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Subaru Head Gaskets Problems Explained Part II

Subaru Head Gaskets Explained part II

In this article I am going to cover the current trends with the Subaru Head gasket problem focusing only on the phase 2 2.5l SOHC from 1999 to 2011 in the  Forester and 2000 to 2009 in the Legacy, Outback and Impreza with an emphasis on the 2005 and newer models.  This article is going to be fairly long as there really is a lot of information that I want to share.  I had thought about breaking it up into two smaller articles but realized that the one read without the other would leave to many questions unanswered so please take the time to read the article in its entirety and hopefully you will have learned a little more about your Subaru. If you have not yet had a chance to read the first article and the over 1000 posts for Subaru Owners around the Globe you can do so here

If you are taking the time to read this then you most likely are doing a little research before you buy a used Subaru or you already own a Subaru of this era and have either recently been told you have a head gasket leak or are just taking the time to learn a little about the car you own.

Head gaskets in a phase two 2.5l can leak in three very different ways.

The first is an external coolant leak typically from the driver’s or left side head gasket, this affected the pre 2003 models specifically and ultimately led to the WWP-99 campaign where Subaru added a “coolant conditioner” otherwise known as stop leak and extended the warranty period to 8 years or 100k for external coolant leaks only. This is found doing a visual inspection of the bottom side of the engine for fluid leaks, which should be done every oil change by a qualified Technician who does not work at a lube center.

The second type of leak is an external oil leak and while it’s true that any car can and will develop an external oil leak from the head gasket, the design of the horizontal engine platform lends itself to a situation where the smallest of oil leaks is immediately apparent  in the form of a drip. This is found while performing a visual inspection of the bottom side of the engine for fluid leaks, which should be done every oil change by a qualified Technician who still does not work at a lube center.

I want to stress that just because you have not yet seen fluid in your driveway does not mean you do not  have a fluid leak from a head gasket.  Subaru models have a splash pan with a fibrous pad (that I call a diaper), this must be removed to inspect for leaks.  The pad also does an incredible job of soaking up oil and coolant.

The third and final type of a head gasket leak on a phase two 2.5l is an internal failure of the gasket resulting in a breach between the combustion chamber and the cooling system which will ultimately cause the vehicle to overheat and is often misdiagnosed by many at the early stages which can increase the likelihood of future problems such as high oil consumption after repairs.

You may have already seen some pictures like the ones below highlighting where the gasket material has been eaten away.

Subaru Head Gasket Failure

Phase 2 Subaru 2.5l SOHC Head Gasket

Subaru 2.5l Phase Two Head Gasket

Subaru 2.5l Phase Two Head Gasket

Gaskets that have had this much head gasket material  deteriorate away most likely leaked  fluid for a while before finally being replaced which is fairly typical.  Generally speaking it is an acceptable practice of our shop to monitor minor oil leaks for our customers and advise them as they become worse or begin to leak coolant.  I will tell you that for some customers we have been monitoring oil leaks for 5 years or longer and others have had the repairs done a few oil changes after first being informed about the situation.  Why I really like this way of dealing with the external fluid leaks is it gives the driver a bit of time to either budget for the repairs, if the car still suits their needs,  or come up with a plan to move on if the Subaru no longer fits the family.  If you really think it through to conclusion its not too often that you actually are awarded the opportunity to make a big decision over time, many times an expensive repair like this happens as quickly;  such as a transmission failure or broken timing belt giving you no notice and even less time to budget for the repair.

When a head gasket fails like this one below the situation can be much more dire.

Internal Failure of Aftermarket Subaru Head Gasket

Internal Failure of Aftermarket Subaru Head Gasket

This head gasket has had a breach in between the cooling system and the combustion chamber allowing  both pressure and temperature from the combustion chamber into the cooling system.  There are two very distinctive issues that happen with this type of failure.  The cooling system can only handle so much pressure in fact in terms of cooling system pressure the radiator cap will allow coolant to flow into the cooling system overflow bottle at pressures around 15 psi. depending on which model of Subaru you have. Now imagine 175 lbs. of pressure coming into the cooling system from the combustion chamber.   Next the increased pressure thats coming into the cooling system is also very hot as combustion temperatures can vary but will typically be well over 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and there isn’t a coolant temperature gauge ever put into a production vehicle that will read that kind of temperature.  This further increases the pressure in the cooling system as the higher the temperature the higher the pressure.  This increase in temperature and pressure is something the cooling system just can’t contend with. What happens next is the coolant in the radiator is pushed into the overflow bottle to the point that the overflow tank is now full and begins to spill coolant out of the tank and onto the ground until finally the engines cooling system is low and the engine overheats.  As I have mentioned before in the first article and I am still amazed and even years and years later this very simple fact seems to escape so many technicians across our nation. I have had to often wonder if either they have had no real education, or just lack the ability to truly understand the internal combustion engine.  We have replaced Honda, Toyota and Nissan Head Gaskets at our shop as well and have looked for internal failures the same way as we do for the Subaru.

Testing for internal failures is not a difficult task but I have responded to well over a thousand replies in the first head gasket article, many start out with the same story, the Subaru began to run hot but didn’t overheat, then it overheated, then a shop replaced the thermostat, then the radiator, then the cooling fans, then the kitchen sink, then threw in the towel.

Below is another head gasket with a breach in the gasket area between the cooling system and the combustion chamber.

Please look at it closely, and picture what I am about to explain.

Internal Failure of Head Gasket on a Subaru 2.5l

Internal Failure of Head Gasket on a Subaru 2.5l

When the engine is cold the breach does not affect the seal of the gasket as much and may actually still seal when the cooling system is pressure checked at 15 to 20 lbs. of pressure when the engine is cool.  Doing a compression test on a relatively cool to warm engine may also not reveal any issue.  Performing a leak down test may show a percentage of leakage, but almost always 10 to 20% to the  crankcase as again until the engine is at normal operating temperature the piston rings are not fully expanded into the cylinder walls improving the “seal”.

The smaller the breach such as in this picture, the less likely you will find it with any of the above test procedures.

Internal Failure of Subaru Head Gaskets

Internal Failure of Subaru Head Gaskets

What must be done instead to find the smallest of internal leaks at an early and manageable stage is to look for the presence of combustion chamber gases also known as exhaust in the cooling system.  The single easiest exhaust gas to identify is HC or hydrocarbon emissions but this needs to be done one and one way only and thats with an exhaust gas analyzer in good working order!   You must run the Subaru hard and get it up to operating temperature before looking for this failure as it may not show up just idling along under no load and with less combustion events  happening.

Looking for Failed Subaru Head Gaskets

Looking for Failed Subaru Head Gaskets

Testing For Internal Failure of the Head Gaskets

Testing For Internal Failure of the Head Gaskets

You see as I mentioned at the beginning  that testing cold would yield different results than testing when hot. Temperature causes expansion, expansion of the cylinder head away from the engine block, expansion of the gasket away from the block, and now that breach in the gasket becomes a bigger issue.  Compound that with the combustion events happening in the combustion chamber at higher RPMS meaning there are more of them!  The relentless pressure put to the weakened head gasket is more than it can contend with.  Now that the engine is running at the extremes which is coincidentally almost always the same way it over heats for the driver but seldom the way that many attempt to test for failures.  If you have an overheating situation in your Subaru and it has not been tested, exactly as I have presented above; and the shop is still stumped; the reason for that is it has not been tested!  Its not feasible to do a compression or leak-down test on an engine that is hot, as you will burn your self or damage the spark plug threads removing the plug and inserting the tools.

I have now covered the three different ways a head gasket can fail.  Let’s now focus on prevention.  As you have seen in the pictures above the gasket material was eaten away, this happens in a few different ways and you really need to understand what you own and take care of it accordingly.  The horizontally opposed engine has many benefits which is why Subaru has stuck with it and Toyota has also looked to Subaru for an engine for a sports car.  I won’t list all of the marketing points behind the boxer here, but please do your own research and understand how it enables a capable, safe, AWD platform  unmatched at its price point.

The single biggest back to a boxer engine is that the critical engine fluids such as coolant and oil will remain in contact with the gaskets as opposed to an Inline or V engine the fluids drain down or only contact the side of a gasket rather than gravity forcing it to stay on top.  This is where Subaru has kind of gotten themselves in trouble in my opinion as the maintenance aspects of a Boxer need to be different than that of an inline 4 cylinder engine for example.  If the oil is contaminated with fuel, and the coolant ph levels increased the gaskets will be eaten away, they don’t have a choice.  The single most important thing you can do with your Subaru is change the oil and change the coolant the way YOUR driving style dictates, how you use the car is what matters not some hard to understand fiction put into a maintenance booklet so the ownership costs look lower than they actually are.

Other aspects of maintenance that are important are the types of components used such as the thermostat.  Pictured below is a O.E. Subaru thermostat VS an aftermarket thermostat made by a chinese parts company and sold to you at every local parts store under the claim “meets or exceeds” .

Subaru Thermostat VS Aftermarket

Subaru Thermostat VS Aftermarket

This is just one example of many but the one I point to most often since a picture is worth a thousand words, and just about anyone looking at the 2 different parts here would understand one is inferior. We have seen on many occasions the thermostat on the right cause damage to head gaskets. Make sure if you or a general repair shop is replacing the thermostat that a Subaru thermostat and only a Subaru thermostat is installed.

The next thing I want to bring up is the fuel octane requirements here in the U.S.,  which has nothing to do with Subaru, but Subaru must make vehicles that will run on lower fuel ratings here in the U.S. then anywhere else in the world.  Octane is about controlling knock from explosions, many think that explosions are desired and I find my self using that term as a good way of explaining why gaskets fail internally, but we are really after a “prolonged burn” and no explosion.  The higher the octane number the better chance you wont have an explosion in the combustion chamber. The less explosions the better the chance the head gaskets will survive what happens in the combustion chamber.  Subaru has built engines that require premium and some have been hard to sell for that reason. In our country you will find it hard to sell a 4 cylinder vehicle with the fuel economy drag of AWD and then require more expensive fuel unless it has the fun factor of a Turbo and thats a different demographic than just a 4 cylinder Outback driver.  Which is one of the reasons most of the head gasket issues are about the U.S. cars NA (naturally aspirated), not the European and JDM( Japanese Domestic Market) models.  If you want to try avoid the whole head gasket thing consider using premium fuel. Next if you ignore a check engine light with a P0325, 0r P0328 set pertaining to a knock sensor  or circuit you are also potentially inviting future head gasket failure as there is no longer any precision happening, instead the computer may be running on fixed programed values rather than real time changes based on live data from the knock sensor.

2005 and newer models?

I answer this question a lot.  Didn’t Subaru fix that head gasket issue?

The answer is yes and no!  The gasket used in the 2003 and newer models is more resistant to corrosion.  Subaru has insisted on the use of Genuine Subaru coolant and the use of the cooling system conditioner and has increased the number of ground straps on the later model cars, all of these factors have resulted in a huge decline in potential and actual failure of the head gasket resulting in an external coolant leak.  We rarely see elevated PH levels on the late model Subaru’s cooling systems when serviced regularly now.  Whether this was an intent of the increased number of ground straps or not it has been a positive result.

Subaru Coolant and Conditioner

Subaru Coolant and Conditioner

Ground Straps?

This next thing is always a challenge to explain, and is really nothing new to cars but has been lost by so many.

The cooling system acts as a ground as you can see in this picture below.  The positive probe is connected to the positive terminal, the negative terminal inserted into the radiator.  What I am showing you here is that the flow of electrons is also through the cooling system.  The test for Voltage  and PH levels in the cooling system is different than this one.  If you have ever owned a hot-tub or a swimming pool you know the importance of maintaining proper chemistry in the water, the same is true of your cooling system.  Over time the flow of electrons in the cooling system affects the chemistry in the cooling system and must be addressed as this occurs.

Voltage in the cooling system

Voltage in the cooling system

Subaru Ground Strap

Subaru Ground Strap

Subaru Ground Strap

Subaru Ground Strap

The increased number of ground straps is one contributing factor to how Subaru was able to decrease the likely hood of failure of one spot of the head gasket due to corrosion in the cooling system attacking one location adjacent to the main ground cable, which is why the left side cylinder head gasket is typically the one that leaks coolant externally in the early phase 2 2.5l.  By improving the entire primary circuit in the car all of the systems function better as a result.

Why is this important?

In the picture below is an extreme case of corrosion, but one we see all to often, its not what you can see here that causes concern its what you cant see until you cut into the battery cable and see how far up the cable this is, or test for the presence of voltage in the cooling system as well as elevated Ph levels. This increases the “on time” of the alternator which is ultimately the cause of the contamination in the cooling system.  Just like copper will patina over time in the elements, it takes time for corrosion to form, and time for the corrosion to do its damage.  Not letting the below happen will help ensure you are not stranded for a primary circuit related failure, such as a dead battery or corroded in half battery cable, but it will also prolong the overall longevity of all other related system in the car. Baking soda and water was something EVERYONE used to do to their battery and terminals, now not so much and this is something that anyone can do.

Corroded Battery Cables

Corroded Battery Cables

We really don’t see the same type of external coolant leaks from the phase two 2.5l anymore as a result of a combination of factors as I have tried to explain above.  However we still see oil leaks, and the oil leaks can eventually lead to coolant leaks but generally at much higher mileage.

One of the common trends  in the 2005 and newer models are warped heads, the majority of the head gasket repairs we make on the 2005 and newer models require that the cylinder heads in fact be resurfaced.  This is due to a couple of different factors, first and foremost Toyota worked with Subaru to increase the economy of the engine and in doing so the combustion chamber area of the cylinder head was enlarged resulting in less surface material making the cylinder head more prone to warping.  The second is that the primary catalytic converter was moved closer to the engine to increase efficiency, but this also brought the intense heat and weight of the Catalytic convertor closer to the cylinder heads allowing for the greater possibility of warp from heat and the weight of the exhaust system so close to the Cylinder heads. I do want to stress that many of the repairs on the 2005 and later models is due to external oil leaks with a small percentage of those repairs also leaking coolant, and a smaller number with internal failures as well.

Please note in the pictures below that the the Catalytic convertor now sits just below the cylinder heads

2005 & Newer Subaru Catalytic Convertor Location

2005 & Newer Subaru Catalytic Convertor Location

2005 & Newer Subaru Catalytic Convertor Location

2005 & Newer Subaru Catalytic Convertor Location

Please note the difference in the combustion chamber area of the cylinder heads side by side in the picture below. 2005 and newer Subaru 2.5l NA have a larger combustion chamber which results in less cylinder head surface area.

Subaru Cylinder Head Comparison

Subaru Cylinder Head Comparison

 

You can clearly see the difference in the two different era of cylinder heads; the one on the right for your reference is from a 2006 Outback, and the one on the left from a 2001 Outback, both with a 2.5l NA SOHC or phase 2 2.5l. It was fairly uncommon to need to resurface the heads prior to this change unless it over heated, leaked coolant excessively or the head surface couldn’t be cleaned by block sanding alone.   I am not sure how many independent Shops are actually aware of the current trend and I want to stress that “a repair” is not necessarily better than “no repair”.  I really don’t want to damage any relationship you may have formed with the current service provider  if you need to have this repair made, but I also want to stress that I don’t believe it’s possible to deliver the same value and service we do on Subaru vehicles on all  makes and models, and do not understand why or how any one else can claim to.   If you own a Subaru and need this repair which is probably why you are reading this I would suggest looking for an Independent Subaru shop.

The Head gasket we have had success with has been recently updated to help address the current trends and help make up for the loss in surface area. I want to stress that the best gasket in the world will only be as good as the repair method it self, and if not done correctly will not last.

Six Star Head Gaskets

Six Star Head Gaskets

In the video below I am demonstrating one very important reason to never let the Subaru Dealer or general repair shop make this repair on your Subaru unless you don’t have any other option.

 

At the Subaru dealer the Technicians are on a “Flat rate” pay plan, I will post a link here about how that process works (check back in the near future), but a quick explanation is the quicker you work the more money you make, but that’s only one aspect as a Subaru repaired under warranty when Subaru of America is footing the bill pays the Technician 40 to 50% of what they would make if you were the one paying the bill.   So if you’re a Tech working at a Subaru dealer and you had to make a head gasket repair under warranty is there any incentive to do a quality repair?  Any repair will last a year and that’s all it has to, but the difference between a quality head gasket repair and the quickest one possible could be the difference between one that lasts a year or two and one that never fails again.   So you’re the same technician and have now done 30 head gasket repairs under warranty and a “customer pay” repair finally comes in, do you slow it down, take the engine out and block sand it or do you make the repairs the same quick way you do for Subaru?

I point all of this out as the trend has changed a bit, we make less head gasket repairs now to the Subaru 2.5l, but each repair now demands greater attention to detail and almost every 2005 and newer is a customer pay situation as seldom do the head gaskets fail under warranty now.

I know Subaru and every other car maker likes to paint the picture that the Technicians at the Dealer are somehow better than the good independents, but that message is really just about marketing and is misunderstood by so many car owners.

Things that must be done to guarantee a long lasting repair are taking the engine out of the vehicle to make the repairs, there is no bending to this rule, it’s the single most important factor in the repair.  Subaru didn’t bolt the engine block into the car and then bolt the heads up to it, that would be silly, and it’s twice as silly to expect a good, clean, precise and long lasting repair if it’s done in the car.  The question is not can I, the question is should I?

Next the surfaces for both the Cylinder heads and engine block must be clean, smooth and free of any residue such as brake cleaner.  But most importantly need to be at a refinishing average of RA 50 or better.

FAQ.

Q: Does the engine need to come out.

A : Yes

Q: Only one side is leaking should I do them both?

A: Yes, do both the other will be the weak link if left alone.

Q: Do I need to resurface the heads

A: If they are warped, you are unable to check for warp or unable to refinish properly your self, YES

Q: Do I need to replace the Head Bolts?

A: If you are unable to check the bolts for stretch then yes, if you have a 2005 and newer, YES

Q: Which Head Gaskets Should I use?

A: If a good Independent Subaru  Shop is located around you, most likely the Six Star gasket will be your best bet, however if not the only other option is the OE Subaru Gasket, anything else will just not last.  I will add that it is always best to use which ever gasket the shop making the repairs has a good comfort level with.

Q: Is Subaru paying for this?

A: The WWP-99 campaign has ended, there are some cases where Subaru will participate after the 5 year 60,000 mile powertrain warranty has expired but its on a case by case basis. But understand any repair made at a Dealer will be done by someone in a hurry using the same gasket you already tried.

Q: How much does a Head Gasket Repair Cost if I have to foot the bill?

A: This is a very tricky thing to answer.   Labor can differ greatly across the nation just like home prices.  I have observed invoices from shops in Montana for $1000.00 and ones form New York for $3000.00.  You are much better off finding a good Subaru shop that charges a fair price and does a good job and obtaining a price from them.

Q: What can I do to prevent the head gasket problem form ever happening?

A: Maintain your Subaru based on how you use it! Cars that make frequent short trips will end up with a gasket failure much sooner than a commuter car with high miles.  This is almost always because of the lack of understanding of the definition of severe use and how short drives are your car’s worst enemy.  Don’t ignore check engine lights, stay on top of the cooling system service intervals, maintain proper oil change intervals (again based on how you use the car).  Never use any special oil or cooling system “fix in a bottle”, the symptom may be temporarily resolved but at a much higher price later. We have seen the wrong type of stop leak lead to replacement of everything in the cooling system such as the heater core, hoses and radiator on top of replacing the head gaskets, resulting in a very large repair bill.  Oil treatments that soften oil seals can accelerate the deterioration of the head gaskets very quickly.

The truth is that while you may do everything right and still end up with an issue, the  life of  the head gasket will be prolonged if you take the time to understand you own a piece of machinery that must be maintained based on real world use.  I say this all the time; we have several customers that have still never made a head gasket repair to their 2000 and later  Subaru with 200k and counting, and we have some customers that found us for the first time at 61,000 miles after being informed they had a head gasket leak.  The main variables are the driver and the use.  Proper maintenance costs more, and that’s just not popular, as a result the market place just doesn’t allow for it.

Here are a few more  pictures of some of the important points to a head gasket repair.

 

Taking the engine out allows for  better control when torquing the head bolts.

Torquing Head Bolts

Torquing Head Bolts

Adjusting the valves while its all apart contributes to a complete repair and will help maintain economy and power.

Adjusting Valves on a Subaru

Adjusting Valves on a Subaru

The head gasket repair will only be as good as the prep work, the left side of the cylinder head below is what many shops and dealer feel to be ok, when in reality the surface on the right side will yield much better results.

Subaru Cylinder Head Surface Prep

Subaru Cylinder Head Surface Prep

The Cylinder heads and engine block surfaces must be checked for warp and corrected as needed.

Checking Subaru Heads For Warp

Checking Subaru Heads For Warp

Thanks for taking the time to read about the current trends with the Subaru Head Gasket situation.

If you have questions please post them here. I will as always do what I can to help.

Justin Stobb

Helping You get more out of your Subaru!

About the Author

All Wheel Drive Auto is a unique independent Subaru service & repair facility. We combine years of dealer experience with a local neighborhood shop atmosphere. We use Subaru parts & test Equipment and have the expert knowledge to fix it right the first time.

Comments (473)

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  1. [...] You may want to read this article about head gaskets before you decide to add aftermarket coolant. Subaru Repair Seattle, Subaru Service Seattle – Seattle Subaru Repair [...]

    • Mark says:

      2000 Foester high miles,bad head gasket excesive antifreeze consumption my daughters car.Repaired at dealer 1900.My wifes 2007 outback,70K informed by same dealer that head gasket leaking.At the time 4756.00 includes many other problems .We traded it in for a Honda CRV . Last my other daughters 2011 impreza 60K has been showing oil dampness where the block meets the head.I know where to look as they pointed it out to me on our 2007.Dealer claims its not that bad at this time.

    • Ima S says:

      Justin,
      Great article. I live in northern Vermont where Subarus are the unofficial state car. I’ve owned a number of Subies over the years beginning with the 2.2 liter engines (which didn’t seem to be afflicted with the same head gasket issues as the 2.5 liter engine). A friend and former Subaru dealer mechanic always told me that there were only two kinds of 2.5 liter Subarus…”those that just had the head gaskets done and those that need to have them done”. I was considering buying a new 2014/2015 Legacy and did a google search on “Subaru head gasket problems” to see if it was still an issue when I came across your article. All of my previous subarus were relatively inexpensive used cars. That’s why I’m glad I read your article before shelling out $25K for a new one. I think a new Honda Accord with some good snow tires will be a better option

      • Justin Stobb says:

        Hello Ima,

        So the newer FB engines in the 2014/2015 shouldn’t have any Hg issues. The article in question pertains only to 2009 in the Outback and Legacy and up to 2011 in the Forester.

        -Justin

        • Jeanette says:

          I’m wondering why the newer 2014/2015 engines shouldn’t have any Hg issues? What is an FB engine? I was looking at the specs for the new cars, and it looks like they’re still using the boxer style engine.

          • Justin Stobb says:

            Hi Jeanette,

            First of all, yes Subaru uses a Boxer, but in many different configurations throughout the years. The current 2.5l is called an FB, where the previous was called an EJ for example.

            “I was looking at the specs for the new cars, and it looks like they’re still using the boxer style engine.” Yes but it has gone though several changes.

            Issues that seemed to contribute to HG issues seem to have been addressed with this design, time will tell however.

            -Justin

  2. Chris Kloeck says:

    So why would anyone buy a Subaru?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Same reason they would buy anything else, they wanted it. It fits their needs, they want the safety of AWD and the 5 star crash rating and the Overall reliability of a Subaru. They dont want to buy the car twice by owning a Volvo or Audi AWD vehicle.

      If you think Subaru is the only car company to need repairs, please think again. I can point you to plenty of posts on any other brand specific Forum to complaints about that model.

      Justin

      • I just wanted to help on this blog. I called today and the local Gainesville, Fl Subaru dealer does not stock the “Coolant Conditioner” anymore. They stopped that this year. Just a little FYI to help. I wont speak to what that means because I am not nearly as educated on Subarus as Justin. I give him huge props for his efforts and truly appreciate what he has done with writing this article. My partner has a 2006 Sub.For. and I love it. It hasnt started to leak yet but Im sure its inevitable. I am a pilot so I am used to a higher degree of maintenance on my engines. Coincidently, the only other horizontally oriented engines I’ve seen are in aircraft. Maybe I am biased. Either way, I like the comprises to the vehicle and I dont mind the more frequent maintenance as a disadvantage to the advantages. Thank you Justin…..

        • Justin Stobb says:

          The Conditioner thing is going to be Dealer by Dealer much like the Stocking of Green Coolant is.

          The Fixed Operations Manager will decide at any given Dealership how they want to address service and thus stoked parts. Sometimes they will drop part numbers from inventory just to simplify things.

          Local to us the conditioner is till stocked at the Subaru Dealerships.

          Thanks for posting

          Justin

      • Dennis Anderson says:

        Justin,
        Thanks for taking the time to share your expertise with the general public. I’ve been in the automobile business for 40 years and I know all cars have issues sooner or later. I used to sell Subaru’s in Seattle in the late 1970′s. I’ve owned 11 Subaru’s and I’ve done head gaskets on most of them around 100,000 miles. I bought them cheap because they were using coolant. I am helping out an older lady from church (gratis) with her 2003 Forester 2.5 187,000 miles. Bad oil leak top rear on the left head – back by the knock sensor. I always have a machine shop rebuild and resurface the head while I have the engine out. Your comments don’t seem to mention grinding the valves. Is this a non-issue with Subaru engines? The very early Subaru’s had valve guide problems. Is that no longer an issue? Can I just surface the head and put it back together and expect it to last? I have another question. I’ve known about the electrolysis problem for many years. I understand how this causes a coolant leak, but I don’t understand why it would cause an external oil leak on the top of the head. I’d be more inclined to think that the head bolts were losing their tension over many expansion cycles when the engine heats up. Any thoughts? Finally, what do you think about adding your own ground wires from the heads to the frame?
        Thanks again for all your time answering dumb questions and putting up with peoples compliaints

        Dennis

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hi Dennis,

          The newer Subaru vehicles have multiple ground straps, but there is no reason you can’t add one or two as you desire, this doesn’t change the need to check and maintain proper cooling system integrity or course.

          We see Subaru’s with dropped valve guides and suggest to correct as needed. I have many posts about this very thing on the site with pictures and videos. Because a valve job with new guides can add $600 to 1000 to a HG repair it’s pretty unpopular to suggest as maintenance.

          If your are referring to the oil passage on top of the heads not sealing on the older composite gaskets that’s one of the reasons Subaru changed designs. We don’t see modern Subaru’s with fluid leaks on top of the heads from anywhere other than the power steering pump or a breather hose.

          -Justin

    • John says:

      Good question. I bought my Subaru to replace my Audi A4 that had 70K miles on it when the cam shaft broke causing catastrophic engine failure (cause: CAM-follower problem). That was a $10K engine replacement bill. Also was tired of paying $400 for frequent Xenon headlight replacements (requires removing the front bumper…not exactly a friendly DIY project).

    • Luke Smith says:

      very low percentage of these cars ever develop head gasket issues at under 200k miles imo. I have 4 of these cars and not one had head gasket issues. Whenever I buy a used ten year old car, the first thing I do is put new tires and shocks, battery, battery cables and alternator. Then I drive the car for like 10 years without any issues. Subaru imo is the best used device you can get with least issues.

  3. John says:

    This sure is an excellent in-depth article Justin!

    Thanks or taking the time to post it, and all the others which you’ve done.

    John

  4. Robert says:

    Justin,

    Thank you for all of this very detailed information! My wife and I have been considering buying a 2012 outback but the HG problem was still a concern for us since we could not seem to find definitive information on a fix. If I had found your article a month or two ago I probably would have gone ahead and purchased the 2012 but now that the 2013′s are due to arrive in a month or two we are considering waiting. Supposedly in the 2013 engines, the coolant lines for the head and block are completely separate now and the coolant will no longer flow through the gasket at all. In your opinion will the new FB blocks finally put this issue to rest? Is it worth waiting for the 2013 OB or is the 2012 good enough if one takes good care?

    Thanks – R

  5. Gustavo says:

    Hi Justin, what kind of sandpaper and grit number did you use to prep the heads?
    Thanks, Gustavo

  6. Mark says:

    I’m in the same position as Robert. Would appreciate a comment on the prospect for a fix on the 2013 models. His comment is intriguing: ” Supposedly in the 2013 engines, the coolant lines for the head and block are completely separate now and the coolant will no longer flow through the gasket at all.”

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Mark,

      There is not much of a comment I can make as I am not aware of the change, I also do not see how it is possible so will have to wait on that one.

      I can promise that not all 2013 models would have a new design if there is one slated, the 2013s will be out next month so I guess we will see than.

      Justin

  7. John says:

    How many head gasket failures have you guys seen on the H6, specifically the EZ30D (mine is a 2004)? Just curious.

    Part of the reason I bought an H6 over the H4 is because of the head gasket issue, since I was looking at used ones around the mileage where they would probably start to go. Plus, I love the extra power of the H6.

    I’m at about 125k on my 2004 and going strong so far with regular coolant and oil changes.

  8. Dino says:

    Hello Justin!!

    Thank you so much for all of this information.

    I just bought my first car from a dealer in PA (I live in Maryland) . It is a used 2000 Subaru Forester 2.5L SOHC with 100 630 miles. Stick drive.

    I have a 3 month warranty and just got my Maryland Inspection and I failed it. Apparently my head gasket is leaking on the left side but I want to get to New Orleans by June 20th. Is this something pivotal?? I mean I do not know if it is super severe, do warranties generally cover the repair??

    Also my rear differential is bad (I was totally unaware of this when I got my car two weeks ago), it felt totally fine and I love how my car drives? Do you think that is classic mechanics trick to get money out of people or is it a genuine problem?

    I totally trust your input!!
    Thank you,
    Dino.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Dino,

      Thats kind of tough fore me to say without seeing the car, I do not believe that most shops are out to try and make unnecessary repairs, but obviously I don’t know the shop in question.

      The rear differential is not a common failure but can go if not maintained properly and since the car is new to you its possible. My question is, is it noisy?

      If the HG is leaking coolant you should not drive it on a long trip, if its just oil you should be ok.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

      • John-F Dorval says:

        Thanks so much for your articles about head gaskets on Subaru cars. I’ve just bought a 2005 Outback with HG problems… I’m I crazy? No, I factored in the cost of the repair in my dealings with the previous owner, and got a terrific low price.

        My question is since it is leaking oil at a very slow pace (no drops on the pavement, both sides affected, 177,000 KM), what would be the signs that the problem is getting urgent? I plan to get it fixed, but can I wait and for how long?

        Thanks in advance,

        JFD

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hello John,

          No your not crazy, and i would continue to monitor it and keep the fluids in good shape. It could take a while before it turns for oil to coolant its difficult to peg that instance however, its when it leaks coolant that you must repair.

          Hope that helps

          -Justin

          “Helping you get more from your Subaru”

  9. Daniel Broeckling says:

    Hey Justin,

    Just purchased a 2004 Baja with the 2.5 TURBO 5-speed. Are the 2.5 TURBO engines as prone to head gasket failure like the N/A 2.5?

    Anything else i should keep an eye on for the Baja?

    Thanks for your time.

  10. edmund says:

    hi justin
    I have been looking a some of your videos and have found them quite informative. I have a question. Do you have an opinion about putting copper sealant on subaru head gaskets. Would It help or hurt? I am would on 1997 subaru outback 2.5
    thanks for your response.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      The idea behind the copper spray is to help make up for any low spots that cannot be machined out of the engine block, unless this condition exist its not necessary to use the copper spray.

      Justin

  11. Scott Keithley says:

    Hi Justin, I just found your website on the Suabaru Outback Forum and it has been very informative. I have 2 subarus, a 1991 legacy and a 1998 outback. I have had headgasket issues with both, having done both engines twice. I am a very meticulus do it yourselfer with 35 years experiance in all things automotive. These have baffled me as I have done all things recomended by you and still had problems recur after 5000-10000 miles. In the second repair of the outback out of despairation and not wanting to be beat by this problem I tried using ARP headstuds and Cometic Phuzion gaskets, as the all subaru parts didn’t last the first time. I had the block and head surfaced the 1st time and just heads the second. Subaru thermostats in both cars and much attention paid to bleeding air out of the system. I wonder if the heads could be soft from being overheated or thin from being surfaced,even though the shop doing the machine work is extremely high quality as am I. The outback I bought used with the gaskets blown so no idea how hot it got that first time, but both times after we didn’t overheat much as we realized what was starting to happen. I like the cars especially the 1998 and would love to have a lasting fix, I am about to give up on them, but hate to be beaten by this problem as I think there has to be a workable solution. Also wondered if these could have intermitent fan problems as the first sign of a problem always occured in stop and go city driving, but by the time we could pull over and check things the fans were working. I have thought of putting some type of light on it so I can tell when the fans turn on from in the car. I also suspect a air bubble maybe delaying the fan activation. I have also found that the original temp gage in the car is not very responsive as 180 is about in the mid range and 200+ is about 5/8 up which I checked with my scan tool and verified with a temp gun. When it is at the top of the gauge I would guess it is at some absurd temp. Any thoughts or advise on how I might proceed to salvage this/ these cars and save my sanity would be greatly appretiated. Thanks in advance, Scott

  12. Gary says:

    Hey Justin

    What do you think about this block check kit. Have you ever seen them or used them.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Gary,

      In my experience the block check works about as well as your nose.

      Justin

      • Wanda says:

        Lol I love how you go from serious comments to your “good as your nose” comment…too funny
        Thanks for all your info. My daughter got a great deal on a 2000 Subaru outback last year as her first car. I was leary of her buying a 12 yr old car, but I have known many people who have 300 miles on their Subaru’s. However, it just blew a head gasket and we are looking at $$$$ in repairs. I’m hoping, after all the comments Ive read, that if repaired correctly she can get many more years of service out of it. Thanks again for your common sense approach :)

  13. Carrie says:

    Great article! It is always nice to get more details than I can get out of the mechanic when they hand over an estimate of $1,800-$3,600 repair and just say, ‘yes, it is something you have to address.’ My 2005 Forester has 120,000 miles on it and I am trying to determine if they go ahead and yank the engine out to work on the HG should I consider any other repair and/or part replacements for things which may be worn down or likely to cause me problems down the road.

  14. [...] it down as the 'cover needing to be screwed down". I am not so sure about that. I read that head gaskets leaking oil are not uncommon in Subaru's and to prevent or reduce the incidence of this issue the engine needs to be very [...]

  15. Boden says:

    Justin,
    Excellent article. Exactly the information I was looking for.

    So I recently purchased a 2006 Subaru Impreza 2.5i and just had a mechanic give it a thorough inspection today. Everything checked out for the most part. There were no coolants leaks and no oil in the coolant that they had flushed. However, there’s a very small oil leak (they described it as more of a seep) at the driver side cylinder head. They didn’t seem overly concerned with it, but they told me to watch the oil level and if I started to notice dripping oil under my vehicle where it had been parked, then I should bring it in and get the cylinders resurfaced and new head gaskets installed.

    My question is this, can I expect to make it another 10,000 miles with this small leak (hopefully 8-9 more months) or in your experience will this be something that will need attention before the end of this year?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Boden,

      With out seeing the leak, I cant comment on its severity or its pending need to be addressed.

      Typically a small leak of oil can be monitored for a while, just have who ever is changing the oil keep an eye on it , and this cannot be a quick lube.

      Justin

  16. Andrew Kennedy says:

    Wow. I must admit, I’m amazed.

    I’m thinking of buying a used Forester and I’ve narrowed it down to three.
    1. A 2000 with 114k. It recently had the timing belt and water pump, front brakes and rotors, starter motor, CV axle, and O2 sensor and alternator replaced.
    2. A 2002 with 132k. It recently the timing belt, vent valve, driver belts, water pump, and head gasket replaced.
    3. A 2003 with 118k. I haven’t talked the person yet so I do not any further info on it yet.
    They’re all MTs if that matters.

    Finally, do you have a clone in the Boston, MA area? If I buy one, I really would like to have a shop like yours around. I’ve only heard horror stories about the local dealers around here.

    Thanks in advance.
    Andrew

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Andrew,

      If the repairs were made well on option number 2 that’s the way I would steer. The 2003 has a few more options (as it was a refresh) over the 2000 and 2002, but im not sure if those will matter that much.

      I dont know anyone in Boston I am afraid.

      Thanks

      Justin

  17. Kathryn says:

    Justin,

    Great article, very informative. I have a 2001 Subaru Legacy 2.5l with 153,000 miles. I’d like to keep it going a while longer, but am keeping an eye out for signs that the head gaskets have developed leaks. I wish your shop was in San Francisco! Is there anyone in the Bay Area who you can recommend who knows their stuff when it comes to these older Subarus?

    Thanks,

    Kathryn

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Ill make a call and if I find one , I will send you an email.

      Thanks

      Justin

      • Jodi Macy says:

        I’m looking for someone as well to help fix my blown head gasket in the Phoenix (85021) area.
        I have a 2001 Subaru Legacy 2.5l with 277,000 miles on it.
        … also, I do not want to get rid of my Subaru. Should I actually fix it or just stop and let it go to the junk yard?
        Jodi

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hi Jodi,

          I don’t know anyone in Phoenix I am afraid.

          At 277k, I worry a little about oil use in between oil changes. IF you want to keep the car I would consider a Subaru Reman Short block along with the Head Gasket repairs.

          Justin

  18. [...] Originally Posted by Thai x2. Link: Subaru Owner Tips: Subaru Changed the Head Gasket for the 2010 Outback – YouTube Head gasket issue was resolved DEFINITIVELY in 2010. Your finance guy is an idiot and/or a poor salesman. the guy who made the video also has a blog from his sube shop in Seattle. Here is a lengthy article about the head gasket issue. Lots of detail. Subaru Repair Seattle, Subaru Service Seattle – Seattle Subaru Repair [...]

  19. mike steinzig says:

    Justin,

    thanks for all the info on this site. Do you have time for another?

    I’ve got a 1996 with a 2.2l manual, original owner with 260K on it (yes, we’re happy). I do most work myself, and have done the last two timing belts on it, recent one at 240K. Engine light has been on for years after trying to figure it out myself and spending a few hundred dollars with a local shop with no success. I do all the maintenance, but have recently gone to 7K oil changes, maybe a mistake.

    Last week, on a 2 hour drive to airport, I tried the AC and didn’t have any cooling. (I replaced the compressor and most other A/C components about a year ago). I turned the switch off and didn’t think much more about it. Another 20 minutes and the car died at an intersection. I noticed the temperature gage pegged, and pushed it into a parking lot. Opened the hood, steam was coming out of the lower passenger side of the radiator. I let it cool, drove to a friends house in several steps, and replaced the radiatior, which did have a leak. Also replaced the hoses, radiator cap, and thermostat. Refilled with 50/50, still overheats after a few miles of driving (and no hot air from heater). Drained the system, checked thermostat (it was open when i removed it hot) and refilled. Same problem with another drive. Trailered the car home this morning.

    Questions:

    Should i assume head gasket breach? Or could it still be that I’ve got a bubble in the system. can you help with a fill procedure to eliminate bubbles? My Chilton doesn’t have much, just “drain and refill”.

    If it is head gaskets, i assume you’ve got a kit I can use. Can you tell me how many hours of shop time you would have for this engine to replace both HG’s? (I usually double the estimated shop time for how long it takes me.)

    Can you think of any reason why the AC would have stopped working as a result of a coolant issue? If i’ve scrapped another compressor, i may think twice about doing repairs on this old car. (It got beat pretty well in a hailstorm 2 years ago, and is starting to rust on the roof.)

    I know this is a huge long post, thanks in advance for your help.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Mike,

      When the engine temp gets hot, the Ac cannot perform properly as the heat up than cool cycle of the Ac cant happen. Ac is not making something cold but rather drastically reducing temperature and pressure and the result is cool air.

      You may have a HG issue, or yes you could still have an air pocket. Does the overflow bottle smell like Exhaust? Did you use a cooling system fill funnel to purge the air out.

      You can request parts info here. http://allwheeldriveauto.com/subaru-parts/

      Justin

      • mike steinzig says:

        justin,

        thanks for the reply. Makes sense on the AC, that indicates the engine was probably running hot for about 20 minutes. There was still steam coming out of the radiator leak when I pulled over.

        The overflow bottle does not smell like exhaust. I had drained the new coolant to check the thermostat, and refilled with distilled water tonight by pouring through the top hose directly into the block, and then filling the radiator. Drove about 4 miles with temp staying at mid range, then it rose to almost max in minute or two. Possible clue, when the temperature spikes like that, the heater stops blowing hot air and begins blowing cold air. Another possible clue, I had not put any water in the overflow, and after lifting the hood when it got hot, the overflow was about half full. also heard gurgling from what seemed to be the top hose area.

        I did not use a cooling system fill funnel to purge air; don’t know what one of these is, can I get one at AutoZone or Napa (our only local places)?

        A local shop told me they have an analyzer that could test the radiator coolant (I assume for UBC’s). Would you recommend that?

        I’ve done the timing belt, fuel pump, radiator, front axles, rear struts, brakes and quite a bit of other repair work on this car. Is a head gasket job significantly more difficult than these?

        thanks again.

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hi Mike,

          All of it sounds like, a HG issue to me, not sue why you are not getting the exhaust smell. The next step is to patiently use the Gas analyzer and look for signs of Hydro carbons in the Cooling system.

          The HG is a bigger repair than the Timing belt, how ever if you buy the parts from us we do offer a repair guide and tech support.

          Justin

    • Sub Drum says:

      RE: 2000 Subaru Forester 2.5

      Brought the car in for MA inspection sticker….

      Noticed temp gauge was getting into the red….

      Was close enough to the inspection station to wait in line for over an hour….car off….outside, it was 95 degrees that day.

      Car was inspected and passed….then the check engine light went on…..

      Flashing dash lights….ie: battery, even ABS….

      Let engine fully cool…..

      Found no coolant in what I could visually see both in the radiator as well as the expansion tank….

      Subby heater was throwing heat, but not AC….guage fluctuating….

      Disconnected neg battery ground at the battery….

      added 50/50 P stun green coolant….after doing a 45 degree cut (scissors) on the line that leads from the radiator to the expansion tank

      ADDED HOLTS / Subaru conditioner….

      Replaced the radiator cap with a new from floautozon …OEM equivilant

      Found that the top radiator hose clamp was apx 1 to 2 inches off of the stem…

      tightened the hose up….

      no more white smoke….no oil in the dipstick….or water white spots….

      slight condensation upon start up from rear tail pipe….stops after a short cruise….

      107K
      on the car

      Did I just get lucky by adding the conditioner?

      Temp gauge is now apx 1/16 below level, fans are blowing, AC and heat are cranking…. Oil level fine…

      • Justin Stobb says:

        Hello Sub Drum?

        Not sure from here but a possible senario is the hose blew off from excessive pressure, which could be many thins including the HG.

        All you can do is keep a close eye on it.

        Justin

  20. Terry Shaw says:

    Justin,
    I just wanted to say thanks very much for the article, it was very well done.

    Terry

  21. Lindsey says:

    Hi Justin,

    Thank you for this in-depth explanation about the different types of head gasket leaks. I have a 2005 Legacy 2.5I and I had to have the head gaskets replaced in 2009, with about 49k, thankfully they were covered under an extended warranty I purchased (got it done at the Subaru dealer). I thought that seemed a little odd that they had to be replaced with such low mileage, but didn’t think much of it for awhile. Well, back in October 2011 I took it in to another Subaru dealer with 102k and they said that they were leaking again and needed to be replaced. I didn’t get them done as I thought that it was something that should not happen twice in such a short time frame and I didn’t have the $2500 they were asking for the repair. This was confirmed today by another repair shop. The car now has about 114k and we are unsure what to do. It is a very costly repair and I am wondering if it was done right the first time or carelessly by a technician (since it was done under warranty). Any advice you have would be appreciated! Thank you!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Lindsey,

      The repair was made with the same HG gasket that was already installed from the Factory.

      The fact that the repair yielded longer life that the original install tells me a “good Tech” most likely worked on your car or the mileage could have been much less which is unfortunately what we see all to often.

      What to do from here, that is really up to you and if the car still suits your needs.

      Justin

  22. Cindy says:

    Thank you for the great information.
    I am one of the unfortunate Subaru Outback 2003 owners with the head gasket issue. The estimates I have to fix it are $2.5K – $4K; it has both a coolant & oil leak. I’ve done all the services & recommended maintenance but did not use premium gas. The ac is not working either for another $1.1K (seems high for ac)

    Anyway, not sure I’m going to fix it as it has 125K miles on it. For the money, I can put a down payment on a newer car. I really like how the Subaru handles but afraid to buy another. Of course, all cars have issues so will keep researching.

    Thanks again.

    Cindy

  23. Chris L says:

    Hi Justin,

    Just wanted to join the chorus of voices thanking you for your website and this article in particular.

    I’m in nearly the same situation as Kathryn above, except I live in San Jose instead of San Francisco. When you made that call on behalf of Kathryn to locate a good Subaru mechanic for head gasket work in the Bay Area, do you come across any down here in the San Jose area? If you did — and if you had the time — I’d appreciate an email with any recommendations, too.

    Thanks again,
    Chris

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Chris,

      I was unable to locate a shop in the last posters part of town.

      Its tough for me to do so, I don’t go around and visit other shops, there are no real conventions to speak of.

      I will typically place a call to my Subaru Parts vendor, but have to point out that there is no guarantee that the shop will be any good.

      Its always best to ask Subaru owners in your part of town who they trust?

      Justin

  24. Ray says:

    Hi Justin,

    Thank you for the write up. I have a subaru 2002 legacy wagon (122000 miles now, drove the car for 15000 miles). I recently replaced the transmission fluid and the dealer told me that i have oil leak wher one side is leaking more than other and suggested a head gasket replacement. I changed oil every 3000 miles for the time I have the car and never had any issues with coolant loss or overheating. The mechanic doing my oil changes never spotted this problem either. Should I wait for either of these conditions to appear before I do the head gasket repair? Will putting the coolant conditioner help now?

    Regards,
    Ray

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Ray,

      No a head gasket leaking oil will not cause an overheat, nor will an additive to the cooling system help with the oil leak. You can possibly delay the inevitable with the conditioner, but there’s really now saying for how long if at all.

      What will happen is it will become worse and eventually leak coolant, as well as an internal leak resulting in an overheat, the idea is to catch it ahead of that event to keep costs down.

      Justin

  25. Patrick says:

    Justin, as a follow up to my question the other day on an overheated 2006 Subaru Forester, I got the numbers from the mechanic…

    P0102 MAF code
    P0113 AIT temp
    P0197 oil temp

    Compression Test

    1 86 psi
    2 45 psi
    3 55 psi
    4 55 psi

    Engine turns freely.
    Mileage is 134810

    I’m hoping that the engine went into a soft shutdown when the oil temperature peaked, but the low compression tells me the gaskets are gone. I’m going to ask the mechanic to try AS HARD AS POSSIBLE to merely mill the heads and replace with high-quality gaskets. He’s still pushing for a reman. or used engine, but I don’t think the vehicle is worth the price he wants to charge for that.

    Any hope here whatsoever?

    Thank you for being completely awesome…

    - Patrick, Fullerton, California

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Patrick,

      Here is the problem with the tests that have been done, how a bout a leakage test showing the percent of and where the leakage is too.

      If a leak down shows 50% leakage to coolant, then yes the HG are gone, but if that same test reveals 50% to crankcase the lower end needs some attention and is not a candidate for a HG repair.

      The codes are all predicated around the overheating event, which sounds like it was pretty significant.

      Justin

      • Patrick says:

        Justin, thank you for the reply…

        My wife has decided that she likes the car enough to tell the mechanic to do an engine swap for an ATK remanufactured engine. She is extremely chagrined to have not caught the overheating event in time to save the engine. She’s normally the first one in the car to note mechanical problems in real time. Years of driving old cars have trained her well, but this one got by her!

        I did ask the mechanic to evaluate the heads once the engine is out before proceeding with a transplant, but he can tell me whatever he likes and I’ll have to take him at his word. Based on the way the engine was soaked down just after the event, and the fact that he told me a few days later that the oil was not emulsified, I still have some hope… I’m three hours away from his shop, and my wife is still out on tour for her company, somewhere around San Francisco this week.

        Thanks again for the commentary. You seem an honorable man. I wish the car was sitting in your shop, but I’ll have to take what I can get.

        - Patrick

      • Patrick says:

        Justin, I’ve finally heard back from the mechanic who is working (albeit very, very slowly) on my wife’s Forester. There is finally other news to report. The heads have been sent off to a machine shop, where they were milled “fifteen thousandths”. He doesn’t have them back yet, and was not certain if he could obtain a Felpro gasket set for a milled Subaru. I rapidly asked him if I could send him a link to Six Star gaskets, and he laconically said “Sure, I guess. Never heard of ‘em”

        Well, he’s about to hear of them.

        Did you say that the MLS Six stars were available in overmilled gauges?

        Thank you again for any information you can provide!

        - Patrick

        • Justin Stobb says:

          .015 is a lot, the heads need to be measured. The brand you mentioned will let you down, not a good choice for your car, just fine for a Chevy or a Ford, but nothing Japanese.

          Justin

  26. Vicki says:

    Justin

    Thank you so much for the articles. I have looked all over the internet, and finally found your articles on this HG problem. My 04 outback is in the shop having the head gasket replaced. I have been told the wrong coolant was put in my car when the water pump was replaced by an independent shop.
    My question to you is would that independent shop be responsible for any of the cost to replace the HG? Why is there no caution info on the coolant cap? Should the shop know this? If this is such a HUGE problem why are the customers not notified? I am unsure if I should ask the independent for help with my repair. If this is a Subaru problem, which it seems like it is.

    My check engine light is on also.Is this related to the HG.

    Thank you for any information you can offer.

    Vicki

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Vicki,

      The check engine light is on, and there will be a code set that can be read with a code scanner, without knowing the code number I cant answer the “is the check engine light related to the head gasket question” it could just as easily be a lose gas cap.

      The “wrong coolant” issue is kind of a cop out, the information about what kind of coolant to use is in the owners manual.

      As far as responsibility, Subaru is trying to portray this image to you;

      “you silly customer should never take your car anywhere but the Subaru Dealer for Service, and if you had just spent all your money with us paying for overpriced services, we would have put the right coolant in it”

      Which is absurd, many Subaru Dealers still use bulk type coolant ( I have witnessed it), and even if you had taken it to a Dealer, and they had put in Subaru coolant, its dishonest to try and say you wouldn’t have had a HG issue, there’s no way to take the path not chosen at the time to see where it would have lead you. All I know is that most 2.5l will end up needing the repairs, look at all the posts on the 1st HG article I wrote from all of the people who took it to the Dealer and no where else and still had to have the repair made.

      Should the Shop who did the Water pump have used O.E. Coolant & the stop leak, I mean conditioner, may be. I wont say absolutely either way, as it only comes down to the following; do you want Subaru to kick in $500.00 to have a Dealer hack at a Dealer service department make the repairs, or do you want to establish a good relation ship with a good shop for your Subaru and let them guide you through the repairs and service as needed.

      The Dealer is trying to paint themselves better than they are in your eyes,its a common tactic, don’t fall for it. I despise the tactic, as I believe in honestly with our customers, not sales tactics especially those that unfairly damage another shops reputation. If given the chance the local Subaru Dealer will state lies to gain a job, nit a customer just a job.

      If you have ever seen “Super Size Me”, Id like to draw from a part in that movie. Morgan Spurlock went to several McDonald’s franchises asking for Nutrition information, at each franchise the results were different, some had them posted, some didn’t even have them available. A Subaru Dealership is a franchise they operate, well really how ever they want to, occasionally they may be Audited and make small changes but never to the intentional belittlement of customers & Independent shops alike.

      You could pack up, go to a different Subaru Dealership and they might be mums on the coolant in it.

      I would at leas call the independent shop, hopefully they are familiar with Subaru? If not no matter what you do from here, I would suggest finding a good place, and one place to take care of your Subaru.

      Hope that helps and best of luck.

      Justin

      • Vicki says:

        Justin,
        Thank you. I contacted Subaru of America. I think they may help me. They know they have a problem.
        Next question. After the head gasket is fixed, will it happen again in the next 100k miles? Have they done something to the gasket that will make it last longer?
        You know I really don’t care about the problem, it’s the fact that they tried to put it on someone else and me, and not take responsibility. Makes me sick.
        Have the new subaru’s been upgraded? It sounds like it from all of the information I read.
        I like my car a lot.
        So, if you were to get a new Subaru, what would you get?
        Thanks for all of the information, BTW, my code was 420.

        • Justin Stobb says:

          The engine in the present Outback uses a MLS Gasket, no known issues as of yet.

          Justin

          • Vicki says:

            JUSTIN,

            Just to follow up. SOA and the dealer blame my problem on the coolant and an after market water pump. They will not help with anything. They did give me a car while they fix it. The CEL is a catalytic converter problem this is covered under warrant. How long will the new Head Gasket last? I don’t have very much confidence in the car now.
            Ahhh.

  27. Dave F. says:

    Justin:
    This article is an impressive piece of work and has addressed all my questions and concerns. I have 2000 Outback and 2003 Legacy that have both had the head gaskets repaired at the dealer. I wish I new then what I know now. I appreciate the maintenance advice and will follow it. I really like driving Subaru cars but I am not happy that they don’t stand behind their motors better. As much as I would like another Subaru I am still not sure that it’s a good idea to buy another.
    Thanks

  28. Stewart says:

    What a great site and forum! I’ve been reading your comments for the last hour.

    We have a 93 Impreza hatchback. It has 107,000 miles on it and has been a great car. It still is a great car but… About 10 or 15 thousand miles ago it started leaking oil and dripping it onto the exhaust manifold. I can’t see well enough to determine where the leak is originating. Except that it’s on the right side of the engine. I quit looking when a local mechanic told us (over the phone) that it was certainly a head gasket; $1,800 to fix.

    So I guess my first question is: since 1993 was evidently not a head gasket problem year, could the oil be leaking from another source? For awhile it seemed to smell of oil smoke the most when it was on a steep uphill grade.

    The bigger question, however, is what you would recommend as a replacement car. This one runs like a champ but the body is dinged, banged and rusty in those compromised areas. Another car just like this one but in better overall condition would be one of our top preferences, so we’re looking at used Impreza hatchbacks. We live in Juneau, which is like Seattle except somewhat colder; alternating rain and snow, freeze/thaw all winter. We average 5,000 to 8,000 miles a year. VERY short runs with the car; I’m sure it’s only seen full operating temperature the few times we drove it to the Yukon.

    Do older models survive the short running times better, worse, or same?

    I’d really like to know if your shop sells any used cars that you’ve been maintaining. I like the idea of the older cars since they seem more trouble free. Dual airbags would be nice though, as ours has only the driver air bag.

    Thank you again for your wonderful website. Sure wish I’d known about it a few years ago!

    Stewart

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Stewart,

      I would fix what you have it will cost less money to do so.

      The 1993 Impreza is a good car if it still suits your needs, we do sell cars at http://www.awdautosales.com if you want something different any ways we dont have anything presently that fits your criteria however.. The older models will survive the short running times a bit better as they have less systems.

      The oil leaks are most likely the front and rear cam shaft support o-rings and maybe the oil pump or seperator plate as well as the valve cover gaskets.

      Justin

  29. daryl ogden says:

    Dear Sirs, My daughter took a 1999 forester eng manual and put it into her 1997 impreza out back automatic 2.2. Car runs great but after a while gauge shows overheat. I did the carbon monoxide tesy, Shows good. Therm is new and the right way lol. Air has been purged. Both fans cut on normally. When gauge shows overheat. I gunned rad hoses and radiator and therm housing. It stays at about 156 F with digital pyrometer. It seems after a 20 minute highway drive. Gauge stays normal the whole time then shoots up to pegged position. My daughter says a small amount of coolant pushed out xpansion tank. Theres no oil in water and no water in the oil.It is an after market therm but looks just like oem. What do you think Oh Subaru Messiah? Im dying a slow death!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      HI Daryl

      So She took out a 2.2l and put a SOHC 2.5l in its place, what was known about the Forester engine? Curious as to how the the tests have been performed, as I find that 90% of the time when someone tells me it has been tested for HC’s in the cooling system the tets were done incorrectly or incompletely. If it was done any other way than the exact way it over heats then what have you actually tested? If the Subaru is fine for 20 minutes and then overheats at highway speeds thats precisely how you need to test it.

      Are the fans coming on? Is the Radiator restricted?

      When Subaru Head Gaskets fail internally, they DO NOT mix oil and coolant, you may get some oil residue in the overflow bottle but this is oil from the combustion chamber NOT the crankcase.

      The answer to why the Subaru overheats can be found, I am not sure why its eluding you only to say you need to continue to evaluate the car the proper way until the problem is found.

      Justin

  30. daryl ogden says:

    Also what rad cap is good I have a 0.9. Is that good?I think its the original Forester cap?

  31. Steve says:

    I bought an 06 Outback with 151,000 miles from a big Subaru dealer who knocked another $500 off instead of checking out a small oil leak which I could smell burning oil on the right side exhaust. Could not see any oil leaking, and checking the oil level after 1000 miles shows only tiny decrease in oil. After reading your article I checked and found coolant level at “min” and evidence of white stains on the inside of the hood and on the top of the battery. Peaking under the shiny red positive battery cable I find the battery post packed with corrosion, and the car cranks slowly as is the battery is low. There is no obvious leakage under the car or elsewhere – just the burning oil smell when he car is turned off. I bought the car under time pressure after another car failed and we needed a car quickly. Dealer had done all oil changes and other service on this car and gave me the records, which is why I held my nose on the mileage, not knowing my risk with high-mile HG’s. It looks like I need HG’s due to the external oil, but does the battery corrosion and coolant use suggest more? I paid about $2000 less than book for this car, so it may be worth it, but any guidance would be appreciated.

  32. Ivan says:

    Hey

    Im just wondering do the 2L dohc subaru impreza still have the head gasket problem ? Or is it only with the 2.5 engines

  33. Frank says:

    Justin
    Great article. I just had my 2006 legacy in for a 90,000mi service,at a dealership and they informed me about the oil leak on the drivers side HG (damn)but a week later I noticed a leak at the rear differential, which I have never noticed before. I brought it in and they could not find a problem, nut told me the mechanic says it has been leaking awhile and that I should get the newer model diff. cover and gasket???
    What are your thoughts about the diff?

  34. Joe says:

    Justin,
    Thanks for the information. I have a 2001 forester with 160,000 on it. I recently had it in the mechanics and they said the head gasket is blown, but not horrible. They recommened not worrying about it for the time being. I have been keeping a close eye on it and it appears I have a slight external oil and coolant leak. Slight meaning an ounces of coolant per month and a 1/4 quart of oil in 3 months. In the 3 months I put 6,000 miles on the car, mostly being highway.

    My question is should I be concerned with changing the head gasket right away or do I have some life left before it needs to be changed. And what are the signs that I should look for when it is time to be changed.

    I am getting ready to go on a 2000 mile road trip and want to make sure it will be ok. My plan was to service to coolant system with new subaru coolant and conditioner.

    What to you think? Thanks for the help!!

    Joe

    • Justin Stobb says:

      I don’t typically suggest using a Subaru or any car for that matter with a looming repair for a road trip of any sort, because that’s when its going to let you down. Who is going to make the proper repair if it happens in an area with out a good Subaru or import shop, the price of service at need is always going to be more expensive than the price when done ahead of failure.

      SO to answer your question I would really suggest fixing it ahead of the trip, borrowing a car or renting a car.

      All of this is based however on not being able to view the car my self and having a sense of how bad it really is, but when it leaks coolant its time to fix it or park it.

      Justin

  35. chris d says:

    do I have to pull the camshafts out to remove the cylinder head on 1999 legacy outback 2.5l? ran out of light and trying to have it running by mid afternoon 2-morrow.

  36. David says:

    Hi so just wondering
    my head gasket on the passenger side is leaking oil on the bottom
    Should I get the head gasket replace or should I just monitor it for now,
    is there any chance It will get worse and become an internal leak aswell?

  37. David says:

    Sorry I forgot to mention that I have a 2004 forester

  38. David says:

    Hi
    I have a 2004 forester x with 183000 on the clock
    I have discovered an oil leak from the passenger
    Side head. Now should I get te head gasket replace
    ASAP or Should I just keep an eye on it for now
    And is there any chance that it will turn into an internal
    Leak…?

  39. chris d says:

    i am working on a 1999 legacy outback 2.5l. had cylinder head milled .003 now have a massive oil leak around top rear of gasket. any suggestions?

  40. chris d says:

    could head bolts be bottoming out? or block be warped,( which seems unlikely to me), or something else?

  41. Chris says:

    Hey I have a question, 2006 Subaru 2.5I, I pulled the engine and replaced the head gaskets. I did send heads to a machine shop and replaced head bolts, Timing belt, plugs, wires t/stat, Water pump and all the gaskets and parts. No its done a started it up and drove it 20 miles on a road test. Then I let it sit for an Hour and drove it home and now it’s pushing out the cam plug? Only on one side and also set a V V T code ? Any thoughts??? Never came across this before. Thank you so much

  42. Danny, S says:

    Hi Justin,
    I have a few questions. I have bought the gasket kit from the site a few month ago.I have finally decided to do it.
    1- While I have the engine out can I pull the torque convertor to drain the oil since I’m changing the transmission fluid?
    2- Do I need to coat the six star gasket with copper HG spray?
    3-Can I use synthetic transmission fluid in the automatic?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Danny,

      Yes, But replace the Torque converter seal. Be sure to pack the Seal with assembly lube before installing it.

      No, Six Star does not not approve the Use of any chemical spray.

      Yes, but you do want to try and get as much as the old fluid out as possible.

      Thanks and hope that helps

      Justin

  43. Bonnie Allen says:

    I found your site after getting the news that I have a moderate leak in the LH Head Gasket. It is not leaking coolant at teh moment. I am in Australia and I have a 2004 Forester that has done 175,000km (not sure what that is in miles). After reading your (very comprehensive) blog I have decided that perhaps I will just go ahead and get it fixed as I would like to keep the car, however, just one question – how long will this engine last? We do a lot of highway driving as we live in a regional area. I would like at least another 5 years from the car. What do you think?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Bonnie,

      I can never say how long your car will last, but A Subaru is capable of going 300,000 miles and more. So generally speaking you should be able to use the car for more than another 5 years.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  44. William says:

    Hello there…I just had my 2005 2.0 WRX fixed, the head gasket was gone and heads needed to be shaved. in total I paid $2000 and not very happy with the results. The car has significant loss in power, and whenever I start it up, it feels like its gonna Die on me…Also when it Idles it feels like it will die at any second, I don’t know why is that. My mechanic also told me that because of my heads being shaved I will loose 10%-15% of vacuum…I don’t know what to do, i mean the car is just not what it used to be, feels like 100hp less…Is there any other way I can make it better.? I was thinking of buying an engine swap, but I Just paid this guy $2000…

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello William,

      Um no, the milling of the Heads will not cause a 10 to 15% decrease in power, and obviously from that statement it was not done at a Subaru shop.

      They need to check there work, and if no problems found proceed to diagnose the actual cause of the issues you are currently happening. It may be related, it may be something new or overlooked.

      Justin

  45. Rob says:

    How are the 2.0l turbo head gaskets? do they suffer from teh same problem ?

  46. Ryan Bearish says:

    Hi Justin,

    I recently purchased an 03 Outback H6 and I beleive I might have a exhaust manifold leak. Out of nowhere the exhaust now sounds like a “riced out Honda”. After driving there is a white smoke coming from the engine and I traced it down to under the engine block and there is some sort of fluid either oil or coolant leaking I’m not sure. I checked the oil and that seemed fine but the coolant was low so I filled that.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      You really need to find the source of the coolant leak before anything else and I would suggest not driving it much or at all until its resolved.

      It would be wise to get it to a Subaru Guy near you if you are unable to trace down the coolant leak your self.

      As far as the exhaust leak goes, the H6 models dont have a typical everyone leaks here kind of a thing I can point out, so that really will need to be looked at locally as well.

      Justin

  47. Melvin says:

    Justin
    I am researching what vehicle I will be purchasing next and the Subaru Outback is one of the vehicles I am considering. Something that concerns me is the issue that Subaru has had with head gaskets and how long it has continued. Why wouldn’t Subaru address this immediately since it is a major expense for their customers, also a major deterrent to potential customers. On May 11 of this year,Robert asked a great question but since you hadn’t seen the 2013 Outback yet you couldn’t comment. I was hoping you could now as I’m sure alot of people would be interested in your answer. What he asked was now that the coolant lines for the head and block are completely separate and coolant will no longer flow the gasket at all, will the new FB block finally put the head gasket issue to rest. Looking forward to your answer. Thanks!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Melvin,

      I never commented on Roberts Question entirely as I am not sure where he had read what he had and I dont ever try to tell someone they are flat out wrong unless they are rude or mean. The Engine block still has oil and coolant flowing through the Head gaskets and into the Cylinder heads. There are some theoretical advantages to the FB series mostly due to surface are mass increase due to going back to a DOHC design.

      You can read about the FB series here.

      To the rest of your question what I can say is this, there are three and only three cars that are in the same class when comparing true and capable AWD vehicles those Are Audi, Subaru and Volvo. The Subaru will have a lower cost of ownership and is the lessor of three evils.

      There are many car companies that offer a AWD version of their car, but Subaru stands alone as the only car company with the Boxer engine that allows for the better center of gravity and the mechanical advantages of symmetrical AWD. In a Subaru the CV axles are the same length left to right both front and rear, this gives the AWD system a distinctive advantage over everyone else’s as there is no mechanical deficiency that must be addressed somewhere else in the system. Its the Boxer Design that allows for the high head on crash rating as the engine is compact and capable of folding down below you in a impact taking some mass out of the blunt force impact. I wont go on here, you can go to Subaru’s Website as I am sure you have already and read more your self. There are many other car companies that offer an AWD version of their cars some of them will suit your needs just fine, other will not.

      The Boxer Engine design also in fact will lend it self to more oil leaks than an inline engine, or should I say more noticeable. Head gaskets have been around since the beginning of the internal combustion engine, they have changed greatly as how they can fail has. A Modern Subaru after 2003 may develop an external oil leak from the head gasket, and if not addressed can turn into a coolant leak and finally fail internally, they dont “Blow Head Gaskets”. A true AWD vehicle will suffer from more drivetrain wear than one that isnt, and this is something to keep in mind when shopping for a car.

      Just about any and every car will develop an oil leak at some point in time. If you want the truth pick the car, than go to that car owners forum spend a couple of hours reading topics and post and you will maybe have a better understanding of any car you are considering. By the way The Same company that supplies HeadGaskets to Subaru also makes them for Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

      If you dont need AWD than maybe you should not buy a Subaru, if however you live in an area where you may experience some weather, than yes a Subaru may make sense to you.

      Subaru could develop an inline 4 cylinder, than redesign the rest of the car around it, but then they would face all of the crash rating and AWD issues that plaque the other car companies.

      A BMW for example is known for being the “ultimate driving machine” but no one equates that with being easy on your wallet, or at least no one should. Subaru in my opinion could give up on this fantasy of theoretical cost of ownership by finessing the maintenance section of the owners manual and instead just say hey this car performs well but WILL cost more to maintain, they would sell fewer cars but have fewer Head gasket issues as well.

      I wouldn’t expect Subaru to redesign they’re wheel anytime soon, they want to be known for safety, AWD, performance, longevity and reliability, its not that they dont care about their customers its just the opposite, they car about them being safe above all else.

      Inclosing I will end with this

      My Mom, Sister, Wife, Brother in law, His Mom, Sister, My Aunt, Son, Friends, Friends that asked me what to buy their kids, neighbors etc. all have Subaru’s because of me, I didn’t suggest these cars to them because I wanted to listen to them complain about head gaskets, its because I want them in cars that are safe and reliable, thats whats important to me. I work in the industry and understand there are far worse things that can happen than an oil leak from a head gasket.

      I hope in your search you can find a car that lines up with your own priorities as well.

      Thanks For Reading

      Justin

      • Jan V. says:

        Very well said Justin. I read both your articles on HG – and some comments – but this one summarizes best my attitude.

        I live in Southern Ontario (Canada) and drive mostly in winter. My 2001 H6 Outback served me very well up to end of August and with low repair costs (I have < 140,000 km).

        Last month, driving back from a camping trip on main highway, I noticed a Check Engine light. Then the car stopped and looked very overheated. Eventually I had it towed away to my dealership where I was told the engine is gone and that the car should be sent to the junk yard – given its current book value (around $4000) and how much I would have to pay to repair it.

        I was suspicious and asked around. Six weeks later I found a mechanic that repairs Japanese cars (but not specifically Subarus) who eventually got me a used engine (w/ around 90,000 kms he claims) from a trusted US supplier. So far all seems good.

        Do you know if there is way for me to check part number on this used engine and verify its history?

        If not (which I suspect), would you suggest anything else I should do to verify this engine is OK? (I have only 3 months warranty on it).

        Thanks – Jan

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hello Jan,

          Thanks for sharing.

          Here are some things to remember not just for but for the next reader as well.

          Anytime you tow a dead car into a Dealership they will almost always tell you its not worth repairing.

          Then they get to sell you a car, give you pennies for your car, fix it and sell it to someone else. So rather than one repair they get three transactions.

          That’s how they got the name Dealer, its all about making deals.

          “Do you know if there is way for me to check part number on this used engine and verify its history?”

          There is no way to verify the history of an engine.

          If its a low mileage Japanese exchange and its a 3.0l it should work just fine, in all honesty we have never installed one as we would just fix your engine or order a shortblock, heads etc.

          Do not compare blue book value VS repair costs its a trap, compare repair costs VS replacement costs. Almost always going to be less money to repair what you already have. Your Subaru is not an investment it’s a tool, unless your flipping cars what you have into it VS what its worth to sell have no business being in the same sentence.

          I am glad you paused and have thought things out a bit, I think over the long run things will work out, the only thing I never read was what happened to your engine, as the H6 does not typically give up the ghost without some warning signs.

          -Justin

          • Jan V. says:

            Again many thanks Justin for your wise advice.

            As to what happened, I am not sure. From the start I had all the required maintenance work done at my dealership according to the Subaru’s schedule. I even had a break job done before my Labour Day trip, and asked them to verify all is well – since about 2 months earlier my break line developed a leak and the breaks stopped working. (They fixed it by patching the rusted hole, not replacing the whole line.)

            I was concerned my car was rusting too fast – despite having a specialty shop spray it with ProtectOil each fall. (Aside from washing the car often, I do not know of any better way to stop the rust damage that our salty and wet roads create.)

            But this dealership shop never warned me that there are any signs of the engine or the cooling system going bad. According them, either something cracked in the engine (which caused extra pressure build-up in the engine, which then blew off the radiator hose) or the cooling system went bad (which caused the engine to overheat, since I did not catch it fast enough while driving on a highway – in pouring rain.)

            I then went to 2nd (independent) mechanic near my home who looked honest (judging how busy he was and how he treated me and other customers). He confirmed the engine is finished (although I could still drive the car provided the engine did not get too hot). He said that most likely it was the cooling system that caused this issue. Perhaps a rusty hose bracket came loose and disconnect the radiator hose. He said in the older days these hoses were replaced about every 2-3 years, but now since they seem to last longer, shops forget about them. He was willing to get me a new-used engine, but only from Canada. He did not want to deal with US shops due to possible warranty return hassles. (He seems to reject many used engines. He showed me how one used Honda engine he received that was not looked after well despite low mileage: it had too much oil leakage.)

            After waiting for over 6 weeks for a decent used engine with low mileage in Canada and asking friends, I then went to a 3rd mechanic who deals mainly with Japanese cars. (The owner and most of the mechanics are Japanese). He finally managed to get me a used engine from a California shop that he trusts. He told me this shop takes parts mostly from cars that were in accidents. Therefore, I doubt my engine was a Japanese exchange. But perhaps you are right. Is there a way for me to tell?

            Right now, the only difference I can feel/see, is that the engine sounds bit louder/rougher. Otherwise, all is fine.

            But I still feel that I should get this work checked by another mechanic – preferably one who understands Subaru engines. Unfortunately, this is not easy to find here. Outside the Subaru dealerships, I do not see any specialty shop like yours in Toronto area. If you know of any, that would be appreciated.

            Have a great day. / Jan

          • Justin Stobb says:

            Wow Jan,

            Sounds like you had to go through a lot lately. Hopefully the roughness turns out to be minor and you and this was a bump (all be it a large one) to 300k.

            -Justin

  48. Mike says:

    Hello:

    Are the 2.2L engines suseptible to these sames issues as the 2.5L engines?

    Thanks

  49. Shawn says:

    So, on 2005+ you recommend new head bolts, is this because the extra stress on them (heat, warping, etc)? Or? My car is 2006 and am doing head gaskets on it, and curious why the bolts should be replaced in this versus on older engines where they could be reused. Any chance you can further explain why you recommend new head bolts? Thanks! Shawn

  50. J Anderson says:

    Hi Justin,
    Thanks for the article. My 2008 Outback owns me. It has never seen anything but a Subaru dealership repair shop and Subaru parts except for the windshield. I have for the most part followed the suggested maintenance calendar as this is my only car. It has 114,000 miles on it.
    I have replaced the belts and rear wheel bearings at 106K and now been told the HG is leaking. I did have an iisue over the summer where the check engine light came on and took it in and was told I have a sticky valve and to keep the oil changed at 3k.
    I have the same issue with the corrosion build up on the battery and have noticed over the summer drops in my coolant level which after reading your article suggests that the coolant system should be checked.
    Should I repair the timing belt or just trade it since the repairs are getting expensive.
    I would prefer to get more MPG and do a lot of highway driving in wet and snowy weather. I am not a big fan of the 2013 Outback but do like the look of the Forester.
    I am in a situation which has put a lot of miles on the car this year and would prefer not to have to issues on the road.
    any suggestions?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello J,

      So your letting me know you have a HG leak but want to know if you should repair the timing belt?

      If the car still suits you needs and you like it repairing it will cost less money than buying something else.

      Your Subaru has been reliable from your post, it should continue to do so if you keep it. If you want a new car than by all means go buy one, the New Forester doesn’t obtain much in the way of MPG savings over a 2008 Outback.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  51. Mingo62 says:

    I have a right side oil leak in my 2006 Outback 2.5SOHC with 125K miles. What is your opinion of the BlueDevil Oil Stop Leak & Conditioner as a temp fix? Great blog BTW.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Please listen close, I have answered this 100 times on this site.

      There is no VooDoo in a bottle that will correct this. If you choose to use a product like that you really do so at you own expense later.

      Justin

  52. An says:

    I checked out a 2004 Forester 2.5 X today and everything on the car seemed great and the engine bay is typical for an 8 year old car. The one thing I noticed was that the radiator is new and looks to have been replaced. Does this indicate previous engine overheating due to headgasket issues. Where can I locate the “diaper” to inspect leaks in coolant and oil. I really don’t have enough money to purchase this car and then have to pay for additional repairs. Thank you Justin for all your help.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      If you are spending you entire budget on a car and cant afford to make any repairs you had really better have a Subaru Technician do a Pre Purchase inspection on it.

      I would hate to see you in a bind.

      Justin

  53. Nick says:

    Justin,
    If you were buying a Subby Outback today in the 2001-2004 range which one would be the smarter buy regarding head gasket problems considering all was the same. IE Higher Milage vehicles in the 130K range. I am sure there is a motor or year that had less problems.
    Help in Hershey PA.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Nick,

      2003 but pre EGR (Exhaust Gas Re-circulation), but its always about the car not the theory.

      A 2001 properly maintained Subaru Outback may go 200k with no issue, a 2003 with some adjustment to prpermaintenance maintenance may only go 60k. The way the car is driven, how its maintained, climate etc all play into the longevity of the vehicle.

      Justin

  54. Jason says:

    I have a ’95 2.2L N/A Impreza. I bought this car after it was overheated, I replaced the head gaskets and timing belt. The car has put on 9k miles since the head gasket change and now has 92k miles on it.

    The car has been knocking since I have been running it. I cleaned much of the carbon deposits off the heads and valves, not so much the pistons.

    I have a knock code and I believe I can hear the knocking, but I dont have another 2.2L subaru engine to compare the knocking to.

    Should I be running premium instead?

    There was uncertainty when I replaced the timing belt and could have advanced the timing by a tooth or 2. would the car still run if that were the case?

    Any advice appreciated!

    Thanks

    • Justin Stobb says:

      It may run 2 degrees retarded in cam shaft timing, and you can damage it, if this is the case, better to take the timing covers off and confirm before doing more damage. Is it knocking or pinging?

      Justin

  55. Phil Cordingley says:

    Hi guys, am UK based and about a month ago bought a 97 Outback for winter. The car purred along nicely, but after a few days I noticed a gurgling noise under the dash and also that it used oil heavily-although no blue smoke from exhaust.
    We managed about 2000 miles, tried to get air out etc. Car has covered 99000. Then it started to misfire and I limped it home. Found that top radiator hose was collapsed and car only running on 3 cylinders.Did not show high temp on gauge.
    I have replaced radiator cap and cleaned overflow bottle out. Am about to remove and replace the plug on the non-firing cylinder.
    Do you think HG has gone and it will simply foul another plug?
    No external leaks visible.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Phil,

      I can’t really answer that question without seeing the car, and that’s just not going to happen. If the plug is the cause of the misfire it wont be the cause of the collapsed hose.

      Justin

      • Phil says:

        Thanks. I was worrying that the collapsed hose maybe caused the headgasket to fail and consequently foul a plug.
        Only ever had one Subaru before and that was an old Justy with the 3 cylinder engine. Stuck with Honda and Hyundai before this Legacy, so just learning. Brilliant site.

  56. greg opitz says:

    Justin thanks for the article!!
    any good independent mechanics in mpls/St. paul that you are aware of. 2001 legacy wagon, 51,000 miles on.
    slight external coolantleakage seen on driveway off and on. I have been told that the turbo head gasket is better than the regular headgasket if one needs to replace the headgasket, what is your thinking on this?

    also what non subaru made headgasket would you recommend
    is tere a differnce between oem sabaru and oem non sabaru headgaskets?
    thanks again!!!

    Greg

  57. Michael says:

    Justin,

    I have a 04 forester n/a, I’m aware of the headgasket issues on the single cam 2.5. Having intermittent overheating issue have replaced thermo, rad, and water pump. Bottom hose is staying cold, I have pulled the thermo a few times after driving and the coolant on top is blazing but the hose stays cold meaning no thermo opening to dump the hot coolant back to radiator. If it where say headgasket breech (small coolant and combustion) wouldnt the thermostat still open due to the thermal expansion? I was leaning towards the headgasket or cracked block/head, but I dont understand why the thermo isnt opening.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Michael,

      If there is an air pocket in the cooling system, it will make its way to the Thermostat and prevent it from opening, the thermostat needs hot coolant not hot air surrounding it in order to function.

      Next you didn’t mention what type of thermostat you used, if its not the Subaru thermostat throw it away and buy the proper one form Subaru , if it is see above.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  58. Michael says:

    Yes it is a subaru thermo, I used a vacuum system to put the coolant in with and also ran the car for a bit making sure it was burped out completly. Its an intermitant overheat also takes awhile of driving and it will rise and fall along the drive but the lower hose still stays cold. I have had the older 2.2 also with the bleed screw on the radiator to get the air out of the system, very comfortable working on the subaru brand just a little stumped by this one. I was thinking h/g but like I was saying I’m having trouble understanding if it is the h/g why is the thermo not opening. 100% sure all the air is out of her :). Possibly a clog (that was why radiator went in) but if its in the heater core the heat wouldnt work very well, and it has awsome heat.
    I’ve checked everything possible other than HC’s in the coolant I dont have access to a meter but fans are working and I have replaced all other components.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Michael,

      When a HG fails internally, air from the combustion chamber is pushed into the cooling system, thats how you can have an air pocket make its way to the thermostat, you also need a coolant fill funnel to bleed the air out properly.

      I dont know from here if a HG has failed are you smelling an exhaust like odor in the cooling system or seeing some residue in the overflow bottle?

      Justin

  59. Rhonda says:

    Justin,

    First, THANK YOU SO MUCH for your in depth forums! I bought a 2012 Outback 3.6R Limited in May and LOVE it, I can’t imagine owning any other car. In fact I found your forum because I became a fan of the Subaru Facebook page & started getting worried when I saw a couple of comments about failed HG (however, about 90% of the 1million fans express no issues w/their subarus & report mileage of up to 500,000+). After seeing the HG issues I started doing research & came across your forums.

    I have a couple of questions for you. First, I see you are talking about the 2.5 models. Are you noticing issues w/the 3.6R HG? I understand it’s most likely too soon to know if 2012 models suffer the same concern.

    Second, I bought the car w/1600 miles on it at a great discount (it had been used as the dealer’s ‘customer loaner car’ for about 5 months). In addition, the dealer gave us an extended warranty for 6yrs/100,000 miles (the factory warranty is only 36,000/3yr) for the power train. I’m assuming the warranty is the basic 1-4 plan but I’m considering upgrading to the classic 1-10 plan or the gold plus plan. I called the Subaru warranty folks but they said I’d have to call the dealer for pricing of the upgraded plans. We’re military & recently moved so I have not yet called a local dealer for pricing since I’m no longer near the dealer where we purchased the car. What are your thoughts on the warranty plans? Are they worth it? Are they really needed?

    Thank you for pointing out to several folks that all vehicles & manufactures have issues! I had a 1996 Ford escort that had to have the tranny replaced at 80,000. I had a 2004 dodge caravan w/less than 20,000 miles that had a tranny failure/error code & the dealer refused to give me a loaner or rental car while they dismantled my tranny to find the issue (totally ridiculous that I was paying $400/month for a car still under full factory warranty & they expected me to pay for a rental car – I will never own another dodge). Instead of paying to drive another car while they fixed the van, I traded it in at another dealer for a new 2006 Buick Terraza. That car went through a set of tires at 12,000 and again at 31,000 even though I had proof of regular on time maintenance, rotation, balance, etc. The weird wear on the tires was not from under/over inflation & in fact was a common issue w/that vehicle & tires. I did get the dealer agree to give me non OSM, Michelin tires for a reduced cost and had them w/no issue until 90,000 miles when I traded it for my Subaru. Just proof that all cars have something, so I think overall Subaru is showing superiority with little major issues.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Rhonda,

      Thanks for sharing your Experiences.

      I also Drive a 2012 Outback 3.6r, or at least I do until my Wife makes me let her drive it, lol.

      I don’t expect any major issues with ours and I do change the oil every 3000 miles with synthetic blend. I dont really subscribe to the extended warranties as a general rule, partially because some of them only allow service at a Dealership, if you wanted an extended Warranty I would suggest a good Aftermarket Warranty that gives you the freedom to establish a relationship with a good service provider, either Independent or Dealer, but at your discretion not because you have to..

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  60. Genevieve says:

    Hi! You’re amazing to share all this mechanical info on Subarus! Thanks! It’s still a little over my head and I remain with some questions regarding my beloved 2004 Subaru Legacy with 192000kms. I drove it off the lot brand new and did all the suggested maintenance at the dealerships. I did not do them based on my driving style, I didn’t know you then! I live on a mountain, it’s one 10kms hill to come back from the city and 5kms hill from my house to the ski hill. It’s a standard and one could say I rally style drive or I’m a bit of a cowgirl at the wheel….The car has been using way more oil in the summer months , and way more in general for the last 3 years. The engine loses power on hills (It “skips a beat”), especially in the summer. I mentioned this to the shop back then and the mechanic told me to turn the AC off when on the big hill!! It worked!!
    It’s currently at the Subaru mechanic’s shop, not getting work done. I brought it in for a scheduled timing belt and I asked them to check the smell again (there’s been a weird smell-maybe anti-freeze for the last 2 years) and mentioned, again ,the high oil consumption. They had found nothing before. This time, it turns out the head gaskets needs to be replaced but the mechanic told me in a hush-hush “don’t put money on it. (headgaskets would be $1800) the engine is running loud and I don’t know why and I don’t think this engine is going to last much longer, and don’t do the timing belt as it’s still in good shape. Put oil in it and hope for the best”. What shall I do? I can’t afford car payments but I can’t afford to drive my kids in an unsafe car…is this unsafe?? Thanks for taking time to read, it’s much appreciated! :)

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Genevieve,

      Not knowing the cause of the oil consumption issue, I am at a bit of a loss to tell you what to do here. The HG are not the cause of going through oil, things that can also would not be seen or addressed typically during a HG repair.

      Have you tried Catrol GTX to see if the consumption was improved?

      If you are ok with having to put oil in it, as the consumption issue will still be there after a HG repair most likely than I would say go ahead and make the repairs.

      If not than a Diagnoses of the consumption issue and most likely re ring or reman short block is probably the option you would be looking at.

      I don’t understand the hush hush don’t put money thing into it at all.

      Justin

  61. Leo says:

    Hi Justin

    From South Africa, thanks for a great post, this really helped me a lot. So I recently had my 2006 Forester’s heads and valves refurbished at a dealer but after i got it back my radiator started leaking and I had it replaced. Then I noticed that the water level is low so I took the vehicle back to the shop that repaired the radiator. They tested for a combustion leak and found exhaust gasses in they cooling system. I have not even done 500 miles since the dealer refurbished the heads and valves. Who should be paying to get the car fixed, me or the dealer. The check engine light is also on so I have not even been driving at all. Thanks for your help

    Leo Upton

  62. Eric says:

    Hi Justin. Thanks for all the great info here. Changing the head gaskets on my 99 Outback and going to buy your head gasket kit. I’m still not clear on one thing. Should I or shouldn’t I use copper spray on the gaskets?

  63. Rick says:

    I looked at your kits and noticed for my 2004 outback, there were no cam seals (yet there were for other similar kits). Should we get/replace cam seals too? What other seals could reasonably be done while doing this HG repair?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Rick,

      Please have another look, its the second add on.

      http://allwheeldriveauto.com/subaru-parts/

      Justin

      • Rick says:

        Great info. It would be good if the web page had a brief explanation of the add-ons, and which ones would be recommended. Since many of us would want to pull the engine only once every 100k or more miles and fix as many things as might reasonably wear-out in the next 100k miles (in other words, will we probably need to repair any of these add-ons in the next 100k to 150k miles, so we should do it now?.)

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Yes,

          Your right, what I can offer is I do the best I can, I have it in the works to add a video soon explaining all of the options, different seals and so on.

          All I need now is the 30 hour day and the 9 day week, lol.

          We have shot some of the video, but I wasn’t happy with it, so its a matter of my Wife having time to come down and film me talking. In the mean time you are always welcome to email me abut other seal and gasket options

          Thanks

          Justin

  64. Curt Godwin says:

    Good afternoon. I’m looking at a couple used Imprezas from a local dealer – one is a 2011 Impreza Outback Sport and the other is a 2009 Impreza 2.5i Premium. Both have 53K miles on the odometer. I have a local mechanic that I completely trust, who specializes in Japanese autos…though I’m nut sure how many Subies he sees.

    I’m completely new to the Subaru world, and this site is the first I’ve seen discussing the HG issues (though, to be honest, I haven’t been looking too hard). What sort of questions should I ask the dealer? They say that each car is a 1-owner vehicle, for whatever that’s worth. If both cars have similar mileage, is there a significant mechanical difference between the ’09 and the ’11? Any guidance you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Mechanically they are very similar.

      Conventional wisdom says you should buy the newest model with the lowest miles. I suggest you purchase which ever car checks out the best as that will over the long run be the better value even if its a higher price.

      The dealer will know little to nothing about the car most likely, unless the car was serviced there.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  65. Mona says:

    Hi Justin,
    Your article was very interesting and I admit I know nothing about a car. My husband and I love our trips to the Smokey Mountains and I’ve wanted a Subaru Outback for a long time. We decided to look when we returned to the flatlands of the Virginia coast. I was so excited and got on the Internet and found a 2007 Subaru Outback LL Bean at a Carmax in Va Beach (60K miles). It looked great, seemed to drive fine and we bought it. That was in May of this year 2012. Boy did they see us coming. Well our first trip was the end of October and about two days before we left, the check engine light came on. My husband took it to some local shop and they told him there was a misfire in Cyl. 6. They drove it and reset the code (I think that’s what the called it, topped up the oil and told him they thought it would be fine. Well we made it all the way to Black Mountain and the CEL came on again and it started missing. We took it to a shop in Bryson City and they changed the Cyl 6 spark plug and coil. They gave the old SP to my husband and said they had never seen one so bad. They also said that some of the things they saw looked like a car with a lot more miles and that it must be using oil since it was low and it had been topped before we left. I was heart broken, but It drove fine coming home, then two days ago it began dying on us and the check engine light came on. couldn’t drive it over 40 mph. We took it to the Sabaru dealer in Newport News and got the word that a full compression test would need to be done. #6 was misfiring and losing compression. He gave my husband a bunch of readings and said it didn’t look good. He said numerous things could be wrong all the way to a cracked head. I could have just cried. Then I began searching the Internet. After reading what you said about the head gasket and how you could get taken, I even felt worse. We wanted that car to drive in the mountains so bad that we never even thought of something like this. We purchased extended full warranty on the car at least, but never in a million years did we think something this bad could have happened. I know my husband wishes he never had seen this car and I’m kind of feeling like I’m responsible because I pushed it so hard. I just fell in love with it. Actually, I think I just needed to write all this down to help me feel better. It’s about 5 o’clock (am) and I have to think about beginning to prepare Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow and its not easy. I am sorry, but I really feel like I’ve been totally messed up (that’s not what I really wanted to say.) No one will probably read this gosh awful long post, but I do feel a little better. I watched your video and if the technician says he wants to do the quick fix thing you mentioned on the head gasket I’ll know not to let him do that. I intend to read this whole article again! Thanks so much and I wish you lived around here!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Mona,

      Sorry to hear about this, but I want to stress that the Model you bought is not known for this issue, I think you just bought one that wasn’t taken care of correctly and now this is one of those life lessons.

      Based on what you have posted, I think the spark plug probably came apart and damaged either a valve or piston. The good news is you have the warranty. Please make sure the other 5 spark plugs get replaced as well as a full service. aka all fluids, filters, maintenance items etc. A very common mistake is after a big repair the fact that it wasn’t maintained properly is what caused it and the rest of the deferred maintenance stays deferred.

      Hope that helps and happy Holidays

      Justin

      • Mona says:

        Thanks Justin,
        I really appreciate you getting back to me. The Subaru service manager pulled the moter and feels like it may be a small crack in the head. They are waiting for the insurance inspector to come and check it out. He just could not be definitive in what was causing the problem and I’m not good enough to explain exactly what he said. All I know is there was oil where there wasn’t suppose to be. I think the rings are okay and the head gasket was okay. He showed me the spark plugs and the one from the sixth cylinder looked bad, but none of them looked that hot to me. I actually stopped by to get my GPS, I was so upset I forgot it, and he took me in the garage and showed me the parts they had pulled out. Well I’ve wanted a Subaru for a long time, I just picked out one that was not taken car of and probably ruined the engine. I just wish it had shown up a lot sooner than the 5 1/2 months. Thanks again for your reply. I’ll post the final outcome. I wish I had been savvy enough to pick up on a problem.
        Mona
        PS: He also said they may decide it would be better to replace the engine than have it sent out to a machinist to be repaired.

        • Mona says:

          Well, the inspector came by and it looks like the sixth cylendar is toast. The whole thing is bad. There was no cracked head, but the damage is so intensive they have decided to replace the engine. We will have to wait about a week and a half before the motor gets here but it has under 60k which is less than what we had. The insurance is going to cover most of the cost and cover the replacement motor for the full 100 k miles. You don’t even want to know what the cost is. Thank goodness we had the insurance. All the fluids will be replaced and maintenance items, plus new boots. I really don’t think the original owner did anything. You are so right about a life lesson. I don’t think we will ever buy a used car again, but hopefully we will have a decent one after this. I just want to be able to take it to the mountains without worrying.

          • Mona says:

            Well the core engine has been replaced along with the front axel and boots, all fluids, spark plugs and all maintenance items updated. We brought it home Saturday. Our cost was 3K -700 in parts the insurance paid. I don’t know how much the insurance paid on the engine and labor cost for that. Tonight my husband went to the store and the engine light came on, lost power and antifreeze seems to be leaking. I truly have had it. I have all my receipts and I’m getting ready to lamb blast Carmax. No matter what, this should not happen to a car we have had less than six months and was sold to us supposedly in good condition. This last problem may be nothing more than a hose loose, but the headache has been impossible. The mechanic gave me a card to fill out and send to Subaru for your 1st Subaru and they will send you a decal. I guess we are suppose to tell them how happy we are with our car. Well we were for a little while, but now are regretting it more than any decision we have ever made.

          • Justin Stobb says:

            Hi Mona,

            I want to start with telling you I do Sympathize with you because of all of the trouble you are having, but im also using this as an example to other readers as why you never ever never buy a Used car without letting an expert on that model conduct a prepurchase inspection.

            Thats the one thing that would have changed this for you. Most likely its something minor, its not uncommon after a large repair to have something esle pop up, the bugs will get worked out and you will enjoy the car again, or you’ll trade it in and somebody else will, and be most likely oblivious to all you went through and have a totally different perspective.

            Justin

  66. Allyn says:

    Wow! Thanks for providing thorough information in relatively easy-to-understand terms!

    I have a 2007 Subaru Impreza (not WRX) -standard 141 000 km’s, about 6 weeks ago had the check engine light come on simultaneously with the cruise light flashing – it was an engine valve and was replaced. Two days ago the check engine light went on, again with the cruise light. Erring on the side of caution I had it towed to my mechanic. When tested, it came up with a catalytic emmisions code, they cleared the code and it hasn’t yet come back. In the meantime I have noticed a small amount of oil on the floor in the garage where the car is parked. It is still at the mechanics and I have asked them to check for an oil leak.

    Any insight? This is my first subaru, previously having driven domestic cars to almost 300 000 km’s with no engine problems, so I’m a bit wary, is this now going to be one engine problem after another?

    Secondarily, I had a full brake job in 2009, rears in 2011 and now a full brake job again now. This seems excessive, thoughts?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Allyn,

      DO you mean you had an intake or exhaust valve replace or a complet valve job and then the Catalyst code showed up a short period of time after that?

      As far as brakes, its all about how you drive it, Subaru Brakes a general rule dont wear out any quicker than any other AWD vehicle, actually less than most AWD vehicles.

      I dont know what Domestic car (post 1996) you have driven that has never had a check engine light come on and repairs done to address it, but if thats the case thats an exception.

      I cant tell you what to do with your 5 year old Subaru. Its common place to question it after a couple of repairs, easier to just go buy something else with a warranty, much more expensive to do so.

      Justin

      • Allyn says:

        I’m not exactly sure re: valve – it was a $40 part ….something in the engine that regulates the oil??? The mechanic said when it fails it causes a massive oil leak when running?

        I love my car. I was thrilled when I found one used with only 12000 k on it.

        I had intended on running it until it died -I’m just wondering if these problems are customary, or should I be thinking of selling it and looking for a used Forester?

        If I do consider the forester (I’d prefer 2009 or newer with less than 60000k) is there anything I should be aware of – typical mechanical concerns/problems?

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Do I understand correctly that a $40.00 dollar repair has you questioning the reliability of the Subaru?

          Modern cars, and I mean ALL modern cars are vending machines for parts and service, that’s where the money is made. If you want to buy something else go ahead, but please understand its just a vicious cycle, the sooner you figure it out the more money your bank account will have in it.

          The 2009 has more to fail than the car you own, a 2013 more than the 2009. Every few years there are new emissions control devices added, more safety features, creature comforts, more lights, fancy stereos etc. This adds to the want to buy factor, but the more there is the more there is to fail.

          So when I have someone that posts about wanting to buy something else newer based on not having to spend money all I can say is its nonsensical. Buy something else for any other reason other than spending less money. Subaru’s are not known for leaving you stranded, you should not fear reliability.

          Justin

          • Allyn says:

            No, a $40 part was a $259 repair, 5 weeks later I have an engine oil leak and a yet fully undiagnosed check engine/cruise light caution that is reading as a catalytic emissions code, these in combination are causing me to question MY subaru, not the brand, as is apparent by my willingness to purchase another.

            Thanks for the info, you are obviously both a knowledgeable and passionate advocate.

  67. carol says:

    Hi Justin,
    I recently brought my 2003 Subaru Forester with 70,000 miles in for an oil change at the dealership and asked if they would check for a “radiator like” odor. The bad news was that I need head gaskets. $2300.00.I had never had any leaking or overheating, just a recent odor. I had been thinking about buying a new car before all of this happened and now I’m really afraid to keep it. They are telling me not to drive it as it could go at any time. They offered me $3000.00 as a trade in as “they could only sell it at auction”. I know that they can fix it cheaper than what it would cost me but they say not really. I kind of feel like I’m being taken advantage of but really like the 2013 Foresters and wonder if this would still be a problem with the new ones. I have since found a local very qualified Subaru mechanic that would fix it for much less. Not sure what to do. Any input from you would be greatly appreciated. Your info here is a huge help to all. Thank you. I also had the water pump and timing belt replaced less than a year ago. 800.00 BTW, the dealerships really do infir that if you had only brought it to them it may not have happened.
    Carol

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Carol,

      “BTW, the dealerships really do infir that if you had only brought it to them it may not have happened.”

      It happens more to vehicles out of warranty that are maintained at the Subaru Dealer much more so than if maintained by a Good Subaru Independent Shop.

      Why would you be afraid to repair and keep a vehicle that developed an oil leak? New car sales are fueled by fear more than any other factor.

      If the car doesn’t suit your needs any longer than yes you shouldn’t repair it, but if it does you will $25,000.00 ahead by repairing what you already have VS buying a new car that will develop an oil leak in time as well.

      Justin

  68. kirk says:

    GDAY MATE,JUST BEEN TOLD OUR 2002 2.5L IS LEAKING OIL AND WATER FROM THE HEAD GASKET.WE WERE IN THE PROCESS OF PUTTING IT ON THE MARKET AND WANT 2 KNOW IF OR HOW LONG CAN WE LIMP THE CAR TROUGH?ANY HELP WOULD BE GREAT

  69. Ken says:

    Justin,

    This is a great article thank you for taking your time in writing this article what wondering info.

    I have a 2004 outback with 192,000 and still running like a charm. But, I just had the oil pan replaced cause the drain plug got striped out and my mechinic noticed I had a head gasket leak. (Oil Only) I’ve been smelling it for about a year now. My gas milage has gone from 25 MPG to 21 MPG since I’ve start smelling burning oil AKA head gasket leak. But, my check engine light is showing that my O2 senser are bad too.

    My question is could a leaking head gasket cause poor gas milage? I know a bad O2 sensor can cause a little loss in MPG.

    The car is only worth 2k -3k and wondering if I should fix the head gasket or just drive to see if I can get over 200k and keep going. I’ve seen 240k on older outbacks. Like to get you option to fix it or not.

    Thanks
    Ken

  70. David Froh says:

    Justin,

    This info is just great. Best site I’ve seen. I have a leaking HG on a 2006 Outback 2.5I. It only has 70,000 miles. I took it in and the mechanic basically told me to not bother, as there is a terrible track record with HG going again after they have been fixed. Is it possible to have it fixed with a long term solution?
    Thanks so much
    Dave

  71. David Froh says:

    This is a great forum and thanks for all the info. I have a leaking HG on a 2006 Outback 2.5i. It only has 70,000 miles, so I would like to keep it, but a mechanic recently advised me to walk away, as he suggests there is terrible track record with these breaking down again after they have been fixed. Is it possible to have a long term solution for a fixed HG?
    Thanks!
    Dave

    • Justin Stobb says:

      We don’t have a track record of issues after a car is repaired. If the repair is made correctly instead of by a Tech in a hurry then yours should be fine as well.

      So yes not only is it possible its very common.

      Justin

  72. Dean Crane says:

    You stated that there was an issue with the Impreza from mid year 98 and beyond. How can I determine if an 98 is the early or late year model?

  73. Jeffrey says:

    While the good news is that my head gaskets are not leaking oil or coolant yet…

    They were changed at 70,000 km with the updated gaskets when the countermeasure pistons were installed, now have 280,000 km on them. Pretty religious on the coolant and oil changes.

    But the bad news is that my oil pump is now leaking so badly its coating everything up front with oil, and now the oil is migrating back to the head gasket and exhaust collector.

    As typical with oil leaks, it looks way worse than it is. Nonetheless I will be taking that oil pump off this week-end to replace the seals. I have a the o ring and crank seal, I ended up with two of each at my last timing belt change out.

    Question is which gasket maker should I use? I am getting wildly different opinions. Permatex seems to list gasket makers for everything but oil pumps.

    I searched your site for “Gasket Maker” and it did not come up, apologies if its listed somewhere and I missed it.

    Thanks!

  74. Peg H. says:

    Hi Justin,

    I just stumbled on your site while researching an issue with my 2002 Subaru Forester after just having the head gaskets rebuilt (replaced?) by the local Subaru dealer.

    My gas mileage has dropped by half after the HG work. Only 170 miles on a full tank of gas. The car is back in the shop today for them to run diagnostics but so far they have come up with nothing. No code on o2 sensor before HG work and none today.

    Would there be anything else that would cause the car to use this much gas?

    Thanks,
    Peg H.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Peg,

      1. If the the tank of fuel was the same tank that was used to idle the vehicle for an hour while the cooling system was being burped that would be part of it, as there would have been a whole lot of fuel burned without driving any miles.

      2. Its colder out now and fuel economy will be lower in the winter, it always is it has no choice.

      3. The short term memory was erased during the repair and thew computer will need to go through some drive cycles before proper fuel economy is regained.

      4. It could have something wrong, either with something affected by the failure of the Head gaskets, or something during the repair.

      Justin

  75. Greg says:

    Excellent job on this whole Subaru issue!

  76. Chris N says:

    Hi Justin

    Thank you so much for all this great information! I wish I had known about this site before I bought my 2013 Outback 2.5 Premium, 6sp manual. I see problems with head gaskets and wheel bearings. It seems the problems have tapered off but have they been eliminated? As you know the Outback got the new 2.5 this model year, but it has been in the Forester for a couple years. Is the jury still out? Is there anything else I should keep an eye on?

    It sounds like your advice to owners has been that these were a couple known issues (at least in the past) and to accept it and move on, and at least they were problems with warning signs and time to plan/budget for repair? And of course Volvo and Audi upkeep costs are much higher. Let me offer that the new engine has a timing chain, no belt to replace. So there’s ONE less big maintenace issue to worry about! Customers could also save another grand by opting for the manual trans. which is soooooo much more satisfying to drive!

    Thanks again!

  77. Karin M says:

    Hi Justin — Thanks so much for your incredibly helpful posts. I am thinking of purchasing a 2006 Outback 2.5i, 51K miles on it, for $13,300, with the following diagnosis (from a Subaru shop): “Both headgaskets starting to leak externally – scale of 1 out of 5 (5=worse) – minor leak. Also performed block test to check for emissions gasses present in the cooling system and confirmed very low levels are present (indicates minor internal head gasket(s) leak presence). Any thoughts about: a) What the extent of repairs is (mechanical and cost); b) Would you do the HG repair work right away (or can it be monitored over time)? c) Do you think this is a good deal or would you recommend I keep searching for another Outback with no HG problems? Thanks much, Karin

  78. Adam says:

    I have a question about HG jobs on a 2001 Outback 2.5L, bare essential vs full boat. I’ve seen quotes for an essentail job for $1600 vs $2400 for the full boat.

    The “bare essentials” job didn’t include the following:

    -Rear main seal
    -Rear separator plate
    -Rear piston o-ring
    -Left hand cylinder head plug
    -Front crank seal
    -Front camshaft seals
    -Crossover water pipe o-rings
    -Valve adjustment
    -Timing belt
    -Water pump
    -Idler pulleys and tensioner
    -Thermostat

    What is your opinion on this list and whether or not they should be replaced during a HG job?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Adam,

      Thats actually a more complicated Question than many understand.

      Yes to

      Valve adjustment
      -Timing belt
      -Water pump
      -Idler pulleys and tensioner
      -Thermostat

      Inspect and advise to

      -Rear main seal
      -Rear separator plate
      -Rear piston o-ring
      -Left hand cylinder head plug
      -Front crank seal
      -Front camshaft seals
      -Crossover water pipe o-rings

      Or do it all as maintenance. And add spark plugs, wires, valve job plus all coolant hoses and clamps.

      I generally suggest the timing components, because if one fails, it will be catastrophic and there would be no warranty against such unless they were replaced by the shop making the repairs.

      The rear Sep plate should be aluminum in 2001, and there is no need to replace, only reseal, the rear main, front main and cam seals should be the Viton coated seals from the Factory and can last 300k, if good oil is used in many Subaru’s, but they can be done while its apart for maint and piece of mind. I will add that sometimes when removing a cam seal on a Subaru the sealer between the cam case and cylinder head can be disturbed and you can create a leak to repair later in an attempt to avoid one.

      Cross over o-rings are nice to do while its apart as they do not last the life of the car, we inspect and advise here.

      We check Valve adjustment as part of the service so should any good shop.

      What we try to do is Quote out the HG repair, quote the timing components and Water pump, inspect and advise on anything else. All of it can add several hundreds if not double the whole repair, sometimes that’s just not in a Subaru owners budget, so we will focus on the repair, and the things that will avoid a catastrophic failure such as the timing idler seizing.

      Hope that helps, but like I said its complicated.

      Justin

      • Adam says:

        Justin,

        Thanks for the quick reply I really appreciate it.

        A few follow-up questions:

        1. Say my 2001 Outback has 202k miles and has never had the head gaskets replaced, would you then reccommend replacing the other seals and o-rings?

        2. My outback has been leaking oil only for the last 5 years and has now gotten worse, is this a common HG symptom?

        3. I’ve been using the Subaru coolant conditioner with Peak Global coolant for the last 6 years, is it possible that my original head gaskets are still fine and the oil leak is from somewhere else?

        4. What is a valve job, what does it cost, and how is it different than a valve adjustment?

        Thanks again for all of the knowledge I truly appreciate it.

  79. Mona says:

    Hi Justin,
    Thanks for replying. I really wasn’t expecting you to answer again. I wish I had done what you said. I went back and read the paperwork from Carmax and it said we had five days to keep the car and return it if we wish, but it was running great and I was just so proud of it and very trusting. After the 2nd episode with the Outback the code came up as the throttle so the mechanic took the old one from our old engine, cleaned it up and replaced it. It ran great for two days and then on a short trip to Chick-fil-a, while driving, all of a sudden it was like the pedal went dead. You could push it to the floor and it would do nothing while in drive. If I put it in neutral the motor sounded like it was revving up real fast, like if I let off the brake it would take off. I called Subaru back and they sent a wrecker to pick it up. The manager called and told us to come and pick up a loaner and said he thought it was the electrical harness (I hope I’m saying that right) and something about it going in to limp mode. The mechanic said if I had wiggled the battery cables it would have reset something (code, I think) and it would have ran. (I’m sorry, I can’t remember everything he said.). The head mechanic was driving my car tonight so if it acted up while he had it, he could read the code while the problem was occurring. My husband and I did go together to look at the car and I don’t think he thought about having it checked anymore than I did. We thought the car looked great, was only 5 years old and drove fine. We just never dreamed we were buying in to this major problem. I talked with Warren, the manager, and asked him about a trade in. He felt like we could work something out. I also asked him if he thought he could really fix this car and put it out on the lot and he said he did. I am a photographer and photograph a lot of new homes. I drive everywhere and I drive a lot. I can’t go on never being able to trust the car and at this point I don’t think I should. It’s truly been a nightmare. Justin, you can use me as an example of what not to do all you want if it will help keep someone from going through the same thing. I don’t know that we will ever truly find out what was wrong with this Subaru and I’m to the point if I can get out of this headache without too big of a loss that’s probably what we will do.
    I will let you know though if we end up with a new Subaru and thanks again.

  80. Jim Cox says:

    Thanks for the articles Justin.
    I have an 06 Outback (130 K) non turbo with coolant leaking into cylinders. I admit I ran it to long while it overheated. Typical symptoms I’ve read about other Subarus. Temp goes too high for about a mile, returns to normal and is fine. Then one day it didn’t go back to normal. It lost power and I shut it off. I now have the engine out and all apart. There is a hollow recessed area on both heads right in between the 2 combustion chambers. It checks about .015″ deep. Can I have this head cut down this much to clean up the surface? I’m estimating it would be about .020″ to clean up.

  81. rodney says:

    Hi justin, this is an awesome site with a wealth of info. Thanks for posting all of this info im sure it takes up a lot of your time. I have used the search function and done a ton of reading and cant find a definative answer to my question. If you were going to purchase a newer outback, which year and engine would you get? Ive read that the 2.5xt turbo had a much lower failure rate but i dont want to have to put premium fuel in the car and ive also read that the 3.6 has a much lower failure rate. I also like the redesign starting in 2010. Have you had the chance to take apart a 2010 yet, is it the semi closed deck block? I dont need the extra power from the turbo or the 6, just trying to avoid the head gasket issue if possible. Sorry for the long post , i just want to make the best informed decision that i possibly can. Whats your suggestion?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Here is the thing

      I would buy any used Outback, predicated on service records and a good pre purchase inspection performed by a Subaru expert. I can tell you there are changes to the 2010 and newer models to thew block, heads and gaskets, but no one can tell you what they will be like for a few more years to come.

      Yes the H6 may have fewer failures, The turbo models are no longer available and require premium fuel, but what if I told you that trying to run any car on regular is silly?

      Here is the broken record that I am

      If you want a True AWD Vehicle with a high marks for safety. You have three choices.

      Audi
      Volvo
      Subaru.

      Each one will need different things over time, the Subaru may need HG, it may not. I always commend those doing research ahead of purchase, I now need you to continue and compare the Subaru to the other 2 and while its true other makes have an AWD version of a 2wd model, none are the same as The Subaru, a true AWD vehicle will always exhibit more drive train wear than a non AWD vehicle. It is true however that you could buy something else and not have a HG replacement in its future, but there will be other things that occur.

      I still maintain that if you take care of your Subaru it wont be all that bad to own over the course of 10 to 15 years, many hone in on the HG thing and feel it a deterrent to ownership, I can also understand that as well.

      Justin

  82. Wes says:

    I have a 2000 Outback wagon with the 2.5 engine, I am the original owner. My mechanic informed me that it was time to replace the head gasket. I approved the repair. Once into the engine, the mechanic informed me that there was a significant build up of engine sludge and it is compromising the integrity of the engine. His recommendation is to replace the engine if I intended to hold onto the car for any length of time. What I have observed it isn’t as bad as some of the photos you have submitted in your articles. Can sludge be that detrimental and have you ever recommend a rebuild or replacement?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Wes,

      Sludge can take life off of the engine, how much is hard for me to say especially without seeing it.

      If your “mechanic” has been involved in the service of your vehicle up to this point what does he think about the fluids he suggests and the service intervals the oil is being changed.

      There is no reason for sludge other than poor main habits whether that be you not changing the oil enough, or him using garbage oil.

      What to do from here?

      1. Identify the mistakes made in the past and correct them.
      2. Compare the updated repair cost VS vehicle replacement costs.

      But here is what I don’t know

      Where is he getting the engine from? If its aftermarket I would take my chances with the sludge. If its Subaru they only sell a short block, then your heads have to be sent out.

      Justin

  83. JD says:

    Thanks for taking time to write this. Pretty disenchanted 3x Subaru owner (86DL, 88 Legacy wagon, 06 Outback). Older cars were driven well past 180k each and needed general maintenance. 06 Outback has needed way too much IMO, thankfully we purchased used with the extended 100k warranty in place.
    At a measly 104,000 we now need a head gasket. This when we took it in at 99,000 and ask them to identify and fix any issues. They found nothing yet now only two months later they find 3500 worth of “fixings.
    Completely disappointed that we are spending $20k on cars these days which last 100k miles if we’re lucky. Sticking with VWs as they have given us no trouble in 4 vehicles.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi JD,

      So did you take it a Stealer at 99k or a good independent Shop? Had a good shop looked at it, and it was covered under the warranty you paid for your experience would be totally different.

      I hope you are joking about repair costs of a 2006 Outback VS an AWD VW, if you have not checked the VW owners forums, please go have a look prior to dropping 20k on the bottom of the barrel of German engineering. Dont get me wrong VWs are nice cars, but cost a lot to own and maintain especially after the 60,000 mile mark. So when you tell me you are looking to replace a car because it costs to much to own, and want to replace it with one that cost more, I am puzzled. Again I am talking about a AWD to AWD comparison.

      By the way the reason the 2006 has cost more to own VS a 1988 is thanks to the thing called the “quest for cleaner air”.

      Justin

      • JD says:

        all cars are cheap if you do the work yourself, otherwise, bend over- ive always been a vw guy, only because the repairs have typically been minor- and i feel comfortable diy’ing. ive driven vw’s since 1985- and never, not once replaced a head gasket or a transmission. these cars all had over 100k on them when i finished, typically around 160-180k. timing belts on 4cyl engines are a cake walk, and the 12v v6 uses chains – so no worries. had a 12v gti that i regularly wound up to 100+ mph, it used zero oil, and had no issues with 140k on the clock, shifter was still tight, and it pulled like a train. was looking at subies lately, but i think ill stick with what works after reading this (and about 5000 other posts / sites)!

  84. Dano says:

    Justin:
    My 2.5 engine failed and seized up completely on my 2005 Outback at about 120,000 miles. The Subaru dealer said the engine was shot and could not be repaired. They couldn’t tell me what the problem was without taking it apart completely and that would cost a lot of money.
    Is there any hidden or extended warranty that would apply in this case?
    To whom can I appeal if there is no coverage?
    Thanks,
    Dano

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Dano,

      You have made no mention on if that car was low on oil or overdue for an oil change. Next without seeing it I don’t know what happened either but it doesn’t have to come all the way apart to have a general idea of what happened, the Stealers are famous for this type of a thing and you are probably being taken for a ride. At a minimum they can tell you what seized, cam if so which one, crankshaft seized or through a rod. Engines in fact do not need to come all the way apart to have a general idea of what happened only if you want an exact.

      Your Subaru came with a 5 year power train warranty, its been your car since then.

      Justin

  85. Christine says:

    Hi,
    My 99 Forester, with 157,000 miles has been a wonderful car. I have maintained it well. It recently started over heating and I had it checked. It turns out it needs a new head gasket and similar to all your other readers the cost estimate is around 3000k. Would I be better off having rebuilt engine placed, instead of replacing the head gasket? I was unaware that this a problem for this engine until now and would like to keep my well maintained little car for another 100000 miles if possible!
    Thanks!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      As long as it has not over heated significantly and multiple times the engine in it should be ok, but not having it in front of me puts me at a disadvantage.

      The car is capable of going to well over 300k, its just going to need some help to get there.

      Answering your question, about how long you can drive it, you cant drive it with it having an over heating issue, you will need to budget for an engine if you elect to drive it, I am sorry and that sucks for me to have to tell you but I dont want you to ruin it.

      Justin

  86. Christine says:

    And a follow up question:
    How long can I continue to drive the car while I explore my options. When is too much really too much?
    Thanks!

  87. Glenn says:

    Hi Justin, great article.

    I recently bought a 2004 Liberty 2.5i that has done 160,000km. It passed all pre-purchase inspections but a service at a Subaru dealership revealed a “small oil leak in the LH head gasket”. They said would give it a clean (I’m not quite sure what that entails) and didn’t seem overly concerned by it, stating they can keep them going for a very long time as is and they will continue to monitor it each I time I service it there.

    I’m tempted to get a second opinion from an independent mechanic I trust, however just on your statement from the article above – “If you want to try to avoid the whole head gasket thing consider using premium fuel”, would using premium fuel from now on be likely to prevent the problem advancing beyond just a “small oil leak”? Or perhaps more realistically, delay it? Obviously there a no guarantees.

    I’m not handy with cars and appreciate your advice.

    Thanks.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      If they clean it, how will the next guy see the leak?

      I think who ever did the prepurchase inspection may have done you a disservice, if based on a prepurchase inspection you paid full price rather than a discounted price based on a potential HG repair in its future.

      What do do from here, all you can do is monitor the situation and make repairs as needed. My suggestions about using better gas pertain to day one and prevention, like suggesting Vitamin C to avoid a cold, once you have a cold Vitamin C wont prevent it but can help subdue it. Use of Premium Fuel may prolong the situation, but from the sounds of it its a repair in the waiting?

      Justin

      • Glenn says:

        Hi Justin, thanks for your reply, and advice. It’s really good of you to take the time to write the article and respond to so many questions.

        The independent dealer I bought it from had it serviced prior to selling so perhaps they cleaned it enough to be missed during the inspection? I’ll take it to my mechanic in a couple of weeks and see what he says. If he also believes it to be very minor at the moment and only something to monitor over time I’ll be more comfortable with that than the advice of the Subaru dealership I’ve only been to once. Unfortunately though I think you’re right in saying it’s a repair in waiting.

        I might start using premium fuel anyway if it’s better for the engine as a whole (the price difference isn’t ludicrous at the moment).

        Thanks again.
        Glenn

  88. Roger says:

    Hello.

    I bought a 2006 2.5i 5spd with 90K. I havent even pout 4K miles on it, woke up to what looks like a medium ice coffee xx spilled under my car. I have a warranty for one year or 15k, which i have not gone either, but am sure this will not be covered. I am assuming the fluid is coolant mixed with oil?

  89. Barbara says:

    Thank you Justin for your insight on this issue.I have a 2006 Impreza 2.5i with 118K miles. I recently started smelling oil(about a month ago) and asked my dealer to check it out when I did my oil change a few weeks ago. He commented that it was the head gaskets, just a little leak at this point. He said we can probably watch it and wait to fix it. On my last tank of gas I noticed the gas mileage was dropping what I think is a considerable amount (40-50 miles less per tank) Now I am re-considering and not sure if I should baby it until summer. I drive mostly highway miles for work, so that is a big factor in my mind for consideration. What would your thought on the repair at this point.

    Thanks

    • Justin Stobb says:

      The Fuel economy drop is normal this time of the year, its not related to a minor oil leak. Id monitor it for a bit and see if it gets worse for the sounds of it.

      You can read here for why Economy drops in the winter.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  90. Mark says:

    Justin,
    My daughter is in Kalamazoo, MI and in need of a head gasket repair on her 2003 Legacy. Can you recommend a shop in that area?

    Thanks,
    Mark

  91. zach Craig says:

    Hi Justin!
    Great page very helpful! Ok so i have a 98 forester s w/168k miles, had both hg changed a few thousand miles ago alog w machining the heads at a shop. The past 3 days i have had to add coolant everyday because the level keeps going lower. The car isn’t overheating , no overflow or bubbling in coolant, and no appearant leaks underneath. Everything seems to be running normal for time being but i was just wondering if the new hg could be going bad already. Also have put new exhaust, cats, pipes, muffler etc. Along with a new battery, and many many other new parts. A friend and local mechanic charged 500.00 to machine heads and with labor and parts charged me 1000.00 to do the hg.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      The coolant loss could be a cracked head, if you are not seeing coolant leaking externally. Has anyone done a cooling system pressure test?

      The best way to look for this is to drop the exhaust header pipe and have a look for the signs of coolant @ the exhaust ports as this is where they typically crack.

      Justin

  92. gary says:

    Hey Justin

    I just started smelling oil burning when the car was first started.(07 outback)
    I started to change my oil this weekend and I found oil dripping of the filter and the engine above the filter onto the pipe. I can see a small shiny spot at the gasket where I guessing the leak is.

    It is just starting to get the front of the motor mount wet. So for right now I wiped the oil of the engine installed the new filter and new oil.

    So far nothing has leaked on the floor and my car does not have splash pan. I know it needs to be fixed. Question is with 73,000 miles would you leave the timing belt or change it. I only drive about 6000 miles a year so it would take some time to reach 105,000.

    I live in Northeast Pa, boarder of NY and so far all I can fine is a dealer witch I dont really care for.

    I have change GM intake gaskets, pulled engines and a bunch of other repairs over the years. I was wondering how detailed is you info that comes with the gaskets you sell. I know with a good guide I could do this job the right way.

    If you know a good suburu shop in this area that would be great also.

    Thanks Gary

    ps This car has been a little needy but I plan to make it all right. I’m into it now, no turning back.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      The repair guide is a guide aimed at helping a DIY or shop through the repair, you can also email me with questions directly and I will help you as you need it.

      I would do the timing belt and all of the other associated components as the items left to chance can sneak up on you a few years later and bite back hard.

      Justin

      • gary says:

        Thanks for the reply Justin

        I think with the guide and maybe a question or 2 if needed I will be ok.

        How do I go about getting a price for all the parts that you would install ? Shipped to 18812.

        I would like to put the repair off a little if you think I can. Even if I bought the parts now.

        At this point I’m not loosing any real noticeable fluids but I don’t want to make matters worse either.

        I have a great speed shop here to check the heads and work them if needed.

        Thanks for your help
        Gary

  93. Sandra says:

    Justin,
    Glad I found this. We have an 06 Forester that we took in for an oil chage at 3000 mi. Maintained well 56000mi. Tech said found bad piston slap and blue smoke from pipe when started. No oil on dip stick. Only thing we noticed is smell like vinegar on occasion and one time started a little hard. We let them pull the engine. They said piston rings seized due to oil burning and cross hatching on cylinder #4 almost completely gone. Say we need a new engine and they don’t know why. My research and even their mechanic say most probable is head gasket failure. Head gaskets were machined and replaced in May 2012. Still under warranty. Do you think this problem could be caused by head gaskets? Thank you.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Piston oil control rings can fail for other reasons other than Head gaskets. Its hard to correlate an external fluid leak to worn piston rings. Now if there was some debris that occurred during the repair that partially blocked lubrication to cylinder # 4 than it wouldn’t have been the failed HG but the repair, which you said was under warranty, so it was done at the dealer and in the car and thats most likely what happened it will be hard to prove at this point but im 90% sure thats what happened as the symtoms are not typical all by themselves on that era Subaru.

      It would be my suggestion to have a conversation with the Service manager and if you dont get anywhere 1 800 Subaru 3.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  94. Travis Mowers says:

    Hi Justin,

    I have a 2006 Baja (not turbo) and I took it to a repair shop just today because I’ve noticed that the temp gauge has been hanging around somewhere in the middle range. This seemed a bit higher than normal, so I got suspicious. Also, in the past couple of weeks I thought I could smell a faint odor like coolant. Not all the time, but once in a while.

    The guy at the shop called me and told me that he found a coolant leak in a cylinder head and an oil leak in a cylinder head. He hasn’t started any repairs yet and was waiting to hear back from his parts guy on some parts costs. He will call me tomorrow with a repair estimate.

    Now, since I read your post above, I feel that I should go get my car tomorrow and bring it to the independent Subaru/Volvo repair shop down the street. I just know that those guys are expensive.

    I don’t really know how severe the leaks are and I don’t know that it’s the head gasket. But reading your information, it seems pretty clear.

    Here is some other information that factors into this whole mess. I bought this car a year ago and I still owe about $12,000. Now I’m probably going to have to fork out $1,000-$2,000 for a repair. This is money that I don’t readily have. Also, I need this car to get to and from work, so I can’t afford for the shop to keep my car for an extended period. It’s possible they have a loaner-car program while my car is being worked on.

    I’m totally stressed out because I don’t have a lot of cash for a costly repair, and I need my car to get to work.

    With the coolant leak and oil leak in cylinders, is there anything else it could be besides a head gasket?

    Thanks for the info.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Travis,

      Im sorry to hear of the situation but it doesn’t sound like you have a whole lot of choice here.

      If a shop cant give you an estimate fairly quickly for a repair thats a warning sign that they may not have done very many of these. there may be some other circumstances, all i can give you is my impressions.

      Couple out of the box thoughts would be to ask the bank to refinance the car loan with some cash out for the repairs if money is an issue, this was something that could be done in the past, I dont know if banks will still do it but I believe credit unions will.

      I hate to see you head down a repair you cant pay for, but as you stated its a long way from paid for so I dont know what else you can do other than repair it and drive it for may years to come, but in order for all of that to happen it has to be the right repair or this will be worse for you later.

      Hope that helps

      Best of luck

      Justin

      • Travis Mowers says:

        I appreciate the quick response, Justin. I got an estimate this morning for $1,800 from the regular shop. I made an appointment at an independent Subaru shop for Monday, so I’ll take it there and see what they have to say. There are only two independent Subaru shops in St. Louis and they are both within a mile of my house. Unfortunately, one is only open M-F, the other one is only open from 10-2 on Saturday. I will have to suck-it-up and pay for the repair. I love my Baja and can’t let it go just yet. I drove all the way to Indiana to get it, as they can be hard to find. Wish me luck!

  95. Sandra says:

    Justin,
    Just writing to thank you. Talked to service. They called Subaru. They say damage probably happened while head gaskets were bad and not during the repair but because we followed maintance recommendations and car had such low milage, they made us a Good Will offer. They will split the diffence on the repair and do for $2500 instead of $5000. Replacement engine from Subaru with 3 year 36000 mile warranty.
    Sandra

  96. Lloyd says:

    Had coolant blowing out of radiator into over flow jug. So I had HG replaced. Also new thermostat, timing belt, pulleys, and water pump. now it shows a sharp temperature rise almost 3/4 gauge. I have run at low speeds and it still happens. I put Subaru conditioner in as soon as I picked up vehicle from shop. what is the problem? I cant get any air bubbles out. So I guess that it is not a bubble in system. top and bottom hoses are warm but bottom is cooler than top. any suggestions?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Why not take it back to the shop and ask them to give you the car back when they have fixed the right way? Sounds like an air pocket, or something went wrong with the repair?

  97. Lloyd says:

    Thermostat is with spring up into water pump. fan relay is ok I removed it and used another that is good. where is fan switch. or is it a sending unit, with three wires into water jacket, under intake?

  98. Kristi says:

    I have a 2004 Legacy Outback wagon with 226k miles on it. Have had a slight oil leak for years and my mechanic is watching it and said for now I could hold off on repairs. My question is with this many miles would you repair the head gasket or anything over $1,000 on it, or purchase a another car? I would be happy to get to 250k on it before buying a new/used car.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Thats really up to you the car will continue to be of good use to you as long as you are willing to put money into it.

      A new car is the same story except you pre pay to not have to pay for repairs.

      Rather than draw a line in the sand at 250k, its better to do what feels the best to you and your bank account.

  99. Matthew Morton says:

    Hey Justin, epic info at hand. Thanks in advance.

    Here’s my dilemma: I own an 01 Outback. Purchased privately in 05 for $13,500 with 60K on the clock. Had some trouble over the years,

    At 70K: after a $400 service to prepare for a road trip, 2 days later, 100 miles from home, the computer shuts down on the highway at 70mph resulting in a towing to the nearest town and a $500 alternator; never returned to that service center.

    At 90K: a rev/acceleration issue that made crossing traffic a regular game of dare-Took a service centre 3 attempts and a cool $1,000 bucks to “tune it up” and finally fix a sensor which by then, I made them pay for. Never returned to that service centre.

    A seemingly undiagnosible check engine light that has been on for most of my ownership. Going away for short periods of time after services only.

    At 130K – NOW: Head gasket, timing belt, water pump, seals, thermostat, plugs, left axle, rack and pinion, $3,200. Independent service shop. Been honest thus far.

    If I fix it, what else can go wrong? Transmission? Right axle? Rods? Is this thing a lemon or has it been poor workmanship? I’m doing about 10K/yr and I’d like another 70K if it’ll last.

    I’m looking at several 06 Outbacks with 50/60K on them for $13,000. Am I walking into another repeat performance? Should I move up to more reliable model years like 2010 outbacks or foresters? I’m all about the cheaper options and keeping my savings in the bank, but surely at some point there is a line in the sand?

    Can you please help me?

    Cheers
    Matt

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Matt,

      Sounds like a lot of the issues you have had have been non vehicle related and rather a lot to do with where it was serviced.

      Trans and rod issues are not the norm. But neither is a non repairable check engine light.

      With out first hand knowledge of your car, it’s tough to advise you. This is the issue with not having a good relationship with a service provider from day one with a new to you used car.

      What to do from here, buying another car is expensive, fixing what you have is painful but less expensive. If you have changed the trans fluids and engine oil as they should have been then there is no reason to expect failure.

      Doesn’t mean it can’t happen just that it wouldn’t be typical.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  100. Ann says:

    First, thanks much for all the great info on your site. I have a 2008 outback that I love, it is my second, after a 1998 that I drove for over 200k and had HG problem. Thought it had been fixed in newer models, but after reading your blog and getting estimate from our mechanic I am learning differently. This one has 78k miles. Mechanic is long-serving independent, with more than 20 years of reliable service to us. He has told me for the past two oil changes (every 5000 miles, synthetic oil) that there was a small leak in water pump which we have been watching, he originally suggested doing timing belt a bit earlier than normal at which time he would replace water pump.This time tells me that water pump seems the same but that HG’s are leaking and need replacement. He gives an estimate of $3500 with timing belt and water pump. This seems high looking at other estimates on your and other sites. Do you agree? He also mentioned that Subaru seems to have corrected the problem with the turbo gaskets and that because of that they replace failing ones with turbo gaskets to prevent future problems. Reasonable?

    I really love my outback ( though I have noticed that the AWD does not seem quite as stable as in my old one) and don’t want to replace it. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

    Ann
    P.s. BTW he also said I need both front lower ball joints at $585 w/ alignment. Are these problems related? Thanks.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Ann,

      First off the AWD in the 2008 has a different torque split front to rear than the 1998 and some find it to provide less traction.

      We don’t use the turbo gaskets as we have found them to fail internally. The turbo gaskets were designed for a lower compression turbo engine and just don’t hold up internally. Before using the six star gasket this is one of many things I tried. I know this has been a trend and some have had success, I can only comment on my experiences.

      You would be better off with the updated Six star which addresses this issue with a fire ring on the center shim, or the genuine in my opinion.

      The 2008 with a coolant leak will have a warped head. The price seems high but I done know the market in your area to really be able to comment on that.

      Justin

  101. Matthew Morton says:

    Justin,

    Many thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my dilemma. I’m going to bite the bullet and have the repairs done. I believe that your advice to develop a relationship with a reliable, independent service provider is right on. Lets hope the team I’ve been dealing with is the long term answer. Otherwise I’m driving across the country to give you my business, which I would do, except for a blown head gasket.

    You’re a legend!
    Cheers
    Matt

  102. Stevie Newman says:

    Hello, Justin.
    I have a 2001 Legacy L wagon (200k miles) with a leaking head gasket (oil). Do you think the Bar’s head gasket sealer will get me a little farther down the road, or is it likely a waste of time?

    Thanks for your time.

    Stevie

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Stevie,

      So the oil flows though the oil galleys, and the coolant through the coolant passages, they never cross or mix.

      Bars Head gasket sealer is poured into the cooling system where it will slowly destroy the entire cooling system is hopes of staving off a repair. There is nothing you can put into the cooling system to cure a Head gasket leaking oil.

      Plase use the search feature of this website and use the search term “stop leak” to understand my opinion of snake oil.

      Thanks

      Justin

  103. Mona says:

    Hi Justin,
    This is my final post. First off, I would like to thank you for taking the time to reply to my posts. It’s unusual for someone to give of their time like you do.
    We finally got rid of the 2007. There had just been too many problems and I really had gotten to the point that I just couldn’t trust it. We bought a new Subaru, we took a big loss but I have a car I’m not afraid to drive.
    This will probably be the last new car we ever buy, and believe me when I say we will pay for it, I wish things had worked out differently It’s a silver 2013, so this one we will keep for a long, long, time.
    What an expensive lesson to learn at this point in life. I guess I’ll never really know what happened to the 2007 to cause it to have so many problems. It sure fooled us when we bought it.
    I looked in to Virginia’s Lemon Law, but I don’t think that would work,
    What a hard lesson to learn!

    Mona,
    If I ever buy another used car, I’ll find you! Lol

  104. Vincent S. says:

    Hi mrs Stobb,

    First, thanks for these great tips. It will really help me to do this job in order to do it right and also avoid future problems.

    I still have some questions concerning the replacement of the gaskets. My first concern is about the resurfacing of the block. If my heads needs to be resurface, do the block have to done too ? If yes, I do I do it.
    My second concerns is about the head bolts. As an aircraft maintenace technician, I know that these kind of bolts may have a special sequence to tork it, and that when they are torqued, they will end up to be elongated in a certain way. Do you recommand to replace all of them.
    My last request is about the shopping list. Do you have a basic standart parts list to purchase when you have to do this job (exhaust gasket, spark plug gasket, etc….). It’s for a 2.2L engine installed on a Legacy Brighthon 1999.

    Again thank you for your future help !!!

    Vincent

    • Justin Stobb says:

      I’ll see if I can get a hold of Mrs Stobb for you.

      But in the meantime, the head bolts are up to you, Subaru has never stated they need to be replaced, we sell them to the DIY crowd, and replace them on an as needed basis at the shop only.

      The block surface can be block sanded.

      Yes we can put together a Custom package for you. Here is a from to fill out.

      http://allwheeldriveauto.com/subaru-parts-3/

      Justin

      • Vincent S. says:

        Thank Justin !!!

        I have some other questions since I continu to read about this repair. I just did my timing belt 3 months ago, and I take the time to replace the water pump, the seals, and the termostat.

        Like the engine runs hot for a short period of time, do I have to replace the water pump again ?

        And what about the tensionner. When I inspect it, it was looking pretty good, per the Haynes manual inspection guidelines. Is it mandatory to replace it ?

        Thanks and have a great day !

        Vincent

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Did you replace the tensioner, if not than yes or your gambling.

          If the car overheated anything in the cooling system was subjected to temperatures they were not designed to work within. Another words the thermostat can become damaged, as can the Water pump seal the effects of the overheat may not be immediately apparent to you and rather can show up 6 months later. So its really up to you what you want to do. On the one hand its more expensive now but there is less risk, on the other hand if you can do the work later and your ok with the risk of being stranded than maybe you leave it as is.

          Justin

          • Vincent S. says:

            Justin, I want to thank you for all the advises ! I just finish the job (head gasket replacement), and the car started on the first crank !!

            Only one small problem, it looks like the engine is not well timed. It may be the my timing belt reinstallation that is the problem, but the Check Engine light came on, and the code that I read is about the Cam Shaft Position Sensor.

            Do a bad timing will cause this warning, or it’s simply a failure of the sensor, that may have been damage during the different manipulations: removal, re-facing, re-installation…..

            I will wait for your assumption, before re-opening the timing-belt cover.

            Vincent

          • Justin Stobb says:

            It sounds like you may in fact have the belt at least two teeth off or a problem arose with either the cam or crank senors.

            Justin

  105. Tammy says:

    Scott,

    Thank you for all of your information. I undoubtedly have a cracked/leaking head gasket internally on my 2005 Subaru Forester (not turbo). Overheating, and visible signs of leakage now.
    Is it possible for you to have both an internal and external leak?
    I am at 169+K miles…so am not as upset as those who may have hit the 102K mile mark.
    I rolled out of the dealership with 5 miles that I put on test driving the car, and really love my Subie Roo as it is affectionately called.
    Having heard and read that they can run 300K miles (with maintenance that is bound to occur) of course.
    My feeling is I would rather invest the money in completing quality repairs and keep on rolling, than buy another vehicle (Used) and start repairing all of its problems.
    I wish that I could bring my vehicle to you for repairs. She is sitting in the drive until I can find the right person to do the job…wouldn’t happen to know anyone in Indiana that thinks like you would you?
    Is there anything else you would recommend be addressed when they have the engine pulled, besides the timing belt?
    I don’t have an endless budget sadly, so that will factor, but wanted to ask while I was doing my research.
    Oh BTW…I did have my thermostat changed a few years ago as the Catalytic Converter and O2 Sensors x 2…I will have to check if Subaru changed the thermostat or it was the other shop.
    IF it was not Subaru, should I have the thermostat changed as well to have an OEM put in lest I will have new guts on the other areas and a lousy thermostat (possibly if not done by Subaru)

    Thank you for your very informative and clearly presented information. I am a 48 year old woman who does not work on cars (people…I am a nurse) and I clearly understood everything you conveyed in these posts on the HG’s.
    I am proud to say that I have been good about checking and having oil/fluids changed, although I am sure no one has been checking for leaks as you described. My battery and cables also looks great so that is a plus!

    Again, many thanks~
    Tammy

  106. Molly O. says:

    I have a 2001 Subaru Outback with only 52,000 miles on it. I have never had any problems except a small oil leak. which developed around 5 years ago. I monitored it, oil changed regularly along with coolant and all recommended fluids. I did the warranty replacements and recommendations at 30,000 miles. Just replaced my valve cover gasket, spark plugs ( which had some oil around the spark plugs), A/C belt, P/S be;t, radiator cap, transmission fluid drained and filled, timing belt, radiator flushed. Another shop had just replaced my whole steering rack thinking it was the cause of the leak. It wasn’t, they gave me my money back.

    I lived, until a year ago, in the mountains where it went short drives and a monthly or two, 30 miles up and down the mountain. A yearly drive of 400 miles on the freeway.

    A year ago, I retired down the mountain and now I only make short drives. It still leaks oil one drop a day. It has never overheated, no warning lights ever came on, no white smoke out the back. Oil levels are good. But, now my overflow coolant container had gone down, from almost full to almost to the low point. My radiator level looks fine.

    Does this mean I need either HG replacement or my block is cracked? I’m out of money, but the car has such low mileage, I need it to last. Thank you.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Molly,

      The water does evaporate in the overflow bottle, its normal to use a cup in between oil changes depending on the way its used, or it could have a small coolant leak, but no its not a cracked block.

      Justin

      • Molly O. says:

        Whew, no cracked block, but could it be I need Head gaskets? I’ve had a couple of shops tell me that is probably why I leak a drop of oil each day from the left (driver’s) side. Thank you for answering me.

  107. Molly O. says:

    Thank you, Justin. Two shops told me the oil leak was from the head, probably a head gasket needed to be replaced. I am shocked because , as I mentioned my 2001 Subaru has been well cared for and only has 52k on it. I think they were stumped as to what is causing the one drop of oil a day for years now. I can smell a slight burning oil smell when I drive my car, but goes away as the car cools (for years now)

    The coolant was filled 2-3 months ago and I was surprised to see it drop as I haven’t driven the car much. It has been very cold here lately. My handicapped son has a few nearby doctor appointments and seizures so I really need the car for emergencies and to go to the pharmacy or store. I”m retired with very little money, but will put the $2000 on my card if my car needs a new head gasket, sadly.

    Does the coolant need a ‘conditioner’? They looked for a leak last time and found nothing. There isn’t any coolant spraying over the engine from what i can see, but maybe underneath?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Molly,

      If its just an oil leak, the repair can be put off and budgeted for, its when its a coolant leak, or internal that it absolutely must be done or in the rare circumstance that the oil leak from the Head gasket becomes very severe..

      Justin

  108. Peter K says:

    Great article. Many thanks. We have a 2007 Outback which so far is not leaking although our old ’98 2.5 litre did have the head gaskets changed. I am thinking of buying a 2013 Crosstrek with the 2.0 litre engine. Any idea how the head gaskets in these are likely to hold up?

  109. Dustin m says:

    Ugh.. I’ve been thinking of picking up a 2012 Legacy with the 2.5 but after reading about the hg problems I am now very leery about doing it.. I am anal about oil and coolant changes with all of my cars and always service @ the dealership but it almost seems this doesn’t matter.. Also it seems after 2010 there have been some improvements made for this problem if I am not mistaken?

    • JD says:

      skip it- get a honda or toyota and never look back.

      • Justin Stobb says:

        So Honda and Toyota as well as VW Dealers dont have a service department?

        What I sugest is heading over to the Toyota, Honda and VW forums and tell everyone there that complains about the issues with their perfect car to lay off the crack.

        Best of luck..

  110. Mike P. says:

    Justin,

    The service that you provide here is priceless – well done! The points you make about warranty vs. customer pay are spot on. You preach maintenance and that is what I am all about. I am an ex-Ford mechanic (16 years) that is meticulous about my cars. I know what vehicles Ford produces that are plagued with issues and what they make that can last easily 250k + with just routine maintenance.

    My wife would like to get an Outback or Legacy so I started doing some research about them. Immediately the head gasket issue is discovered. A company like Subaru, with a very limited engine selection, must be able to solve a chronic issue such as this. From what I see, this has been going on for over a decade. The engineers only need to focus on a couple of engine designs – FIX IT! All of their eggs are in one or two baskets. Is it an engineering design flaw, a production issue, a component issue – FIX IT!
    People get what they deserve if they refuse to perform routine maintenance, but those that do maintain a rigid maintenance schedule should not see this issue if it is an electrolysis or PH coolant issue.

    I didn’t want to buy a new one to find they are crap, so I was looking at vintage 2007-2010. I found a Legacy with 52K and was going to look at it, but I’m having my doubts.

    How is this DOHC engine that looks to have started with the Forester a couple of years ago and has migrated to the Outback? I would hope that they attempted to fix this HG problem.

    Anyway, keep up the good work. You are educating many and that is always a good thing.

  111. Dianna says:

    I am looking at purchasing a Car Fax 1-owner certified/service records/no accidents etc etc 2006 SUBARU OUTBACK 2.5 I LIMITED with 73,000 miles for 14K from a dealer…would you buy it if it were you? It was such a nice car and nice drive…advice?
    Thx.

  112. Jim says:

    Hi Justin,
    Fantastic article. Really appreciate it. I love my 2004 Baja Turbo(manual). Lately, I’m experiencing intermitten stalling. Sometimes it will take a lot of cranking before starting. When running, the engine runs as smooth as silk.
    I took it to Subaru today to be repaired. They said said they found a crimped hose and it should be fine. Five minutes after picking the car up I was pulling away from a traffic light and it stalled. I nearly got rear ended. It took two minutes of cranking and then it ran fine. I drove back to the Subaru dealer. The mechancic said it probably needs plugs. I highly doubt plugs are needed when the engine runs so strong and smooth when running. I’m thinking fuel pump, but I really don’t know. Any suggestions?
    Jim in NH

  113. Ted says:

    Hi Justin:

    I own a 2004 (H4- Auto) Outback closing in on 90K miles. I’ll need Head Gaskets soon, and have questions regarding the HG repair and piston slap.

    My car was diagnosed with piston slap at 2k miles. This isn’t something that developed over time. I would hate to spend a large amount of money on a repair and
    discover 2 years later that the piston slap that has taken place over the past 9 years has now “seized” the compression and oil control rings (or will not allow them to expand). I’m now stuck with a motor with reduced horsepower and poor gas mileage that consumes a great amount of oil.

    Questions:
    Will you be able to assess the condition of the piston rings and cylinder bores after taking the heads off?
    What would be the game plan if the rings/bores are showing damage beyond normal for a vehicle with 90K?
    Lastly, Are your head gasket repairs performed by Master Technicians?

    Thank you.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Ted,

      Will you be able to assess the condition of the piston rings and cylinder bores after taking the heads off? No only the cylinder walls
      What would be the game plan if the rings/bores are showing damage beyond normal for a vehicle with 90K? Our Rebuild, or Subaru Shortblock
      Lastly, Are your head gasket repairs performed by Master Technicians?

      We employ 4 of the hardest working consciousnesses Subaru Technicians you will come across, they are also enthusiasts, once you leave a Subaru Dealership you are no longer allowed to claim that you are a “Master Subaru Technician”.

      I assure you that our shop cares much more about doing a quality job than anyone at a Subaru Dealership.

      Thanks

      Justin

  114. Steven says:

    Great post Justin. I work at an independant shop owned by my father. That block sanding tip is awesome! A very good alternative to using a whiz wheel. Thanks for this post, i will be using a sanding block on all future head gasket jobs i do.

  115. Bob says:

    Justin
    Great article. Good points all around. As owner of an 09 Outback I am going to watch for this of course. Do you have any experience or opinions on synthetic oil vs. conventional oil and if so how often or how many miles does your shop recommend changing synthetic.
    Thanks so much.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Bob,

      What I always suggest is to be honest with your self about how you use the Subaru and maintain it based on that use.

      For example, if you drive the Subaru in stop and go traffic for your Commute and use it for frequent short trips I suggest every 3000 miles regardless of what you use. However if your commute is more like a 30 minute trip at freeway speeds both directions and the Subaru is seldom used for short rips, I would suggest 5000 miles is possible.

      The problem is that Subaru just like every other car company tells you that normal use =7000 miles (non Turbo) without clearly defining normal in the owners manual.

      We use blend and for most of the cars we service unless it requires Synthetic. The mileage is again up to how its used, its a touchy subject that in all honesty I wish was clearer from the Car makers, so there was less arguments.

      Thanks

      Justin

  116. lizzycbh says:

    2006 Baja – (not turbo) 215,000 miles- regular servicing including belt change t 100 and 200 thousand miles, tune up, etc.

    Check engine light came on; at same time overheating unless running heater full blast. runs rough when cold, runs smooth when warms up.

    2 different shops looked it. One said headgasket – other said not headgasket- clogged radiator

    Replaced radiator, air filter and o2 sensor. light off, no longer overheats – but still idles and runs rough (hesitates) when cold.

    Any suggestions before we have more work done?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Lizzy,

      All I can suggest is a diagnoses for the rough running my gut tells me some one neeeds to drop the exhaust and inspect the valve guides for shift, I would also be concerned that the overheat issue is only temporally resolved.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  117. Derek says:

    A couple of weeks ago I noticed accumulating on the top of the engine under the intake. So I pulled the intake fuel lines, and everything else on top of the engine to get a closer look. I didn’t discover anything abnormal that would cause the leak. Can HG failures cause oil accumulation on top of the engine? What are some other possible causes for this???

    Thanks
    Derek

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Depends on which engine you have, but one of the breather hoses is most likely at fault or the power steering pump?

      An idea for you is to take a picture, and get that to us some how if you cant see to localize it your self, but typically speaking the HG dont leak up.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  118. Mike says:

    Justin,
    Thanks for this informative article.
    I am on my 2nd Outback. Our 2002 model had the HG issue at 110,000. Cost about $1600 in Chicago area about 3 or 4 years ago. (Wish I read it back then… I hope my shop used the block sanding method.)

    We just purchased a 2013. I saw earlier in this thread some discussion about a separate cooling system (or some other modicfication) in the 2013 models, but at the time they had not come out yet, and you did not know about it.
    Have you been able to find out if this is true? (I hope so) Did they change the path of the coolant?
    Do you “think” it will help?

  119. Andrew S says:

    Hi Justin,

    I probably sound like a broken record in saying that I really appreciate this website and all the work you have done! Yesterday I checked the oil in my 2004 Forester XT 5-sp with 97k miles and discovered that not only was the level low it had a milky color to it. I’m no expert but I know thats not good and probably indicative of coolant getting into the crank case. Am I right in this assessment? And is there another way for coolant to contaminate oil than through the head gaskets (ie crossover o-rings?)

    Really wish I didn’t live in Rhode Island so I could take it to you. Don’t trust the local Subaru dealer :/ I’m prepared to pay $2200 for the repair (both heads, timing belt, water pump) but would love a sanity check!

    Andrew

    • Justin Stobb says:

      It could just be and most likely is just some condensation in the crankcase brought on by the low oil level, increased heat and moisture as a result of.

      Start with a oil change with good oil, good filter and monitor it.

      If its truly got coolant in the oil, its probably beyond a HG issue.

      Justin

      • Andrew S says:

        Poked my head underneath last night and did not notice any oil coming from the HG area. Did notice a few drops from the plug so tightened it up. Will take your advice. Thanks again!

  120. Pat says:

    Hi Justin, love your blog.
    I have a 2000 outback auto. trans w/60k which had a burning oil smell. The 1st shop changed the right driveshaft b/c they said the C/V boot split and was throwing grease on the exhaust. After the drive shaft and seal were replaced, the problem still existed. I brought it to a somewhat less expensive shop and they suggested I replace the left side drive shaft. I’ve done that and the trans seal there as well. Problem still exists. We steam cleaned the top and bottom of the motor and after that they pointed out a small transmission leak near where the exhaust comes together under the motor. They replaced some seals there, but unfortunately it seems to be still making the odor. I dropped it off again today and the mechanic mentioned that he thought maybe the seal would “pop out” of place or something due to some wear in the transmission. The car only has 60k on it. I bought it at 54k and already put over 5k$ into it (heads, oil pump leaks, trans pan leak, leaking idler pully, timing belt, etc), so it’s making me cry now. Recommendations?
    THanks!
    -pat

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Pat,

      Thanks for the feedback. Its hard to say from here if you still have a leak causing a smell or if there is still some stubborn residue that needs to burn off. We encounter plenty of vehicles that stink for quite some time (months) after repairs, the exhaust is going to act like a self cleaning oven and need to burn off any fluid that was trapped in between the exhaust and the heat shield.

      I will add that CV grease from a CV boot leak is a very heavy grease that can really be stubborn to burn off. Steam cleaning just cant reach the cracks and crevices.

      I guess if the car came here we would do the best job we could of evaluating if it has a leak that needs to be repaired or if there is some residue that still needs to burn off this usually involves more than one visit, I will add that the more shops that become involved the harder the process becomes.

      Sorry I cant offer more, but its just not feasible without seeing whats actually going on.

      Justin

  121. jeremy says:

    Justin,

    New to this thread/website today, but let me tell you, you da man!

    ok, thank you

    so the wifes 2006 impreza check engine light went off, and i thought it was the 02 sensor at first, and in attempt to self diagnos, pulled the negative cable off to reset the light, 98 miles later it came on. after watching it solid, it flashed a couple of times, then went solid again.

    she also noted of some sluggishness and the next time i was in the car, i felt it too from start and also noticed it going into 3rd often. again, i thought it was now plugs and cables, she hasnt serviced the car well and never had a tune up.

    i sucked it up and took it to pep boys for a diagnosis and they found, guess what? a whole bunch of stuff. a slow leak from the HG, need for a timing belt (100k miles, so obvious) plus the kicker, the light was from the CAT.

    I was reading elsewhere, you are ok with a CAT, but absolutly not a leaking HG, i understand, btu how much time do you think one would have with a “slow leak”? i also figured, they could have made it sound like dire straights if i didnt do it right then, so maybe i have some time? i know you are a fan of saying, you never know when its going to go. any advice? ive already started to car shop, another suby though!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Jeremy,

      The leak at the head gasket and the check engine light are not related most likely. Whenever a check engine light is flashing, it indicates a cylinder misfire so if the plugs and wires were replaced and the flashing check engine light subsided that would make sense.

      If its a slow oil leak it can wait, if its leaking coolant from the HG it cant.

      Cant put a time metric on it.

      No reason to buy another car, it will cost you much less to repair the 2006 you already own vs buying another car.

      The timing belt is due at 105k and if you do it in conjunction with a HG repair it will save you hundreds in labor.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  122. Kevin says:

    Hi Justin,

    Just had HG done one my 07 NA Legacy. 130,000 miles. Independent service center put the six point HG in, timing belt, water pump and Terra Cleaned as there was major carbon build up. Car is running fine except for a very noticeable ticking sound that developed when I lift off the accelerator. On full acceleration it sounds fine. Changed to Rotella T6 oil and the sound has been reduced but it is still there.
    The service guys say this is the sound of a normal 2.5 engine but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there previously. Would this be my imagination or my paranoia?
    Thanks. You have a wonderful web site.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Kevin,

      It could be normal and your just hyper sensitive after having a major repair or maybe there is a valve out of adjustment, it happens.

      I am thinking if the shop has had a chance to listen to it and thinks its ok, that maybe it might be ok?

      Justin

  123. Dale says:

    Wow, i do this work all the time- who the hell would use discs to clean the surface, i use razor blades, new and a bunch of them on each job. And really, these head gaskets leak because it just isn’t made right- think of all the kinds of cars which never blow the head gasket. Think of Hondas where the oil drain plug usually is some variation of thread damage, and Toyotas which never are.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Thanks for the comments, I will add.

      Most modern Subaru’s don’t “blow” the head gaskets they slowly over time develop external oil leaks, some will develop an external coolant leak and lastly if the first two symptoms go on for to long it can finally fail internally.

      Justin

  124. Doug says:

    Has there been any change in the 2013 2.5i engine which appears to address the head gasket issue?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Doug,

      The FB series engines found in the 2013 models is a new design coming out first in the 2012 Impreza, as such its not responsible to tell you if there will be an issue without proof one way or another which will in fact only come with time.

      Justin

  125. Jo Grant says:

    Hello Justin,

    A quick question that may be difficult to answer online without seeing the cars, but would I be better off paying more for a used 2004 Forester automatic (160,000km), or risk a cheaper 2.5X 2002 Forester (227,000km)? The 2002 has not had any HG issues, but I think I saw oil seepage from gasket on passenger side. Both will be mechanically checked. The 2002 is AU$5,700 and the 2004 AU$11,500. Just your thoughts please.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Jo,

      Really if you can Id have both inspected and buy which ever represents the best value based on any findings during the inspection.

      An example would be if the 2002 costs less and needs less regardless of the miles that would be the way I would go as at the end of the day the more money you can keep the better off you are and the 2002 and 2004 are so similar there is no real compelling reason to buy the 2004 unless it turns out to be the better value based on cost, and future immediate expense.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  126. Michelle says:

    I just read your this article because I am considering the purchase of a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback. It has very low mileage, 49,000 miles. It had own owner. I’ve had my mechanic look it over and as you describe of cars with low mileage that were not driven much, both head gaskets are leaking. After a short drive you can smell the oil burning. The only other issue was the rear differential needs to be drained and new fluid added. Is there a chance that this 1998 with low mileage going to give us problems down the road. Any input you have would be very helpful.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Michelle,

      I wouldn’t think once it was taken care of it would be a problem car, other than the HG the rest of the car is pretty solid. This all depends on the car however and is just general advice.

      Justin

  127. Michelle says:

    Hi Justin,

    I read this article because I am considering the purchase of a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback. It had a single owner with only approximately 49,000 miles. This car was obviously not driven hard or long. There is an obvious leak on both head gaskets. My mechanic thought it would cost a few hundred dollars to replace the seals. Is this accurate? Also, what kind of problems can we expect from an old car but with so little miles? The car is priced at $4,390.00 which seems like a good deal. What is the likelihood that we’ll have major problems due to the fact that it has not been driven much. I am an at home mom who runs around quite a bit with the kids. Any input or suggestions you have about the purchase of this vehicle would be very helpful.

    • Michelle says:

      Please ignore my second email. I thought my previous message was lost. Thank you very much for your help.

  128. becca says:

    Hey I have a question. First Id like to say thanks for the article. I dont know anything about mechanics but Im trying to learn because Im considering buying a Used 09, possibly 2010 subaru forester.

    My question is what are some of the questions I should ask when choosing my forester? such as if its had its cylinder heads repaired or if it has had an issue with over heating? Ive never bought a car before so Im very new at this and want to make good informed decisions. Thanks for your time

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Becca,

      All good questions to ask, service records are also good to request.

      But most importantly have a pre purchase inspection performed by someone who knows the cars.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  129. Scott says:

    Justin,

    I’m in the middle of a HG job on a ’98 Forester with ~150k miles. I’ve been following your recommendation of sanding the heads to get a nice smooth finish and that has been working well. My question is what to do with the block surface. Do you also recommend sanding this surface? It seems to be a little more difficult to sand since there is not as much surface area as on the heads.

    Thanks for your help.
    Scott

  130. George says:

    My 2012 3.6R (12K still under warranty) has developed a head gasket leak. What should I do to protect myself in the future. Request a warranty for 100K+? Check how they clean and prepare the heads?

    When I took the car in for an oil change I told the service ‘manager’ that I had to add oil. One service manager said that I should expect to lose a quart of an oil every 2K miles and it’s perfectly normal. I asked for something in writing to that affect. He said it’s on the Subaru website. At an earlier attempt for the same oil change, another service manager told me it was because of the thin oil (5/30) they used which is like gasoline. I didn’t believe either one of them, and that’s why I asked for their explanation in writing. But after reading your post, I think I have a bigger problem that’s guaranteed to re-occur. Fortunately, the guy that did the oil change found that there was a leak. They added a dye to the oil in order to locate where the leak was.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi George,

      Your 2012 3.6l has a Head gasket leak?

      There is one service manager at the Stealership and they don’t often talk to customers, there are several Service advsiors who may or may not know much about cars. 5w30 has been around for a very long time and is nothing like gasoline.

      Some oil consumption based on many factors including use is normal in some vehicles however, a HG leak at 12k is not, nor would it account for the oil consumption issue.

      I would let SOA you would like the 5 year 60k power-train warranty extended they may or may not accommodate you.

      Justin

  131. Richard says:

    Justin I have a question about my 1999 Outback sohc 2.5i EJ251 head gasket; I have started to get a small amount of oil leaking into the coolant. All the web postings I can find only seem to mention internal or external coolant leaks or external oil leaks but nothing about internal oil to coolant leaks.
    Is the problem caused by the head gasket or could there be anywhere else oil could get into the coolant?
    Thanks
    Richard Steele

    • Justin Stobb says:

      The oil residue in the overflow is from the combustion chamber, not the crankcase. When the gasket breaches between combustion and coolant the combustion chamber gases and the oil used to lubricate the components in the combustion chamber.

      Hope that helps explain it.

      Justin

  132. Karen says:

    We are looking at two Subarus for our son. Our choices are a 2004 Forester and a 2007 Forester. Both have the
    2.5L SOHC SMPI 16-valve 4-cyl “Phase II” boxer engine. The ad for the 2004 says Phase II and the ad for the 2007 does not say Phase II. We are worried about problems with the head gasket. The salesman for the 2007 proudly stated that the head gasket had been replaced. Both vehicles have about 118,000 miles.

    Your thoughts on which direction we should go with this purchase?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Karen,

      Phase one was from 1995 to 1999 in the Legacy and Outback and 1998 in the Forester, everything else is Phase 2. The newer engines (2011 up) are an FB series and not a phase anything in the EJ series.

      As far as which car to buy it would be the one that checks out the best after you have had a pre-purchase inspection performed by an Independent Shop. This way you have an idea of the whole car and what you actually buying, rather than sales jargon form your new best friend.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  133. Diana says:

    I have a 2000 Legacy GL wagon with 351,000 kms – replaced the HG’s one year ago at $2,000 Canadian – very happy with the results; car completely painted 3 years ago…background info. I am looking to trade for a 2008 Outback with 100,000 kms…..my “second look mechanic” tells me there is a small HG leak in the driver’s side gasket, one forming in the passenger side – should I be concerned. This would be my 6th used Subaru and the info in your blog (and subsequent similar explanation by the dealer) is a surprise to me …. advice?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Diana,

      The small leaks never leak less and eventually will need to be done. As long as its just minor oil leaks it generally can be monitored until it leaks coolant.

      Buy the car knowing the repairs are one of those down the road items that will need to be done.

      Justin

  134. Sharon says:

    Dear Justin,

    Excellent work on your article and grateful for all the information I have learned from the postings and responses. My question is for a 2005 Outback LL Bean, I am considering. I bought on ebay auction from 99.7 feedback seller. He bought car at auction. He acknowledges a discrepancy between his description and the information I found through CARFAX report at the dealership who offered it for sale. Report was read to me by the service manager at dealership, it said, vibration in steering wheel at speeds over 50mph. This came as a surprise after I won the auction both to me and to the seller. A dealership told me it could be as simple as a wheel out of round or needing replacement of both front axels. If least or worst case scenario can either of these cause harm to the transmission? Or other related problems I am not even aware of? I can afford to put some money into the car as I expected that. But if damage has been ongoing while problem wasn’t fixed I will pass and ask for my deposit back. Sorry for the length and thanks if you have time to give a reply. I don’t want to end up like poor Mona. Thanks for all you do for people.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Sharon,

      a Out of Balance tire or wheel over time can damage the front wheel bearings. An out of balance Axle causing a vibration over time can cause damage to the front differential which is part of the Transmission on your Subaru and a very expensive repair.

      So it would be better to have it addressed ASAP, and hopefully its just an out of balance tire which is common.

      Justin

  135. Dick says:

    My daughter in Ohio has an ’05 Outback Limited we bought used. Would you recommend using the SOA coolant conditioner in this vintage of Subaru. It has 105K miles and light seepage around the head gaskets. Dealership does not use it fearing clogged radiators. Thanks!

  136. Jackthesmilingblack says:

    Guys, here in sunny Japan we`d never dream of spending $2,000 on a head gasket change for an Outback/Grand Wagon/Lancaster with 100,000km on the clock. Especially as the timing belt needs changing, And then there`s the rear wheel bearings. No, you`d scrap and replace. especially as scrapping`s FoC. A ten-year-old clean Outback at auction would be well under $2,000, with about 60,000km distance on it.
    Bottom line; you`re paying too much and expecting too much.
    Jack, Japan Alps

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Jack,

      Thanks for posting but here are some contrarian views.

      So in Japan the Japanese government makes it prohibitively expensive to own a car much older than 5 years in the way of vehicle licensing fees.

      This is how the Japanese Government helps support the JDM’s or call it subsidizing if you will. Subsequently some of those engines are actually sold to consumers in the US who install them in Subaru’s here, when they will comply to US emissions systems. So just to be clear, your scrap in Japan is put to good use here when it will work in something here in the US.

      $2000 to repair Vs $30,000 to buy

      Justin

  137. Yvonne says:

    I have a 2004 Forester with turbo and have increasing problems with it stalling when idling = or when not giving it gas. I appreciate any ideas you may have.

    I brought to the dealer 3X and they called Subaru but all they could think to do was to clean the wires and connections. The problem is not constant so the mechanic didn’t have it happen in the shop – and the computer had no codes on this. I drive about 10-20 miles per day and it happens nearly every day now. The good thing is that it always starts right up again. Usually I have gone 5+ miles and then it stalls at a stop light or when idling into a turn. It is very frustrating and doesn’t feel safe to be stopped in an intersection.

    I did have the head gasket replaced by the dealer about 6 months ago – the check engine light was on and the car stalled then too. Also (the first mechanic and not the dealer) replaced the spark plugs but I kept having trouble so went to the dealer.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks so much!

  138. Judy says:

    A huge thank you for this article, it is by far the most informative regarding Subaru’s dreadful head gasket issue.
    I have a 99 Forester with 94k miles that was diagnosed with oil seapage from head gaskets in October 2010. I’ve been taking it to my Subaru dealer in San Francisco ever since. They’ve been monitoring it and on my last oil change, which was a couple months ago it’s still just seaping oil. They tell me it’s going to cost at most $2,600, which from what I read is pretty common. It’s a big chunk of change for a car that I already replaced the transmission and both axels. I now need 4 new tires and I’m not sure if I should do that with this huge repair looming. I see in your article you monitored an oil leak for 5 years. What is the longest oil leak you witnessed before the coolant leaks or the head gasket needed to be replaced? Do you know of electrical issues in Subaru’s that are 14 years or older? My dealer suggests I buy a new car since my car is old and I may encounter costly electrical issues if I do in fact replace the head gaskets. Is he trying to up sell me to a new car? I don’t want to take out a loan and I’m leaning towards fixing it but unsure if that’s the logical choice. I use the car for light leisurely driving. How much do you charge for a head gasket replacement? I would consider driving to Kirkland. Thanks again for you honest advice.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Judy,

      We sometimes monitor oil leaks for 100,000 miles and other times 1 month. What you need is someone you trust to let you know when its time, while you budget for the repair.

      I can tell you we have cars we have merely monitored for years but I cant remember who is the current record holder.

      $2600 for a HG repair, plus tires is still barely 10% the cost of another car, not to mention any new car will lose that amount of money in depreciation the first turn out of the Dealership.

      AS far as electrical issues, could you expand that a bit? Are you having issues now, or are you living in fear that an issue could happen,and more importantly what kind of electrical issues are you worried about? There are really no widespread common electrical type issues with any Subaru model other than the Alternator recall in some 1998 models.

      Your dealer wants to sell you a new car at a profit, take yours in on trade while beating you up on price because of its needs, than fix your car and sell it to some one else at a huge profit thus making two deals rather than one repair.

      We charge less than you are being quoted and I image they are quoting out for more than just HG at a $2600 number, we are closer to $1700.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

      • Judy says:

        Thanks again, Justin, that is very helpful! I figured they were trying to upsell me, they were also talking about getting the best trade in deal if I get a new Subaru. I don’t have any electrical issues at all so I was surprised to hear that and after searching the web I didn’t see any Suby’s with electrical issues either. I’ll just keep holding out the oil seapage remains just oil and take it from there. Do you recommend I use Premium gas, will that prolong just oil seapage? I’ve been using regular unleaded. If you ever hear of a trustworthy and excellent Independent Subaru mechanic in the Bay Area please let me know.
        All the best to you,
        Judy

  139. Dan says:

    Hi,

    I have a 2008 Impreza. the other day on the way to work I had the oil light flash on along with the check engine light. I though it was weird considering I did an oil change about 3 months ago and never saw any oil leakage on any components or in my drive way. All of a sudden a knocking sound starts. I pull over and lift the hood and the heat coming form the engine is much more than normal. But I didn’t get an overheating warning? And I am out of oil. I add oil and bring it to a local mechanic and he said my engine is pretty much dead? Why would a car with 93k miles eat up oil at that rate? I was told it was an internal engine leak and Subarus are know for this? Am I stuck with this bill?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Dan,

      Yes I am afraid its your car.

      Any car can and will use oil in between oil changes, the only way to know if yours does and to prevent engine failure as a result of low oil levels is to check your oil. This is nothing new but most truly learn the hard way.

      Engines use oil in much the same way they use fuel, some drives use more fluids than others. Weather, temperature, load, use and mechanical inefficiencies all affect oil consumption.

      I am a broken record here stating oil needs to be changed every 3000 miles or three months for most vehicle owners and checked every couple of weeks (your owners manual states the oil must be checked every tank of fuel), and people argue with me all the time on this forum, so I have pretty much given up. Its never a problem until it is.. Guys come here and argue that its not normal for a car to use oil and I just cant listen to it anymore, I instead listen to stories like this and truly feel awful for you. But darn it man it only takes 30 seconds to check your oil.

      All I can really say is this to anyone that wants to read.

      Not every car uses a measurable amount of oil in between oil changes but many, many do regardless of make you are here reading right now because you own or are thinking about a Subaru. It doesn’t make your car a POS if it uses oil it makes it a car that uses some oil and this if not kept up on will be catastrophic as you now know.

      Sorry about the situation. But please use this as a moment where you learn about the internal combustion engine, as any car you own unless you buy a Tesla may use oil.

      Justin

  140. Keith says:

    Justin,
    Very informative site….thank you! I’ve got a 2000 Legacy Sedan, manual trans, 205k miles. My daily round-trip commute is 75 miles, all highway.

    Currently leaking coolant; I’ve not confirmed leaking from head gasket(s), but based on description, I’m betting it is. Also have frequent P0325; I run 87 octane.

    Based on reading your initial article, sounds like I should try the coolant conditioner first and switch to 89 octane. Since only an external leak (leaving about a 4″ diameter pool after each drive) , wondering if this is a situation that I can continue to top-off coolant for several months, or is this likely to quickly progress to an internal gasket failure?

    Regards,
    Keith

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Keith,

      No you should Evaluate the knock sensor as most likely its failed, and no you need to fix your coolant leak, once the HG is leaking coolant it must be replaced.

      At this point we don’t even know if that’s whats wrong. I do not suggest the conditioner under any circumstance.

      -Justin

  141. Matt says:

    Hi,
    I have a 2005 Impreza 2.5RS with leaking head gaskets (160,000 miles). I called the dealership and they said they don’t replace the water pump or pulleys/tensioners unless there is a reason to. They quoted me $1800 for both head gaskets and a timing belt. I called another place that specializes in Subarus and they do everything, gaskets, timing belt, water pump, pulleys/tensioners, plugs, etc. They also tried to sell me on replacing the clutch; something about it “shattering” when they put it back together. This sounds extremely suspect to me. Is this normal? The total quoted for this was $2300. It sounds like a better deal to go with the second option, as for only $500 more I get a lot more stuff done, but is it necessary? Am I being had? Great article by the way!

    Thanks for your time,
    Matt

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Matt,

      The Dealer will leave those other items to chance and when they become an issue charge you full labor to go in and replace them.

      If you are making the repairs you plan on keeping the car, the more you do when its apart the lower the forward going ownership costs will be. But its also important to know the plan, if the plan is to keep the car until 300k do it all , if its to get another couple of years maybe out the clutch off or at least until its out and inspected?

      Anything Timing belt driven is a must in my opinion, if you leave the clutch to chance you get to replace the clutch, if you leave an idler to chance and it does not go your way you will spend huge money on something you did not need to when the valves bend as a result of a failed idler.

      In all honesty we still get about one tow in a month where an idler, tensioner or a water pump failed on the freeway, its always a bad day for the driver.

      Justin

  142. Andy says:

    Yesterday (Sept 22.2113) I found this thread on the internet, and read it top to bottom and also read the original Subaru Head Gasket Problems explained thread (by Justin) from Nov 2007. I own a 2001 Subaru Legacy wagon (Brighton)bought in Canada.I am not an employee of Subaru , nor have I ever been. I am also not a mechanic. In the early 2000’s SOA (America) made a special Legacy for the Canadian market, which was a stripped down Legacy L. it was sold as the Legacy Brighton. There were no options on the base model, you could get metallic paint,add an upgraded stereo or roof rack.I bought this Legacy Brighton wagon new, put no options on it, except metallic paint. Subaru Canada gave me the metal paint at no charge because they had no cars in stock in white, the colour I wanted. I said I was cheap, (born in Scotland) but not stupid. The car came with two stereo speakers in the front doors. I bought and put in the extra set of speakers in the rear doors (for $50 on ebay) (rear speakers standard in the Legacy “L”)
    I am writing this keeping in mind the issues that affect Subaru cars and their lifetime head gasket durability (as I understand them): Batteries,regular coolant changes, very regular oil changes, use of Genuine Subaru parts (by Subie shop and by my mechanics (thanks John and Rudy), and just plain luck on my part to be running the car to high mileage highway miles which delayed the onset of head gasket problems to late middle age (for the car).
    My lifetime experience on the Subaru Legacy wagon: No more expensive to fix than other cars. I had great mechanics. The Subaru dealers were always way more expensive than the independents I used, when I used them.
    My Legacy wagon spent its first 3.5 years living in an underground parking garage in Toronto Ontario. (Salt, rust and corrosion very bad in underground parking garages) . Years 4 to 7 were outdoor storage. Years 7 to 12 were back in a parking garage, but with weekly car washes. Years 12 to 13 were back outside.
    From day one, I kept an Excel spreadsheet to track my expenses. What is written here is not from memory. In its first four years the car did between 25000 to 35000 kms a year (16000 to 22000 miles) . I changed the oil every 6000 kms. When Subaru issued the WWP-99 recall in February 2004, to add a special conditioner to the engine cooling system, I did that, And I made sure it was added each time the coolant was changed. The 100000 km. warranty was used up in 34 months from new. No major issues during warranty period (always fixed at a Subaru store during the warranty period). After warranty was over I went outside to independents.
    Timing Belt,Water Pump/thermostat done at 68 months (182000 kms), by an independent shop. Thermastat done again at 219000 kms and at 293,000 (head gasket repair) .
    Head Gasket oil leak first noticed at 285,000 kms (car 10 years old and rusty, almost taken off the road). Leak started very small. We got 4 months and 8000 kms out of the car before I had to get it done. Time enough to search the Internet for an engine rebuilder. I selected Crosstown Engine Rebuilders in Toronto Ont. There are a number good rebuilders in and around the city, this one was convenient by public transit to my home . Crosstown remanufactured the engine block. Stripped the long block down to nothing and rebored it in a CNC machine. No hand reboring here. All new pistons and heads etc. They also replaced the oil pan (rusty),water pump, ignition wire set, spark plugs. Basic rebuild was $2350 with $850 engine remove/reinstall, plus $600 in parts. Expensive, would have pulled the car from road but I had no money for a newer one and I knew this car. I needed one quick visit back to Crosstown after the rebuild for a retightening due to a minor oil leak, but they fixed that and there have been no major issues since rebuild. Gas mileage is still 30 kms/Litre.
    The car has had four accidents. The first one in a parking lot when it was six months old. Hit on the front right corner when parked, left front tire was bumped over top of a concrete parking spot marker. I mention this because the left front corner of the car has always been high maintenance: CV joints and stuff. Interesting that was the side that was not hit, the right side (the hit side) was CHEAPER to fix over the car’s lifetime because stuff that got damaged in the accident, got replaced. On the left side, things that were “still in spec” at time of accident , did not get replaced. Damaged maybe, but hidden damage and this resulted in shorter lifetime.
    My Subaru Legacy Brighton wagon was hit twice more from the rear. The installed trailer hitch saved my car for $4000 repairs each time ($2000 mech, $2000 labour). In the first accident, the $19000 winter stored BMW that was at the rear of the three car pileup was a write off. The Mini van in the middle of the three car crash was written off too. I was in front and I got off the lightest. The second crash was just the same, $4000 total damage to me, $8000 damage to the car that hit me. Nice strong frame. Trailer hitches save Subies ? Subarus are safe cars to own and drive. Drive one.
    Major service checks were always done on time. Fluids changed on the major mileage markers like clockwork. ”Check Engine” light first came on at 86,000km (54000 miles), constantly on after 200000 km (100,000 miles) . My independent mechanics said don’t bother chasing the source, it could be a bunch of things. Maybe he is right, maybe wrong. Don’t know.
    The front left wheel bearing failed at 316,000 kms (Nov 2011) and again at 368.000kms (august 2013). Subaru wheel bearings are grease packed, not sealed. The Alliston Ont mechanic replaced it with an OEM spec bearing. As explained by my Toronto mechanic , Subaru wheel bearings are held in place by steel plates that sit on the outside that hold and press rubber seals in position, that are meant to keep dirt and water out. In later car life the plates rust, water and salt get in and wash the grease out and the bearings fail. The Alliston mechanic used Subaru spec bearings, but the plates still leaked. The Alliston bearing cost $57 in parts and $200 in labour to put in. With the faulty seal in place, the bearing lasted 3 weeks and 3000 kms before catastrophic failure. Should have heard the noise at point of failure! The bearing balls went to dust! My Toronto mechanic did the repair again and used a sealed bearing that cost $82. The extra $25 for sealed parts is worth it when the original specification are a bad design. In hindsight Subaru should have also used sealed bearings on original equipment.
    Now Sept 2013, 373,000 kms the Chk engine light is still on.
    The car still has the original stainless steel muffler pipes (the full set) on the car, first re welded in a custom shop by my Toronto mechanic after 245000 kms, welded again 4.5 years later at 350000 kms. This time the mechanic said no more, cannot do it one more time after this,ok I will do it now, but no more. Fine. I smiled.) The regular steel joint that is on the ends of the stainless steel pipes, rusts off. Simply re weld on a short joining piece to fix the problem. If you own a Subaru and it stil has original stainless steel muffler pipes on it, find an independent muffler shop to do a reweld. The pipes fail at the joints. Simply weld in a short six inch steel splice to link the orginal stainless steel pipes. Save $$$.

    September 2013. My subie is now 13 years old, has 373000 kms. (233000 miles), and is badly rusted. I should have rust proofed the car from day one. I have a crack in the windshield that runs along the bottom edge, 2 inches up from the lower edge. My Toronto mechanic says that the front struts have small breaks on the bottom of the springs, which means the car will not pass a provincial safety inspection required at time of selling. At some point in the car’s late mid life, the rear wiper motor failed. A quick trip to ebay for an Outback rear wiper motor from a wrecker in northern USA, saved the day.
    My parents are giving me their 2003 Toyota Matrix as they move to a condo in 30 days time and they only need one car. So I get the Matrix and I have a decision to make. My Subie stays alive until something major breaks (more than $400). Or am I inheriting a pile of future problems in the Toyota Matrix? I do not know its service history well. My very first car was an 85 Toyota Tercel wagon. I bought it at four years old, 105,000 kms. After purchase I received the service history from the dealer and the last owner had run the car for a full year without oil changes (35,000 kms), The rocker arm shaft snapped at 180000km, while doing 70mph on a major highway, 250 miles from home. My next car was a 1987 Honda Civic, bought in 1991 with 23,000 km on her. Nice low mileage, problem free because the owner changed the oil regularly. Until I found a bad mechanic who screwed up while running an engine cleaner through the motor, and caused the timing belt to snap. Pieced that motor back together and sold it to buy the Subaru Legacy new.
    Subaru cars are great cars. Look after it, it will look after you. Head gaskets, just a blimp on the road to 300,000 miles. My (now ex girlfriend)has a 2002 Honda Civic that has barely done 16000 kms a year and 60% of that is 8 trips a year Toronto to Manitoulin Island (8 hour drive) . Hard service sitting in an underground parking garage? Yes, brake rotors rust out way too fast)
    I am going to miss my Subaru. I remember rally driving a road in northern Ontario a few weeks after the car was brand new. What a feeling. A few weeks ago (Sept 2013) I drove the car with an empty trailer down to my parents who live two hours south of me.With the trailer on the back, the car drove just as smoothly as that weekend of rally driving back in 2000. My I love the feeling. Subaru has me sold for life
    I may just pull the collision damage coverage on the insurance and keep the Subaru on the road for one more winter. When this Subaru dies I will evaluate the existing head gasket knowledge on the Internet to see if 2010 and later Subaru models have the problem or not , and then buy another Subaru based on that information (with the head gasket slush fund tucked away just in case).
    Enjoy your Subaru. You are going to love it.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Love the post and the Story!

      Thanks for sharing!!

      -Justin

      • Andy says:

        I am still reading the original Subaru Head Gaskets Explained Comments page, but I just wanted to comment on Cost of Repair for head gasket failure. I paid the $2350 rebuild fee + $850 for engine removal and reinstall for my repair, which is higher than some folks have paid, but I also got a 3 year,60,000K (37,500 miles ) warranty on the head gasket repair. I got piece of mind for three years. Now the warranty on my repair is over.Some people on this site complain about head gasket repairs not lasting more than a few months. Good warranties cost money.If you have time, do the research, don’t just select the first repair option presented.

      • Andy says:

        Justin:

        I do have a couple quick questions on moving forward with my Subaru. The reason I have to consider taking my 2001 Subaru Legacy Brighton wagon (375000kms) off the road is that I live in Ontario Canada where all cars are subjected to environmental emissions testing (called Drive Clean) every two years once they reach the age of seven years. Previously it was an emissions test where they measured the Carbon Dioxide output off the tailpipe and compared it to accepted standards and the standard for your car’s make amd model. Anyway the CO test is now gone, but Drive Clean require a reading of the Check Engine code on the car. Any car with the Check Engine light on, fails the test and must be taken off the road and cannot be sold.
        Questions: how to solve the Check Engine light riddle. I would like to solve it so that the car has some salvage value. I know I need a mechanic to read the scan code. I believe the catalytic converter is still good because the emissions test last year passed with flying colours. A friend of mine with the same Subaru year and model knows a mechanic who has been able to solve the Check Engine light problem by fixing bad wirig connections. Have you ever seen Check Engine light on problems that were traced to simply wiring connections that went bad? Obviously I need to start by having my mechanic do the scan code readout and work from there. I have now read both of your Head Gasket blogs top to bottom including every customer’s question and comment so I consider myself well educated on Subaru issues.

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hello Andy,

          Very familiar with the Drive clean program as its modeled after OBD II here in the States, and IM 240 here in the Washington State

          However I don’t know if there is a Waiver program in Canada?

          What I can tell you is a Car can have a Converter code and still pass an emissions tailpipe test when checking for exhaust gas emissions.

          I have seen check engine lights come on for something as simple as a bad tail light bulb in a 2000 to 2004 Outback and I have seen them come on for many, many other reasons, the code is whats needed and then a diagnoses based on that code. Anything else is just guessing and speculation.

          -Justin

  143. Jeff says:

    The dealership just called and told me that my head gaskets are leaking on my 2006 2.5L Baja! (They didn’t say whether it was oil or coolant) They also said that the timing belt and another belt are looking bad as well and that it would be a good time to replace them. (115K miles)I asked what the total price would be and they said that it would be just under $3000! I asked them not to do anything and that I would have my nephew (who is a Mazda dealership mechanic)look at it. Do you have any other suggestions or advice…? Thanks in advance!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      You should first ask the dealer if it was oil and or coolant and how severe the leaks are. If the vehicle has 115k and the timing belt has never been done then yes I am sure its due and should be done regardless of if you have time on the HG.

      If you have someone that can look at it that’s always good.

      Justin

  144. Lori says:

    I have a 2009 Forester with just over 52k miles. My local NorCal dealer just told me the HG are leaking (oil i think). $3400 to repair with front engine reseal. This seems crazy to me, the car is so new. My 2001 Forester, which worked hard in Hawaii, was over 120k when i sold it and never had any kind of problem. Do i have a lemon or should i get a second opinion? Yikes!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Lori,

      The Climate in Hawaii was much easier on your Subaru than the climate in Nor Cal. You don’t have a Lemon, most likely you have a small oil leak, but now here is the disturbing part your 2009 Forester has a 5 year 60k power train warranty so the cost to repair any leaking head gasket is Zero.

      So yes get a second opinion at a Reputable Subaru Dealer and get this handled under warranty, a call to SOA is appropriate as well 1800 Subaru 3 if a Subaru dealer did in fact try to charge you for a repair under Subaru’s Warranty.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  145. Lori says:

    sorry, i didn’t think my first post stuck. :)

  146. Tony says:

    I just had my 2002 Impreza TS 2.5 in for an oil change and was informed that both my head gaskets are leaking externally, one worse than the other. The repair was estimated at $1900-$2500 depending on how many timing components were deemed necessary for replacement and they cost about $100 each. Ironically, I purchased a Gates timing belt kit with belt and components, a Bosch water pump and gasket, a Stant Thermostat, and both Gates serpentine belts. I planned to do the replacement/preventative maintenance myself along with replacing the coolant with Subaru Long Life and additive. Putting the cost a little under $300.

    Were my purchases uninformed?

    The gates timing belt kit was recommended by several Subaru owners who also recommended i get the kit w/o the water pump and instead purchase one of my own choice. The Stant thermostat looks nothing like the cheap Chinese one pictured and very much like the Subaru OE one pictured. I went with the OE coolant and additive because several Subaru owners explicitly stated I was looking for trouble using any other coolant. After doing a little more research it seems this is the case with using non-OE thermostats. As for the preventative maintenance, i felt pretty confident doing the timing belt and accompanying procedures on a Saturday afternoon and having it finished well before the weekend was over. Knowing the head gaskets are leaking I’m not sure I would have the tools or time to do this all myself. I don’t want to take my car to the stealership to have this done either. Which brings me to my next question as i am having a hard time finding a reputable independent shop specializes in servicing Subaru in my area.

    Do you participate in or are there any organizations/networks i can turn to that would help me find one maybe a little further out but still in my state?

    My car has 104k and i know that this service would be a small bump in the road to at least three times that mileage given that it is done right way. I have worked in two different stealerships and now work in an independent body shop as a body tech, so i am well aware of the differences in quality when you are getting paid flat rate and when you are getting paid to do a job right. I do not mean to discredit the quality of work from techs working in stealerships as there are still great techs that take pride in their work working there but generally speaking they are there to make money and that means doing as many jobs a week as possible.

    Thanks for all your help and knowledge,

    Tony

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Tony,

      There really isn’t much of a network for Independent Shops, I see shop owners here and there any time I attend a trade show which is really not all that often.

      “I purchased a Gates timing belt kit with belt and components, a Bosch water pump and gasket, a Stant Thermostat, and both Gates serpentine belts. I planned to do the replacement/preventative maintenance myself along with replacing the coolant with Subaru Long Life and additive. Putting the cost a little under $300.”

      All of that stuff really needs to go back. You want to use nothing but the Subaru OE Thermostat. Here is a picture of a Subaru Thermostat VS a Stant http://allwheeldriveauto.com/seattle-subaru-service-parts/

      As for the timing belt kit the idlers in the kit are made in China, we have seen the idlers fail well before the 105k mark and when that happens and you bend valves you saved nothing. The Bosch pump is a re-box and the manufacture I believe is still China. You could roll with the timing belt and acc belts if you wanted to, but you will find that all three will stretch much more so than the OE you will be hard pressed to get the 60k out of the ACC belts before the Alternator power steering belt is stretched beyond tightening as the adjustment usually maxes out after a year or two. Aftermarket parts come with the same one year warranty the OE does, but only the OE can really claim to make it the 105k it needs to, if a Timing belt or idler fail 4 years and 75k later you will have no recourse. It doesn’t happen all the time but we have seen enough of it to never use that kit and its a set of parts we wont install when a customer tries to brings them in.

      I know in the body world you can get by with some aftermarket body parts, and once you get past fitment issues they work just fine, but in the mechanical side of things fitment is actually the least of your worries its the longevity that needs to be considered as the surprises are never welcome.

      You might want give the head gasket repair thing a try, if your are comfortable doing the timing belt, its not going to be all that much more difficult, just time consuming and greater attention to detail.

      -Justin

  147. Chris says:

    My 1997 subaru outback impreza sport is missing and won’t start properly anymore. It also smokes alot when i barely run it. What’s the problem?

  148. dom says:

    I just want to run this idea by you, a general thought on the Subaru HG failure to see what you think.I had a GM vehicle with HG problems.Could the Subaru gasket be made of organic material and the coolant(like Dexcool)be made of an organic component,therfore “organic” coolant eats “organic” HG. Using the Six Star(maybe synthetic material}with synthetic coolant solves problem ? Is the Subaru (green] fluid organic and the new (blue) fluid Synthetic ? MAYBE THE CAUSE OF ALL HG PROBLEMS ????

    • Justin Stobb says:

      The OE Subaru gasket for SOHC is not made of organic material, its a composite gasket. The single biggest reason the Six star holds up better is that its a MLS gasket.

      -Justin

  149. Larry says:

    Justin- about two years ago my 2001 Forester was diagnosed with leaking head gaskets. I haven’t had them replaced, but have been monitoring the fluid levels closely. There is no coolant loss, but there is significant oil loss- a 1/2 quart every month. Yesterday there was a small pool of oil under the car. When I look under the car, I see the gasket failure driver’s side rear of engine, but the oil is dripping from the middle part (where the bolts hold on the large drip pan), and not from the side. Do you think there may be something else that is causing this oil loss, or is it just running along the tire support arms to the middle of the car?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Larry,

      Typically speaking a Head gasket wont leak oil to the point where its leaving a puddle of oil under the car like you are describing. I am guessing here but I suspect there is a leak from somewhere else at fault here. Better to get it looked at locally.

      -Justin

  150. Stuart Smith says:

    I just wanted to say thanks. I haven’t read the previous comments but i did check your article. I looked at a phase 1 Outback engine today for potential purchase and the owner described everything you mentioned in the first few paragraphs. You are saving me apprx. $1500 and head and heartache as I am about to drive across country to say goodbye to a parent.

    Thanks

  151. Barbara says:

    Justin,
    I am in shock as my much loved 2006 Impreza with just 70K miles was also just diagnosed with leaking head gaskets! I can’t believe it. I purchased this car after my 99 A-4 turbo blew up at @ 100K miles, having had it with $$$ repair bills.

    Now this!

    Need your help.
    Thanks

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Barbara,

      Not all leaking head gaskets are the same, if its just oil you can monitor it for a period of time, no I don’t know how long someone local you can trust needs to evaluate it.

      If its coolant or internal it needs to be done sooner rather than later.

      -Justin

  152. Ddddavid says:

    Lots of great info. My story is I got a 2004 Subaru Forester in good condition for $400. They told me it needed an engine. So I got a quote of $2300 for used engine installed – but this is my problem. I towed the Forester 70 miles with my pickup using a tow bar. I am finding out that since I didn’t disconnect the shaft and something else — the trans or drive may not be good. So before I spend money on an engine due you think I will have some extra problem? Is there a way I can check if something went bad before I put in an engine? Thanks

  153. Tresa Stevens says:

    Hi, was reading your articles about head gasket leaks, I own a 2009 Subaru Forester with 84,000 miles, and I was told yesterday at a routine maintainence that I have a left side headgasket leak, and that if I replaced one side it would be $1100, both sides (they recommended), $1600. They told me I could not get my state inspection sticker without this repair, and it is due this month. I, being a single woman, knowing nothing about car and engine repair, wasn’t sure what to do and I felt I was being “high pressured” to make an expensive repair quickly, knowing nothing about it. So I told them I would get a second opinion, then they told me 10 minutes later they would give me the sticker after all, and just clean up the oil for now. They did show me oil under the car, but knowing nothing of what a car is supposed to look like underneath, not sure if this was very helpful.
    Anyways, what is your take on this? Can I ask them to monitor it as I read in one of your articles? Is it urgent? This is a Subaru dealership, and I have had multiple friends tell me that “dealerships will try to screw you over”. I am so unsure and I left there feeling like they were slimy and untrustworthy. I have been going there for almost 10 years so now it left a bad taste in my mouth.
    Any advice??
    Thanks so much!
    Tresa

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Tresa,

      I don’t know all of the laws in certain states, but would find it odd that a minor oil leak would prevent a car from being issued a inspection stamp or sticker. Our state isn’t one that requires inspections so I’m not as familiar as I should be to answer this however.

      Having said that, yes many dealers will use whatever tactic available to sell work, they have to, it’s their job. I don’t agree with it which is why I left the Subaru dealer yeas ago, but it’s the same structure at any make service department.

      What to do from here? If at all possible I would really try to find a family owned Independent shop and hopefully one that’s familiar with Subaru. Let them have a look and give you an opinion about how bad things are. I would think about it like this, you go to the same family doctor for years, but one visit things just don’t go so well and you are not comfortable with the doctors analysis or your doctor suggest a specialist for this situation. It’s possible for the last ten years the dealer has always been good to you, or always gotten a little more than really needed. We all hate to think the latter but it happens.

      I pay all of my employes a salary so there is never a need to ever sell anyone anything so they can make their paycheck and I firmly believe this is the right way to operate. Look for a shop like mine near you and I’m sure you will get honest advice.

      Hope that helped hope it’s not that bad yet.

      -Justin

  154. Lisa Graham says:

    I wish I had found this article sooner. I love my 2010 Subaru outback and hope to keep it around for many years to come. My temperature light came on last week so I took it straight into the dealership and was told that my cooling fans and head gaskets are both needing to be replaced. They can’t tell me which broke first to cause the other, but the total cost to fix it will be about $2200. I’ve been trying to read all the threads/posts to see if anyone else had a similar issue with this year car, but haven’t found any yet. I change the oil regularly at the dealership, but did a short cut on my last oil change and went to a lube center 2 months ago, but all my other oil changes were at the dealership. My car is barely 4 years old. How long does it take for an internal leak to cause failure in the fan or gasket? Can a leak be detected 6 months in advance? If the lube center added the wrong coolant could that be the cause of this?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Lisa,

      Sorry to hear about the trouble with your 2010, this is most likely not the result of the wrong coolant, but rather if the fans were not working correctly and not noticed, than yes the car will overheat and than damage the HG. No one skipped oil change didn’t cause this either.

      Puzzled that they are not telling you the fans caused the HG failure as we have also seen this.

      I would call SOA and tell them your story. If its been maintained primarily at the Dealer perhaps they could have caught it?

      -Justin

  155. Manuel says:

    Hi Justin,
    I have a 05 Outback 2.5i . The head gaskets were just done after noticing some minor seepage from the heads.

    My Subaru car is mostly a weekend car for when I visit my mountain cabin in California, so it isn’t driven much. I had a local mechanic that was recommended by my uncle do the job.

    Ever since I have gotten the car back, the car has been leaking a tremendous amount of oil. I probably have to add a quart or two per week, and there’s a burning smell after driving it.

    I have taken it back to the mechanic and he claims that there is a part where the engine is “fused” together and that is where the oil is leaking from. My guess is a shitty head gasket job?

    The car also will not go above 4,000 rpm, and sometimes I have to manually shift the car to get up to speed.

    I know its probably extremely hard to diagnose or pin point without looking at the car, but have you ever seen a situation like this before?

    Obviously, it is a problem that has arisen from the mechanic doing the head gasket, but I’m not sure where to go from here or if it is worth fixing.

    Thanks in advance for your help, Happy Thanksgiving and hopefully I’ll be able to fix her up.

    Manuel

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Manuel,

      This is a tough situation, ideally it needs to go back to the shop that worked on it but it sounds like that already happened.

      I need some more specific information as there is nothing where the engine is “fused” as its actually bolted to the transmission and not fused? There is a separator plate and it would generally not ever leak out a quart a week.

      What was the Shops diagnoses of the 4000 rpm thing?

      Its worth fixing, I would suggest you have another conversation with the shop and if you cant get anywhere with them go somewhere else and at least have a diagnoses done and take things from there. If shop B tells you its most likely related to the shops work you will have that in writing and can present it to them.

      Thats the next step from the sounds of it.

      -Justin

  156. Matthew says:

    Justin
    Thanks for running this website I have a 2005 Outback with 203,000 miles on it. My usual dealer told me that the oil leaks around the valve covers were due to the Head Gaskets. I thought it was just the valve cover gaskets, so I looked it up on Coogle and found your wonderful website. There is no overheating yet. I have had two estimates, the original dealer quoted about $3000 (and maybe more if the heads are warped), and another Subaru dealer that is a longer drive to get to quoted $1800. The second dealer did some work on my 274,000 mile 1995 Legacy some years ago, I was impressed by the service, and I felt that they tried to not recommend work that they felt was not yet needed at the time (but I would have agreed to have done if they said it was needed). Is this large a difference in price a concern? I am inclined to go with the less expensive dealer. When I talked to them they said since there was no overheating, they would probably not have to machine the heads, and that they would use Subaru replacement HGs. I have not located an independent Subaru repair shop near me yet.
    I also wonder if you had ever had someone with a 2005 that makes a tapping or rapping noise when making left turns. It doesn’t small metallic, more tapping on a block of wood. I can’t tell if it is in front or back, but seems to be on the left side of the car. Nothing seems obviously amiss when looking under the car.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Matthew,

      The sound on turns is most likely a CV joint that is making some noise.

      Its tough to know what each place is quoting you I would ask for a break down form each and see whats the difference.

      One could be including timing components, water pump hoses etc, the other just bare bones?

      -Justin

      • Matthew says:

        Justin
        The less expensive place may have assumed no warped head. They also said that it would not include the water pump and timing belt ,but that it would be about $95 for the belt with no additional labor charge for either the belt or water pump. I will ask for a breakdown. Is the CV joint a candidate for replacement if it is making the noise? I have replaced both front wheel bearings twice on this car (4 wheel bearings). Did Subaru have a bad run of bearings for their 2005 Outbacks? Thanks for your reply!

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hello Matthew,

          Yes Subaru had problems with mostly the rear wheel bearings on the 2005/2006 models and there was a campaign that extended the warranty of those components for affected vehicles.

          If the Cv axle is making noise it will need to be replaced.

          -Justin

  157. Securit says:

    Justin,

    Great skills, experience and well written posting…priceless!

    2004 2.5 Outback Wagon weather package, located in Michigan. Dry HG at 116K, now one drip a night of oil. No coolant issues, meaning no backwash of oil in reserve tank, no dripping coolant, no need to fill or replenish the system. I cover 700 miles a week, 1hr and 15 min. one way. Good everything else engine, brakes, suspension, body, etc. The dip stick does not call for oil between 5K synthetic oil changes, 25 to 27 mph at 75 mph. When I stop for gas or at the end of a trip, I smell burning oil.

    A good local shop for Subaru has a $95 steam clean and dye service to help determine valve cover oil leak and or valve cover and HD leaks. I can see oil on the bottom of the HG’s left and right, its small and gooey. Does the $95 charge sound like a smart move? Is there a good way to determine if its the VC’s? The kit is about $40 and I think I can do this repair.

    Since I’ve got a good solid car I can have the repair done at anytime. A Subbie dealer told me this VIN has two pistons that are recommended to be replaced due to slap if I do the HG repair. Any opinion on this finding – fact or fiction.

    Last, you talk about oil and coolant changes to usage, what do you think about a 700 mile a week highway car?

    Best,

    Securit

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Securit,

      Thanks for your feedback on the website.

      Typically one really shouldn’t really need a dye test to determine the cause of a leak on your era Subaru, but because its not in front of me I am not really speaking from a position of strength. Its possible the Valve covers are leaking so bad its hard to tell if its the Valve covers or the HG.

      One thought is you could do the VC yourself for less than the test and drive it for a while and see if it subsides.

      There are in fact updated pistons for the SOHC 2.5l to help eliminate piston slap. We have installed them and witnessed the same amount of noise we were trying to resolve on some cars and in others really made it much quieter.

      Replacing pistons does start to open up a entire new can of worms if you will. If the piston slap is not all that bad the cost may not justify the trouble and really all 4 should be done.

      There is some gamble with any repair but at 116k and the fact that its not currently using oil it sounds like the bottom end is still in great shape.

      Hope that helps

      -Justin

  158. Securit says:

    Edit to above: 136K today!

  159. Wayne says:

    Hi Justin, thanks for all the useful info you continue ti supply.

    Our 2005 H6 engined Outback (approx. 150 000 kms) has had a very slight external coolant crust on one side for over 18 months now, no over-heating, performance issues whatsoever, though we’ve decided to budget for a HG repair. We’ve owned the car for over five years and always follow the recommended fluid changes and change oil and filter every six months (approx. 5000 kms). Bit surprised to see HG issues with this engine as I thought it wasn’t that common. What HG would you recommend to use (? OEM).

    We will also overhaul the timing gear while the engine is out of the car. Any other recommended repairs while the engine is out??

    Our other issue is intermittent stalling of the car (auto transmission) when driving, stopped, rolling, idling etc. No set pattern to it and no error codes recorded. It does seem more likely to occur when the fuel is below 1/3 of a tank so ??? failing fuel pump. Does this seem likely as we don’t really want to throw parts and dollars at the car unless the issue is resolved.

    Our usual mechanic (trusted) hasn’t done a lot of repairs on this engine and I don’t trust the local Subaru dealer at all. Fortunately there is a highly recommended independent Subaru mechanic 1/2 hour from where we live.

    Thank you again from the other side of the globe, Queensland, Australia

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Wayne,

      We do see some H6 models develop some slight coolant crust from seeping HG. We usually try and monitor this situation for a while as well until it begins to become wet and I think budgeting for repairs is the right way to go abut it. We have mostly seen this in cars with elevated Ph levels noted in the cooling systems but have also seen it in cars with good coolant readings as well.

      When we make the repairs we try to replace the timing chains, guides and tensioners as well as the water pump.

      The H6 models can go through fuel pumps as well as regulators, having someone measure fuel pressure and volume would verify this. The fuel level may not have anything to do with your symptoms sine you did not mention it never does it with 3/4 of a tank?

      It’s also possible the sensor in the pedal assembly for the drive by wire might be out of range at times but someone would need to look at live data from the Engine control module to confirm this.But I am not 100% sure what the specifics of the systems in Australia are which put me at a little bit of a disadvantage as you guys get things we don’t do to different emissions requirements that’s just something I have seen on the US spec models cause intermittent stalling.

      -Justin

      • Wayne says:

        Thanks for your reply Justin,

        We’ll continue to monitor the HG crusting until there is definite “fluid” apparent and then we’ll face the repair or replace scenario. Don’t really want to replace with a newer car as who knows what repairs will be needed on the “new” car and our current Outback drives, handles well and is so much nicer to sit in then the new models.

        We would get the timing gear and water pump done while the engine is out as that makes sense to do all at once. Do you recommend using the OEM parts for the repair or are there better/cheaper alternatives?

        In regards to fuel tank level it has never stalled when the fuel is above 1/2 tank hence I was thinking it was related to fuel pump. Thing is it is such an intermittent thing that it’s hard to diagnose. When it does stall we usually wait approx. 10 seconds with the ignition off, restart the car and it starts and drives fine. ??? what is going on.

        I’ll mention the pedal sensor issue to our mechanic and see if they can check this.

        Thanks again.

  160. Christy says:

    Hi,
    This is a great article, I found it extremely helpful! I’m very interested in buying a Subaru I had great luck with my 1996 outback which is still going at 230K and would like another. I’m going to look at this car linked below (2007 Subaru Impreza 2.5i). It looks like they’ve done some service to it, timing belt and water pump but I’d like to really investigate whether there’s a developing head gasket issue or not. I’d also like to know what else I should look for when I go to check it out. The owner informed me that they pressure tested the engine after finding an oil leak which they found to be from a separate seal and not the head gasket but I’m wondering if it could be a developing symptom. Any advice is appreciated!
    http://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/cto/4229817605.html

    Thank you!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Christy,

      Not sure how the oil system was pressurized to evaluate an oil leak, that’s a new one to me. I would also that anytime an ad or a seller states whats the matter with the car I am always leary and you should be as well , my stance is why not fix it if that’s all it is before you sell it?

      The car will need to have a professional pre-purchase inspection if you really want to know all of the in and outs of the Subaru. This inspection should be done by someone who is familiar with Subaru I will add. A car fax or Auto check report may be of some use as well.

      Hope that helps

      -Justin

      • Christy says:

        Thank you Justin!
        Sounds like this person is a dealer trying to sell the car privately. He said they ran a compression test on the cylinders and found the leak was else where. He has promised a 30 day warranty on the car if I should find anything wrong with something major such as the transmission, engine etc. Do you think I’d be able to diagnose an issue by bringing it to a Subaru dealer within that 30 day time period?
        I’m also looking at a 2005 outback XT 140K on it. I read your article on turbo maintenance but like you said I have no way of really knowing how often the oil was replaced unless they can provide me with records. Do you think it would be too risky of a buy?
        Thank you for your help, I really appreciate your expert advice!

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hello Christy,

          I hate to tell you to buy an Outback XT without service records, they are truly wonderful cars in my opinion and we greatly miss the one we recently sold but you get get one that wasn’t taken care of and really not like the experience. The same is true of any car, just that the turbo models can be really expensive to take care of if a problem arises due to lack of previous care.

          As far as the warranty he is offering, it makes me a little leery as there could be things not covered or not known until expiration. Again my advice is to have an inspection performed and if the car checks out consider it, but do not buy anything with out a pre purchase inspection.

          Buying a used car can be a gamble, you want to try and put the odds in your favor as much as possible.

          -Justin

  161. Lynn in Wisconsin says:

    So I plan on taking my ’06 Baja with 88000 miles to Monona Motors in Monona Wisconsin which is a suburb of Madison Wisconsin. They do a lot of Subaru work and I trust them implicitly based on actual experience and reviews of them on Car Talk and on Google.

    I know I need head gaskets, I also am planning on having the radiator hoses changed the thermostat changed as well as the timing belt, the water pump and cerp belt, the spark plugs and Ive heard there is a gear on the back side of the engine that should be changed. I will make sure they check the head studs for stretch and replace them as necessary. also a new battery. To do the job I will get new antifreeze which should be changed anyway.

    Ive looked at other pickups for the three to four thousand range and if I want a truck with lots of new parts and 250,000 miles where the owner threw up the white flag I can do that, but I feel that with a vehicle that I know how its been driven and only has about 90,000 miles on it I might as well spend the cash. Especially since I like the vehicle.

    So my question is this What all should I address to keep my baby on the road to 250,000 miles?

    By the way, I pull a trailer with it and when I bought it I had the hitch installed by Subaru and had a transmission cooler installed and the OEM transmission fluid drained and full synthetic put in.

    My price range is $4000.00

    What else do I tell them to address? Should I ask them to install several ground straps from the frame to the radiator and based on your input should I drill a hole in the radiator over flow cap and run a vent tube to the opposite side of the engine so acidic vapors dont get sucked into the antifreeze?

    Thank you for your input!!

    Lynn

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Lynn,

      Just simply maintaining the car properly post repairs is all you have to do. not allowing the battery to corrode, not allowing the coolant PH levels to become excessive. changing the oil lots and often as its 1/3 of the engine’s cooling system is really key.

      Thanks for posting, let us know how they did for you.

      -Justin

  162. Dave says:

    Thanks for this story, I took my 2005 Legacy 2.5i with 105K in for the full timing belt/water pump thing, and the dealer called back reporting a head gasket leak and suggested I have the work done. Cost went from $800 to $2400 which is hard to swallow on a phone call, but I decided to take their advice. After reading this I feel better about deciding to do the work, and that I paid a fair price. For those in the San Jose area, I had it done at Stevens Creek Subaru. The $2400 included the water pump, thermostat, tensioner, timing belt, head gaskets, drive belts and spark plugs – and a free 2014 Forester loaner for several days while the work was being done. The car drives great now, perhaps better than it ever did before. Probably should have had them do the radiator and clutch while the engine was out, LOL.

  163. Johnny says:

    Hi Justin,

    I found this article while searching for info about why my girlfriend’s 2006 Legacy is constantly leaking fluids. This sounds exactly like what’s going on with her car. Her Legacy has about 95k on it and unfortunately she doesn’t have any money for such a costly repair at the moment. If we continue to add oil and coolant regularly as needed can she expect to keep driving the car indefinitely?

    Thank you again for the very informative article and any advice you can provide!

    Best,
    John

  164. Liam says:

    Hey Justin,

    I have a 2010 Outback, 64,000 miles. Yesterday my car suddenly stopped pumping any heat into the cab while going down the highway. Within a few mins. the overheating light came on.(Why don’t they have a gauge?) I quickly decelerated and the light shut off. I pulled off the highway almost immediately. After popping the hood found that coolant was splashed everywhere. I let it sit for a while to cool down and then refilled the radiator to try and see if I had any leaks. After seeing nothing and letting the car cool. I turned the car back on. There were still no signs of leaking. However the radiator did not seem to have any pressure coming back into the bottom of the radiator or through the hoses in the fire wall. (By the way it was about 5 degrees F. outside if that makes a difference at all.

    At the garage they said that they found emissions in the coolant. Saying that the head gasket had gone and that I was looking at a min $2,500. fix.

    After reading your article it sounds as if they are probably correct and that it was a probably an internal failure.(Correct?)

    Anyway I was curious if you thought that contacting the SOA would make a difference since I have noticed you telling others to do so. and if so how should I contacted them. Thanks for your help and thanks for posting the article it was very informative.

    Liam

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Liam,

      Yes you need to Call SOA at 64,000 miles the car is just barely out of the 5 year 60,000 mile power train warranty provided by Subaru.

      We have still only heard of a few 2010 and newer models with an issue, and those have also had a secondary issue such as a failed cooling fan relay or ECM that prevented proper cooling fan function that ultimately led to an overheat and thus a failed HG.

      I would plan on calling 1 800 Subaru 3. They are going to Tell you you must take it to a Subaru Dealer to have it checked out before they make any decisions which is reasonable. From there if they are unwilling to cover it, I wouldn’t allow them to service it.

      Hope that helps

      -Justin

  165. EddieC says:

    How often does the block have warpage or need to be re-machined due to head gasket failure. I have a 1999 Outback 2.5l DOHC with 200k and am wondering if I should rebuild the whole motor at this point. My reasoning is that if I rebuild the heads, add a new head gasket, the bottom end might go soon. Thanks…

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Eddie,

      Most of the time the only time the block surface is warped it’s because it’s overheated multiple times. At 200k the lower end should still have some life left to it, but going through it now can avoid future headaches.

      -Justin

  166. Tedi says:

    Wow. Great article (haven’t yet read the comments). Seems I finally know what’s making my engine run hot.

  167. Jerry Ritt says:

    Hello Justin. Thanks for all of your time, expertise and effort in helping so many. I was very close to buying a 2011 Subaru Forester with about 40,000 miles when I came across your articles tonight. A few questions stand out for me: I know there have been some changes in the more recent 2.5 engine but one of your comments is that “Cars that make frequent short trips will end up with a gasket failure much sooner than a commuter car with high miles.” This would be our situation, we live in an urban setting and most of our trips are 1-2 miles. We only drive about 7,000 miles per year. Would this be a ticking time bomb for us?

    Also, our Subaru dealers are not that conveniently located for us, so I was planning on having a local auto shop with a lot of general expertise, but very little Subaru expertise do our maintenance. Would this be a bad idea? Please let me know your thoughts.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Jerry,

      It wont be a ticking time bomb if you understand what you own and how you use it and take car of it accordingly, this doesn’t begin or end with a Subaru and the advice is true for many other makes and models and this is also predicated based on the type of Summers and Winters you have. The point of my comment has more to do with the surprise to some that a low mileage car can actually have had a tougher life.

      Here in the NW where I live it gets just cold or hot enough to break down the oil, I would hate to have the same oil in my car during winter that was in there during Summer. Take that to an area where the Winters are extreme and the summers hot that can be a bigger issue.

      Using a good independent is okay, I prefer a good independent that knows Subaru. You will never find me suggesting the Dealer.

      The problem is there is so much “Gray Area”.

      I would encourage you to from the day you buy any used or new car to start checking the oil for signs of when it should be changed, this can be based on color, smell, feel. Also oil analysis can be done but in my opinion that’s a little excessive.

      -Justin

  168. Cathy says:

    I have a 2007 Subaru Impreza. Replaced head gaskets less than a year ago (and less than 20,000 miles) only to have to do it again. That was after impeccable maintainance and much other work on the entire cooling system before the complete head gasket replacement a year ago. Makes me really sad as I love my subaru. But thousands of dollars in repairs, every year, is not reasonable. This is the fourth time similar issues have been addressed in this car- second of complete replacement. Time for a new one. Unfortunately probably won’t be a Subaru.

  169. Larry says:

    Hello,
    I’m new to the Subaru brand and am currently looking at purchasing a new 2014 Forester 2.5i. Was there any redesign to the 2014 engine to address the head gasket issues common to Subaru?

  170. Andy says:

    Justin

    I wrote to you back on Sept 25, 2013 about my 2001 Subaru Legacy Brighton wagon that I bought new. I thought you might be interested in knowing the final outcome since it might help some of your Internet readers who might be sitting on the fence about whether I should/whether I should not fix a head gasket problem. My Subaru Legacy Brighton cost me $28780 new in $2001. I drove it for 293,346km before my head gasket problem needed fixing. At this point (Jan 2011) the question was: “Do I still love this car so much , trust it, that I will throw money into buying it again, by fixing the head gaskets. The answer for me at that time was yes. For $4318, I bought my remanufactured engine with a 3 yr, 60,000 warranty, new oil pan, new water pump, timing belt,spark plugs, ignition wire set. When you are this far into it, parts are cheap, labour is not. replace everything you can afford to replace.

    The car finally came off the road on Jan 15,2014 at 382,180km due to broken front struts. While pulling the car out of a snowbank the previous week, the bottom of the left front spring came loose and fell down and shredded a snow tire. (at this point the car also needed new rear left wheel bearing, faulty gas tank venting that flooded the engine at fuel stops, rear wiper motor gone, overhead head light gone, cracked front windshield, the usual old car stuff)

    My parents gave me their 2003 Toyota Matrix (165000 km) at Christmas 2013 so the decision for me was do I keep the Subaru and fix for a reasonable price or send it to the metal shredder. Answer too many things to do, too expensive to fix for a car pushing 400,000Km, the cost per km for the next 25000km was going to be too high.

    My analysis: The cost to own my 2001 Subaru Legacy Brighton wagon was 382180km/$32788 = 8.6 cents/km

    (cost to buy $27780 new +$4318 rebuild – $310 salvage) not including any cost of maintenance – oil change,brakes, things to fix along the way etc)

    Pre head gasket leak (Jan 2011 at 293346 km) the cost to own was 293346km /$27780 = 9.8 cents / km

    (again no cost of maintenance included or gas used, just the new cost and driven until head gaskets needed fixing)

    After Head Gasket repair: (Jan 2011 to Jan 2014, the cost to own was 88834 km / ($4318 ) = 4.9 cents /km
    (the cost to put a remanufactured engine in)

    But wait a minute you say, a ten year car with 300,000 km on it costs more to fix and repair than a new car with no km on it. So adjust the numbers.

    After head gasket repair: 88834km / $7918 = 8.9 cents / km (I took $1200 per year (x 3 years) that the car was costing extra to fix in the final three years and put that against the “purchase price” (head gasket $4318 ) so final cost of the “new” 2001 Subaru in its second lifetime (post head gasket repair) was $7918. So looking back, it was still marginally about the same price to fix the head gasket problem in year ten than it would have been to buy a new or new to me car. And I saved the extra $20000 to $25000 that the new car would have cost me, the money is in my pocket for another few years rather than in the car manufacturers bank account)

    I already miss the All Wheel Drive of the Subaru. I cannot drive some local roads in the winter anymore in the Toyota. I can’t wait for the chance to buy my next Subaru. I like the look of the Subaru XV Crosstrek. Good luck people. fix it (the head gaskets). You are making the wise,smart choice. Subaru, the car for people.

  171. Tristan says:

    Hi Justin,
    Firstly, as someone looking to buy a used Subaru, this is a fantastic article. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

    I’m looking at 2006 and 2007 Foresters in Australia and am wondering in regards to your comment: “Cars that make frequent short trips will end up with a gasket failure much sooner than a commuter car with high miles.”

    Is it better then to buy a car that does 50 miles a day than one that only does a few, or is it more important to know what that car has been treated in regards to maintenance?

    Thanks,
    Tristan

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Tristan,

      Using a vehicle in a way where its driven for short trips is not a reason to stay away from it as long as it was maintained accordingly.

      If a car is driven say 5000 miles a year and that driver only gets the oil changed once a year, that’s the one to run from, that same car with two or three oil changes would be much better off.

      Having said all that Australia is on my bucket list, but as of now I am not 100% on what the climate is like there and that makes a difference.

      I am happy to read you are ding good research, it should help you buy the right car.

      A frustrating situation for a buyer is to spend more money on a car because it has low miles only to find out its ready for a major repair, it doesn’t sound like you will have that issue.

      -Justin

  172. Rich says:

    Thanks so much Justin for these articles. While trying to decide between different used vehicles to purchase for mainly freeway driving in the Puget Sound area, we stopped at a Subaru dealer in Puyallup for an advertized Subaru Outback. Upon being told that the vehicle in question had already been sold we went to see one that had just come in, a 2008 Subaru Outback with 65,000 miles, sold and serviced at the same facility. We looked it over. It was perfectly clean and seemed well cared for with all the service records. The salesman then told us that we were lucky that the head gaskets had already been replaced. I decided at that point that this was the end of our relationship with Subarus after owning them for 20 years. I just cannot believe that the company hasn’t owned up to this problem. I am trying to get the last miles out of our 2000 Outback with a leaky head gasket before we junk the car. It is really sad, kind of like a divorce. Again, thanks for the comprehensive articles.

  173. Nancy says:

    I’m having the worst luck lately. Spent about $6,000 on repairs for 4 vehicles since sept 2013, and one blown engine later decided to buy a used 2002 Subaru WRX with 100.000 mi (big mistake)for my son 2 weeks ago from a dealer with no extended warranty ($1000) and showing signs of coolant leaking. We thought because it had one owner from florida it would be a safer bet but the brutal chicago winter we’re having might have already taken a toll on it. After reading this article it sounds like I’ll be forking over some more serious money for this repair. UGHH!!

    • Paul says:

      I have an 02 WRX also, original owner with 190,000 miles on it. The 2.0L turbo engine is not known to have head gasket leaks like these 2.5L engines. If you have a coolant leak I would check the hoses and radiator first. My head gaskets are doing great, but the radiator went out around 150k. A WRX with 100k mi is young.

  174. Eric says:

    Hi Justin-

    Thanks for the terrific information and continued follow up. I’m down in Portland with an 06 Outback that’s in need of a HG replacement at 75K . I have found a family-owned, independent Subaru repair shop I’m leaning towards. Their quote is reasonable and will include timing belt/tensioner/water pump/etc. as well.

    They use the six star gasket, and will be pulling the engine, both of which are definitely swaying me in their direction. They give a warranty of 1 year/18K miles.

    What is reasonable to expect from an independent shop in terms of warranty on a repair like this?

    Do you have any experience with/recommendations when it comes to shops in Portland?

    Thanks again.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Eric,

      Sounds like they have a good plan in place for the repairs.

      I am not sure what you are asking about the warranty? Do you mean will they stand behind it for the term or are you wondering about the repair once the warranty has expired?

      -Justin

  175. Sherri says:

    Justin –

    I recently brought my 2009 Legacy (51,000) into the dealer for a grind noise that was happening at startup (very brief grind on first cold start that does not seem to inhibit the start at all). The tech advised HG’s were shot and would be replaced under warranty. Also I needed a new starter that would not be warrantied. My concern is that the compression issues related to the failed HG’s in all likelihood have been slowly killing my starter. Valid concern or leave it alone and be thankful the HG replacements will be covered? Thanks.

  176. Eddie says:

    Hello,

    I have a 2002 Forester, 250,000 miles. Head gaskets replaced at 190,000. Pushing coolant into the overflow bottle. Leak down test was good at garage so they sent me home. 200 miles later the overflow bottle is full again. Now they are saying an air bubble in the engine. I assume I have to ask for a Hydrocarbon test because I think it’s a leak between a cylinder and the cooling jacket. Your thoughts?

    thanks,

    Eddie

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Eddie,

      That’s kind of what it sounds like from here.

      Id look for a reason they have failed internally however such as a Thermostat, Rad cap, restricted radiator etc.

      The SOHC engines don’t fail that often internally unless there is something else that may have affected the cooling system.

      -Justin

  177. Greg says:

    Hi Justin

    I am considering the purchase of a used Outback and have a choice between two that seem to be in good condition.
    Option 1 is the H6 engine with auto trans and 73,830 miles
    Option 2 is 2.5l B4 engine with manual trans and 105,000 miles.

    I’m not sure of the driving habits or maintenance records of either previous owner. From what I’ve read the H6 is unlikely to have HG issues until approx 150k miles – correct? I’m a little confused regarding the B4 engine – how does it differ from the H4 if at all regarding HG issues? I plan on a pre-purchase inspection regardless but would like to be more educated before I narrow it down. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Greg,

      The choices are H4 and H6

      One has 4 cylinders the other 6 cylinders.

      Not knowing year and model not sure why the B4 classification is coming up

      -Justin

      • Greg says:

        Sorry I neglected the year – both are 2003. Not sure where B4 came from either as on further research I found only H4 as you stated. I understand the 4 cylinder vs 6 cylinder and manual vs auto trans but my question is more related to reliability and/or probability of a problem between the two.

  178. Anthony says:

    I have had my eye on the 2011-2013 subaru wrx for quite some time. Hoping to purchase one when I graduate. Have they addressed this issue or is it something I need to be looking out for when testing the used market.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Haven’t seen any wide spread issue, the engine changed twice since 2010 keep in mind. Have seen or heard about a couple of 2010 with internal issues but nothing wide spread.

      -Justin

  179. jhymbough says:

    hi Justin,

    planning of buying a 2007 Subaru Impreza SE 2.5i sedan with 124K odometer on it.. I just want to know if these models do have a number of units that have HG issues too? I prefer it than a Mazda 3 coz of its AWD capabilities but I’m just worried on the said problems specially repair cost are OUTRAGEOUS here in Vancouver.. o_o .. thanks..

    jhmybough

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Jhymbough,

      The 2007 can leak oil externally over time.

      The Mazda 3 however really has it’s own set of challenges. Id head over to some of the forums and learn a little abut those cars, one thing that really stands out is the number of Mazda 3 owners having to replace clutches after just a couple of years.

      -Justin

      • jhymbough says:

        thanks bro.. yeah, seriously considering the Subaru.. my wife likes it too because its automatic and has sunroof and because its SUBARU.. while me its because of its known safety since I have a 4yr old daughter and its AWD capabilities at a price of $7,500.. just hope the previous owner took care of it..

  180. Robert L Meyer says:

    Justin,

    I am the proud owner of 3 1998 Subaru Outbacks, 2 with the 2.5 DOHC and one with the 2.2 SOHC (130k, 170k and 350k miles). The 130k had the HG failure, so I tried the DIY route but ended up breaking a head bolt about 1.5″ inside the engine block.

    I tried to extract it but only succeeded in breaking the extractor as well. So I took it to a machine shop and they refused to try to extract the bolt. Said a hardened steel bolt fragment in an aluminum block engine was impossible to remove. Is that true?

    Also — is there a trick to removing the 12-point head bolts without stripping the tops or breaking the shanks?

    Thanks!

    -Rob

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Robert,

      We have extracted broken head bolts and than installed a new time cert, it could involve some drilling and sometimes we split the case half and use a drill press.

      The bolts should’t really be breaking, that’s just not common thing, however if the leak was allowed to go on to long it can corrode the head bolts.

      -Justin

  181. Jeff Louis says:

    found this website after coolant leak on my 2006 Legacy 2.5i. Went to dealer. The cost for HG replacement is $3000. Called Subaru USA. They offer help to cover 50% cost only even it has low mileage. Hard to negotiate with them. The car is 2006 model and has 65000 miles on it. My question is: what’s the chance of catastrophic engine failure if leaving HG unreplaced? Can I just top off the coolant once a while. It’s now losing coolant from “High” level to “Low” level every 3 months.

  182. Eric says:

    Hey Justin,

    Once again, awesome article. I have a 2008 Legacy GT Spec B with 67k miles. I’ve replaced the stock turbo with a VF52 out of a 2010 WRX. It has an upgraded fuel system (850s and Walboro), turbo back exhaust, big top mount, etc. I’ve been running off a tune from a local dyno shop for the past year. Target boost is 19.5psi. It makes 320whp/320wtq. I boost through 2nd and 3rd gear daily, but wouldn’t say that I beat on the car.

    Last week the car began overheating and I was able to limp it to my local independent Subaru shop. They promptly diagnosed head gasket failure. This is my 4th modified Legacy and I have never experienced this issue before. I have driven all of them the same way (if anything I have been more gentle with this one). How common is this type of head gasket failure in the 2007+ 2.5 turbos with moderately low miles? What would you expect to pay a shop in the north east for the repair? And After the head gasket is repaired along with the installation of stronger head studs, a new timing belt and water pump, and a Killer B oil pickup, can I have piece of mind?

    Any info or personal experience regarding later model turbo cars with head gasket failure would be awesome.

    Thank you so much!

    Eric

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hey Eric,

      First of all, I am jealous. I had the 2006 with the brick red interior sold it so we could buy an XT wagon for my bride, and have wanted an 2007,2008 ever since,it’s my all time favorite Subaru.

      We do replace Hg on modified 2.5′s much more so than stock.

      The Killer b is the way to go for the oil pick up, head studs are not a bad idea with your boost targets. Not going to lie and tell you that the installation of performance parts won’t affect the longevity of the rest of the stock components, or that performance mods themselves last all that long. Once you have gone past stage 2 on a Subaru Turbo you are going to be in the realm of “pay to play”.

      I know that 320 wheel horse sounds like it should be reliable but this we do see a lot of this and I hate to say it but 50k is the average a performance build lasts for your numbers, when you get into the 400 hp and 500 hp levels were talking less miles, most don’t keep their cars long enough to know this and the next guy learns.

      I don’t want to talk you into a list of things that cost money that are supposed to prolong the life of other components, or even a different set of HG and I dont want to discourage you from keeping it and enjoying it, just want you to have realistic expectations.

      -Justin

  183. […] Rick You may find this article informative and perhaps answer some of the other questions you have Subaru Head Gaskets Problems Explained Part II : […]

  184. johnny b says:

    Thanks for this excellent write up, it has given me a heads up being a first time Subaru owner.

    I just purchased a 2005 Impreza Outback Sport SE with 39,000 miles from a Subaru dealer that has obviously been kept in a climate controlled garage for the past 9 years as it runs and rives like new with all rubber and plastic is still soft and new looking (even under the car).

    After reading this write up i decided to crawl under the car and inspect the heads and do notice what i would call a slight amount of oil seepage from the bottom of both heads.

    Due to the odd combination of age/millage is there anything you would recommend be changed on a car like this to insure i get the most out of it? For example, should i be concerned with the timing belt potentially being stretched? Any input from someone as knowledgeable about these car as you would be helpful. thanks.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Johnny,

      I would start with servicing the cooling system as well as all other fluids. If there is no record of spark plugs I would do that as well, lastly check the tires for cracking due to age, this sneaks up on people with low miles.

      You can’t really check the Timing belt for stretch without essentially removing the timing covers and once you are there you should plan on doing it. It is 9 years old now and the only way you will know is to check it.

      -Justin

      • johnny b says:

        i talked the dealer into putting new tires on it when i bought it so no issue there. they also changed the oil and did a new state safety inspection (even tho it had 10 months left on the old stickers). btw im in PA.

        should i just chalk up the weeping from the heads as normal and not be concerned with it? they gave me a limited 2yr warranty that does NOT include gaskets, but offered 1 that does for $1400 more for 4yrs. sheesh, i dropped 9k cash on this car so im pretty broke atm and found out this morning i have a kid on the way so i really need this car now.

        should i use the coolant conditioner when changing it? should i stick with the green stuff or switch to the blue?

        as far as the other fluids,
        trans, bright red looks new.
        front and rear diff, clear looks new.
        brake, looks its age clear/brownish.
        steering, brown looks old.

        thanks for the reply justin, you are a stand up guy.

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hey Johnny,

          I would just keep an eye on the heads, it really may take a long time to get worse especially if you drive it. I really don’t like the thought of adding the Subaru conditioner into the cooling system. Green coolant is just fine.

          -Justin

  185. Rusty says:

    Great job Justin
    Have you seen the same problems with head gaskets and frequency on 2010 and later models?
    Rusty

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Rusty,

      Can you be more specific about the model? A 2010 Outback uses a different HG than a Forester or Impreza for example in 2010. The MLS gasket in the 2010 and later Outback and Legacy Only seems to be just fine, however the Gasket in the 2010 Impreza and Forester is the same gasket since 2003. Since 2010 the engine has been changed first in the Forester than in the Impreza and finally in the Outback in 2013.

      From there we could talk about Turbo models and the 6 cylinders?

      -Justin

  186. Rusty says:

    Sorry Justin. I wasn’t very specific. Your answer however was very informative. I was asking about the outback, and when and if they had corrected the head gasket issue. Your blog seems to be the only source that has consistent and helpful information on the issue.
    I’m looking to buy a 2010 outback 2.5 limited with 70000 miles and the only concern I have is if that year still had problems with the head gasket, had it been changed, when will it need to be changed again. From your answer it would indicate that they still have issues til ’13.
    I’ll be looking for signs described earlier in this thread but I doubt I’ll be able to remove that fabric thing under the engine before I bring it home.
    Thanks for your help
    Rusty

  187. […] Star or OEM Subaru Head Gaskets Problems Explained Part II : Seattle Area Subaru Repair and Service __________________ Be careful what you wish […]

  188. […] now? This is a fantastic article imho and might help you understand better what's going on. Subaru Head Gaskets Problems Explained Part II : Seattle Area Subaru Repair and Service __________________ […]

  189. marty says:

    Just tack on 2500.00 to the overall price. These are safe cars but they are notorius for head gasket issues. So I think Suburu should adjust asking price or put addiotional warranty work own two and they both get servicing on time. Have spent over six grand maintaining the cars. When they are dead I will never own another one sorry.

  190. Ron_Louisville says:

    Justin, Thank you for all your information. We are looking at a new Outback vs Honda CRV AWD. My concern with the Outback is the HG problem. You have helped answer most of my questions.

    I am a Subaru Fan. Currently Own 2 Foresters, a 98 with 160K and a 04 with 230K. The 98 had to have the HG replaced 2 years ago at about 140K. The 04 just keeps going. Both have had the timing belt replacement.

    When they replaced the Timing belt on the 98 they did not replace the idler pulley and it froze so we had to replace it again last year, plus it bent a value:(

    Overall they have been great cars.

    My question is. How often do you recommend replacing the coolant? The 2014 Outback schedule says 137K. Based on your discussion, that seems too long. Would annual flush and replacement be over kill? I do my own oil changes. I assume flushing the radiator is not too hard. Never tried it on the Forester, but I will be.

    I will be following all of your recommendations on the new Outback, hopefully I can get 200K without any HG problems.

    Thanks,
    Ron

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Ron,

      I am in the check it every year max for proper PH and change it out as needed, but no later than 6 years or 90,000. We have began observing some the 2008 models with the Super Blue with elevated PH levels after 5 years.

      Every year wouldn’t be overkill, but I will add that the 2014 uses a MLS gasket and has greater surface mass, I don’t really see the HG continuing to be an issue if its maintained. I would actually stress frequent oil changes and coolant ever 3 to 4 years unless the PH is elevated.

      Hope that helps

      -Justin

      • Mike Brown says:

        Hi Justin,

        I’m really appreciating this forum.
        you recommended changing coolant every 6 years or 90,000. Was that miles or kilometres?

        Thanks!,

        Mike

        • Mike Brown says:

          FYI, my current Subaru is a 2009 Outback 2.5i

          Thanks,

          Mike

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hi Mike,

          That’s in miles but also checking the coolant ph levels and changing as it based on those findings is also okay actually it’s preferred.

          The part that I just cant stress enough is that Subaru just like every car maker wants to give the appearance of low ownership costs while also covering themselves in the way of the term Inspect. If the coolant is properly inspected, level and condition and changed as needed with the line in the sand being Subaru’s recommended interval you really should have no coolant related conditions, however if the cooling system is merely topped off periodically to over 100k and than finally changed that could be cause for concern.

          -Justin

  191. […] Sorry to tell you. I had the same exact symptoms as my 2003. I was hoping it was just a tsat or rad cap issue. It wasn't. It was a HG leak. It's fixed now…$1,700 later. From allwheeldriveauto.com "This head gasket has had a breach in between the cooling system and the combustion chamber allowing both pressure and temperature from the combustion chamber into the cooling system." Subaru Head Gaskets Problems Explained Part II : Seattle Area Subaru Repair and Service […]

  192. […] new cap, tstat, waterpump. Unfortunately, it was the head gasket. I'm sure you've read this… Subaru Head Gaskets Problems Explained Part II : Seattle Area Subaru Repair and Service Note the part about… "This head gasket has had a breach in between the cooling system and […]

  193. Carl says:

    I am shopping for my fifth wagon. Trying to decide between a 2010 or a 2011 Outback. Is there any difference? Thanks for all this info especially about head gaskets. I have had my experiences.

  194. Paul Mahon says:

    Hello Justin,

    I have a 2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i with 103k that started over heating about a month ago. When I checked the coolant level I noticed the coolant level was low. I topped up the coolant which seemed to address the issue. As it was at 103K miles I took the car to VIP and got the 105K maintenance schedule and asked them to flush coolant. Car ran for about 2 weeks and began to over heat again. Took it back to VIP and reckoned it was Thermostat as top radiator hose was hot and bottom radiator hose was cold. After replacing the radiator hose VIP tested to ensure that both radiator hoses were hot. However this did not fix the issue. VIP then changed the water pump which again did not fix the issue. VIP performed a head gasket test which was not conclusive. So it is now with Subaru. They are leaning towards a warped cylinder head.

    We have kept up with the required maintenance schedule since we bought the car. Could these a manufacturing defect or could we have caused the damage in anyway ? We would like to replace the car now and wanted to have a strong case so we can get a good trade value on the old car.

    Thank You

    Paul

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Paul,

      So right off the bat, no one can tell you if a head is warped or not until it is removed and inspected/checked for warp. I don’t know who VIP is or how familiar they are with Subaru?

      What I can tell you is that the 2010 Outback has had an issue with a cooling fan relay failing, and if not caught in time can lead to overheating, the overheating can lead to head gasket failure and or warped heads also as a result. Hopefully someone has looked at the rest of the cooling system to determine if the rest of the system is functioning as it should?

      One of the things I do not like about the use of Subaru Super coolant is the cooling system is even more forgotten about than it already was. In my opinion at 103k the thermostat should have been replaced as well as the cooling system serviced.

      As far as having a strong case? I am not sure what you mean. This is the chicken and egg argument (did it overheat because the HG failed or did the HG fail as a result of it overheating? I don’t know and no body else does now that things were done prior to any real diagnoses, the last thing a car should ever have is a flush post overheat, the first thing is a diagnoses.

      If it is overheating as a result of a failed HG now, a Hydrocarbon test should not be inconclusive, I wonder instead if they are merely doing a block test which would be the equivalent of going to a hospital for diagnoses and instead of having an MRI they just took a picture with a Kodak camera.

      I hate that your in the position you are in, but at 103k its your car most likely, hard to state a component as defective without proof and based on 103k worth of use. You can always call SOA at 1800 Subaru 3 and be ready to provide records, they may help.

      Hope that helps

      Justin

  195. Mike says:

    Hello Justin,

    I recently purchased a used 2001 Subaru Forester with 105k miles from a private owner. After the purchase, I went in to a Dealership for a mechanical inspection, as well as to diagnose a few of the problems the previous owner had brought up- only to find out the problems were much bigger than even he had originally stated. The inspection turned up:
    -A Head Gasket leak (from the bottom half of the engine), quoted 4000 to replace w/ a Timing belt.
    -Brake Pads and Rotors, quoted 550
    -Power Steering Rack, quoted 1900
    -Passenger side axle, quoted 250.

    These were only the significant repairs needed on the car, but having only just purchased the vehicle, would it be practical to pass it on, or actually go ahead with the maintenance? Living on Oahu, to my knowledge there are no independent Subaru shops here, meaning I would be stuck with going through a Dealership for the engine maintenance at the very least. Is there anyway to mitigate costs, or avoid the $4000 engine fee altogether?

    Thanks,

    Mike

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Aloha Mike,

      That’s always is tough news to hear, and of course having it looked at first would have been better, I realize however cars are tough to come buy over there.

      Yes the Dealers over there overcharge in my opinion, even for dealers. There is a shop past the stadium that has the swapmeeets that I have stopped in two years ago when sorting out an issue with our Friends Toyota, they worked on mostly Japanese imports, but I can’t think of the name of the shop. I can see it in my mind but just cant think of the name.

      So if it was here we would suggest the Hg repair and timing belt stuff and be closer to $2500 if we did everything, I would suggest locating a used rack and being a 1/4 of the Dealers estimate, the brakes and axle quotes are not as out of line.

      So you need to find an independent shop if you want to try and do this for a reasonable amount of money, or the other option is to fly me in with my tools, lol. I am always ready to go back to Hawaii!

      -Justin

  196. Greg Erich says:

    Justin,
    I have been around cars for many many years and I just want to start out with your article and responses are the most informative and truthful I have ever read.
    Here is my question. We had a 12′ Outback with the 2.5. I hated the design of the oil filter where it was and was worried about heat cooking the filter. We recently traded for a 14′ forester XT with the 2.0 turbo. After reading many of the links I do have concerns about HG problems. I drive 7 miles each way to work. I will only run premium and synthetic.(any brand you like over others) ? Should I be alright with 4K oil change intervals? Since the filter is in such a perfect spot on this one i would have no issue replacing it more often than the oil. We love the car but these issue concern me. I know Honda had their own issues on the 4cyl.( incorrect piston size from what I gather from the repair receipt), Oil consumption very high on some models. I have also had Accord V6′s since they came out and absolutely no issues with HG or anything. Are Subaru’s more prone to failures than others or is it they are owned longer?
    The last question is about the turbo. How long should it last and will this one have the “filter bolt” you have shown and when should I replace it.
    Thanks

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Greg,

      So the new 2.0l Turbo is still really to new to be able to tell you factually about HG, but its much less likely in the Turbo models to need to replace Head Gaskets.

      If you are changing the oil every 4k and that fits in with your use, than Id suggest around the 60k mark for the filter bolts/ union screw.

      Make sure you break it in with a “varying engine speed” plan. Lots of mini expand and contract events.

      -Justin

  197. […] information: Subaru Head Gaskets Problems Explained Part II : __________________ Be careful what you wish […]

  198. […] side near the oil filter. Have the job done right by a known subaru specialist or the dealership. Subaru Head Gaskets Problems Explained Part II : Sorry for the bad news. __________________ Be careful what you wish […]

  199. Roger says:

    Justin:

    What a font of info..thanks! Youmention many times the pH of the cooling fluid, but I don’t recall ever seeing an actual value of pH that is optimum. What range is the target?

    Roger, Ohio

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Roger,

      General consensus is that when the PH level in a modern car reaches below 9.0 its time to service it. I like to see it a little higher than that in an all aluminum engine such as the one found in your Subaru. We typically try to keep the PH somewhere in the 9.5 to 10.5 range.

      Hope that helps

      -Justin

  200. Alison says:

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks for your informative article. I have a 2011 Subaru Outback 2.5i (base model), bought used from dealer in 2012. I take it for oil changes/tire rotations every 3k miles. It now has about 61k-62k miles on it. (I drive mostly long distances, at least 30 min.+ each, I live in the mountains of central California but work far away in the bay area a few times a month.)

    A few weeks ago someone noticed that my car was leaking a large amount of fluid. We found it was green coolant fluid, and that the coolant container was nearly empty. I took it to my local shop (not a Subaru certified shop but honest people) who refilled the fluid and tried for a long time but couldn’t replicate the leak, and sent me on my way. A few days later I noticed in morning at low speeds or in park/stopped, I was hearing a sloshing sound like water in my dashboard. I took it back in, still nothing obvious to fix after testing it so they sent me on my way. I brought it in to a different recommended shop for a 60k service, they didn’t find anything wrong and sent me on my way. Then a day or two later, after driving for about 30 min. with a few stops, my car overheated (red temperature light flashed–I wish it had a temperature gauge like older Subarus, this is my 5th Subaru). I brought it to the first shop, they tested it and the radiator cap failed this time, so they replaced it. They test drove it several times at different times of day, over mountains, etc. and gave it back to me. I got it home and after turning it off in my garage, it made several very loud pinging clanking metal noises–it normally never makes so many noises or such loud noises after turned off as it cools down. I recorded them with my phone video camera, so I brought it back again and played the video for them, and it was still leaking fluid after they’d test drive it then park it in the bay and turn it off. So they replaced the thermostat w/ a Subaru thermostat. Same thing, leaks after multiple test drives, not after initial test drive. It’s still not fixed, I still don’t have my car back.

    Unfortunately I live in a small town, there is 1 Subaru certified shop but they are new and didn’t bother to return my call for an estimate for the 60k service so I am concerned they would be flaky with my car service. I have tried the Subaru dealer in the nearest large city but the office staff all seem incompetent or rude, and I read what you said about dealer mechanics not always having the best interest of the customer in mind. I have Subaru certified shops I love, but they are 3 hrs. away and I don’t think I could drive the car that far without it overheating.

    Do you think it’s the head gasket? Water pump? Radiator? Something else? Is this normal for a car of this age/mileage? Should I take it to the dealer or a radiator place or stick with the place I’m at? They haven’t charged me a diagnostic fee since the initial visit, but they are very thorough and don’t like to fix things without knows if they are truly broken or not, which is good, but I think they are almost being too cautious, I have been without my car for a long time and I can only borrow other people’s cars for so long, plus I have two little kids. And to make matters worse, while it was at the shop being test driven, it developed a flat tire that couldn’t be repaired so I had to buy 4 new tires since it’s AWD. :( I’m like $800+ into this so far (including the tires) and still not done.

    Should I get a new (used) car? I’m considering a Toyota Highlander. Just nervous with this much trouble so early on with this car. Thanks so much for your time and any advice!

    Alison in CA

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Alison,

      Im sorry to hear about the trouble you are having with your Outback, thats not a typical story on a 2011 model by any means. The big red flag to me so far in reading your post is you mentioned green coolant, when the coolant in the 2011 is blue in color. This makes me wonder if you bought a used car with a storied past?

      It always pains me to read about someone taking their car to a shop for an overheat and getting no solid diagnoses. Approaching an overheating situation in a Subaru is the same as it is in any car. Test for external leaks, if none are found test for internal leaks, test for cooling fan operation, test the thermostat, radiator etc. I applaud the shop you are at for not charging to diagnose something they haven’t but, I promise if it overheats it’s diagnosable. You wont find a “Subaru Certified Shop” Outside of a Subaru Dealer, what you need to look for is a Independent Subaru shop, that may help in your search.

      The sloshing was low coolant levels and or combustion chamber pressure being pushed into the cooling system from a breach in the head gasket.

      When you bought the car used did you have an independent Inspection performed? I worry this was missed and from the sounds of it if it was done it might have been done by someone not as familiar with Subaru as they should have been?

      We unfortunately see this type of thing all to often, a used car purchase goes good at first and then slowly over time unfolds into a headache for the owner. Last week we had to tell a buyer of a 2012 Impreza the car had been in a very bad accident and was not repaired well even though it never showed up on car fax.

      I believe this is where the underlying problem is, with your purchase, and if you decide to buy something else, and you buy used I urge you to have it inspected first and this is important; by someone who knows the brand, do not ever trust a dealer sales department to ever sell you a great used car and do not ever assume a friendly shop is capable of doing a pre purchase inspection on all makes and models.

      What to do from here?

      You have to get the car into the hands of a Subaru expert, thats key here. Maybe it’s not as bad as we are assuming at this point or maybe it’s worse, but the thing is you can’t have a car at a shop and have it leave overheating, and you can’t continue to drive a car that overheats. It’s going to be inconvenient for sure but I am not sure what else I can suggest.

      Sorry I cant offer more, and I hope there is some resolution soon.

      -Justin

  201. Bud says:

    Hi
    Great info.
    Why is their no problem with the turbos head gasket?
    thanks Bud

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Bud,

      The compression is lower and they use a semi closed deck block, as well as MLS gaskets from the factory. Make no mistake if you let a Turbo Subaru overheat it will damage the Head gaskets.

      -Justin

  202. Justin, I have a 05 Baja with 100K on it…no coolant issues but oil leaking is getting noticeable on garage floor…my question to you, should I get the HG and timing belt , water pump etc replaced or just buy a remanufactured motor….by the time I do those other repairs, I will probably be looking at a few thousand and I can get a reman motor for 3500 plus installation…..either way it will cost a lot but the body is mint on my vehicle and I cannot find any suitable replacement for my needs in a vehicle that the Baja provides…thanks, brian

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Brian,

      I don’t think I would spend the extra money on a reman engine unless there is a compelling reason to need to do so. The short block should be fine to 300k if maintained.

      It’s funny how even though the Baja wasn’t all that well received a the time, we have seen that those that have them really enjoy them and they are becoming more sought after as of late.

      -Justin

  203. James says:

    Justin,

    Great and informative article. I’ve owned a 2006 Subaru Legacy 2.5i since the year 2008 and have had two major repairs done to it since then. First operation was an oil leak (can’t remember where at the moment?) and warranty helped pay for that along with timing belt change. Operation two replaced both head gaskets on the engine and a new radiator and warranty paid most of that cost. The mechanics did a very good job, but now, less then a year after the operation in July 2013, I am having to put up to 1/2 quart of oil in every month of driving it (depending on how much I use it and is my daily driver in the winter). From your article I noticed the issues with an internal gasket leak that could speed up consumption of oil in the engine. And also, the new radiator might not have even been needed if it had something to do with this coolant and combustion chamber blow-by.

    Anyway, your article raises some serious questions with my last repair job and I am going to do some investigating in the mean time. If you could help speculate on just one question I have: do you have somewhat of an answer to why the engine is rapidly consuming oil after such a major head gasket job was just finished less then a year ago?

    Note: No visible oil drips on my pavement at the moment, although you do mention a cushioned pan right underneath the engine that catches coolant or oil leaks. And I think sometimes, I can smell some distant burnt oil smells coming from my heater system in the car when driving and only after the car is really warmed up but nothing very noticeable like when the head gaskets were leaking.

    I also live in Fairbanks, AK and it is very cold in the winter so my car is plugged in outside for nights when it drops to -30 below or around there.

    Again, thank you so much for the article and any answers you can provide on my current ‘oil consumption’ issue.

    Best,
    James

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi James,

      Engines can use oil for a number of reasons, and it also doesn’t have to mean the HG repair wasn’t done properly. Most likely it is being consumed as part of the combustion process, you could try experimenting with a different brand oil at the next oil change, I would suggest Castrol 5w30 blend. Also the PCV could be sticky, has it been changed?

      -Justin

      • James says:

        Hi Justin,

        Thanks for the reply. I don’t think the PCV valve (correct?) has been changed since I have owned it. I also noticed quite a bit of oil staining on top of the engine around the crankshaft sprocket towards the front of the engine. It looks sort of fresh. Maybe this is part of the oil loss issue?

        I also noticed there was no coolant in the coolant reservoir and that my battery terminals were showing signs of corrosion. So it looks like my Subaru is going to need some love and attention.

        At this point, I am going to get a new battery and need terminals. Change the oil and maybe drain and refill the coolant after I do a ‘Acustrip’ test for corrosion. If the seal is out on the crankshaft area, whats the difficulty level on that project?

        Thanks Justin,
        James

        • Justin Stobb says:

          The oil staining where you are describing may just be the oil pressure sending unit, look at that first.

          To replace the crank shaft seal you must remove the timing belt and all associated components. Not impossible for a DIY, but given the ramifications if its not done properly its a repair you really need to be okay doing.

          -Justin

  204. James says:

    Thanks Justin for the information!

    I am not sure if my last post went through successfully, but I will write another reply just in case. So after some careful inspection of my Subaru Legacy 2006 I noticed some key indicators that several things maybe going on. First, there is oil staining and what looks like fresh oil around the top frontal area of the engine. Specifically around the crankshaft sprocket seal. Two, there is also corrosion around the battery terminals and creeping up on the hood of the car. And finally three, no coolant in the reservoir tank which looks pretty dry.

    So I am thinking, maybe the oil is leaking from the crankshaft sprocket seal and I am wondering what is the difficulty of that project?

    I can definitely replace the battery and terminals on my own. I also bought some Prestone 50/50 mix last year, but realize I need to add Subaru’s own coolant and conditioner.

    So thanks once again for any answers you can provide. I am really glad I found this website and know I am not alone with oil leaks from my Subaru. Minus the oil leaks, my Subaru has been a great car for year round up here, but it is definitely a sensitive car when not maintained properly.

    James

  205. Jeff says:

    Hey Justin,

    Thanks for all his info.

    Looking into getting a 2008 Subaru Forester 2.5x. I am aware of Subaru’s HG problems.

    It has 79K mi on it, has had one owner, clean carfax, and has been driven about 11K a year since 2008. Driven in upstate NY, bottom looks pretty good.

    I live in VT where Subaru is basically the state car. I own a Honda CRV which I am all about buying another one, but its limited in finding up here.

    Anywho, the TBelt has not been replaced on this Subaru and HG are apparently in good shape so says the dealer.

    Is it basically inevitable that they’re going to poop out on me? and If so, is there a ball park mileage you can give me that it will? I drive about 16 mi. round tip a day to work. And I am aware that shorter drives tend to make the HG’s go quicker.

    Any info you have would be awesome – thanks again for the article.
    -Jeff

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Jeff,

      So we do in fact still see Subaru 2.5l go 300k without ever having the HG repaired, they are typically leaking oil at a pretty large rate by then however. Now having said that we also still make repairs as early as 60,000 miles. This is what makes answering the question so difficult.

      If they are not leaking now, and the car continues to be maintained as it should it may not be a problem for years. Average for a 2008 would be around 130k, but if they show signs by 105k they should be done with the timing belt service to cut down some of the costs.

      Hope that helps

      -Justin

      • Chris Kloeck says:

        I just recently had you service my 2008 Forester and noticed you did not put any conditioner in the coolant. Super Coolant was put in it. Do I need conditioner? It has never had a head gasket replacement. Do I need conditioner? -Thanks, Chris

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hi Chris,

          Thanks for the Question.

          As you had mentioned your Forester came with the Blue Subaru Super coolant, and that is what we put back in, as such there is no requirement for the conditioner. I also, have never liked putting the Stop leak in any Subaru vehicle especially those that were not part of the WWP-99 campaign. If your 2008 was to develop a leak it would be oil, and there is just no amount of conditioner/stop leak we could ever put in the cooling system that would ever decrease an oil leak.

          What we have observed since 2002 is that when the stop leak is put in there is great risk to clogging the radiator and or heater core. All the stuff actually ever really did was delay the head gasket leak, it never prevented one.

          Hope that helps and thanks for coming in!

          -Justin

  206. Dennis Quillen says:

    Justin, any Independent Subaru shops near Billings Montana that you know of? Thanks for your time. Dennis

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Dennis,

      Im sorry but even though I have made a concerted effort to attend more trade shows this year I still have not found a solid network of geed independent shops.

      If you find one you like feel free to post that here.

      -Justin

  207. Matt B. says:

    Hi Justin,

    Thank you for yet another very informative thread. My ’98′ Forester with the phase1 DOHC and almost 150k on the odom. is just starting to exhibit signs of the internal HG leak: just recently I was doing some front-end work on it (new halfshafts, struts and ball joints) and removed the rad. cap to have a look at the coolant while the hood was up – sure enough the rad. was about 1/2-quart low yet the level in the overflow reservoir was about normal. The rad. cap appeared to be in good condition.

    I topped the rad. off after finishing the halfshafts and suspension work and took it for a 25-mile test drive. I left the car idling in the driveway when I got back home and observed 1-2 air bubbles pushing into the overflow reservoir every 5 seconds or so at idle (sigh… but I feel relatively lucky that this Subie went 150k and 15+ years on the original HG’s!!).

    So it looks like I will be pulling the engine soon to replace the HG’s, as I fully intend to drive this car another 150k.

    To finish relaying my observations and get to my questions: I removed the rad. cap after the car completely cooled down after the 25 mile drive, and interestingly enough the coolant level was still at the top of the rad. My logic (which may or may not be correct) is that this car is at the very early stages of the HG failure, and that the breach between the cylinder and coolant jacket must be relatively small at this time.

    My questions are:

    1) Is there a ballpark range on how many miles it typically takes for this situation to degrade into one where considerable coolant loss becomes more prevalent and overheating a concern? I know that is a hard question to answer and that it is highly-dependent on a number of variables – I’m wondering on a scale of hundreds of miles vs. thousands of miles.

    2) Is overheating the only major concern? In doing some research on this issue, I have not heard mention of any detrimental effects of coolant on the exhaust system. Can coolant going through the exhaust system (whether in vapor form or liquid form) damage the catalytic converter, O2 sensor and/or muffler?

    3) Are six-star head gaskets available for the phase 1 DOHC engine? I saw that you have the six-star available for the phase 2 SOHC on your website, but I didn’t see them available for the DOHC.

    I will be doing the HG’s ASAP, and checking the coolant level very frequently in the meantime.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this, and for any additional information or insight you may be able to provide. Your knowledge-sharing and feedback have helped me multiple times within just the last few months!

    Matt B.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Matt,

      The bubbles indicate you need to stop driving it before it overheats. Yes coolant going though the system can damage the 02 sensors, as well as the convertor, the overheat can damage the heads, block and oil control rings creating a situation where you now have an engine that can not be reused.

      Love the Six star head gaskets for the SOHC. We use the Updated MLS gasket from Subaru for the DOHC. The updated HG for the DOHC from Subaru really addressed the issue with the original, because I have had such great success with the updated Subaru gasket for the DOHC for years before the Six Star was available, I feel it’s the best choice for your application. The kit you need is listed here http://allwheeldriveauto.com/subaru-parts/

      I wan’t to stress that you should park it until you can fix it to control your costs and not let it steam roll into something worse.

      Hope that helps

      -Justin

  208. Eric says:

    Hi Justin,

    I had a very similar situation to which you described with the coolant overflowing the overflow tank and spilling onto the engine and lead to the engine overheating numerous times. I just topped it up with some tap water to make it home.

    The next day I took it to the shop and was unable to recreate the situation.My mechanic suspected just a problem with the thermostat.

    My question is, if the head gasket is indeed had the internal failure as pictured. Should the overheating become a problem everytime it runs or is it intermittent?

    Thanks

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Eric,

      I just can’t believe I still answer this question and that anyone working in the field is still stumped by how a head gasket works..

      Please read this again from the post.

      “You see as I mentioned at the beginning that testing cold would yield different results than testing when hot. Temperature causes expansion, expansion of the cylinder head away from the engine block, expansion of the gasket away from the block, and now that breach in the gasket becomes a bigger issue. Compound that with the combustion events happening in the combustion chamber at higher RPMS meaning there are more of them! The relentless pressure put to the weakened head gasket is more than it can contend with. Now that the engine is running at the extremes which is coincidentally almost always the same way it over heats for the driver but seldom the way that many attempt to test for failures. If you have an overheating situation in your Subaru and it has not been tested, exactly as I have presented above; and the shop is still stumped; the reason for that is it has not been tested! Its not feasible to do a compression or leak-down test on an engine that is hot, as you will burn your self or damage the spark plug threads removing the plug and inserting the tools.”

      Yes an internal breach in the head gasket can and will start out as an intermittent problem. Of course the shop didn’t reproduce it, they most likely didn’t test it how I have outlined above.

      Most mechanical devices fail when pushed to extremes, in the case of a head gasket almost never idling in a repair bay, testing it that way will never yield results.

      Now, I don’t know what year, or whats wrong with your car from here, only that a thermostat is easy to pick on, even easier to test if a “technician” not a mechanic would only take the time to do so. I hate picking on your guy but I hate that he let you go with no answers.

      Last week we had a 2010 Outback that had a failed secondary cooling fan motor that would cause the fuse to blow but only at the extremes, the fuse could be replaced and than not blow for a week, we were the third shop to look at it, including one Subaru Dealer but the only ones who could actually diagnose it. It took 5 guys getting their heads together and sorting out a test procedure that included pushing the system to extremes rather than let it idle in the bay and say “well its working now”, the other shops each tried parts or suspected a part. My point is if the car overheated on you there was something wrong, and I hate the idea of you driving it around until it overheats again as each time it does the possibility of ruining an otherwise great engine is a large reality.

      What we did is had a conversation with the customer and said we need a day to test, we are not sure how much that is going to cost, we will call you through out the day and give you updates. The market place does not allow for this typically and as a result I bet there was no more than 30 minutes of real time spent on your car, it would have been 10 minutes at a Dealer. We were in a position to do this and we promised and delivered results.

      I want that for you. Don’t let it continue to overheat, find answers.

      -Justin

  209. Gary Ramthun says:

    Justin, I am amazed at all of the information you have given to so many people. Thank you.
    I only read it after doing a Google search for Subaru Warped Heads. Of course it is probably too late for me. My 2009 Legacy (72,000 miles and one month over 5 years)is at the dealer for repairs. It overheated and stopped running. My wife started it an drove it another couple of miles when it stopped again. It restarted one more time and went a mile or so before finally stopping for the last time. It had a temp gage that my wife saw but no other lights. Shouldn’t a check engine light come on at least? They are projecting the cost to be $7400 for engine parts and possibly a radiator. Until she left the garage that day I saw no signs of anything leaking.
    Second question. It was suggested that I might want to replace the timing chain/belt at this time. Do you think this prudent?
    Thanks again for all your help and advice.

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hi Gary,

      Sorry to hear about all of that, it is hard to speculate as to what happened. The check engine light is there mainly for emission related issues, I know it says check engine but that’s a federal government regulated system called OBDII. While it’s true that a light can come on for engine performance related issues such as misfires or running poorly, its also because it would also greatly pollute. The gauges followed with bi weekly inspections of fluid levels is your best best. Most of the time nothing will need to be done, but that one time you check and see the coolant overflow bottle is empty would have been the clue something was wrong.

      I would also do the timing belt and components at the same time as it will lower forward going costs a bit.

      -Justin

  210. Erin says:

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks for your incredibly informative articles on the Subie head gaskets. I love that you put so much effort into clarifying this issue for the rest of us. I have a quick question for you. I have a 2005 Forester, about 144K miles. I usually go to the Subaru dealer for my oil changes (religiously, every 3000 miles). At my last visit I told them I was moving to Arizona in August (from Illinois — it’s quite a drive). They’ve mentioned before that I should “keep an eye” on my head gaskets, but they’ve never mentioned any driving restrictions. Suddenly I tell them I’m moving and they tell me that I ABSOLUTELY MUST get my head gaskets replaced before I drive to Arizona and if I don’t I am facing certain breakdown. Based on my experiences with them (really just a general bad vibe and their lack of evidence for cited issues — they don’t even provide an inspection checklist like so many other Subaru dealers) I felt dubious about their claim. Unfortunately we don’t have an independent Subaru shop in Central Illinois, but I did find a shop that another Subaru owner recommended. I went to the shop for a second opinion, telling them only that I would be taking the car on a road trip to Arizona in August and needed to have it looked over for preventative maintenance issues. They sent me a very nice report compiled with pictures and explanations and while they did note an engine oil leak around valve cover/ head gasket area, they said it was just something to wash and recheck. I asked about replacing head gaskets and they said that wasn’t a repair that I need at this time. They did, however, note that I was overdue for a new battery and new front brakes (I was down to 10%), which the Subaru dealer never mentioned to me. As a customer I have gotten a really good impression of this shop and will have the battery and front brakes replaced, but a part of me is still worried that if I make the wrong decision right now regarding my headgaskets (i.e. not getting them replaced), that I will end up stranded somewhere in Texas in 100+ degree temperatures with two cats and a car full of my belongings.

    What do you think?

    Cheers, and thanks again –

    Erin

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Erin,

      That’s tough to advise on, as I sure don’t wan’t to be the one to help make or break your trip and without seeing it myself I am at a huge disadvantage.

      My gut says to go with the non Stealer advice, the trick here is actually going to be finding a good shop to keep an eye on the leaks when you are in AZ. Based on it being a 2005 it should develop an external oil leak long before it ever fails internally or ever leaks coolant.

      Hope that helps and i wish you a trouble free drive!

      -Justin

      • Erin says:

        Thanks Justin! Here’s a link to the inspection report that I got from the independent shop. If you have a second to glance over it and make sure I’m not missing some glaring evidence of impending doom, I will sleep better tonight.

        Thanks again!

        Erin

        • Justin Stobb says:

          Hello Erin,

          I looked the report over, I also edited out the link.

          The pictures don’t really through out any red flags, that’s the type of stuff we see on a daily basis here as well and just advise our customers to monitor for now. The Independent shop was correct about the brakes also.

          Hope that helps and safe travels.

          -Justin

  211. Rhonda says:

    Justin,

    Thank you for answering the questions I submitted last year regarding my 2012 Outback 3.6R Limited. We are faithfully changing the oil every 3,000 miles with full synthetic. I also opted to install a K&N air filter & noticed increased MPG, which was nice. Since you indicated you also have a 2012 Outback I was curious which type of fuel you use (reg, mid, or premium)? I know this is a HG discussion but I have a tire question. at 46,000 miles my OEM tires need to be replaced (the back two have significant tread wear). I’m faithful in rotating & balancing the tires every 3,000 miles when the oil is changed. My previous vehicle did well with Michelin tires but it wasn’t a Subaru:) we are thinking of getting H rated tires vs T simply because we travel interstate speeds very frequently & for long distances. Would you recommend H rating or is there significant draw back (road noise for example) and do you have a particular brand you recommend that works well with Subarus? Any brands to avoid?

    • Justin Stobb says:

      Hello Rhonda,

      I see no issue with using H rated tires, with the exception that they may not last as long it’s generally never an issue to go up in rating but never down. I would avoid the Continental brand tires as many have complained about poor handling with those tires on the 2010 to 2014 Outback, which oddly enough is what I have and most likely you have as well. We have installed the Bridgestone and Yokohama’s and customers have reported back to us they thought the car performed better.

      I like Bridegstone, Yokohama and Michelin.

      Hope that helps.

      -Justin

  212. Rhonda says:

    Justin,

    Thanks! That helps a lot. We were looking at exactly the three brands you mentioned. Yes, the outback came with Continental from the factory & I’m not impressed with them so we are not planning on using that brand for replacement.

  213. Burt Sternberg says:

    Hi, I owned a subru about the same time as this problem developed . The head gasket failed, and the local dealer
    [ this is where I purchased the car ] . Made no attempt
    to made any factory ,warrenty repair . He charged my a very
    large sum to make the repair . Made no mention that Subru
    knew of this problem . If I wanted my car repaired I was at his mercey .This goes back many years , in the mid 70′s
    Do I have any recourse to get some money back ? The car had more than 200,000 miles when I sold it . If YES , will look for bill .

    • Justin Stobb says:

      If you had a car under the WWP-99 campaign Subaru did offer to reimburse repairs made, I do not know if there was a time limit to that or not. 1800 Subaru 3 is where you need to call for that answer.

      -Justin

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