Are Subarus Easy to Work On, Repair & Maintain? (Explained)

When you think of rally racing, dirt roads, or drifting in the snow, does the brand  Subaru come to mind? It probably should. 

Subaru has had a long and successful history in the automotive world. 

King of the horizontally-opposed engine, and leaders in AWD technology, these  cars and SUVs have a strong following in Japanese car culture. 

So, they may be great to drive, but are the easy to work on? Let’s get down to it. 

Here is the short answer to are Subarus Easy to Work On: 

Subarus are moderately easy to work on. Repairs such as alternators, radiators,  and batteries are very easy and straightforward. However, repairs such as spark plugs, head gaskets, and any sort of internal engine work would prove to be difficult and more challenging. 

How Easy is it to Work on and Repair a Subaru? 

Generally speaking, Subarus are somewhat easy to work on.

Simple repairs and maintenance prove to be no harder than any other typical Japanese automobile.

When it comes to more complex repairs however, that is where the difficulty lies. 

Regarding oil changes, Subarus have a drain plug and oil filter that is easy to access.

The same goes for air filters, batteries, headlamp bulbs, and other simple components that may require frequent access.

This makes any basic repair or maintenance work relatively effortless. There is also sufficient room in front of the engine, making drive belts, alternators, and radiators easy to access as well.

Regarding suspension and brakes, any work performed in these areas will be rather straightforward. The design of these components is pretty simple and therefore should prove easy. 

Subarus also have simple electrical systems, making basic electrical diagnosis and repair objectively uncomplicated, for those who have some experience on the subject. 

However, the difficulty of working on a Subaru tends to lie in the engine  compartment.

This is due to the engine’s design, which is a horizontally opposed engine, but also referred to as a “boxer” or a “flat” engine.

This means the engine’s cylinders do not face up and down, or in a “V” like most conventional internal combustion engines, but rather on their side, opposing each other.

This can prove problematic when engine work needs to be done, as parts are harder to access. 

Are Subaru Engines Easy to Work On? 

In all honesty, not exactly.

A fair amount of engine work will require engine removal.

Albeit Subaru engines are not inherently difficult to remove, it is still extra work when compared to other manufacturers.

For instance, if you had to perform work on the bottom end of the engine, (i.e. piston and/or crankshaft removal) with the majority of cars, the engine could remain in the vehicle.

Subaru engines on the other hand, would definitely have to come out, and even be split in half for that matter. 

Furthermore, a simple job like changing spark plugs or cylinder head removal,  would take extraordinarily more time and effort on a Subaru than that of a vehicle with an inline or v-shaped engine.

This is because the engine is so low in the engine bay, and while there is plenty of room in front or behind the engine, there  is seemingly none on the sides. 

It is worth noting as well that Subaru engines have more moving parts than the  majority of other engines.

This makes them complex in design, leading to a more difficult understanding of them.

For example, a Honda Civic R18 engine has only one camshaft, but a Subaru WRX STI EJ257 engine has four. A fair comparison,  since they are both four-cylinder engines. 

Are Subarus Easy to Maintain? 

Maintenance work on a Subaru should be somewhat effortless.

Performing engine oil changes, differential oil changes and other simple maintenance work should be no harder than any other manufacturer.

Batteries, headlamp bulbs, and other frequently changed components are generally easy to access.  

These vehicles also use metric fasteners with typical hexagonal heads, so the tool kit you got on sale at the general store should come in handy.

As long as you have a good understanding of how to properly perform work on a vehicle’s brakes and suspension, you should be able to perform these tasks without much fuss. 

However, the engines on older Subaru models had timing belts.

Timing belts have a lifespan and will need to be changed at some point, according to Subarus recommendations.

During a timing belt change, the camshafts and crankshaft have to be perfectly lined up and in sync with each other.

Failure to do so could result in poor engine performance, or even worse, engine damage. If you have no clue what you are doing, it would be best to leave this job to a professional.

It is worth pointing out, that Subaru has had some issues regarding head gasket  and piston ring land failure in the past, especially with the 2.5L engine.

Be wary of what you buy, as these issues make keeping your Subaru on the road a lot more demanding and will require more than just basic maintenance.

Basic maintenance is necessary, but will not always prevent a head gasket or a piston from failing. These issues stem from a design flaw, not lack of maintenance. 

Are Subarus Easy to Restore? 

As far as restoration goes, Subarus are easy to restore.

Being a mass-produced  manufacturer, parts are easy to locate, and can be found in abundance on the internet, or in the local scrapyard.  

Replacing parts is going to be pretty easy, all in all. So, if your Subaru is in need of a mechanical restoration, it should be doable for most with a basic understanding of mechanical knowledge, and a modest collection of tools.  

As mentioned earlier though, the engines can be quite complex and demanding  when it comes to repairs.

On the bright side, there is a lot of service information  available on these engines, and a lot of internet content regarding failures and  fixes.  

In general, there tends to be a lot of service information available on the internet for Subaru. This will be a saving grace for anyone trying to do a restoration.  

It should be said, however, that Subaru uses a unitized body design, not a body on-frame design.

While a pick-up truck’s body on frame design means the whole body can come off the frame during restoration, a Subaru’s body cannot.

This makes work on the vehicle’s body quite different than just replacing parts.

You will have to cut, weld, and use body fillers among other things to perform work  on the body. A background knowledge of this will likely be required. 

Are Subarus Expensive to Work On? 

Largely Subaru as a brand is not expensive to work on. Compared to other brands,  Subaru is a mass-produced vehicle, aiming its marketing at the everyday commuter.  

This means the average Subaru will not be any more expensive to work on than  that of its competition.  

There are some models that will cost significantly more than others, though.

A good example would be the Subaru WRX STI.

The STI has more expensive engine parts, transmission parts, and brakes, to name a few things.

Be wary of the cost increase of owning and maintaining an STI compared to another model of Subaru. 

That is because the STI is a performance-based vehicle, and as such, brings along  more cost-worthy components. 

Are Subaru WRX Easy to Work On? 

The WRX and the WRX STI are essentially a sporty Impreza, with the WRX STI  being even sportier than the WRX.

This makes them more complicated than a  base model Impreza, with the inclusion of a turbocharged engine on all WRX and  WRX STIs, DOHC engines, bigger brakes, and overall more bells and whistles. 

While the WRX/WRX STI is still not extremely difficult to work on, you will likely  find it harder to service and perform repairs than most Subaru models.

This is in part caused by a big, complicated engine featuring four camshafts, a turbo,  intercooler, and more “go-fast” bits that are put in the engine bay, causing less room for handy-work to happen.

please also read our article: Subaru WRX in snow & winter driving

Are Subaru Foresters Easy to Work On? 

Foresters are relatively easy to work on.

Being a compact crossover SUV, there is more space to perform repairs both underneath and under the hood.

While some models come with a turbocharged engine, most models do not, making the naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) models more basic in design.  

Please also read our article: 11 Subaru Forester facts and statistics

Are Subaru Imprezas Easy to Work On? 

Imprezas are much simpler than their WRX/WRX STI cousins.

This is because they do not come with all of the complicated components that the higher models entail.

They are a basic commuter, and will arguably be almost as simple as a Toyota or a Honda to work on, save the boxer engine and standard all-wheel drive. 

You might also be interested in our article: how long do Subaru Impeza last and Subaru Impreza in snow & winter driving

What’s the Easiest Subaru to Work On? 

Arguably the easiest model Subaru to work on would be the Forester.

The  Forester has the most space for repairs to take place, and are less complicated in design compared to the WRX/WRX STI.

All in all, most Subarus share a lot of  similarities, so the differences between models are not drastic.



  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...