Used Subaru Forester 2009-2013 review

Common problems: Rattling exhaust shields are common. The symptom is an occasional metal rattling noise that comes at certain engine rpms. The repair is not very expensive: a loose exhaust heat shield needs to be re-secured. Most repair shops use worm gear clamps for this purpose. A number of Forester owners have reported a failed catalytic converter. The symptom is the Check Engine light with the code P0420 or P0421. When out of warranty, the repair is expensive. The OEM converter may cost over $1,000 to replace, while the aftermarket catalytic converter may cost $350-$600 (for the part) plus $80-$200 labor. Several owners reported leaking head gaskets (2009, 2010 mostly at high mileage). With the introduction of a new non-turbo engine (FB25) in 2011 Forester, there are complaints about oil consumption in this motor. Consumer Reports also mentions engine problems in 2009 and 2011 Forester. The 2010 and 2013 Forester are rated above average for engine issues. Minor oil leaks are reported often too. Failed sway bar links and bushings are often mentioned. The repair is not very expensive. Brakes need to be serviced regularly in order to prevent sticking and premature wear. A/C problems are mentioned frequently. Many owners mention various trim rattles inside the car.

Overall: We recommend to look for a non-turbo Forester, as the turbo motor is thirsty, requires premium gasoline and sensitive to lack of maintenance. The 2010, 2012 and 2013 Forester have less reported problems than other years. Among the competitors, we would recommend Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, as both are rated well for reliability. The 2013-plus Mazda CX-5 is better on gas and should also be considered as an alternative.
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What to look for when buying a used Subaru Forester: If you are buying from Subaru dealer, checking the service history may reveal many potential problems, such as oil consumption. Check if the A/C works. When started cold watch out for loud engine noises. During a test drive, watch out for jerking or rough shifting of the automatic transmission. A burnt oil smell under the hood may indicate oil leaks. The Check Engine light staying on must be investigated before buying a car, as some problems will be expensive to repair. We recommend to have a used Subaru Forester inspected prior purchase by an independent mechanics familiar with Subaru or another Subaru dealer.
Guides for used car buyers:

Maintenance: According to the 2009-2010 Maintenance schedule, the engine oil needs to be changed every 7,500 miles for non-turbo models and every 3,750 miles for turbo models. A turbocharged engine is very sensitive to oil quality. Longer intervals between oil changes can lead to problems. If you notice the engine consumes oil between oil changes, check the oil level more frequently and top up as needed. Running the engine low on oil will cause problems. Read here: how to check the oil level. Spark plugs need to be changed every 30,000 miles for non-turbo models and every 60,000 for turbo models. A drive belt and timing belt need to be replaced every 105,000 miles. For 2011 Forester got a new 2.5L non-turbo DOHC engine. It doesn't have a timing belt. Its spark plugs need to be replaced every 60,000 miles.

Engine oil capacity:
When replacing engine oil and oil filter:
2009,2010 Forester 2.5 L Non-turbo: 4.4 US qt. or 4.2 liters
2011-2013 Forester 2.5 L non-turbo DOHC: 5.5 US qt. or 5.2 liters
2009-2013 Forester 2.5 L Turbo: 4.4 US qt. or 4.2 liters

Resources:
Subaru Technical Information System - you can buy a temporary subscription and get access to a factory service manual and technical service bulletins. It's a great help for DIY enthusiasts.
Subaru of America Vehicle Resources - Access owner's manuals online, Starlink FAQ, BlueConnect guides and more.
Check For Recalls NHTSA - check for recalls, safety ratings and search the complaint database.

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