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#3464 of 19336 New Impreza Wagon - normal or problems?
Jun 19, 2004 (1:39 pm)
Hi, hope this is the right thread - I think/hope I'm in the Subaru Problems/Solutions thread?
I just purchased a new 2004 Impreza wagon from the local dealership (a few weeks ago, 5/31) and am having some problems (yes yes this is the one that I couldn't get the dealer down to the price I wanted, and then had a really bad feeling about and bought anyway - I am kicking myself now!!!). After taking it back to the dealer today, I was told that these things are "normal". A friend suggested I post to get some feedback. I'm afraid I'm not very car-savvy and this is the first AWD vehicle I've owned, so any tips, help, and pointers are greatly appreciated! Thanks.
Problem 1 (most concerning): The steering feels "wobbly". It feels alot like when a car is being pushed sideways by wind, and you have to constantly correct the steering to stay straight. I find myself constantly correcting, especially at interstate speeds (>60mph), and feel like the car is rather "jittery". It's an awful lot of work, and I feel very nervous about looking away from the road (ie to check the speed or mileage) for even a second, as I worry about careening into the traffic alongside of me.
I hadn't noticed it as much at lower speeds - but to check, I picked a straight section of road with no traffic and gently lifted my hands from the wheel. The car appeared fine for approximately 1-2 seconds, and by the 2-3 second was pulling noticeably to the right. I repeated this 3 times with the same results, on 3 different (but nearby) sections of road.
Dealer had 2 people drive it on the highway, and said that they didn't feel anything wrong. They advised me that all-wheel-drive grips the road, and thus can feel like it's pulling to one side depending on the road itself.
Problem 2: There's a noise coming from the front of the car (I assume the engine). It's very faint, and the dealer said (again had 2 people listen) they can't hear it. It's hard to describe- definitely fainter than the road noise I'm getting - almost electronic in that it's very smooth/pure, not "rumbly" or "buzzy". On listening again, it resembles the type of sound that you make when you tie something to a string and whirl it around fast... Noticeable at high speeds (>60mph), most noticeable when accelerating, seems to get louder (and I think higher, not sure) the harder you accelerate.
Are these things normal? Should I be concerned?
The sound I can live with, as long as it's not a sign of impending doom for something in the engine, but the steering is very very stressful for me, especially as most of my driving is on the interstate... I can't imagine taking the car on a long trip, I think I'd be exhausted from trying to keep it straight!
Thank you very much for your help!
Jun 19, 2004 (5:16 pm)
Problem 1: Your car may need a four-wheel alignment. Constant pulling to one side is a classical indication of a misaligned suspension/steering system. It could also be due to "road crown." Road crown is where the road has a high peak in the center, and then slopes down to the side of the road. Whenever you drive on a road with severe road crown, your car will pull to the right, no matter what kind of car you drive. Try your "hands-free" test on a perfectly flat road (or as close as you can get). If it's still pulling, take it to the dealership and have a mechanic ride with you as you perform your test. Tell them it pulls hard on flat roads at freeway speeds.
Problem 2: That's pretty hard to diagnose without actually hearing it. I have a feeling it's just normal boxer engine noise. Subarus have VERY different engine layouts than other manufacturers...which is a good thing, believe me...and they sound just a little different because of it.
#3466 of 19336 Re: New Impreza Wagon - normal or problems? [atlantagirl #3464]
Jun 19, 2004 (5:22 pm)
Problem #1 - has anyone checked the tire pressure? Should be around 30 but no more that 34 when the tires are cold.
Problem #2 - the sound you're hearing is probably the boxer "growl". Horizontally opposed (boxer) engines have a unique sound.
Jun 19, 2004 (5:25 pm)
The question goes unanswered for 3.5+ hours and Ty slips in ahead of me by 6 minutes because I type too slow.
#3468 of 19336 Atlantagirl
Jun 19, 2004 (6:20 pm)
Both could be normal.
As Ty poined out, it's fairly normal for a car to pull sightly to the right due to the crown in the road and that's something that would be more noticeable at highway speeds. Also your Impreza might have more sensitive steering than what you're use to. Try finding a straight strectch of multi-lane hwy where the crown is visible to the naked eye then pick the leftmost lane. The car should pull to the left. If it doesn't then ask that they check the alignemt.
I also agree that the engine noise is probably normal. If you don't trust the dealer and you'd like a second opnion then let me know and I'd be happy to go for a test ride with you (assuming from your screen name that you live locally in Atlanta).
Jun 19, 2004 (6:42 pm)
Ahhh, many thanks for explaining about the crowning. It's just weird, because it wasn't noticeable at all (same roads to get to work) on my last car...
I will go down first thing in the morning and check the tire pressure, just to be sure it's in the correct range. The car is feeling awful *bouncy* so maybe they are a little over-inflated.
Thanks for the idea of trying the left lane of the highway - I'll give that a try in the next few days and see if it makes a difference.
Shouldn't the "boxer growl" be "growly"? I had heard about this before, and expected something a little lower, sound-wise, and more rumbly - rather than this almost whining type noise. But, as I said, the noise itself isn't alarming (not like anything is banging together or falling out )
My "last car" was a '97 Dodge Neon, 2d coupe, that I got new in '97 and drove for 7 years. I assume that, as Frank said, the Subaru has more sensitive steering?
Gotta admit, I'm kinda missing the little Neon...
Thank you for your help! And Frank, thanks for the offer to come check out my car, I appreciate it - and am feeling a little more at ease now. At least I have a plan for what to check out next...
Jun 20, 2004 (6:44 am)
Problem #1 - have tire pressure and alignment checked.
Problem #2 - if you have the WRX, then it's most likely high pitched turbo noise - that's normal. If it disappears when you let up on the gas pedal, then it's the turbo spooling up that you're hearing.
If you have a non-turbo, then I have no idea. Maybe a vacuum leak?
#3471 of 19336 Re: New Impreza Wagon - normal or problems? [atlantagirl #3464]
Jun 20, 2004 (8:22 am)
Yes check that tire pressure first. If that does not remedy the pulling problem then it's probably alignment. I experienced the same kind of "drifting" on my 03 Forester when it was new and sure enough it was alignment. The 4 wheel alignment was of course done under warranty and has been dead-on ever since. Have the dealer put it up on the alignment rack to verify alignment if tire pressure or road crown still does not satisfy your displeasure.
Jun 20, 2004 (10:12 am)
Thanks. Nope, not a WRX, just the basic little impreza wagon.
The tire pressure seems to be off just a little, not sure it's enough to make a difference, but I'm going to go run to the gas station and try to fix it.
According to the placard - should be 32psi in the front, and 29 in the back. (Does that make sense, or did I misunderstand? Last car was the same pressure front & back, and I thought that, with AWD, you wanted to make sure all tires were basically "equal"?)
My car seemed to be 30-30.5 psi on every tire.
10years - did the offer to put it on the alignment machine to check, or did you have to insist? I don't believe they did that with mine, I think they just drove it and said, "Well it feels normal to us". The service person said that they had 2 people drive it, and neither felt that it had any problem with steering - but looking at my reeipt, they claim to only have added 10 miles total to the mileage, which would mean each person only drove about 5 miles. I'm not sure how they could tell in so short a space - I don't even think they could have gotten to the interstate and back in 5 miles, let alone driven on it. !
Is it alot of work to put it on the machine and actually test the alignment? It would sure make me feel a whole lot better, and I'm not real keen on taking it to some random place to get it test, since I've had problems with random-places previously
#3473 of 19336 Re: [atlantagirl #3472]
Jun 20, 2004 (12:43 pm)
Tire pressure - yup, many cars have different front and rear pressures. I think you read correctly. If you feel like listening to my Sunday morning babble... The tire pressure that one selects (person or automaker) has to do with comfort of driving and performance of tires, and safety. Therefore, I consider choosing my tire pressure as much an art as a science. I have all of mine set to the same all around - I use what the placard recommends for the front tires. The deal is, they should be balanced left to right but you have a range to work with front to back. If you fill the back tires up to 32 (so you are 32 all around like me) you needn't be concerned about safety since you are not over the max or below the min, but you will notice a more 'jittery' ride.
Less pressure = more 'plush' ride, worse gas mileage, more tire grip on the road, but could actually be less safe below that recommended 29psi. When I drive in sand or off road, I sometimes lower the pressure but for highway driving I won't go below 30psi.
More pressure = more "firm" ride, better gas mileage, better ability to withstand higher weight loads (like if you were hauling stuff you'd want to fill the rear tires more), keep below the recommend max indicated on the tire itself or you will have over-inflated which can also be dangerous. I don't fill over 32 or 33 on any of my tires no matter what the driving conditions.
Always check the pressure when the tires are cold, after driving a couple of miles, the psi can go up by as much as 5.
As for alignment. Maybe you need to insist that you go with the dealer tech to ensure they make it onto the highway and at speeds you find the problem. Have them get on a smooth flat stretch of highway and take their hands off of the steering wheel. If the car starts pulling in one direction, you'll both notice it.
An alignment is not cheap, so I don't recommend going to a private shop to measure if it's within specs unless you're at your wits end and ready to eat the money ($100?). See if your dealer will give in to your insistence that they check the alignment under warranty. Also, don't know how many miles are on your car yet, but you may be able to ID an alignment problem by the tread wear on the tires themselves. Look for uneven wear on any of the tires. Although you probably have less than 3K on the car so you probably won't notice anything there.