Subaru outback just died

I was driving my 2000 Subaru Outback on Friday evening and it completely died at a red light. Hazards wouldn’t turn on, couldn’t move the car into N or P, couldn’t get the key out of the ignition. Because we were blocking an intersection, the police went to a nearby shop and had them tow it there. This is a shop I don’t trust. What could this be, so I can be informed when these people call me back and tell me I need significant repairs?

As a side note, t’s interesting to me that the shop called to say they would do a diagnostic today for $75 and let me know what is wrong. THey never even asked me what happened or what the symptoms were. They weren’t open when we had it towed there, so they have no way of knowing.

Without access to the car, the best theory that I can come up with is that your alternator was dying over a period of hours or days, and it wound up killing the battery in the process. The apparent sudden absence of any electrical power would be a result of that type of scenario.

any idea how much it would cost to repair the alternator and battery? what would a reasonable estimate be?

The cost will vary, depending on where you live, and whether a new/OEM alternator is used, or whether the alternator is a rebuilt item.

But, I would assume a total cost of ~$350 for both the alternator and battery, including the shop’s mark-up on the parts plus labor. If the serpentine belt that drives the alternator needs to be replaced, that will cost extra, perhaps another $30-50.

thanks! i will assume the estimate will be higher, as I am in NYC and this particular shop is notorious for finding “other issues” and charging more than usual for labor. If i hadn’t had them do the diagnostic, and had it towed elsewhere, they would have charged me $85/day for “storage” since it was towed there on Friday night (so fri, sat and Sun, they would charge). The $75 diagnostic was a cheaper way to go. Once they call me with the quote, I will call for a AAA tow to my regular shop, which i trust. They were closed yesterday (Saturday) so could not have it towed then.

Another possibility is the power lead from the battery post to that main fuse panel has a problem. Since the problem was very sudden I would suspect the trouble is just due to a simple power connection problem.

okay thanks! yes, it was sudden. We got a new battery in August 2012. At the red light, we felt it lost power and then it just went. Still waiting to hear back from the shop on the diagnostic. Then I’ll have to towed to a shop I trust. Thank you!

UPDATE: shop called - we need a new alternator and battery. Including the 85 we have to pay from the towing the other night, it will cost $581.46. Battery is 139.99 +25.50 labor, Alternator is $245.98 + $85 for 1 hour labor. Does this sound reasonable? we are in NYC.

Ur old battery is 7 months old? Did u buy it at pawn shop or street vendor? Warranty? U do know what a warranty is? Put in new battery. A good battery will let u drive for a bit. Maybe an hour? With no headlights on" drive it to your favorite shop where they treat u better?

No, I bought a new battery from the guy I trust. It should have a warranty on it, but it’s through the old shop. THe bad alternator drained the battery, which is why it died…at least that is what I was just told. I have no idea what alternators cost - is $245 too high?! I feel like I’m stuck, since they won’t let me take my car out of this shop - either I pay for them to fix it, or I pay $85 x 3 for the “3 days of storage”. It seems really unfair. Especially since It still hasn’t been 48 hours since it has been there. Friday night - Sunday morning, but they charge for Friday, Saturday and Sunday of storage.

The costs sound “reasonable” to me though it is expensive and the shop had you in their grips. They obviously didn’t cut you any slack on this so they lose out on any referals from you. The old battery may still have been good but the shop most likely wants it for a core replacement on the new one. Problems like this almost always seem to end up costing the owner a lot of money. At least you should have a warranty with this repair which gives you some extra value. Whenever replacing the alternator it is good practice to replace the battery also since they work together. You shouldn’t have any charging problems for a long time now. Keep the battery post and connections clean as time goes on. They are a common cause for electrical problems.

One other thought is check your insurance policy as there may be coverage for the towing charge you had to pay.

Cougar - thanks for the tips.

You’re welcome for the help. Hopefully the Soob won’t have any more trouble for a while. Check the mileage and see if it is due for a timing belt change. You don’t want a failure with it. Keep up with the maintenance on it. They are good cars I think, especially in the snow.

its at about 120K miles now. We bought the car with 75K miles on it - I think the previous owner had just replaced the timing belt. But now you’ve got me thinking/wondering, maybe we di need to replace that soon too. uh-oh.

It should have been due around 102k miles I think. You should also replace the water pump, T-belt tensioner, and cam seals while in there. The owners manual will tell you what the T-belt replacement period is.

Yes, the cost is high, but in NYC–just like in SF–labor costs tend to be extremely high.
And, in order to recoup some of the very high rent that they pay, the garage’s mark-up on the alternator is higher than it would be in other, cheaper areas of the country.

For the person who doubted that a 7 month old battery would have needed to be replaced, I can tell you–from personal experience–that an alternator that is dying can most certainly kill a good battery within a matter of a couple of days.

And…even though the OP did not thank me for the correct diagnosis and a guesstimate on the total cost, I will say that he is welcome.

You have the right to pay by CREDIT card. Ask them to honor their original statements; and $75 diagnostic fee. When they refuse; write “paid under protest” on the invoice; and the slip you sign for the card. Use a friends batter; a battery from another car; a batter from the shop you trust - etc. and drive car to shop you trust.

Call first shop; ask them to Honor original quote and statements; and credit back fraudulent charges. When they refuse - WRITE a LETTER to them; and WRITE a letter to Credit. Credit gets copies of ALL paperwork. Mail using a tracking number. Credit will then reverse the fraudulent charges for you; you will pay only the $75+tax; and whatever you agree to with the shop you trust.

Also, call Credit; and inform them you are placing the transaction into dispute. But MAIL them the letter to them (detailing situation) & copies of all other paperwork. Calling them gets the ball rolling, and a provisional credit issued quickly - but will NOT preserve your rights under the law.

I would suggest using a different credit card to pay the shop you trust. And. if you have a card without a balance on it - this might be the one to use - to pay the first shop with.

I think you need a new alternator, and the current battery should be ok once it is charged back up. For NYC the charges aren’t too bad, but I think the alternator is the real problem and the current battery is simply discharged. Get a new alternator, and keep the current battery.