The $1,900 Snap Ring

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I didn’t buy an Alfa Romeo. I didn’t buy an MG. I bought a Subaru. Alfas have soul for days, MGs can handle like skis, but despite their merits, they’ve never been called bulletproof. I bought my WRX because it was. I wanted something fast and fun that wouldn’t turn me inside out with maintenance and repair. For the most part, it hasn’t. Yes, it faces the woes of any 12-year-old car with 150k on the clock. The plastics are fading, a few of the 226 horses may have escaped the stables, and the front seats have been replaced. But if I’d have known I’d eventually dump $1900 into a new rear differential, I might not have bought it.

This is not to say that I don’t want to keep it. I love my car. As I’ve stated many times, the wagon is going in my will. But I won’t say I wasn’t extremely disappointed in Subaru earlier this year when a snap ring slipped free within the rear, limited slip differential and proceeded to shred the ever living crap out of the rest of the assembly.

Having never owned an AWD car before, I wasn’t sure what was happening one day when the rear wheels were tardy in engaging, and I got a little kick in the seat when they did. This only happened right after I took off, and I figured I’d get it into the shop as soon as possible. Then it started to sound like some petty but mechanically proficient 3rd grader had filled my diff with a pocketful of playground pea gravel, and ASAP became NOW.


I wish now I’d had it towed to the shop instead.

Once the scientists at Smith Specialty Automotive had it apart, they found the whole differential core had been chewed like one of those weird Kong toys. The bevel pinions had sheared free of their shaft, and even the outer shell had been scored.


Nor is rebuilding a differential a breeze. After the many hours of labor and the fresh OEM parts totaled out, I was $1900 poorer, or rather $1900 further from being debt free. Ladies and gentlemen, I am officially part of the problem. As a little bit of salsa in the hangnail, the techs told me that the perpetrating snap ring had since been replaced by Subaru with a stronger one. Yeah, you know what you did, Fuji Heavy.

I have to look at the bright side, though. Now I can add to my broken car parts collection. I have a companion flange and an intermediate bearing to play with at my desk while presumably concentrating on work but actually thinking about grille replacement options.

But best of all, by far, is the lamp. Look at it, folks. Have you ever seen a better candidate for potential car-parts-desk-furniture than this arrangement of spent steel? Once I learn to weld, I have merely to scavenge a stack of carbureted air filters from the junk yard to use as a shade, and I’ll have a sturdy, functioning illumination device. That weighs about 12 pounds and can sub in for home defense in a pinch.

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So I guess this sobbing rant is just a plea to automakers: don’t cut corners with the small stuff. You’ll disappoint your customers and they might not forgive you.

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