Subaru Forester Diesel DPF Operation Issue

Subaru Forester Diesel DPF Operation Issue

Hi there John,

Great website! So much great information for us consumers struggling with car dealers! I was relieved to read that Subaru are generally better at customer service than other car companies.

In February 2014, I paid $37,000 for a new 2013 (MY14) Forester diesel. Its now done 42,000km. It's been great until January this year. Since then it's been back to the dealer (Tynan Motors in Wollongong, NSW) three times for a Diesel Particular Filter issue.

The issue is the car is supposed to show a solid light on the dash to tell me the DPF needs a regeneration so I can take it for a good drive for 25 mins at over 60km/h to do the regeneration (as per the manual). If the regeneration doesn't happen then the light flashes, and then you need to take it to the dealer.

The problem is: I don't get the solid light. It just flashes. That's the first thing I see. It's been back to the dealer now three times since January. The last time they had it two days. When the light flashes you shouldn't drive it much. So far, I've incurred a charge from the dealer two out of three times.

Also, the car dealer won't provide a courtesy car (well they offered me a 1994 beat up old Toyota Camry - their words) and the Subaru customer service lady was unsympathetic that I needed a car to get to work. Both say it's probably not a warranty claim.

The last time the dealer plugged it into a computer and sent the data to Subaru for a diagnosis to be made. Subaru say the data was corrupt so I need to take it back. I just can't get the time to get it there at the moment.

My questions for you are below,

Thank you!!!
Regards Jenny

Q: How many times should I have to take it back for repair of the same issue?

A: Ideally once - but obviously some problems are more resistant to solution than others. In practise, as many times as it takes. However, some dealers are hopeless. Send me the VIN code (it's on the rego papers and on a sticker inside the door frame) and the rego number by email >> and I'll make representations at Subaru Australia for you, and hopefully they can supply some technical grunt from above. Subaru is quite good at customer goodwill - but like most carmakers the importer can do little to ensure competency at dealership level, because dealers are separately owned businesses.

Q: Have you heard of anyone having this issue and having it fixed?

A: Yours is the first such complaint I've been presented with.

Q: What should I expect from Subaru and can you point me to someone I can contact there?

A: I'll do it for you as above and they'll be in touch - unlike Jeep, Ford, Holden, etc., Subaru is actually quite good at customer support at the importer level. If the system is defective, I'd be negotiating with both the dealer and Subaru for a refund of the monies charged to you for manual regeneration so far, and expecting a repair for free under Australian Consumer Law. Read my report on your rights under the Australian Consumer Law >> It may also be possible to hire a car and bill them for it for the duration of the next (and hopefully last) repair attempt.

Q: I've read plenty of stories on the Internet that this problem doesn't go away and I've been told to get rid of the car by others who have had my issue. Unfortunately it's financed, I owe $19k and I'm starting to feel ripped off because I'm a loyal Subaru customer - my last car was a new Impreza until I started a family and wanted a bigger, safe and reliable car and that's when I bought the Forester. Any guidance on how I can resolve this issues would be really appreciated.

A: The problem with reading things on the web is the likelihood of getting bad information from an uninformed source. Selling the car seems an excessive reaction to a problem that can probably be solved. The car is fundamentally sound and serving you well. It has a problem, and the thing Subaru needs to do to turn your frown upside-down is simply fix it.

With the greatest respect, I'd suggest in future that the warning light (even when it works properly) is probably not the best way to keep the DPF in the best of health. It's unlikely the advice from Subaru is: Drive until the DPF warning light comes on, and then go out for a long drive. (I understand how owners might assume that's the case, but it's actually not.)

DPFs need to regenerate, and the best way to achieve this would simply be to go for a 30- or 40-minute drive on the freeway (20 minutes one way; 20 minutes back) once every two weeks. Living in the Illawarra as you appear to do, there are numerous freeways and highways within easy reach, and in practise this will regenerate the DPF efficiently and proactively.  Even if the warning light were working properly, doing this would be a better option than waiting for the solid or flashing lights. Go for a nice drive every second weekend, have a coffee by the beach and drive home, and your DPF will thank you for it. The problem with waiting for the warning light to illuminate (solid) is that the DPF is getting clogged, and there's a risk there that the DPF's life will be shortened as a consequence. If it needs replacement, the cost is substantial.

This really is a primary consideration for intending diesel purchasers: Will you be able to drive in the required conditions often enough to keep the DPF healthy? If not, it may be better to buy the petrol powertrain instead. In your case, because you already own the diesel, it's a good idea to build the required regeneration-friendly driving into your calendar. (I appreciate that this is something that might unfortunately not have been spelled out to you on the showroom floor, when you purchased the vehicle.)

See also: Petrol Vs Diesel >>
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