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2003 Forester X manual
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Realizing the cars age plays into this, but wondering and curious. Seems more often than not, every time I go in for an alignment check, I need one, but to qualify this I will say the roads in my city are not good. I try my best to avoid potholes, mostly succeed, sometimes not. But is it fair to say it doesn't take much to put this older Forester out of alignment?
 

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2017 Foz 2.5i CVT
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2,662 Posts
I would say that 20 year old cars in general need more alignments than new ones. And I will also point out that "alignment shops" have it in their interest to earn money by aligning cars. "Free alignment checks" are a cash cow.
 

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2003 Forester X manual
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1,336 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
No, not fair at all. I've done a lot of hard offroading in my MY'03 and it hasn't needed any wheel alignments outside the norm. What tire pressures are you running?
Hey Kevin. Will have to check, just got 4 new tires from Les Schwab about a month ago....will get back to you. May be different that the last tires, not sure.
 

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2015 Forester 2.5i
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13 Posts
FWIW, every time I get an alignment on my '15 they have told me it was pretty far off. It likes to make uneven tire wear and it sucks. I don't think anything is wrong with the car, but I think it's more susceptible to getting bumped and misaligned. Don't know about the older ones though...

-Mike
 

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2001 Forester S, 4EAT
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The recent alignment done on my 2001 in 2022 was due to new LCA. Prior to that, the last alignment was probably 10 years ago. So NO older vehicles do not need frequent alignment.
 

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2009 FXT and 2006 WRX wagon
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395 Posts
If the alignment is actually that frequently off the oem ranges, I would think that a major suspension component - ball joint, control arm bushings blown out, worn tophats, wheel bearings, etc - is worn and needs to be replaced ASAP. You would also know something is off because it's symptoms would be obvious - abnormal road noise, clunks, clicks, etc.
 

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2011 Forester 2.5X Automatic
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283 Posts
Realizing the cars age plays into this, but wondering and curious. Seems more often than not, every time I go in for an alignment check, I need one, but to qualify this I will say the roads in my city are not good. I try my best to avoid potholes, mostly succeed, sometimes not. But is it fair to say it doesn't take much to put this older Forester out of alignment?
So much depends on the condition of the vehicle.

That being said, most vehicles will tend to keep their alignment for quite some time (easily a year or more) barring substantial impacts with curbs or particularly vicious potholes. Is there something your Foz is doing steering/tracking-wise that would make you suspect you need an alignment? Are the tires showing abnormal wear patterns (tread feathering along the outside edges of the tire; uneven wear across the tread; whatever) that could be a clue to an out of alignment condition? Abnormal tire wear can also be a result of bad shocks and out of balance tires. Obviously if both steering/tracking and abnormal tire wear are present, then it's a very good sign you probably need an alignment.

To simply stop in and get a "free" alignment check (or add it to a service visit) just because ...well, you're setting yourself up. I mean think about it; the only way to "check" an alignment is to do all the set up work necessary to do an alignment. And all they have to do is find one spec that might be a little sketchy or possibly claim some tire wear and, bingo, you're on the hook for an alignment. When you ask for an alignment check, do they ask you what the car is doing to make you suspect it needs an alignment? If they don't, then I would seriously consider going to another shop. Because this one is probably gonna take you for a ride ...on the alignment machine. Whenever you get an alignment, always ask for the before and after printouts ...most reputable shops will include this with your repair bill receipt without you asking; if they don't, then find another shop or ask why they didn't include it. The print out graphically displays the alignment of the vehicle as brought in and shows what the shop did to correct it and indicates the alignment of the car coming off the rack. It's the closest thing to positive proof you got what you're going to pay for.

If your car tracks straight, doesn't pull, and your tires are not showing any abnormal tire wear ...then, like the old expression; if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
 

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2006 Forester 5-speed manual
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390 Posts
I do my own, and only after replacing components...

True, wear in tie rod ends and ball joints can put the alignment out, but little else. The only adjustments available on the Forester front end are toe and camber, both easily set for yourself. If all the bits are straight there's not much point in pursuing anything else.

And the aligning mechanic won't pursue it either, unless he can see that the workshop can get a nice bit of extra funding by telling you that the LCA or the strut is bent.

If you insist on paying people to do it, maybe you should consider the sums. Tyre cost vs alignment costs - three alignments in the life of the tyres giving perhaps a quarter of extra life to the tyres?

Like some others have mentioned, I drive over all kinds of roads at all kinds of speeds, my main 2005 model has now done over 230,000kms under my guidance and the front end tyre wear is showing a good pattern. I don't remember how long it has been since I actually checked the toe on it, but it must be a fair while.
 

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2005 Forester EJ251, 2011 Forester FB25
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Owning several cars in the family, some time back I found that I needed more alignments than I thought reasonable and I found that the tyre place only checked toe-in/toe-out and that's all they gave you for an alignment. On one of the vehicles when I said I want more than that, the person who did the alignment said he uses his own personal specifications and not that of the vehicle manufacturer. If you go somewhere else they will say it is not in spec. In addition, nowadays I photocopy the manual and give it to them as the specs they derive elsewhere can be incorrect. One of the issues I don't like with any repairs is that most of the time they don't want you nearby to see what exactly they are doing or me trying to learn by observation. This is why I do as much as I can myself.
 

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2004 Forester 2.5XS 4EAT
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49 Posts
I guess I have been lucky so far. 2004 Forester, 172K miles, I don't think I have done an alignment in the 6.5 years I have owned the car. Tires have been wearing evenly, and the car still "tracks" well ... driving on a level freeway I can let go of the steering wheel for several seconds and stay in my lane. (Obviously only try this when no other cars are around, and keep hands close to wheel just in case....)
 

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2009 FXT and 2006 WRX wagon
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395 Posts
Owning several cars in the family, some time back I found that I needed more alignments than I thought reasonable and I found that the tyre place only checked toe-in/toe-out and that's all they gave you for an alignment. On one of the vehicles when I said I want more than that, the person who did the alignment said he uses his own personal specifications and not that of the vehicle manufacturer. If you go somewhere else they will say it is not in spec. In addition, nowadays I photocopy the manual and give it to them as the specs they derive elsewhere can be incorrect. One of the issues I don't like with any repairs is that most of the time they don't want you nearby to see what exactly they are doing or me trying to learn by observation. This is why I do as much as I can myself.
I am surprised the tech would say he does his own specs as the alignment rack should be computer-based and give a range of camber, caster and toe. But I guess depending on what he thinks is best, then it may be all right. Still kind of weird a shop not just go with the alignment computer.
 

· Super Moderator
2001 Forester S, 4EAT
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I am surprised the tech would say he does his own specs as the alignment rack should be computer-based and give a range of camber, caster and toe. But I guess depending on what he thinks is best, then it may be all right. Still kind of weird a shop not just go with the alignment computer.
I am not surprised. In fact there are "speed" shops they cater to to owners that members of IMSA, and the alignment tech will dial-in to what he thinks and/or what the owner thinks is a good alignment.

For example on the Forester stock has a mild amount of rear toe-in and 0 toe for the front. But on this board, the unofficial alignment is for 0 toe all the way around.
 

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2009 FXT and 2006 WRX wagon
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395 Posts
Well, what you said makes sense. Catering to what the car owner wants for his specs is good service. That's what I do when I go in for an alignment. But I'm not talking about that.

Peter said this particular shop is doing their own personal (tech) spec for cars and perhaps not even adjusting after owner said they want X. Bottom line is every manufacturer has certain specs but I am sure if you overlap the oem specs, there is a defined common smaller range. As long as that tech's personal (sketchy) spec falls within this then I guess it's fine.
 

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My '14 required alignments all the time. My friend says it was the cheap Chinese steel Subaru uses. That I don't know about, but if so then they switched brands of steel because my '21 has been rock solid.
 

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2006 Forester 5-speed manual
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390 Posts
That's almost got to be the statement of some kind of bigot...

Chinese steel or Korean steel or Japanese steel, who can tell? On one forum we were told by someone that French steel was prone to rust. He'd been searching online and found that only low-grade iron was being mined in France. I can't see how that would matter as it would likely come down to what they import and how they refine it.
 

· Super Moderator
2001 Forester S, 4EAT
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My '14 required alignments all the time. My friend says it was the cheap Chinese steel Subaru uses. That I don't know about, but if so then they switched brands of steel because my '21 has been rock solid.
How are you determining the 2014 needed more alignment vs the 2021?
 
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