CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

The Mystery of the Dead 2010 Subaru Impreza

Two-and-a-half years ago, I bought a new 2010 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport. It now has just over 45,000 miles on the odometer, and I get the oil changed every three months. In October, I took it to Dealer A, where it was purchased, for routine maintenance. At that time, they told me the oil was 3.5 quarts low. They couldn’t see any reason for this and told me to check the oil in a few days and bring it back if it was low.

The oil never read low after that, and I had the oil changed again in January. Last week, while driving on the highway, the check engine light and the anti-lock brake light flickered & then went off. A few miles later, the lights came on again, the engine began making a clattering noise, and the car lost power. I took the first exit, the engine died, and I was able to coast the car into a local mechanic’s shop.

At the local shop, they told me the oil tank was over-full and smelled of gasoline. They told me the motor would need to be replaced. I have an extended warranty, so I called Subaru and was told to have the car towed to a dealership. The car was towed to Dealer B because it was much closer (a 20 mile tow vs a 60 mile tow to Dealer A). They put it on a rack, presumably checked the oil, told us the oil tank was empty, the motor was ruined, and it would not be covered under warranty because the Jiffy Lube that did the last oil change was to blame.

Jiffy Lube refused to send a rep to look at the car, so my husband watched while the Dealer B mechanic removed the oil filter. He videotaped this and has the oil filter. The round gasket on top of the oil filter is a bit loose. Dealer B says this loose gasket is the cause of the oil loss, so Jiffy Lube is to blame. The mechanics at the local shop say that this loose gasket situation happens all the time and would not cause the oil to leak out. They still swear that the tank was full when they looked at it. We also checked the floor of the garage where the car is parked every night, and there are no oil spots at all.

I would love to have some opinions about what might have caused the problem. It seems as if either the Subaru extended warranty or Jiffy Lube’s insurance should cover this, and both groups are pointing the finger at each other. We’re also concerned that if Dealer B is lying to us about the cause of the problem, they might not be the best people to fix the car.

@UtahWren at this point you need to call your lawyer.
Car owners have no obligation to take their cars to the dealer in order to maintain their warranty.
As long as you save all receipts and invoices, you’re fine.
That has been legally established a long time ago.
I believe Subaru owes you an engine, because you have their extended warranty.
Whether Subaru and Jiffy Lube want to get into a pissing contest has nothing to do with you.
That’s where your lawyer earns his fee.
Once the Subaru dealer starts getting written correspondence from him, they’ll pucker up and make it right.

Your engine was damaged goods back in October when it was 3.5 quarts down. You state the oil is changed very 3 months and there’s a few missing details.

Who did the oil changes prior to October when you were told it was 3.5 quarts down?

You state you took it to the dealer in Oct. for routine maintenance. Does this mean the oil was changed at that time and did the dealer also change the oil in January?

If you were having maintenance done at JL or wherever prior to Oct. then why revert back to the dealer?

For what it’s worth, running a Subaru 3.5 quarts down on oil can lead to oil consumption problems and depending upon the JL involvement any denial of factory or extended warranty may be entirely justified.

OK4450, I had the oil changed mostly locally. I live 50 miles from the nearest Subaru Dealer. I took it to the Dealer in October for routine maintenance because I thought the dealer might do something more than the fluid changes & inspections that were being done locally. The Owner’s manual doesn’t spell out what sort of maintenance is needed at different intervals.

db4690, thanks for your input. I don’t know too much about cars, but it seems to me, too, as if the problem started earlier in the year. I was hoping not to have to involve a lawyer, but your comment is making me re-think that.

“The Owner’s manual doesn’t spell out what sort of maintenance is needed at different intervals.”

That is because there is a separate booklet titled Subaru Maintenance and Warranty, and if the OP looks in the glove compartment, she should find it–albeit a few years after the fact.

While I empathize with the OP regarding this situation, I think that at least one thing is clear, namely that nobody has been checking the oil level between oil changes. If someone had been checking it on a periodic basis, the oil level in October would not have been 3.5 qts low. Running that engine with only the remaining 1.5 qts of oil undoubtedly accelerated engine wear geometrically as the oil level dropped lower and lower. If that low oil level is on record with Subaru, they have a legitimate claim of owner negligence, and can legitimately deny warranty coverage on that basis.

The other probable negligence is on the part of Jiffy Lube.
Even one act of negligence gives a mfr a legal “out” regarding warranty coverage.
In this case, there may be a record of 2 acts of negligence, which makes me believe that there is little or no chance that Subaru will honor that extended warranty.

The OP’s best bet is to use the evidence provided by dealership #2 in conjunction with legal action against J-Lube to recover the cost of the engine overhaul/replacement.

@VDCdriver I believe Subaru will, eventually, honor the warranty. Part of the reason I feel this way is because the OP bought it in the first place. If Subaru denies the “claim” the lawyer is going to have a field day. He will win in the end, I believe.
If I were the OP and Subaru did in fact successfully weasel their way out of buying that engine, I would make sure EVERYONE heard about it. Friends, neighbors, Subaru internet forums, etc.

I would have to respectfully disagree that Subaru should foot one penny of the bill. When a car owner veers off and has a service provided by a non-franchised Subaru dealer they assume all risks associated with whatever service is provided.

Lack of oil, too much oil, filter fell off, drain plug leaks, or whatever; it doesn’t matter. If that engine had a non-Subaru oil filter and was down 3.5 quarts of oil this falls back onto the shoulders of Jiffy Lube and possibly the owner for failure to maintain the oil level.

Factory warranty or extended warranty is for the repair of a factory defect in workmanship or materials. It does not and should not cover any direct or indirect engine problems related to something a fast lube facility may have caused.

It’s understandable to patronize the fast lube as it’s closer to home but that brings up the risk factor again. The thought of running that Subaru 50 miles or so to the dealer while down 3.5 quarts on oil makes me cringe.

This would not void the warranty on the rest of the car; only the engine. The same principle would apply if the OP had a fast lube change the transmission fluid and they underfilled it, used the wrong fluid, etc. The warranty is null and void because of someone else; not Subaru.
There may be a case against the Jiffy Lube but even that is not a slam dunk due to passage of time and X number of miles elapsed; especially if the hood was not raised on occasion to check the oil level.