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Once-Reliable 2007 Subaru Forester Suddenly Downrated

By John Maybury, Editor & Publisher

I am on my second Subaru Forester (2002, 2007) and still enjoy the safety, reliability, and "loveable dorkiness" of this small SUV. But suddenly this year the car's Consumer Reports reliability rating slipped. After six straight years of mostly red (good) dots, the 2007 Forester fell to half a black dot (bad) for "major engine" and "fuel line" problems, which a CR forum moderator identified as head gaskets and timing belts.

I wrote to Subaru corporate and got a bland PR response along the lines of "just take good care of your car and you should be okay." I asked for specific data or advice about the 2007 Forester's downgrade, but all I got was this Subaru spin:

“I don't want you to think that all Foresters will eventually experience an engine failure or fuel line defect. As I'm sure you know the life expectancy of any mechanical device is subject to many considerations. Every automobile at some time during its usage will arrive at a condition which calls for minor and sometimes even major repair work. The Warranty Policy is designed for the protection of the purchaser from defects in the material or workmanship. A lot of customers whose vehicles experience these issues, may not have take the excellent care of their vehicle that they should have. If a vehicle is properly maintained and has all servicings performed by an Authorized Subaru Dealership, the likely hood of needing major repair work is less likely and significantly decreased. I hope that helps to answer your question.” (Jeremy Samuelson, Customer/Dealer Services Representative, Subaru of America, Inc.)

I hope that someone out there has useful insights into how and why this formerly very reliable car suddenly developed major engine and fuel line problems. Please share your thoughts in plain English; I am not mechanically inclined. But I would like to get constructive feedback from anyone who owns one of these cars or who has had any experience with this particular issue. To comment, just scroll down and click the Comments link. Thank you.

Comments

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Replace your timing belts! They are a normal wear item, people. Replace your water pump every other time you're in there. As for the head gaskets, if you have to replace them, it should only be once if it's done right. A shop told me I was crazy to replace mine at 22,0000 miles. It has been 180,000 since they told me that. I work as a tow truck driver and can tell you that there's way more vehicles than just Subarus that have head gaskets and timing belts go out. Doesn't matter where it's from, USA to Korea, they all go out if not replaced when advised. People just seem to be in the habit of waiting till they break. Spoiled by things like the lifetime fluids and 100,000-mile spark plugs. Three-valve Ford owners know what I'm talking about.

I've also had problems with the cooling system and head gasket on my 2001 Forester.

It was a design flaw. Apparently the aluminum engines were warping, and Subaru extended the warranty for another couple of years because of it. After maybe 40,000 miles, I had to bring it into Price Subaru to get the head gasket replaced, and they wanted to charge me about $1200. I said it was supposed to be under warranty. Price said it wasn't. After I called Subaru in New Jersey, they confirmed it was under warranty and took care of it. (Price is now out of business. Haha.)

I'm surprised Subaru didn't fix the problem before 2007.

Other than that, I've been pretty happy with the car.

I was thinking about buying a new one and went to the car show at Moscone a few months ago. The 2013 Forester was pretty bland. From the pictures I've seen and articles I've read, the 2014 looks pretty nice. Otherwise, I'm thinking Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox, Honda CR-V, or a big, ole Hummer.

I have about 131,000 miles on my 2002 Forester and have spent about $3,500.00 in the past year dealing with a variety of issues involving cooling system and head gasket. Needless to say, I am not a happy camper. Never had issues like this with my Toyotas. Most likely will not buy another Subaru when this one finally dies.

I believe Consumer Reports rates based on consumer feedback. Probably some owners have experienced engine problems and fuel line problems. I can only speculate, but perhaps one reason for an increase in problems reported for 2007 Foresters is that (it has been my experience) Subarus often have higher-than-normal mileage. One may expect more problems from high-mileage vehicles.

It would be helpful if Consumer Reports identified the exact problems.

(Editor's Note: Thanks, Bruce. I think you may be right about this. And I heard from Consumer Reports forum moderator Jerry that the problems are head gasket and timing belt. Will add that to my post. Readers: In case you don't know, Bruce is the car columnist of the Pacifica Tribune, and his blog "Spare Parts" is at brucehotchkiss.com.)

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