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2004 2.5 X
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm the Michigan owner of a 2004 Forester X manual with a manual transmission, 161,000 miles. I just purchased another Subaru (Outback) and decided to privately sell my trusty old Forester. I took it to my mechanic to get an overall look at the mechanical health of the vehicle, although it's been running well for quite awhile.
His verdict gave me a shock. He said the subframe assembly on the passenger side was rusted through, and the subframe on the driver's side was not far behind. He advised me not to drive the vehicle, much less sell it. He said that a repair was more or less out of the question due to likely deterioration of the bolts holding the subframe assemblies in place and adjacent rust.

My mechanic said a local bump & collision shop might take on the job, but he also suggested that the chances of a successful repair at a reasonable price (<$1700) were slim. I called a local collision shop with a good reputation and they weren't interested in taking on the job.
The rest of the car is in pretty good shape both interior and exterior. There is some light rust on the front of the rear fender well.

The truth is I really like this old car, it's been a good ride and aside from the rust I think it's got a good many miles left. It would be a shame to ship it off to the junkyard so my questions are pretty simple. First, are these subframe problems due to rust generally terminal problems for a Forester, and second, what advice if any would you give for a logical next step.

Thanks in advance for any relevant comments.
 

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I hate to agree with your mechanic but severe problems with the structure rarely are worth fixing. Even with truly vintage cars you have to be practical about issue like this. When you see this much rust and rot on a classic vehicle, it would be really expensive and frustrating to work on. You walk away and get one from a non-rust state, unless it is a really rare vehicle. I know about this sort of issue, believe me.
An 04 Forester isn't a rare classic vehicle. Don't do it.
If you decide to fix this, it will never be worth as much as you put in. Also, the rust you see isn't all the rust present. So they'll find more stuff that needs replacing. It will be the very definition of a money pit.

One logical step would be to sell it for parts, should you need the money.
Edit: you could get a second opinion but you have to wonder why the first mechanic said what he did. Did he have anything to gain?
 

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1999 A/T - 235,000 mi. WA state
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The truth is I really like this old car, it's been a good ride and aside from the rust I think it's got a good many miles left. It would be a shame to ship it off to the junkyard ... and second, what advice if any would you give for a logical next step.
You shouldn't sell it. You know the condition, so maybe, maybe keep it as a second vehicle for your own use for as long as you feel comfortable driving it. And if you ever have to visit a town with vandalism problems, you have just the car to take.
 
2017 2.5i Fozy CVT
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I agree, the wheels haven't fallen off yet. Remove the back seat and turn it into a haul vehicle for trips to Home Cheepo, local nursery,estate sale scrounging, moving van.
 

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Just be sure to paint that loading area with roofing tar. You wouldn't want the moisture to cause rust.

Edit: How about buying a helmet, moving your radiator to the top of the car and entering a demolition derby?
 

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2019 Forester Sport Lineartronic® CVT
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We had a '84 hatchback 4WD, 1800, 4 spd, 2 spd transfer case, we bought in 1986, my wife used it as a drive to work car, and we took it to a few NASCAR events, it was always great in tight parking in dirt or muddy fields. It had near 180,xxx miles I think by 2005 …. a buddy needed a cheaper ride for commuting than his 460 / F250, I knew the Subaru had a lot of rust under it, so I told him he could have it as I wanted to get my wife something safer and I was afraid the termites would quit holding hands one day, he insisted that I let him pay me for the 4 new tires I had put on, so I did. I showed him the rust. He drove it back to & from SW Va. a lot, then he transferred back near his family after a year or less and his wife adopted it.

He took it hunting one day, and as he came out of woods across a ditch into roadway, the passenger floor dropped on three sides with his dad sitting there. No injury, but it was north of 200,xxx then. Still had OEM alternator, …. AC parts and charge even, I had changed spark plugs, several sets CV boots, a distributor, oil, filters, and put a aftermarket kit with cat converter on it years earlier. Clutch always chattered if you eased out too slow. Wife loved the hillholder. .

When he called me one day to tell me about the floor, I told him to get two roadside signs and use post for subframe connectors and the signs for floors. It was a joke between us troopers. He found a BRAT in a junkyard that was still whole but had a blown engine, so he swapped engines. I think he got a couple more years out of it.
 

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2007 Forester Sports XT 4EAT
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@CrystalPistol Great story. Some cars never die, the owners just give up.
That is true! I haven't given up on our '95 Neon Sport! We have it parked under our backyard patio cover right now till next summer. I never thought that's why I had that patio cover installed with a center beam to leave the entire center (20'x20') clear... for the Neon! LOL!

Little is any rusting in our part of the country, as the roads are not salted in the winter, just sanded. The only issue on our Neon is the :poop: paint they used back when they switched to lower VOC paints.

Bobby...

['07 FSXT Member Journal] ['03 X Member Journal]
 
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2004 2.5 X
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I hate to agree with your mechanic but severe problems with the structure rarely are worth fixing. Even with truly vintage cars you have to be practical about issue like this. When you see this much rust and rot on a classic vehicle, it would be really expensive and frustrating to work on. You walk away and get one from a non-rust state, unless it is a really rare vehicle. I know about this sort of issue, believe me.
Thank you for an excellent answer. I don't have any reason to doubt the mechanic, he had no conceivable reason to deliver a skewed opinion. He's always been conservative and accurate in my past encounters with him.
So you deliver an articulate version of the only rational path forward. Losing the resale value is not a big deal.
I just hate to see a good car brought low by something stupid like frame rust.
But I live in Michigan, you'd think I know better.
 

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I just hate to see a good car brought low by something stupid like frame rust.
But I live in Michigan, you'd think I know better.
Oh, I'm with you. Many talk about being worried about things like environment but change their cars every four years. I have underwear older than that. I like keeping mine as long as I can maintain them and they are safe (ie. both underwear and cars).
Keeping your car as long as you can just makes sense for both your finances and the environment.

By the same token, you have to be practical. Rot can make a car unsafe and unpredictable. You don't want someone to get hurt, just so you get another 50K out of a car.

You could roll it onto a ramp, jack the rear up and put those wheels on blocks. Then go under the car, poke around with an awl and don't be gentle. If you can poke through anything other than the known bad frame rail you may be able to replace, I'd let it go..

.. by putting on a helmet and entering a demolition derby. :)
 

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2012 Forester X Auto
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@patmur
The problem with keeping it as a hauler is that if (when) your suspension breaks loose from the frame, you will lose control of the car with a wreck very likely.
I think that's why the mechanic told you not to sell it, because a car in that condition is literally too dangerous to drive or to sell to an unsuspecting purchaser.
If the car is in otherwise good shape, you could part the car out - There are likely lots of parts that could be used in other cars that don't have terminal cancer.
Engine, transmission, differential, Interior, radio, door panels, glass, seats.. etc.. Basically anything you can unbolt.
Sell everything you can and then get a few bucks for what is left at a junkyard, which many places will pick up for free if what is left still rolls.
If you don't have the time, storage location, inclination or ability to sell parts, sell the car whole as a parts car.
 

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2003 XS 4EAT
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My '03 was part of a recall for sub frame rusting. When I took it to the dealer, I said " if you have to replace parts on my vehicle, I'll make an appointment and bring it back." He said " if we determine your vehicle needs repair, we're keeping it. You can pick it up later as it's unsafe to drive". So listen to the advice above.
 

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So you want to fix it to sell it? The mechanic you trust tells you to scrap it so why ask on here we can’t see how bad it is, like other people said take the engine etc out & have them pick up the rest, you might have to pay to have them pick it up unless a scrapper will take it some where! I only got a c note for a 1999 Chrysler POS concorde & it had a good engine transmission etc
 

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I'm the Michigan owner of a 2004 Forester X manual with a manual transmission, 161,000 miles. I just purchased another Subaru (Outback) and decided to privately sell my trusty old Forester. I took it to my mechanic to get an overall look at the mechanical health of the vehicle, although it's been running well for quite awhile.
His verdict gave me a shock. He said the subframe assembly on the passenger side was rusted through, and the subframe on the driver's side was not far behind. He advised me not to drive the vehicle, much less sell it. He said that a repair was more or less out of the question due to likely deterioration of the bolts holding the subframe assemblies in place and adjacent rust.

My mechanic said a local bump & collision shop might take on the job, but he also suggested that the chances of a successful repair at a reasonable price (<$1700) were slim. I called a local collision shop with a good reputation and they weren't interested in taking on the job.
The rest of the car is in pretty good shape both interior and exterior. There is some light rust on the front of the rear fender well.

The truth is I really like this old car, it's been a good ride and aside from the rust I think it's got a good many miles left. It would be a shame to ship it off to the junkyard so my questions are pretty simple. First, are these subframe problems due to rust generally terminal problems for a Forester, and second, what advice if any would you give for a logical next step.

Thanks in advance for any relevant comments.
Wait a sec. The front subframe assemblies are easily replaced. I can't recall what I paid for my daughter's maybe $262? each. The actual installation was simply socket wrench stuff, no challenge at all.
 

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Wait a sec. The front subframe assemblies are easily replaced. I can't recall what I paid for my daughter's maybe $262? each. The actual installation was simply socket wrench stuff, no challenge at all.
Yes, if that's all that's rusted, sure, but rust doesn't just affect subframes. It takes some serious chemistry to eat a hole through that gauge of steel.
When there's severe rust and rot on something as heavy gauge as a subframe, you walk away from the car because there's just way more rot you can't see. Learned this the hard way with vintage restorations.

If you're interested in keeping or buying a used car around here, you don't buy a car with rot. If rot doesn't show, poke the underside with an awl. If it goes through, you walk away. It isn't worth messing with. Gotta be practical.
 

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98 Forester
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>>>>>He said the subframe assembly on the passenger side was rusted through, and the subframe on the driver's side was not far behind. <<<
I own a 1998 Forester with 260,000 miles on it. I hear that word "subframe" a lot. Stupid question, but is that word synonymous with "cross member"? I guess I should look at my factory manual and find out what exactly a "subframe" is. Whatever it is, I don't think it's rusted, but I ought to know what it is, so I can verify that it isn't.
 

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2006 Forester 5-speed manual
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The rust is more likely to be where those frames bolt up to the welded structure...

There are captive nuts inside box-sections, they tend to get rusty and pull out of the body. Terrible waste, I know, but the only answer is to start with a decent body. Personally I would strip it out and discard the shell, get another car and you have a full set of spares.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I own a 1998 Forester with 260,000 miles on it. I hear that word "subframe" a lot. Stupid question, but is that word synonymous with "cross member"? I guess I should look at my factory manual and find out what exactly a "subframe" is. Whatever it is, I don't think it's rusted, but I ought to know what it is, so I can verify that it isn't.
I was in the same boat until recently. A best as I can figure from parts is that the subframe members are relatively thick steel parts that bolt on to the bottom of the vehicle uniframe. They give the uniframe added structural integrity and also sometimes serve as a place to anchor suspension pieces or other fundamental parts
 
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