Home » Another Reason I Regret Buying A New Subaru

Another Reason I Regret Buying A New Subaru

Deez Subaru Nuts Ts
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I enjoy Costco. I feel like the money I put into a Costco membership I get back in affordable bulk items, conspicuously cheap hot dogs, and discounted services like the store’s tire shop.

I do not feel the same about my 2016 Subaru Forester, as I already explained in a recent article. The pleasure I derive from Costco collided with the resentment I feel towards my Subaru today when I took my car to Costco to get the tires rotated.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

It turns out I’ve found another way for my Forester to disappoint me.

This Should Have Been An Easy Day

Subaru On Lift

In that last article, I noted that the car tends to eat headlight bulbs, lower control arms, wheel bearings, and tires. In fact, since writing that story I had to replace another headlight. This is a car I bought new less than a decade ago and I’ve lost count of the number of headlights I’ve needed.

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Given I got decent life and great performance out of my Michelin CrossClimate 2 tires I went ahead and got the same set, but rather than have to deal with Subaru anymore, I got the tires from Costco.

Not only did I get a good price, but if you take care of proper tire maintenance Costco offers a great 5-year road hazard warranty. Subaru only offers a 2-year warranty and, the last time I had to use it, I had to wait a while for new tires because I didn’t go with the OEM tire.

In order to stay in the good graces of the Costco road hazard warranty, the plan this morning was to take it over to my local store, do a call, and grab a hot dog while they did the rotation.

Before I could get the hot dog or even finish the call I got paged to the tire shop. Oh no…

Yet Another Weird Subaru Thing

Nope TireThree wheels were on the ground, but the front passenger side tire was still meekly hanging there. A litany of potential problems ran through my mind: worn struts wearing out one side? Obvious Subaru alignment problems?

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Nope, one of the lug nuts was stuck and the tech nicely explained that removing it was likely to snap it off.

Having never experienced this I was curious, is this a Subaru issue?

“Oh, yeah, it’s always Subarus. We see this all the time,” a tech explained.

Why?

“The thread pitch is too narrow,” said another.

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The thread pitch is the space in between the threads and, alas, Subaru does use a 1.25 mm pitch, versus 1.5 mm for Toyota, for instance. I also sense that the quality of steel might be an issue, but I haven’t done a metallurgical comparison so I can’t say for sure.

Subaru Lug

I contemplated having them just crack it off and fix it later. I’ve driven a McLaren with two missing lug nuts, a Subaru missing one seemed pretty easy and it’s something I can deal with later.

Then I thought about my last article and decided that if anyone was going to break it off it was going to be me, dammit. It’s a $4.00 part, so I wasn’t sweating the damage (actually, it turns it’s a $2.00 part).

The manager of the tire shop saw me taking pictures and I explained what I do for a living and he confided in me a little more. Not only do they crack Subaru studs all the time, people don’t believe them.

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These are relatively new cars and customers often get the rotations done at the dealership for the original tires because of service deals, warranty reasons, et cetera.

“I take the wheels off and show them where the dealership service techs have just replaced the studs without telling them,” he tells me.

Classic Subaru.

Stripped Lugnut

I thanked them and then drove home to see if, indeed, this would snap if I tried a low-power solution (my arm and the wrench that came with the car).

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I put light pressure on the lugnut and it doesn’t budge. I put slightly more arm into it and they snapped like Queen under pressure.

Dammit.

How Common Is This?

Screenshot 2024 04 15 At 1.39.10 pm 2

 

Just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind I checked around to see if this was a common complaint. It turns out this is a well-known issue and there are plenty of threads about it on the web.

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I went a step further and asked Bozi, because Bozi wrote about how much he loves his Subaru and how little trouble it gave him.

“I actually ended up buying like a pack of studs after I snapped the third one on my WRX doing a rotation,” Bozi told me. “Fortunately, the studs are cheap.”

He even provided a photo:

Wheel Stud

Other Subaru owners I talked to said this also happened to them.

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It’s Not A Big Deal, But It’s Annoying

I keep thinking back to my high-mileage Volvo, which had over 200,000 miles of tire rotations, including the ones I did myself. Did I ever snap a stud? No. Do I ever remember seeing a stud that seemed newer? Nope.

This isn’t a huge deal. It’s an easy fix and either one I’ll do myself or, honestly, I’ll probably toss a few bucks to my mechanic and he’ll do it for me.

It’s just another thing in a long list of things about this car that feels cheaply made or under-engineered. I just wanted to rotate my tires, it shouldn’t result in having to do more work. I’m used to breaking things while fixing them on my project cars, not on the car that’s supposed to be the thoughtless daily driver.

Also, it’s worth noting that for all of his Subaru love, the next new car that Bozi bought was a Toyota.

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Just saying!

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M A Cullen
M A Cullen
2 months ago

I can’t fault Subarus by the example in my driveway. A 2019 Forester that has been stellar so far. Great milage and handles so well in the snow.
50 yrs of wrenching tells me that your dealer or whomever was using a impact to tighten your lugnuts. The threads look cross threaded.
I only allowed my dealer to service mine one time ( it was free ) and they over torqued the drain plug and filter. I wasn’t surprised. Those guys make their money on piece work. No time for trivial things like torque wrenches.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago

Yet another mundane competency that most automakers conquered a century ago.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
3 months ago

I’m waiting for the Subaru Stockholm. Because that’s the logical explanation for why people keep buying them.

Honestly, they’re decent cars with a unique feature. If you were looking for all wheel drive and didn’t check elsewhere, this is the default choice. Back in the 1990s and prior, they were every bit as reliable as other Japanese brands.

I think the real issue about Subaru is that most buyers are simply unaware that Subaru quality has remained pretty stagnant at late 1990s level, and how much the competition has improved since then.

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago

Former Subaru owner here, and I can confirm that they are junk, fun junk, but junk.
That being said, this issue is not Subaru related, just a result of sloppy, low paid, untrained service techs. Coarse threads are more forgiving to a dummy, while fine threads may require that you actually know how to install a wheel.

Millermatic
Millermatic
3 months ago

So… doing a little Googling… I came up with this regarding “fine vs. course threads.” From Nordlock.com:

  1. Size for size, a fine thread is stronger than a coarse thread. This is both in tension (because of the larger stress area) and shear (because of their larger minor dia­meter).
  2. Fine threads require less torque to develop equivalent bolt preloads.
  3. Fine threads have less tendency to loosen since the thread incline is smaller and hence so is the off torque.

Among the negatives?

  1. They are also less suitable for high-speed assembly since they are more likely to seize when being tightened.

This tells me that you _really_ shouldn’t be using an air gun to install them. And that there are numerous _good_ reasons Subaru chose to use the finer thread.

Thomas Bell
Thomas Bell
3 months ago

You subaru people don’t have enough of a sample size. Just your enthusiast owned car and you haven’t had an issue, imagine that, you actually take care of your car… Auto tech here, subarus use garbage hardware, name a fastener (bolt) that holds a car together and I’ve broken it on a subaru.

They aren’t horrible cars but they are a brand I tell my friends “If you buy a subaru, please don’t ask me to work on it”

I’m glad you people like your car, but subaru has to be using some of the worst hardware (fasteners) in the automotive industry.

Millermatic
Millermatic
3 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Bell

Give me evidence. What grade fasteners are being used on Subarus vs. other manufacturers? No anecdotes. Give me examples, comparisons and references.

And “imagine that… you actually take care of your car.” You seem to be suggesting that auto techs are sloppy and don’t take proper care if the difference is between the owner taking care of it vs. a tech?

Last edited 3 months ago by Millermatic
Thomas Bell
Thomas Bell
3 months ago
Reply to  Millermatic

Yes, auto techs can be sloppy, it’s just their job, they are underpaid and overworked, customers and management are all angry at them. The majority don’t care enough to throw a torque stick on an impact little lone break out a torque wrench.

But why with all makes getting the same “sloppy tech” treatment, is it more prevalent in subarus?

There is no way for me to be scientific about this, it’s an observation based on my experience. I’m just saying it’s weird that in my experience, subaru bolts break more than any other make, this leads me to the hypothesis that they must be using cheaper materials.

I’m sorry I haven’t been able to conduct proper rockwell hardness testing or testing for hydrogen embrittlement, ill get my team on this for the next time I comment my opinion on fastener quality.

https://www.reddit.com/r/subaru/comments/x42ogm/is_it_normal_for_wheel_studs_to_break_on_subarus/

Millermatic
Millermatic
3 months ago

I’ve got to wonder if maybe the issues isn’t at least partly _you_ Matt? I’ve had two Subarus for a total of 19 years. I’ve replaced (I think?) one light. And zero wheel studs.

It you keep blowing lights… maybe there’s something going on that you need to address. Is your lens housing cracked? Are you buying ultra-cheap bulbs off of e-bay? Maybe you got a bad batch. Presumably the bulbs are halogen. Are you touching the glass with oily fingers?

I’m assuming Subaru uses the same ISO-grade studs that every other manufacturer uses. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?

Why would a finer thread pitch break more easily than a coarser pitch? It seems possible that the coarser pitch is deeper – and the stud has a smaller diameter cross-section as a result. Which… would break more easily? (Let’s differentiate snapping vs stripping threads)

The “lots of threads” and “well known issue” are not backed up by _two_ links to internet discussions full of anecdotes.

I’m sorry you’ve had a bad experience with your Subaru… and I’m not suggesting Subaru isn’t deserving of criticism. But I’m not convinced what you are describing is widespread – or necessarily Subaru’s fault.

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
3 months ago
Reply to  Millermatic

Maybe, just maybe, the tech Matt spoke with wasn’t expressing — let’s just say — all of the facts. Blaming Subaru is easier and less damning than taking responsibility for a sloppy tech who rushed.

Here’s an n of 1 piece of evidence: Mrs. OverlandingSprinter took her Legacy into the dealer for service. Without asking, the techs rotated the tires as a courtesy. A week later, it was time for me to replace the summer wheels/tires with our winter set. The dealer tech cross-threaded one of the lugs. Mrs. OS brought the Legacy back and was told, “This happens all of the time, sorry.”

Two morals of my story: One, twist the lugs on by hand and you won’t cross-thread them. Two, some techs think they’re on a Nascar pit crew and air-gun lugs on. Big mistake, regardless of brand.

Are Subaru lugs more likely to be cross-threaded because of their pitch? Maybe, but if so I would argue it’s not the fault of the car.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
3 months ago

Two morals of my story: One, twist the lugs on by hand and you won’t cross-thread them. Two, some techs think they’re on a Nascar pit crew and air-gun lugs on. Big mistake, regardless of brand.”

Yup… that’s the #1 reason why I do my own tire rotations. “free tire rotations” means “we’re gonna do it as quickly as we can because we’re not making money on it”

I had a similar experience with a “free oil change” where an incorrect/undersized oil filter was used.

AircooleDrew
AircooleDrew
3 months ago
Reply to  Millermatic

This is where my mind goes. I have replaced precisely 1 wheel stud in 12 years of owning 6 different Subarus. Two of which I autocrossed and frequently changed wheels on. The only reason I had to replace the single stud? I got lazy and started it with an impact. I knew the error of my ways the second I pulled the impact trigger, as it cross-threaded instantly.

If you hand-thread your lugs on to start, you are extremely unlikely to run into this issue. Sounds to me (as many others have said here) like the tech ran them on with an impact and wanted to cover his ass by blaming the wheel studs.

I am not a blind apologist of Subaru. I have replaced wheel bearings, a set of head gaskets, and numerous other things on mine over the years. They clearly have flaws as many cars do, but mine have all been extremely reliable. Hell, my 04 STi had 175k miles on it when I sold it, and it is still on the road today with the original engine block. This just seems like another reason to complain about a car you don’t like. Maybe it’s time to trade it in instead of complaining?

MGA
MGA
3 months ago

I don’t understand the level of Subaru brand loyalty that exists. They aren’t good cars, made for people who kind of like cars but aren’t car people (exceptions for WRX+). Additionally, their drivers (mostly the wagons, not sedans) are some of the worst on the road. My wife and I see them all over the place when we’re in the mountains and we each go “EW!” really loudly when we do. It’s a running thing now.

Last edited 3 months ago by MGA
Cayde-6
Cayde-6
3 months ago
Reply to  MGA

Honestly, I think the reason they are popular among the outdoorsy types is because all Subarus except for the BRZ come with AWD standard.

Millermatic
Millermatic
3 months ago
Reply to  MGA

Wow. No generalizations there. I drive an Outback. I love it. I haven’t had a point on my license in years. I also restored an 86 944 Turbo. I can change a clutch. Reupholster seats and dashes. Replace rod bearings. Wheel bearings. Rebuild struts. The head gasket… But apparently I’m not a “car person.”

MGA
MGA
3 months ago
Reply to  Millermatic

Exceptions exist. You can be one. Just don’t sit in the left lane if you’re not passing someone.

Jj
Jj
3 months ago
Reply to  MGA

I’ve had three Subarus (Forester, Outback, FR-S – it’s built by Subaru. Just about everything but the fuel injection is Subaru).

The reason I’ve ended up with them is because they were one of the only AWD vehicles available with a third pedal. Now that they’re all CVTs I don’t expect to park another in my garage. If I have to go with an automatic, there are better cars out there.

I’ve had the engine out of my Outback three times and took the transmission out of the FR-S.

In my case, one extra pedal is the only reason – and the 6 speed in my Forester is better suited to a tractor and the hill assist e-brake doesn’t release very quickly. Any attempt at getting off the line quickly results in a stall.

Evan M
Evan M
3 months ago

This is hilarious and I wasn’t aware of it, having, weirdly, never owned a Subaru. If it were my car, I’d probably see if I could just buy studs and nuts with a coarser pitch and replace them once? Buy once, cry once. I also try to do that with my Ford/JRL vehicles and those stupid lug nuts with the stupid covers that aren’t covers.

Mikebola
Mikebola
3 months ago

This would explain why my 2003 Subaru’s wheel studs were 3 different colors when I first bought it. I replaced all the hubs with aftermarket ones not long after buying it, due to wheel bearings being installed using hammers or rocks or something. First time I had a problem in 4 years was when I bought tires on Amazon, and they made me take it to a tire and lube chain for install. Dudes managed to destroy half of my brand new lug nuts, and stripped out multiple studs. Breakaway torque on a few of the lugs were over 250ft-lbs.

Last edited 3 months ago by Mikebola
Steve Wootton
Steve Wootton
3 months ago

I normally don’t comment on posts such as this because everyone has their opinion and/or experiences but this is so blatantly wrong that I felt the need to jump in here. I am going to state some facts about me and my experience before delving into the matter.

First, I have been an automotive technician since 1987 and have worked at chain stores(Think Firestone, Goodyear, Costco, etc.) My current shop is a shop that handles everything from cars through tractor trailers.

Second, In my experience I have found that the worst places to have any service work done on your vehicle are chain stores and quick lubes. They all employ low paid workers that lack experience and may or may not be paid partially on an incentive plan. This incentivizes them to find more work in order to pay their bills.

Third, Dealers are usually not far behind in the quality of work performed because most pay their technician something called Flat Rate. This means they get paid X.XX hours to perform a specific task, the faster they do it the more money they make. This promotes them taking shortcuts and not always following procedures because it takes too much time. A perfect example of this is a newer recall for the front converter on 2015-2016 Outbacks and Legacys, the technician get paid 0.7 or 42 minutes to replace this part including swapping over all the heat shields. If you’re lucky this job takes an hour or more including gluing all the new heat protection pads into the old shields. What steps are they skipping to get this done?

Our shop happens to specialize in Subaru work so we are very familiar with things that can go wrong. Of all the vehicles we see that have stripped or stuck lug nuts(Subaru or not), it’s always one that has not been to us for regular service work.

Lug nut issues are not a Subaru thing, it’s an every vehicle thing depending where the car is being serviced. Lug nuts should always be torqued to the proper specification, the vehicle driven and then recheck the torque.

Most vehicle require the threads to be clean and dry(no lubricant). In the case of Subaru, the torque is 89 ft/lbs. This is a very low torque specification. Most shops in general do not bother to torque lug nuts, road test and then recheck because it takes too much time and the incentive is to rush and get as much done as possible.

We commonly see vehicle that come in that had work done/tires purchased at a chain store that the lug nuts are significantly over torqued. This causes damage to the threads over time and then eventually strips the thread to the point where you cannot remove the lug nuts.

We currently have a 2009 Subaru Outback with 351,000 miles in our loaner fleet that was only serviced by us and it has never had any wheel studs or lug nuts replaced. The problem outlined in this article is entirely related to the shop(s) that have been servicing the vehicle, not the car’s design or materials.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Wootton

Lug nuts should always be torqued to the proper specification, the vehicle driven and then recheck the torque.”

Yup… hence the reason why I never go back for ‘free tire rotations’. Oil changes and tire rotations are things I like to take my time to do myself properly in exactly the way you describe.

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Wootton

Very well put.
Also, it’s time to retire.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
3 months ago

This absolutely tracks.

Subaru has aggressive cost-cutting and frequently at the expense of quality. Their body metal is among the thinnest on the market, their paint is thin, the rust proofing isn’t very dense nor thorough, their plastics and fabrics are obviously not up to the same snuff as many of their competitors, etc.

They skate by on a decades-old reputation, and folks keep buying the silly things. Same goes for other brands, but Subaru folks are nearly cult-like in their devotion. If folks bothered to test drive other makes and models they might be surprised to find how much greener the grass can be on the other side, so to speak.

At least with a Nissan and gm you know it’s going to be cheap, but largely engineered to be so, rather than going for some of the least-expensive methods and materials. Subaru is taking in enough that they seemingly can afford to do better, and used to. Heck, look at how well Mazda does, and they sell far fewer vehicles (in North America anyway) than Subaru does, and with even less investment from & partnership with Toyota.

Frank Kevins
Frank Kevins
3 months ago

Hmm, I am on my second WRX (both used) and because I live in a winter climate I swap wheels twice a year (total 22 times) and have never had a problem with the studs. I don’t have much mechanical aptitude, wheel swaps and oil changes are about it for me and I don’t consider myself particularly lucky but maybe I am in this case.

Jeff Morse
Jeff Morse
3 months ago

I’m so glad I got rid of my 2021 Legacy Touring XT last winter before the bumper to bumper warranty ran out. Most exasperating car I’ve owned. Within the first 5K miles I’d had it to the dealer a half dozen times chasing rattles and buzzes in the dash, doors and sunroof. My 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer I replaced it with had fewer after 10 years. Then at the first oil change leak was discovered in the oil pan gasket. “Common problem with the 2.4 Turbo” I was told. Not to mention that relatively high powered engine did not fit well with a CVT. Constant surges and hesitation driving in town. Plus the Driver Focus system frequently telling me to keep my eyes on the road when I was. It couldn’t ve permanently disabled – would enable itself at every startup. First and last Subaru. I’ve never been so disappointed with a new car… especially a top trim I was expecting to be the best I’d ever owned.

Utherjorge
Utherjorge
3 months ago

I love this. I didn’t even know this problem was a Subaru thing, but every Subaru I’ve had the misfortune of owning (or, that a family member owned) has been a enormous sack of shit.

Someone should do an article about how many engines and trannies on skids get sent to dealers each week to replace the pieces of shit that blew up the week before.

Hike
Hike
3 months ago

This isn’t a Subaru issue. This is a mechanic issue. I constantly see mechanics hammering on lug nuts with impact guns and then when it’s on the ground to torque the lug nuts the torque wrench clicks without moving. It seems nobody actually properly torques a wheel anymore. The thread pitch means it takes less torque to tighten the wheels, so when the mechanic is hammering on the gun, they over tighten the lug and this is the result. I’m sure the commentators on here who have Subarus and say they’ve never broken a lug actually take the time to torque their wheels properly.

Utherjorge
Utherjorge
3 months ago
Reply to  Hike

It’s almost as if you didn’t read the article

LH
LH
3 months ago

I broke at least 3 studs on my 2014 wrx… never occurred to me that this could be a Subaru issue. Still love my car though!

755_SoCalRally
755_SoCalRally
3 months ago

I broke 2 lug studs on the same wheel after my 2nd rallycross event when changing back to street tires. Made the drive home a bit more fraught. Replaced all the studs with ARP studs and the problem mostly went away. The folks I know who race Subarus change the stock lug studs as the narrow thread pitch causes no end of issues.

I’d like to hear from a Subaru designer and have them explain why they choose the narrower thread pitch. I don’t see any advantage to be gained.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  755_SoCalRally

Finer thread fasteners are stronger and don’t back off as easily. Seems like good properties for a wheel stud to have. Apparently it’s not without its issues though.

755_SoCalRally
755_SoCalRally
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Interesting, and thank you for sharing! To me the issues of stuck lugs/broken studs outweigh improved grip, but YMMV and I suspect this issue is application-specific.

VG30DETT
VG30DETT
3 months ago
Reply to  755_SoCalRally

I’m preparing my 95 Impreza for RallyCross and this was my first thought when I saw this article. I’ll add studs to the ever growing list of things I need. Haha.

I’ve been to a bunch of ARA events but attended my first RallyCross event this weekend and they allow ride alongs. It looks slow from the outside but from the passenger seat it feels soooo fast. I never thought I’d be hanging on for dear life in a Mazda 3 but these guys drive them like they stole them for sure.

755_SoCalRally
755_SoCalRally
3 months ago
Reply to  VG30DETT

If you’re coming to Olympus wave as we go by, or even better swing by Parc and say hi. We’re #755, white BMW E46.

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago
Reply to  755_SoCalRally

To add to what Rust Buckets said, fine threads have a higher tightening torque, and can allow higher clamping force.
The downside is that they are less forgiving to user error, so coarse threads may be a better choice when frequent fast wheel changes are required.

Tun_urabus
Tun_urabus
3 months ago

Never have broken a stud in decades of shade tree wrenching. Always use a torque wrench, 85 ft lbs on subie lugs. I always haul tires for replacement to the shop and torque them myself.

B16CXHatch
B16CXHatch
3 months ago

I learned my lesson one time when I took my old Honda Fit to get tires once. I took it after work to my usual tire place (I normally would take a day off and go in the morning). It was one of the last cars of the day and a guy I’m not sure is still employed there was clearly eager to finish.

Not long after getting the tires, I picked up a screw or nail in one of them. Went to get it patched and I was there for couple of hours. Turns out, a stud broke when getting the wheel off and they were unusually certain it was their fault so they fixed it for free (this is why I question whether the guy who installed the tires was still employed there).

Well, I decided to check the lug nuts when I got home. Snapped THREE more! One on one wheel and two on another. I decided to just replace all of them. Plus I was having some wheel bearing noise and you’re gonna damage the front bearings to replace the studs properly anyway. I bought hub and bearing assemblies for the rear, a set of studs and bearings for the front, and all new lug nuts. Did the rear myself (so easy, took half an hour) and torqued everything properly, and I had my mechanic do the front. At least my friend who I sold the car to was stoked to not have to worry about wheel bearings for a while.

I only go to the tire shop in the morning now to be safe.That’s the only time I’ve ever had broken studs though. I’ve had my Civic for 17 years and have never had to replace any of the studs that I’m aware of.

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