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Subaru Horror Stories

If Subaru’s are so great, why is this board packed full of Subaru horror stories? If one were to bump all the current Subaru threads up to the first page, it would fill the board and make it look like a Subaru repair forum…Could it be that these cars are somewhat over-rated or is there something else going on??

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I think there is a mismatch between the car and the type of owner that it needs. Many concientious posters have gotten tremendous service out of them, with many trouble-free miles.

Those that dont’t usually neglect the maintenance, don’t keep their tires close to the same size in case of a flat and maybe think they are true off-road vehicles, which they are not. Subaru drivers also put on a lot of miles, since they buy them as daily drivers.

Finally, the New England states have a very large proportion of Subarus, just as Texas and other South central states have a large proportion of Suburbans and pickup trucks. Since Public radio comes out of Boston, it seems logical to have a lot of Subaru posts.

West coast car magazines used to almost ignore Detroit iron in favor of imports. Californians at that time revolted against Detroit and most cars were imports. Many Mid West readers were cheeesed off.

In short, a Subaru needs to be driven and maintained by the book for best results. Many owners appear to be woefully unaware of that fact.

They’re overrated and always have been, pure and simple. While it’s true that many Subaru owners do get great service out of their vehicle when it’s well maintained, the same can be said of any other car out there.

As to driving them and putting miles on them, well people around here put on a godawful lot of miles on anything they drive due to wide open spaces. Heck, if it’s midnight and I want a cold beer it’s a 50 mile round trip into town to get it.

This board has an above-average number of NPR listeners, who own an above-average number of Subarus. That’s at least part of the reason.

Maybe so; I belong to a Rocky Mountain hiking and skiing group. We have many Subaru owners who appreciate the special qualities these vehicles have, but really look after them since mountain blizzards can be life threatening situations. But I agree there is no substitute for learning how to drive properly in snow. I grew up in the Great Lakes Snow Belt and there were no 4 wheel drive cars of any consequence then. We managed OK by sharpenig our skill; bashing through tall snowdrifts was outright fun as long as the wipers held up!

Would I buy one? Only if I lived in the New England snow belt or the North West Pacific Coast of Alaska or British Columbia in Canada. For most driving a FWD with good winter tires is adequate. I was assigned a Ford Explorer on an East Washington state project. Total overkill since this is a very dry area without mountains, and I was just wasting gas driving it.

Also I’ll swear that during the 1990’s Click and Clack told pretty much everyone who called in asking for a car recommendation to buy a Subaru.

I think they’re overrated in terms of reliability, but definitely not in terms of capability. There is no better car anywhere close to the price range for on-road snow conditions. That they’re reasonably efficient and are fairly reliable is just icing on the cake.

I wonder if their reputation for reliability is because the only other car out there that was comparable during the 80’s were things like the early AWD Audis. Subarus sure seemed reliable compared to those!

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I don’t think Subarus have a higher problem rate than other cars on this site. I have been a loyale Subaru owner since my first new car which was an '83 Subaru wagon. I had that car for 11 years and spent perhaps about 400 dollars in repair parts on it, which included new brake pads an a battery and any car is going to need those items over that amount of time.

Later models, especially the 2.5 liter engine, did have head gaskets issues that could be considered higher than average I would say. As far as the rest of the areas of possible trouble like electrical, drive train, HVAC, I would say they are more reliable than most cars. The way they handle on snowy roads is were they really shine, in my opinion at least, to most other cars. I also can’t think of any other automobile engines that are used for aircraft engines more than Subaru engines are.

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Agree, owning an Audi Quattro will have you moonlight on a second job to keep it running. The Range Rover is also a very capable all weather, all road vehicle, but only the Queen of England does not worry about the repair bills.

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I feel like i’ve read a thread by Caddyman before, something about Crown Vics being superior cars based on forum post count. This is flawed logic.

My brother had three Subaru’s, a 99 Impreza RS, 02 Impreza RS, and a 05 Forester XT. They all were driven a ton for his business. Each Impreza went over 200k, the ONLY issue was one of them had a recall that was taken care of by the dealer. They handled well and were fun to drive. The Forester was trouble free until it developed a whine in the rear differential and was promptly traded in, it had 160k hard miles on it. It saw many nights at the track and ran mid 13’s with very mild modifications. It was the best sleeper car I’ve ever seen.

I’m aware three samples mean absolutely nothing, but I’d buy one in a second. That is, once they design them so they’re not so darn ugly. I know styling is subjective, but c’mon. I saw a new base Impreza not too long ago and I thought it was some sort of sub 10k economy car.

Geez, if you’re looking for a capable 4WD vehicle that is cheap, buy a used Grand Cherokee or Wrangler. Or a 4WD pickup. Yes, these vehicles have their problems, and you could argue that the Subie gets better mileage and is more refined in some ways, but you probably won’t be replacing head gaskets or transfer cases at least. And a 4WD is a little more forgiving than an AWD if you don’t have all four tires perfectly matched every minute of the vehicle’s life.

Close the Subaru doors and you will like the sound. Going up the driveways is almost impossible in Maine when it snows. A lot of the larger cities are on the major rivers where there is a lot of steep hill driving. It’s Subaru or SUV pickup truck driving or you should stay home. I have the 4WD truck and Subaru owners are not jealous of my driving every day. They rule the hills around here.

They don’t write anything to us if they had no problems. Most of them keep on running in these awful conditions.

Overrated? Not really - according to Consumer Reports, Subies have excellent reliability for most years and most models - I will say this - our Impreza takes more maintenance than a 2WD Honda Civic - but ANY vehicle with AWD or 4WD will cost more to maintain - as my buddy, Dave (a Ford mechanic) used to say: “Don’t buy a 4WD Ford truck, unless you really NEED four wheel drive!” - on the other hand, my son’s Toyota Corolla had an “excellent” rating - and the transmission failed in the first 12 months! (to their credit, Toyota replaced it, free of charge) - Subies need to be maintained according to schedule - but they are AWESOME in snow and rain!

Maybe there are a few more NPR listeners who own Subaru’s but nothing like the number of posts compared to the market share for Subaru. I’m sorry but I think Subaru’s are troublesome cars. AWD is nice but increases repair and tire costs significantly over the life of the car. AWD in just about any make of car causes more problems, more repairs, and higher cost repairs. Since all of Subaru cars have AWD that has a lot to do with the high number of Subaru horror stories.

People buy into the hyped advantages of AWD. Then they are surprised that tires have to be all the same tread wear, or you blow out a transfer case. Or, they forget that AWD adds a second differential, and a transfer case all that need fluid changes regularly. Or, that there are more CV joints, a second driveshaft, and more complicated steering and front suspension on a Subaru. Just more stuff to break and maintain, especially when the car gets past 10 years old and 100K miles.

Bad head gaskets seem to add the number of posts as well. The boxer type engine could be more prone to head gasket problems by design.

Anyway, no Subarus for me. Even if you live in snow country or the mountains I still wouldn’t recommend a Subaru. I know there are those who love Subaru’s and have no problems with them and I’m glad you enjoy your cars. I’ll just choose to pass on Subaru myself.

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I guess who ever said Subaru’s were that great? I think the main appeal is a top tier AWD system besides Audi.

Head gasket issue in 96-2004 2.5L is an expensive design fault. The AWD related problems are mostly owner inflicted.

My extended family has 10 of them with 5-15 years old and 50k-250k miles. They love the AWD and majority need it, otherwise they walk home during mud or winter season. They have had few issues with their cars some with maintenance by the book and others bare minimum of simply changing oil and air filter. They all are smart enough to keep matched tires on them.

I likely would never buy a Subaru again as I think they are ugly. However I love my 2005 Legacy turbo wagon with 5 speed manual. It has a civilized STI motor that is a hoot to drive, is decently looking (anomaly for Subaru) and great interior.

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I think there’s a certain degree of sampling bias on this site. There are a disproportionate number of Subaru, Volkswagen and Volvo owners here than in the general population.

I don’t think Subarus are any more or less reliable than any other car but it does have a fairly sophisticated AWD system that must be maintained and requires matched tires. If this doesn’t happen, problems will crop up. It’s the same thing with VWs and Hondas with their timing belts.

Some vehicles can go 100,000 miles with nothing but oil changes (not that I’d recommend that) and others are virtually guaranteed a catastrophic failure if you did the same thing. Different maintenance requirements don’t necessarily equate less reliability.

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Subaru’s don’t have a transfer case, all that is done inside the tranny. The tranny is similiar to the old vw tranny, looks like a RWD tranny but with output shafts coming out of the sides instead of the rear. On the older front wheel drive models that would be it. But the AWD/4WD tranny’s have a rear output shaft just like a RWD car. For some, it’s easier to think of it as a RWD tranny with two output shafts on the sides for the front drive tires. There are still only two CV joints, the rest are DOJ since the rear tires don’t steer the car. No more maintenance than any other car.

Locale, being a CT listener, etc. has zilch to do with it. The complaints are just as numerous at any Subaru dealer and the majority of Subaru owners don’t even know what CT is nor do they live in N.E.

It’s very fashionable to bash VWs, SAABs, and even Fiats but as someone who has actually spent years working for multi-line dealers I can state without hesitation that Subarus are no better nor any worse than those cars I’ve mentioned.
For every one of those cars I’ve mentioned that was sitting on a service lift awaiting a non-maintenance type of repair there was a Subaru on the lift next to it awaiting the same.

So if one is going to claim that a Ford, VW, SAAB, or Chevy complaint on this board is indicative of lousy engineering, trouble-prone cars, etc. then one should state the same when it comes to Subarus, Hondas, Nissans, and Toyotas. Anything else is hypocrisy.

Let me add my final word on this thread. As many of you know I’m a wrench twister by trade and have worked for 5 different dealers over the years before going on my own.
The first four dealers are defunct and the last one (the straw that broke the camel’s back) is still in business but in a vastly different form. (more franchises with Subaru being deep-sixed about 10 years after I left there.

This last dealer was Subaru/Mazda/Pontiac/GMC and Subaru warranty is the straw previously mentioned. As you know, warranty is for the repair of defects in materials or workmanship. This has never been much of a problem with VW, SAAB, Nissan, etc. but has been a royal PITA when it comes to Subarus.

When one starts every day with warranty complaint after warranty complaint what does that tell you? If these cars are near infallible as some believe then why did I reach the point with Subaru where I chose to end all dealer affiliations altogether? It’s dead simple; tired of wrestling new or near new cars with a litany of problems and getting paid near nothing for doing it. At some point getting killed by warranty overrides the gravy money. A bad day or week here and there is normal. Months of it demands a halt to the torture.

A guy I worked with also bailed on them. He is the finest mechanic I’ve ever known and could be considered a Mechanic’s Mechanic. He went to work for Porsche/Audi as he was just flat sick of Subarus; which he referred to here in polite terms as “excrement sponges”.

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