regional Subaru office and talk to them. Subaru will want this fixed and taken care of. They have a reputation to uphold.


"walk 56 years in my shoes as a woman, and then we’ll talk about that."
First, I definitely wouldn’t be seen in women’s shoes for a minute, let alone 56 years! :blush:

Do you know the story of the canary in the coal mine?

Convertors have a job to do. The catalytic convertor cleans up the car’s exhaust, but is also a bit like the proverbial canary. It can clean the exhaust and do so almost forever on a properly running car.

However, when I hear a story like this one, especially where wrong spark plugs were installed in a car, I become a bit suspicious about the proper operation of the vehicle.

The failing convertors could be the canary dropping off its perch and going belly-up as an indication that something “upstream” from it isn’t right. Dirty air in the mine (exhaust stream) could be killing your canary (convertor)!

Does your state have mandatory emissions tests? (My state does not). Before I put another convertor on the car, I’d make sure the engine is entirely healthy.

Thank you for your response. I appreciate that you have asked me a pertinent question, which is why I have sought advice on this discussion board.

Yes, Massachusetts does have strict emissions tests. My car passed the emissions test last in May 2016, after the “wrong” spark plugs were in the engine and about 2 weeks before the original catalytic converter was replaced. The car has never failed an annual emissions inspection.

The sequence of events is what makes me suspect of what was - or wasn’t - done at the dealership last June.

I wonder if cats have a model/date code stamped into them. It might take some real wiggling and a mirror or two to look the thing over, but that might allay your concerns/question as to whether it had actually been replaced.

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Nope. Not unless there is reason to believe something is wrong. Was it running rough at the time? Did you tell them it was running rough?

The mechanic was told “replace the cat.” So that’s what he did. He would have had no reason to inspect the entire engine to see if anything could possibly be wrong that would hurt the cat, because they weren’t replacing the cat due to a premature failure that would indicate something wrong upstream, but due to a recall.

I don’t have to. I understand that women face discrimination. However, the person who worked on your car probably didn’t even know you are a woman. That person is not the same person that you dealt with. The person who worked on your car saw a car, saw the work sheet telling them what to do to the car, and did it. It is almost a certainty that you were not discriminated against by the person who worked on your car because even if that person is the type of idiot who discriminates against women, they would have to know that you were a woman first in order to discriminate against you.

That’s true, but there’s a caveat. Subaru will give them a certain amount to do the job, no matter how long it actually takes to do the job. So if Subaru decides the job takes one hour, but the job actually takes 2, then the dealership has to eat that second hour. So, they get paid, but they often do not get paid as much as they should be – not that this is a reason for them to slack off on the job, but it’s certainly a reason not to go fishing around for problems that they have no indication exist - that would be extra unpaid time that they’d have to eat, and it is not reasonable to expect them to eat it.

There’s one possible avenue you could take to get some financial relief here - do you still have the paperwork from the bad spark plug replacement job? If you do, you could approach them, tell them the wrong plugs were installed, you believe that caused the premature failure of the cat, and you want them to make it right.

They may tell you to pound sand, at which point you get to decide if you want to let it go or sue them, but they may also be a reputable shop that made an honest mistake and will try to make it right.

You come across a rather aggressive and pushy, if this is how you approached the dealer on the phone I am not surprised that they pushed back.

Steve… If you weren’t there with me listening to my phone call, you really don’t know how I came across. Denigrating a woman for asserting a complaint or problem as being “aggressive and pushy” is… well… it’s stereotypical sexism. And there is nothing that ticks men off more than a woman claiming that she was treated unfairly by a man because of her gender. You’ve read my post with your own filter. Step back a minute and take gender out of it.

I have owned 6 vehicles so far in my life, and I have lived in 5 states. I have previously owned a Subaru Legacy Wagon for 17 years. The car was indestructible. I loved it. That’s why I bought another. I follow all regular maintenance including oil changes, I take care of the car. I have been to great mechanics and lousy mechanics. I have been to great hair stylists and lousy hairstylists.

The current repair shop my husband and I go to is a local third-generation family owned shop since 1922. They are terrific. The mechanic who works on my car talks to me directly and he explains everything factually in detail, the same as he does when speaking to my husband about his Toyota Tacoma. I trust them. And I have tremendous respect for him for calling me and telling me what he found, instead of just going ahead with the $1200 repair I’d authorized two hours earlier.

If you had been told what I had been told and discovered that a “new” catalytic converter failed after 7 months, you would likely be very unhappy, too.

When I called the service department at the dealership, I did not attack. I was not “aggressive or pushy.” We know that old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I first politely asked the service manager to bring up the service record on his computer and asked him to explain it to me to be sure that he was looking at the service and that I understood what had been done before I told him what was going on. I believe that is appropriate, not “pushy.” When I told him my car was at another shop and the mechanic had just told me the catalytic converter had failed - that was the “check engine” diagnosis code - and asked him what the dealership would do, he was silent. Silent. He did NOT tell me it was under warranty, I had to ask him and he claimed he didn’t know. He did NOT tell me he would fix it. Why did he tell me I had to speak to someone else, and then transfer me to the sales dept? Is that good customer service?

We are in Massachusetts. This dealership is 5 miles from my house. Why bring up California regulations, that’s irrelevant? This work is covered under warranty. Would that pxxx you off? Why did he tell me his shop wouldn’t honor the warranty because the problem was diagnosed by an independent shop? Would that pxxx you off?

As a customer, after being told those two statements from the service department of the dealership where you bought your car and where the recall service had been performed, what would your reaction have been? Would you have been happy? What would your opinion of that business be? Would you feel that they valued you as a customer? Would you feel that they were honest? Would you go back to them?

I have called Subaru Corporate customer service. They have opened a claim and will be speaking to the dealership. I told the customer service rep that I will be asking for the faulty catalytic converter from the shop, and I will give him the serial number on the part. We’ll see how that turns out. And he offered to pay the labor charges for the diagnosis at the local shop. That is the appropriate way to deal with this situation, and I appreciate his professionalism.

I read through the 12 page Subaru Service Campaign for this vehicle. The convertor gets replaced and at the same time the engine control computer (ECM) is to be re-programmed with corrected specifications.

You’re the one who is injecting gender into this conversation. No one’s being sexist. You need to get the chip off your shoulder when talking to us - the regulars here are by and large not anything close to sexist, and we tend to get irritated when it is assumed that we are because we’re men.

I recommend you take the good advice you’ve received here and act on it, and stop with the sexism accusations because now that you’ve accused @SteveCBT of being a sexist, you have lost credibility on that claim with the dealership.


I think you completely misread what @SteveCBT what said.

Is what he was saying in reference to your posts. He made no mention whatsoever that you acted like this in your phone call. The way I read into his post is that he felt if you were as aggressive and pushy on the phone with the dealership as you were in your posts that they would push back. And being that previously managed a customer service team and had to deal with calls like that, I would believe his assessment.

Let’s chill out and take the gender issues (whether perceived or actual) out of the equation and just work on getting factual information to see what help we can offer you.


Yes, the man at the service desk spoke to me but the mechanic did not. My name is on the car’s records in the dealership, anyone sees my name. And it’s pretty obvious from my possessions in the car that it’s a woman’s car. And you know what mean.

No, I don’t think any of the men thought, “It’s a woman, I’ll do bad work.” However, we don’t know what the service manager told the mechanic to do. Maybe they’re unhappy about the amount Subaru pays for this service and they thought the catalytic converter could be repaired in less time than replacing it? And how would I know? Honestly, I can check the oil, brake fluids and coolant but I couldn’t point to the catalytic converter in the engine. I have replaced headlights and air filters myself, but that’s as far as I go. How many women do that? My mother never pumped gas into her own car in her lifetime. That said, I don’t think my husband could tell either, nor is he an auto mechanic. (He likes to try to fix the lawnmower, but that’s another story.)

As a customer, it’s not my problem that Subaru’s payment allowance may not cover the actual labor time. Sorry, that’s what a warranty is. It’s no different than a repair to my washing machine under warranty. Nor is it any different than a doctor charging $x and the health insurance company pays $y. As a customer - as a driver - would you feel confident having a dealership do a recall or warranty repair if you thought they’d cut corners or performed sub-par work because the management felt the insufficient payment from Corporate cut into their profits? That’s bad business. Sorry, no sympathy for that. If you don’t have the time or money to do it right the first time, where are you going to find the time and money to do it over?

Yes, I do have all my service records for the car. I do have the service records for the spark plug replacement. We don’t go to that shop anymore. The receipt doesn’t state any description about the plugs installed. And I don’t have the spark plugs that were taken out of the car. From my past experience, pitting the opinion of one mechanic against another for bad work doesn’t go anywhere. Could the catalytic converter have failed because of the spark plugs, as some of you have suggested? Possibly. The mechanic who discovered the wrong-size spark plugs a few weeks ago and replaced them and just diagnosed the catalytic converter hasn’t mentioned that to me, and he’s been in the engine. Just saying. Would the other shop that put the wrong spark plugs in two years ago admit that without part specs in my receipt and agree that caused the catalytic converter to fail? I’d speculate that would be highly unlikely. If that was your shop, would you volunteer for that culpability?

The goal here is to get the catalytic converter replaced properly as it should have been on 6/9/2016 by the dealership. There’s a warranty that must be honored, and I shouldn’t have to pay for this. That’s all there is to it. I don’t want to have to press the dealership to have this done. I’m surprised that this part failed so quickly; it’s suspect. None of this is endearing me to Metrowest Subaru as a customer. If Metrowest Subaru thinks something else caused this, that’s between them and whomever made that repair; they haven’t asked me about that. The dealership isn’t going to pursue that, it costs them less to replace the part as a warranty claim to corporate.

Just my 2 cents, but over the years I’ve worked for 5 dealers (3 Subaru), briefly for an independent, and ran my own shop.

In none of those operations did I ever treat or see a woman treated differently than a man.

What I HAVE seen a number of times is women being offended because they think they’re being picked on.

Car comes in with problem. Problem gets fixed. Car goes out the door no matter with no regard as to whether the owner is male, female, 50/50, or some species of alien. Money is green no matter who hands it over.

I’m not saying there are no sexist people out there; only that they are in a distinct minority and it’s very unfair to tarnish the MALE mechanics out there with a one size fits all shoe.

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That is what you should have done in the first place.

An anonymous forum will not solve problems like this.

The convertor has most likely has been sent to a recycling facility by now.

It should be clear you are not happy with the replies here so you should take care of your blood pressure and just step back for a while.

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No, it’s not. But as a dealership it’s not their problem that a shop other than theirs installed the wrong part. You’re expecting them to honor the warranty for a part that may very well have been destroyed by the other shop’s mistake. That’s not reasonable. Unless you can show evidence that the dealership screwed up the cat install, or that the cat itself was defective, not damaged by bad parts installed by someone other than Subaru, then you don’t have a reasonable claim against the dealership.

I know that sucks because it means you’re out money through no fault of your own, but they’re not picking on you because you’re a woman, they’re saying they aren’t responsible for the mistakes that someone else made, and they’re right.

If you manage to screw them into replacing something that isn’t their responsibility by getting corporate to side with you just to make you go away, then that’s good for your wallet but bad for your morality. You get to choose which side of that fence you come down on.

Only if I knew I’d screwed up. If I know I’ve screwed up, I admit it. If someone comes to me and claims I did something bad to them 3 years ago and I have no memory of it, I’m not going to admit fault unless they can show me evidence.

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@shaftels2do maybe I came across a little strong but all I was trying to say was instead of insisting they do something ( “I insisted he honor the warranty and replace the catalytic converter” ) , work with them to find a solution to the problem. What if the other mechanic was wrong? What if something else is causing the problem? Frequently a customer sees a symptom and wants that fixed when something else is causing the problem. The symptom is fixed over and over again but comes back because the root cause problem is never addressed. You did the right thing going to Subaru corporate, every once in a while you have to get a higher authority involved. Just do not assume that your solution is the right one. Make sure you lay out the problems and symptoms clearly to give Subaru the data to work on it.

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