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Warranty cover or not?


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This week I took my 2020 Outback to a Subaru dealer for its second annual service. The car has only 17100 miles recorded and had its first annual service a year ago at 7669 miles.

I hadn't expected any issues, but had a call from the service dept. informing me that the car needed new brake pads and new discs. I was astonished as on all the other vehicles I've owned in 40 years of driving I'd managed to get over 40,000 miles or much more out of the pads alone. Obviously, I needed this fixed, and when I called into the dealership to collect the car and pay for the work I read the mechanic's note.

The mechanic stated that "front pads 90% worn and binding on nsf wheel, front discs scored".

I argued (politely) that while I was aware brakes pads and discs are, like tyres, oil filters etc, understood not to be covered by the manufacturer's warranty as this is usually wear and tear, that my vehicle's issues could not be described as 'normal wear and tear".

My point was that if the wear had been due to a) very poor driving or b) poor quality parts, that the wear would be expected to be largely symmetrical. However, with such marked, low mileage significant asymmetric wear, that the worn discs and pads were actually symptomatic of an underlying mechanical problem with the operation and/or components of the nsf brakes. Consequently, I felt that the pads and discs replacement and labour costs should have been covered by the warranty and moreover I would expect the underlying mechanical problem to be investigated and remedied. Not simply to prevent the problem reoccurring and more expense on my part, but importantly due to potential safely issues with markedly asymmetrical wearing brake components.

The service staff insisted that this was "normal wear and tear" and stated that "all car parts are less robust these days" and that "automatics wear their brakes much more than manual cars". My reply was that this may or may not be true, but if it was I would still expect largely symmetrical wear.

Ultimately, I had to pay the additional £400 on top of the £350 service cost, but I'm planning on making a formal complaint in writing to the Service Manager, before escalating the issue to Subaru UK if the complaint is not upheld.

I should add that a few weeks before the service, at low speeds, I had noticed occasionally a slight sqeal from the front brakes when the steering wheel was moved from the straight ahead position to the right, and this occurred when the brake pedal was not depressed but ceased when the brakes were applied. I left a note to this effect for the mechanic to read.

Before I email my complaint (and to avoid making a fool of myself!) can I ask if others believe I have a case? Am I missing something here? Am I being unreasonable?

Many thanks in advance for comments and opinions.
 
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Have you seen the old parts, do you have them? i'd be inclined to ask for them and make your own mind up if they really are 90% worn.

Sadly brakes on Japanese cars suffer as much from the tendency to seize as any make i've worked on, though 2 years is pushing it a bit.

My only experience with new vehicles of my own was a Hilux, only new vehicle i've ever owned, Toyotas service schedule was every 9000 miles or every year whichever came first, the first year would be a minor and the following  year  a major, now included in the major service was a full strip clean and lube of the brakes and yes they did the job thoroughly because i checked afterwards, not as i distrusted them (the dealer was impeccable) but more interested to see what they'd done and what lube they'd used.

I'm not sure what Subarus servicing includes but i know most makes do not include the sort of in depth brake service as Toyotas anywhere in the schedule no matter how many years go by.

In practice, its best to have an annual full brake service by someone competent, either yourself if you have the know how or pay someone to do the job, because sure as hell after even one good salty winter (and the further north you live the more salt is used) you can start to see problems with slide pins and even pistons themselves starting to seize...if all a dealer does on a 'service' is peer at the brakes and squirt brake cleaner about then in fact they've not helped the !Removed! things because brake cleaner will do an excellent job of dissolving any lube that happens to be left from last time...this might be fine practice for hot countries where dust is the issue but this is Britain where its nearly always damp and wet and in winter we get the annual salt bath designed to destroy our pride and joy in record time.

The other problem is many cars never get the salt washed off the undersides, vehicles that don't get washed properly the salt sits in the brakes just like every other nook and cranny...now in the time since your car was new we've had national house arrest courtesy of the chumps in charge trying their best to destroy the economy of the country and working people's livelihoods and they have largely succeeded in their quests, many cars stood for months at a time, if the undersides were still salted after the winter and the car didn't get washed down underneath and/or didn't get driven enough through spring rains to wash the salt off then the period it normally takes brake calipers to play up could have been brought forward drastically, that salt cooking its way in during the really hot summer....i've been predicting lots of cars would have brake issues due to the period house arrest happened if owners didn't service their brakes during the hot weather.

Too late now, but i wouldn't have agreed to the work, i would have taken the car away and either examined it myself or got someone i trusted to do so, if it really needed new discs and pads i would have sourced good quality aftermarket parts for a fraction of the dealer price and fitted them myself, taking care to thoroughly service the calipers at the same time....i suggest you still get your calipers serviced properly anyway, all round, i know several car owners have a general mechanic they trust to do this work for them even if the car is under maker's service schedule.

This is probably no help to you at all, sorry, i have no advice for you how to go about a claim, just offering my tuppenceworth.

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Thinking more, you seem to have one front caliper that seized, it shouldn't have happened given the age of the car, but as i explained re lockdown if the car stood for a time still coated in winter salt that would go some way to explain the issue, however i'd be having the wheel and pads off that caliper if nothing else and a good look see if there's any fault in manufacture or assembly, ie a split dust cover, that could explain why this happened other than bad luck or bad timing.

You might find your claim evidence in that caliper, even if you don't i'd like to know for my peace of mind that it wasn't going to seize again and ruin another set of pads and a disc, in which case exercise the piston(s) in its/their bore in situ a few times, this is the only way to feel what sort of resistance they have to moving.

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Hi Judd.  Firstly, a huge thanks for taking the time to reply so comprehensively.

I didn't get to see the old parts, or to speak to the mechanic.  The garage had the wrong mobile number for me (!), so I eventually phoned them, late in the day to enquire what the situation was.  Consequently, I arrived late back at the garage, not long before their closing.  I had taken the car to an experienced Subaru dealership, some 150 miles from where we live, as we combined it with a 'city-break' for a few days (2 birds...etc.).   Hence, it was all a bit rushed.  My gut feeling was that the parts were probably worn as they described, but you're right, it would have been useful to also see the osf components for comparison.

I do recall thinking when I first bought the car, which is my first automatic, how the brakes might be an issue as up to then I'd been used to using engine braking on bends, approaching junctions, etc. when reasonable to do so. Most of my driving is over hlilly, winding A and B-roads, and some light off-roading across fields for equestrian 'duties'.

Regarding your experience with maintenance, I used to do all my own servicing and fixing, having owned a string of Triumphs and a Norton, plus a couple of jap bikes in the 70s and 80s, followed by a 1963 6v VW beetle and a 1973 'Super' Beetle owned in the 90s, plus a Ford Escort (LPG converted).  Toyota Hilux also has a special place in my heart.  I had the use of one in the early 1990s for a few years while I lived and work in rural Namibia, on the Angolan border. The car had a South-African built Toyota petrol engine - simple and reliable.  I did all the maintenance on my 'Bakkie', which was a doddle.  Fantastic car.   Generally, servicing and maintenance was always out of an interest in mechanics; a desire to be independent; and personal economics at that time.  I've clearly become 'soft' in the last 20 years, plus the added complication of vehicles recently doesn't encourage me too attempt much now.

Regarding lockdown imprisonment issues possibly contributing to seizing - brakes, the economy and UK moral fibre, I did wonder about that too.  The car was registered in December 2019 ( days before Subaru UK shortened the warranty for new vehicles - hooray), and I bought it with just 11 miles on the clock in April 2020.  I'm guessing that even prior to registration it was parked in an import lot somewhere for a few months.  Subaru were off-loading all their 'old' RHD Gen5 Outbacks to Europe, before the Gen6 was allowed to be sold here. No complaints, as I managed a hefty discount (coming back to haunt me?) as they needed to shift them before the Gen6 release - 2 years later than in the US.

As you referred to, we do also live in a very rural spot and road salting is extensive.  We've piles of salt every 100 metres on the verge the full mile up the hill from the nearest village - so yes there's a lot about.  The local farmers, on behalf of the council are very diligent at salting and ploughing too - and we often have better access to highways then many folks living on urban housing estate. Although salting has never been an issue on the recent cars I've owned (Octavia estate 4x4; a couple of 4x4 Yetis; etc.). Still - maybe a contributing factor, although I'm pretty OCD regarding jet-washing and tending to my investment.

Prior to buying the Outback, I've taken all my cars to a small, independent Skoda specialist in Yorkshire, where I bought the Octy in 2003.  A great garage and we were on first name terms- really helpful and trustworthy.   I've always been left unimpressed by main dealerships and their corporate mentality, etc. Following your suggestions, I'm going to think about taking the Outback to the Skoda specialist, so they can have a check of the brakes - just to reassure me.

Anyway, thanks again - very much appreciated.

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My pleasure mate for what little value it might have been.

Subaru brakes are generally quite simple affairs, though i would assume yours has an electric park brake (something i don't want) which adds some complication at the back brakes, on VW's there's a tool to put the EPB into service mode but what's involved in the Subaru system and disarming it i haven't the foggiest.

The fronts however will almost certainly be simple calipers probably not much different from the twin piston sliding calipers as found on my old Forester, easy to service and very easy to exercise the pistons because as you press one piston in the other slides out just as easily, if it doesn't there's your problem piston, the slide pins either allow the caliper to slide over easily or they don't, again a simple system and none the worse for that, personally i prefer the 4 piston fron calipers as found on my ageing Landcruiser, no slide pins to worry about on opposed piston calipers but even these have a tendency to seize the inner lower piston after a while, and despite my regular tinkering still ended up fitting two new calipers last year, no complaints mind they lasted 17 years.

However you've probably had your fill or working on cars, and if you have that good relationship with your Skoda indy then a good idea to let them have look see make sure everything is lubed etc, hopefully they will have the necessary multi make diagnostic kit able to put your park brake in service mode and service the rears too.

I still reckon you will get 40k or more from your brakes, all our cars are auto and can't say as they're any heavier on brakes than manuals have been, the exception to this was our first Outback H6, which my mrs drove, she's a flyer, the rears were worn out in about 15k the fronts being fine, i suspect that was down  to the traction control system braking individual rear brakes in an effort to keep the car stable whilst my mrs hurled it around like a blinkin go kart.

Talking of VW group, daughter bought an approved used Golf on a 16 plate last year, less than 20k miles on it, first time i laid eyes on it spotted one rear disc looking seriously grooved, how they passed that as approved used is another question as it stood out like a sore thumb, rear caliper seizing so it needed new discs and pads at the back, sadly i didn't have the necessary diag software for the EPB, and we couldn't be certain the dealer would honour warranty given' friction materials' and had they not offered goodwill it was a seriously expensive quote from the dealer, but like you i have a handy little all make indy we use in the town and after a quick phone call he slotted it straight in while they were here for the day for reasonable cost.

A good indy is worth his weight in gold.

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