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'09 Outback XT Limited ATX
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Discussion Starter #1
We were driving in north Georgia today when my 2009 XT suddenly flashed overheat warnings. The temp needle went from the middle to the red zone almost instantly. I pulled off the road within 10 seconds, but the car cut off as I was pulling off. I called AAA and had it towed to the nearest dealer, Kelly in Chattanooga. There was no steam, no spray. Oil is clean and full. The service manager's unofficial guess is sudden water pump failure and a cracked block.



Since we bought this car in 2013, we've put nearly $20,000 into repairs. There was the $10,000 "drivetrain failure" at 100,100 miles, two new turbos (YES, we change the oil every 3,750), and the recent front end failure which led to an "unrelated" steering column repair which led to an "unrelated" wiring problem for a total of over $4,000.


This car is, BY FAR, the worst vehicle we've ever owned--and Subaru has the most incompetent, crooked shop network I could possibly imagine. We will NEVER own another Subaru and will not recommend them to anyone.


Shoe
 

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CAR tip. Never buy a used turbo performance car used unless its your toy car and you have money to spend. Especially a Subaru people abuse the crap out of their Subarus. If you want zero problems and years of trouble free simple maintenance get a used Lexus.
 

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Since we bought this car in 2013, we've put nearly $20,000 into repairs. There was the $10,000 "drivetrain failure" at 100,100 miles, two new turbos (YES, we change the oil every 3,750), and the recent front end failure which led to an "unrelated" steering column repair which led to an "unrelated" wiring problem for a total of over $4,000.


This car is, BY FAR, the worst vehicle we've ever owned--and Subaru has the most incompetent, crooked shop network I could possibly imagine. We will NEVER own another Subaru and will not recommend them to anyone.


Shoe
Sorry to hear about your issues. Sounds like you got the upgraded "BMW / Audi / VW Experience" ! I know ... it feels good to vent.

To be fair, it sounds like your complaint about Subaru covers your first drivetrain. Unless you've got 100k on the second drivetrain too, failure is probably more due to the installer/rebuilder than Subaru. And dealerships vary ... some are very good, some not, and that extends to every brand. Finding a good one that you can trust is important, but in the end they too are are human, working on things designed by humans, and humans make mistakes ... the difference is whether they're honest (and frequency of mistakes).

The Turbo Subaru's (especially the automatic XT's) aren't known for reliability, but your experience is by far the worst I've heard. Even the non-turbo's have issues, like head gaskets, weak piston rings, flexy firewalls, terribile HU's and failed CVTs - but they don't fail at near the rate the 05-10 turbo engines did. At least these issues are well-known and carefully picking a Subaru based on year is advised.

You'll note that anyone who comes here asking "Should I buy this OBXT/LGT with > 100k" almost universally gets told to run away unless they like wrenching on cars (same thing over in the BMW forums when they ask about N54/N55's).

Hey we have a 2005 Outback XT 5MT, with 175k on the original motor and turbo, wanna buy it?

Just kidding ... it's our winter beater which we bought new for $26k, and if it went belly up tomorrow we feel we've gotten more than our money's worth out of it.

In the past ten years many manufacturers have added AWD to their sedans and offer small'ish SUV/CUV's. At the same time, Subaru has been dropping the features that make them stand out; manual transmissions, low weight, low prices, powerful engines, etc. At this point, there isn't a compelling reason to purchase a Subaru unless you need a wagon with decent ground clearance, or you score a great deal on something used. If I were in the market for a vehicle similar to an Outback I'd probably get a year old Kia Sportage and call it a day.
 

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2008 Outback 2.5
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$20,000 in repairs? I paid $22,000 brand new for my 08 Base model. I don't know why anyone would want a turbo Subaru unless it was a disposable toy especially a used one unless it was passed down from their grandmother.

BTW, all manufacturers have their minefields. I doubt I'll ever buy another Honda. They can't seem to make transmissions that won't explode. I thought Toyota Camry's were bullet proof until I got one for my son, then read about an entire generation of Camry's out there with ticking time bombs where the piston rings get clogged and they consume oil like crazy. Some of them can go 300k miles, some will work fine for 100k miles then suddenly poop out. Instead of a recall, Toyota offered those who could prove the problem a refund on repairs or would do the repair for them if their test showed more than a quart of oil consumed in 1100 miles, now just about everyone else is out of luck because the warranty is expired. Outbacks have their perpetual problems with head gaskets not to mention turbos.
 

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2017 Outback 3.6 Touring, which replaced '05 Outback XT
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Water pumps rarely fail catastrophically. The water pump is driven by the timing belt. A failure of the belt would explain both the rapid high temperature and the engine cutting off. Was the belt and associated components changed when it was due?

The other factor here is how did the original owner treat this car for the first four years? Your story suggests that it was flogged. You can change the oil all you want, but if the first owner didn't, the damage is done. The second turbo blew up because the lubrication system was still contaminated with shavings from the first one. This is a well known problem and takes an extremely meticulous mechanic to prevent.
 

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'09 Outback XT Limited ATX
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Discussion Starter #8
OK, here's what the shop said. The water pump bearings are bad. When the pump gets hot enough, the bearings seize and the pump stops cold...causing the engine to instantly shut down. When the pump cools it will turn again and the engine can be started. Supposedly, this was replicated in the shop and the pump seizing/engine shutdown witnessed by the techs--and there is no evidence of any other damage.



New water pump, guide pulleys, and belt: $1200. Apparently, labor cost for water pumps is 10x parts. This puts us over the $20,000 mark for total repairs.
 

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'09 Outback XT Limited ATX
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Discussion Starter #9
Sorry to hear about your issues. Sounds like you got the upgraded "BMW / Audi / VW Experience" ! I know ... it feels good to vent.

To be fair, it sounds like your complaint about Subaru covers your first drivetrain. Unless you've got 100k on the second drivetrain too, failure is probably more due to the installer/rebuilder than Subaru. And dealerships vary ... some are very good, some not, and that extends to every brand. Finding a good one that you can trust is important, but in the end they too are are human, working on things designed by humans, and humans make mistakes ... the difference is whether they're honest (and frequency of mistakes).

It turned out that the $10,000 drivetrain repair was probably a complete con job. It was likely just a wheel bearing. We struck a tire on the interstate right before the noise started. The crooked service manager thought it would be an insurance job, so he made up the drivetrain failure. When our insurance company refused to pay, he couldn't change his story and we were stuck. We did call Subaru and try for a warranty repair. When they found out we had hit the tire, the Subaru corporate rep told us the call was being recorded and threatened us with legal action for fraud if we attempted to pursue a warranty claim. State Farm accused us of fraud because they said that the tire strike could not have caused the damage, and we had made up the tire story after we found out about the cost of the repair. We had to find another insurance company despite not having a single major claim in 25 years. Turns out that State Farm was probably right...there was no damage at all. Just a lying scumbag taking advantage of a family stuck nine hours from home.
 

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'09 Outback XT Limited ATX
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Discussion Starter #10
You'll note that anyone who comes here asking "Should I buy this OBXT/LGT with > 100k" almost universally gets told to run away unless they like wrenching on cars (same thing over in the BMW forums when they ask about N54/N55's).

We purchased ours in 2013 with 45,000 miles. I should note it made our 11,000-mile Alaska trip last year with absolutely no issues. (We had a mid-trip oil change and checkup at Anchorage Subaru. They were great!) It's at about 193,000 miles today.


We would go for a Honda, but our horrible "local" Subaru dealer is also the Honda, Audi, VW, and Volvo place! So, nope. Our future will likely hold a Toyota mid-size car and a Ford F-150 truck. This will be the last straw for the Outback. Once we complete the financial preparations to buy two cars or the Outback breaks down again...whichever comes first, the Subaru is gone. (I'll be selling the Primitive rally-weight skid plates here when the time comes!)
 

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'09 Outback XT Limited ATX
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Discussion Starter #11
You'll note that anyone who comes here asking "Should I buy this OBXT/LGT with > 100k" almost universally gets told to run away unless they like wrenching on cars (same thing over in the BMW forums when they ask about N54/N55's).

We purchased ours in 2012 with 45,000 miles. I should note it made our 11,000-mile Alaska trip last year with absolutely no issues. (We had a mid-trip oil change and checkup at Anchorage Subaru. They were great!) It's at about 193,000 miles today.


We would go for a Honda, but our horrible "local" Subaru dealer is also the Honda, Audi, VW, and Volvo place! So, nope. Our future will likely hold a Toyota mid-size car and a Ford F-150 truck. This will be the last straw for the Outback. Once we complete the financial preparations to buy two cars or the Outback breaks down again...whichever comes first, the Subaru is gone. (I'll be selling the Primitive rally-weight skid plates here when the time comes!)
 

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2006 2.5i and 2002 3.0 wagons.
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OK, here's what the shop said. The water pump bearings are bad. When the pump gets hot enough, the bearings seize and the pump stops cold...causing the engine to instantly shut down. When the pump cools it will turn again and the engine can be started. Supposedly, this was replicated in the shop and the pump seizing/engine shutdown witnessed by the techs--and there is no evidence of any other damage.
This just doesn't add up correctly in my head.

Seizing a bearing in a water pump is theoretically possible, and once it happens it should:

Stop the pump immediately
...and permanently
Consequentially stop the timing belt
...permanently, probably also tearing it...
consequentially stopping the engine, possibly with valve collision damage​

In other words, catastrophic failure. There would be no way to replicate this in a shop without rebuilding and subsequently re-destroying the engine.

I'm sure it's just something lost in translation and I get it that you've had enough of that car. I'd be pretty upset if mine had led me through that sort of experience.

But hey, Alaska trip!
 

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'09 Outback XT Limited ATX
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Discussion Starter #15
This just doesn't add up correctly in my head.

Seizing a bearing in a water pump is theoretically possible, and once it happens it should:

Stop the pump immediately
...and permanently
Consequentially stop the timing belt
...permanently, probably also tearing it...
consequentially stopping the engine, possibly with valve collision damage​
In other words, catastrophic failure. There would be no way to replicate this in a shop without rebuilding and subsequently re-destroying the engine.

I'm sure it's just something lost in translation and I get it that you've had enough of that car. I'd be pretty upset if mine had led me through that sort of experience.

But hey, Alaska trip!

What I stated before is exactly what the shop claims. More details: They ran the car in the service bay for over two hours. A soft chirping began at the front of the engine, then grew steadily louder. The techs came over to the car to try to locate the source of the sound. The engine stopped with the techs staring at it. I asked them to tear down the old pump to confirm bearing damage.


I checked the belt the first time the engine shut down. It was intact and tight, and did not appear to be damaged. The shop was able to restart the car once it cooled overnight. I did not attempt to start it on the side of the road, as I immediately suspected the water pump.
 

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It turned out that the $10,000 drivetrain repair was probably a complete con job. It was likely just a wheel bearing.
I hate to say it, but mechanics are people, and there's a lot of shitty people in the world. I've only had to limp my car into far away shops a few times, and yeah it's a prime situation for being taken advantage of. This is one of the reasons I advocate learning about diagnoses and repairs yourself even if you never intend to actually do the work yourself; and I advocate this not just for cars but everything - plumbing work, roofing, definitely HVAC. The more I learn various trades in general the more I realize how much I've been ripped off :( It really pays to be an educated consumer.

When it comes to cars, one thing you can do is just pay for diagnostics; make it clear that you only want them to diagnose the problem, pay full rate for that, and that you don't want them to make any repairs. By removing any incentive for them to overstate the problem hopefully you get a more complete picture of what really needs to be done and what doesn't.

I don't know what was going on between you and the insurance company, but I have found in the past that the second insurance is involved everything gets really weird and for some reason ... expensive.
 

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2005 Outback AT 252K Miles / 2005 Forester 2.5i Engine 115K Miles
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Water pump pulleys on my EJ253 engines are smooth

It seems possible to me that the water pump could seize and the engine continues to run as the timing belt slides around the pulley. Isn't it also theoretically possible the water pump shaft or internal components could break with the pulley rotating and the inner portion not? However, why would the engine stop before it severely overheats and self-destructs?
 
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I think part of the problem is who you are bringing the car to for work. The $10k con job for the "drivetrain' and now being charged 1200 for timing belt, pullies, and a waterpump?! I get you were probably traveling and had limited options where you got stranded, but yikes.

You definitely need to find a local Subaru indy shop to do your work. A standard timing belt/pully/WP job should be no more than two or three hours labor ($350?) and parts parts maybe another $300-$400 (dealer mark up). Even from a dealer it shouldn't be more than 6-700 bucks.

If there's any way you can, buy an AISIN timing belt kit from rockauto ($250 I think) and have a different shop install it. You'll probably save $500.

Good luck!
 

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2008 Outback Wagon LL Bean Limited 2.5i
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It seems possible to me that the water pump could seize and the engine continues to run as the timing belt slides around the pulley. Isn't it also theoretically possible the water pump shaft or internal components could break with the pulley rotating and the inner portion not? However, why would the engine stop before it severely overheats and self-destructs?

So with the over heat, shouldn't the mechanic worry about the gaskets and oil too? Overheating is no good
 
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