All Wheel Drive Auto: Independent Seattle Subaru Service


Subaru Oil Change Intervals, Again.

Subaru Engines

Subaru Oil change interval information, per Subaru for the 2011 and 2012 models. This question continues to come up so I thought it would be good to post the information directly from Subaru below.


First of all I would like to point out the fine print.

“Proper oil change intervals vary with vehicle type, driving conditions, and the kind of oil you are using– conventional or synthetic. This chart provides recommended schedules for 2011-2012 Subaru Vehicles. If you have an older car, ask your Subaru Parts and Service Manager which oil and oil change schedule is right for you.”

What this means is the chart cant be taken as literally as you think with out knowing what is put in for oil and how the vehicle is used, notice there is no clear definitions anywhere or any other suggestions for intervals based on use, just the chart, you figure it out.

For every line with a conventional oil called out, understand that in most cases it will be a synthetic blend oil used and most likely Castrol 5w30 synthetic blend if done at the Subaru Dealer and many Subaru Independent Shops.

Differences for 2013 are that the only conventional oil changes are the 6 cylinder engines. Oil change intervals suggestions are a grey area, always have been and always will be, if you are comfortable with a different Interval by all means follow that schedule, just make sure you never starve the engine for oil if you stretch it out a bit.

Or this could be your engines fate.

Subaru Engines
Subaru Engines

Thanks for reading



43 Responses

  1. 2012 outback 4cyl 26500 miles
    After a scheduled dealer oil change the red oil light came on while driving. I pulled over and found the oil drain plug was missing and a small amount of oil was still leaking out. The dealer sent a tech out who replaced the missing plug and refilled the oil. The engine seems to run OK with no noise. The dealer claims that since there is no engine noise, there is not engine damage and since I’m warrantied to 70,000 miles that should protect me. My position is that the damage that may have occurred could very well show itself later than 70,000 miles. I asked for a new engine and was refused. I also asked for them to extend the warranty to 150,000 miles, again refused. The dealer is not willing to do anything that will cost him money. The dealer also claimed that this engine can run of 3/4 quart of oil without damage. I DO NOT believe them. Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated. My recommendation to any owner under warranty – If this happens to you – run it till it pukes.

    1. Hi Bruce,

      Actually driving it “till it pukes” would have been a worse idea. They might have been able to get out of the repairs all the same and you would have a blown engine. Yes I have seen this occur. If a driver ignores a light, first the low oil level light then the low oil pressure light prior to engine failure the service facility can be exonerated in some situations.

      It’s unfortunate it happened, but it sounds like a larger problem was avoided. It’s difficult to hold someone liable for all of the “what could happen” in the future also. There is no way to know if there is any damage without removing the engine and taking it apart to inspect for issues and yes no one is going to sign up for that unless there is proper cause such as a noise. I get you fell you are owed something and you should call SOA and let them know your experience, don’t let the Dealer be the only one you talk to.


      1. Justin
        Thanks for the response. I will contact SOA as you suggest. If the drain plug had come loose 15 minutes earlier when I was doing 75 on I5 I’m sure the engine would be toast. And yes – the warranty may not have covered their error and I’d still be after the dealer for resolution. Since the drain plug actually came out I never got the low oil light before the red one came on.

  2. Hi Justin – we took a trip out to the Oly peninsula yesterday in my ’02 WRX HB and upon coming up the hill from the Edmonds ferry noticed smoke coming from the hood scoop. Pulled over and saw that the bluish smoke was coming from the turbo which I verified with a quick stop at Shoreline Subaru just as they were closing. They said to “baby” the car home, change the oil immediately and bring it in for inspection ASAP. The car has 106K miles and I change synthetic oil every 8 – 10K miles. Is this smoking turbo a surprise? Is it pretty much shot? Thanks very much!

      1. Thanks Justin!
        Ended up having Carter Ballard dealership check it out and they said it seems good and fluid leaking onto the hot turbo likely the cause of the smoke. Would have come to you if we were closer and will for next service!

  3. My mechanic at 3rd service, 10.000 K’s has just used semi-synthetic oil. First 2 services full synthetic oil used. About $80 dollars cheaper to use semi-synthetic. Should I be worried? He gets angry so I don’t want to ask him.

  4. Justin:

    I am seriously thinking of buying an Outback (with FB25 engine) in about 3 years hence, when I retire. However, I am very concerned about the oil usage problem with this engine (even a class action lawsuit). From your expert opinion, how common is this problem? To me, one quart usage per 1200 miles is way too much.

  5. Hello Justin and greetings from England !
    I own a 2007 Impreza WRX, 2.5. I currently use Fuchs Titan GT1 5w 30. I will service my car end of September, ready for Winter. Can I ask, would a 0w 30 oil be safe in my Impreza, or would you stay with 5w 30 during winter months ?

    Many thanks

  6. Have a 2011 Outback 6 cyl., bought new, with around 27,750 miles on it. Recently the oil light came on, checked it and was 1 qt down. The milage since last service was 4975, this has not happened before. Taking in for service next week and going to talk to them about this. Any opinions on this, my feeling this is not normal.

    1. I daily drive a 2012 Outback with the H6. I change the oil every 3000 miles as I commute with it, which according to all car makes is NOT NORMAL USE. Not knowing how you use it makes it difficult to know if you are maintaining it correctly.

  7. Hi Justin,

    It was indeed the Mass Airflow Sensor – replaced it today and the car is running beautifully. Thanks again for your help.

    Matt B.

  8. Hi Justin,

    I have a 1998 Subaru Forester with the 4EAT and almost 150k on the odometer. Yesterday, when my wife was leaving for school and the car was idling in the driveway (the car was warmed up and at the standard idle RPM) I noticed the engine almost stalled for about a second, but then caught and went back to normal idle. I thought to myself “hmmm, that’s funny, this car has never done that before”. Lo and behold, my wife called me from a nearby town in the afternoon and said the engine had stalled on her and would not stay running. I went over to pick her up and made the following observations:

    1) The car was still warm and at normal operating temperature. I started the engine about 5 times, and each time it would fire up and run well for about 3 – 4 seconds, and then idle down and stall. The check engine light did not come on, but the AT Oil Temp light was flashing.

    2) On a whim, I disconnected the mass airflow sensor and started the engine again. The check engine light came on (of course) since the MAF was disconnected, but this time the engine stayed running and idled just fine. At that point I thought I had it licked and told myself “change the MAF”. I was going to attempt to limp it the 3 miles home to avoid a tow, but when I backed out of the parking space and touched the throttle, the engine wanted to stall again. So I pulled back into the parking space, put it in park, and the engine went back to normal idle and stayed there. At that point I figured it probably wasn’t possible to successfully apply the throttle with no MAF input to the ECU and TCM.

    3) Fast forward a few hours to my driveway after the tow truck delivered my Suby home. Now the engine is cold. I tried the same sequence of events, but this time the engine started, ran for 3-5 seconds and then stalled both with and without the MAF connected.

    At this point I am starting to waver a little bit on my “MAF diagnosis” and think that maybe I should check the fuel delivery system before ordering a new MAF. I haven’t checked the fuel pressure yet (need to get a pressure gauge and tee fitting), but have observed the normal couple-second whine coming from the fuel pump when the key is turned to the “on” position.

    My gut instinct is still telling me “MAF” since the AT Oil Temp light is blinking and I know the TCM receives an I/O signal from the MAF. But I am a little bit stumped because the Check Engine light is not on, and I thought a bad MAF would trigger the Check Engine light as well.

    Do you have any thoughts, ideas or insights on this one before I dig further and start checking the fuel delivery? One more piece of info.: if I put my foot on the throttle I can keep the engine running for a few seconds longer at a higher RPM, but then it eventually still wants to stall (this is leading me to believe that fuel is indeed being delivered, but maybe a bad pressure regulator could exhibit these signs?).

    As always, thank you for taking the time to read this, and for any help or insight you may be able to provide.

    Matt B.

    1. Hello Matt,

      It’s very possible it’s the Mass Air flow Sensor, a simple bit of data graphing would reveal if it was in or out of range at idle. The At light flashing is a clue that one of the sensors that also inputs to the TCM is out of range, this could also be the TPS sensor for instance.

      Disconnecting the Mass air sensor doesn’t always work like you have learned.

      If you have a DVOM you can monitor the signal return data from the sensor to the ECM/TCM, that is the place to start for a diagnoses. That’s what I would do, and is the only solid “figure it out without throwing parts at it advice” I can offer.

      Hope that helps.


      1. Hi Justin,

        Thanks so much for your quick reply. Yes, that absolutely helps. I was able to pull the stored codes in the TCM by reading the “morse code” of the AT Oil Temp light, and received a no. 22 and no. 23, which are “mass air flow signal” and “engine speed signal”. I really wish it had just been a no. 22! I checked the crank and cam position sensors for resistance, and they are both within spec. at about 2.5 kilo-ohms – is there any way a faulty MAF could trigger the “engine speed signal” fault code in the TCM?

        It probably is time for me to get a decent code reader and data grapher, since my cars are not getting any younger! I am looking at the “Actron CP9580A”, which has the ability to graph data as well as read codes. Do you think this is a good choice for analyzing data on Subarus?

        I do have a DVOM, but am a little hesitant to probe through the wire insulation on the ECM/TCM connectors (I have heard of people back-probing through the rear of the connector with sewing needles or similar to avoid poking a hole in the wire insulation). Please excuse my ignorance with this next question, but would it be possible to simply disconnect the connector at the MAF itself and take a sensor output voltage reading at the MAF prongs, or do I have to take the voltage reading at the ECM connector?

        Thanks again for your help – I really appreciate it.

        Matt B.

        1. Hey Matt,

          So yes back probing at the connector is the proper and desired way, we actually have back probe pins, but a small paper clip unfolded will suffice.

          The engine speed sensor code most likely set when the engine RPM was non existent as a result of the stall but there was still a vehicle speed signal.


          1. Thanks Justin. Good idea on the paper clip (I fixed an electrical connection inside my coffee grinder with a paper clip over 10 years ago, and that coffee grinder is still running flawlessly to this day!).

            Thanks again for all of your help and time – we Subaru owners are lucky to have someone like you who is willing to share knowledge and expertise.

            Matt B.

  9. Hi Justin,
    I did not know where to ask this question as I couldnt find any blog related to it…. I have a 2006 OB XT auto,
    the cabin fan seems to have a mind of its own, it doesnt turn on when the system is on or when the car starts, it just randomly works, or come’s on, only if the controller is on. its slowly progressed to this state, it used to come on after a few minutes of driving, but now i can go for over an hour with no fan. any thoughts on this? have you ever encountered symptoms like this before?

    any advice would be great, as my mechanic says its a guessing game.

    thanks so much.

    Greg Jones

    1. Hi Greg,

      We see a few issues with the auto climate control unit in the 2005/2006 Legacy GT and Outback XT. It still needs to be tested but that’s the most likely scenario.


  10. 2011 Forester 2.5X Premium with 4EAT. Bought 6-2013 at 28k miles.
    I have read ALL the oil change posts but not much is said about oil change intervals in months versus mileage. I only drive 6-8k / year so my 3,000 mile oil changes may be at 6 months interval. Is that OK or do you suggest the 3 month Subaru specifies? I am a big believer in the benefits of 3000 mile changes but at 3 months it would be only 1,500-2000 miles.
    I am thinking I should change at the earlier of 3,000 or 6 months. Sound reasonable?
    With Mobil 1?

    I did not see any advice on changing 4EAT trans fluid. I plan to use the 15,000 miles interval that Subaru suggests for severe driving – which for me means low mileage. (I changed it twice when I bought it to get off to a good start.) Does this sound reasonable? And I use only Subaru ATF.

    1. Hi Don,

      If your using the car for lots of short trips and that accounts for the low usage, yes maybe every 3 to 4 months is better, if however you use it only a few days a week, than changing the oil as it becomes contaminated or based on your climate and in terms of time may be okay.

      There is no black and white answer I can offer it all depends on use, climate, expectations. Every 15k on the Transmission is a good idea.

      That used to be the interval we used for many years.


  11. Justin, thanks very much for the reply. So then there’s no real advantage to using a high mileage oil or a semi synthetic? I thought that the high mileage oil might, due to it’s stop leak and better friction fighting claims, be better in preventing head gasket failure as the car’s mileage increases. If not, then I’d rather save money and stick with the conventional oil. I’ll check in to the PCV valve as well. Thanks again for your time.

    1. Hello George,

      I wasn’t real clear when I said GTX we use 5w30 blend. I can’t pretend that we have tried every oil out there and over than a long period of time. What I have seen as a general rule is fully synthetic oil tends to be more and not less susceptible to dilution over time than conventional or blend.


  12. Hello Justin, Thanks for the really informative site. I have a 2010 Impreza 2.5I (no turbo) that’s driven 95% city stop and go driving. I change the oil and filter faithfully every 3,000 miles and today I checked the oil and it’s almost at the “L” mark after 1,800 miles since the last change. The car currently has 74.000 miles on it. I used Valvoline Conventional 5w30 oil. Two questions; Is a quart every 1,800 miles considered good or is there reason for concern? The oil on the stick is very clean. Second, I’m going to have to keep this car for awhile, and I’m concerned about the infamous head gasket issue. Is switching to a High Mileage oil, such as Valvoline MaxLife a good or bad idea concerning prolonging the head gaskets? I’ve heard that oil that conditions the seals can cause faster head gasket failure, so I’m trying to figure out if convention or high mileage oil is better. Thanks again for your time.

    1. Hello George,

      The oil for your application that seems to be the best for oil use is Castrol GTX 5w30. I would try that the next oil change.

      1 quart every 1800 miles while inconvenient, shouldn’t really pose any issue with obtaining high miles out of the car. Lastly because you mention the oil is clean, I wonder if perhaps the PCV might be partially stuck open? The part number should be a 11810 AA090 but that should be verified by the VIN number.


  13. Hi Justin,
    I own an 06 impreza, non turbo and i love it.
    recently my oil pump blew while on a road trip, and i had to feed 10 quarts of oil into my car to try and get it home without damaging it. the oil light came on several times (which i now know is the oil pressure light, not oil level light in the 06). after having the pump replaced, the cam shaft on the right side broke 4 days later and some “minor” damage was done to the cylinder head.
    i thought this may have happened if the engine was “oil starved”
    This may not be enough info to tell, but do you think i should replace the engine?
    I believe the pump blew because of a napa oil filter, it was the oil filter that was suggested, but under closer inspection, i found that the back pressure levels were different from what Subaru specified. my own dumb mistake.

    Thanks for any input

    1. Hello Joel,

      That’s a rough set of circumstances. If the Napa filter was listed under the cataloging as being correct fitment for your vehicle and if proven in fact It was not that’s something you need to bring up to Napa, and the parent company the Genuine Parts Corporation.

      Not sure how the oil pump blew? If the oil pump fails the car has to be shut down and not driven the oil pump is what delivers oil to the entire engine, kind of like your heart pumps blood through out your body.

      Yes, every time the oil light came on you just took major life off of your engine and that’s why the cam shaft broke as it was overheated when starved for lubrication.

      There is no new engine that’s going to be available, only a short block and individual parts for the cylinder heads, its going to be expensive. One thought is locating a lower mileage used engine and replacing the seals and gaskets and installing it.


    2. Hi Joel,

      Total bummer, I’m sorry to hear that happened to you. Whenever your oil light comes on you definitely want to pull over immediately, turn the engine off and get the car towed to a shop (or your home if you decide to diagnose and repair it yourself). I would vote for an engine swap or complete re-build (as Justin recommended), as you are likely to have additional catastrophic engine failures on the old engine due to driving it long distances without proper oil circulation.

      Matt B.

  14. Hi Justin,

    I know this is an engine oil blog, but I couldn’t find a transmission fluid blog, so my apologies for this reply being off-topic! I have owned a number of Subies throughout the years, and continue to feel that they are great machines that are almost always a pleasure to work on. My two cents worth re: engine oil is that I always used to change the engine oil at strict 3,000 mile intervals when I was running 5w-30 Castrol conventional oil – about 2 years ago I switched over to the Mobil 1 5w-30 synthetic, so am now going between 5,000 and 6,000 miles between oil changes, with a filter change in the middle of the cycle at 3,000 miles (may be overkill to change the filter in the middle, but it makes me feel better about going that many miles between oil changes). Seems to work well, and both my ’06’ Outback and ’98’ Forester seem to like the Mobil 1 synthetic.

    Recently I have been doing a lot of work on my wife’s ’98’ Forester (valve cover gaskets and spark plug seals, spark plugs, new struts in the rear, re-built rear brakes and replaced brake fluid, and of course the infamous right-rear wheel bearing replacement – I needed a good reason to buy a shop press anyways!). When my wife has a few days where she doesn’t need the car again (I like to take my time!), I’m going to move to the front of the car and tackle the front halfshafts and front struts – I read your blog on the CV joints/axles, and it helped to steer me in the right direction and open my pocket book for some decent axels – I’m going with Raxles axles, with are OEM shafts with entirely new inner and outer joints and of course new boots – can get a set of 2 front halfshafts for about $400 deliverd to the door. So thank you for your very informative and good blogs – it’s always nice to have the educated opinion of someone who works on Subies day in and day out.

    Now onto the ’98’ Forester and my question – this car has the 4EAT transmission with 143,000 miles on it. When I’m there doing the front-end work, I’m going to perform a drain/refill on the tranny fluid as well. The last time I did this, I dropped the pan and replaced the filter, and then re-filled with the Valvoline MaxLife Dex/Merc fluid. The tranny seems to perform reasonably well on that fluid, but I was wondering if you have any recommendations on tranny fluid for the older 4EAT’s.

    Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this.

    Matt B.

    1. Hey Matt,

      The Valvoline Max life is a good choice for your application.

      I don’t have any suggestions that would be any better than what you already did.


      1. Hi Justin,

        Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. Yeah, I do remember researching it quite a bit before I put the Valvoline Max Life in the 1st time around. I was really impressed with the Valvoline SynPower gear oil in the differentials of my Outback (manual transmission, got really smooth shifts… no “sticky” stick in cold weather), which is one reason I went with the MaxLife ATF in the Forester.

        I’m thinking about trying the Castrol Import Multi-Vehicle ATF on this next drain/fill (I know the resulting concoction will be less than 50% Castrol since I’ll only get about 4 qts. out). Have you experienced or heard good things about the Castrol Import MV ATF?

        Thanks again for your time.

        Matt B.

  15. When i turn key on to start car nothing happens so i turn it off and turn it on again and it starts. no clicking ,no other sounds occur. it doesn’t happen on a regular basis. it occurs every month or two. it always starts.the car is a Subaru outback wagon, 1998 with 175,000 miles. thanks

  16. I have a 2010 Outback. I’m on my second oil change using the synthetic oil. I didn’t wait till I reached the 7,500 mile marker. The oil looked dark and smelled burnt, so took vehicle in for a change at 6,000 miles. Personally, I prefer to change after 5,000 miles, even with the synthetic oil. Oil is the life blood of the engine, so prefer being safe in lieu of sorry.


  17. Great site. Great info. I have looked over your site for recommended engine oil and filters. I found reference to motul and the filters that fit up until 2004 when the exhaust config changed. I have a 99 outback and 07 legacy. What do you suggest for them? I have been using Mobil 1 syn and the blue Subaru filters. I don’t think either are great.

  18. Justin,
    What is your opinion on using Mobil 1 0W40 in older EJ series engines? The user guide calls for 5W30, but 0W remains a lot more fluid than 5W when it is cold outside (e.g. below -20C).

  19. This is even more confusing because looking at the 2013 WRX STi service manual page PM-3 it specifically says that oil is only to be changed every 7,500 miles. The note says that it should be done at 3750 miles if driven short distances or in extremely cold weather areas.

    This becomes even more important for those that bought extended service contracts. The dealer will only change the oil every 7500 miles.Most dealers are now switching over to the Subaru Synthetic oil, which oil analysis has shown that this oil is additives are very low and it has sheared to a low 20 grade by 3500 miles in a Subaru Turbo models. For the non-turbo models it takes until about 5,000 miles to be at the same place.

    1. Agreed, it’s always going to be confusing.

      It would be a lot simpler if Subaru just said every 3000 miles or three months for everyone, but that’s not want the market wants and they would sell less cars.

      This is not just a Subaru thing, but Subaru is one of those models that can be affected much more so than others if the oil is contaminated.


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