To fix Subaru compass issue, look to spend more than $2

Ray Magliozzi
Ray Magliozzi

Dear Car Talk:

Two years ago, I purchased a brand-new 2018 Subaru Forester. I got the basic, no-frills model because I am cheap (and, really, who needs a moonroof?).

I don’t care that it doesn’t have a navigation system. But I do wish it had a compass. No problem. I went to the auto parts store and bought a compass to stick on the dashboard.

The only problem is, no matter which direction I am driving, the compass always points east!

I take it outside the car, and it works fine, but no matter where I put the compass inside the car, whether the engine is on or off, the compass always tells me that I’m driving toward the land of the rising sun.

I asked the Subaru mechanic about this, and he had never heard of anything like it. Why does my car have a magnetic field stronger than the planet Earth and is there any way to degauss it? — Mike

RAY: I don’t know, Mike. But I have two guesses.

No. 1 is that there is something magnetic in the car that’s affecting the compass. And my first guess would be the car’s speakers.

If you bought the bare-bones Forester, you probably have four speakers. The front speakers are larger than the rear speakers, and they’re either in the front doors or up on the dashboard, right near — what? — your compass.

It’s possible that the magnets in those speakers are screwing up the compass readings. Particularly if my second guess is correct.

My second guess is that you bought the cheapest compass money could buy. Why do I suspect that? Because you also bought the cheapest Forester money could buy. And when you combine a cheap, poorly shielded compass with a nearby magnet, you can only go east.

So what’s the solution? Well, if you hadn’t been so cheap and skipped the sunroof, you’d be able to mount your cheap compass on a stick now and fly it out the sunroof, away from the magnets.

Alternatively, you can go to your Subaru dealer and buy the auto-dimming rearview mirror with a built-in compass. It’s a Forester accessory, and it costs about $150. That’ll work. Guaranteed.

Or, you can try a better-quality after-market compass. You can search around and read the reviews, and you’ll find options that were designed for cars by companies like Ritchie Navigation, ACECAR and Filfeel, among others. You’ll still be looking at $30-$60, rather than the $2 you spent on the stick-on compass at the auto parts store.

If you go that route, look for the best rated one you can find and order it from a place that accepts returns, just in case we’re wrong and explorers discover a second north pole under your driveway.

Obeying traffic laws should not be a personal choice

Dear Car Talk:

In a recent column, a reader asked if he should use turn signals each time he comes to an intersection, even if there are no other cars in the intersection.

In response, you listed four reasons he should use the turn signal every time. While all the reasons you list make sense, I think you missed the most important reason: It’s the law!

So I think your response should have been “yes, you should use your turn signal every time because doing so is the law, and you should always obey the law. And if you’re wondering why there is a law requiring use of turn signals, here are four reason why that law makes sense ...” And then give your four valid reasons.

Again, the point is that drivers should not be trying to decide on the spot which laws they should or should not follow. They should instead assume that a lot of thought, over long periods of time, by a lot of people, went into how the law was written and why, and that their real-time decision on whether or not to follow them might not consider all those reasons. Thanks for listening to my rant! — Brad

RAY: I can’t argue with you, Officer Brad.

Keep in mind that traffic laws vary from state to state. They’re enacted and enforced by each the states individually, not uniformly by the federal government. After all, you get pulled over by the state police, not the national police, right?

And while I’m fairly certain that “appropriate signaling” is required by statute in every state, it would take me a ton of time to read every state’s traffic laws in order to confirm that. And I have a personal law against spending more than three weeks answering any one question, Brad.

For those interested in the reasons I gave for always using your signal, regardless of surrounding traffic, you can find the original letter on our website at www.cartalk.com/cars-content/savings-pennies-isn-t-worth-risking-safety.

Or, if you don’t feel like reading all the reasons, just follow the law.

Got a question about cars? Write to Car Talk write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.