We’re going a little bit out of order with this week’s COAL, but it seems appropriate, given the circumstances. There was a death in the fleet and it seems fitting that we take a moment to remember our friend.
In preparing for today’s memorial, I went back to Paul Niedermeyer’s reflections from 2014 on his goodbye to their 2000 Forester for some my of inspiration.
Before we get into the details, let’s reflect on a life well lived. We acquired our 2003 Subaru Forester 2.5X with 4 speed automatic in the fall of 2015 for $4,200. This was to be a commuter car for our son who was scheduled to work a practicum at a social service agency in Northfield, MN as part of his social work major. At the time of purchase, the Forester had around 128,000 miles or so on the odometer, but it was pretty clean inside with no body rust. We bought it from a private party, a one owner car with complete maintenance records, so we felt confident that this would be a good car for the kids as they cycled through college.
From the previous owner’s files:
40,411 – SRS light on, replace failing wiring connector under seat. $198.00
45,990 – Engine noise when cold lasting about 15-20 min. Replaced #2 and #4 pistons. N/C
76,060 – Front crank seal and oil pump gasket are leaking. $616.19
80,197 – Replace right rear wheel bearing. Replace front brakes. $1023.20
84,209 – Check engine light on. Replace catalytic converter. $902.26
85,091 – Replace rear brakes. $289.54
103,745 – Replace head gasket. $1,838.98
124,184 – Replace drivers side rear wheel bearing. $408.38
126,200 – Reline front brakes, repair leaking fuel lines. $752.07
I did note the presence of rust on the undercarriage, but everything seemed solid. So much for visual inspections, eh? And anyway, they had already addressed the head gasket issue and replaced the rear bearings and front brakes (twice). What else could possibly go wrong?
128,661 – Check engine light, diagnosis was a “stuck check valve, needs to be replaced”. $458.24
130,708 – Leaking fuel filler, replace rusty fuel filler pipe. $381.44
After graduating from St Olaf, the Forester made it’s way to Olympia, WA and Evergreen State College. One of our daughters found Evergreen quite to her liking after sampling a couple of Minnesota colleges. The Forester loved Olympia, lots of other Foresters to play with.
145,813 – Check engine light, “miss fire code on #3 cyl”, replace plugs, ignition wires, air filter, fuel filter. $410.16
Leaving Olympia after graduation. The very generous rear cargo area was stuffed full along with the soft car top carrier. Front seats pushed forward to fit everything it back. Lucky we’re from short stock. We made the drive back to St Paul, about 1,700 miles, in three days with no issues.
The Forester wasn’t a horrible place to spend time. The 2.5 made about 165 hp with a top speed of 107 as reported by car mags at the time. We certainly had no problem keeping up with traffic heading across Big Sky country despite the load. With plenty of tunes on tap and beautiful scenery, the miles went by pretty quickly. Our only complaint at 80 mph was the roar of the wind as it sucked the frameless glass away from the doors. Apparently there is a hack for this but we never bothered to deal with it, the car spent most of its days with us at much lower speeds.
After graduation, troubles continued. Death by a thousand cuts style. We live in a condo with a shared parking garage, so working on the car wasn’t really an option even if it had been available to work on. But more often than not, the Forester would break down far from home. I told my daughter that if things were repairable within reason, I would continue to pay to have it fixed. I warned her though that there would come a time when we would just have to say no more repairs, we’ve reached the end.
157,365 – Squealing noise, replace A/C idler pulley and belt. $398.93
158,200 – Replace broken sway bar link. $110.07
161,060 – Car died, tow to garage. Replace alternator. $585.03
165,463 – Replace front brake pads, rotors, calipers. $413.28
My daughter texted me late last week. She was backing up in her mother’s driveway when there was a sudden noise. “So something rusted and broke on the forester and the front passenger wheel is not at the correct angle.”
Something broke? I’ll say. From the NHTSA in September 2011:
SUBARU IS RECALLING CERTAIN MODEL YEAR 2002-2007 IMPREZA, MODEL YEAR 2003-2008 FORESTER, AND MODEL YEAR 2005-2006 SAAB 9-2X VEHICLES MANUFACTURED FROM SEPTEMBER 5, 2000 THROUGH NOVEMBER 26, 2007 ORIGINALLY SOLD, OR CURRENTLY REGISTERED IN, MASSACHUSETTS, MARYLAND, MICHIGAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW YORK, PENNSYLVANIA, VERMONT, WISCONSIN, CONNECTICUT, DELAWARE, IOWA, ILLINOIS, INDIANA, MAINE, MINNESOTA, MISSOURI, NEW JERSEY, OHIO, RHODE ISLAND, WEST VIRGINIA AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. THE FRONT LOWER CONTROL ARMS MAY BREAK AT THE HANGER BRACKETS DUE TO CORROSION IF THE HANGER BRACKET IS EXPOSED TO SALTY AND HUMID ENVIRONMENTS SUCH AS ROADS CONTAINING SNOW MELTING AGENT.
A BROKEN CONTROL ARM CAN RESULT IN THE LOSS OF CONTROL OF THE VEHICLE, INCREASING THE RISK OF A CRASH.
Apparently the diligent previous owners weren’t as diligent as I thought. Oh well, this was the final blow. I know, what took us so long, right? It’s the classic problem facing owners of older cars, do you walk away from all of those repairs or do you hope that last repair finally fixed everything, at least for now. In summing up the numbers, I feel a little stupid. We liked the Forester, but based on what we learned from our experience, I would be very leery of repeating the experiment again with another high mileage Subaru.
I’m not going to tote up all the charges like Paul did, too depressing. When it was running, the car was fun to drive and a great hauler of stuff. My daughter was the primary driver the last four years and I think she really like the car, despite all of the issues. Ultimately though, I wish I had found a similar mileage Scion Xb or Xd for the kids. In fact, the kids have one of each courtesy of their mother, my ex-wife. While lacking AWD and giving up a bit of cargo capacity, both have turned out to be pretty much trouble free.
I ended up getting $310 for the Forester through an app called Peddle out of Austin, TX. They work with local salvage yards to handle the towing. The app is pretty slick, you enter the details and they spit out a guaranteed price right there on line or you can counter offer and start negotiations. My wife and I are about to head off to Sumas, WA to pick up a new camper from Escape Trailers our of Chilliwack, BC and I didn’t have time to deal with this on top of everything else. Plus the car was sitting right in the middle of the driveway, blocking the garage. The tow truck driver took the title and handed me a check and then got the car loaded, pretty painless.