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Subaru Forester Problems

Are you having problems with your Subaru Forester? Let our team of motoring experts keep you up to date with all of the latest Subaru Forester issues & faults. We have gathered all of the most frequently asked questions and problems relating to the Subaru Forester in one spot to help you decide if it's a smart buy.

Is it worthwhile using premium fuel in an engine that doesn't need it?

The short answer is no, the extra cost is not justified in a vehicle that does not require premium unleaded. While some premium fuel products do contain detergents to help keep an engine internally clean (which is the basis of the claim you heard) the major difference (and the reason PULP costs more) is to do with the octane rating of the fuel.

Put simply, engines in a higher state of tune require this higher octane rating to produce their potential and well as avoiding internal damage. Your Subaru, meanwhile, is tuned to be quite happy on standard 91 RON ULP, and filling it with the more expensive premium brew is a waste of money. You might gain a small improvement in performance and/or economy, but not enough to offset the higher per-litre price of PULP, and probably not enough to even notice.

Is my 2021 Subaru Forester Sport classed as Luxury?

Technically, as far as local car-industry definitions go, your car is a member of the light commercial class of cars, and in the medium SUV sub-category. Whether you think it's a luxury car is up to you and will largely depend on your expectations and previous experiences.

Luxury is a tricky thing to define and as cars gain more and more standard equipment and refinement with each passing year, what passed for luxury a few years ago might now be considered a run-of-the-mill vehicle. There was a time when velour trim and intermittent windscreen wipers were the preserve of luxury cars, but that won't cut it these days when the cheapest cars have those things and much more as standard.

What's a good hybrid car to buy?

The default purchase for somebody looking for a mid-sized hybrid SUV is the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. But if that鈥檚 too big, there鈥檚 the Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid, C-HR Hybrid and even the Corolla Cross Hybrid which sounds like the marketplace is getting crowded but is really just a reflection of the appetite right now for cars like these. And that鈥檚 the catch; the waiting times for a brand-new example of some of these cars is out to many months and even years. So your plan to shop second-hand makes plenty of sense, but don鈥檛 expect any bargains in a market currently being dominated by lots of demand and less supply.

Beyond the Toyota brand (which has been doing hybrids longer than just about anybody else) there鈥檚 also the Mazda CX-30, Subaru XV Hybrid, Haval Jolion Hybrid, Kia Niro, Subaru Forester Hybrid, Nissan Qashqai e-Power, MG HS, Honda HR-V e and more. For something a bit bigger, try the Kia Sorento or Hyundai Santa Fe hybrids. There are others out there, too, that are probably bigger or more expensive than you need, but it's very much a growing scene in the Australian marketplace.

What options do I have after my 1998 Subaru Forester suffered loss of power?

Okay, let's tackle your questions one by one. The advice you've been given by two repairers doesn't really gel. For a start, you have a mechanic telling you it's an electrical problem, and an electrician telling you it's a mechanical problem. Sounds like neither of them know what's up here. There's a big difference between an engine that has no spark and an engine that needs a complete rebuild, in both dollar and effort terms, so you need to get an independent assessment of what's really wrong with the thing and go from there. If, for instance, it's a simple case of needing new spark plugs or coils, then it's worth fixing. If the engine is indeed toast, then a new one is probably going to cost more than the value of the entire car.

Which brings us to your second question. Given that a 1998 Forester is probably a $3000 to $5000 car in good working order, you're not sitting on a gold-mine. While you could potentially make more by wrecking the car and selling it in pieces, you have the hassle of physically separating the car and selling it piece by piece with cleaning, packaging and mailing the parts one by one. Then there's the fielding of hundreds of emails and phone calls, not to mention the hassle of having a dead car in your driveway for as long as it takes to sell all the bits. Even then, you'll eventually have to have the carcass taken away. The alternative is to sell the car to a wrecking yard to handle that side of things, but you'll be lucky to be offered more than a few hundred dollars to have the car picked up and removed.

The option, to answer your third question, would be to have the car electronically scanned, find out precisely what's wrong with it and make an informed decision from there. If the thing is fixable, great. But if it needs a new engine, it might be time to think about a replacement car as spending thousands on a 25-year-old car that will certainly be showing wear in other areas, doesn't really stack up.

Does my 2012 Subaru Forester have a timing belt or timing chain?

Subaru's EE20 diel engine is an interesting one as it was claimed to be the world's first turbo-diesel engine with Subaru's trademark boxer layout (where the cylinders run in pairs, opposed to each other (like an air-cooled Volkswagen).

The brand has switched from timing belts to timing chains and back at various points in its engineering history, but the EE20 in your car is from the point in history where timing chains were in vogue at Subaru. As such, the timing chain should last the life of the engine and not require periodic replacement as a timing belt does.

What type of oil should I put in my 2022 Subaru Forester petrol engine?

The recommendation from the trade is to use a fully synthetic 0W20 or 5W30 grade oil. As the grade suggests, this is quite thin oil, but it allows the oil to flow easily when it's cold and, therefore, reduce wear. Modern engines like the Subaru's have many intricate, tiny oilways associated with the variable vale timing mechanisms, so a thinner, easier-flowing oil is often what's needed.

The flip-side is that modern engines with low-tension piston rings (for better fuel economy) are apt to drink a little oil between oil-changes. So you need to keep an eye on the oil level on the dipstick to avoid running the engine low on oil. This isn't a Subaru-specific thing, but applies to many modern engine designs. What you'll spend on oil will be more than offset by the fuel savings a modern engine can provide.

How do I improve the door/inside security of my 2006 Forester?

The experience over the decades has been that the more you do to make a car secure, the more damage the bad guys will do to it in the name of gaining access. Making the door locks harder to remove will lead to the crooks using a bigger screwdriver to pop the locks out, or simply lead them to smash a window if they really want to get inside. When cars were easy to steal without the key, many did, in fact, disappear overnight. But now the coded ignition key is required, many car thefts now begin with an aggravated burglary so the thieves can get hold of that key, terrorising the owners in the process. It's a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless.

The best advice is to park the car somewhere secure or at least under a light source (a street light can make all the difference). And, of course, never leave anything you value inside the car. That's not always easy, but, again, it's a fact of life.

Why is the battery in my 2021 Subaru Forester going flat and how do I fix it?

A: If the reason the battery is going flat has anything to do with a fault within the rest of the car, then yes, I would imagine the problem 鈥 and the subsequent battery replacement if the battery is damaged 鈥 would be a warranty issue. The body computer in modern cars can do curious things with the electrical systems and accessories fitted, and that can sometimes result in a flat battery.

Subaru is not the only brand with this problem, but flat batteries caused by it are definitely not the sort of statutory wear and tear issues that normally exclude a battery from any warranty claims. It would be the same with tyres, brakes and clutches. Normally, when these components wear out its deemed normal wear and tear and is not covered by the car鈥檚 warranty. But if a tyre, clutch or braking system fails because of a manufacturing or materials fault, then the new-car warranty should cover it.

Does the Subaru Forester's 'boxer' engine feature a timing belt or a chain-driven set-up?

Disassemble the engine of the popular SUV, and you might find either a Subaru Forester timing belt or chain driving the valve-gear of the four-cylinder boxer. That鈥檚 because the Forester has been with us long enough to have spanned two distinct generations of Subaru engines, the first with a timing belt, the second with a timing chain set-up.

Going back all the way to 1997 when the Forester was launched here, the vehicle used Subaru鈥檚 EJ series of engines. That meant they were fitted with a rubber timing belt. That continued right through to the new model in 2008, but for the facelift of that third-gen Forester in 2011, Subaru introduced the FB series of engines, and those were fitted with a timing chain. Simply, then, a 1997 to 2011 Forester will have a timing belt, while any of the fourth-gen Foresters (from 2013 or later) will have a timing chain. And for a brief period from 2011 to 2012, the Forester was fitted with either a timing belt or a timing chain depending on which engine was fitted. The other exception is the turbo-diesel Forester which launched in 2008 and used a timing chain rather than a rubber belt.

Subaru鈥檚 factory recommendation for timing belt replacement is every 100,000km for Foresters built from 1997 to 2006, and 125,000km for post-06 models. You also need to change the tensioners at this point as these are the most common culprits for timing-belt failures. Budget on spending the thick end of $1000 for this work. The good news is that, unlike the majority of cars out there, the trade reckons you only need to replace the water pump every second timing-belt change. That鈥檚 a remarkable vote of confidence in the basic engine鈥檚 durability.

Meantime, the task of the timing chain or timing belt is exactly the same: They take drive from the engine鈥檚 crankshaft to the camshaft and, in the process, keep all the moving parts in harmony. Many car makers moved away from a timing chain to the rubber, toothed drive belt as a way of simplifying engine design and driving down the cost of each engine. The rubber timing belt is also quieter in its operation and is also less prone to stretching (as a timing chain can) so the camshaft (commonly referred to as the cam) stays in perfect synch with the rest of the engine鈥檚 rotating parts. The rubber belt is a simpler design because it doesn鈥檛 need to be tensioned via oil pressure from the engine as many timing chain systems are.

The timing chain, meanwhile, is preferred by some manufacturers because it should last the lifetime of the engine and never need replacement. This isn鈥檛 always the case, however, and some engines designs from a variety of manufacturers suffer problems in this regard. But, in a properly maintained engine of sound design, the timing chain should never need attention, while the rubber timing belt generally requires periodic replacement.

Need to change the oil on my Subaru Forester, but want to know the right type and the best way to go about it

A Subaru Forester engine oil change is a great way to start to learn about DIY maintenance and save yourself some money by performing an oil change service at home. Precisely how to change oil on a Subaru Forester is far from a trade secret and essentially involves removing the old oil, fitting a replacement oil filter of the right type and size and then replenishing the engine oil. Okay, it鈥檚 not quite that simple, and you need to take into account disposing of the old oil as well as learning the correct tightening specifications for the sump plug and filter. But this is a job that the typical mechanic at a service centre would tackle every day and earn their bread and butter income from. And that鈥檚 money you can save at home. Bear in mind, though, that this is not the only maintenance job a Forester requires, but it鈥檚 the most common one.

The other issue is knowing when to tackle your Subaru Forester oil change as well as how often to change oil as time and kilometres go by. Waiting for the maintenance light to appear on the dashboard can leave things too long, and you鈥檙e much better off learning the correct service interval. This information will be listed in the owner鈥檚 manual.

The best Subaru Forester oil type is the one recommended by the manufacturer, and in that case, the petrol and diesel versions of the Forester need a 5W40 and a diesel-specific 5W30 respectively. That applies for cars made from 2008 to 2012 and includes the new 2.5-litre petrol engine introduced with a facelift in very late 2010. The same grade of oil is also specified for the engines fitted to 2013 and 2014 models, while a 5W30 is also the correct oil for the revised diesel engine introduced in 2015 which continued through 2016 and beyond to the end of that model in 2018. Foresters with petrol engines have a 4.8 litre oil capacity, while the diesel engines require almost six litres of oil, so make sure you buy enough as well as a little for top ups in the future.

You should also fit the correct Subaru oil filter when ever you change the engine oil and, for the majority of petrol engined Foresters from this era, the proper filter is a Ryco (or equivalent) Z436, while the turbo-diesel engine requires a Ryco Z148A. Any spare parts store should be able to provide these filters and confirm the correct fitment.

Disclaimer: You acknowledge and agree that all answers are provided as a general guide only and should not be relied upon as bespoke advice. Carsguide is not liable for the accuracy of any information provided in the answers.
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