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2011 Forester 2.5X Premium
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Discussion Starter #1
Alright, I am going to start an owner's journal on here. Bought a very used (to the tune of 263k) 2011 X Premium. In decent condition, no oil leaks anywhere other than a tiny leak on one of the valve covers that even the "post-purchase inspection" almost missed. History isn't great - all the windows were broken multiple times throughout its life, had a major fender-bender (not quite rebuild-level) that required the front right bumper to have some serious cosmetic surgery. An all-BC car. Silver. No shots yet, I'll take some photos this weekend. The day I bought it we installed a 2" receiver as I have a small racing boat on a trailer that needs to not be parked for the rest of its life.

Immediate problems after I bought it are as follows, and are all being remediated tomorrow as a DIY day:
  • Passenger side front axle has a bad CV, needs replacing. Loud clock-tick around corners, severe oscillation during some acceleration.
  • Rear diff fluid is molasses or something like it. Change in order.
  • Passenger side door lock has a mind of its own. Diagnostic, repair, and hopefully not replacement in order. Seems like a sticky cable based on behaviour.
  • Front sway-bar links are suspected to be bad, but clunk might be coming from the horrendous CV. Doesn't seem consistent enough for a ball joint problem and they are only a year or two old (thanks to the front-end work).
  • Steering fluid is nasty, doing a full flush.
Things that still need to be done but aren't pressing:
  • Install interior lighting improvements: LED upgrades to the dome lights as they are, as everyone will agree, inadequate.
  • Install interior RGB footwell lighting because why the hell not.
  • Install a small inverter for 120V usage.
  • Jump the accessory relay to allow for windows to be rolled up and down after car is shut off. More research needed before I do that and accidentally drain my battery.
  • Replace the mismatched junky city slickers on it with the knobby winters it came with, keep two of the best summers on the steelies for full-sized spares.
  • Potentially tint the sunroof - I seriously cannot believe that Subaru didn't tint the thing. It's a greenhouse.
  • Get roof racks for the blasted thing. Kind of useless to have those rails and have no way to put anything on them.
 

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2011 Subaru Forester
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Why are you calling it a money pit? You are replacing one cv axle and sway bar links, and getting around to changing the fluids-- probably a good idea to change your coolant as well-- on a 9-year-old vehicle. I don't get it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Coolant was checked during the "post-purchase inspection," dealership said it was in good condition. The name is a joke because to me, all cars are money pits. I'm just glad to have a money pit that is fun now. I'm not sour about having to spend a couple of extra hundred dollars on a car that I got a decent deal on.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Alright... update on the repairs.
  • Front passenger CV/axle assembly replaced entirely. Super easy (almost too easy).
  • Front sway bar links replaced - eliminated every clunk... first time in my life that I've owned a car that doesn't clunk to any extent. More on that in the complaint about the dealership.
  • Door lock fixed - somehow the bead that joined the cable and the lock latch on the door handle fell out of its slot, resulting in the interior switch physically blocking the travel of the cable. No repair other than putting it back where it belonged.
  • Rear differential... was a huge lie. The Jim Pattison Subaru dealership in Victoria is really scummy... more on that later.
  • Power steering flushed and boy did it need it. The fluid in the reservoir looked more like used differential fluid than ATF. I was genuinely concerned I had bought the wrong stuff to replace it because of the colour.
So about the dealership... I will never be going back to Jim Pattison Subaru Victoria again. I took my car in for their "140 point inspection" that would generally be used for pre-purchase, but I did it post-purchase because this car was a deal regardless of what medium fixes were needed. I told them my suspicion of the failed CV in the front. I told them about the clunk, which sounded like two bricks of steel ramming into each other whenever I hit an asymmetrical bump.

They found that every indicator bulb on the front was burned out, that the power steering fluid was bad, that the transmission fluid needed to be flushed, the differential fluid in both diffs was molasses, a CV was bad (not specified which one), and a tiny oil leak around the valve cover.

I already knew about the oil leak. Indicator bulbs were a surprise but they were correct. Power steering fluid was garbage as mentioned. ATF? Brand new, less than two months old. Looked like strawberry syrup. Diff oil? Brand new, less than two months old, looked like honey.

What they failed to tell me was that my door latch didn't work, and that they broke my glove box dampener and didn't even put on the inspection that it was damaged despite leaving the busted part in the glove box that had been empty when I arrived at the dealership.

On a completely different and less whiney note, not all the vibration is gone. I'm going to get the wheels balanced and a full alignment since it pulls a bit to the right, but I suspect a second CV is bad because it still vibrates under heavy acceleration (and by "vibrates" I mean "feels like it would throw your cup out of the cup holder"). I hope it's not the bearing, that's not something I can do myself.
 

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Good stuff. Sounds like we have the same car bought at the same high mileage for a very low price. Got my Limited for $3500 last October. Its got a slight engine leak but nothing that drips on the driveway and that has lessened since switching to 5w30 high mileage synthetic oil. Power steering fluid was bad but after 3 sucks and fills-- fluid is much better and no leaks and steering is fine. Transmission oil was old and needed a drain and fill--will do a second in a week or so, but runs great. I have replaced the PCV valve and its hose, cleaned the MAF and the throttle body, and replaced the serpentine belt as maintenance. The only really non-maintenance thing to date was replacing the radiator which was starting to fail where the aluminum meets the plastic. Though I did change the head unit and install a backup camera
Like you, I have to replace a failing cv axle but on the driver's side. Occasional clunk on a left turn at low speed, and a tiny hole in the outer boot. Just waiting for the heat to die down and plan to do it in the next few days. Glad to hear it went easily. I also have to replace the front and rear diff gear oil. I am curious if you replaced the shaft seal when you replaced the axle?
On mine, the driver's side front speaker was not working when I bought it. Turned out to be a disconnected speaker wire. A very easy fix.
I have not had to change a bearing on mine yet but I am happy that if I do I don't have to have them pressed in, and that on this generation the bearing assemblies are bolted in. From what I can tell, maintaining and repairing a third-gen Forester should be easier than earlier ones. I hope you can track down the vibration and that it's an inexpensive fix. Good luck with it.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I have not had to change a bearing on mine yet but I am happy that if I do I don't have to have them pressed in, and that on this generation the bearing assemblies are bolted in. From what I can tell, maintaining and repairing a third-gen Forester should be easier than earlier ones.
Wow, that is a good price. No seals replaced - not a single hint of a leak anywhere on this thing other than the valve cover, and it's small. I had no idea the bearings are bolt on - i still haven't got my hands on a shop manual. Since that's the only other thing that could be causing this kind of oscillation, I'll have to check it out since I now know that I could do it myself. Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Okay, well really bad news. Driving out to my first hike in this car, driving up a hill on the highway, oscillation hit hard and the ABS/Dynamics lights came on. Pulled over, restarted engine, they were gone. The next time we got up to highway speed, three things happened:
  • Check engine light came on.
  • Cruise control light began flashing, cruise disabled.
  • AT Oil Temp light came on, accompanied by loud constant beeeeeeep from under the hood.
Immediately pulled over and shut the car off. Restarted car, AT Oil light is now gone. Checked fluid level, seemed fine, looked okay, didn't smell burned. Drove up and down the side road I pulled onto a few times, never getting about 60km/h. Even floored it a few times, accelerating hard. Nothing new, but Check Engine and Cruise still on.

Drove back onto the highway cautiously, the moment I got above about 80km/h, AT Oil Temp light came back on, so I pulled right back over. Repeated my diagnostic, and decided to turn around and head home on backroads so I could drive slow. No more AT Oil Temp lights by keeping it under 75km/h all the way home, engine light and cruise still on. Going to do an OBD read to see what comes up. Yes, I already tried the gas cap.
 

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Sahuarita, Arizona USA 2018 Forester Limited
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Wonder if your valve cover leak could also include a spark plug tube and be throwing a misfire code? Happened once to my high-mileage 2010.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Wonder if your valve cover leak could also include a spark plug tube and be throwing a misfire code? Happened once to my high-mileage 2010.
No misfire code on the ODBII. P0700/P0741 only, which is transmission related (solenoid for the torque converter valve).
 

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Discussion Starter #11
You may already know this but anytime the CEL comes on the Cruise will be disabled and flash. Learned this after some research when the CEL and Cruise came on in my MY13 2.5XT.
Ran into that. Seems incredibly dumb. Lots of good decisions on this car, lots of weird ones, a few dumb ones. I'm getting less and less thrilled the more I find is wrong with this thing... not because it's a Subaru, but because both the guy who sold it to me and the dealership outright lied to my face on several occasions.
 

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That is a shame. I have not read much about this gen Forester having transmission issues. I thought that perhaps it was linked to the recent cv axle replacement and that either the part was bad or there was an install error such as damaging the abs sensor wire. This seems more major and its a bit disturbing that someone saw fit to change the transmission fluid prior to dumping the car. I hope you can get it figured out and that it is not too expensive. I am worried you have brought on bad karma by calling it a money pit, and now it actually wants to be one. I tell mine she is a good car. What is curious is why the forester in my mind is female whereas my previous Nissan X trail was male, but that is another matter entirely. Good luck with yours.
Here is a discussion of something similar and there is a suggestion
''Sounds like lost pressure at front inner seal of tranny. Start by draining ATF and refilling with 3.5qts. Wait to circulate by shifting manually a few times, then check dipstick. If still dirty (black or gray) redrain and refill with 3.5 qts again. THEN add a bottle of transmission SEAL CONDITIONER to ATF and try to drive normallly. If you're lucky the front seal with expand and hold pressure, allowing normal launches and upshifts. Monitor and erase CELs as necessary along the way. If clean and conditioned ATF doesn't do the trick it's easier to chase a used 4EAT trans than to repair if successfully...trust me. Good luck.''
Subaru Outback Questions - My Limp Mode question - CarGurus

or this discussion might be of use-- and brings up the issue of a sensor malfunction that you might be able to replace
 

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There is also the possibility that the PO put general ATF instead of Subaru Type HP atf (also available as Idumitsu ATF type HP from Napa for cheap) which can lead to some problems in the transmission. It might be worth it to change the fluid to OEM type and see if that helps at all, would advise against flushing, look at unhooking return line and draining from that as you fill with fresh ATF to get all the old kind out
 

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Also possible that Infinorth's code reader is not sophisticated enough to detect the transmission specific codes, and maybe there is additional info to figure out the issue.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
There is also the possibility that the PO put general ATF instead of Subaru Type HP atf (also available as Idumitsu ATF type HP from Napa for cheap)
Is there any way of confirming this? The transmission fluid doesn't smell burnt at all - I compared it to the smell of brand new (admittedly Dexron 3 from steering) fluid and it smelled the exact same in terms of fluid condition. I can't find anywhere locally that sells Subaru HP or Idemitsu HP for any price, I have to order only for something like $75 a quart or send it to the dealership where they scam you $200 for a transmission fluid change.

Also possible that Infinorth's code reader is not sophisticated enough to detect the transmission specific codes, and maybe there is additional info to figure out the issue.
You're absolutely right, my code reader is a $30 eBay piece of junk that reads engine codes and that's it. It does, however, consistently return a P0741. The P0700 was only cropping up during the one drive where I was getting the AT OIL light.

As an update, my car does not shift into overdrive at all. It hangs on 4 and I can confirm this by getting it up to highway speed, then shifting into sport mode 4 and seeing absolutely no change in RPM.
 

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I used Castrol Transmax Full Synthetic for my drain and fill. Castrol lists Subaru in its application guide. I have zero issues using their products and you can buy it at Canadian Tire. My transmission fluid was old and brownish but with no signs of burning. Shifts smoother with the Castrol. I will be doing another drain and fill in a couple of hundred kms.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Alright, so to those who were questioning whether this should be called the "High Mileage Money Pit," it's official: the torque converter is bad and needs to be replaced.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
...and now the serpentine has to go... it just gets better and better... On a lighter note, I took it to a more reputable establishment than the absolute scam-center of a dealership here and they actually did a proper transmission diagnostic and walked through the diagnostic tree with me. The good news is that it may simply be a wiring harness and a single sensor. The bad news is that it's not cheap, but good news is that it's a heck of a lot cheaper than replacing the TC or the entire transmission. The potentially bad news is that if that's replaced and the problem doesn't go away, there's potentially a problem with the TCM which is really really really really pricey.

As an unrelated side note, Subaru engines are noisy. When I first started driving this thing, the engine noise made me think there was something wrong with it. Since then I've been paying attention to other Subarus new and old going by... and they're just way mechanically louder than any other cars on the road.
 

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I know what you mean about the engine, it can sound rough at startup. I only recently learned that mine has a PZEV engine, and that they are programmed to rev at 1500+ when cold to get to temp faster. Its also programmed to idle as low as possible. I have been thinking mine idles too low, but it seems to be the nature of the beast. Cleaning the throttle body with some throttle body cleaner spray was beneficial. Idle is more stable, and the slight hesitation in acceleration is gone.
Changing the serpentine belt isn't so bad and unlike a lot of vehicles its right in front rather than hidden.

With regards to the transmission, I am wondering if the fact that its an older design, means that the same one was used in earlier Foresters and possibly other Subaru models and that it might give you the opportunity to find the pricey parts used. It's rare to have an issue with the transmission control module. You might be able to find one at a pick and pull yard, but you will need to research compatibility.
 
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