Important Forester info for new members - Subaru Forester Owners Forum
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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 11-12-2009, 06:24 AM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: New London, NH
Posts: 15,285
Car Year: 2003
Car Model: XS Premium
Transmission: MT
Feedback Score: 1 reviews
Important Forester info for new members

Welcome! We're glad to have you here. This place is full of good people, ready to help out with lots of good information and experience. And not confined to Foresters or even to Subarus or even to automobiles! There are members here with expertise in all walks of life. It's a community.

We're grownups, but we do enjoy a bit of good natured banter among friends. Look around a bit, get familiar with the spirit of the place, learn how the search functions work (all three of them—regular, advanced, and Google), and join in! Check out this sticky thread for suggestions on how to actually use the forum—how to get the most out of it, and put the most into it!

And, most important of all - Check out these two threads to gain an understanding of why we love this place, and why we just aren't like your typical auto forum.

The ethic of our community
The official THANKS thread!

The thread you're now reading is intended to provide quick tidbits of important advice to those just starting out with their Foresters. It's not so much a place to address frequently asked questions as it is an introduction to aspects of Foresters and Subarus in general that are important for new owners to be aware of. Things that could bite. We do have an FAQ which addresses some of the most common situations that one might encounter, like:

"Help, my parking lights won't go out!"
or
"Should I plug the green connectors together?"

You'll find links to lots of good answers there, and also in the sticky threads highlighted in blue up at the top of each forum. Considering some DIY? There's lots of that here too. Check out DIY, How-To & TSB's for links to some of the best work posted by our members.

OK, on with the show. Here's how it works. This is the intro post, and the next one contains the info. The thread is closed to further postings, because we want to encourage members to use the forum that's appropriate to their specific situation in order that the place might stay well organized. That's an important concept here. So if you need to ask something that involves the advice you see in this thread, post it in the forum that's most appropriate to the subject of your question. Search a bit first and you might even find that the issue has already been addressed quite nicely.

We welcome contributions to this thread from the members. What you see here today is just a starter. Send them to me (or one of the other moderators or administrators) via PM (Private Message - Click my screen name over at the left). I'll review them, crunch or edit them as appropriate, and insert them here. And if you know of an existing thread or post that does a really good job discussing the situation, be sure to tell us about that as well. Whenever there are major updates I'll temporarily add a bump post, which will trigger automatic notification for people who have subscribed to the thread.

And thanks to our member Huja for suggesting this!


Last edited by bbottomley; 08-27-2016 at 06:42 AM. Reason: Updates
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 11-12-2009, 06:37 AM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: New London, NH
Posts: 15,285
Car Year: 2003
Car Model: XS Premium
Transmission: MT
Feedback Score: 1 reviews
Important Forester info for new members!

  • Towing behind a tow truck or on a trailer hitch dolly with the other two wheels on the ground will ruin the All Wheel Drive system. Tow only on a flatbed, or on a dolly which keeps one set of wheels off the ground while the other set is up in the air. Or on all four tires, though slowly and for just a short distance if automatic transmission. (Full speed is OK for manual transmission. Great for the RV people!) Read your owner's manual for more detail about this. Things can change as new developments occur. It's important!

  • Circumference of all four tires must be about the same, or you risk damage to the AWD system. Subaru once specified a maximum difference in rolling circumference of 1/4" (which is pretty tiny when translated into difference in tread depth—divide by 2 Pi—and not that easy to measure with any degree of accuracy!), though they have since largely backed off from that specific figure. But, sad to say, if you blow out one tire after they have worn down a bit, you will need to buy four new ones. If there's still a reasonable amount of tread left on the three good ones, you might find a market for them here in the person of somebody else in the same situation, especially if you have the original stock tires. Alternatively, if you can find the right shop, you could consider shaving the new tire down to match the three remaining ones if you don't mind seeing all that good rubber falling on the floor. And even without regard to Subarus or All Wheel Drive, it's never wise to mix tire styles or brands due to differences in handling.

  • In the US (by law, and probably in most other countries), changing your own oil, having scheduled maintenance done at places other than dealers, using reputable non-Subaru replacement parts, or adding your own aftermarket accessories will not void your warranty. Do keep receipts and good records. You have to work really, really hard to actually void the entire warranty. Even if you totally mess up a DIY project, it will only affect the warranty that applies to that specific aspect of the vehicle. Though the more grotesque the problem is, the less accommodating the dealer is likely to be.

  • By US law, the catalytic converter and other specified elements of the emissions control system are covered by an 8/80 warranty, regardless of the terms of the regular manufacturer's warranty. So this is definitely one job that you would want to have done back at the dealer's.

  • Foresters prior to 2003 ('SF' models) are unfortunately susceptible to head gasket failure, and this is not unknown in later models (or in cars of any variety). Symptoms may include overheating, froth in the oil, oil slick in the coolant, and visible leaks where the heads meet the block. Once repaired, they tend to be pretty stable. You can get a good sense of members' experiences by reading this thread and those it links to. The job tends to cost about $1000 but is suitable for very advanced DIY, with possible outside help if the heads need to be machined.

  • Probably the most critical piece of scheduled maintenance for Foresters of all years up through 2010 is replacement of the timing belt ('cam belt' in Brit-speaking countries) at 105k intervals (or 105 months, whichever comes first). (Specifications might be different in other national markets. We've seen reports of numbers as low as 50k miles in the UK maintenance schedule. Nobody knows why it's like this.) Timing belt failure will ruin your engine! While they're in there, it's wise to get a bunch of other things done that would be lots more expensive if done by themselves, or could lead to timing belt failure were they to fail. Here's a link to a suggested list, put together for us by Jackie at Annapolis Subaru, one of our supporting vendors. Doing anything less than the full job is false economy and an invitation to disaster! Here's a link to a classic horror story of a member whose mechanic did it on the cheap. (It finally has a happy ending!) This job also tends to cost about $1000, depending on how many extras you throw in, and it's also suitable for advanced DIY. So, if you see a used Subaru for sale with about 100,000 miles on it, be prepared to add another thousand to the cost, as it most likely had not has the timing belt taken care of (and the owner is probably well aware of that). Note that the timing chain, introduced on the 2011 models, is described as never needing replacement. A welcome development! We shall see how it works out.

  • Leaving the gas cap off (or even not tightening it properly) can produce a check engine light ('CEL'). It even says so on the cap! This is easily cured by putting the cap back on, clicking it all the way, and starting the engine again. No harm done. CEL situations store a code in the computer, and the codes can usually be read at no cost by your friendly neighborhood auto parts store—definitely the big chains and probably many of the smaller ones. (Except in California I think, where it's akin to practicing medicine without a license) Or search around here for discussion of various, reasonably priced code readers, and DIY. Depending on the model year of your Forester and the severity of the situation, some CELs may disable the cruise control (and other automated stuff, some of which is yet to be invented) and cause the cruise control light to blink. This is a safety measure; it doesn’t necessarily imply problems with the cruise control itself. Subaru just doesn't want you to lock your Forester into cruise control at a time when the engine might be performing in an unpredictable fashion. Asking "Why do I have a CEL?" here at the forum will produce nothing but guesses! The only real answer is to have the code read—once you've checked the gas cap!

  • Over time the Engine Control Unit (ECU, AKA 'the computer') learns various parameters about your engine and your driving style, in order to optimize the engine's performance. This information gets erased if the battery is disconnected for more than a very brief period of time, and you might find that your Forester runs very rough for the first few starts thereafter. Don't panic! Hang in there, and things will soon become OK again. Note that disconnecting the battery will also erase the radio settings and the trip odometer, so write them down first if they matter to you!

  • Bad news--we used to maintain a list of links that would take you directly to the owners manuals for each year's Forester, 1998 to present. But Subaru appears to have "improved" their site, and now you have to go to one general page and fill in a few blanks to get to your year's manual. Once you get to the right page, however, they do allow a bit easier navigation within the manual.

    Sadly they don't appear to be supporting manuals for model years prior to 2000.

    Note that they occasionally rearrange things on their website, resulting in broken links. This link is valid as of August 2016. Please let us know if it suddenly stops working.

    Our policy here is that we allow links to owners manuals, TSBs, and anything else that Subaru makes openly available, but we don't allow links to bootleg copies of items with a pricetag such as service manuals.

I'm working on an item about how to deal with donut spares, complete with any aspects unique to manual or auto transmission. Check back later. Meanwhile, if you have a donut spare do read the applicable section in your owners manual very carefully.


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Last edited by bbottomley; 08-27-2016 at 06:40 AM. Reason: Updates
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