(Mis)Adventure: My Subaru Nightmare


My 2017 Forester getting towed from my house.

I really wish I didn’t have to write this post, but I know some of you are also looking at Subaru, so you should know what’s happened with me before you put money down on a new vehicle. I wrote one post before about what I liked and didn’t like about the car but things have changed dramatically. I know this isn’t creative based blogging, and it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with photography, but it’s still relevant because I know some of you are car shopping.

Where my nightmare begins…

1. I special ordered a Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium, 6-speed-manual transmission back in the September timeframe. I had to order one without actually driving one because not a single dealer I visited had a manual transmission. I’ve always loved a manual shift, so I ordered the vehicle and began the wait. I was super excited about this car because I had just lost my VW to the emissions scandal and was looking forward to not only getting a new car but one that would allow me to go to some of the places I couldn’t go in my VW. A little over two months later my Subaru arrived and was delivered to my house. Only one problem….it was the wrong car. They delivered an automatic transmission. I took the high road and said “Hey, accidents happen.” To her credit the person at the dealership called and said “This is entirely my fault.” It was nice to hear someone own up to the mistake, and I thought I would just have to wait a little bit longer. Two days later they found another car and had it delivered to my house. I was somewhat stunned but happy to have a car.

2. The first few times I drove the car the engine was cutting out. Mostly at highway speed on acceleration. Just slight, quick, hiccups. Like a clogged fuel injector. Quick hesitations. I returned the car to the dealership less than a week after purchase. I thought maybe it was bad gas, so I found out when the car was delivered to the dealer and how long it had been on the lot. Subaru also said “It could be bad gas.” But the car hadn’t been on the lot long at all. They hooked the car up to the computer and it said all was well. The mechanic drove the car and said it was fine. I drove the car with the mechanic and couldn’t get the car to repeat the issue, however we didn’t take it on the highway.

3. I then broke the car in over the next 1000 miles. The engine was still cutting out but with no pattern at all other than on acceleration to highway speed, and even then it wasn’t, and still isn’t, consistent.

4. I drove to Texas for the holidays. On the return trip I smelled burning oil. I checked under the car, checked engine compartment but couldn’t find any leaks.

5. The day after my trip my low oil light came on. I called the dealer and was told “Don’t drive it, we are going to tow it back.” I called Subaru roadside and they towed the car from my house.

6. The car sat at the dealer for a week. I would get a call every few days “Hey, we haven’t looked at it yet but it’s in line.”

7. The dealership asked me to let them drive it for 50 miles. I said “No problem.” After another four or five days they said “We can’t recreate the problem.” I asked how much oil they had to add to my car and they said “TWO QUARTS.” My car had burned two quarts of oil in the first 4000 miles. This should have been an immediate “Okay,we’ll swap the car,” but it wasn’t. Subaru has had HUGE issues with oil burning in the past, but I was under the assumption these issues were over, but what I’ve learned now is that oil burning issues are still very much part of the present. Look no further than my car.

8. So I drove the first 4000 miles with an engine that wasn’t running right. What did this do to the life expectancy of my car?

9. They want me to drive it another 1200 miles for another test.(Why we need another test after two quarts is beyond me.) My schedule called for me to drive to New Mexico, which is 1600 miles minimum but I told them there was no way I was driving that car to New Mexico in the winter. So now I have to change my plans and work schedule because my brand new car isn’t right. (Oddly enough NM was where I was most excited to explore in the new Subaru.)

10. I forgot to mention the throttle sticking. Again intermittent. Sometimes on startup and sometimes when I’m downshifting and push in the clutch, let off the gas, the throttle spikes to 3000 RPMS’s instead of dropping. When you put the car back in gear and let out the clutch the car takes off. Oddly enough, this might be the most dangerous issue but is the least of my worries at this point.(They admitted it was too high on cold start, at least at times.)

11. I had plans to modify the car. I already installed a trailer hitch and my racks, but I was also aiming at seat covers, wheels, tires, skid plates, etc. I cancelled all orders. This is a total bummer because I was drooling over the Sparco Terra wheels and General Grabber AT tires.

At this point I think I’m on my own and in an “oil burning protocol” with a brand new car. Now I have two quarts of oil rattling around in my brand new, 2017 Forester, and each time I get gas I’ll be checking that dipstick. I haven’t had to do this since…….EVER. My last two Toyotas never burned a drop of oil, neither did my VW. My neighbor’s two-year-old Forester…doesn’t burn oil either. Oh ya, my mom’s Crosstrek……doesn’t burn oil either. Now I’m putting my personal and professional life on hold, for 1200 miles, so I can finish a protocol that ends in either miraculous recovery or total engine replacement.

PS: To be fair. As I’ve mentioned before, there are many things about the Subaru I love. Visibility, bad weather driving capability and it’s economical. I’m not an 8000 mile, lease driver who lives in the city. I’m a 20,000 mile a year person who lives in two places and spends copious time in the backcountry. I need a car I can trust, and so far this Forester clearly isn’t it.

Stay tuned for chapters two and three……

25 Comments on “(Mis)Adventure: My Subaru Nightmare”

  1. Daniel, that’s a real bummer. Hopefully Subaru will step up to the plate and restore your confidence in your car and the company. If you are going backcountry you need to be able to trust your car.

    1. Mike,
      So far they have not. Started official ticket with Subaru but apparently having a brand new car in “oil burning protocol” doesn’t seem strange to them.

    1. C,
      Yes, you know the saga. I was so excited to finally get a car to explore NM fully, and now I’ve got a car I’m afraid to even drive out.

      1. C,
        Life goes on. A speed bump in the grand scheme, but as you know, my car is critical to my life. This one isn’t right, never has been.

    1. FBJ,
      No 4×4 Camry yet but the Tacoma pickup is there, as always, and is a trouble free, 200,000 mile car. I know because I had one.

  2. Hey Dan I got a nice 1994 ford Bronco 4 wheel drive very reliable broken in burns only a little oil might have something to do with the 400,000 miles I’ve put on it. So mayb hold out Fords comming out with new Bronco
    Good luck mister

    1. Arnie,
      You burn oil at 400,000 and I burn at 4000. Was told this was “totally normal” by Subaru service. Friend came over yesterday with Crosstrek. “You ever burn any oil?” I asked. “Never,” he said. My mom’s Crosstrek, no oil. Neighbor’s Forester, no oil. I went from being so excited about Subaru to realizing I made a HUGE mistake.

  3. Oh man! Amy shared this with me and I’m SO sorry to hear this drama. A few thoughts…you waited 2+ months for the incorrect delivery of an automatic in lieu of the manual and then only 2 days later the ‘correct’ car turns up? I’d be suspect of that car immediately. Where do they just come up with what appears to be a hard to find car? Was it just a delivery problem? Somethings’ fishy there. Also, from what I can tell, a manual transmission is now an anomaly in the US. Making a special order for, say, color combo, interior or other add-ons seems standard in customer fulfillment… 6 speed manual/4WD, not so much. Thats should have been made clear somehow BY the dealer. Where did this car come from? I assume it had <100 miles on it upon delivery. So so frustrating. My Outback gets 16mph, on a good day. But its a good ride, thus far. I bought it with 8k miles. NEVER again will I buy a new car, and NEVER again buy from a dealer (this car was bought from crooks at SM Acura). While I see the appeal of a new car there's just too many great cars out there that people get bored of, can't afford, don't fit for one reason or another….putting another car on the road just isn't me. Hope you can get that car exchanged, make all this public, and Good luck brother Dan.

    1. Drewski,

      Yes, I hear ya. I tend to buy new because I put 20-25k per year on the car, and I keep them until 200,000 or ten years. At this point I’m going back to Toyota as soon as possible, and I would buy a used Tacoma because I know they are good for that mileage and they are super reliable. Unfortunately I might have to trade this in for a used Tacoma at this point.

      1. In the grand scheme of things, if you buy used with low miles and you’re gonna go 150K+, who care about the 1st 20K?
        My dad used to beat cars into the ground, carrying tools, grease stained seats etc… once they reached about 130K he grew tired of being nickel and dimed on little stuff he couldn’t fix i.e, electric windows and locks (dating this post). He bought new too, same reasoning, so…..You and Haskel. Tacoma sounds like a good truck but I see you more in a ’83 caddy. Just sayin…

        1. Drewski,

          All depends on what happens during that 20k. The one used car I bought was a 1983 Toyota Landcruiser. I LOVED that car. Broke down every six weeks because even though it only had 20k on it when I bought it, those 20k were the hardest miles you can possibly imagine. Turned out front axel was full of water because the mellow looking old guy I bought it front had apparently driven it in water over the hood. Those cars had a front axel breather that was hood high, so the only way to get water in there was water over the hood. EVERYTHING broke on that car, from wheel bearings to fuel pump, water pump, etc. I still loved it, but ended up selling it. I also look at age demographic most associated with a vehicle. Who normally buys it and what is their lifestyle like?

          1. I think your last point is very important, I do extreme vetting on all my cars. ;-).
            My 2012 Outback was purchased in NY state, owned for about 6 summer months, then driven cross country during the next 18 months and registered in SoCal for the remainder of the its 3 year lease. No ‘reported’ accidents per Carfax via DMV, and Subaru. I bought it with 8K mile, as I said. I guess it could have been a disaster for the previous owner and but I rationalized that with milage so low the chances were slim. Perhaps they wanted something more plush, or powerful on the long trek….? When it comes to trucks, I see your point. I’d probably want something that hasn’t been, well…used as a truck.
            Mammoth this weekend, btw.

          2. Drewski,

            I was scheduled for Salton Sea and New Mexico. Cancelled both. Skid plate is now flapping around the front of the vehicle as they forgot to attach it correctly. Have another appointment on Friday now at new dealer. So no real driving till that is fixed. I have zero faith in this car. To your point, you could get a car with 8k and be fine. Maybe someone didn’t like the seats. But maybe it was a car that was the same as mine. Trade back in to dealer, at a huge loss, because the client didn’t trust it. Then they just resell the thing.

          3. I’ve got 25K+ trouble free miles thus far. But hey, you could be right. Let’s not jinx me before Friday….

  4. Hi Daniel, I bought a new 2017 Impreza Sport with manual transmission in April 2017. My check oil light came on at 2500 miles. Two quarts of oil I purchased barely registered on the dipstick. Flow Subaru in Winston Salem began an oil consumption test. It failed. They replaced the short block at 5500 miles and reused all the old parts. Belts, hoses, clutch, heads, the whole thing all put back on. Second engine still using oil. I took back to dealership with 1900 miles on rebuilt engine #2 to show them how low it was. The dealership “topped off” the oil level by added 1.5 quarts. Still using oil. I wrote the emperor in Tokyo to express my dismay that the brand this car as American made. Subaru customer service is in deny, deflect, deceive mode.
    Good luck.

    1. Frank,
      This is a well documented issue with a significant portion of the Subaru offerings. Subaru lied from the first day I bought the car and returned it for the value stick issue which ultimately became why they had to buy it back from me. The first dealer acted like they had never heard of the oil burning issues. Seriously, thinking back on it now, completely and utterly criminal behavior in my book. Then the service manager told me that burning two quarts in 2000 miles was “totally normal, and then told me getting my vehicle towed was “totally normal.” I think Subaru thinks people will just get fed up and live with it. Not me. I have a Tacoma now and a vehicle that runs right.

      1. I’ve had nearly the same issues as you. Bought a new 2017 Subaru Forester 6spd in 12/2016. Started noticing oil consumption at about 2k miles. Broached this issues with dealer. Was told this was completely normal. Eventually contacted Subaru of America to complain. Was told to go in for an oil consumption test. Failed the test with flying colors and have now been waiting for parts for my short block replacement for some time now. I am not too convinced this will solve the issues and have all my ducks in a row to file under my state’s Lemon Law.

        For a 2017 vehicle to burn, according to their own Oil Consumption Test results, a quart of oil in 1200 miles is ridiculous. What makes this worse is this is an issue that Subaru cannot say it had no knowledge of as they settled a lawsuit in 2015/2016 for this very issue in these very cars. Yet, they’ve clearly not fixed anything. I for one am hoping for the best with my “new” engine (well, part of an engine), but am fully prepared to sue Subaru of America as they have not a single legal leg to stand on in this case.

        1. Chris,
          These are all well, well known issues that they pretend are new. I get it. I actually do. I don’t think they sell many of the 6-speed models and most people drive around town, under 12,000 miles a year and put up with most things because they don’t really put the car through its paces. My new Tacoma just rolled 12,000 miles and it’s brand new. The block replacement is a bummer. And this entire time you are without a car. I’ve said it many times, had it worked I would have been happily driving the car. I really enjoyed it. Small but capable. I’m not a fan of the CVT for long-term drivers. They just don’t hold up and are very pricy to replace. My last Tacoma had 270,000 when we sold it and was running great. I’m hoping for the same with this one but most modern vehicle aren’t really built to last, not anyone’s. The exception would be the full size diesel trucks. My goal with any new car/truck is 10-years or 200,000 miles. Yesterday I drove 1200 miles straight in 21 hours. The Tacoma is smooth, quiet, comfortable but drinks gas if I drive over 75. No big shocker there. It’s a TRUCK.

  5. i know this is a older post but i have a 2018 6/MT and am having similar problems , rpms hanging up when pushing in the clutch , using oil at a alarming rate , my 4th gear synco is bad (still waiting for a decision from corporate on the fix) the hesitation sometimes on acceleration and every once and a while it will not ave the ability to go up steepish hills in first just no power and will stall out.

    1. Shaun,
      My guess is that the vast majority of those models sold all have the exact same set of issues. I never had the stall issue but I certainly had the rest. They tried to lie about this, over and over, but there were just too many other cases. They finally brought a guy from Japan who kept my car for two week and what came back was “Unfixable problem.” It’s too bad. I actually really liked many aspects of that car and would have been happy to keep driving it were it not for all the flaws. And the oil burning was insane. And the dealer tried to tell me it was normal. And they told me getting towed was normal!!!!

  6. I have had the same over-oil consumption problems since I purchased my 2016 Subaru and have gotten used to taking it in to get “topped off” 2000 miles before the sticker warrants an oil change due to the engine light coming on. Subaru assures me this is normal and all cars burn oil in their own way ?!? Then, just recently, with just over 55K miles, the entire clutch died. Pedal stuck to the floor, metal screeching noises and a chemical smell. I took it to my regular mechanic and he confirmed it probably needs a new clutch—at three years old and under 60K. He suggested taking it to Subaru b/c he said it was not normal and that it should be covered under the Powertrain Warranty. When I took it in, (by AAA tow), they said that was not the case and that the clutch was not part of the Powertrain b/c it is very individual and can break down earlier depending on MY DRIVING. I informed them I had had a manual my whole life, my Honda went 12 years without issues, my last Subaru almost ten with none but that this one had been a lemon since its first week out in the world. We’ll see if they decide to comp anything or if I have to tow it elsewhere to be repaired. I just paid the last payment on it in June. So disappointing.

    1. K,
      I have to say, the new Subaru’s, the Onyx Outback and the Crosstrek, are both cars I like and would think about owning if Subaru made a few changes. First, driving their CVT auto is not a fun or interesting driving experience, and I just don’t see those transmissions lasting like a traditional eight or ten-speed.(Which the competition has.) I have a friend with a two-year-old Outback with 60,000 miles and when he starts it up it sounds like someone is shaking a bag of metal parts. He’s going to sell it because he doesn’t think it’s going to last and the repair is going to be uber costly. As for the manual transmission, I think Subaru sells so few of these cars they don’t see any reason to fix all the issues. And look, if someone drives 8000 miles a year, on flat ground, with almost no highway driving, I’m sure this car might be okay. Subaru has had well-documented oil burning issues and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. What really turned me off to the brand was the dealer level and the lies that came from service people claiming they had never heard of oil-burning issues, claiming that burning 2.5 quarts in 4000 miles was “totally normal” and that getting my car towed was “totally normal.” And then these same people make an abrupt turn once they knew I wasn’t going to go away quietly and suddenly I’m in “oil consumption protocal” which I come to find out is happening all over the country. They had every chance to do the right thing and they just kept trying to find ways to do otherwise. I finally got my money back but it was far more difficult and time-consuming than it should have been, and had they put me in an automatic I’d probably still be driving it. I think car brands are representative of the modern culture of greed and maximizing profit at the expense of quality, safety and the planet. Look at the VW diesel scandal, the Toyota and Honda airbag scandals, Subaru oil consumption, etc. etc. And the cars we build today don’t last half as long as the cars of prior generations. I’m about to regear my Toyota Tacoma because Toyota sells these things with the worst gear/transmission combination of any vehicle I’ve ever had. Nothing like driving 60mph on flat ground with the tachometer screaming at 3500 rpm. I don’t consider this an upgrade I consider this a repair. I think what the brands do is look at what an “average” consumer does with the vehicle. Then they build those timelines and mileage estimates into how the cars are made. It’s greedy, shortsighted and wasteful but that’s the world we live in.

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