Part of being a good Subaru shop is to spot trends or problems with Subaru’s, and try to address those problems with our customers before it becomes a larger issue. This is something that won’t ever happen at a dealer service department, because they just don’t have the time or inclination to offer any real help.
One of the trends that has been going on since the introduction of the 2010 Outback is that, somehow the CVT fluid must be good for the life of the car? That’s just not the case at all; and part of the reason some owners with CVT transmissions are having problems. The owner’s manual states the fluid is to be inspected, corrected or replaced as needed. That’s what the “I” means if you look at the fine print at the bottom of the page in your maintenance booklet.
If you look in the warranty and maintenance booklet for any Subaru since say 2004, you will see a whole lot of “I” for Inspect in place of what used to just say “R” for replace. What that leaves is a situation that’s uncomfortable for whomever is the one doing the service work on your Subaru. First of all it’s not a simple process to do the inspection. There is no dipstick to check the fluid, and if it’s dirty or low its time consuming to correct, and at the dealer level a CVT fluid service is ridiculously overpriced to the point where the service advisors don’t even want to bring it up. To properly check the level of the fluid on a CVT equipped Subaru the vehicle must be up to the proper temperature, and the Subaru Select Monitor or now also known as the DSTi hooked up to the the vehicle.
Now comes a good Independent Subaru shop informing the customer that the CVT fluid should really be serviced, and almost at every instance the driver is confused (which is understandable), the statement almost the same every time “the Subaru dealer says it never needs to be done” or “in the manual it doesn’t say to change it”. Both statements are false but we understand how we got here.
Currently at a Subaru dealership they are so busy taking care of warranty concerns, non warranty repairs and other maintenance services they don’t have the time to deal with real questions or items that should be done as preventive maintenance that take to long. In order to service the CVT fluid the Subaru Select Monitor must be hooked up to the Subaru as well as putting the car on the rack. The entire procedure can take over an hour and in the flat rate world of a Subaru Dealership anything that takes an hour should be billed out for 3 hours if the customer is paying for it.
Next is the power steering fluid, which again has no clearly defined service interval and again as such it’s always to be inspected at the major service intervals. In the manual it says “I” in the book and never “R” for replace as such at the Dealer level it’s again the forgotten fluid. Power steering fluid is definitely not a lifetime fluid and really by the time your Subaru has 60,000 miles on it it needs to be replaced, and most likely every 30,000 there after given component wear affecting the fluid much more so as the Subaru ages.
We almost never used to replace rack and pinions on Subaru’s for leaks, and now it’s commonplace. The reason? Not enough service intervals for the fluid, the fluid carries tiny particles of metal as the rack and pump wear, the fluid becomes burnt with engine temperature, contaminated with moisture and loses its lubrication properties over time further compounding the issue.
When we estimate a 30k or 60k service we follow the same guidelines the dealer does, we have to or it would look like we were much more expensive. We rely on our techs doing a good job of inspecting the vehicle and our advisors presenting factual findings to the customer. But it’s tough sometimes, and we totally understand that you are in for a service, and hate hearing that what we should really be doing to your Subaru is just going to cost more. What we really want you to avoid however; are the expensive repairs that come along with deferred maintenance. The dealer wants to sell you another car and start the cycle over.
On later models, it’s now more difficult to talk to owners about coolant, brake, and differential fluid; and while it’s true there have been improvements to coolant recently, it’s not so good now that it going to last the life of your Subaru.
I will always believe that your Subaru ownership experience is always, only going to be as good as who you let service your Subaru. We and any good Independent shop, want you to enjoy and keep your Subaru; until it’s life cycle determines the time to let it go, or you have a change in your life that dictates you need to make a change in vehicles, such as a larger family for example. What we have observed over the last 10 years or so is that the extended or forgotten fluid intervals are starting to increase the number of repairs resulting in more unhappy drivers and we want to help you avoid that.
Thanks for reading,
All Wheel Drive Auto
“Helping you with your Subaru”