Category Archives: Subaru Maintenance and care

General Subaru maintenance and car care tips and comments

Do I fix my Subaru or replace it with a new one…..comparison

“I told you we should have taken care of that last week!”

Often we come to a crossroads where a large expense occurs with our Subaru and the decision on whether to re-invest into the car vs replacing the car is thrust upon us. One of the first questions we ask a customer facing this dilemma is do they still enjoy the car and is it meeting all of their needs.  If the answer is yes to both questions  then it becomes a numbers comparison. Subarus, as well as other cars, are getting more and more expensive and re-investing into your current Subaru can actually make sense and save you thousands in the long run. In my cost of ownership analysis I compared a brand new entry level 2018 Subaru Impreza to a 2005 Subaru Outback. I also assumed no money down an a 0% interest 4 year loan.  After researching some numbers it’s pretty clear which scenario is more financially beneficial.  Here are my findings below:

  Cost of Ownershp over 4 Years
  Own Outright New Purchase
  2005 Subaru Outback 2018 Subaru Impreza
Purchase price incl tax/lic $0.00  no monthly pmt. $22,360 ($466 monthly pmt. 0 down 0% interest)
4yrs Lic/Reg/RTA est. $92 $0
  $88 $360
  $85 $320
  $80 $290
Insurance(no comp/coll on 05) $575 $750
  $575 $750
  $575 $750
  $575 $750
Yearly Maint/Repairs $2,000 $400
Estimated worst case $2,000 $500
on 2005 model $2,000 $800
  $2,000 $1,000
Fuel Cost $8,000 $6,000
Depriciation over 4 yrs $3,000 $11,470 
based on    
Total Cost of Ownership $21,645.00 $46,500

I tried to be agressive on the expense side for the 2005 Outback but in reality it would be out of the norm for one of our customers to spend $8000 in repairs and maintenance over 4 years even if it needed head gaskets during that time.

Now I realize that not all decisions are based on financial reasons. Having a shiney new car is nice without a doubt as well as all of the new safety and technology that comes along with it. I just wanted to make sure when you make the decision to repair or replace that you have looked at the complete picture so no matter what you decide you are happy with your decision.



Mike Corbin

Smart Service

Theftproof your Subaru

SPD Blotter | Seattle Police News and Events

According to the Seattle Police SPD Blotter, if you own a Subaru 2001 or older, you’re in the top 3 of the most stolen cars in Seattle.

I have a tip that could help slow down that would be thief from being able to start your Subaru. Although some of the older Subarus have became a target, with a little know how you may be able to confuse or slow down that would be thief into passing up your Subaru.

Most thieves will insert a screwdriver type device into a doorlock and just twist until it breaks open and unlocks. Once inside, they hammer out the ignition tumbler assembly and just twist the electrical portion of the ignition switch and off they go.

This tip will hopefully slow them down long enough that they’ll pass on your car and move on. It involves a simple method of disabling the ignition system. Since 1990 Subaru has used a coil pack instead of a distributor to fire the spark plugs. These coil packs can be disabled thus keeping the car from starting. It is located on the firewall toward the rear of the engine.

On a 1990-1999 Subaru model we accomplish this by disconnecting the ignitor assembly. The ignitor is responsible for triggering spark from the coil. If we disable this, the car will only crank over but it won’t start without spark.

Subaru Ignitor 1

Disconnecting the ignitor assembly is a simple process. There is a small tab that you need to squeeze down on while at the same time, wiggling the connector and pulling back on it.

Subaru Ignitor Release Tab

Removing Subaru ConnectorDisconnected Subaru Ignitor

Once the ignitor is disconnected, you may want to leave the connector partially plugged in to make it appear it’s connected just to make it less obvious.

If you own a 2000 or newer model Subaru you’ll have to disconnect the ignition coil pack itself.  It’s located on the top/center of the engine. It has the 4 spark plug wires connected to it as well as the connector that has the signal wires that tell it when to fire.

You’ll be disconnecting that connector as seen below:

Subaru Ignition CoilDisconnecting Subaru Ignition Coil









Hopefully you’ll never have your Subaru stolen but at least you have some good ammo to help prevent or at least slow that would be Subaru thief. Remember, criminals are lazy. If you make something more difficult for them, it’s likely they’ll move onto another car instead of risk being caught trying to figure out why the your Subaru won’t start.

Good luck and just remember to plug everything back in before you drive away!

Click here to discover the services our experienced and certified technicians can perform on your Subaru


Mike Corbin
Smart Service – Your Independent Subaru Expert

Snow Tires for your Subaru-sooner is better

Just a quick reminder that if you were thinking of getting snow tires for your Subaru don’t wait too much longer. Once the foul weather hits the sales tend to dry up if you know what I mean. Also, now is a good time to scour craigslist for a used set. I prefer to have a set on rims for easy changeover. The bonus is that many of Subaru’s wheels interchange with other Subaru models.

If you’ve never driven your Subaru with snow tires it’s quite amazing. They may not be necessary for driving around town but if you are frequently going over a mountain pass or skiing it’s a great investment.


Click here to discover the services our experienced and certified technicians can perform on your Subaru

Have you been “Hosed” by a Subaru shop lately?

One of the most often overlooked items on a Subaru or any car for that matter, are the coolant hoses. Often times we don’t know they’re bad until it’s too late.Steam coming from under the hood is the telltale sign along with the temp gauge heading toward the red. Back in the old days it was common to replace all of the coolant hoses every 5 years or 60,000 miles. They just didn’t hold up much longer than that. Now with improved material and technology in the molded and reinforced hoses, we would be overselling you if we replaced them at the same interval. Frankly they last so long, replacement as preventive maintenance has almost become an afterthought. Well, as the years pass and the mileage adds up, the hoses are overlooked but continue to deteriorate from the inside out. When an older hose failed, it would often show signs of seeping, swelling or cracking. Now, with the newer hose, it looks nearly as good as new until right before it blows.

If you have over 120,000 miles on your Subaru it’s probably time to get the hoses changed. There’s a simple test you can do yourself to evaluate the hose condition. When the engine is cold, locate a couple of coolant hoses and give them a good squeeze. If you squeeze them near where they connect to the engine or radiator you’ll probably get the most accurate results. If you feel a “crunching” feeling inside, the hose is becoming brittle and it’s time to budget for replacement. You can check multiple hoses on the car this same way but some are tougher to get to than others. As a rule of thumb, if one is going bad, and the others are the same age, it’s a good idea just to do them all and get it behind you.

Subaru coolant hoses really do last an unusually long time but eventually do need to be replaced.

Make sure you use quality clamps too. Many times the genuine Subaru wire clamps can be reused.

Mike Corbin
Independent Subaru Expert

Click here to view our genuine subaru coolant hoses

Are your Struts done Struttin’

Are they worn out yet?


Has your Subaru ever been diagnosed with bad struts? How many of you have ever been in one of those chain tire stores getting a set of tires only to be told that you need new struts and that your worn out struts will wear out your new tires prematurely?

It’s a question I hear from my customers all the time…”Mike, I just got my new tires you recommended but the tire store says my struts are bad also… how come you guys didn’t notice that?”

Since we started back in 1999 I’ve probably heard that same question over 100 times. Out of those 100 questions, upon checking out the vehicle very few ever really needed strut replacement.

The reality is that Subaru struts just happen to last a really long time under normal use. Sure… after 100,000 miles they may only work 85-90% as good as they once did but rarely are they ever “bad” at that point. Replacing your struts can be more of a decision based on your own preferences of how you want the car to ride vs. a decesion based on a mechanical failure.

If you’re unsure whether or not you need struts here are a couple of guidelines.

  • Perform a bounce test. Go to each corner of the car and get that corner bouncing up and down as high as you can and then let go… the car should stop after about 1 1/2 gyrations. If it bounces more, that strut is wearing out.
  • Inspect for hydraulic fluid leaking out of the strut. A small residual amount is normal as the piston goes up and down in the cylinder it wipes off some oil. If it’s more than just residual and trailing down the side of the strut, that strut may not be long for this world.
  • Listen for clunking or popping over speed bumps. This noise may indicate a strut is coming apart internally.

If you’d like a second opinion you can always drop in and I’ll check them for you. If your struts are getting worn, there’s no better feeling than driving a car with new struts. It will bring back the quickness and firmness in the handling as well as add a degree of safety in case of a quick avoidance maneuver.

As far as which struts to replace them with, if you’ve always liked the feel of the ride in your Subaru, use Genuine Subaru struts. If you want to try something a bit more “crisp” than what Subaru originally installed, I suggest the KYB GR2 line (also referred to as KYB Excel). It offers about a 20% more firm ride. Handling is more responsive but the downside is you do feel more of the bumps and irregularities in the road.

Click here to discover the services our experienced and certified technicians can perform on your Subaru

One other point is that sometimes Subaru’s tend to wear out the rear struts sooner than the front. Although it’s optimum to replace all 4 at the same time, it’s acceptable to do just the rears if the front’s are still performing well.


Mike Corbin

Independent Subaru Expert, Seattle WA

Keep visibility strong in Fall/Winter

I can’t see out of my Subaru!

Improving visibility

One of the most difficult driving conditions to deal with in the fall and winter is visibility. What good is all wheel drive if you can’t see where you’re going?

I have a few pointers that can improve things dramatically.

  • Wiper Blades. In our climate, they seem to last around a year or sometimes less if the car is parked outside. Take the time to wipe down the edges of the blades with a clean cloth. A wiper that may seem worn out may just need cleaning.
  • Glass Scrub. Ever put on new wipers and still have difficulty seeing through those hard water spots? A product called glass scrub solves that problem.
  • Headlight lenses.Most Subaru headlights are now made of a plastic composite that fades over the years. If they are cloudy you can loose up to 50% of the light that’s meant to illuminate the road ahead. We can perform a restorative polishing procedure that clears up the lenses for 1-2 years before they fade again. The ultimate is to replace the lenses’ but with a $200-400 price tag per headlight, this isn’t the most cost effective solution.
  • Headlight Bulbs. There have been major improvements in headlight technology over the past few years. Sylvania now offers an amazing headlight bulb called the “Silverstar” or “Silverstar Ultra” which are plug and play and provide up to 40% further down the road visibility and 50% better roadside visibility along with a “whiter” light. They are more expensive than a standard bulb but once you try them you’ll probably never go back to the old ones. I use them in all my vehicles.
  • Foglights.  Subaru foglights are handy when they work but because they’re so low to the ground they become broken and we neglect to replace them. Get them now before the fog and snow.
  • Windshield. Get those rock chips done now before the cold weather arrives. If moisture gets inside and freezes it may develop into a crack. Most insurance companies waive the deductible and cover the repair 100%. FYI Smart Service does rock chip repairs at both locations and we bill the insurance companies for you.
  • Glass Treatment. If you really want all around visibility, think about applying a product called “RainX” to your side and rear windows. It keeps the windows clearer and beads up the water so that it blows off as you drive. I don’t advise it on the front since it can cause the wipers to chatter.


Mike Corbin

Independent Subaru Expert

Click here to discover the services our experienced and certified technicians can perform on your Subaru

Subaru Stuck? Don’t Ruin your Tranny!

Subaru is an all wheel drive vehicle but it does have some limitations to beware of. If you’re ever stuck in the snow or elsewhere, your Subaru will try to apply a balance of power to each wheel the best it can. This works best if all wheels have some traction. If one or more wheels has no traction and is just spinning STOP! Spinning one wheel excessively can cause harm to the transmission or differential. It may be best to take the time to get some “push” assistance or a tow truck to free the car or to put something under the tire that’s spinning so it can gain traction.

Rock Chip Repairs at Smart Service on all makes

We now offer rock chip repairs at both Smart Service locations for your convenience. We can perform repairs on all makes and models (not just Subarus) Price ranges from FREE depending on your insurance policy up to $44.95

It takes about 30 minutes or less.

Click here to discover the services our experienced and certified technicians can perform on your Subaru

Get your Subaru ready for Summer Travel

“I told you we should have taken care of that last week!”

Is your Subaru ready for Summer vacation?

We’re ready whenever you are!

Summer is a busy time around the Northwest. Our calendars are full with student graduations, weddings, sports and of course the much  anticipated Summer vacation!

With all this going on it can be a major inconvenience to be without your Subaru so we’re encouraging you to get caught up on anything you’ve been putting off on your Subaru.

Whether it’s a week at Ocean Shores with horseback rides and go carts or a weekend at Lake Chelan for summer fun and watersports, you need your Subaru to perform.

Are those brakes still adequate to make it safely over the mountain passes? When’s the last time someone looked at my tire tread? Can my cooling system and hoses hold up to one more season of Summer heat? Is my engine properly serviced to achieve the optimum fuel economy?

All you may need is a simple oil change and safety inspection and you’re good to go. Some cars may need much more depending on their age and mileage. The important thing is that you ask the important questions and if you can’t answer them, ask a professional that can. We’ll happily fix any Subaru that breaks down but would rather help you take the necessary measures to prevent the breakdown in the first place. Money up front for smart maintenance is much less expensive in the long run than the expense of breakdowns along with missed work, towing and in many cases, not being around your favorite shop for the repair.

No matter where you have your work done, start making arrangements now. Auto repair shops tend to get very busy in the Summer. Start making plans now so you’re not stuck with the crowd that has to wait 2 weeks just to get in.

Happy motoring,

Mike Corbin

Smart Service

  Click here to discover the services our experienced and certified technicians can perform on your Subaru