Dear Tom and Ray:
I have a 2009 Subaru Outback, currently with 54,000 miles. Since April 2012, every time I take it in for an oil change (at two different places), I am told that the front axle clamps have failed and are seeping grease (last year, left axle; this year, both sides) and that they should be replaced by the dealer under the power-train warranty before the car reaches 60,000 miles. Every time I take it back to the dealer (three times), I’m told that it’s not a problem and it’s not covered under the warranty. The dealer’s service department cleans around the clamps, says the clamps are not serviceable, that it’s “very minor seepage” and that they’ll monitor it at the next service. New clamps will cost $130. Who do I believe, and should anything be done? Is this leakage setting me up for other, more expensive problems in the future? — Karen
TOM: In our experience, Subaru axle clamps do tend to seep grease.
RAY: Kind of like we do when we get home from work at night.
TOM: I don’t know why this happens on Subarus. It may be the unique angle created by their higher-mounted differentials that makes the CV boots hard to seal well against the CV joint housing.
RAY: But we’ve also noticed that the minor seepage usually does not lead to imminent, disastrous axle failure.
TOM: But without seeing your car, it’s impossible for us to know how badly yours are leaking. If it’s really minimal seepage, the dealer may be right. AND lazy. But also right.
RAY: On the other hand, if it looks like grease has been slung all over the place, like after my brother tries to make lunch, that indicates a more serious leak, and then the answer to your question is yes, that will eventually lead to hundreds of dollars in repairs when your CV joint fails due to lack of lubrication.
TOM: The problem is that you’re not sure who to trust in this situation. On the one hand, you’ve got a couple of oil-change guys who might not be Subaru experts, and on the other hand you’ve got a Subaru dealer who may have an interest in not fixing your car for free, perhaps because he won’t be reimbursed under warranty from Subaru.
RAY: So my recommendation would be to find an independent repair shop that specializes in Subarus.
TOM: We maintain a free database of recommended mechanics all over the country (www.mechanicsfiles.com). These are shops that have been reviewed and vouched for by our newspaper readers and radio listeners. And if you enter your ZIP code, you’ll get a list of highly rated shops in your area. Then you can look for one that has some Subaru expertise, and ask them to take a look and tell you what they think you should do.
RAY: My guess is that the dealer probably is right in this case. But a second opinion will give you peace of mind. And then you can forget about it and worry about more important issues, like how to get the bird droppings out from between the tiny crevices in your roof rack. Good luck, Karen.
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NOT-SO-SERIOUS TALK ABOUT CARSTACHES
Dear Tom and Ray:
I recently began driving my 2007 Dodge Caliber around with a “carstache” mustache on the grill. Don’t ask me why, but I did. While driving with it on, I’ve noticed that the external temperature gauge reads particularly high, maybe around 20 degrees higher than the actual outside temperature. I have glanced at the engine temperature gauge, and it’s completely fine. I figure the mustache isn’t letting air run over the radiator sufficiently, but if the engine isn’t overheating, I’m guessing it’s not awful. Is this something to be worried about? Thanks. — Nathan
RAY: Nah. I’d worry more about your ability to ever get a date again, Nathan. My brother wanted to put one of those big, pink carstaches on his car, and I told him it would be easier to just get a bumper sticker that says “Dork.”
TOM: But I already have one of those! Actually, I disagree with my brother. These things are just playful, harmless fun. I like ‘em. And they’re a lot more family-friendly than, say, truck … danglers. I’m with you, Nathan. Keep the carstache.
RAY: Actually, I think the pink ones indicate that you’re part of a car-sharing service, in some areas. So don’t use a pink one unless you want strangers to hop in when you stop at red lights.
TOM: What’s happening is that your carstache is blocking the temperature sensor that reads the outside temperature. It sits right in front of the radiator on most cars.
RAY: That’s what’s causing you to get an incorrect reading of the outside temperature on the dashboard. But I doubt it’s having any noticeable effect on airflow through the radiator at all. You can confirm that, if the engine temperature gauge is reading right where it’s always been.
TOM: I mean, you’re right to at least be concerned about whether you’re blocking the radiator. In general, that’s not a good idea. And maybe if you were sporting something thicker, like a Tom Selleck, you could possibly block enough air flow to make the engine run hotter than it should.
RAY: Yeah, so I’d recommend going with more of a John Waters.
TOM: Of even better, maybe just a soul patch that hangs down below the license plate. Have fun, Nathan.
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(c) 2014 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.