All Wheel Drive Auto: Independent Seattle Subaru Service


Expert Used Subaru Buying Advice.

Over the last few weeks we have again seen a couple of troubling trends that have led to some extremely costly repairs for some unfortunate Subaru Owners.

When looking at a new to you used Subaru you really need to have it inspected before you buy any used Subaru by a Subaru expert like All Wheel Drive Auto. If you have already purchased a Subaru and still have not had it inspected post purchase you really should have it done as soon as possible.

Recently we had a customer buy a Legacy GT with only 65,000 miles on it but when we had a chance to look at the Subaru it was obvious it had a storied life. By the time we had a chance to look the car over it had come to us on a tow truck, two months after it was purchased and the repairs are extensive. This could have been avoided and the outcome much better.

I truly want our customers and my readers alike to have a pleasant automotive experience which is why I have this blog. Helping people better understand their car and how to avoid common pitfalls is part of what I feel I should do as a responsible business owner, regardless of how unpopular it may be at times.

Unfortunately there are so many disparities in the automotive world it is just impossible to know what a good deal is or just how bad one is as well. You can put two same year Subaru Outback’s with the exact same mileage next to each other and one can represent good value and one may represent a few years of frustration and several dollars of repairs.

A car purchase is an emotional one, and sometimes after the purchase, doubt may creep in. Being afraid that the car may be a lemon or over confidence that the salesperson told you the truth can lead to disaster.

At our shop we charge $85.00 to do a complete bumper to bumper inspection pre or post purchase and this is one of the best values that we offer in my opinion. How much is it worth to avoid costly repairs?

Wherever you live, there is someone that can do an inspection for you, just make sure they are familiar with your Subaru or the inspection will have no value. You can’t take your Subaru to a general repair shop and expect the same level of expertise as if you had taken to a Subaru specialist. And the last place you want to take it is the Subaru dealer.

Here are some of the reasons why.

The automotive repair industry is set up so that the technician at a dealership is going to do your inspection as quick as possible and will ignore anything that may be covered under warranty if you are looking to buy a later model Subaru. There are always exceptions to any rule but by in large this is the program at the dealership and it will never change.

Taking your Subaru to a general repair shop is really a bad idea as they really do not know what is typical for the vehicle. While they should be able to tell you if the tires are worn and the brakes are safe. They may not know that there is a service campaign on the head gaskets and that minor fluid leak is about to be a big repair in the coming months.

Likewise if you bring us a Chevrolet or Ford product for an inspection we may not offer as much value as someone who works on mostly domestic vehicle. The difference here is we can admit it because we want to specialize to offer our customers a better value.

So now you have the car it’s been inspected and given a clean bill of health. Now what?

You need to establish service history. If there are no service records and you buy a car at 61k do not assume the 60k service has been done. Know it has been done. Likewise if the mileage is close to the timing belt service interval and there are no service records stating it has been done, have the timing belt done!

In the case of the before mentioned Legacy GT this is exactly what happened. The engine had been replaced with a used one from a wrecking yard for reasons no one knows but the previous owner. The Legacy was purchased at a used car lot and there really is no way the used car lot would have known this either as it was either wholesaled from a new car dealer or bought at auction. Again without any service records in the glove box.

The timing belt broke on this Legacy GT causing the valves to bend and the repairs are now very expensive as a result. But the car only has 65,000 miles on it and the timing belt isn’t even scheduled to be replaced until the car has reached 105,000 miles. The problem is the engine that was put in it has more miles on it than the car does.

We immediately recognized the engine had been replaced, with the wrecking yard yellow marker writing on one of the intake manifold runners stating the compression was 175lbs. This is something that we see all the time and immediately know what it means and what to look for from here.

The point I am trying to make is bad things can and will happen without anyone trying to defraud you. And you will be the one stuck with the final bill and a very unfortunate buying experience.

Thanks for reading


Independent Subaru Expert.


5 Responses

  1. Hey there,also stumbled across your blog while looking for some advice.
    i’m looking at purchasing a 2010 Subaru Sti Hatch,what are tyhe common things i should check for when test driving the car. the car has around 44k kilometers/27k miles on it.

    1. Hey Jay,

      A Car Fax or Auto check report is a great place to start, the next step is having an independent Subaru shop perform a full pre purchase inspection on it.

      We have all to often seen guys buy something only to find out its a someone else’s train wreck regardless of how well it seemed to drive and run at the time.

      1. Has it ever been in an accident that wasn’t reported?
      2. Has it ever been registered in an area that uses salt or chemicals on the road?
      3. Has it ever been modified?
      4. Are there service records that support oil changes every 3000 miles using a Subaru filter and the proper oil?

      That’s some of the things that need to be checked.

      Hope that helps and I hope you find a good STI


  2. Thank you for the information, you truly have been helpful to me. At least now I know what to ask for. I also know not to be so quick to listen to people who mean well but don’t know much about Subarus, which you clearly do! Too bad you are across the country! I love driving the Subaru!

  3. Justin — I stumbled onto your site poking around the web. I’m looking at a couple 2003 Foresters with 115K to 120K miles on them. The carfax reports show very few service records, and I’m wondering if you know of any way to, using the VIN #, find service maintenance records for wehicles that have not been reported. I am planning to take any one I might be buying to have it inspected first. I’d take it to you but I’m in the Chicago area. Thanks.

  4. OK I’m one of those unwise buyers
    I bought a 1989 scooby GL AWD manual wagon and
    when I tested it- no weird screeching-that lasted one day and now
    not only is there shrill screeching whenever I put it in gear, the rear lights go on and stay on, and only the drivers window has power; none of this started over night the seller had to have known – still its worthy the repair

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