Subaru Forester --- Emissions Problems. Am I causing this?

In January of 2012, I purchased a 2007 Subaru Forester Turbo (one-owner car with 7,500 miles, in like-new condition). In May the check engine light came on. One of the secondary air valve assemblies had failed, and the air pump was failing. The car was out of warranty, but the dealer replaced the air valve assembly at no charge as goodwill for a first time Subaru owner. Last week, the check engine light again came on. The certified Subaru mechanic I now use found the other air valve assembly has failed, and the air pump needs to be replaced. (Yikes!!! $$$$). He said these parts on Subarus can get moisture in them and get damaged/seize up. I’ve polled several people I know who have Subarus (lots of those in Colorado), and not one has had any problems with the emissions systems - lots have replaced head gaskets, but none with emissions issues.

So, now, I’m wondering if I am causing this. We have mountain property we go to a couple times a month. It requires driving 14 miles on graded dirt roads, and another couple miles on a 2WD jeep road. Often, these roads are very, very wet and muddy or have deep snow. There’s definitely a lot of moisture involved. My husband doesn’t think the “getting moisture in the parts” makes any sense, and if it does, this isn’t a very good car. Any insight? Help!!! Will this keep happening? Is this the wrong vehicle for me? (I had a Pathfinder before, but wanted to downsize and get better gas mileage.)

That shouldn’t cause it, unless you’re missing the splash shields under the engine. Does a lot of water seem to get splashed up into the engine compartment?

I know this doesn’t help, but I’m kind of wondering if this problem you’ve discovered is not the reason the car was sold with only 7500 miles on it.

Good luck.

7500 miles in 5 years is not a good thing, that’s for sure. But this is sure an odd problem, not one I’d associate with disuse.

As far as I know this is not a common problem and is the first time I have heard of this kind of problem on a Soob. Perhaps the failures had something to do with the previous owner and I don’t see how you could have caused this issue. Hopefully that will be the end of that.

I will also pass this on to you. Since you have a turbo model I highly suggest you use synthetic oil in the engine for life sake of the turbo. Also check to see if the turbo oil filter screen has been removed. Apparently the screens are causing more damage than than they are good by clogging up. If you switch to synthetic oil that may not be an issue though. A co-worker of mine purchased a used '05 Turbo Outback and had catastrophic damage done to the turbo and then to the engine, possibly due to a clogged filter screen for the turbo, not long after he had it. Fortunately he had purchased a service warranty when he purchased the car and it saved him thousands of dollars on the repairs done. After the turbo was replaced later on the engine then had to be replaced. It was suspected the damaged turbo caused the engine damage later on. He did all the right things on the car but the previous owner apparently didn’t. It was too late for him.

Make sure the coolant system is always taken care of and change the coolant out when called for. Also make sure you do oil changes at prescribed intervals. If you use synthetic oil you may be able to stretch out the time between changes a little. Change the other fluids out when needed also. The Owner’s manual should tell you when things are needed to be done and hopefully one came with the car. You basically have a new car and it should give you good service for a long time. Enjoy the winter drives if this is your first Soob. I think you are going to like it. Just like Alaska, you are in Subaru country.

Thanks for all the input and help. After querying my mechanic further, he said this problem with the emissions parts is specific to the turbo and where they have to be mounted, that they tend to get moisture in them that doesn’t dry out. Also, that the Turbos tend to have other issues at around 60,000 miles. I’m just not savvy enough mechanically for this vehicle I think. I wish I could be confident enough to hang in there, but I’m not. I’m going to trade it in on something else. Again, thanks to the forum and your time.

I think 7500 miles in 5 years might have involved a lot of very short trips.
If the engine was repeatedly run without warming up fully that could lead to moisture related damage.