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2018 Outback 2.5 Limited w/ Yokohama Geolandar G015 235/60/18
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone. I have been having this issue since my 30k mile service. Currently at 32.5k miles. Brought it to get checked out twice already and dealer sank a few thousand dollars in parts into her without fixing it (covered by warranty thankfully). Tomorrow I drop her off for the third time. I am hoping it's just a loose heat shield or missing fastener somewhere and that they can fix it before my warranty expires in December.

Car is 100% stock, Yokohama Geolanders are the only thing I changed.
Been maintained at the dealership at every service interval.
Hasn't been off roaded besides a few dirt roads.

I am losing faith in the shop to find the issue and am hoping someone here has a clue to what this noise is.

First, video for context :

  • Happens almost every start up (cold or warm starts) 9 out of 10 times I hear it
  • Also happens between 'gear changes' while driving (it's a CVT)
  • Loud enough pedestrians notice while I drive past
  • No noticeable performance change or vibration that I can feel
  • Starts off loud, becomes more subtle at operating temp
  • Occurs between ~1200-2500 RPM @ both at idle (car in park) & while driving.
  • Lifting the gas pedal immediately stops the sound while driving, seems to be RPM dependent
  • Outside temp has been between 60-92 F, doesn't seem to matter
  • High pitched raspy metallic rubbing/vibrating/scraping?
  • Started ~31k miles after 30,000 Miles/30 Month service
  • Comes from under the car, closer to the front of the car
  • Not heard at top of engine bay or out the exhaust
  • Sound persists after 2 attempts to fix @ dealership
  • No codes being thrown by the car
  • Dealer found tensioner pulley bearing was grinding and cause the drive belt to burn
  • Drive belt tensioner pulley & drive belt replaced (no fix)
  • Dealer found small exhaust leak on my second visit 200 miles later
  • Catalytic converter assembly w/ gaskets replaced (no fix)

Thank you in advance for any clues or help into this issue!
 

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2018 Outback 2.5 Limited w/ Yokohama Geolandar G015 235/60/18
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
One more thing, I don't use my A/C often. All the video clips the car was started with low fan setting and no A/C.
 

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20 Outback Premium; former 19 Outback Premium, 85 GL Wagon, 87 GL-10 Wagon
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What did they do at the 30K service they did not do before? Brake fluid, anything else? It's too coincidental that this occurred after the 30K service, so I would start there. They should be able to put the car on a lift and run it while tracking down the sound from underneath. Since it's not performance related, my guess is it's something that physically got tweaked during that service. Will be interesting to find out what it ultimately is, so keep us posted. Good luck!
 

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2008 JDM Outback 3.0R, 5EAT
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One more thing, I don't use my A/C often. All the video clips the car was started with low fan setting and no A/C.
Could one of the thin metal exhaust covers be hitting against the exhaust pipes or car body ? Looking at the 2018 service manual there's quite a few of them. Perhaps with a cold exhaust tap around with a rubber mallett to listen for unusual resonance.

494111
 

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2018 Outback 2.5 Limited w/ Yokohama Geolandar G015 235/60/18
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Could one of the thin metal exhaust covers be hitting against the exhaust pipes or car body ? Looking at the 2018 service manual there's quite a few of them. Perhaps with a cold exhaust tap around with a rubber mallett to listen for unusual resonance.

View attachment 494111
That is a very reasonable guess. I am currently dropping of my car and will make sure to let my tech know. Thank you kiwis!
 

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2013 OBL 2.5
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Pat Goss - the mechanic you see if you watch MotorWeek - either on PBS or MotorTrend Channel has his own garage. He also has a radio call in show where he tries to solve automotive problems for listeners. When listeners call in with a similar problem as above, he would explain that his shop has a device that uses 6 or so microphones that can be positioned with magnets at different points on the car. There is a base unit that tracks noise levels in the car. The driver can switch microphones to locate the loudest. Then the car is stopped and the other 5 microphones are repositioned closer to the loud one. He continues this process until he homes in on where the noise is originating from. Then he tries to replicate the sound by placing the wheels off the ground and getting the car in gear and personally attempting to use other listening devices - stethoscope, screwdriver, etc. This device has been around for 30 or so years. Most professional garages should have one. Hope that helps.
 

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2018 Outback 2.5 Limited w/ Yokohama Geolandar G015 235/60/18
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Pat Goss - the mechanic you see if you watch MotorWeek - either on PBS or MotorTrend Channel has his own garage. He also has a radio call in show where he tries to solve automotive problems for listeners. When listeners call in with a similar problem as above, he would explain that his shop has a device that uses 6 or so microphones that can be positioned with magnets at different points on the car. There is a base unit that tracks noise levels in the car. The driver can switch microphones to locate the loudest. Then the car is stopped and the other 5 microphones are repositioned closer to the loud one. He continues this process until he homes in on where the noise is originating from. Then he tries to replicate the sound by placing the wheels off the ground and getting the car in gear and personally attempting to use other listening devices - stethoscope, screwdriver, etc. This device has been around for 30 or so years. Most professional garages should have one. Hope that helps.
That is a very cool diagnostic process. If Subaru has one at the shop I sure hope they are using it. If they fail to fix it again I may find a private shop that can do this type of assessment. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.


At this point due to all the problems that are being discovered I may be dealing with a lemon situation (CA law may apply). The car is failing to live up to the warranty and has an increasing cost to the dealership, as well as depreciation in value if they are unable to identify and fix the issue.

Either way I think i will be getting on contact with Subaru of America soon. A new well maintained (by Subaru themselves) car with 33k miles shouldn't have an arcing battery that eats the battery bracket up, exhaust leaks, busted pulley bearings and belts and strange undiagnosed sounds of this nature.

I'm wondering if they cobbled together some of the 18-19 models with defective parts before switching to the 2020 global platform for the OB.

On a side note, the dealer gave me a brand new loaner Ascent with 50 miles on it. Gotta say that 2.4 turbo really is nice. 0-60 in under 7 seconds in that huge boat makes my 2.5 NA OB feel like a snail!
 

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2018 Outback 2.5 Limited w/ Yokohama Geolandar G015 235/60/18
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
What did they do at the 30K service they did not do before? Brake fluid, anything else? It's too coincidental that this occurred after the 30K service, so I would start there. They should be able to put the car on a lift and run it while tracking down the sound from underneath. Since it's not performance related, my guess is it's something that physically got tweaked during that service. Will be interesting to find out what it ultimately is, so keep us posted. Good luck!
Thank you! I agree its strange that it happened after the service but I am not fully convinced that wasn't just a coincidence. All the other unrelated issues seem to point to defect parts as well.

This is the breakdown of the 30k service although not all apply to the OB

  • Replace engine oil, filter and drain plug washer
  • Inspect and adjust all drive belts to factory specifications
  • Inspect and ensure cooling fan is operating within factory specifications
  • Replace transmission fluid with Subaru High Performance Fluid (non CVT), if applicable
  • Check to ensure air conditioning and heating systems are operating within factory specifications
  • Rotate tires, inspect tread wear and check and adjust tire pressure as needed
  • Perform brake system inspection; pads and/or drums, lines, hoses and fluid
  • Inspect suspension system and steering components to ensure factory specifications
  • Service battery, clean terminals, install anti-corrosion pads and check battery condition
  • Inspect wiper blades and linkage operation
  • Lubricate all door, trunk and hood latches and hinges if needed
  • Inspect exhaust system and heat shields
  • Replace front and rear differential fluid
  • Inspect radiator and cooling system (pressure test)
  • Adjust emergency brake to within factory specifications if needed
  • Replace air filter element
  • Inspect steering operation, tie rod ends and steering rack guides per factory specifications
  • Inspect all engine and transmission mounts
  • Inspect and adjust all fluid levels as needed
  • Check all interior and exterior lighting operation
  • Replace brake fluid
  • Factory trained technician to conduct road test

  • Replace Pollen Filter every 12,000-15,000 miles (if equipped)
  • Replace engine coolant and test protection levels (2008 and older models)
  • Replace fuel filter on 2004 and older vehicles only every 30,000 miles
  • Replace non-platinum spark plugs 2004 and older every 30,000 miles
  • Replace platinum spark plugs 2005 and newer on 4 cylinder engines every 30,000 miles
 

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@SandyEggo from what you have listed, I would be most suspicious of the CVT fluid change since that could be related to the reported symptoms.
 

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Don't know if you ruled this out. But every one of my outbacks at about 80,000 miles develops horrible heat shield problems. Almost impossible to fix. Did they rule that out as the problem. Sounds awful outside the car . Might it be as simple as that. . Worried that it happened so early. I only have 5000 miles on my 2020 Outback Touring so far.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Don't know if you ruled this out. But every one of my outbacks at about 80,000 miles develops horrible heat shield problems. Almost impossible to fix. Did they rule that out as the problem. Sounds awful outside the car . Might it be as simple as that. . Worried that it happened so early. I only have 5000 miles on my 2020 Outback Touring so far.
Oh wow that doesn't sound great. Sorry to hear you have had those issues at 80k. I have a sneaking suspicion that it is a heat shield just due to how raspy and metallic the sound is (reminds me of two thin sheet metal pieces rubbing/vibrating against each other) and because the sound changes when the engine gets up to operating temp (metal expanding and changing resonance frequency?).

I'd assume if it was a common issue the tech would immediately have recognized it and found it on my first 2 visits.
But they also inspected my battery at 30k and didn't notice this monstrosity... so who knows what is going on in that garage..
494174



It's not like I bash my OB on rocks and bent things out of shape. I drive it 99% of the time on pathed roads, the 1% being some dirt roads and snow once in a blue moon.

My other theory was that after a service a tech lost a fastener and didn't replace it, or dropped a washer into crevasse and left it there, or perhaps forgot a washer or stripped a fastener and now something is rattling like crazy.

They haven't been able to rule out anything yet, with the exception of the parts they already replaced. After the two "fixes" they thought they figured it out each time and sent me home.

Somehow their tech hasn't been able to clearly hear the sound while on a test drive or while cold starting it on a lift. Both times I left the dealership it sounded fine, but the sound immediately returned the next day when I fired her up.

When they replaced the catalytic converter assembly and gaskets I didn't ask it they came with all new heat shields too.

Will keep you all updated when they call me back next. My advisor told me not to expect her back until next week so I'm not holding my breath.
 

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(Australian spec) 2019 MY19 Outback 3.6R CVT.
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Thank you in advance for any clues or help into this issue!
I once diagnosed & rectified a very loud noise on a friend’s Forester that could be heard inside & outside the vehicle. The noise changed depending on the engine revs (from idle) & road speed.

The cause of the noise turned out to be a small stone (piece of blue metal from memory) that was wedged under the body area in front of the rear diff, & was wedged that deeply it was almost impossible to see. The stone was bridging out a rubber insulating piece and allowing road noise & mechanical noise to travel directly to the body.

Unless I had seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have thought such a small stone could be the cause of so much noise.

I suggest having a look for something like that on your vehicle. A stone can get thrown up & wedged anywhere under the vehicle. That Forester hadn't been taken off road either.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I once diagnosed & rectified a very loud noise on a friend’s Forester that could be heard inside & outside the vehicle. The noise changed depending on the engine revs (from idle) & road speed.

The cause of the noise turned out to be a small stone (piece of blue metal from memory) that was wedged under the body area in front of the rear diff, & was wedged that deeply it was almost impossible to see. The stone was bridging out a rubber insulating piece and allowing road noise & mechanical noise to travel directly to the body.

Unless I had seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have thought such a small stone could be the cause of so much noise.

I suggest having a look for something like that on your vehicle. A stone can get thrown up & wedged anywhere under the vehicle. That Forester hadn't been taken off road either.
Thanks for this feedback. I had a suspicion this was the case as well. On my second visit the tech suggested something similar and pulled off as many covers as he could to peek around when they had it on the lift. That would explain why the sound slightly changes character if the debris is moving around and wedging itself in different spots 🤔

At idle once the sound calms I can't replicate it by revving at all, but once I put the car in gear and drive the sound returns in random intervals.
 

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My other theory was that after a service a tech lost a fastener and didn't replace it, or dropped a washer into crevasse and left it there, or perhaps forgot a washer or stripped a fastener and now something is rattling like crazy.
Could be - it does happen. I was helping a mate work on his BMW once & we dropped a nut from the engine somewhere in the engine bay. I eventually found it inside the sub-frame. It had dropped through an opening in the sub-frame & rolled along the inside of the sub-frame. I had to tape with masking tape a small magnet to a long piece of straightened coat hanger to retrieve it.

Gen6 Legacys have an insulated earth cable between the firewall & the engine block that rattled against the bottom of the plastic intake pipe near the throttle body on some cars. The solution was to bend the earth cable down & away from the plastic. The gen5 Outbacks have the same earth cable.

Noises in Subarus can also travel. For example; a friend has a Tribeca & he was trying to find a rattle that sounded like it was coming from the back of the vehicle. It turned out that a mounting bolt for one of the front fog lights was loose allowing the fog light assembly to rattle. Tightened the bolt & the noise stopped.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
After 3 visits and 2 weeks of Subaru having my car they finally resolved the issue!

There is a heatsheild that encases the down pipe which has an upper and lower section that bolt together. Turns out the upper part which can't be easily seen or accessed had a small hair line fracture. They replaced it.

It's day 3 now and the sound is completely gone! Props to everyone who suggested this was the issue, y'all were spot on. This will be the final update for this post. Thanks all, take care.
 
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