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What kills a Subaru?

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14 replies to this topic

#1 pontoontodd


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Posted 19 February 2018 - 04:59 PM

I've been wondering about this a lot lately, I currently have three Subarus 15-21 years old with 240-260k miles on each.  Sure, head gaskets have to be replaced occasionally, and if you drive them too hard transmissions and other things break, but those repairs cost a few hundred in parts at the most.  Just wondering why Subarus are usually totalled or not worth fixing.  I see a lot with over 200k miles, some with over 300k, but not many over 400k.  Maybe they're just not old enough to accumulate that many miles.  Around here they rust out which becomes a giant PITA after 10-15 years.  At some point do most owners just decide not to pay a mechanic $700 to replace the head gaskets on their quarter million mile car?  Are they statistically guaranteed to be in a collision by 300k miles?

#2 Subaru_dude


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Posted 19 February 2018 - 05:17 PM

Garbage parts store axles are the number one killers imho. They either shake the car to death until they fail or cause a fine shakiness/vibration that isn't bad enough to be a problem but causes a sense of "crappiness" that permiates the entire vehicle. They don't have nearly enough grease in them and Subarus put more angle on the axle than other vehicles. I actually get pissed at the idea that people throw away their money on JUNK from the parts store.

#3 carfreak85


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Posted 19 February 2018 - 05:26 PM

The older ones could be killed by overheating the engine.  The newer ones, especially the turbocharged ones, don't tolerate crap oil or long oil change intervals.


Rust is the common denominator.  These are inexpensive cars built to a price.  The chassis are not designed to go 400k miles.  In fact, the only vehicles on the road that are built that way are long-haul trucks.  Ours have a 1 million mile design life.

#4 sirtokesalot


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Posted 19 February 2018 - 06:35 PM

rust head gaskets stupid drivers that keep driving them when major parts are failing.

#5 sparkyboy


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Posted 19 February 2018 - 06:42 PM

Nothing kills these engines, if you have a phase one.

My two ej22s (92 and 95) have nearly 300 k miles on them and have been well cared for. The 92 is currently in my 86 GL and my 95 will soon be going into my 85 xt.

I have overheated these engines terribly by accident a couple of times. Once off roading (the 95 ej22 was in my GL at the time) and I forgot to turn my fans on and most of my coolant boiled off. I filled her with river water because it was a spur of the moment trip, so I had no water or coolant, and once because the heater bypass hose split. (on my 92)


When the heater bypass hose split the engine overheated so bad it started knocking, but I simply had no safe place to stop so I had no choice. I turned her off and coasted as much as possible, but I thought that engine was done for.

I think the key to dealing with an overheated subaru engine is to cool it down gradually, by putting any kind of liquid in the cooling system and circulating it to get the engine back down to operating temp and then driving some to let her cool off as normal. As opposed to going from almost siezed temperature to cold right away.

I have not had a leaky head gasket as of yet, I simply changed the oil and fixed the cooling system and drove on no problem, in fact, this happened on my 92 ej22 about 14,000 miles ago, and about 10,000 miles ago on my 95.


I would imagine that the 2.5s are a bit less resistant to such treatment, I have noticed that these days, 90% of the subes in junkyards are 99-2004 2.5s

The only 2.2s I see are in the less desireable second gen leggo body (95 and 96) people seem to be fixing the first gen (90-94) legacy bodies because I see quite a few of those driving on the street, one of the few early 90s cars still going reliably as a daily.

A decently maintained non-interference 2.2 will go forever, I sold a 96 legacy two years ago with over 350,000 on the clock, original equipment. (i was the third owner, the original owner gave the car to his son) And I saw her kicking around town recently because she has these weird five point star wheels, and is easily recognizable. I sold her to a college student, so she is maybe closer to 400,000 miles by now.

Edited by sparkyboy, 19 February 2018 - 08:05 PM.

#6 Gloyale


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Posted 19 February 2018 - 07:03 PM

lack of oil changes

#7 heartless


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Posted 20 February 2018 - 08:27 AM

around here it is rust that is the primary killer - of ANY vehicle...


beyond that, poor maintenance would be #2.


Had my local garage call me a while back to ask if I would be interested in an Outback he had towed in.. Owner let it get hot (had a coolant leak that was neglected) and was not really interested in having the motor replaced. Sadly, it was an H6, too.

After looking at the car, I said nope... this poor car had been used and abused, rode hard and put away wet. The interior was filthy, suggesting the owner did not care about the car - at all. No telling how much other stuff had been let slide on it.

#8 idosubaru


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Posted 20 February 2018 - 09:55 AM

Just wondering why Subarus are usually totalled or not worth fixing.


Easy - economics. 


As value decreases, scrap chances increase.  Higher mileage cars are lower value by definition (not many people are looking to buy 250,000- 350,000 mile vehicles), typically older and at some point reach nearly worthless values, particularly in rust prone areas or areas outside Subaru hotspots like Denver and the PNW.


External causes:

Inspections/emissions - AKA _0420

Shop costs are higher than DIY.  Many DIY folks would approach car ownership differently if paying for every thing we DIY.

Large repair quotes


Vehicle causes:

Rust (resulting in exhaust, brake, suspension, and body work)

Blown engines  - caused by poor oil maintenance, headgaskets, overheating, or blown timing belts.

Blown transmissions

#9 Subasaurus


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Posted 20 February 2018 - 11:06 AM

reasons why mine are put to rest?


-Lack of parts so you sacrifice one to keep the other one going, then scrap the car to get money out of the thing.

-Get a hold of something more unique (older) so you loose interest in a newer (90's) Subaru thats not worth more than $600 bucks so you part it out and scrap it because it ain't worth the cost of maintaining the vehicle plus insurance on the vehicle. you spend more on the vehicle than the vehicle is worth very quickly. ($50 a month, You'll exceed the cost of the car in a year)

-Someone Crashes into you, so the Subie has to be put to rest :(


I've never had a Subaru just completely poop out on me, and then its ready for the scrap yard immediately. usually its for other more complicated reasons. good little engines ill tell you though.

i believe the early 90's Engines will run for about 425K if no Collision happens, if you don't care about the value of the vehicle, if the oil changes are done somewhat normally, you keep an eye on Leaks and refill as necessary, and you own a $30 tool box from walmart.

Edited by Subasaurus, 20 February 2018 - 11:16 AM.

#10 GeneralDisorder


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Posted 20 February 2018 - 11:44 AM

Out here where nothing rusts - it's poor maintenance, and eventually minor repairs that catch up with the market value or the owner is unable to generate the cash flow to repair. I have had people basically give me cars that could easily be fixed (water pump for example) because they haven't got the $800 to do the repair - but they can get a new car loan. 



#11 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 01:21 PM

Subarus are often out driving in conditions that keep other cars in the garage


and they have just odd enough features in 3-4 areas that can cause improper/overlooked maintenance, leading to more severe problems.

#12 sparkyboy


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Posted 20 February 2018 - 03:33 PM

Easy - economics. 

That  is actually probably the number one reason so many subes are in the junkyard. I often see the "runs" written on the windshield suggesting that it would have been a relatively easy and cheap fix.

These cars, save for the vintage ones (which the common early 90s models are starting to fit into that category) are simply economy grocery getters which are meant to be thrown away or given to some kid who thrashes the poor thing to death. They are viewed and treated as such by even a lot of subaru fans.

Despite being "cheap" they are thoughtfully, yet simply engineered that they are so easy to work on, which is what draws most of us to them. When the ecision is made to no longer keep a car varies from person to person, I'm the type to see how far I can get on the most minimal of maintenance.

I don't know of many cars that you can have the engine out in 45 minutes without a cherry picker. Volkswagens maybe


#13 Bushwick


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Posted 20 February 2018 - 04:11 PM

Around here, it seems to be rust. I know mine has decayed rapidly (rear strut tower broke and has a giant hole; it's welded back and survived another winter like that, but there's rust everywhere and I think the other rear tower is starting to get a hole); doors have bottom rot, rear fenders ahead of the tires have rust, etc. but it runs/shifts/drives like a champ.



I personalty rarely see any locally that are older than 97'~. The ones I've seen in junkyards (mid 90's to 00') ALL have high mileage, but are either rusted, wrecked, rough, or probably something goofy wrong with them.



As far as a killer, I hear sugar gets the job done :(

#14 subnz


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Posted 21 February 2018 - 02:50 AM

Failure to follow simple guide lines /  recommendations in owners manual.


Failure to fix things when warning signs are given.


What kills Subaru engines  1  failure to  check oil level regularly  / change oil / filter at required intervals (dependant on use /season)


                                            2 failure to check coolant level  regularly (including taking off radiator cap and looking in there too) 


                                            3 failure to change coolant / flush cooling system every 2 years as recommended in owners manuals. 

#15 el_freddo


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Posted 21 February 2018 - 05:46 AM

1. As said, economics. Rather than repair an older car that has all the basic needs a car could want they'd rather dump it and get a new car with all that technology that is great while it works, but could mean either higher repair costs or an earlier death of the vehicle due to... Economics!

2. Rust. Over here we can't weld in entire panel sections from a slab of sheet metal unless it's engineered afterwards - or it's done on the sly.

3. Age/personal image I think comes into it. I see many young drivers on their first year probation in high end brand spanking new vehicles and wonder how far in debt they are for it.

4. Safety ratings for some drivers may come into play too. One of the reasons I think many ppl are poor drivers these days - distracted by technology in the car and not actually driving or relying on the safety technology to do the job of the driver for them rather than driving properly in the first place!

5. Power/fuel economy. People like to go fast even if they're not good at it in the first place, and they don't like to pay heaps at the bowser for this either.

I reckon that's about it.

Personally I love the older vehicles for many of the reasons other have mentioned already. DIY is the best way and is also why we've got our main vehicles for over 10 years now having out about 300k km on each in that time. The Subaru has had the harder life with the off-roading and associated mods. It's doing well for ~520k km on the body, drivetrain is all Subaru Lego stuff ;)



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