All Wheel Drive Auto: Independent Seattle Subaru Service


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Welcome to the All-Wheel Drive Auto Blog!

Who is All Wheel Drive Auto?

All Wheel Drive Auto is an independent Subaru service & repair facility based out of Kirkland Washington. We combine years of dealer experience with a friendly neighborhood shop atmosphere. As an Independent Subaru Specialist, we can save you up to 25% over the dealer service department for the service and repair of your Subaru without sacrificing to quality or your warranty.

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Start a conversation with everyone from other Suburu enthusiasts to people looking for Suburu information and advice. Expectsome great articles on Subaru maintenance and repair, as well as general auto care tips. Our goal is to create an interactive community of Subaru lovers and owners sharing information and advice. Got something to say? Tips to share? Go ahead and subscribe to our feed to stay updated on new articles and community news or leave us a comment and we’ll happily respond.


38 Responses

  1. Hi Justin.

    Just discovered your website today and have spent most of it gleaning as much info as I can.

    We have a 2004 Impreza Outback Sport, 152 KM (Canada)that we have had since new. This car has given us 10 years of trouble free driving. Stopped going to the dealer the last 2 years and have been getting by on 6000km interval oil changes. I am in the process of trying to arrange a timing belt service in the next month and will be taking your advice on checking the fuel pump and changing coolant fluid.

    One thing I have noticed is an engine whine when starting on very cold winter mornings. It was especially noticeable on a 0 degree morning a few weeks ago. If I recall correctly there is a ticking sound in association with the whine, and both sounds diminish and then disappear as the engine warms up. The whine was louder this time than it has been in previous winters.

    Do you have an opinion?

    Thankyou for all your straightforward information

    1. Hello Angus,

      Its always difficult to try and determine where a noise I cant hear is coming from, the only thing I can do is speculate.

      Most whines are from either the power steering pump or a bearing some where.

      Bearings you have are Ac belt idler, power steering pump, Ac compressor, Ac compressor clutch, Timing belt tensioner pulley, one of three timing belt idler pulleys and lastly the waterpump.

      Things that can be done to evaluate the noise is when cold and making the noise remove the Accessory drive belts one at a time and see if it goes away, if not it could be form one of the timing components.

      Then we can move to the transmission as a possibility if its an automatic the pump or any main shaft component could be noisy.

      If you are unable to figure it out its better to let someone who knows the car have a look.

      Ticking noise, just as many variables, could be valve train, heat shields, or a number of other items. The valves will make more noise and be further out of adjustment the colder it is, I would start with checking valve clearance.


  2. Hi – you were SO helpful a couple years back with a major HG problem, just thought I would ask about something else. The hand (parking) brake on my 2003
    5-speed Forrester has been losing it’s affectiveness over the past few years, esp. in freezing temps. I thought it might need an adjustment and mentioned it the last time I had it serviced. I use the dealer who sold me the car in 2002 (if we had your shop here in Delaware I would take your advice and go to an Independent Subaru mechanic) – trust me, if I didn’t feel like I was treated fairly I would be long gone. Anyway, they said it needed, I guess a whole new one – they quoted me something in the $500 range. I thought I would consult with your expertise before I go back – thank you in advance for any insight….

    1. Im not sure what they are Quoting the parking brake handle? Which is no where near $500.00, one parking brake cable or all of them? Or is it the Parking brake shoes?

      Maybe ask whats being replaced as the Parking brake is a system made up of many components.


      1. Thanks – sorry I wasn’t specific enough – I just referred to the paperwork from that visit. After my statement of problem (check E-brake adj.)it says Cause/Action to Take: “E brake will need to be replaced” and Correction/Action Taken: “$492 parts and labor to replace, declined at this time”.
        No more specifics than that.
        Thanks again for your earlier response. I don’t know if this clarifies enough for you or not.

  3. Hi Justin,
    I recently had a service center change out the hoses & coolant & then, with your help, diagnosed that there was an air pocket in the coolant system. The service center did correct this. Now, I am noticing that the temp gauge is always a little higher than it did before, and when I put the heat on the car, the gauge moves up higher, close to the 3/4 way mark. Do you have any ideas or suggestions as to what might be causing the higher reading on the temp gauge?

  4. Hi Justin,
    I have a 2005 Outback wagon, with 110K miles. I just had AAA Car Care Center change the upper & lower hoses. Now when I start the car I hear fluid sloshing through the dashboard area. Never heard this before, and asked AAA to take a look, and they say everything is normal. Now I’m also noticing that my temperature gauge is running hotter…bouncing between halfway & three-quarter mark at times, then it settles down to the halfway point. I don’t know if any of these are related, so thought I would check in with you, for your input.

    1. Sounds like there is an air pocket in the cooling system.

      You should return to the shop that performed the service and let them know what is going on, if you continue to drive it like this the head gaskets will suffer.

      Sorry and hope that helps


      1. Thanks so much, Justin. I did go back & you were correct…they had to re-do the work. Hopefully nothing was affected by this. Greatly appreciate your reply.

  5. I have a 2002 Outback 2.5 and my day head light ( the ones always on) function both with just front and front and rear weren’t working. The low beam and high beams still operated fine. My dashboard brake light was constantly on. I found the cause was low brake fluid in the master cylinder. Interesting wiring circuitry. Adding brake fluid extinguished the brake light and allowed all head light functions to operate properly.

    1. Roger,

      The low brake fluid level will correct the red brake light on the dash, but you most likely have a intermittent issue somewhere else as the low brake fluid has no effect on exterior light functions.

      The daytime lamps are just the front only you have to turn the head lamp or parking lamps on to have rear tail light function.


  6. Hi Jim,

    Its possible there is a radiator issue, or a head gasket seal issue, its time to call the shop that did the repairs if they are a good shop they will stand behind there work.


  7. My wife just purchased a 2003 Outback limited with the 2.5 liter four and automatic. I contact the orginial owner and all service has been done includeing the timing belt at 100,000 miles. She has 111000 on her now. I recently had the head gaskets replaced at an independent dealer that has a good rep and now the car is overheading at highway speed. Under 60mph everything is fine, hit 60+ and the gauge starts to climb. Thermosate was replaced with the headgasket replacement. Now wondering why the overheating as it didn’t do it before it went in for the headgaskets. Any suggestions??

  8. My 1999 Subaru outback has recently had the front right axle/cvr joint assembly replaced with a remanufactured axle assembly.(The car picked up a new noise with that, but otherwise seemed ok for a little while). Shortly thereafter the wheel bearing/spindle/hub was replaced. Shortly thereafter the front brake pads were redone. The car has long pulled to the right gently, but now it is a stronger pull, and vibration at higher speeds. Also, when I turn the wheel sharp the wheel seems to “stick” in the turn, not wanting to turn back. If I let go of the steering wheel, it will stay in a circular turn. I will take it in to have the wheels balanced again, in case that is causing the vibration at 65 mph and up. But what about that pull to the right, and the catch in the turn? Do you have suggestions as to what that might be? Thank you very much for your time.

  9. Dear Justin,

    Your article on “why is the power steering making noise?” was right on the money. I just had my timing belt changed and when I got my car back, the noise from the power steering was so loud. I took it back to the shop and they tried some conditioner and said to keep an eye on it. Later, I showed them your article and they were amazed and fixed it right away. Thanks for putting that info out.

  10. Hello Kathy,

    There is no reason to replace the engine for a gasket leak, but yes I would consider using the gaskets we use here at the shop.

    So being a State of Washington Authorized Emissions Specialist I can tell you that when the switch is made, it doesn’t mean you have to make it pass to get tabs you should but it is not mandatory, our state has a waiver program in place. Not sure the state wide thing will happen next year, I know 2009 and newer vehicles are to be are exempt, shops will start performing the testing instead of a third party test station and I know the time frame for all is closer to 2012. Also what many do not understand is that you can request for tail pipe test to be done if a p0420 catalyst efficiency code is set and if it passes so do you without the Catalyst expense. Next has anyone actually tested the Catalyst? It may not be the cause of the code; there are lots of other possibilities including a head gasket leak.


  11. I’ve been told that my left side head gasket is leaking coolant at 137,000 miles. At 57,000 miles the dealership replaced the first set of heaad gaskets under warranty. I quit going to the local dealership shop after 110,000 mi. My independent mechanic when he found the head gasket problem gave me three options: fix the head gaskets for $2000, put in a new engine(his recommendation) for $5000, or get rid of the car. I live in the country so all-wheel drive is important to me. The dealer said he would fix the head gaskets for $1300. The salesman said he talked to Subaru and due to all the “problems” with my car they would give me $3000 off a new car. He wouldn’t tell me what he would give me on the old car until I chose a new car however. Due to my economic situation I’m going to replace the head gaskets. The timing belt was done at 120,000 mi. My mechanic has no knowledge about gaskets outside of a Subaru one. (I’m not convinced about the success of any of those!). Should I really push to get the independent gasket? I have never had a overheating occurrence and I’ve done regular maintence with a service folder an inch thick (except I’ve only had maybe (2)coolant flushes). Also for the last year I have run with a check engine light on. The code has been a catalyst ineffieicincy problem (I’ve had it checked three times). Will fixing the head gasket change what I do about the check engine issue? This car will be hard to get rid of someday-someone will get in and see the check engine light and listen to the loud twaddle sound of my “slappy piston” and run away. The third mechanic told me to wait to fix the cat converter because it probably won’t last and next year when Washington State requires statewide emission tests I’ll have to have it fixed again to pass the test. Have you heard that?

  12. If my Subaru Legacy All Wheel Drive has a damaged tire, and the others have low tread, do they need to be replaced simultaneously? Is it all right to just replace two?

  13. I have a 2000 Subaru Outback with 105,600 miles. I have not yet had the timing belt replaced. If the timing belt fails, what other damages can occur(when the timing belt broke on my Toyota, the belt was replaced with no worry to further damage).

  14. Thanks for servicing my air conditioner and fixing the leak in the power steering. Also for recommending the re-glazing of the headlight lenses (I was wondering if my eyes were going bad) and to do it all on short notice so I could go camping at Priest Lake.
    With 185,000 miles on my 97 Outback you’d think I would cut back on my driving but with you guys taking care of it, I’m trying to think of places to go.
    Thank you so much for being so dependable and honest with all the care you have giving me and my car.
    Brenda Benson

  15. I just had the 90,000 mile service for my 2003 Forester at my local Subaru dealer. That was $851 and changing two belts brought it up to $1006. The next morning there was a 10″ oil spot on my driveway. I found that they had failed to tighten the oil drain bolt. It was finger tight. So much for expecting quality work from dealerships. They also said my battery failed the load test and replacing that would cost $129. In addition my spark plug extension seals are leaking. The estimate for that was $366, which included $126 in parts. I found I can get those parts for about $75. The shop labor rate is $110. Are dealers trying to make up for lagging sales through their service departments? I am really disillusioned and disappointed. I will call them tomorrow and see what they will do about it. I wish I was closer to AWD auto! I’m thinking of a battery from sears and change the seals myself.

  16. Hey Norm,

    It’s sometimes hard to help on this kind of an issue, but what I can suggest is how we approach these types of intermittent problems here at the shop. I or one of my Techs will drive it home and back to work until we can reproduce the symptoms and that’s where the diagnoses would start. At most shops if the car doesn’t act up on the test drive or there is nothing on a visual inspection that comes up it all ends there. This leaves the car unrepaired and possibly unreliable.

    There are a few possibilities but it’s hard to point you in any direction without at least looking at data on the Subaru Select Monitor.

    I would look for a good Subaru Independent repair shop in your part of town that is willing to put in the extra time to get to the bottom of your issues.


  17. A few months ago, we bought a 2003 Forester in great shape, with a new head gasket and a bunch of other new parts. But now we are having some odd problems. Twice in the last 2 months, it will give off a ton of white smoke when we start it, then the rpms seem really low so we have to race the engine a bit to keep if from stalling, then it stalls. It did this for a couple of days the first time, then we took it in to our shop which works on a lot of Subarus. They couldn’t find anything wrong and couldn’t replicate the problem, but said the oil was overfilled. They fixed that and it seemed to run fine for a month or so. It started doing the same thing the other day, smoke, low rpms, stalling. Today it seems to run fine. Since the first time this happened, the check engine light has come on, but our shop can’t find anything wrong. Any guesses as to what the problem is?

  18. Justin,

    I came across this site and see you have some superb info here.

    I have a 1988 GL-10 which runs fine, leaks a little oil. Recently the heater blows out cold air I noticed. Is there anything besides the heater core and thermostat that would cause this? I am pretty certain the thermostat is working correctly and have hesitated jumping on the huge expense to replace the heater core.

    Do you have any suggestions as i am a do it yourself kind of guy if possible? Not sure if I can replace a heater core on my own though.

    Thanks, Robert W.

  19. Hi Kevin,

    So we do subscribe to a system that pulls repair and service history once every three days from My server to the Carfax data base, any customer that has their car serviced here will have updated service records on the car fax site just like the dealerships. So there is a system in place but the other part of this is it is done in conjunction with the repair management system we use here as well.


  20. Hi Justin,

    This is an old article by you, but I wanted to ask a question about something touched upon here – dealer service versus independent. I just purchased a 2003 Outback as well as a 2009. In doing my research, I relied heavily upon service information for a car from CARFAX. My question – do independent shops have the ability to add to the CARFAX record or is that the exclusive domain (monopoly) of the dealers? Keeping a good service record via CARFAX would go along ways to help the small guy (individual sellers/buyers, independent service facilities) buy/sell used cars and keep them maintained in an economical way.

  21. Hey Peter,

    I can’t really comment on a specific dealer ship or repair shop. But what I can share is that in my opinion the single biggest misconception in the repair industry is that the dealership is somehow better than the independents, I am obviously biased towards independent but that really comes from having had a diverse career and working at dealerships, independents and franchises a like.

    The dealers are all franchises and in some cases the Techs there may be the bottom of the barrel, this all comes from how well is that line of car doing, if it is a dog and a lot of warranty work is being done the good techs will not stay as they will have to do a lot of repairs for much less than what they are really worth. IF the service department is strong despite the sales department and the quality of the current models it may have a good crew of Technicians.

    The dealer has an advantage over the independents for about the first two or three years of a new model coming out. But as the car has been out for a while the independents have an edge when it comes to making repairs. A good example of this is the fact that most head gaskets repaired at the dealership fail within a couple of years where we have yet to (knock on wood) ever see a repaired vehicle come back with a leak. The guys at the dealer start out by making repairs under warranty and learn how to cut as many corners as possible, as the car becomes out of warranty the repairs are made the same way they were under warranty. There are many reasons I like the independent over the Dealer but it really comes down to what you are more comfortable with. My advice is generally to pick a shop you feel you can establish a relation ship with and go there for all of your service needs, much like you do with a vet, dentist or doctor.

    Most independents really have to work hard at getting and retaining new customers where the dealer service department has a new service and parts customer every time a car is sold. As such I really feel strongly you will always get more value for your money at a good independent repair shop.

    The additive thing is a play it by ear deal.

    The water pump is a good suggestion as is the timing belt tensioner whenever the belt is done.


  22. Hi Justin,
    A few days ago I submitted a question to you on the head gasket thread. I was looking at a 2000 Impreza Outback Sport Wagon for my daughter. You said that was a great model, and that the seals on the spark plug extension tubes might be leaking. I bought the car, it’s in great shape and well-maintained. Before the sale was final, I had an independent shop that specializes in Subarus do an inspection. The tech said everything looked good, but that the seals around the spark plug extension tubes were beginning to leak. The shop is called Kuno’s in Redwood City, CA. I left the car at the shop to have the seals replaced.

    I have a couple more questions:
    1) I’d planned to have the 120k service and timing belt and water pump done at the local Subaru dealer – Carlsen in Redwood City, CA. The previous owner had the major services and repairs done there and was satisfied with their work – he recently bought a new Subaru from them. Kuno’s seemed like a good place, the tech was knowledgeable, and there are serveral good comments about the shop on a local Yahoo services site, so now I’m thinking of having the work done there. Have you heard of the shop? Are you familiar with Stan Carlsen Subaru? Dealers are usually a known quantity – will the car be in good hands at an independent shop?

    2) Are Subarus like other cars where you automatically replace the water pump when you do the timing belt?

    3) I was reading through the owner’s manual and it mentions Subaru de-icer gas additive if the car is to be used in sub-freezing temperatures. The car will spend the winter at Lake Tahoe at 6000 feet. Is this still good advice? Any recommendation on specific additives?

    Thanks for your help,

  23. Sure wish you were closer….I live in Denver, Colorado. Sounds like you know your stuff and take pride in your work and have a great shop (cool).
    I have already learned some very importaint things from your site. I just picked up a 99 Impreza 2.5 RS which is great for the snow out here. Thing is I have a slight oil leak from the drivers side head gasket area. Looks like I am about to learn a little more about the 2.5 eng than anticipated and put in some more OT at work for a head gasket repair.

    Keep up the good work!


  24. I was searching the Internet for the fix to a problem with my Subaru and I stumbled across one of the answers Justin gave at All Wheel Drive Auto. I called his number and he called me right back with the answers I needed. Thanks, Justin, for getting right back to me and taking from your time to help me. That doesn’t often happen anymore. Gratefully, Roger B. in Thorp, WA

  25. What a great group of people to have work on your car. Although they specialize in Subaru, I’d let them work on anything I own, afterall, I have personally seen they’re attention to Detail. Quality repairs and customer satisfaction reign supreme at this shop!!

    2 thumbs up to All Wheel Drive Auto!!


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