Subaru Outback Lemon?

Hi guys, It’s me again, the original poster. Here are a few more details:

The repairs have been done by three separate dealers (we moved from Colorado to Idaho during the time I have owned the car.) It could be that they are not really replacing the part, but would this happen at three different dealers? Maybe…but I hate to think that!

The codes have been read at Napa and my local mechanic as well as Subaru. The only code that ever shows up is P0420.

After the second cat converter replacement I called Subaru of America (national 800#) to report this issue. I have an “offical case number” and they do have record of four cat’s being replaced by three separate dealers. So they know what is going on. They have sent me a letter saying they will pay for cat converter replacements under warranty if need be for the life of the car. I guess this is their effort at appeasing me. They also said, “if this happens again, action will be taken.” Whatever that means?

The ECM has been reprogrammed, and both 02 sensors have been replaced three times, and the exhaust system is inspected each time and “no leaks found.”

So… I am going to print out some of all the reccomendations here and take them with me to the dealer when I take the car in. I guess I should not give up on this car as it seems from all of you that this probelm can be fixed. So I will try, try again…


I just want to say thanks to all of you for your help and sugestions. I really appreciate it.


You know, I have no idea what’s going on here and this situation has to be right up there with the oddest ones of all.

Paying for multiple converter replacements is not Subaru of America’s style. This puts them WAY over the budgetary allotment for the car. :slight_smile:
Once they will; on the second go-around they’re going to want to know what’s killing the converters.

I have a feeling that SOA is playing along with the dealers here in the interest of customer pacification and to possibly prevent your filing a complaint with the EPA.

If your car has not been overheated, does not lose coolant, and appears to run fine otherwise with no loss of fuel economy/rich running, then I still do not believe these converters are being replaced en masse.
What’s even more amazing is that they will continue to replace converters as often as necessary for the life of the car. That’s ludicrous.

Wished I could be of more help, but this situation makes no sense to me.


First and foremost do not ever lose that letter. That is going to be your lifeline to keeping this issue from costing you a fortune.

Second I am baffled at the idea that SOA would continue to replace converters for free without trying to find the underlying cause of the problem.

I do not have the experience that OK4450 has but I am at a loss as well. If the vehicle is running properly and not suffering from an overly rich or overly lean fuel mixture, it is not burning oil or antifreeze, the exhaust system is intact, the 02 sensors are sending the correct info to the ECM, and the ECM is programmed with the correct parameters the converter will not fail.

I think that some time spent diagnosing the problem is imperative. Checking the short and long term fuel trim, verifying the 02?s are function, the vehicle is in closed loop, etc? the problem should be easy to solve. Please keep us informed as I am interested in the final outcome of this situation.


In thinking about your last post and SOAs comment about “action will be taken”, let me add this.

That comment tells me they know that you’ve been BSed and are trying to smooth things over with you. They will never even hint at anything derogatory about the dealer even if they think it.
I assure you there is a bit of an adversarial relationship between the dealer and regional office though.

“Action will be taken” means that if it happens again they’re going to come down on the dealer as to how and why that converter needs to be changed again and the dealer may eat the cost of the next one if it’s not bad.

I wonder if SOA would be willing to provide you with printouts of the submitted and approved warranty repair orders for all of those converters? If they were legitimately changed then every one of them should be on file, both in the computer and on paper at the dealer level. The paper copies should (must) have your signature also.

I have the same problem on my '04 Outback. I’ve been advised by an independent (not dealer) Subaru mechanic that this is a common problem on Subarus and Toyotas. He advised me to buy an Actron CP9135 ODB II code scanner. They generally sell for around $70 on eBay, though I got mine for $53 including shipping. This enables you to read the computer code(s) when the check engine light (CEL) goes on. You don’t want to ignore the CEL in case it is some other code. If it shows up as P0420, just erase the code. You have probably noticed that the cruise control goes out when it pops this code. Erasing it solves both problems. Takes about 60 seconds. I recommend it. The vehicle will pass Smog test as long as the CEL is turned off.