Maintenance FAQ

Where do I find my maintenance schedule? This link has the up to date maintenance schedule information and is more accurate that what can be found in your owner’s manual. If you notice a conflict between what your dealer says, what your owner’s manual says, or what it says on mysubaru.com, always defer to the advice of the maintenance schedules found on subaru.com.

My dealer wants OMG $$$ for my XX,000 service, what do I do? Visit your local NASIOC Chapter or Regional Area. They will have advice for you as to which shops can help out. Also, talk to locals. There may be local maintenance/install parties going on and local people will either do the maintenance for a small fee or teach you how to do it. Also, many times dealers will stick on “recommended maintenance items” onto your XX,000 mile service to pad their fees. Subvert this by printing out your schedule from the above link and only allow them to do what is 100% necessary. If they give you grief, offer to call 1-800-SUBARU3 in front of them and discuss which is more correct, SOA’s maintenance schedule or the dealer’s “recommended maintenance schedule”. Then watch the back pedaling.

Another option is to take the maintenance schedule to a local shop such as Firestone, Goodyear, etc. as their labor rates are usually cheaper than dealerships. It may be advisable to bring your own fluids though as they sometimes use what they have available rather than OEM spec fluids. While this may or may not get you some small discount, it will give you piece of mind knowing that you have the right fluids in your car. Always ask for the empty containers back!

For any maintenance shop:

Avoid add-ons. This can be in many forms. My favorites:
Fluid flushes. This is a machine that pumps numerous gallons of fluid, usually under pressure, to ensure that all the old fluid is out and you have 100% new fluid. While this is a great marketing tool, your engine is designed for drain and fill, not flush and fill. SOA’s stance: after emailing SOA, they stated they have no stance on this issue pro/con or good/bad. But there is a stance when it comes to cooling system flushes, so refer to the Cooling System FAQ for more info.
The “come look at your dirty air filter” trick. Jiffy Lube is famous for this. Simply tell them that your filter is doing it’s job and a dirty filter actually filters better than a clean one and you aren’t scheduled to replace it until XXXX miles. You might actually get one of those guys to see the logic which is funny too.
Oil additives. Just say no.

Can I do my own maintenance? Yes. Contact locals for help as it’s always best to have experienced help. Otherwise, use the below for help:

a. www.scoobymods.com has tutorials for most Subaru maintenance items. While many of them might not be 100% specific to your model, much of the advice applies from say a Forester, applies to your STi.
b. scoobymods jacking instructions
c. The Tool FAQ should be able to answer all your tool questions.
d. Clubwrx.net has a nice tutorial section as well.
e. Search for your maintenance on NASIOC.
f. Though you may ask maintenance questions on NASIOC, it is probably best to ask in your local forum as you just might get an offer for local help.
g. Most modern Subarus do not have Chilton or Haynes manuals, so you are forced to either buy the $$$ shop manuals from your dealer or download them for a small fee from http://techinfo.subaru.com
h. End Wrench Magazine has useful help.

Where can I log my maintenance? mysubaru.com is a wonderful place for maintenance logging. While possibly more inconvenient than traditional logging methods such as a car notebook or receipt saving, mysubaru automatically logs all Subaru dealer service. This website should only be used for logging and perhaps seeing if you have any recalls as their maintenance schedules are WAY out of whack with the official SOA maintenance schedules.

Who is the OEM fluid manufacturer?
Provided by: John Mergen/Sam Hasen/Takita Kashwa of SOA customer service:

engines are filled with: Nisseki-Mitsubishi 5W-30

manual transmissions are filled with: Subaru Extra-S 75w-90 gear oil

automatic transmissions are filled with: Subaru ATF

rear diffs (except: STI) are filled with: Nisseki-Mitsubishi 85w-90 gear oil

STI rear diffs are filled with: Subaru LSD 90LS 90wt

What brand/type of brake fluid should I use and how do I do it myself?

Scoobymods.com instructions

To make brake fluid swaps much easier consider speed bleeders and/or a vacuum brake bleeder. A speed bleeder is simply a replacement bleed nipple with a non-return valve in it. This allows you to open up the nipple and squeeze the old brake fluid though the system, without having to close the bleed nipple closed after every brake pedal depression. A Vacuum brake bleeder is a hand held vacuum pump that attaches to the bleeder. This allows you to hand bleed the brakes at the caliper instead of having to pump the brakes.

For the majority of owners, the OEM fluid is fine. This is especially true if you are using a big brake kit as the better your brakes, the less stress this puts on your fluid. That doesn’t mean that if you use your brakes HARD during mountain driving or numerous autocross/HPDE events that you won’t benefit from higher quality brake fluids though. For people seeking a “Stage 1″ upgrade over the OEM fluid, popular brands include Valvoline Synpower and ATE Blue. For more advanced users, you will want to research the cost/benefits of the more expensive brake fluids.

For more advanced users:

To find out how much moisture is in your brake system, one can buy a brake fluid tester, a brake fluid moisture meter, or brake fluid test strips. Use these terms in google and you will see examples of these devices for sale. For high tech users, you can use a Kernco Digital Relflectometer to check the water content of DOT3 and DOT4 brake fluids. As a rule of thumb, if your brake fluid has reached 2-3% moisture, it’s time for a change regardless of when you last changed it.

Background information:

This link contains a wealth of knowledge about brakes and brake fluids. Be sure to read the entire post as unlike the traditional “Unabomber FAQs”, this one has lots of wonderful information throughout the whole thread.
Stoptech’s Brake Fluid FAQ
Brake fluid is to be considered a consumable item. Buy fresh and do not reuse old supplies unless you discover leaks or fluid loss over say a week’s period after the initial fill.

To dispose of your old brake fluid, many states treat it the same as old motor oil, so for most, just add it to your motor oil pan and dispose of it that way. Call your local waste recycling facility for the best answer though.

What brand/type of transmission fluid should I use and how do I do it myself?

The Subaru 5MT can be a picky about what fluid you should use. Popular fluids that have a large fan base are:

a. OEM fluid AKA non synthetic 75w90 gear oil
b. Uncle Scotty’s Cocktail of 1qt Redline lightweight shockproof, 1qt Pennzoil or GM Synchromesh, 2qt Castrol HypoyC 80w-90.
c. Redline lightweight shockproof
d. Motul 300

While we are big fans of sticking to OEM fluids on NASIOC, this is one case where using something not SOA recommended has shown actual benefit, mainly in helping with synchro interaction.

You 6MT users can use whatever you like, though there is some benefit by using one of the above fluids as they do aid in synchro engagement.

Scoobymods.com instructions
Scoobymods.com instructions

To dispose of your old tranny fluid, many states treat it the same as old motor oil, so for most, just add it to your motor oil pan and dispose of it that way. Call your local waste recycling facility for the best answer though.

What brand/type of rear differential fluid should I use and how do I do it myself?

The rear differential in Subarus will accept OEM or “better” synthetic fluids without problems, so use what you like on any Subaru rear differential. Since most rear diffs will work 100% fine on the OEM fluid, many consider swapping out this fluid for more expensive synthetics to be a waste.

Scoobymods.com instructions
R180 instruct?ons

To dispose of your old rear diff fluid, many states treat it the same as old motor oil, so for most, just add it to your motor oil pan and dispose of it that way. Call your local waste recycling facility for the best answer though.

What brand/type of power steering fluid should I use, how often should I change it?

This is maintenance item that is not covered by SOA schedules. Internet searches say things like every two years, to when the fluid becomes discolored, to 50,000 miles. So, it’s a judgment call. Adding this to every 60,000 mile maintenance checklist might be a good compromise depending on your driving style. How to guide.

As to what to use, there really is no reason to use any fluid other than what is recommended in your owner’s manual.

What brand/type of air filter should I use, and how do I do it myself?

The Intake FAQ discusses air filters in detail.

What brand/type of PCV valve should I use, how often should I change it?

The SOA schedules do not call for a specific replacement schedule. Based on internet searches, it might be advisable to add it to your major 30,000 mile maintenance schedules. If you remove the PCV valve and shake it back and forth, you should hear it click back and forth. No rattling sound indicates it’s stuck and needs replacement.

Unlike other maintenance items, there is almost no research into PCV valves. Suffice it to say that most consider the OEM and aftermarket PCV valve on the same level, so use which is easiest to obtain or based on personal preference.

scoobymods instructions
Helpful link
Helpful link
Helpful link

What brand/type of fuel filter should I use?

Unlike other things, there is almost no research into fuel filters. Suffice it to say that most consider the OEM and aftermarket fuel filters on the same level, so use which is easiest to obtain or based on personal preference.

scoobymods instructions for fuel filter replacement.

What brand/type of drive belts should I use and how do I do it myself?

OEM belts are fine, but you can usually save some money by picking up your new belts from NAPA. The NAPA brand belts are made by Gates. Gates is the manufacturer of the OEM replacement belts. So now matter where you buy them, your belts will have Gates stamped on them. No name belts from your local auto store tend to howl like a banshee, so this is one case where you want to spend more and not have to worry. Kevlar timing belts from Greddy, STI, Gates, PE, etc. are an expensive option and for 99% of users are wholly not needed as OEM or OEM quality belts are not prone to failure.

Now when you do your timing belt, there is a lot of debate about what you should do while you are in there already. Other things you can do are timing belt tensioner, oil pump, idlers, water pump, cam and crank seals. The only must replace item is the timing belt tensioner and some even forgo that. The other items are not particularly wear prone and could be replaced if you see a problem with leaking when the timing belt cover is off. Mind you, there are doom and gloomers that suggest replacing every bit under or near the timing belt cover, but rest assured…unless you see a problem, there is no dire need to replace things just for replacement’s sake or you feel it’s in your car’s best interest.

subarugirlies.com accessory belts instructions
clubwrx timing belt instructions
Scoobymods timing belt instructions

What about cleaning my Idle Air Control Valve (non drive by wire cars) or Mass Air Flow Sensor?

For the IACV, this link provides detailed instructions on how to do so.

For the MAF sensor, this link provides detailed instructions on how to do so.

While not a maintenance item per se, it might not be a bad idea to clean these with every 30K service interval and perhaps prior to tuning.

What brand/type of motor oil should I use and how do I do it myself? The Oil FAQ should be able to answer all your oil related questions.

What brand/type of coolant should I use and how do I do it myself? The Cooling System FAQ should be able to answer all your coolant related questions.

What brand/type of spark plugs should I use and how do I do it myself? The Spark Plug FAQ should be able to answer all your spark plug related questions.

Though not a real maintenance item, what about fuel injector/system cleaners? This link is probably the best source on these cleaners. While it does not cover all brands, it provides a wealth of information. That being said, gasoline is filtered at the refinery, the gas pumps, and by your fuel filter. Many believe that fuel injector cleaners are not needed on today’s cleaner burning engines. Whether you wish to use them and how often, is up to you.

How do I find out how much of these fluids to add?
All fluid quantities are listed in your owners manual. All fluid amounts for all Subarus cannot possibly be listed here. Break open your manual and find out. Also remember that just because it says (made up quantities for example) you will need 2 gallons of coolant, does not mean you will use 2 full gallons. It’s always wise to fill/check/fill/check/fill/check to ensure you do not overfill any fluid level. Use the listed specs in your owners manual as a worst case, then rely on the dipstick or indicator as to how much you have really need. With all fluid fill-ups, check for leaks or top-up fluid levels a day later and with each fill-up or other schedule you feel most comfortable with.

Also keep in mind that if it says (made up quantities for example) you will need 2 gallons of coolant (or whatever fluid), that you won’t necessarily see 2 gallons come out when doing a fluid swap. The amount leftover in any fluid swap is taken into consideration by SOA engineers, so draining for days, performing a “flush”, or using unusual methods to get every last drop out is not necessary.

Editors Note

This post was created because I wasn’t able to find a good maintenance FAQ. I came up with the text based on LOTS of searching here. It was also created to be intentionally brand neutral so that it serves as a stepping stone for further research. Upon reading this you should have an idea of what type of maintenance or maintenance items best suit your needs.

If you find an error in this FAQ, please PM me with factual details and I will update this post. Responses such as, “I use Pep Boys for service and it’s great!” or “XXX’s brake fluid is the bestest” are not appreciated here, that is what the NASIOC Reviews Forums are for.

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