What should I replace my Subaru Outback with?

Q. I am starting to shop to replace my 2002 Subaru Outback. We are not city commuters; most of its miles are highway.  We drive in Vermont on dirt roads and like the nine inch clearance. We carry a canoe, kayak, fishing equipment and a small dog. This car has been relatively expensive to maintain over the past 11 years and due to the repairs has put me off Subaru. As we are shopping we would like good fuel economy, all-wheel-drive and nothing bigger than the Outback. Where should I begin my research?

A. I wouldn’t be so quick to condemn Subaru. Certainly earlier models had a series of issues including head-gasket problems the overall reputation has been quite good. One Subaru I would look at is the new Crosstrek XV, the size and off road clearance is about right and during my road test I averaged 27 miles per gallon. I would also look at the Honda CR-V; this small SUV only seems to get better with age. The latest model is quieter, gets better fuel economy and still has great use of space.


Q. Is all synthetic oil the same? I have been using Mobil-1 synthetic oil and want to use Quaker State synthetic oil in our Toyota Prius? The car has 80,000 miles on it and we want it to last without problems.

A. All synthetic motor oil needs to pass certain industry performance standards, but are not all the same. Some synthetic oils are made in a laboratory and some are made of a base stock of conventional oil. In my own cars I have seen virtually no difference in types of synthetic oil. In my opinion if the synthetic oil meets the specification for your car’s engine and meets your budget, use it.

Q. I have a 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid with 217,000 miles and the car has been great. Before too long I plan to give it to my daughter. One major expense has come up, two of three catalytic converters have failed and the cost to repair has been estimated at $1,800.00.  In the past the engine light has fluctuated and I was able to get a valid inspection sticker. I’m due for a sticker in April, and I’ve read about an additive you can use to try and clean out the converters, do you recommend using such an additive?


A. Most of these additives according to their own websites are designed to fix drivability issues such as power reduction, hesitation and hard starts, as a pre-treatment before an emissions test or to extend the life of your vehicle. Using this type of additive on a catalytic convertor that has failed will most likely be ineffective.

Readers Respond

Regarding rodents eating wires several readers have had good luck with a product called Fresh Cab. This is a plant-based rodent repellent. It is a botanical rodent repellent for indoor use or where poisons and traps are not desirable. According to their website, it delivers an aroma that drives rodents crazy and confuses their natural instincts which causes them to vacate the area. Fresh Cab is available on line or at Tractor Supply stores.

Regarding Subaru engines and head gasket failures. My email box filled up with mail concerning head gasket failure on 2002-2007 Subaru models although as unhappy as some owners were most took in stride and still love their Subarus and would buy another.

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