Subaru Repair: How to Break in Your New Engine + Oil Change Schedule

Subaru logo on steering wheel - Subaru Repair - How to Break in Your New Engine

Many car owners do not realize that when they drive a new car off the lot, their engine’s long-term health will be greatly influenced by their treatment of the car during the first few weeks on the road. You may have any of three different engines in a Subaru –turbocharged or naturally aspirated 4-cylinder, or 6-cylinder, all of which are horizontally opposed – and all of which require a proper break-in period at the beginning.

While we want to help with Subaru repair as needed, we also want to help you avoid large expenses with preventive strategies. Best practices to maintain and drive your car properly during the extremely important early period of ownership are as follows:

Tip 1. Start slow. Wait until you have at least 1000 miles on your odometer before you exceed 4000 revolutions per minute (RPM). Simply exhibiting patience with the car in this manner allows you to keep the engine stronger for all driving scenarios. Plus, keeping it slow at first lowers your risk of burning oil in the years to come by letting your piston rings seat properly within the combustion chambers.

Tip 2. Do not brake or speed up suddenly. As indicated in #1, you want to take it easy on your engine in its first few weeks on the road. You make it possible for the components within the engine to continue to fit well long into the life of the car by only accelerating moderately as you accrue the first thousand miles. As with acceleration, you will develop the correct mating of the pads with the brake drums or discs by applying the brakes lightly from day one. You will potentially cause your brake components to break if you are using the brakes heavily prior to completion of seating.

Tip 3. Avoid cruise control. You want your car to be speeding up and slowing down a bit, going through a spectrum of RPM levels, rather than keeping it on cruise control and having it rev at a consistent rate. You want the engine to be exposed to diverse engine conditions within a safe range (similar to stretching a muscle).

Tip 4. You want to take the car out on different types of routes, including city and highway roads. As with avoiding your cruise control, you can help the internal parts of your engine be ready to take on a range of engine RPM by using different driving scenarios. You want both the braking and the acceleration of your Subaru to be lively but conscientious (remembering moderation but also sticking to the task of “breaking in” the engine).

Tip 5. Get your oil changed at the first recommended point. See the full information on oil changes below – but the standard is 6 months or 6000 miles, whichever comes first. Whatever the case for your model, it will give the general health of your engine a boost by getting an oil change on time, with high-quality synthetic oil. Your oil change will be a bit different depending on the intake method and size of your Subaru engine. To make certain you use the right oil type and that you follow the change schedule correctly, check the car manual, although guidelines for the 2017 lineup are below. Often mechanics will suggest getting two oil changes within the break-in period, underscoring the gravity of this stage in the car’s life. To be clear, this recommendation is to get an oil change “halfway through the first oil change interval, and then performing another at the first scheduled change,” as indicated in It Still Runs.

Tip 6. Be responsive to your dashboard. You do not want to drive the engine when it is cold. Be aware of the blue “cold engine” light; if you see it, warm up the engine before proceeding.

Note of Caution: If you want to keep your Subaru healthy and prevent engine problems in the months and years ahead, use engine break-in best practices, as described above. It is worth noting that these strategies are not as critical for the newer cars as for the older ones. However, your chances of going hundreds of thousands of miles with relatively few issues will be greatly improved by careful engine treatment as you go your first 1000 miles (and continue with excellent Subaru repair and service as needed). On the other hand, failing to be conscientious could mean that you do not the value out of the car that you want.

Subaru oil change schedule

The interval of 6 months or 6000 miles, whichever comes first, is mentioned as a standard for new Subaru cars above. That interval applies to all 2017 and 2018 Subaru Outback, BRZ, Forester, Crosstrek, Impreza, Legacy, WRX, and STI. If you have a different year of the car, check your manual for your interval.

As indicated above, some mechanics will suggest doubling up the oil change during the first interval (which would mean also changing it at 3 months or 3000 miles, whichever comes first, in the case of the 2017 and 2018 Subaru models above). As noted in Cars101.com, it may be a good idea to change the oil ahead of the standard interval, “especially with hard driving, cold/hot weather, or manual transmissions that are revved up or downshifted.”

The Subaru owner’s manual backs up that perspective. The carmaker mentions that there are also various scenarios in which you want to refill the oil prior to the oil change – important since the rate at which engine oil is consumed increases under certain conditions. Those scenarios are:

  • During the break-in phase of initial ownership
  • If you filled the car with low-quality oil (or if you cannot verify oil quality, as when you buy a Subaru used)
  • If you used oil that is of the wrong viscosity
  • If you use high engine speeds (i.e., operating it at high RPM)
  • If you carry heavy loads in your Subaru
  • If you connect a trailer to the car
  • If you have lengthy stints of idling
  • If you are in traffic jams or other stop-and-go scenarios
  • If the external temperature is extreme during the car’s operation
  • If you are speeding up and slowing down the car more often than normal
  • If you have engine braking implemented.

In these situations, it is a good idea to check your oil every other time you refuel your car. Plus, you want to get oil changes more often as well. If your car is consuming more than 1 quart of oil per 1200 miles, you want to bring it to a mechanic to determine why consumption is abnormally high.

As a sample (otherwise check your manual), here are the types of oil that should be used in 2017 versions of these Subaru models and engine sizes:

  • Outback 5 L – 0w-20 synthetic
  • Outback 3.6 L – 5w-30 conventional or synthetic
  • Legacy 2.5 L – 0w-20 synthetic
  • Legacy 3.6 L – 5w-30 conventional or synthetic
  • Forester 2.5 L – 0w-20 synthetic
  • Forester 2.0 L Turbo – 5w-30 synthetic
  • Crosstrek 2.0 L – 0w-20 synthetic
  • Crosstrek 2.0 L Hybrid – 0w-20 synthetic
  • Impreza 2.0 L – 0w-20 synthetic
  • BRZ 2.0 L – 0w-20 synthetic
  • WRX 2.0 L Turbo – 5w-30 synthetic
  • STI 2.5 L Turbo – 5w-30 synthetic

Honest Subaru repair & advice

Knowing how to care for your car for yourself as needed can be helpful for your finances. However, you will probably have situations in which you want the help of a mechanic for your Subaru repair or maintenance. At Independent Motors, 90% of the auto repair we do is repeat business. See our Subaru repair philosophy.