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2003 Forester
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Discussion Starter #1
I'm about to purchase a 2003 Forester 2.5 X from ibyautohouse.com. (Apparently I can't post the url directly.) I took it for a test drive and it seems to run fine. Price is $7995. A friend of mine suggested I post here to see if there's anything I should be aware of if I buy this car.

Only thing I've noticed so far is the latch on the trunk is a bit sticky (you have to push the handle back into position before you can close it), and there's some noise coming from the wheels/bearings that the seller claims is from the breaks being rusty due to having not been drivin in a while. It has a 30 day warrantee, so in theory if there's really something wrong it would be fixed at dealer expense.

Anything that I should be aware of? Stuff to look for?

Thanks!
 

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2007 Forester Sports XT 4EAT
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I see this is your first post, so welcome to the forum from Oregon! :biggrin:

Here's your link. 2003 Subaru Forester 2.5X

The '03 models did have head gasket issues, but much less than the earlier models. This is something you'd want to keep in mind. Make sure it doesn't have early signs of the head gasket starting to fail. Our '03 X hasn't had a problem yet, but if it happens, it won't be entirely unexpected. :wink:

The hatch latch may be rusty & a good cleaning & lube should fix it. As to the wheel noise, best have a garage check that, if it bothers you. :smile:

Bobby...

My MODding Journal
 

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2003 Forester
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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the welcome! Do you know about when (in terms of milage) the head gaskets are likely to fail? What signs of failure should I be looking for?
 

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2008 XS 4EAT
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Are they offering you a Carfax report before you buy? That'll give you an indication how many drivers and any service reports that may be available to help with your buying decision.

The brakes when sitting for longer periods of time can accumulate rust and cause some noises when you apply the brakes, If the noise lessens after braking a few times then you could be OK.

If you notice the noise at all speeds then it is could likely be wheel bearings, not a common a fault on the SG models but it still happens. You can usually identify a bad bearing by listening as the car goes around a bend in the road, sometimes the noise will dissappear depending on a left or right turn, if the noise lessens on a bend then returns when the road straightens, then it likely points to a wheel bearing.

Head gaskets are also a concern on the 2.5 motor so do an inspection. Usually you can do this with a hand held mirror and flashlight. While the engine is cold, hold the mirror below the cylinder head height and shine the light into the mirror, you'll see the underside illuminated in the mirror. The common area for this to fail is on the drivers side, closest to the firewall for some reason(?)

See if they have some wiggle room in the price for some maintenance that should at least be considered. Subaru has a coolant conditioner that should be added when the rad is flushed, some of these small sales places are not aware of this it could help prevent head gasket leaks, remember I said could.. Also take a look at the tires, they should all be the same make and size, Subaru's AWD is finicky in this respect. Again a lot of these places are not going to change the differential fluids front and rear, and they should probably be done (on manuals the front is integrated).
See if they are willing to extend the warranty on the issues you've noted to let's say 60 days on potentially the brakes or wheel bearings, I'd hate to hear you need new brakes in 45 days because I'm sure you would be SOL.

The rear hatch handle is probably a little sticky from not being used. It's fairly simple to pop the inside trim off and lube the linkage, see if they will do it.

I hate to say that from looking at the website, it looks like they are interested in flipping the cars as fast as they can with minor prep. All your issues should be fixed if you are buying it from them. 30 days goes by pretty fast.

Good Luck and keep us posted.
 

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2003 Forester
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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the detailed reply good_dog. In response to some of your points:

1. I don't think they're offering Carfax but I will check tomorrow.

2. Wheel noise is only at higher speeds (30+MPH). From what I can tell, it's coming from the rear wheels but I can't tell if it's one side or the other. At low speeds there's nothing abnormal.

3. Unfortunately I think I'm past the point where there's wiggle room in the price, but good to know for next time :)

4. I believe the tires are all identical.

I've spent the last couple of days working out the loan I'll need on the car, but I think that's finally settled. I should be picking it up tomorrow. When I pick it up, I plan on finding out exactly how the dealer is going to cover any necessary repairs and what the limitations on the warrantee are.

My plan is to take it to a shop on Monday to have it looked out and find out about any other problems. I took my last Forester to Meineke in Portland Oregon, and there seems to be a Mieneke here in Rochester NY as well. For those of you in Rochester, is there another place you'd recommend?

good_dog has recommended that I have them look at the head gaskets. I plan to ask them to do a full checkup to find other general components that may need replacement; are there any other specific things I should be asking them to look at?

Thanks guys, really appreciate your help on this!
 

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2018 2.5i Premium CVT
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Welcome!

What's the mileage? The biggest and most significant item of scheduled maintenance in the life of a Subaru is to replace the timing belt and a few associated components at 105k miles. That could cost about $1000 if overdue or coming up real soon. It could cost big bucks if it doesn't get done and the belt breaks.

As for head gaskets, we haven't seen any real pattern in terms of mileage. Clearly the longer it goes the greater the possibility (with any car), but the reports we've gotten here are all over the map. As is the case with Bobby's 2003, mine is still doing fine at >160k miles.
 

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The rotor rust should go away pretty shortly if thats what it is... and i dont know that ive ever had that be a speed variable thing with any of my previous vehicles, only noticeable when breaking. I would get that checked out.
 

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factor in $2000 - $3000 on top of the car price
for head gasket and timing belt cost

I say $2000 to $3000 on top in the high side because - I pay every service at a dealer price :)

from the picture the car looks really good. so you may end up with something less than $1000 for major repair such as timing belt, clutch, brakes , bearings ?
 

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2003 Forester
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Discussion Starter #9
Guys thanks for the info. I finally got all the loans/insurance approved and took delivery of the vehicle today. The road noise problem turned out to be the tires that were on the vehicle. They were replaced with four new tires and the noise problem is completely gone. The dealer went 50/50 on me with this one so it cost $140 out of pocket for the tires.

The mileage is at 85115, so it looks like I should plan for the timing belt and whatnot at 105k miles. I'm going to take it to a shop on monday, but in my test drive and drive home, I didn't notice any obvious failures, like breaks squeaking, timing belt screaming, bearings grinding. The brake pads are probably a bit used but I can stop with them without difficulty. The clutch actually feels very good -- almost as nice as the new clutch I had put in the previous Forester.

I'll update again when I see the results from the shop on Monday.

Thanks!
 

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2003 Forester
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Discussion Starter #12
Had numerous opportunities to drive the car around today, was great! Seems a bit more peppy than my 2001 but I'm not sure by how much. (I think they both had 2.5L motors?)

Some things I like over the 2001:

- The stereo sounds much better, especially the bass.
- The keyless entry makes a beep when the car locks or unlocks that is loud enough to hear from a distance. Very satisfying :)
- The steering is much tighter.

So far a very happy buyer!

One thing I did notice is that the clutch bites a little hard when starting out, seems like it's got some wear on it. Anyone know after approximately how many miles the clutch usually needs servicing/replacement?

Thanks!
 
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