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2009 Forester X 4-speed Auto
6 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all, so I have been looking for a nice, cheap Forester/Outback for my girlfriend. I want it to last 5+ years, but not necessarily any longer (it will get driven only 6-8k miles per year).

A good friend had a niece looking to sell her 02 Forester (NA), and I thought this could be my lucky day. I went to look at it, and it was beautiful. 148k miles, clean interior, exterior, clean engine--not only no head gasket leaks, no leaking of any kind at all--cleanest 10+ yr old Subaru engine I've ever seen--matching tires with plenty of tread, no suspension/drivetrain damage or wear, no rust, AND she was asking for just $2,000!

I was getting really excited, and then ran into some problems. The owner (niece of good friend), clearly didn't care or know anything about cars. That was fine--I was prepared to insist on paying more than 2k if the car was worth it--and I have changed Subaru head gaskets and timing belts before so I knew what to look for to make sure those were done (head gaskets were done, timing was unclear, but I'd change that anyway for peace of mind, as she had no idea what work had been done).

BUT the problem with her not knowing or caring about the car is of course that she didn't stay on top of regular maintenance. I know this because 1) the coolant was just below the Min line in the reservoir, and 2) the oil was low. TWO QUARTS low.

Yeah. So I used my just-in-case oil to top her off, and turned the car on. Sounded fine, drove really well. Then I checked for blow-by.

SO. Now I have to decide if it's worth it. I don't know a lot about piston rings, which is why I'm posting here. Should I buy this car, given the above? From what I've seen, I think it's still worth 2k, but I want a reliable car more than I want a cheap one, and though it's only had 2 owners (we think), the most recent one didn't seem to take care of it.


02 Forester (NA), 148k miles:
PROS: incredible condition, no rust, new head gaskets, drives very well, owned by family friend, asking price is just $2000
CONS: 2 quarts of oil low, and a lot of blow-by (video link above).
Should I buy it, given I want it to last 5+ years?

2012 Forester X Auto
2,961 Posts
@[LEFT][B][SIZE=16px][FONT=Helvetica Neue][COLOR=rgb(0, 95, 217)]TDH1[/COLOR][/FONT][/SIZE][/B][/LEFT]
The oil cap thing happens on every Subie and it doesn't indicate a problem.
Some bozo on the web "discovered" this feature and spread his lack of knowledge... apparently to you.
It isn't blow-by (combustion getting past the rings) it is the internal crankcase pressure variations from piston movement in the bottom end that cause the dancing cap syndrome.
The reason that happens in the Subie is because it's a boxer, with the oil fill right above the crankcase.
Go take a test drive and you will see that a new one will do the same thing.

The coolant level is only an issue if the tank is empty, and just below minimum is not a critical thing.
You actually don't need to add coolant until it is below the min level on the overflow.
2 quarts low isn't a problem either, though not recommended, but the fact that she would not monitor the car could be.
When was the oil last changed? What does it look like? What about the other fluids?
Even if all of these could use changing, unless there was damage done, all you have pointed out are some minor maintenance issues, and it's always a good idea to start with fresh fluids when you buy a used car.

With any 17 year old car, you can have problems, but you haven't pointed out anything at all serious.

I would never tell someone what to do, as that is their choice, not mine, but I would buy the car based on your description. It sounds like a good deal.

1999 A/T - 235,000 mi. WA state
991 Posts
Heck of a deal. and you're mechanically capable; so this should be your GF's new car. Surely will last your 50K miles.
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