2019 Subaru Ascent long-term update: Easiest oil change ever

Maintenance is part of almost any vehicle ownership experience. If you're a DIYer, you'll love how easy it is to handle oil changes in Subaru's biggest SUV.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
4 min read
2019 Subaru Ascent long-term car

We decided to take a DIY approach when it came time to service our long-term Ascent.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

There are many reasons to be excited about an all-EV world, and for someone who struggles to find sufficient time to freshen all the fluids in my small collection of motorized vehicles, a maintenance-free future appeals to me greatly. In the here and now, I often need to rely on nagging reminders from my task-tracking app to ensure that I regularly flush and fill my various rides.

I've been living with our long-term 2019 Subaru Ascent for a few months, having now put about 10,000 miles on it getting to and around upstate New York. The Ascent has proven to be a capable dog-hauler and adventure-seeker, returning an average of just under 23 mpg along the way.

Over the summer, the arrival of the Ascent's first service date posed a conundrum: take it in to the dealership, or just do it myself? The Ascent manual recommends the first oil change at 6,000 miles, a service I typically prefer to do myself. Given that, I was keen to try it on the Ascent to see if the change here requires the removal of as many fiddly plastic clips as on my 2012 STI wagon. So, instead of scheduling an appointment, I ordered the necessary supplies and prepared to get my hands a little oily.

2019 Subaru Ascent long-term car

We suggest sticking with the manufacturer-recommended oil if you decide to change it yourself.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

First up is oil. Subaru recommends 0w20 for the Ascent, which surprised me. That's some seriously thin stuff. In fact, on Ascent owner forums you'll find quite a few debates about the merits of ignoring Subaru's recommendations and trying something else. My policy on such debates is straightforward: barring an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, follow the manufacturer recommendation. So, I picked up a bottle of Motul 0w20, my brand of choice for my other Subarus.

Next up is filter, and here I went with a Purolator Boss. Purolator filters have never let me down over many hundreds of thousands of miles in my other Subarus.

Finally, a crush washer. A lot of people say it's fine to reuse crush washers on oil changes, but then a lot of people also have oil stains on their driveways. For well less than a buck, I prefer to go with a new one. Subaru part number 803916010 for the Ascent.

2019 Subaru Ascent long-term car

Always set the parking brake and use a wheel chock if you're putting a car on ramps.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

My first inclination was to try and change the fluid without jacking up the car or using ramps. A quick check revealed that there was actually plenty of clearance for my drain pan to slide under the car. But, given this was my first change with the car and I wasn't familiar with the location of the drain plug -- or, indeed, at what angle that lightweight oil would be squirting -- I figured I'd be safe and pull out the ramps. Having done it once, I'd skip the ramps next time, but regardless of which way you go, make sure you both set the parking brake and use a wheel chock.

Two minutes later the Ascent was up on the ramps and I had the drain plug in sight. As it turns out, there's just as much plastic cladding slung beneath the Ascent as on my STI, if not more, but Subaru engineers thoughtfully left a gap right at the (14-millimeter) drain plug. That said, be ready for that 0w20 to splash around a lot when it's pouring out. The stuff feels like it has the consistency of water.

Oil gushing into the pan, it was time to pull the filter, and this is where things got really easy. Most cars wedge their oil filters in next to the oil pan, positioned just so that you get a nice shot of oil up your sleeve as you unscrew it or are forced to puncture the bottom with a screwdriver to let it drain.

For the Ascent (and other Subarus rocking the same, 2.4-liter engine), the filter actually sits on top of the engine. So, stand up, pop the hood and spin it off. Theoretically, anyway. I was surprised to find my filter had actually corroded somewhat around its lower edge, which made getting it off a lot harder than I'd have expected. Still, a filter wrench on a half-inch-drive breaker bar quickly got it loose.

2019 Subaru Ascent long-term car

The Ascent's oil filter actually sits on top of the engine.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

I took a few minutes to clean the mating surface for the filter before spinning on that new Purolator, removing the residue left by the corroded OEM filter, and was glad to see that the paint on the Purolator looked far thicker. That, I hope, will prevent a similar recurrence.

Drain plug (and fresh crush washer) installed, the final step was to add the new oil. The flat-four engine in the Ascent sits very low relative to the hood, so unless you're a far better aim at oil pouring than I, break out your tallest funnel before up-ending that bottle of sweet, slick 0w20 synthetic.

The entire process, including my pondering between ramps and no-ramps, fussing over the filter mating surface and then re-bottling the used oil for recycling -- plus stopping to take pictures along the way -- took me less than an hour. That's about as much time as it would have taken to drive to the service center and back.

Having the filter on top really does make for a much easier change. This was far and away the easiest one I've ever had, and trust me, I've drained a lot of fluids over the years. If you were to combine that with something like a TopSider oil vacuum, it could be easier still, making for a completely pan-free experience. 

Roadshow's long-term 2019 Subaru Ascent is a big, comfy family-hauler

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Check in with Roadshow's other long-term testers: