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Top 5 Problems Subaru Outback Wagon 4th Generation 2010-14

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Top 5 Problems Subaru Outback Wagon 4th Generation 2010-14

Created on: 2020-05-09

This video discusses the top problems of the 4th generation Subaru Outback and ways to resolve those issues.

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Hey, friends. It's Len today. We've got another top problems video for you. This time it's on a Gen 4 Subaru Outback. We're super excited, so let's jump right into it.

All right, friends. So, you know me, one of the first things I always like to talk about in these videos is a safety issue. And on these Subarus, there isn't very many, but the one that I do want to talk about is located right behind here. And that's the steering column shaft. If you were to be able to see right inside here, maybe take off the plastic, you're going to see a shaft that goes right down and through. And the symptom that you're probably gonna notice for this is maybe a little bit of a loose/wonky-feeling steering wheel and even in extreme cases, a steering wheel that goes right while your wheels go left. Let's talk a little bit about how this happens. So, here's kind of a demonstration of what the steering shaft should look like. It's not necessarily for this vehicle, but if you were to look maybe right along here, if you were on this vehicle, you would see that there's like a press-fitted area where two pieces are actually supposed to be press-fitted together during the manufacturing process.

For some of these models or even some of these age groups of this model, at the manufacturing plant where this was being done, for some reason, the machine didn't press-fit it together well enough. What happens is over time, you're turning the steering wheel, and the wheels just aren't turning because this area right here is kind of coming free. And if it's not completely secured, there's even a possibility that it could separate or just keep turning to the point where, like I said before, you turn your wheels to the right, and then for some reason, the wheels actually turn left, and maybe you're veering off the road. And this is a very scary and unsafe situation. Now, the fixes for this overall would be basically replacing that steering column shaft. Well, you can do that by going down for the recall, which more than likely if you have this vehicle, you're going to be covered underneath the recall, and they're going to fix it for free. If for some reason it's not fixed for free, there's, of course, another way of just replacing the shaft yourself.

Now, the second thing that I want to talk to you about on this is another safety issue, and it involves Takata airbags. Now, airbags are located all over inside your new vehicle passenger compartment. You know why? Because everybody cares about safety. You, me, especially, right? But the ones in particular that we're going to talk about today is, like I said before, the Takata airbags. These airbags actually have an issue because of the manufacturing process. And it only really involves certain years, makes, and models of different vehicles. So, you know, this one is actually covered under that. Subaru sent down a recall notice that said, "Hey, come on down. We want to make sure we change these out for you because your safety is super important to us." Now, the symptoms for this is going to be an extreme case situation, which involves, well, a crash type situation. So, obviously, you don't want to wait until you notice a symptom. Essentially, if you're under the recall, make sure you get down there and get this checked out. Now, the cause for this is found to be the internal parts of that airbag system actually kind of accumulates the moisture from the outside. So, if you live in an area where it's super humid, or maybe even your temperature kind of fluctuates a lot, and it causes a lot of condensation on things, that would technically be considered, you know, moisture, and it's going to accumulate inside or around that airbag system.

Now, when this happens, the propellant that's on the inside of that airbag system that's supposed to make it go poof and make a nice little cushy pillow so you're nice and safe is actually different composition than the way that used to be. So, it's going to actually expel or explode those gases out much faster than it was normally going to do. And it's going to push out that airbag at you much faster and potentially smash you in the face and push you back further than you should be. Or even in serious cases, poof, explode. And all that propellant is going to go flying right at your face. Now, there's really only one fix for that, and that's taking it down to the dealer and make sure they change out those Takata airbags. Safety is key. Now, the defective inflators on these have sparked a giant recall worldwide. Over 100 million vehicles worldwide had been recalled because of these Takata airbag inflators.

The next thing I want to talk about on these is the head gaskets. The head gaskets on these are super common to leak. Generally speaking, the way that you're going to notice that they're leaking is probably you're going to smell it coming out your tailpipe, and you'll probably see a little bit of smoke. You might also happen to notice when you're checking your fluids that maybe your coolant's a little bit low or perhaps your oil. Where's it going? We don't know. Maybe sometimes, you go ahead, and you check all those fluids. Like I said, they're low. You take a peek underneath. I don't see any drips. Where are they going? One likely they're probably going right out your exhaust. And that's probably through the head gasket. You might also see those external leaks that I was talking about. Maybe you see oil dripping down or even possibly some coolant. Another thing that you might happen to notice is gurgling coming from the cooling system. More than likely, while you're sitting inside the vehicle with the blower on, you're going to hear kind of like a little brrrrrrrh coming from behind your glove box because that's where your heater core is. As the coolant's going around through there, it's also pushing around air bubbles. I say air, but it's actually carbon monoxide from your exhaust, which is getting forced into your cooling system. It's getting pressed around through all those fins inside that heater core, and it's going to start making that gurgling sound. Super annoying, but more than likely that's the issue.

After your vehicle has been running for a while, and this isn't super hot. You can go ahead and open this up away from your face, of course. And then you could use a little head gasket tester. It basically has, like, a little bit of liquid inside. It's going to change color if you have exhaust fumes or carbon monoxide inside the system. You might also notice that you have low engine compression, or even if maybe you were changing your oil, you took this off, and you saw a whole bunch of milky goo up in here. Now that we've talked about the issue, I want to make sure that I specify that this is more commonly an issue with the 2.5-liter engine. With that in mind, the 2.5-liter engine only has a single-layer gasket for the head gasket. Well, that's just not thick enough. Something that you could probably do would be get the 2.5-liter turbo gasket. Use that one. It's a little bit thicker, has metal inside. It's going to be much better overall and probably last a long, long time in comparison to just buying yourself an OE, you know, 2.5-liter head gasket and then dealing with the same issue, maybe another 50,000 miles. Now, something to keep in mind, replacing a head gasket isn't necessarily the easiest job. And I gotta tell you, it's going to have a lot of fluids, it's gonna have a lot of nuts and bolts and a whole bunch of other things you're going to have to pay attention to. Something else that you want to pay attention to is the question, "Basically how many miles do I have on my vehicle? Would this be considered a higher-mileage vehicle?" You know, something over 100,000 miles would be considered a higher-mileage vehicle, even though it's not that much. So, to get to my point, you're going to have to take the head off the block of this. And with saying that, you're also going to have to remove the timing chain. There's two timing chains on this. There's one for each side, of course. And both of those more than likely are going to get stretched and a little bit of slack. Why not replace them? If you need them, we sell a kit at 1aauto.com.

So, now, we're going to continue on to oil consumption. We're going to talk about that as the next problem because it's a huge deal on these Subaru boxer engines. Some of the symptoms that you're probably going to notice, you're driving down the road, and every time you're under load, you hear this little ticking noise coming from inside the engine compartment. What's it coming from? Your engine. Why is it coming? Your oil is low. Another thing that you might notice is the little light on your dash comes up, and it looks like a little oil can with a little drip, drip, drip. That's telling you that your oil is low as well. If that turns on, you need to pull over ASAP and add some oil. You might also notice when the vehicle is sitting idling for a while, you might see a little bit of smoke coming out that tailpipe. That's toxic smoke because it's actually oil getting burnt coming out that tailpipe. Another thing that you're probably gonna notice is you keep having to add oil to this thing. Whether it's the light coming on or the ticking from the engine, you always have to pull over, and you keep having to add oil.

Sometimes this can happen within 500 miles, 1,000 miles, 1,500 miles, but more than likely, you're gonna have to add at least 1 quart, if not 2, per 5,000-mile oil change. So, you're looking at over a 7-quart synthetic oil change overall. Now the causes for this, not only is it because you're using 0-20 synthetic oil, which is a super-thin oil, and it's super common for almost every new vehicle to, you know, consume a little bit of that oil. Super thin like I said. It's also because your Subaru actually has a boxer engine, and the pistons on that run parallel to the ground, sideways like this. As this is happening, it's putting pressure on the bottom side of the pistons the whole time. Instead of your engine being on a nice view, and it's really not putting too much pressure on just one side of that piston, these are laying down completely, and it's just putting constant pressure on those piston rings. And eventually, it will wear them out. Now, running any vehicle potentially low on oil could be dangerous or even catastrophic to the engine. With that said, you don't want to procrastinate when it comes time to oil consumption issues. You want to go ahead and make sure that you go down to Subaru and they do the oil consumption test. Now, the oil consumption test is going to be done specifically by them. And you're going to be able to drive your vehicle while this is happening. They're going to do a complete oil change for you with the manufacturer specified oil and, of course, the filter. They're going to tell you to drive it approximately 1,200 miles, and you don't want to go 1,500, 1,700, 2,000 miles. You don't want to be like, "Oh, I forgot." You need to go that exact 1,200 miles.

You're going to go on back, and they're going to test the vehicle to see exactly how much oil is inside of it when they drain it out again. Now, for the test, they decided if your engine burns more than 10.6 ounces of oil in about 1,200 miles, you're going to have your small block replaced. If for some reason, it comes in, and it says, "Well, you know, you are using a little bit of oil, but you're actually still, you know, within spec," they have, like, a spec for this really, and it's basically, you know, you can go 2,000 miles and add, you know, 1/2 a quart, and that's still okay. You know, other people, they might go 800 miles and have to add a whole quart. Obviously, that's not okay. There's gonna be a specific amount of engine oil consumption, especially when you're using 0-20 oil. Because like I said, it's super-thin oil.

The next thing I want to talk about is the headlights on these things. Why do they have to burn out all the time? Now, headlights on most vehicles are gonna be a fairly easy job. On this one, not so much. What you might notice is the bulbs inside the headlights of this tend to go out more often than probably any other vehicle you've ever had. The overall cause for this is kind of undetermined, but it is speculated that it could actually be a voltage spike that actually comes from the voltage regulator inside the alternator. All right. Now, fixes for this, of course, would be if you have the tools, maybe a scan tool of some sort, you could graph the voltage that's coming out of your alternator-voltage regulator. And if you happen to see any spikes that just happen to shoot up past that 14.5 voltage, you know, mark, more than likely you have an issue with your alternator. If you find out that the alternator's spiking, like I said that it might be, you'd want to replace the alternator. Of course, at the same time, it's more than likely a great idea to replace both your bulbs inside your headlamps at the same time, and, of course, I would use a quality bulb and not necessarily one of those cheaper models.

Now, speaking of the bulbs, replacing them isn't necessarily the easiest thing. You could try to come right inside here. You can see right where that little cover is. See if you can spin it off. Well, that's great, but how are you going to get the bulb? You could take all of this completely out of here. You might have a little bit better access. You can always try to reach your hand through here, do a little contortionism. See if you can get it off. Good luck. You could also turn your wheel completely to one side or the other, and then you can come right in through this wheel well. There's going to be a couple of push clips that you're gonna take out, and you'll be able to get in there. It gets a little bit more difficult than that. When it comes time to do in the driver's side, though, you can't necessarily do all that. To do the driver's side, it's been said that it's much easier to just go ahead and remove this whole bumper cover here. You got all these push clips. It comes right off. I can show you a video on that. We've got them. You're gonna take out the whole assembly. It's going to have mounting screws that hold it to the vehicle. And then you take out the assembly, and you're gonna replace the bulb. Well, that's great. It's kind of a lot of work. And it's a super annoying hassle, especially the amount of times that you're more than likely going to have to replace the bulbs on this. What I would do is, of course, like I said, find the voltage issue. If you find the voltage regulator's bad, replace that alternator. You're replacing the bulbs, if you happen to notice that your lamp assemblies are glazed over, or you just don't seem as though you can see through them very well anymore, you're noticing you're having a hard time at night, I would go ahead and replace these assemblies, and they're available at 1aauto.com.

And while I still got you here, let's talk about one more thing. And this is kind of just like a user error really. If you're maintenancing your vehicle, you're probably gonna find that your front and rear differentials are due to be serviced at approximately every 30,000 miles. When you go to do this, if you have a CVT transmission, you need to be super careful of those drain and fill plugs. They can get super confusing, and if you mess it up, you're probably going to have major issues. Now, how do you mess it up, you ask? Well, you go ahead, and you drain that differential like you should. It's pretty easy to figure out which one's the drain for the differential, as opposed to the CVT transmission because the CVT transmission has a big old pan underneath there. That's great. You drain the front differential. Now, it's time to find the fill plug. There's one over here. There's one over here. And it looks like there's a whole bunch of plugs that look almost like fill plugs all over the place, to be honest with you. So, what the common issue with this is after somebody has already drained that front differential as they should have, they pull out the fill plug, and then they go, "Okay, well, I'm going to add the specific amount of fluid and the type that it's supposed to be." They start adding, and it doesn't take very much before it starts coming out. So, they're like, "Oh, well, it's full. That's great."

They take it for a little road test, and they start hearing this weird noise coming from in the front. Super scary. What is going on? You pull over, right? You get underneath there. You're like, "I don't know. I don't really see anything." Next thing you'd want to do, of course, would be tow it back to wherever you can work on it or have it worked on again, depending on who actually did the job. And then they would get under there, and they would probably check that differential. And they notice that it's super hot. Why is it super hot? Well, you check that fill plug. You're like, "Okay, well, fluid's coming out. It's definitely, you know, fluid up in there. What's going on?" More than likely what actually happened was is they pulled out the fill plug that's supposed to be for the CVT transmission. They went ahead and they put in that gear oil, and, of course, it came out pretty much immediately because the CVT transmission should be pretty close to full when it comes to that fill plug, right? They sent it on its way, and now, you just drove it with no fluid inside that front differential and gear oil inside your CVT transmission. Could cause detrimental damage, right? So, of course, they would probably pull the differential plug, and they would be like, pull, pull, pull, watch out, no fluid, "What's going on?" That's probably when they're going to realize, "Wow, I just totally messed something up here." Now, they're going to go ahead and pull that CVT transmission fluid. And it's going to come out nice and, you know, the color that CVT transmission fluid's supposed to be. And now this one's gonna change colors, and this is gonna turn into a sticky goo. That's supposed to be the gear oil.

Now, when it comes time to servicing the front differential, before you went ahead and put fluid into the wrong hole there and caused a big old issue, it's important to remember that the fill plug for the front differential is actually located on the passenger side of the vehicle just above that passenger side front axle. The fill plug for the CVT transmission is located on the driver's side. You mess those two up, you got yourself a big problem. Okay. So, that was a lot of fun. If you enjoyed the video, make sure you smash on the like button. If you learned anything, leave it in the comment section below. And if you have anything to say, of course, tell me about it as well. While you're at it, why don't you go ahead and subscribe and, of course, ring the bell? That way there you'll be kept up with all of our latest content. Thanks.

Thanks for watching. Visit 1aauto.com for quality auto parts shipped to your door, the place for DIY auto repair. And if you enjoyed this video, please click the subscribe button.


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