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Conflicting opinions on Subaru’s grease leak

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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 powertrain 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.

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 could eventually lead to costly repairs when your CV joints fail.

TOM: The problem is, do you trust a couple of oil-change guys who might not be Subaru experts or a Subaru dealer who may have an interest in not fixing your car for free.

RAY: So my recommendation is to find an independent repair shop that specializes in Subarus, and ask them to take a look and tell you what they think you should do. That will give you peace of mind.

Got a question about cars? Email Click and Clack by visiting the Car Talk website at cartalk.com.

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