Timing Belt / 2011 Subaru Impreza

@"Honda Blackbird"
I appreciate your help. You were very straight forward, and actually answered my questions as opposed to giving your opinion. I appreciate an opinion, but when it’s reiterated 400 times throughout the same thread, it gets a bit repetitive.

I recently purchased the car and have only put about 1500 miles on it myself. I drive nearly 15K miles per year, and while I can do my own basic work, I choose not to. I can get an oil change and tire rotation in my city for approximately $20. I may make the change to synthetic soon, though, so I may go back to being a DIY’er.

I know we have a few educated mechanics here, so I’ll pose another question. Is it okay to start a 97K mile vehicle on synthetic? How long can I go between oil changes in a state that has four actual seasons, such as Virginia?

I think you can change to synthetic any time you want to. It won’t hurt anything. But then again it may not help anything either. I’m at home now and don’t have access to my service info here but I think if you stick with conventional oil at 5000 mile intervals you’ll be fine. Switching to synthetic will offer better protection in hot heavy duty service and better cold start protection in severe cold weather. I don’t know that you see either of those in Virginia. Synthetic oil does not allow you to extend your oil change interval beyond what is stated in your owner’s manual.

I don’t understand the connection between dino and synthetic oil and doing it yourself.

The oil type won’t matter; the oil change intervals will. I use nothing but dino oil on all of my cars and rountinely put 300k miles on them with no engine issues and that’s here in humid and very dusty OK. One car was close to 420k miles @ 18 years of age and didn’t use much more oil than what is claimed to be normal now on new cars; which is said to be fine at 700-1000 miles on a quart. Even most of that consumption was a rear main seal leak; not burning it.

You will get varying answers on oil change intervals. Synthethic oil will stand up to heat better but it will NOT stand up to contaminants such as moisture, acids, dust, and combustion chamber deposits any better than dino oil. Those contaminants are what does your engine in over time.
Depending upon how much city driving, humidity, and so on my recommendation would be 3-4k miles or 3-maybe even 6 months time intervals. If most of your driving is on the open highway you can bump it up to 5k miles.

Some people appreciate “Straight Forward” while others look for “Emotional Coddling” Im not much of a “Coddler”

I’ve been told not to be so straight Forward at times… I find it weeds out the Riff Raff early, kinda how I like it. LOL

Again, good luck with your job. Its good that you have a “Friend Mechanic” to be able to do this with.


As I mentioned earlier, a regular oil change is only $20, while a synthetic is $70, and doesn’t include a tire rotation, thus the reasoning for doing it myself.

I appreciate your information.

I live in a small city, but do much more 55 MPH back road driving than anything else. I’d bet that 800 to every 1000 miles is back road 55 MPH.

I believe you may be the minority anymore. The recommended mileage used to be 3K, but I believe most manufacturers have moved away from it. It’s really no question why you run over 300K miles with all of your vehicles; they’re potentially always using new oil.

From what I’ve gathered, typically anywhere between 3K and 5K miles will be fine.

“Is it okay to start a 97K mile vehicle on synthetic?”


“How long can I go between oil changes . . .”

I would stick to the oil change interval listed in the book. In fact, most people fall into the severe service category. So I would be using that

I’m fully aware that manufacturers have gotten away from the 3k miles oil change interval but there are caveats to that. That usually involves a “severe service disclaimer” buried somewhere and it still boils down to the type of driving and environmental conditions.
In some cases I guarantee you that 3k miles and 3 months is appropriate. As I said, 5k miles is ok with me on highway driving and from what I assume is a clean air environment with little dust.

As to factory recommendations, the manufacturers make a lot of recommendations that make sense to their marketing departments but do not serve your car very well. This includes “lifetime” transmission fluid and the always ludicrous “audible valve lash inspection” at 100k miles or more.

It still amazes me that every car manufacturer putting out solid lifter engines (including your Subaru) makes this hokey recommendation. Most people won’t have a problem ignoring this procedure which should be done at 30k miles intervals. Others will, and it will be expensive to fix.
A lady posted on this forum a couple of years ago about valve lash on her Subaru (she knew nothing about it until she brought it here) and it was going to set her back 3 grand to fix.

That lash recommendation is almost as bad as the one Subaru dished out about changing automatic transmission fluid. “When it’s black and smells really, really bad”.
Sorry, but at that point the transmission is barbecued.
A standup comic can’t come up with stuff this good… :blush:

I work on computers and run into the same thing all the time. Customer brings in laptop computer for repair and it has an aftermarket power supply. I make them sign a form that states I will only warranty laptop units with an OEM power supply testing within acceptable specifications. I get in more units trashed because someone ordered a $15 Chinese replacement off eBay or Amazon and thought they were getting a GREAT DEAL! The cheapo power supplies that read “REPLACEMENT AC ADAPTER FOR TOSHIBA MADE IN CHINA” on them are a liability as they cost more than the low price to purchase them.

The same goes for timing belt kits. I see cheap ones with a name I don’t recognize but I usually stick with Gates. Others may suggest another known brand such as Dayco or the OEM make like Motorcraft, AC Delco, or MOPAR, but no one here will suggest one of the cheap Amazon or eBay kits.

Replace anything that touches the timing belt, would cause the timing belt to fail, or where the timing belt would need to be removed to replace the item in the future. 100k intervals are pretty long. The timing seals may hold up fine for the first round but may start leaking during the next 100k.

I don’t have experience with this engine and don’t know if it is an interference design or not. If interference, spare no expense in replacing all the parts with quality units and have a reputable person do the job. I know there are interference engines that are apparently more forgiving to broken timing belts than others. I have helped some friends with Daewoo based vehicles such as the Suzuki Forenza and Chevy Aveo and always insist that all the parts are replaced. These are NOT forgiving at all to failures. Look on Craigslist and you see lots of $500 cars needing a new engine due to timing belt failure.

I was charged $320 for timing belt replacement at 2005 Legacy GT(turbo). Timing belt was only part changed at 110k and 3 hrs labor($60/hr). I was called 2hrs after dropping car it was done by versed Subie indy.

I can’t speak to the specifics of your car, but the parts you are ordering seem to be the right ones, generically speaking, for cars that use timing belts. Belt, tensioner, idler pulleys, water pump. That all looks good. I’ve always had good luck w/Gates belts. I concur w/the above advice to ask the shop to replace the front crank seal and cam seals while doing this job, provided there’s no complications specific w/this vehicle.

Since you are working on the cooling system, unless the coolant is fairly new already, I’d replace that too. So you’ll have a new pump and fresh coolant. And consider to replace the thermostat, esp if it is part of the water pump ass’y. Be sure to test the new thermostat in a pot of hot water to make sure it opens at the right temperature and the correct opening distance. I’ve had defective thermostats right out of the box, new.

If changing the accessory drive belts (serpentine, etc) is easier with the engine disassembled for the timing belt job, I’d be inclined to replace those too. If the existing belts appear to still be good, put them in the trunk, they might come in handy some day.

My own perspective. When I change the timing belt on my Corolla all I change is the timing belt and the drive belts. I test the other parts to make sure they turn/move freely, no weird noises, but unless I find a problem with something, I don’t replace anything else. My trusty Corolla is still running well on its original water pump at 200K +. I’m not saying I’m recommending this method, just saying what I do as a driveway diy’er.

About ordering parts. I don’t order parts online usually. I prefer to pay a little more and buy my parts from my local inde auto part supplier. Why? It’s not that unusual for me to have to return a part b/c they gave me the wrong version. They gave me the wrong ignition rotor for example last time I did a tune-up. B/c I purchased it locally, it was just a minor tweak to my errand schedule to take it back and get the correct one.

The other – more important, probably – risk you are taking on by buying your own parts is that if a problem occurs that damages your engine, there may be no way to prove the shop caused the problem. They’ll say the part you supplied caused the problem, and since they didn’t supply it, you’re responsible. And if you think about it, how could any shop warranty a repair they did when they didn’t supply the replacement parts? This probably won’t happen, you’ll likely get a good job for a discount, but it is a risk you are taking on.

“Timing belt was only part changed at 110k”

That was not very wise, in my opinion

That “versed Subie indy” apparently wasn’t wise enough to know, that absolutely anything and everything under a timing case cover should be new, if you’re doing a timing belt

ESPECIALLY if you’ve got a real repair order and are charging the customer

You don’t want anything under there to fail before the next interval

you do NOT want to get in an ugly situation, where the car comes back, on the hook, because the tensioner failed, for example. Or something else under the cover, for that matter

Even if you can absolutely prove the customer declined those upsells, it might still get ugly. Much depends on how much of an issue the customer wants to make of it. Even if the customer is absolutely in the wrong, he can cause lost time and productivity for the mechanic. And time is money, as far as mechanics go. Mechanics get paid to work, not talk with angry customers

And if you can NOT prove that you tried to upsell the tensioner, idler, seals, waterpump, etc., then that was basically your mistake

I was hypothetically talking about the mechanic, not the customer


db4690 is dead on correct of course about taking care of everything in the timing belt case at one time.

More than a few people have gotten a new timing belt only while skipping the water pump, tensioners, idlers, etc only to have one of those bypassed parts failing afterwards. In turn, that leads to the new belt failing and in the case of a Subaru; expensive engine damage because someone cut corners on the job due to cheapness or lack of knowledge.

Replacing the belt only at 110k miles is for lack of a better phrase; a halfaxx job.

I bought the Gates kit online. As I mentioned earlier, it’s no different than a kit any mechanic can purchase with their supplier, other than price. I received the entire kit for approximately $120.

I knew better than only replacing the timing belt before even asking here. That’s a mistake, especially on an interference engine, such as every engine Subaru manufactures. If any those older parts fail, your engine is toast.

I wish I was that savy when it comes to car repair, but I’ve never actually owned (paid off) a vehicle, and I’m not willing to take the chance on a vehicle I’m still paying on. I may try it when I pay it off, but until then, I’ll leave a timing belt job to a mechanic.

As I mentioned earlier, a regular oil change is only $20, while a synthetic is $70

That price difference is absurd. Synthetic oil is not $10 more a quart then dino oil. Something is wrong here. I’d recheck your numbers.

There is nothing to recheck. I read it correctly the first time.


The synthetic change may not show appropriately, but in my area, it comes to $69.99.

Again, the regular is $20, and the synthetic is $70.

The synthetic change may not show appropriately, but in my area, it comes to $69.99.

And that is totally absurd. Find a different mechanic. Do the math.

Regular dino oil costs about $3/qrt. Full synthetic costs $8/qrt. The price difference you’re showing is $10/qrt. That’s more then what you can buy the oil for. Their prices are just to confuse the buyers. With those prices they are NOT charging labor for the conventional oil change.

They post those prices just to bring you in and charge you for other services. NTB is noted for this type of deceptive advertising.

As I said …bind another mechanic.

I understand, which is why I stated that if I were to go synthetic, I would do the changes myself. That said, we came to a concensus earlier in the thread that regular oil is fine as long as it’s changed at least as often as the manufacturer suggests.

That statement “at least as often as the manufacturer suggests” is not correct. Depending, it may require a bit more often than the manufacturer suggests.

Now, I realize that I’m at odds with many at times over certain issues and oil change intervals are one of those issues.
The person who has and does turn wrenches for a living looks at it in a different manner than those whose DIY on their own car or have someone else do their oil changes for them.

That often leads to the cliche’ statement that more oil changes are being done to pad the pockets of the mechanics. That also is a statement that does not hold water because oil changes are not a money making proposition nor have they ever been.

A few years ago I had lunch with a friend who runs a local indy shop. He told me about the great plan he had to allow him to do a $19.95 oil change to compete with the chain shops. He found some “white-box” brand of oil filter that he could buy for $1.59 and sourced private label cheap bulk oil in barrels, 5W30 that he used in everything. So that $20 oil change is either a loss-leader for the shop or they’re just using the cheapest stuff they can find and still only making $10 per car. Either way, it’s a bad deal for everyone involved.

For me, a conventional oil change is $34.95 and synthetic is $56.95. And that includes a tire rotation on passenger cars and small SUVs.

@ok4450 regarding your oil change statements above. We do service work for one of our suppliers, their delivery vehicles and the salesman’s cars. They use a fleet management company for authorization and payment of maintenance and repair, and require us to call in for approval before work is performed. Today the outside salesman brought in his company car for oil change, which they do at 5K intervals. The fleet service requested the mileage, and informed me that it had only been 4728 miles since the last service. He told me to schedule the work for next week when the car will have reached 5000 miles.

@asemaster I’ve seen some of those white box filters several times and they’re of poor quality. A BMW motorcycle shop started selling some at one time and recommended that I give them a shot as they were about 1/5 the price of the OEM BMW filters. A few weeks later he saw me and told me to get that filter out of the bike as the elements were disentegrating.
Sure enough; the filter was crumbling and not only that it had frozen itself inside the crankcase cavity. What should have been a 5 minute filter change tops turned into 1.5 hours of digging and removing pieces with a pick.

We found out one time a Subaru dealer I worked for ordered some of those white box filters and was palming them off on customers at the counter as OEM. They had asked for us mechanics to turn in our OEM parts boxes for filters of all sorts as part of inventory control. That was a lie. What they were doing was throwing the white boxes in the trash and putting the white box filters inside the Subaru OEM boxes. An OEM filter cost the dealer 8 bucks. The white box filter was a buck and a half. Profit up; ethics gone.

I don’t have a problem with 5k miles oil changes depending upon the driving habits and environmental conditions. In many places that won’t work and here is one of of them if one cares about the mechanical condition of their car.
About 7 or 8 years ago I did a test of sorts. I took an old aluminum pie pan and poured about 1/3 of a quart of fresh motor oil into it. My house has a long wrap around porch all across the front and south side. I put a piece of cardboard over the pan with a weight on it and stuck it underneath a porch chair to be forgotten about.

Four or five months later I checked that oil and it was sludge due to moisture in the air. That oil had never even been in an engine nor had it been rained on, etc.