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Whiny Subaru gives me headaches-literally

Please help! My 2012 Subaru Forester with only 940 miles on it makes a high-pitched whine at a funky frequency that triggers migranes. Service also hears it but cannot fix, saying that it just needs to be broken in. The loaner of same model doesn’t whine… But I am because I cannot drive my own car! Anybody know anything about this!?

Sorry for your pain. You may have to work your way up the ladder to get the whiny part replaced.

Is the whine present with the engine running and car stationary or does the car have to be in motion?

Both. It is especially obvious just after I start it.

I think that you may he right, Barkydog. What hurts is that the reason I bought new was to avoid things like this :frowning:

A whine with the engine running and car not moving usually points to a problem with a belt tensioner or accessory (meaning alternator, power steering pump, etc) or a fault in the transmission. (usually a manual transmission)

It would be extremely unusual for a failure of any of that to occur on a car with ony 900+ miles on it; assuming I’m interpreting that as 900 total and not 900 additional miles added to what may have been on there when you bought the car; meaning a dealer demonsrator, etc .

What you were told by the dealer about break-in is bogus and odds are you were told this by a service writer or manager who has little mechanical aptitude and is resorting to a brush-off tactic because they do not know.
It may be time to elevate this a bit as mentioned. Contact the regional office in your area and go from there. See if you can arrange a meeting with the regional service rep when he comes around.

Thank you (all)! I will call them this morning and see when I can meet with the regional rep.

Oh, and 940 miles TOTAL. He told me part of the problem was that I didn’t drive it enough.

How cold is it where you are? You will get more noises on a very cold morning in most cars. OK4450 is on track. I’d suspect a bad component in the serpentine drive belt set up. A bad tensioner, a bad bearing, a misaligned pulley, etc.

Perhaps you can request to use the dealer’s rental or demo car (free of course) for a week while the while a dealer tech drives and puts some miles on your car. If it is a break-in thing, this will either ease the noise or show that was a BS suggestion.

Can you hear this wine outside of the car or only inside. Does it change in pitch when you rev the motor?? By wine is It very high pitched?? I am thinking you have a bad ground and its causing feedback through your stereo. Its the only wine I can tjinknof on a car that could cause headaches. It could be a bad plug wire or a loose or bad ground wire. If I’m right

gsragtop - inside and certain parts of outside… I spoke with service and asked them if they can coordinate a meeting with regional or if I should go to regional directly. Will see…

@jennyzig–I can sympathize with your problem of having the high pitched whine causing a headache. When I was in college and didn’t have a car, I used a local inter-city bus service for an occasional 50 mile trip back home. The buses used were the Flxible (yes, that spelling is correct) Clipper models made in the 1940s and into the 1950s. These buses had a high pitched whine in the rear axle and my ears would ring for an hour after riding these buses.
Years ago, my parents had a 1960 Rambler with an automatic transmission that would whine when the car was running and was in “Park”. The service manager said that it was the sun gear in the transmission and didn’t hurt anything. Since the noise wasn’t audible when the car was in motion, nothing was done about it.
In any event, the noise shouldn’t be there in your new Subaru. Cars, like kids, shouldn’t be allowed to whine.

Thank you, Triedaq. I can’t accept that I just spent 27k on a car that I cannot drive and then told that I just need to deal with it until it (might go) goes away. It is audible when driving AND in park. The support means alot, as I am treated as if I am the whiner.

" I can’t accept that I just spent 27k on a car that I cannot drive . . ."
@jennyzig–I wasn’t very happy when I spent $3.50 on a bus ticket over 50 years ago and had my ears ring for hours after arriving at my destination. I had a high pitched whine that suddenly started in my 1978 Oldsmobile and 2 days later the alternator went out. Maybe you will be so lucky because then they will have to replace the alternator. Apparently, when a diode is bad in an alternator, they often make this whining sound.
I also had a real problems with a brand new Toyota 4Runner. We hadn’t had the car 3 days when it developed a chirping noise. The dealer replaced the serpentine belt which cured the problem for a couple of days and then the chirp returned. A second belt was installed but incorrectly. A couple of days later, not only did the chirp return, but the car leaked oil because the improperly installed belt pulled out the crankshaft oil seal. The seal was replaced and a new belt installed, but the chirp returned. I finally went back and asked them to buy back the car under the lemon law. We finally agreed that the dealer could have one more chance but I would have a loaner car and the dealer would test the car for several days. Well, they did find the problem–a bad belt tensioner. I wasn’t about to drive the 4Runner until the problem worked itself out, which, in my case, it never would.
I have sensitive ears. I am a horn player in two concert bands and a chamber orchestra. As the section leader, I need to listen to the other instruments to make my part fit. Sounds that don’t “fit” are disturbing to me.

Without car in hand, there is no way of being definitive about the cause of the problem and especially without knowing what if anything the dealer did to try and figure it out.

What would I do? First thing is check the fluids in the power steering and transmission. If everything is fine there then I would remove the drive belt for the accessories, start the engine, and note if the whine disappears with the belt removed. All of this should only take mere minutes.

If the whine is present with the accessory drive belt removed then that could point to a transmission issue.

Does this car have an automatic or manual transmission? I assume automatic but just curious.

What irks me is the dealer telling you that it’s a break-in issue. That is a a brush-off comment.

Okay helpful Car Talk Folk: The Subaru Dealer (Busam in Fairfield, OH if anyone is interested) has backpedaled and now says:

Dear Ms. Mahuet:

Thank you for your email response. I had left messages at the dealership. I just spoke with Dave, Service Manager. He indicated that he personally listened to the vehicle and heard the normal alternator noise. Dave indicated that the loaner vehicle is an older vehicle so the comparison is a bit more difficult.

Dave recommended that you make another appointment. Possibly, you will be able to duplicate the noise for him and he can listen to what you are speaking of. Dave indicated that what he heard was not audible enough to cause a head ache but possibly he did not hear what you are speaking of?

Please make another appointment to have this situation looked into again. Please let me know when the appointment is and I will call the dealer on your behalf.


Lana Downs
Subaru of America, Inc.
Customer/Dealer Services Department
1-800-SUBARU3 (1-800-782-2783)
Service Request #1-3340210698

I should have bought another Honda.

" He indicated that he personally listened to the vehicle and heard the normal alternator noise".
@jennyzig–this statement in the communications that you received from Subaru indicates that someone thinks the alternator is making the noise. If the alternator has a bad diode in the rectifier bridge, an alternator will whine. There is a test for this. One uses a voltmeter and sets it on the alternating current setting. If there is alternating current voltage present, there is a problem in the alternator. I would think that the dealer service department would have a technician that would be aware of this test.

The service personnel at the dealer may really not hear the noise. Technicians who work in a noisy atmosphere like the shop area frequently suffer a hearing loss and the higher frequencies are the first to go. They truly may not hear the whine.

Triedaq Makes A Very Good Point. Also, People Subjected To Loud Music, Particularly From Ear-Pieces/Headphones Can Have Certain Ranges Of Their Hearing Missing.

I recall taking a military hearing test that tested many different frequencies. I passed, but I was very surprised at how many guys, some much younger than I, failed the test and the military physical because they simply could not hear all the tones that were being tested. It wasn’t one or two guys. It was a lot of them. They were more shocked than I was.


Thanks for the input. I also suggested the service manager’s hearing to the corporate rep. It is very possible that he has a hearing deficit and shouldn’t be judging what can/would/should give a headache to a person with very acute hearing. I passed the alternator info on to corporate…