All Wheel Drive Auto: Independent Seattle Subaru Service


Do I Have to Take My Subaru to a Subaru Dealer?

Subaru Service Seattle


If you read enough of the articles on this website and then the question and answer session that follows you will see that the perplexing issue of do I have to take my Subaru to the Dealer as well as “Should I take my Subaru to the Subaru Dealer?” often comes up.

I want to address the first part, the factual answer to this question is only for warranty work!  The Magnuson Moss act prevents the Subaru Dealer and SOA (Subaru Of America) themselves from ever denying you warranty repairs because you chose an aftermarket service provider for your Subaru or even if you serviced your Subaru yourself.  A good shop will have your Service records and even push those records to Car Fax just like the Subaru Dealer does.  All that matters is that the car is serviced and maintained properly using the proper fluids, filters and components such as pictured below and at the proper intervals.  Who you choose to service your Subaru is your choice.

Subaru Service Seattle
Subaru Service Seattle Parts

The Subaru Dealer may try to convince you that you must return to the Subaru Dealer for service to maintain your warranty, but that is simply not true.

Should I take my Subaru to the Dealer for service?

That really depends on the type of shops you have around you. Here in the Northwest there is an abundance of Independent Subaru Repair Shops, many within 20 miles of Seattle.  In other parts of the country you may not be so lucky, but that does not mean the Dealer is your best option, this is mostly due to how the employees at a Subaru Dealer are compensated, the Tech’s are paid based on a flat rate pay system and the service advisors based on commission.  The more you spend the more their paycheck is.  Ask your self, whose interest are lined with who is this scenario?  You should consider locating a good Independent shop that is familiar with your Subaru if at all possible.

Subaru just like every other car company loses a little money every time a repair is done under warranty, as such technicians will never go looking for warranty work.  If you have been to a dealer service you may have observed retain terminology such as “customer states” or “unable to duplicate concerns”. The terminology is key in order for a Dealer to be reimbursed by Subaru for warranty repairs.  As such if someone independent of the Subaru dealer network doesn’t help with the service of your vehicle you may be leaving money spent on repairs after the warranty expires on the table.  The single biggest example of this is Head gasket repairs made at 60,000 miles as an out of pocket expense which would have been covered if it could have been caught.

The technician at a Subaru dealer may look the other way unless prompted to look by instructions on the service repair order for an oil or coolant leak but somehow magically see it a couple of ,months after the warranty expires.  This is largely in part because of how he or she is paid.  Repairs made under warranty and paid by Subaru can pay 60% less than the same repair if you pay for it.  This fact is the fundamental reason it can be so hard to have resolution to the simplest of quirks with any car under warranty.  It’s not that the technician is a bad person, it’s just that they like you have bills to pay. Time spent driving a vehicle listening for a noise is on them and any repair will be done for less money than what is known as “customer pay”.  It’s just easier to state “unable to duplicate customers concerns”.

At a good independent Subaru shop like All Wheel Drive Auto, we will go the extra mile for you, this is primarily because many automatically perceive the Subaru Dealer to be the expert,  where we have to prove it to you sometimes everytime we see you, we want to be better than the Dealer because we know we already are. The Subaru dealers just assumes they have your business and many Subaru owners just don’t make them earn it. A good independent Subaru Shop should be able to save you up to 20% on factory scheduled maintenance services, at a dealer these services can be very expensive, they are meant as a make up to the Technician for wages lost on warranty repairs.  During the service the quality of the inspection is key especially at the 30,000 mile interval prior to the 3 year 36,000 mile warranty expiring and then again at the 60,000 service (which you must do early) before the 5 year powertrain warranty expires, I have time and time again seen cars come into the shop just out of warranty for expensive repairs I know we’re most likely evident before the warranty expedited if someone would have just had a look.

So in closing,  if you live in an area with repair shop choices give a good Independent Subaru Shop a try.  If the choices are limited where you reside at least  hold the Subaru dealer to a higher level, don’t let them just look the part.

Thanks for reading

Justin Stobb

Helping you get more from your Subaru!


15 Responses

  1. If i own a Subaru do I need to bring it to a Subaru dealership to get the parts or can I get them at a Toyota dealership since Toyota partially owns Subaru

  2. Justin, I have a 2002 Outback with 140,000 miles. Still seems to run very well and I want it to continue. The maintainence manual states to add 120,000 miles to each scheduled maintanence column and follow the recommendations for scheduled service. Any additional advice to follow?
    Dan in Indy

    1. Hello Dan,

      The second 60k or 120k service should start with a complete inspection such as brakes, belts, hoses, seals, suspension, steering, lights etc. There is not really a 140k service the next would have been the 135k service which was an intermediate service and the next is the 150k. All of this assumes the timing belt was done at 105k?

      Here is the 120k service break down or the every 30k breakdown if you will

      The engine oil and filter should be replaced.

      The transmission, front differential and rear differential fluid should be replaced.

      The cooling system should be serviced including replacing the antifreeze, inspecting all of the cooling system components, especially the radiator and cap at that mileage.

      The spark plugs should be replaced, the plug wires inspected as well as the coil terminals.

      The air filter, fuel filter & PCV valve should be replaced., throttle body cleaned and lubricated.

      The ac system should be inspected.

      The brake fluid should be flushed

      The door locks, strikes should all be lubricated as should the door hinges and all cables such as e-brake, hood release etc.

      Based on the inspection there may be more or less to do.

      Hope that helps


  3. Bo’t used 98 Legacy with 105k summer of 2011. It soon developed HG problem, and my local garage “fixed” the problem for $1,700. Now, January 2013 and 20,000 mi. later, overheating again, and the same garage tells me it’s the HG. Wants to sell me a used engine for $3,000 installed. All I’ve read says that once the HG is fixed, the car is good to go for 200,000 more miles. I don’t know what to do, and can’t afford their offer.

    1. Hi Ted,

      Sorry to hear about the issue, obviously the shop you are using is not up to the task of working on a Subaru, the used engine idea is a train-wreck waiting to happen. Not sure what else to tell you.


  4. Justin

    Do all Subaru dealers have to use OEM Subaru parts ? They can’t put cheaper aftermarket parts on can they ?

    Thanks again

  5. Thank for the reply Justin. My cars undercarriage don’t look bad but those bolts are rusty looking and I do live on the boarder of NY.

  6. If I may ask,

    I went to the locale dealer for a lignment. They hit me with new lower control arm bushings $412. Then they tried to hit me with new trailing arms link etc. $575

    2007 Outback 70,000 is the car.
    The rear toe adjustment is frozen and the only way to fix this is cut the trailing arms off and put on new ? They cut them of to make sure the don’y harm the subframe the arms mount to.

    They tell me the metal part of the bushing get’s frozen to the bolt and it ruins the bushing when turning the bolt.

    Is this common ? I would think never seize would have been used at the factory ?

    Thank you great site. Which you were closer.

    1. If you live in an area where the roads are treated for Snow and Ice than yes the undercarriage and suspension can and will suffer from this situation.

      Its only common in areas where this occurs and has nothing to do with Subaru, but yes its a very unfortunate expense that occurs to the the treatment of roads with salt and chemicals.


  7. Can you recommend any independent suby repair shops in the Salem Oregon area?
    Thanks for your help & info. Wish we lived closer to you.

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