3

I’m a young woman wondering if my mechanics are taking advantage of me. Here’s the backstory:

New Subaru owner here, living in western washington. I bought my Subaru Impreza for $4k with 143k miles on it in Texas in April, had two mechanics say I had a solid engine, and specifically asked about leaks. Responses were positive. I began the drive north to Washington and 300 miles in got an “at oil temp” light (solid color, no flash). Pulled over, ended up towing it 80 miles (it’s west Texas, afterall) to the nearest Subaru dealer. Pricey tow.

Mechanic notes: “verified concern, Found a vehicle to need a valve body. Recommend replacing valve body and completing a transmission relearn. Replaced valve body, performed transmission relearn, test drove, all repairs complete at this time”. Cost was $2099.19.

Flash forward 4 days and 2000 miles, subaru and I arrive home in washington. As I pull into my street, no joke(!), oil light comes on. I cool the engine and check oil level, low. I take Subaru to my town’s Subaru dealer. They perform oil change, say that was cause of the light. It HAD been close to 4.5k miles since the previous owner changed oil, so I let them tell me that was the issue. They looked under the car, assured me everything was dry.

The car has been running very well since, until a few days back, when I got the oil symbol again, this time a few hours from home. It has only been 2k miles and ~2 months since that oil change. So I Cool engine down, check oil level. Low.

Drive 4 miles to yet another Subaru dealership. They listen to this story, and do an inspection and oil top off (which was really a refill because it was so low). No cost.

This is what they had to tell me, and what brings me here today:

They said my timing cover gasket was leaking, my control arm bushings were cracked, and my driver side head gasket needed replaced due to “seeping”. They took a video under the car and showed me the places of concern. Then quoted me $4000 for the repairs.

So my questions are:

Could the first four (!) mechanics have really missed these leaks, or were they waiting for them to get worse with the hope I would return for service?

Will these repairs REALLY cost that much? Could they be done cheaper? If so, how?

How soon do they need to be done, assuming I monitor the oil level and don’t let it drop too low?

I can’t afford to put more than $1000 into the car, maaaaybe $1500 in the next 6 months. If the repairs can‘t be done cheaply, I probably need to sell the car.

What are your thoughts on what I should do? I need a car that won’t continue having problems, but am afraid I’m stuck between not being able to afford to fix it and not being able to sell it for what I have into it. Thank you in advance ❤️

  • 1
    This will probably be closed as Opinion based, but... in my opinion... get rid of that car now. Old Subarus can be money pits. If a head gasket has gone, the engine needs to come out, which is why so expensive. If you do take the engine out, there are a lot of things that should be checked and replaced as a matter of course - more than $1000 worth. – PeteCon Jul 10 at 22:22
  • 2
    Welcome to Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair! I'll let the site decide on the "is this opinion" based ... but in my opinion, don't put another dime into the car. Save your money for a replacement. Monitor the oil on a VERY regular basis (weekly, at a minimum), then drive it until it dies. When it dies, get the new (or new to you) car and don't look back. Push the old car off a cliff, donate it to charity, or sell it on CraigsList. Just my 2cents. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jul 11 at 3:08
  • 1
    Also, please stop by the chatroom: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/340/the-pitstop There's almost always someone around there who you can ask for advice, vent to or just complain about the fickle nature of demonic automotive problem children. Trust me: we've all been there and can relate! ;-) – Bob Cross Jul 13 at 13:45
2

I’m a young woman wondering if my mechanics are taking advantage of me.

There is no way to know if you have been taken advantage of, sadly it happen to women and men.

Will these repairs REALLY cost that much? Could they be done cheaper? If so, how?

I would find a certified Subaru mechanic shop, It MAY be less money elsewhere but it is certainly a good idea to a second/third opinions and quotes. (Subaru is popular car in Washington).

Could the first four (!) mechanics have really missed these leaks, or were they waiting for them to get worse with the hope I would return for service?

It is likely that the first mechanics were correct about no leaking but the later leaking was a result of the problems that arose on the drive to Washington. It is unlikely that they would bet on you returning with a bigger problem, if they were unscrupulous they would have just made up a problem.

Running low on oil generates heat, heat is the enemy of engines and can cause a myriad of problems.

How soon do they need to be done, assuming I monitor the oil level and don’t let it drop too low?

I have always had cars that either leaked or used oil, as long as you are vigilant in checking and maintaining the appropriate oil level you keep driving it. ( to a point, if you are using a quart a day it is not practical or affordable, but if it is a quart a month you can get by for a while. If it leaking into the cooling system that is whole different matter.)

They said my timing cover gasket was leaking, my control arm bushings were cracked, and my driver side head gasket needed replaced due to “seeping”. They took a video under the car and showed me the places of concern. Then quoted me $4000 for the repairs.

The cracked control arm is not something you can put off, it is part of your suspension system, it can cause other part to wear or fail, result in uneven tire wear and if it fails while driving it can lead to a crash. This article explains them.

I would get the control arm fixed asap.

Monitor the oil usage every few days to see how much is being lost to leakage, keep notes. Get some oil absorbing mats to put under the car were you park it.

Find a couple of independent certified repair shops and have them do an inspection and give you quotes. Talk to coworkers, read Subaru forums, check Angieslist, ask on Nextdoor for Subaru shop recommendations.

All mechanics are expensive, Dealers are sometimes more so.

Do not tell the shops that you took your subi to the dealership, just say you think you have a oil leak in the head gasket or timing cover area, This will insure they are making there own assessments and will suggest to them that you more mechanically astute then you may be ;)


Do some research and learning on car maintenance, maybe take a class so you can

A. Understand your own vehicle and do money saving maintenance yourself and

B. Feel more confident when talking to a garage/mechanic so you do not feel that you are being taken advantage of. (Knowledge will reduce the chance but not eliminate it, second opinions help.)

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    "just say you think you have a oil leak in the head gasket or timing cover area": this is a good trick and one of the primary functions of this site. A customer who at least knows some of the vocabulary will always have a different conversation with the mechanic than one who doesn't! – Bob Cross Jul 13 at 13:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.