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

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.


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

© 2021 by Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman

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