All Wheel Drive Auto: Independent
Seattle Subaru & Toyota Service


Subaru Head Gasket Problems Explained.

Subaru 2.5l Phase Two Head Gasket

Some answers to the Subaru head gasket problem.

At our Subaru shop we see a fair amount of Subaru’s with failed head gaskets. There are two separate groups or years of production that the failures fall into. The following information is aimed at educating our customers about the problems, what to look for, tips on how to avoid future problems, and what to if your Subaru has developed problems with the head gaskets.

The first group is the 1st generation 2.5l engine found predominantly in the 1996 to 1999 Outback, Legacy G.T., Forrester (up to mid-year 1998) and Subaru Impreza R.S. This group usually, will develop an internal head gasket leak ultimately resulting with an overheating engine.

Shop 6 Star Head Gaskets from AWD Today >>

Early signs of head gasket failure in the 1st generation Subaru 2.5l engine will include an oily residue found in the coolant overflow bottle also possible is an exhaust, fuel or sulfur smell in the coolant overflow bottle. From there what typically happens next is intermittent higher than normal coolant temperature gauge readings, followed with intermittent overheating especially during a long freeway trip or a drive up the mountain passes.

The second group is the 2nd generation Subaru 2.2l and 2.5l engines found in the Forrester from mid-year 1998, Impreza from mid-year 1998, the Outback and Legacy from 2000.The early symptoms that occur in the 2nd generation engines is usually an external oil leak at both head gaskets and an external coolant leak at the left side head gasket, we have seen coolant leaks at the right side head gasket as well but at a much lower failure rate than the left side. We have seen some of the same intermittent overheating symptoms, but the bulk of the issues seem to be external leaks.

Early detection of failing head gaskets is the key to keeping the repair costs down.

Typically speaking when the problem is diagnosed and repaired at the earliest signs of failure the potential for additional damage can be held to a minimum.

The problems are fairly well known, and the internet is a great tool for information. Unfortunately, a lot of automotive professionals do not truly understand the potential causes of the failure. If the problem isn’t properly understood, then some of the advice as to how to avoid the potential failure or reasons as to why this happened may be incomplete. This is where All Wheel Drive Auto can serve you better.

The good news!

We have yet to see a repaired and properly maintained vehicle have the same problem twice. And we feel that when the repair is done completely, it is a bump on the road to 300,000 miles.

Here is some of the technical information related to the gaskets used.

In 1996 on the 2.5l engine Subaru used a composite type head gasket similar in construction to the head gaskets found in the Subaru Legacy & Impreza 2.2l engine. Starting in 1997 and used through 1999 Subaru began to use a multi-layer steel shim head gasket with a graphite type outer film. And this is where the problem has started.

What we typically see with these gaskets is that the film between the combustion chamber and the cooling jacket or passageway is compromised allowing coolant into the combustion chamber and exhaust pressure and temperature into the cooling system. Subaru has come up with an updated head gasket design that seems to be holding up well.

In mid-year 1998 Subaru redesigned the 2.2l and 2.5l, most of the changes were in the cylinder heads and camshaft configurations. This design has had mostly problems with external head gasket leaks. Both oil and coolant

Tips on how to avoid or decrease the chance of failure are as follows.

1. Change the engine oil on a regular basis. As part of the normal combustion process not all of the fuel that enters the combustion chamber (this is where the compressed air fuel mixture is met with spark from the spark plug causing an explosion and creating power) is burnt, unfortunately we don’t drive vehicles that achieve 100% combustion. The unburnt fuel is scraped past the rings into the crankcase where it is mixed with the engine oil. The longer the oil is in the engine the more diluted the oil becomes with fuel. Fuel is a solvent that can eat away at seals and gaskets.

What is supposed to happen is that as the engine oil gets up to temperature the fuel will evaporate through the crankcase ventilation system into the intake manifold where it will mix with the air coming into the combustion chamber and be burnt there. But in areas such as the Puget Sound we do a lot of idling in traffic, and short trips where the oil never gets the chance to get up to the temperature needed to achieve the designed process. This is where understanding the difference between normal and severe use is crucial in car maintenance.  Maintain your car based on how you use it, Consumer reports and JD Powers, put out ownership cost studies and as a result car manufactures don’t want their car to seem like it costs more to own than the next one, think of the maintenance outline as the minimum amount of maintenance you should do.

2. Don’t let your Subaru’s battery become a hazardous waste area. We see a lot of Subaru’s come into the shop with “chia pets of corrosion” on the top of the battery. To the point where the battery is no longer visible from the top and the cable set has been damaged. Batteries typically go three to five years before they will really start to vent out a significant amount of acid. Under normal circumstances the battery is used to start the vehicle and to power accessories when the engine is not running. Any time the battery is used it loses some of its charge.

Most Subaru owners drive their vehicles with all of the accessories on. Sometimes at idle the alternator can’t keep up with the entire electrical load put on it and some power is drained from the battery. The process of the battery being discharged and charged is ultimately what causes the acid to vent out of the battery. How does a battery effect head gaskets you ask? Without getting to far into the scientific end of it, the battery is located very close to the radiator.  The electrical system in the car is grounded to the engine block on the left side of the engine, as the ground circuit resistance increases (from corroded battery cables), the voltage found in the cooling system will also increase, this is what causes electrolysis.   Coolant can become very corrosive as a result.  This is nothing new to cars, but it has gone overlooked by today’s era technicians, I know that checking voltage in the cooling system is nothing that is typically done at the dealer level during a service, nor do most independent shops perform this either.  There is a good chance that most don’t even know how to check for it.

A voltage drop test at the battery cable can reveal if the resistance level is high in the battery cable, if the resistance is high you are asking for trouble, again this is nothing new but often never checked by most shops just like most drivers do not check their oil or tire pressure every week.   Corrosion travels up the battery cable from the terminals and attacks the copper battery cable.

A battery that is covered in battery acid and corrosion will add to the level of corrosion in the cooling system, by increasing the resistance in the vehicle ground circuit which can lead to higher levels of electrolysis. This corrosion can eat away at metal gaskets, seals and metal that it comes in contact with. On a 2nd generation 2.2 and 2.5l it is almost always the left side head gasket that leaks coolant externally and it is also the cylinder head gasket that is the closest to the battery. Odd, no? A properly serviced and healthy battery will decrease the possibility of the battery adding to the corrosion level of the cooling system.

As the battery vents out acid and the cooling fans come on some of the vented acid can make its way into the coolant overflow bottle, not a lot in most cases but how much is too much?  The overflow bottle catches coolant from the cooling system as heat and pressure cause expansion of the coolant from the radiator into the overflow bottle as the engine cools the coolant is then pulled back into the cooling system form the “expansion tank” or “overflow bottle”.  In some cases you can look at the inside of the hood of your Subaru and see white acid all over the hood liner, if that is your car you are pulling  a tiny amount of acid into the overflow bottle past the tube and from there into the radiator, remember as the engine cools, coolant is pulled back into the radiator via the vacuum that is created as pressure decreases, so there is a small vacuum pulling at particles surrounding the coolant overflow bottle.

The health of the electrical system is a contributing factor.  We know that corrosive coolant is part of the problem, we know that electrolysis is a result of increased voltage levels in the cooling system as a result of poor grounding, we know that a poor ground can be caused by resistance in the primary electrical circuit.  We know the coolant is the same in the entire engine, and the gaskets the same left to right the only difference is the fact that the ground is at the left side of the engine and that if there is voltage present  in the cooling system it will always travel the shortest path to ground and the ground is on the same side of the engine as the gasket that always fails the most via external coolant leaks.

I don’t suggest that this is the primary factor, but one of many and the single easiest to prevent in most all cases.

Here are some examples of what not to ever let happen.

Battery Acid At Work

Battery Acid On The Hood Liner of a Subaru

Battery acid all over the hood liner part II

Battery acid at work

3. Change your Subaru’s coolant on a regular basis. This is one of the most important things you can do to your Subaru. As discussed previously corrosive coolant can deteriorate seals and gaskets over time. The use of the proper anti-freeze is recommended by Subaru as well as is a coolant additive on vehicles with the 2nd generation engines for a period of time.

4. Know what is being used in your Subaru. Not all auto parts, services and repairs are created equal. For example, using non O.E. (original equipment) type spark plugs can create hotter or cooler combustion temperatures. The combustion temperature has a lot to do with the amount of cylinder head, and gasket expansion. Generic coolant will save you about $5.00 over O.E. coolant but is it worth it in the long run?

5. This is a biggie, and the most overlooked. If you have a new car warranty or an aftermarket warranty policy that is about to expire, have the vehicle inspected by someone who specializes in Subaru’s like All Wheel Drive Auto. The dealer is not going to call you and schedule in your Subaru for an inspection prior to the warranty expiring.

This is where All Wheel Drive Auto can truly serve your interest’s well.

Calling the dealer empowered with information and documentation about leaks is much better than hoping you won’t have any problems.

Subaru utilizes the horizontal engine design and is one of the reasons that the all-wheel drive system found in the Subaru is superior to the other makes and models out there. The horizontal engine platform is also a large part of what makes a Subaru a great safe vehicle and the all-wheel drive and safety of a Subaru is usually what influences the decision to own one.

On an in-line engine or v engine design, when the vehicle is turned off the fluids such as coolant and oil will drain down to below the head gasket line. On a Subaru with a horizontally opposed engine when you turn the vehicle off the fluids such as the oil and coolant will remain in contact with the head gaskets. If the fluids are not in very good condition, such as outlined above, they will eat away at the head gaskets.

A Subaru can give its owner many years of trouble-free life. That added with the knowledge that it will get you to where you need to go regardless of road conditions. As such we feel that the repair done correctly, and a good maintenance schedule following will yield years of trouble-free driving.

Subaru head gasket

This is a failed 1st generation head gasket found in the Subaru 2.5l starting in 1997.

Notice the silver area where the black film has washed away allowing coolant and cylinder pressure to exchange.

Failed Subaru Haed gasket

Failed DOHC 2.5l Subaru Head Gasket

In the above picture you can see that the upper portion of the gasket is fine.   This is an example of how gravity is part of the problem, when combined with the solvent that is fuel and potentially corrosive coolant.

Updated Subaru 1st generation 2.5l Head Gasket

Here we see the updated  Subaru 2.5l gasket.

1st Generation 2.5l updated head gasket vs the original design

The Subaru Updated 2nd Generation Head Gasket

This is the updated gasket photo from Subaru for the 2nd generation 2.5l

A Failed 2.5l Head Gasket Next To A New One

This is an eaten away gasket vs the updated one installed at the Subaru Dealership service department

A Failed 2nd Gen. Subaru 2.5l Head Gasket

You can see how the gasket material has been eaten away, anywhere you see sliver is not good.

Failed left Side Subaru Head Gasket

Another picture of the same issue, an eaten away gasket.

A Failed 2nd Gen. Subaru 2.5l Head Gasket


Subaru Updated vs The Failed Gasket

Updated vs failed gasket.


Subaru Replacement VS The old one coming out

Updated vs failed gasket.

MLS Gasket we use

The Old vs New.  You can see the significant changes that were made in the design in the first-generation gasket but not so much in the 2nd Gen in regard to the gaskets offered by Subaru.  You can also see the significant difference in the gaskets we use here.

Thanks for reading.

Justin Stobb

All Wheel Drive Auto

Seattle Area Independent Subaru Expert Mechanic


2,641 Responses

  1. We had a pretty clear head gasket problem in 2002 base outback wagon (145000 miles), and had the gasket replaced along with a host of other things (spark plugs, new radiator, etc.). Now 15 mos. later and we have an oil leak again and they are telling it is from the head gasket. Of course the warrantee was 12mos/12000 miles. But I am frustrated – shouldn’t a replaced head gasket last longer than 15 mos? We’ve only driven about 6000 miles (this is not our primary car anymore, but we do value it as our “second” car). Is this bad workmanship? Is this just the way it is? Is there some way we can repair it to get another 50K miles out of it?

    1. Hello Tamara,

      Yes a repair should last longer than 15 months. I do not know why yours did not it could have been a number of factors.

      Who did the repair?
      What parts were used?
      Were the heads machines flat and to a proper RA?
      Was the block checked for flat?
      Was the repair done in car or did they take the engine out to make the repairs?

      If the answer to the first question is the Dealer or a general repair shop that’s a problem
      If the answer to the second question is anything other than the Six star head gaskets that’s a problem
      If the answer to the 3rd question is anything other than yes that’s a problem
      If the Answer to the 4th question is anything other than yes that’s a problem
      If the answer to the 5th question is yes they were done in the car vs taking the engine out that’s a huge problem

      Yes the repair can be done in a way to last 100k plus, but in the same way one painter can do a good long lasting job of painting your house because they are a pro that does all the small detail work but yet another painter (for even the same or more money) may do a quick or rushed job, skipping all of the detail work that makes it last yields poor results and its not known for a amount of time before its apparent they didn’t do a great job, this is exactly what happens in Auto repair.
      Typically a good Independent Subaru will provide a great long lasting repair, the Subaru Dealer or a general repair shop, not so much.

      Hope it all works out


    1. Nothing like the EJ. Mostly cam case and cover leaks, sometimes we advise to go further as PM. Lots with over 200k with no issues, but I also wont say never.


  2. I haven’t read everyone’s posts, but I’ll work on that tonight.

    In the meantime:

    2002 Legacy L 2.5
    Head gaskets leaking signifcantly.
    Do you know of an engine without the HG problem that would fit the car (transmission, etc.)? Or a way to look this up?


  3. Hi Justin,

    I have been driving my 2006 SUBARU LEGACY OUTBACK LL BEAN 3.0 L 6 cyl engine for 5 years. It’s got ~155,000 miles. The head gaskets are leaking and my local shop won’t do the repair because of the difficulty in accessing the head gaskets. There has been a slow leak for a couple of years, but now there is coolant mixing with oil.

    Since I won’t know the full extent of the damage/issue until they actually get in there – whether it be the gaskets or the heads or the engine – what would be your recommendation for me?

    I was quoted up to $10k for worst case scenario. Car shopping is overwhelming and expensive, and honestly paying $10k to fix the car I love may be the route I end up taking. What would you do?

    Thank you so much for any insights.

    1. Hey Hallie,

      Very common situation we see and your right shopping fora car right now is pretty awful. If you like the Car id really suggest keeping it and putting the money into it. Its a pretty overall solid platform. If it ends up needing a lot a low mileage Exchange engine out of Japan is a pretty decent option to go with for that era 3.0l. I would still take it apart and reseal it completely but a good back up option f yours ends up needing hard parts.

      Hope that helps


      1. I really don’t understand how so many shops can not want to work on a subaru engine. they are the simplest most straightforward engines I’ve ever worked on, where the designers and engineers actually thought about the people working on it. You can have the engine out in an hour without a lift, It’s literally an afternoon job anyone could do with their buddies as long as you didn’t overheat it. There are TWO bolts that are kind of a pain to get to on the valve covers if you do it in the car. Everything else is right in your face and either 10, 12, or 14mm, and if you do the little bit of extra work to pull the motor you can just zip them all off with an impact lickity split. Any mechanic who refuses subaru work is a scared and stubborn fool. With all the resources of a shop it shouldn’t take more than a half day as long as it doesn’t need machining. “difficulty in accessing the head gaskets” my ass, any transverse mounted engine is a thousand times worse than a boxer with the timing system right up against the frame and the rear head up against the firewall on v engines. Shops should be jumping for joy when they get a subaru to work on and they don’t have to spend countless extra hours removing dozens of unrelated parts to get access to the bolt they need like with every other manufacturer.

        1. Hey Austin,

          Thanks for the reply.

          Subaru Head gaskets should never be done in the car however, it may seem like its okay to do so but the repair will never last and it’s all but impossible to check the block for warp.


  4. Hi Justin,

    Your explanations make sense of everything I’ve heard from quality technicians and more. The photos are invaluable. Thank you for taking the time to help so many folks understand this widespread issue from Subaru.

    If your able to answer I have a situation I’d like your insight about. I came across this thread as my wife’s ‘07 Forester X is at the dealership for a coolant leak at the drivers side head. I noticed the leak because I expected it would eventually happen. I would occasionally check the heads for leakage.
    I had it towed to the dealership to avoid driving it 1 hour away because no reputable independent local/nearby mechanic works on head gaskets anymore. I live on the Big Island of Hawaii. The dealership is saying that the block and heads are warped and I need a new engine to the tune of $7K. There is no real way for me to verify as the dealership is an hour away and only open while I am at work. I have asked for pictures but have not yet received them. The last mechanic that addressed the leak (about 5 months ago) was a local guy we take our cars to when I can’t do the repair. He has been good so far but he doesn’t do head gaskets either. He used Blue Devil head gasket sealer. I had never heard of it but he said it works well. Fast forward to today and the tech at the dealership is stating it has “obvious signs of overheating” and “signs of tap water being used as there were major mineral deposits clogging the thermostat”. I told him that could probably be the Blue Devil stuff. My main questions, if you’re willing to answer, are …What methods does a tech use to diagnose a warped head/block? Is there a way to clean out the blue devil residue from the cooling system after being added?

    To make things more complicated, in a conversation with the service coordinator/person who schedules, it was mentioned that one of the technicians might be interested in buying the car (prior to us having it torn down to diagnose). This comment made me feel wary to the motive of the dealership. We approved the tear down because no other place is willing to work on it. We were referred to the dealership service dept by a reputable Independent mechanic that said if they took the repair they would just put a rebuilt engine as they come with warranty and the cost is marginal considering the benefits but those engines are not in stock from their normal supplier. I am concerned about their diagnosis as we believe the engine never overheated. My wife only drives that car to work and back (6 miles round trip). If we take a trip to another town we use my Honda.

    Thanks for considering my situation!

    1. Aloha Ethan!

      I was on the Big island for the first time last November for one of my Managers and friends wedding in Kona and we loved it.

      On to the car, so I am going to start with telling you stop leak is a huge mistake and I really hate reading when shops suggest it. This is a chemical from a bygone era really meant to help you limp the car somewhere for repairs. Prior to the modern communication era we find ourselves in know with cell phones as a tow is a mere phone call away. Stop leak is not meant to fix anything and can really complicate repairs later as you may end up with both a clogged radiator and heater core. Now that I have said that piece lets talk about the situation you find yourself in.

      I will tell you from experience that Auto service in Hawaii is very problematic at best. The block and heads can only be checked for warp with a straight edge & feeler gauge after the heads are removed and the surfaces are cleaned. There is no way to know of warp prior to teardown so I cant understand why the Subaru Dealer would even bring that up unless it really is showing signs of serious overheating.

      As far as overheating if the vehicle had an air pocket in the cooling system as a result of the low coolant level due to the leak the gauge may not indicate overheating as the sensor used for both the ECM and the gauge in the dash require liquid coolant to surround it in order to create a voltage reading to the proper input of the ECM and a resistance reading to the analog gauge. I dont know if thats what happened to you I just want to bring up it can happen and we get cars in all the time that have overheated and the driver was unaware.

      How would I advise a local customer to me? The 2007 Forester is a really great car outside of the head gasket thing. I would find someone who can make the repairs even if the block is warped Subaru offers a reman shortblock with a 3/36 warranty. the heads would need to be refurbished or surfaced at a minimum but once repaired should go 300k as long as you take care of it. I would also suggest the Six Star HG, but the Dealer most likely will not install those if that’s where its repaired. So get it torn down and be prepared for the worst while you hope for the best.

      Your not going to find a car on any of the islands for what it will cost to fix the Forester you already have.

      Hope that helps


  5. Hi, I was thinking about purchasing a 2001 Legacy B4 RSK. It has 153,XXX km, my biggest concern is possible head gasket failure. Did the turbo charged 2.0L EJ20 have head gasket issues? I know the NA’s for then had almost inevitable head gasket failure, but did the turbo charged have this issue too as I’ve heard that they might use a different gasket for them?

    1. Hey Ryan,

      Your asking about an engine configuration I just don’t know as much about as that version was never offered in the US. The EJ 2.0l that was offered in the US in the WRX did not suffer from external HG leaks but at around 150k could develop internal failures really depending on how it was taken care of.

      Hope that helps

  6. I really appreciate your clear and concise explanations!! Thanks so much for all your work helping us lay folk understand our vehicles. I’m really happy with my 09 forester. I have one with 135k miles on it and have been told at dealership that gaskets starting to leak. I love my car otherwise and all maintenance done as per schedule. The fix is pricey just wondering ur opinion on fixing or replacing at this age

    1. Hello Diana,

      At 135k your 2009 Forester is still just getting started in life, its going to go to 300k and beyond (barring an accident) whether you want to take it there or not. So if you like the car, and can see yourself it for another 5-20 years I would suggest repairing it.

      Hope that helps


  7. So I have similar symptoms that suggest a head gasket fault with overheating engine, but I own 2016 model Impreza with a 2.0l engine and am wondering if these engines are also at high risk of head gasket problems…? I also have done work on vehicle and can’t really say for sure if it has been due to mechanics error.

    1. Hey Jonathan,

      I cant tell you from here if your car is going to need a HG, the 2016 are not prone to the same type of HG issues earlier models were.

      “I also have done work on vehicle and can’t really say for sure if it has been due to mechanics error.” I am not sure what this means?


  8. Hey Justin,
    I’m digging your site here so much, reading it all, and planning to move down from BC Canada to Washington this year. Hoping you’re still around for any work my Subaru Outback 2012 might require. Already you’ve got me convinced to change my coolant ASAP. Reading all of your explanations inspires me that we should be teaching kids from grade 7 on about how cars actually work, not wait till a a chosen few have this opportunity in grade 10. Thanks for sharing your expertise; you are helping me value my Subaru more.

  9. Hi Justin,
    I’m looking at buying a 2021 Subaru 2.5i-S Forester AWD. Will I be having the same problem with the HG or have they fixed the problem.

    1. Hi Vicki,

      The Modern Era Subaru doesn’t have the same type of HG issues that we are discussing in this thread.

      Hope that helps


  10. Wow I literally washed the night away reading all this great info on Subarus. So, Justin, I have two questions for you. First, I must say we all get pissed off at any car that causes any inconvenience for us and more so when it hits our pocket, but after owning two outbacks one a 2002 and the other a 2005 ll bean 3.0 r I have run into a sticky situation the 2005 has the intermittent bubbling in overflow and I have noticed there seems to be some occasional small strange debris in it is this a HG failing as I do know a good deal about working on these just not about the diagnosing parts I am quite sure its not the heater core nor a bad water pump as i get tons of hot air when i need it except of course if it is bubbling and I can see in the radiator that there is good flow now I have pressure tested it even done a few block tests on it and zilch no drop in pressure and no coolant drips other than the under hood steam spray pattern on the overflow side. I am guessing as the pressure test having been only able to do it when system has cooled that the gasket is sealing it temporarily which would hide the lose of pressure when testing it? If it is a HG would it be wiser to get a JDM replacement engine and go through all the seals etc and replace them and maybe do a head gasket replacement as well since the engines out of car meaning the new JDM one not current one with issues or to repair the one with the issues as the car has roughly 164000 miles on it and I love this thing lol coming from a 2002 honda civic that blew 2 headgaskets back to back because of a clogged pcv valve and the fact that the piston rings kept getting siezed in their groves causing massive blow-by. And wow to be able to do 7 second 0-60 in a car this heavy and feels amazing in cornering too! I guess I am asking if the JDM motor is a good option but being it sat for a while i am assuming even with super low mileage the fact that the engine hasn’t had oil circulating and keeping the seal moistened that those all need to be replaced as well. If it was yours what would you do and is there a specific JDM H6 that is a direct replacement considering I know not all had the variable valve timing on both exhaust and intake? Thanks again for keeping it real oh and one last thing the 2002 seems to be having a hard time clearing monitors for the emissions is there a specific drive cycle for them? Thanks and hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

    1. Hey Rob,

      I took some time over the holidays to be with family, but anyways. I dont hate the JDM Route for the 3.0l, but I would still do a HG out reseal like you have mentioned and at the same time replace at least the timing chain guides. If the power steering suction hose has not been done add that to the list as well as all cooling system hoses and you should be good to go for quite a while. For the 2002 yes there is a drive cycle, we do it with a Subaru Select monitor connected, best thing I can suggest is find a day when ambient and engine temp can start out pretty close to the same, and get it up to temp with some spirited type highway driving for about 30-45 minutes. The last monitors to reset is typically the Evap emissions and Catalyst. this can be tricky in the winter.

      Hope that helps


  11. Hi I’m looking at a manual 2008 Outback XT it has 187,000km (116K miles) for $9,000 ($7000 USD). From your previous comments it sounded like the XT models didn’t have the HG issues but I have no experience with Turbos and how they may otherwise effect longevity or maintenance.
    In addition I was curious about the newer 2010-2012 automatics, I have seen extremely polarized reviews of the CVTs from either being a rarity or a common case problem.
    Hope you can help!

    1. Hey Tom,

      I can only give you advice based on the idea of a 2008 Outback XT and not about the one you are looking at, that would require a pre purchase inspection which I urge you not to skip. On to the 2008 Outback XT, they use a MLS Head gasket and due to that and the lower compression they do not have external Head gasket leaks, they can and will fail however if they are not maintained and especial if they overheat. They are good cars, we have owned a few through the years. Turbo vehicles do require more maintenance than their naturally asperated counterparts, more oil changes, hoses become brittle earlier due to more engine compartment heat from the Turbocharger, the radiator will not last as long, if you but it and it has not been done, I would replace the Radiator right away, as well as making sure the timing belt has been done.

      Okay on to the 2010-2012 Outback’s with the CVT, yes this era of CVT Equipped Subaru’s can have issues, mostly with Torque converters and valve bodies, moist you are looking at by now should have had one or both of these items done and Subaru did stretch the warranty out.

      Based on the two vehicles you have mentioned I think you should really be looking for a 2010-2014 Subaru Outback with the 3.6L and E5At Automatic Transmission, really hard to go wrong with that platform.

      Hope that helps, and what ever you do have a pre purchase inspection done by someone who knows Subaru and is not the Stealer.


  12. I am looking for a recommendation on what to buy for my next and last Subaru. I have had several and currently have a 2002 outback 2.5. I have researched and am looking longingly at the 2009 outback XT. I live in Texas but in the hilly part and expect to travel all over the US.
    I like the Turbo and adjustable suspension and size. Reviews look good. The only substitute is the 2020 outback. Not sure I want to put that much money into it.

    I am also looking at maybe adding a few aftermarket parts. I enjoy working on what I own. The website listed is my main effort now.
    I appreciate any suggestions.
    Ed Valentine

    1. Hello Ed,

      In my opinion a 2013-2014 Outback with the 3.6l and 5 speed Auto is one of the best ways to go for how you described you are going to use it. Great power, Pre CVT, runs on regular unleaded, has a temp guage, good aftermarket support for things like lights, suspension floor mats etc.

      One of my all time favorite cars has ben our 2012 Outback with the 3.6L H6

      Hope that helps


  13. Just got a 2007 Forester X from my father-in-law with 70k miles – always dealer serviced with no known issues. I would like to drive it for at least another 70K. So to prevent premature head gasket leaks, change oil and anti-freeze regularly and keep battery terminals connections spotless. I do all my own repairs, even major ones – so any suggestions on what else needs to be done to get maximum life without major repair work would be appreciated. I am giving away my 2009 Honda Civic with 90k trouble free miles, so hopefully I will not regret it.

  14. Hi Justin,

    Thank you for sharing your insightful expertise on your blog.

    My daughter, who has absolutely no prior experience or knowledge in car ownership, is considering buying a new 2020 Crosstrek. The car salesman told us that Subaru made modifications to the Boxer motor in 2018, and starting from 2019 model year the engines do not have the HG problem. Have you heard anything to that effect? Is that a correct statement or just a sales pitch? If true, what did Subaru change?

    Also, we learned that there will be a larger 2.5L engine for the 2021 Crosstrek. Is that motor currently used in another model? If so, is it a reliable engine? Does it also have the HG problem?

    Appreciate any help you give. Thanks.

    1. Hello Frank,

      The Crosstrek came out in 2013 with the FB 2.0 Engine, which never had a HG issue, some can leak oil in other places over time and some early ones had some oil consumption problems resulting Subaru extending the powertrain warranty out to 100k. There have been numerous revisions mostly to the piston ring coatings since 2013.

      The 2.5l coming in the 2015 is the FB 2.5l thats used in the Forester and Outback, same story as above.

      Current era Subaru engines just don’t have the HG issues the EJ 2.5l had

      Hope that helps


  15. Thanks for a very informative and helpful article! I never knew how important new coolant was or how the battery interacts with the engine coolant.

    I’m looking for a used car, 5 speed manual tranny, with rock solid reliability for less than $5,000 – one which is highly likely to run 250,000 miles with no engine or tranny problems. Have not read many good reviews on the Subaru engines due to the head gaskets. Many Honda’s have automatic tranny problems, and their 6 speed trannys are apparently crap per the internet. Think most of the Toyotas have some issues such as engine speed control, etc. Found a very nice looking Ford F-150, but read that particular year had many engine fires while the vehicle was parked and which resulted in burning down the truck and adjacent buildings! Lot of other Ford trucks (and others of all types including cars) have a habit of blowing spark plugs out of the engine – this is sick stuff – are they giving engineering degrees to SJWs or something?!?! WTF!

    Good gawd almighty! WTF is wrong with car companies. None of them seem to be worth a shi t. Guess I’ll keep my old manual tranny Honda with 256,000 trouble free miles and just get the front suspension rebuilt, which is about all it needs. I did replace the distributor at around 180 or 200K just in case the bearings were getting worn – I had those bearings to fail on a previous Honda at around 200K, which resulted in a melted rotor – engine does not run well with melted rotor – replaced distributor and kept going. 🙂 I always buy old strippy model cars, Honda’s lately, that are simple – roll up windows, few electronics, lots of room under the hood, no air conditioning, 5-speed manual tranny, etc. Speaking of room under the hood who was the dumb azz that started shortening the hood on new cars so the engine has to fit part way back under the dash – you can’t get to the back side of it – IDIOTS!

    Other than the car I own, are there ANY rock-solid reliable used cars out there for less than $5,000? From all accounts, the newer the car now-days, the less reliable it is and the more dealers will screw you when, not if, it breaks down.

    I’m getting much of my info from, articles like this one and from YouTube videos; Scotty Kilmer and others have good ones.

    Thanks again for the article!

    1. Hey Robert,

      You have pointed out one very important detail and that’s all cars have issues. I am glad you have done that kind of research and didn’t just come to the conclusion only Subaru’s suck, which is kinda the norm around here with some posters.

      There just isn’t any reason to buy another car if the one you own never wears anything out or ever needs repairs.

      1/3 of our society assumes a car payment is a fact of life and buy something new every 3-6 years
      1/3 of our society will keep a car for 5-10 years complaining about every nickel that goes into it.
      1/3 of our society actually gets it and, keeps there car until we tell them we just can’t get parts for it anymore and its time to move on.

      All cars have their issues, many if repaired correctly just don’t have the same ones over and over in my opinion.

      Thanks for your post and I greatly appreciate how you went about it


  16. Hello Justin-

    My son and I want to buy 2 Subaru cars. I will buy a 2018 Forester and my son want the 2020 Crosstrek, both with manual transmission. Can you tell me what common problems has these 2 models?.

    Thanks in advance!

  17. Hi Justin-

    Thank you so much for this resource AND keeping it updated by answering questions. Much appreciated!

    I had a 2006 Subaru Outback 2.5 and had the dreaded “head gasket” failure at around 90k miles. Later on I also had a 2011 Outback 2.5 and had the same head gasket failure at about 100k miles.

    I’ve read that the 2013+ Outback 2.5 engines no longer have the HG issues? I also heard the same thing after buying the last two generations and found out it was B.S.!

    So what is the story with the 2013+ and the redesigned FB engine??


    1. Hello Michelle,

      So the FB 2.5l came out in 2011 in the Forester, 2013 in the Legacy and Outback.

      To date we do not see HG issues with these engines, some have oil leaks form Timing covers and cam cases, some do not. Some use oil some do not.

      So the story is no HG issues on the FB to tell of, however just like every other car maker there are some things we see like I have mentioned above.

      Hope that helps


  18. Hi Justin,

    Thank you for the article.

    I am thinking of buying a 2020 Forester Premium. Do you know the HG problem may still exist in this newest model?

    Thank you.


    1. Hello Christine,

      So the 2020 Forester has an “FB” series engine. The engines that had Head gaskets issues were the “EJ” series that were phased out in 2010 in the Forester model and 2012 in the Outback/Legacy.

      Some FB engines mostly pre 2015 did have some oil consumption issues, but Subaru did extend the warranty out on those vehicles and has really stood behind the product.

      Hope that helps


  19. Looking at a used 2018 Subaru Outback with 38,000 miles. We had the car inspected by a Subaru dealer all they came back with was the car didn’t have Subaru antifreeze in it. Should I be concerned? Also car only has one key, any idea what a key will cost me?

    1. Hey Bob,

      That’s a concern as why did that occur? But shouldn’t be a deal breaker unless it point s to it was in a car accident? The dealer may have no idea what they are looking for either if they are trying to spot a car that was hit and repaired.

      Probably okay, but its just curious as to why it had the wrong coolant.


  20. Hello, thank you for your informative website and the following comes with the caveat that try as I might, my car got worked on at the dealership as the result of an extended warranty requirement though all future work will certainly happen at an independent subaru shop. My dad taught me to avoid a dealer mechanic if possible but circumstances landed me at one.

    Last year (2018) I bought a 2012 Subaru Outback 2.5 limited with about 52,000 miles. Did the 60,000 recommended maintenance (spark plugs etc) at around 58,700 just to get it out of the way.  

    At 63,588 on a family trip my “Cruise” light flashes + the “brake” light flashes and off in addition to the check engine on the way home from a weekend family trip with my first baby in tow. I pull over pretty nervous, and there’s a sweet smell, some fluid around the front with the radiator fluid reservoir just below “Max.”

    Check the code and its P0117 (The Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor converts the coolant temperature into a voltage that is high when the engine is cold and low as the engine warms up. Code P0117 indicates a low voltage input from the Coolant Temperature Circuit to the PCM.)

    I keep driving and the thermostat starts blinking on occasionally so I pull over to avoid heating, then cautiously make my way to the nearest Subaru dealership. They tell me the head gaskets blown. After 2-3 weeks back and forth with the extended warranty company, (Easycare) they tell me the original source was a faulty thermostat and they won’t be covering through the Easycare powertrain warranty.

    Long story short, after reaching out for mercy, Subaru of America stepped in to cover about half of the whole job, and I saw your advice about doing the water pump / timing belt while the head gaskets are being done as pre-maintenance so I requested that as well.

    MY QUESTION: what can I do going forward to preempt the next big issue so it whatever happens next won’t come as a blindside? I follow the oil-change schedule, as well as the recommended maintenance jobs but now I’m wondering what smaller signs I can pay attention to weekly/monthly to get the most out of this recent big repair? Look for fluid dripping in certain areas? Check the fuses more often? I worry this was a small problem that turned into a big one and I have to chalk the whole thing up to experience, but want to make smarter choices in the future.

    Thank you for any consideration and if you know any good shops in the San Gabriel Valley, California area, I’d be happy to give them some business.

    1. Hey Ryan,

      I hate hearing these types of stories, but I guess its good you got some help.

      Because the 2012 doesn’t have a temperature gauge which is just a bad idea, I would look at a smart phone app with a dongle for the diagnostic connector, you can set up an alert at a specific temp on some apps, or if you prefer monitor it on your device. I did this on my 2012 H6 because I wanted to know my Coolant temp values.

      The 2010-2012’s 2.5I can develop internal HG issues after a overheating event for sure, but I doubt it was the Thermostat, Id have liked to test that in hot water if it was me.

      Always pay attention to fluid levels of course but I strongly suggest a OBDII dongle and a smart phone app to monitor temperature.

      Hope that helps


  21. I have a 2004 Subaru Impreza Outback. I bought it new . It began leaking oil out of the driver side head gasket at about 60K. It now has 134K and its still there. The dealer says it will be about $2,500 to change the head gaskets and install a new clutch. A hiccup in the way to 300,000 miles according to this website. I get a 12 month 12000 mile warranty with it too. My plan is to drive till it stops. $2500.00 is cheaper than a car payment. Without maintenance costs, this car has been cheap to own. I have replaced the radiator and the back pads ( were wearing out incorrectly due to caliper not sliding) It still has the OEM axles on all 4 corners and the boots are perfect It also has the OEM front brake pads too.
    Maintenance oil change with synthetic – every 6000 miles. New Subaru coolant every 30k and thermostat every other change ( cheap insurance) . New spark plugs at 60K . Timing belt and all the pulleys at 105K . Brake fluid change every 3 years.

  22. Hi justin.
    First I would like to say thank you for all the information you put on your site about Subaru’s. I have done of ton of online searching about my problem and didn’t really find too much info for my year not even on the Subaru’s website. I know they are famous for headgasket problems (didn’t know until after I got the car and had a problem with it and first Subaru and still have payments left on it)
    I have a 2012 outback with a 2.5 that the second it reached 120,000 it headed up and of course with no temperature gauge and just an idoit light i didn’t notice it until the light came on then started flashing and the cruise light and brake light was flashing all at the same time so i pulled over checked the coolant level and it was full and hot and bubbling like it was overheating. I was close to home so I just let the fans run until it cooled down and made it home put it on the ramps thinking it was the thermostat I left it at home and took my gfs truck to the auto parts store to get a new thermostat and new coolant well 2 stats later 2 flushes leaving everything open making sure no blockage anywhere closing the system leak check on the system (holds 15psi and doesn’t move) with the thermostat in the lower radiator hose and heater core hoses don’t heat up at opp temp with the thermostat out the upper and lowers heat up but the heater core hoses dont at opp temp. I even tested all of the thermostats and they open when hot. I’m not getting white smoke out the tail pipe no coolant in the oil no oil in the coolant no leaks anywhere like I said it holds pressure no problem dosen’t budge but with the system closed with water and running there was just a little bit of bubbles coming out the radiator every so often I pretty much gave up and I’m thinking that the headgaskets need to be replaced.
    Any help I would appreciate it. Thank yall in advance

    1. Hello Kenny,

      So I guess I will start with when was the cooling system serviced, and who monitors and tops off the coolant? We see a few internal HG’s on the 2010-2012 EJ 2.5l but not that many, you wont see smoke out of the tailpipe, coolant in the oil. When they are really bad you will smell exhaust in the overflow bottle and may see some oil from combustion in the overflow bottle.

      If you didn’t buy a Thermostat from Subaru take it out and make a necklace out of it for your dog or something as the aftermarket thermostat can’t do any harm to your Subaru from there. If its a Subaru Stat great job! If its one from a parts store get it out.

      It sounds like you have an air pocket you need to burp out, you of course vacuumed the air out of the system and filled with the proper tooling, bought and installed a coolant fill funnel prior to topping off and running? If none of that happened, that’s what needs to.

      Hope that helps


  23. Great article thanks for sharing. Now that a few more years and miles have graced the 2005-2009 EZ30R engines I’m interested if you have seen further HG failures and what type of failures may have occured ?

    1. Hey Andrew,

      We do a few here and there, still mostly high mileage and or after a major overheating event.

      Hope that helps


      1. Hi Justin, I am looking at possibly buying a 1994 subaru justy with the 3 cylinder 9 valve (1200 cc I believe) engine, and it is burning oil. The current owner tells me that it doesn’t burn a whole lot, but a quart every month or so definitely seems like a lot for such a small engine, and there was a very large cloud of smoke out of the exhaust when I revved the engine up. I was wondering if the oil burning was a problem caused by a leaking head gasket, or if it’s something else like piston rings or possibly a problem with the valves? The current owner also just adjusted something with the valves (I cannot remember what he did exactly) so he could have done some faulty work, but that could just be speculation as well lol. The car has around 194k miles. Thank you!

        1. Hey Nick,

          Oil burning is most likely worn oil control rings if its that significant.

          I would be hard pressed to suggest a 1994 Justy as a good car to still buy. They are not easy to get parts for anymore at all.

          Hope that helps


    1. So far so good, I still prefer the 3.6l however, I think the current era Outback with the 3.6l and the CVT is a great combination.


      1. Hi Justin.
        I’m planning on replacing my head gaskets and timing belt soon by myself. 2003 Outback 2.5L. 90k miles, The belt is original and the oil dripping on the exhaust is pretty much constant.fumes.

        Aside from buying your part kits (which i will do), Can you give me some general advice? Typical problems for a first-timer. I’m reasonably skilled and have all the necessary tools.

        My plan is weekend 1 – remove engine and dismantle. Get the heads surfaced (if needed) during the week and reassemble on weekend 2.

        Should I machine the heads if they look okay?
        New head bolts?

        I believe i have a PDF of the factory manual, but is there a better guide?

        Anything else?


        1. Justin,

          I should have asked:

          – I’m pretty sure it’s the head gaskets – meets all the criteria – it’s not the oil-fill tube, for example, but I can’t actually see it leak from the head/block interface – should i look harder to verify it’s the head gasket leaking?

          Where and how?

          1000 thanks!

          1. You can, or you can try and take pictures and email those to us and we can try and help you identify what you have going on.

            Hope that helps


        2. Hi Bill,

          You have a well thought out plan. When you buy the kit from us you also get a Repair guide I wrote as well as tech support form my parts manager who used to be a Technician.

          When ever you are ready give us a try and we will be here to help you



          1. Hello. I was considering buying a used Subaru for my daughter until I ran into a few used ones that mentioned either recently replaced head gaskets or some that needed head gaskets. I usually do my own mechanical work but head gasket issues scare me because until you disassemble you don’t know really what you’ll find … maybe a warped block surface, or a crack. That changes the game from repairable to cost prohibitive.

            I appreciated your explanations around the Subaru head gasket issues but I feel that your explanation of the surfaces of the head gasket being eaten away by the coolant seem to fall flat based on what a gasket’s function is. Isn’t the limit of exposure to the coolant and anything else the gasket is sealing supposed to be limited to the very edges of the gasket? The only thing in contact with the surfaces of the gasket should be the two surfaces it’s sealing.

            If the coolant actually makes contact with the surfaces of the gasket it’s already “game over”. Either the gasket failed or the two surfaces the gasket is sealing are warping past the ability of the gasket to do it’s job. Either one is a design problem and one that has been solved by most domestic and foreign manufacturers.

            Head gasket issues were quite prevalent in the 80’s with a number of aluminum head engines with iron blocks, mostly US made ones. These were reluctantly accepted due to the new bi metal engine configurations but why would ANY manufacturer still be having these issues 40 years later? I’m not on the front lines of this but I rarely hear of “brand wide” head gasket failures even from the lowly domestic manufacturers.

            This has proven to be solvable as evidenced by the other brands. The frustration is why doesn’t Subaru care enough to solve it?

          2. Hey Alex,

            Thanks for the post. I will try to address each question, concern or statement I guess.

            So not all cars are the same, nor motors or repair requirements, they differ greatly.

            If you know the vehicle or can find out if it is common for a block or head to crack you will have a lot more proper and useful information. Subaru’s don’t typically crack blocks or heads unless severely overheated, which is not the reason the head gaskets are replaced on the NA Subaru, it’s because of external oil leaks, sometimes developing into external coolant leaks, and if both of those leaks are allowed to go on for an extended period of time it will cause an overheat. I am speaking about the 2nd gen 2.5l found in the 1999-2010 Forester, 2000-2012 Outback and Legacy with this statement. External oil leaks from the head gasket is just not the same as “Blowing a Headgasket” the later is a term from the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s, that’s just not what we are talking about here.

            Exposure to fluids starts with the edge of the gasket but does not end there, you must also consider expansion rates of the cylinder head VS the block. Overtime if the fluids are allowed to become contaminated will slowly over time cause deterioration of the gasket edge and surface. Also how thick the gasket is, how many sides of the gasket are in contact through the cooling system ports between engine block and cylinder head also matter.

            Subaru is not the only one having head gaskets replaced by any stretch of the imagination. Try a search about Mercedes sometimes or BMW 325I, the difference probably is the clientele do not go on the internet and rant as often, they just pay the bill, but I promise its an issue.. Being in the industry and having friends that also are that I still stay in touch with helps me understand this and I constantly want to know typical issues for other makes. The FB engine Subaru has used over the last 8 years have not had any real HG issues by the way, some other challenges for sure, but not HG.

            The horizontal engine platform means that external fluid leaks from the head gasket will reveal themselves quicker than they might on an inline or V design due to gravity and the location of the cylinder head to block surface with regards to the earth. On a Subaru it’s 1 foot away from the ground or less, on many other makes several feet from the ground, and takes a lot longer to turn into a drip on the driveway. The horizontal engine platform allows for the rest of the platform, which employs the only symmetrical AWD system and low center of gravity. I guess what I am saying is you can’t have it all sometimes and you must always decide as a consumer what your priorities are of course.

            With all of the emissions control systems on modern vehicles, they are more about not creating exhaust content rather than real longevity. When is the last time you saw the TV add Toyota used to run for all of the high mileage vehicles, its not because it wasn’t good marketing its because its just not as true as it once was.

            Anyways, I hope you find your daughter something you will be happy with. If you find a Subaru with an oil leak from the HG I just wouldn’t be afraid of it.



  24. Hi Justin!
    Outback 1998 here in Brazil, 60 k miles, mostly highway, extremely good condition, only 2 owners. No signal of leaks or that the engine has been opened.
    My question:
    Do you think that I must do the HG job preventively or it’s better to wait early symptoms of HG failure? I mean, you believe that this original HG will die at some moment, sooner or later?

    1. Hello Sandro,

      That’s a great Question and yes I believe that the HG in your 1998 will fail at some point in time, but have no idea when. Id just keep an eye on the condition of the coolant in the Overflow bottle and at the first sign of exhaust smell or oily residue I would just get it done.

      Hope that helps


      1. Helps a lot, Justin. By the way, my HG repair kit will come from you!!
        Thanks and keep up the good work … and sharing all your valuable knowledge!


  25. Hi Justin,
    Excellent blog.. I find it to be very thorough and to the point. I have never owned a Subaru, but have only heard good things about them. I am looking at a 2004 legacy gt with only 34,000 miles on it. While the mileage is ultimately an attractive feature, it does worry me that it has possibly sat for long periods. I do plan on a prepurchase inspection, but just wanted to get your thoughts on the year and model I am looking at and what pitfalls to look out for/what to tell my local independant to look for?

    1. Hi Gene,

      Nothing out of the normal, but the Head gaskets should be scrutinized as always.

      Also sometimes wheel bearings can go sooner based on the amount of time it sits.

      Hope that helps


  26. G’day from Western Australia. Thanks for the all the effort you’ve put into this blog, Justin, and your community spirit in sharing your knowledge so willingly.

    I now know why the two used Foresters I’ve looked at (an ’05 and an ’06) have both had evidence of a very small oil leak in exactly the same place (rear underside of head). It had me scratching my head as to why the underbodies rearward of the leaks were so clean despite evidence that oil had been leaking for quite a while, until your Part II blog explained that “mystery” (the “diaper” that soaks it up).

    Because there was no oil smear rearward of the engine, I almost convinced myself when looking at the second car that the oil was from a spillage during a past service and nearly bought the car, but thankfully my cautious nature made me back off and do more research – which is what lead me to your blog.

    We already have a multi-owner Gen 3 2L 1998 Liberty manual wagon (released earlier here than in the US) with about 150000 kms / 93000 miles on the clock and despite some doubts that it has been regularly serviced, so far we’ve had no problems except a clutch at what I think is a reasonable 130000 kms/ 81000 miles. There was no record of the timing belt being done at 100000 kms (Subaru Australia recommended interval – don’t understand why US recommended interval is so different. Surely the belts are made in the same factory?) so we had it done just in case.

    We’re looking for a used automatic around 2003 – 2007 vintage as my wife a few days ago discovered she could no longer operate the clutch due to a worn out knee. She was also starting to find it hard to slide into the driver’s seat of the low-slung Liberty, so after trying an Outback and finding that borderline, we’re now looking for a Forester for the even higher seat…..which leads me to a question.

    What do you think of the H6 Foresters of that vintage? I like the idea of a good old fashioned timing chain and maybe they have a more reliable HG? We don’t need a big engine, but if the economy of the six is similar to the four-banger and it’s more reliable, maybe it’s a better choice. Only problem might be finding one as they’re rarer than the 2.5L

    Thanks again for what you do.

    1. Hello Kevin,

      I Really like the H6 engines for a long list of reasons

      Smoother Idle
      Quieter drivetrain
      Less possibility of external HG leaks
      More power
      Not that much of a mileage drop over the 4

      Having said that here are the cons

      Higher Maint Costs
      Cost more to repair if it has a HG issue
      Some models require premium fuel
      Parts can be a little harder to source.

      Hope that helps


  27. My 2010 Subaru, purchased new at Anchor Subaru in Smithfield RI has been diagnosed with head gasket problem. This is a KNOWN AND PROVEN defect of manufacturing on the part of Subaru and is very expensive to fix (around $2000. by their own service dept. estimates). I have kept every record of oil changes and any other maintenance record on my car, have taken meticulous care of my vehicle over these 6+ years of sole-ownership and am, none-the-less, by no fault of my own am now facing having to repair the head gaskets which are inherent defects in Subaru. When dealing with Mr Justin removed the name at Subaru headquarters after leaving my car at the dealership for nine days (it has taken them this entire tome just to “assess”) I am told that Subaru is willing only to cover $500. in costs leaving me with the responsibility of the $1500. or more outstanding balance. This is bogus and unacceptable for a problem that has NOTHING to do with my driving. I will NEVER buy another Subaru and recommend to all buyers …BEWARE. SUbaru has a track record of expensive goof-ups that they do not stand behind.

    1. Hello Doriana,

      Sorry you feel that way and what ever you by next you fare better with.


  28. I’ve been smelling hot coolant and after checking radiator -it uses about a cup or two of coolant when i check it so i took my 2007 Subaru outback wagon with 90,000 miles on it to the mechanic. He found coolant leak on the exhaust and did a compression check. The compression on the cylinder where he thought it was leaking was 116. Only one cylinder was close to 130 the other two were in the 120’s . He recommended an eventual head gasket replacement. Will he have to take the engine out to do replacement? I don’t want to tell the mechanic what to do and he says he’s done a number of these gasket replacements but how can i know for sure that he is doing the job the way you’d recommend. He’s not a dealer just a private shop. He came highly recommended. Any other suggestions? Thank you! He’s scheduled it for next week.

    1. Hi John,

      I am really kind of confused by this, the HG leak isn’t going to be the cause of low compression unless its an internal HG failure which would mean the car is overheating. So the Compression loss needs to be accurately diagnosed prior to any repairs. Also the numbers in all cylinders seem low to me, so I am just at loss to how best advise you here. This is something where I would need to see the car myself to understand whats going on, either there is something lost in communication between you and the shop or the shop is not your best choice.

      Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s a big deal to find the right shop for your Subaru, not for just this, but for all of your needs going forward, the experience you will have with your Subaru will really be dictated by where you choose to have it serviced.


  29. We’ve had Subarus in the past, and are now looking at a 2005 Outback with about 150,000 miles. The Carfax report says the head gaskets were replaced at about 60,000 miles. A visual inspection of the engine show no obvious seepage of oil or coolant at the case/head joints or elsewhere. The coolant looks clean.

    Can you give us any prognosis as to what to expect and whether this vehicle might be a good bet?

    Also, we are in Minnesota. Could you refer us to a good Subaru shop in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for an inspection? (I used to be a mechanic, but obviously this is a complex vehicle and I don’t know what, specifically, to look for beyond the obvious).

    1. Hi Alan,

      I have family in MN but just don’t have a shop to send you to, and that’s what you really need to find is a good Independent Shop near you, let them perform a Pre Purchase inspection, otherwise you just don’t know what you are buying.

      Hope that helps


  30. Justin, I live in western pa and of course this is a bad area for salted roads. I have a son who lives in northern Louisiana and a daughter in Austin Tx. I was thinking about getting a one way airline ticket to one of these locations for a visit, then purchasing a Forester and driving it home. While searching Craigslist Austin cars for sale by owner I came across several Foresters where the owners said the head gaskets were recently replaced. The mileage between the repair and the selling mileage was only several thousand miles difference. This led me to believe they were getting out while the getting was good. I was curious about the need for repairs to the head gaskets which led me to your site. You had mentioned on several posts I read that a non dealer repair should get the engine to last quite a while longer with the proper maintenance. one of the ads said that FelPro gaskets were used. Is this a good make of gasket compared to the OEM ones? By the way I was quite shocked to find out that Subaru engines were having repeated problems that went so long without being corrected.

    1. Hello Lee,

      Thanks for the Questions

      First of all I would want you to Run and not walk away from any Subaru that has had a head gasket repair made with Felpro gaskets.

      It points to either a general Auto repair shop or a DIY situation.

      Look instead for Subaru’s repaired with Six Star gaskets. This would indicate a Independent Subaru shop made the repairs and that is the best place to start, from there find a Subaru shop that can perform a Pre Purchase Inspection.

      Hope that helps and Happy Holidays


      1. Is there a way to tell, without records or disassembly, what type or make of head gaskets have been used?

        I would take your advice to avoid Fel-Pro gaskets, but am curious what’s wrong with them–what the failure modes are.


        1. Hi Alan,

          A trained eye can spot the Felpro gaskets, this is not easy to try and explain what to look for over the internet or the phone for that matter.

          As far as why we don’t suggest them, because we lots only last a year, there are other post that highlight this on our website.

          Hope that helps


  31. I am looking at a 2009 Subaru 2,5 X. What can be told to me about this. I hear head gasket problem can cost 2,100. Has 91,000 and maintained well with one owner.



  32. hello Justin,

    2015 subaru legacy 2.5i prem. CEL light on cruise flashing and code is U0284.
    what is this code and what is problem.

    items prior to code ; had two subaru recalls performed two days prior to CEL
    changed oil and filter per recommendations w/ subaru filter about
    1400 miles prior to CEL coming on.

    27000 miles on car.

    1. Hi Joe,

      Without diagnosing the car no one knows whats the matter with it. It needs to be diagnosed locally and its still under warranty. Not knowing which recalls were just done makes it hard to know if they could be related.

      Its a Network code, so anything is possible.


  33. Hi Justin,

    Before I inquire, I wanted to say thank you. I have read most of the comments in this entire thread, and your time and effort into assisting and answering people is inspiring and appreciated. It means a lot to me and I’ve just been reading the comments.

    But I do have a question I was hoping you could help with.

    I am in the market for a used Subaru, and I have been looking into the legacy wagons, anywhere in the 95′- 02′ range, mileage anywhere from 150-220k. Having done quite a bit of reading, it seems like the best(safest?) choice would be too look for a 2.2L engine, but i’m finding that most of the wagons being sold are the 2.5L.

    Some of the 2.5L vehicles I’ve been looking at have already have had the Head Gaskets replaced- sometimes recently, whereas others have not seemed to have that head gasket failure yet.

    I do realize that not all 2.5L engines are destined to fail and that it depends greatly on how you treat the vehicle, and I take great care of the cars I own.

    With this in mind,
    Is a 2.5L Subaru with replaced head gaskets likely to last a while, or does it show that the HGs are doomed to fail again?

    Would a 2.5L Subaru that has not had HG issues with similar mileage be a wiser choice?

    Thanks again,
    Ted K.

    1. Hello Ted,

      All good questions but really hard to factually answer.

      So not all 2.5l will have a head gasket issue, but many will. A repaired Subaru in theory should be a good way to go, but if it was repaired at the Dealer, its just going to have same gasket that has already failed once, repaired by a guy who is in a hurry and it’s not going to last.

      If its repaired with the Six Star head gaskets we use here, repaired by a Independent Subaru shop that cares and values their customers well that’s a better scenario.

      Your not going to find a Subaru with 2.2l worth buying, that ship has sailed.

      I do like the idea of buying a Subaru at a depressed price that needs a Head gasket repair provided the rest of the car is solid, you then have a shop like ours make the repairs, establish a relationship with that shop and yo will have a good experience in most cases.

      Hope that helps


      1. Hey Justin,

        Thanks for your Feedback, I really appreciate you taking the time to give thoughtful responses to everyone including myself.

        I just picked up a 1998 2.5L legacy outback in excellent condition, with no history of head gaskets. If i ever find myself in your part of Washington ill make sure to bring it in.


  34. Justin ~ Maybe you’ve done this (I didn’t read all the posts); if not, if I were you I’d acknowledge the HG problem is excessive because it is, and perhaps the weak wheel bearings in some Subarus, and continue to focus on the cars legitimate saving graces. Few Japanese, or now Korean, makes have common problems as extensive & expensive as Subaru’s HG woes. A reasonably smart reader knows this, so trying to say any Honda or Toyota has problems comparable is laughable to many and harms your credibility.

    I still drive a `72 Volvo 1800ES with more than 600,000 miles on it and it’s better than new. It has cost within a few bucks of $250/year to keep and improve over some 40 years, beyond the usual gas, oil, tires, etc. I do almost of the wrenching including an engine rebuild , suspension overhaul and limited-slip installation.

    I inherited my dead sister’s 1993 Impreza, the first year they looked like Baby Huey’s head, and knowing nothing of Subarus, assumed it a throw-away car. It had about 65,000 miles on it when I got it and I drove the hell out of it until it had well over 200,000 with very few problems, gaskets still fine on it’s 1800cc boxer! I sold it to a kid when it began looking pretty ratty, wishing I’d taken good care of it from the start. Given the same care all its life my 1800 gets, it would still be my daily driver.

    Now that the Volvo’s more a collector car I’d love to have a new Subaru but they’re too big. I’d buy an `08 Outback in a minute – the last of the nice-size & handsome Outbacks with good room inside. I won’t though, due to the inherent HG and bearing problems. I suspect I’ll end up with a Hyundai. `Too bad as I really like everything else about those Subarus – the build quality, superior roll-center, superb handling, the engineering in general except those fatal flaws. Those HGs are a crying shame since the rest is so great.

    To many, if they can find a shop like I understand yours is that does good, smart work, to rectify the HG and bearing woes, they’d still find happiness in a Subaru. I believe you would do yourself a favor to acknowledge the HGs as the real problems they are and concentrate on the honest goodness of the rest of the car instead of suggesting other makes are as bad in other ways. I believe you’ll keep more readers’ respect.

    Best wishes,

    1. Hello Brooks,

      Thanks for the Post.

      So to try and address this for you. In my eyes, I have written several posts, replied to thousands of comments, helped develop a head gasket to be used in the aftermarket when repairing Subaru head gaskets, tried to relay how the Subaru should be maintained, tried to explain all car companies want you to continue to buy cars. So I guess I have done more then anyone I have come across to bring light to the situation. I am just a small shop owner in the corner of the Pacific North West, there are business dynamics at work here that few understand and all cars have issues.

      As far as other cars not having the same type of issues as Subaru? I guess I am in a different camp then you are having a lot of friends in the industry involved with other makes and models and can point you to car owner forums stating quite the opposite to your thoughts. When someone owns a Subaru or is considering one don’t you think it’s fair to point out the faults of another car? To me it’s called a fair comparison, or a sympathetic way of trying to explain that your not alone, and most cars have issues. To help address that “darn it if I would have only bought the _______ car in 2008 instead of this Subaru I wouldn’t be replacing the head gaskets right now” with the real world wait a minute, if you had bought insert this model ___________ here lets look at real data to see what you may have encountered, lets do some real research and learn the truth, not just believe everything you read on the internet and understand that the only truth comes from real conversations with a lot of owners by way of forums and candid conversations with the techs that service other makes.

      A lot of the current problems with cars is this

      Customers want less maintenance
      The EPA wants less emissions and better fuel economy
      The Internal combustion engine is not capable of being clean with out a multitude of secondary systems and systems to monitor those systems with even more systems and systems to monitor those systems coming out every year.

      I would put a newer Subaru up against another car in it’s class such as Audi and Volvo and compare notes after 10 years. I still firmly believe they make good, safe reliable cars, but no car is perfect. The head gaskets were addressed with the FB engines, but only to encounter new problems with low tension oil control rings to try and decrease friction and increase economy to satisfy the EPA. This is something that also affects Most other car companies, google oil consumption problems next to pick a make.

      You mention the Impreza as still having the same gaskets in it at 200k, where I have replaced a lot of 1.8l Impreza head gaskets through the years.

      I also sincerely hope before you buy the model car you are considering you genuinely look into the engine problems those cars have.

      Happy hunting and glad your doing research.


  35. Hi Justin,

    Thanks for the information provided here.

    I had an aftermarket warranty on my 2008 Subaru impreza 2.5i with 96000kms. There was a oil leak last year and I took it into the dealership and they said it was the valve cover so I replaced it for around $300. The warranty has since expired and I’m now told that it looks like my head gasket is leaking but they haven’t confirmed this and will at my next visit but I’m sure it is based on how many of these are failing. I was told that inexperience people change the valve cover when it’s actually the head gasket, so now I’m upset that this would have been covered under warranty last year.

    I’m debating what to do if it’s confirmed that it’s my head gasket. I’m thinking that I’ll change both gaskets at the same time. Also the timing belt, thermostat, water pump while the engine is out of the car. Can you think of anything else that I should or shouldn’t do?


    1. Hello Cory,

      It’s difficult to comment on if it was the HG the whole time, I will say that if its leaking bad enough to need to be done now, there had to have been signs last year..

      When the Head Gaskets are replaced I would look for a Independent Subaru shop that uses the Six Star Subaru Head gaskets and not let the Dealer do the repair, they will not be taking the engine out and they will use the exact same gasket that’s already let you down once.


  36. I have a 2003 baja, ibought it new. I now have 340000 miles on her. I have done HG VG and 3 WHEEL BEARINGS……..SAME MOTOR SAME TRANNY NEW BATTERY JUST THIS YEAR 2016. ALWAYS DID OIL CHANGES3000 i am shopping for a new one,why because check engine lights been on for a few years.I have beat that system a feww times……looking for another baja

  37. I am looking at a new ’16/’17 WRX Limited. Has the new 2.0L FA20DIT engine been able to move beyond the head gasket issues? Any other problems or concerns on this engine? Thanks!

  38. Hi Justin,

    What should I expect a HG repair to cost on a 2005 Forester Turbo? I got a quote from an independent mechanic and unless I seriously misheard its around $4000… This seems crazy to me.

    1. Hi Brad,

      Depends on what all is being included in the quote. if its head gaskets plus machine shop work, plus water pump, timing components, etc it might be legit, if its just the gaskets and labor its probably high, but I have no idea what the market is like where you live unless you live in Seattle, this is why I do not offer to give prices for repairs where we do not operate.

      It’s truly like asking me how much a three bedroom house should cost. The answer is all over the map, depending where on the map you are.


  39. Justin,

    Simple question –

    I have a 2007 Basic Outback with 190k and need head gasket replacement – Is there a better head gasket alternative to the standard OEM version (maybe the XT Turbo gasket) that I should request from dealer before repair?
    Not sure if the dealer will be willing to deviate from standard parts protocol though.

    1. Hi Dave,

      Look for an Independent Shop that uses the Six Star gasket, you will not receive any value having it done at the Dealership


  40. OK. Every car has it’s issues. I work in the industry for a place that does a lot of work on Subaru vehicles. There’s no denying they’ve had their head gasket problems. There’s also no denying they are generally a high maintenance vehicle when compared to toyota and honda. If you disagree with that statement, just go check the subaru maintenance schedule, especially severe service (most of new england technically falls under this category…also a popular area for subaru). You will find they suggest changing fluids far more often than other makes. Spark plugs are changed more often also and depending on the year, timing belts to top it off. There’s nothing wrong with this really…..but people don’t know what they are getting into. They buy the car and don’t look into these things and then complain later when they see a service quote. People in general scoff at having to maintain a vehicle….or anything else for that matter. No one likes to pay to repair things.

    Diff services every 15k, SVT fluid changes every 30k, brake fluid changes every 30k. Spark plug changes at 1/2 of the mileage that most newer honda + toyota vehicles suggest. That adds up to a lot of money over time. Then you have to deal with a potential head gasket issue @ 75k-120k. If it has a timing belt you can add that to the list and possibly do that when/if your head gasket leaks. There’s a ton of smaller nitpicky repairs I could name but it wouldn’t be fair to subaru because any car is going to have similar things happen. I’m just going purely on their schedule (pulled from alldata). I’ll leave my opinion out of it…that is just what they say.

    Justin is right that if you compare brands and factor in having AWD, Audi and Volvo aren’t much better….especially Audi….but if you want lower overall maintenance costs and plan on keeping your vehicle into the 120k+ range, you are much better off with a 4 cylinder fwd toyota or honda. It’s just going to cost less to maintain period. All that being said….I would still consider a subaru. They have their issues but so does everything else.

    P.S. What’s with these places doing one head gasket? That’s just plain ridiculous. If you’re going to do one, just do the other one with it and save yourself the time/money/hassle of doing the other later.

    1. Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the Comment

      Couple of points to clear up, the Diff service interval is 30k always has been since the Loyal, which is the same as Honda and Toyota based on same use, the coolant is the same interval, the CVT fluid not SVT fluid is 90-100k.

      Depending on which Model Toyota or Honda you compare it to the overall maint. costs are on par, especially if you compare apples to apples such as AWD to AWD

      Subaru phased out timing belts for a while now.

      Lastly if you call a Toyota or Honda Dealer and ask about the price of a 60k service, then a Subaru dealer for a comparable model they will be very close in price. If there is truly less to actually do on the Honda or Toy, why is the price so high? I can only speak for the Dealers around here I might add, and its quite possible the ones where you live have a different program, everything here is severe as well unless you are buying the car..

      Have never understood doing HG in the Car or just one side either but that’s some Dealers program.


  41. A vote for spending on HG repairs to keep the 2007 Forester that meets all my needs?

    My Forester now has gaskets seeping on one side, mild leak on other head. My trusted mechanic shows me cost up to $3500-4300 to do a lot of repairs while doing gasket job..all necessary IF i keep the car. (water pump/rack & pinion/coolant, etc..a well detailed estimate..sobering but these are the facts)

    I already DO NOT like anything new I see or even newer used cars.

    I must decide to shop for a new/used car- which I can afford to buy, OR since I LOVE this one, and can afford, at just 69K miles to get it repaired & keep it another 5-7 years.

    ( ( I put just 30K on since 2/2010 And I am doing the “severe” issue of 6-10 miles or less a day, <5K miles a year on it.. which may be why I have this issue with seep/leak now)

    Americans have pressure to "buy New" or "treat yourself" and not 'maintain/make do' which is more to my philosophy. I wanted 100K +miles on this car.

    Looking at 'similar' cars nothing appeals, too many gadgets/options/bluetooth etc I do not need

    The ONLY Forester years getting a good CR report are 2012-2013..I would NOT buy a new one 2014-2016 with 2nd massive lawsuit just filed on oil burn issues.

    I tend to maintain & keep my cars much longer anyway (10+ years) , so aside from minor body issues, dings with tiny rust why NOT repair and keep driving this 2007 vs spending $25000K+ on even a vlm 2014 Prius, or Scion or other boxy /good visibility car? ( all have massive techy options most people can't get to work, thick manuals, etc)

    PS My 2002 kept me alive after a horrible head on collision in 2010 ( 7 years old, well maintained, no issues), so I quickly bought this 2007 <40K miles, 'gently' used/inspected Forester NOT knowing of HG failures. This info was not online, or I missed it, but mechanics knew of the 100%fail rate.

    Maybe I am in shock over 'buying' process, but I don't want to be stupid with $$ either. I will be committed to keep the car longer if I spend this much on repairs.

    Thoughts/opinions? My mech shop uses NAPA parts, but I'd prefer to insist on the SixStar kit

    1. I would not use the Napa parts on a Japanese Car, even though Napa bought Alltrom, they still don’t have good options for Subaru which is why we don’t buy much if at all from them.


  42. Just bought a 2007 Subaru Outback 2.5i Wagon with 95,000 miles for $9,300. Fingers crossed! Thanks for the thread. As a firstitme Subaru owner I feel much better informed going into this. Even if I have to make a $2000 repair – knowing in advance makes it much more palatable rather than being surprised by it. Hopefully it isn’t coming anytime soon (would like to pay the car off first anyway) but if it is I feel like I got a decent bargain on this car.

  43. Justin,

    I have a question about my 05 LGT getting hot. I haven’t been having an issue with vehicle up until a long trip we just went on. I recently just did a belt/pump/thermostat service on it and it’s been over 1,000 miles ago. On the trip it was about 800 miles round trip all highway miles, and on the way down when I stopped, to fuel, I got back on the highway and noticed it was getting hot, to which it soon fell back down to normal range. Once we arrived at our spot I checked things over and it started getting hot again and the overflow was to the top. Even spilled out a little. The car was still hot when coming to a slow speed or stop but would cool down when driving faster. I let it sit over night and did not notice it getting hot in the morning before getting gas for the trip home.

    Once we got home I let it idle for a few minutes (because of a 400 mile drive) and it did get hot again, but didn’t seem as bad as the first time.

    This morning I drove to work 6.5miles, and once parked it seemed like the temp was rising again, but only slightly off the normal mark once the car was shut off.

    Should i be worried? Or, was this just something that happens with the turbo getting so hot from such a long trip? Thanks for any help you can offer!

    1. Hello Gabriel,

      It’s tough to say whats going on from here, but you do have to sort it out before you continue to drive it.

      I am not sure what you did to get the air out of the cooling system, so you may just have an air pocket.

      If you used an aftermarket Thermostat throw it away and get an O.E., if you used an OE from Subaru then start by looking for hot and cold spots in the Radiator, followed with smelling the coolant for any signs of an exhaust smell, which would indicate an issue with the head gaskets.

      Hope that helps


  44. I have been reading with much interest at people in America typically ‘whinge’ at only getting 77k-105k out of their Subaru Forester or legacy or wrx. You and they are all saying wow I wont buy another “subi”, as they cost way too much, to redo your head gaskets People get a life please. I live in Australia and our fuel is around $1.60 per litre, and you guys are only paying $0.75 per gallon so you think a cost of repairing your head gaskets at typically $2400-$3000 is way too much. our costs are similar but when you take into account the American dollar to the Australian dollar the cost of $2400 is around $4200 here. I don’t know of anyone in Australia that didn’t get 200k before their pride and joy’s needed the HG done. I must be one of the lucky ones as my 2003 Forrester is currently at 467k and is now only just needing the HG done, so I think the ‘subi’s’ are the best car in the world. I drive for work around 2800 km per month and up till now I have enjoyed sweet driving but my baby has had every service done at 200k before she needed. So if you love your car and treat her as well as you like to be treated, there is no reason she wont treat you well, just remember all cars need maintenance, so put a little away every payday and when your baby needs some major work done, you will be able to get it done without whinging because you had thought ahead. (be prepared) like the boy scouts of the world.
    Paul (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie)

  45. So I am looking at this ……

    2003 Subaru outback limited automatic trans. registration renewed 12/30/15. runs and drives great. low mileage 83k.
    inherited vehicle from family. no need for second vehicle. available to show weekday nights or on weekends. no showing without cash to buy. would like to have a pleasant buy/sell experience where no ones time is wasted. cash only no test drive without cash to buy.

    Am i setting myself up for more cost in maintenance ? – Or should I roll with it ??

    1. Hi Dan,

      Its a 13 year old car, it needs an inspection to know its current state of needs to be able to answer the question.

      I would never buy a car under those premises, the Seller needs a reality check.

      You should not by a used car and Wonder if its a good buy, you should have it inspected and know it is or isn’t.


  46. Sad to see this still happening up to at least 2009 models.

    How is this not recall worthy? Pretty pathetic that people just “live with it.”
    I guess I’m just jaded, coming from a mk2 vw diesel, where the only recall/service bulletin was for aftermarket fuel lines.

    25 years later and its still going strong.. getting 50+mpg 60/40 hwy/cty.

    The original owner failed to properly maintain her (ie: looks like he replaced a broken window, and when resealing the door membrane, used duct tape instead of a silicone sealant. So .. that led to leaks, which have caused the rocker to rust out.)

    This and a few spots underneath where work had been done, but undercoating was not re applied.. (around fuel/brake/exhaust areas) .. leading to those areas rusting out as well.

    Looking at all cars these days, (VW included) .. I think it might just be wise to spend 6k and get a chassis up paint job.

    They made this car up until 2009 in some countries, so parts should still be a plenty for the next 10-15 years.


    1. Recalls are about safety items and emissions problems.

      Not for oil leaks.

      If you want to support a company that lied to millions of people about their cars, designed them to grossly pollute the environment go right ahead.

      All the best



    1. Hi Tammy,

      The belts were scheduled to be done @ 60,000 miles

      The Oil pressure switch for the AVCS is under $30.00

      The coolant cross over O-rings would not be typical, and I highly doubt that’s a real issue

      The thermostat gasket leak would be a under a $100.00 to repair.

      So you have a car that’s 8 years old and needs a few hundred dollars of work and its a POS?

      Thanks for the post


  48. Hey Justin,
    Thanks for the very informative blog and your patience in responding to questions. I have a 2000 Outback sedan that has been diagnosed with a head gasket problem. I have been driving with this problem for the past 2 years by regularly topping up the coolant every day. At this point, I do not want to spend any more money on the car and would just let it run its course before I donate it. Is this a wise course of action or should I stop driving this car immediately? I only use it for commute (10 miles each way). I am also looking a buying a new 2016 Subaru but am worried after reading the posts from the readers on HG problems even in the newer Subarus. My choice would be between the Forester and the Outback, Is one of them more or less susceptible to HG problems ? Many thanks for your feedback.

    1. Hello Murali,

      You really should stop driving and move on it if you know your not going to repair it.

      I am not aware of any head gasket issues with the current platform.

      The Outback and Forester use the same Drivetrain.


  49. in the 1980s to 1990s the 3.0L and the 3.8L ford and mercury engines had head gasket problems , so as you have been saying all along every car mfg. has had problems from time to time . I hope everyone understands it’s not personal that there car failed in one way or another , I know people who have owned multiple Subaru and loved everyone

  50. I’ve got a 1996 legacy outback. I had HG’s done at about 120,000. Now I have 243,000 on the vehicle and it needs another set of HG’s.. Do you use or recomend a certain type or brand gasket?

    1. Hello John,

      Great mileage on the Subie!

      We suggest the Updated Subaru Head Gasket here is a link to purchase it form us.



  51. Great write up.People do look at me funny when i stick the antifreeze with the vom probes, i think i read it in a ford service letter. I pulled the heads off our 2001 outback yesterday, passenger side, cylinder 1 blown on the bottom. Was blowing water out as fast as you put it in. I got this car for free from the original owner when it left her on the road with a broken timing belt. She said she would not trust it anymore, even fixed, and simply bought a new one( money is no issue for her). I replaced the bent valves, new belt and gaskets, 50000 miles ago.Not knowing about gasket problems i bought a set online, based on price, that did not have metal gaskets. Now i get to do it again! I am a motorcycle mechanic and the ej 251 is easier to fix than a goldwing. To all the posters and future readers, DO NOT take ANY shortcuts on this engine, pay more for the right parts, pay the price for a ” real” mechanic as the head torque procedure has to be done right. Remember that the head gaskets are wet all the time so stay up on antifreeze changes and use the dealer stuff (not the head gaskets). We like our car and i can fix it so it costs us hundreds, not thousands, which is nice. In the case of our rust free clean car, i would still pay full price for repairs and drive it till i get tired of it. Still cheaper than a replacement car. All cars break down from time to time, even my Mecedes gets in my pocket and it ONLY has 260000 miles on it. I plan on 300K from my Subaru with normal maint. and will most likely buy another one then. Fix it right and enjoy it, or get mad at it and give it away!!!

  52. Hi Justin

    I have a single mother friend of mine that has a 2008 Legacy that she took to a shop and they told her that the engine needs to be replaced. It runs but has greyish black smoke coming out of the exhaust from what she tells me. I am a diesel mechanic and am not up on cars to much. But its all just nuts and bolt to me. Do you know by chance what could be causing the smoke? Rings, head gasket? My experience has led me to believe more white smoke for a head gasket issue. Am I wrong?

    1. Hey Rick,

      Its tough to say whats causing black and grey colored smoke, have you seen it yet? Typically oil control rings or guides will be white and blue, internal HG issue would be white, and if its to that point where a 2008 has such a blown head gasket its smoking, that’s really hard to believe.

      Is it by chance a legacy GT?

  53. Hi Justin,

    I took the time to read through many of your comments. I have to say, cheers to you for answering back to the same dumb questions every time for the last 10 years. You seem like a really fun guy to grab a beer with, only, I don’t live in or near Seattle anymore.

    Reading your response made me realize that replacing the head gaskets is a small price to pay for the reliability of this car that I don’t plan on selling for at least another 150k if not more. Anyways, my point is, thank you for putting it into perspective, you can pay $1400-1600 for a HG job and get another 100,000 plus miles out of the car, or not do anything and watch an otherwise great vehicle burn up on the side of the road.

    I have chosen a small, independently owned shop that specializes in just Subaru to complete the work for me. He’s given me a fair price and I trust him more than the dealership.

    Thanks for a great Monday afternoon read, and the information.

    2008 Impreza 2.5i

    1. Hello Rachael,

      Thanks for the feedback!

      I don’t think you will regret choosing to repair the Impreza.

      I am awesome fun to have a beer with by the way.


  54. Hi Justin, thank you for the excellent article regarding Subaru head gaskets. One month ago I bought my next door neighbors 2005 Subaru Forester 2.5X, a result of him going to a larger Subaru to accomadate his children and those of his new girlfriend. I did a little research on the particular model through the help of online sites such as yours. I was aware of the HG problems that plagued Subaru’s, so I took it to two mechanics and had them look at it as there was some oily residue in the HG areas. They assured me that the HG’s were not leaking. One month and one thousand miles later, the left HG blew on me. I’m very grateful that it stared leaking coolant to the outside of the engine and not the inside. I was somewhat taken back, but it could have been much worse. I’ve worked a lot on my old cars over the years, but only on one Japanese vehicle, a 98 Suzuki Sidekick. I felt intimidated by the 2.5X motor, but with the help of onliine videos I came to the realization that I could do the head gaskets myself. Money at the moment is an issue, hiring a mechanic to do it was not an option, so I’m polishing up my skills and I’m going to do it myself. Stange thing is, tomorrow I was going to do the complete Timing Belt change, idlers, water pump, tensioner etc. Imagine how I would have felt had I done this, then noticed the leaky HG. So, I’m counting my Blessings right now, it could have been much worse. I would like to thank you for the wonderful points to observe in regards to coolant changes and oil changes, especially the intervals. Thanks again, Mike in Canada

  55. I’ve just purchased a ’98 Subaru Legacy Wagon with 2.2 motor and 200,000 miles. Is there any benefit to re-torque the heads ? Can this help prevent a head gasket failure when other routine maintenance has been done ?

  56. My brother had purchased a 2000 Forester AWD about 8 months ago. There were a lot of people advising against it, because of the overheating issues. As I can tell from the 2000+ comments that I’ve gone thru sporadically and read.
    Well, we have our own shop and have been repairing cars foreign and domestic for more than half a century. My brother did inspect this car top to bottom; front to back. He knew what he was getting into. It is up to me now to do the honors and replace the head gaskets on the car. Let me tell you; after disassembling the engine (without removing engine from car) I am very impressed with this little 2.5! A mechanic can see when an owner takes very good care of their vehicle. With proper care and regular maintenance, this vehicle lasted 190,000+ miles before it’s head gasket change!
    I’m just very surprised it lasted this long with my brother behind the wheel!
    I just want to reiterate what Justin has said as far as regular maintenance.
    Thank you Justin.

  57. Hi Justin,

    Louise from Sydney again.

    So far Subes was going okay, the mechanic had the radiator internally cleaned and pretty much straight after there is a leak coming from a water pump, however, as this was found just before they went on holidays they didn’t have time to repair it. Since then though I have been monitoring the water and filling up if need be. Over the weekend I drove to Tamworth which is about 300km from where I live and not a problem, on the way home I had to pull up about halfway as Sube’s hit the high temperature, but after refilling her water we were able to drive home the last 100km. The last two days however Sube’s is pretty much running hot continually even though I have checked the water and refilled if need be, I can’t even drive 5km before it hits high and when I pull up to check the reservoir bottle is boiling like an overfull kettle. Water, coolant, steam all coming out of the reservoir bottle. Subes is now parked in the driveway until the mechanic returns in a little over a week. Is this a definite sign that the head gaskets are done?

    On a side note, over the weekend I was driving back from Tamworth and had to pull up at the servo to check on Subes and another woman was also pulled up with the bonnet up so I went over to see if she was okay and thanks to you and all of your knowledge that you very generously share with everyone and the advice of my mechanic, I was actually able to help her…..she had no water in the radiator and she had been waiting over an hour for roadside assistance to turn up, she was driving a pretty flash car so after filling up the radiator I did suggest she wait for road side assistance just to make sure….so thanks so much. You are helping people all over the world and I am very grateful.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards,


    1. Hello Louise,

      That does sound like the HG have been compromised, it’s still subject to confirmation locally, but that is what I suspect is occurring.

      On the other note, it’s great you were able to offer help, and I am glad to provide what information I can as well.



  58. Hi Justin

    I have not read all of the comments for this article, so if this was already addressed I apologize. Anyway, I am wondering if you can outline what driving conditions allow a subaru to come to proper/normal operating temperature? You have mentioned that short trips sometimes do not allow the vehicle/oil to come to proper temperature. How long/fast should one drive to allow the car to come to proper temp? If you know that you’re going out to do a bunch of errands around town, with short trips in between stops, should you let the car warm up in the driveway/parking lot for a few minutes prior to getting on the road? I have a 2007 Outback with just about 87,000 miles on it that doesn’t seem to have any HG issues or excessive oil use issues, so I would like to keep it that way for a while! Thank you

    1. Hi Kate,

      There are so many variables such as outside ambient temperature, on time in between stops, rate of speed and engine load, all that affect engine operating temperature. A good general rule I can say is that anything under about 15-20 minutes of continuous on time with either speeds above 45 MPH, or loads such as hills would probably not allow the oil to get to temperature. Now during the summer months this would take less time, and winter months more time. Also where you live makes a huge difference, AZ in the summer 10 minutes max, Alaska in the Winter, it will never happen.

      Hope that helps


  59. Outstanding troubleshooting logic. Who would have gone the extra mile about considering electrolytic corrosion through the coolant being a potential issue ? Kudos, my friend.
    2000 Outback w/ 189,000 miles & I intend to get to 300K. I am the 3rd owner-what a GREAT little car-except for the anemic A/C in 100+ degree weather.
    Is Zerex pre mixed Asian spec coolant good for the Subie ? Just had the timing belt & water pump done & had the tech who did it use that particular brand.

  60. Dear Justin,
    Thank you so much for your information and that on the website, I first bought my 1997 Subaru Forester almost 15 years ago and it had 50,000km’s on it. I lived in Sydney for quite some time and then we moved into regional area of NSW and my Sube’s has never missed a beat. Only now after 15 years and over 370,000kms on it have I encountered my first head gasket problem, well my mechanic and I are now going this way as Sube’s is now having significant temperature, radiator, coolant problems after driving up and over mountain ranges and there are quite a few where I live..all good on the way down, but not so good now on the way up, then again, I don’t know any girl who enjoys hill repeats, I know I don’t 🙂 we carry spare water bottles at all times! Your information certainly explains the oil residue in the reservoir bottle, I have printed off your earlier information and will take it with me to my mechanic, not that Im trying to tell him his job, but Im sure it will all help to understand whats going on. From previous posts I am preparing myself for hefty $$$ on the invoice but when it comes to my Sube’s I will find a way to pay. Sube’s was my first ever car, we survived my twenties together going out, heading to the beach, she brought my son home from hospital and kept us both safe during our travels, Sube’s and I laughed, cried and sung our hearts out through my divorce and has remained every trust worthy and reliable while I rebuilt a life for my son and I.
    I am ever so thankful for Sube’s.
    Thank you again for your information and posts and posts from other Subaru drivers.
    We’re off to the mechanics in the morning!

    Thanks again! 🙂

    1. Hello Louise,

      Thanks for the post and the kind words! Hopefully it all goes well and is just a bump on the road.


  61. This is really rad and helpful information. I don’t own a Subaru, but I’m considering getting one. Thanks so much for taking the time to post this.

  62. Hi Justin,
    I was hoping to get your thoughts on something. I purchased a 2010 Legacy used with 100,000 miles on it. It currently has 133,000 on it and it has all of a sudden started overheating (happened twice). There is no apparent sign of HG failure, no smoke, no weeping oil, no oil in the anti-freeze. I have replaced the thermostat and the air filter and after sitting in traffic for over an hour this morning it overheated again. The dealership service dept said they have never seen the HG fail on the 2010 model because of the new gaskets. While I am waiting to hear what they say, does anything come to mind about what this could be? Does it sound like the HG?

    Much appreciated!!

    1. Hi Pat,

      Some 2010 models had an issue with the cooling fans not coming on as they should. You would not have oil in the coolant or the other way around as a test measure for a failed Head gasket but rather a breach in between coolant and combustion, which can only be tested with an exhaust gas analyzer checking for the presence of combustion gasses with in the cooling system.

      I cant say what is wrong without seeing it of course.

      But thats how it needs to be tested.


  63. Hi Justin, thanks for the all the great advice offered. You’re a great ambassador for the brand! My question pertains to the remote control key on my 2006 Forester XS. I’ve had a couple of instances where the key (and my spare key) won’t unlock the vehicle using the remote function. Typically first thing in the morning. I have yet to replace both batteries on both keys but wondered whether this might be a common problem with another cause? Any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated. Many thanks, Neil

    1. Hi Neil,

      There is a solder joint on the the little circuit board that tends to break on that remote, if you are up to it you may be able to repair it, it could also be a dead battery and the test for that would be to replace the battery.


      1. Thanks for all of the info posted above. I just picked up an 01 Forester with an auto trans. I am a fairly good home mechanic and am not afraid of pulling the motor and swapping out the head gaskets. My question is what else do you recommend replacing while I have the motor out. I’m thinking rear main, front trans seal, possibly oil pan gasket. What are your thoughts? Also is the 11044AA633 HG the recommended one to use. That was posted a while ago and wonder if another upgrade is better.
        Thanks, Ken

        1. Hi Ken,

          We sell the Six star kit with a MLS gasket right here on our website, thats the kit you really want to use.

          Id plan on the seperator plate kit as well, inspect the rear main seal and replace as needed, but if it’s brown in color (updated seal) and not leaking I would leave it alone.

  64. I have just under 53,000 on my 2007 Subaru Forester, and was told I need head gasket replacement and a new timing belt. The dealership wants to charge $3,100 for the head gasket job and $995 for the timing belt (just the part, as labor for both is included in the $3,100).

    I understand that the recommendation to replace the timing belt is based on time, not mileage, but is $995 typical for the part? It seems excessive.

    Additionally, I have read about the issues that pre-2011 Subarus have with the head gaskets, and don’t want to have the dealership just replace them with the same part that will go bad as quickly as the first ones did. I am at the higher end of 52,000 miles driven, but in 8.5 years, that’s not much mileage. How could the gaskets have worn down so quickly? I see that I don’t fall under the power train warranty because it’s been over five years (though under 60,000, which is extra frustrating).

    Is it worth contacting SOA? Should I get additional cost estimates instead of trusting the dealership? Should I just trade in the car? (The dealership gave me an as-is trade-in value of $5,000, but KBB estimates it could be worth as much as $12,000. I’m not sure which way to go here, so any feedback would be much appreciated.


    1. Hi Dana,

      The price to repair seems excessive but I don’t really know your market. I wouldn’t trade it in, I would repair it and get some use out of it, the dealer is really trying to take advantage of you here, I write about this very thing all the time, its a trap I do not want you to fall into.

      I would run from the dealer, do not pass go or collect $200. I would then find a good independent shop in your area. That’s the best advice I can give you.


  65. Purchased my 2003 outback new and am now on my second set of head gaskets at188k miles. The head gasket problem is not the result of improper maintenance but of bad engine and gasket design and has continued into at least 2008 2.5 engines. I will never purchase another Subaru and have told others as well. This situation should be grounds for a class action. BTW…. Subaru claims no culpability.

    1. Hi John,

      Yes there are era Subaru engines that may develop oil leaks form the HG, but I am not sure that an oil leak well out of warranty is grounds for a class action anything? I will also state that in an era of many car makers ignoring Safety related flaws causing death, ill take the oil leak.

      There is no perfect car and I don’t think the current era platform will have HG issues.


  66. Hi Justin,

    I’m looking into buying a one owner 2004 Subaru Forester X with about 120,000 miles on it. The timing belt, serpentine belts, thermostat, tensioner, have all been changed in the past 6 months. There are no leaks. The owners say they have used an exterior sealant for the head gaskets as a preventative measure.

    Two questions: have you heard of any kind of exterior sealant? And is it likely I will have to change the head gaskets in the the future…or do we only hear about the ones that break down?

    Thanks for your insight,


    1. Hello Vayu,

      There is no external sealant that will correct a HG leak, sorry.

      Other than that, it sounds like a solid car.



  67. I have a 2013 Subaru outback ..I constantly make the trip from St. Petersburg FL to Connecticut. twice now the LOw OIL light has come on. Both times I was 1/2 way back on the 1200 mile x 2= 2400 mi r.t….The dealership contacted headquarters and they want a consumption test every 1200 miles…the car was barely past the initial warranty miles when it happened…(fortunately I paid the extra for 60K) BUT after keeping my M B for 100K I’m concerned. What do you know about this low oil issue??

    1. Hello Joyce,

      Confused as to why the Subaru dealer failed to mention this to you.

      Hope this helps


  68. On a trip home from California the HG on my 2011 Outback 2.5L with 53000 miles blew. Had the car towed to the Subaru dealer in Eugene Oregon. The HG’s were replaced under warranty and the Service Manager assured me that Subaru was using a different replacement part. I love this car and have since 1992 been the owner of 9 other Subies but this is the only one to leave me stranded on the road. Now I’m wondering if I can trust it or should I be possibly looking to trade for a 3.6R outback which I’ve been told doesn’t have the HG problems as the 2.5.

    1. HI Bob,

      We don’t see that to often at that era Subaru.

      The replacement Part number and the ones used form the factory should be the same however.


  69. My wife has a 2004 Impreza Outback (2.5 NA) with 77K miles and she is the original owner.

    A few months ago I noticed a slight smell of burning oil and after looking in the engine compartment I noticed some baked oil on the driver’s side of the cross member. I assumed it was a failing valve cover gasket and made a mental note of it. I just purchased a new valve cover gasket kit for the repair. After I removed the battery and the windshield fluid reservoir I slid my hand under the valve cover and found no leaks. I lifted the car and saw some dry residue of weeping oil at the head/block mating seem. I then found a way to slide my hand between the head and the cross member and it came back with damp oil on it.

    I figured that the engine design and gravity were to blame, but thanks to your excellent explanation of all the contingent factors to this problem I have a much better understanding.

    I currently do not have the finances to have your shop make the repair, nor the time to do it myself at this moment, so I would like to ask some questions about possible ways of holding it off for a year.

    I personally don’t drive the car that often, but I have noticed that the headlights dim when applying the brakes and they will also intermittently dim while driving. I have always kept the battery terminals clean and the battery was replaced last year. There is no acid staining on the hood insulator but it does like to collect on the battery hold down bracket. I will be testing the resistance in the cables and cleaning the grounding points. Would you recommend adding some supplemental ground wires?

    I didn’t notice any coolant leaks or foam in the oil. The reservoir was a little low (but clean) and I have not noticed anything abnormal from the exhaust pipe. I have yet to check the spark plugs though. The coolant is overdue for a change and I will use the Subaru brand with their additive and distilled water. Do you recommend running the engine with just distilled water for 20 minutes to flush the system first? What about using a flushing agent?

    I have been using Amsoil 100% synthetic oil. Should I switch to another oil type? I have heard that synthetics will sometimes have an adverse effect to gaskets.

    Do you have any experience using Dura-Seal Oil Stop Leak, or their Subaru head gasket repair kit? Is it just another snake oil?

    The vehicle is constantly used for short trips and this is inevitable. Since the engine oil is not reaching temperature for a long enough duration and is not allowing the EGR system to function optimally, could a modification be made to increase the fuel burn or decrease the warm up time?

    Different heat range plug?

    Specific spark plug?

    Different plug gap?

    Ignition amplification device?

    I would greatly appreciate any advice you could supply. I am not a customer (yet), but based on what I have read from your website, the morals of your company supersede anything that the stealerships would offer.

    Thanks in advance,

    1. Hello Jerimy,

      So there really isn’t any stop leak or additive I can suggest, they are all in fact snake oil. On a 2004 Subaru Impreza it may stay just a minor oil leak for a long time, and I would just encourage you to monitor it as long as you still continue to use the Subaru in the ways you have mentioned. If you start using it on long trips I might suggest it would be better to have it repaired prior.

      Changing spark plug heat range would be a mistake. We would use the NGK standard plug for the car.

      I wouldn’t waste my money on Full synthetic oil.

      I wouldn’t use the Subaru Stop leak, I mean additive as it will end up clogging the system the next time it is open to air.

      Premium fuel may prolong the life of the head gasket, but really it needs to have its legs stretched out here and thee to burn away the oil contaminants.

      Hope that helps


  70. We own a 2007 Forrester. Head gasket blew in June 2014 @ 60k miles. They found another engine repair at the same time spark plugs, etc.Total Cost almost $2,700. We had no idea! We always took the car to the Dealer for every check up oil, tires, etc.

    Then in September 2014, engine light on and it needed a $475 repair and they changed spark plugs again!

    We called Subaru Corp Customer Service to tell them of our repair sagas & they paid for the recent repairs ($475.00) in June & September.

    It’s been horrible putting out thousands to fix a low mileage car which seems to be falling apart at 60k.

    Subaru’s are suppose to be great cars and when you buy one, they’re not suppose to start falling apart at 60k miles!

    We loved our car but now we’re worried it’s a lemon!

    The old Subaru’s had a great reputation & people we knew who had them never had these problems. They kept running for years and years without the owners rebuilding them one repair at a time.

    Now the 2014 have oil problems?

    Whathappened to this Brand?

    1. Hello SJ,

      Sorry to hear you are upset.

      So typically speaking the 2007 Subaru Forester does not “blow a head gasket” This is a term from the 1950’s used when the 1952 Ford would blow a HG climbing a hill and lose all of it’s coolant rendering the car unusable until the car was towed to a service station where it would sit for weeks until the head gasket was replaced.

      The 2007 Subaru Forester can and will develop an oil leak over time, typically which can be monitored over time and again typically closer to the 105k mark where it can be combined with the scheduled timing belt service taking some of the sting out of the cost.

      The spark plugs should have cost you maybe $75.00 at most during the HG repair, the spark plugs are also scheduled to be changed at the 60k interval. The spark plugs should have also carried a 1 year 12,000 mile warranty which is why SOA reimbursed you for the repair and again the Stealer should have never charged you for the repair in the first place.

      Now if your Forester truly blew a HG at 60k the Dealer was probably doing a poor job of servicing it, if it developed an oil leak and they “feared you” into repairs that’s a different story.

      Having never seen the car I can only suggest the things we see day in and day out to be the norm. If the HG were so bad at 6 years they had to have signs at the 5 year mark when it was still under warranty , that should be your gripe, that the Dealer is the Stealer and not representing Subaru very well.

      The single most sever way to use a car is limited driving over a period of time, if you are not changing the oil every 3 months this is something that can and will occur.

      As far as the issues with the new ones, there was an issue with the piston rings which Subaru has addressed and is covering those cars under warranty.

      The brand is strong, they are not perfect but in my opinion they make a safe, reliable vehicle and as the piston ring issue subsides (as it will) they will continue to sell more vehicles. A moderately priced AWD vehicle with good MPG and great crash ratings is tough to beat.

      But at the end of the day your experience with your Subaru will in fact only be as good as who you allow to service it, if you continue to use the dealer your experience will most likely continue to be substandard, this can be and in most cases is true of any brand.

      Glad to hear SOA took care of you on the second repair, the Dealer should have made sure they did on the first.


    1. You bet, I’m looking at 2004 Outbacks right now and this thread has more info in it than everything else I found put together. Can’t believe Justin is still replying on a 2007 thread. You’re the man Justin you’re helping more people than you may realize!!

  71. Update – turns out I didn’t have an engine leak at all. Subaru (new mechanic) said head gasket was dry, as was the valve cover gaskets/oil plate. My leak was actually transmission fluid coming from a hose on the top passenger side of the tranny. He said it may be overfull, so I took home and checked and there was actually NO fluid showing on the stick! Now at another mechanic to see if they can replace the hose. What a mess. At least the engine not leaking oil is good news.

  72. Hi Justin,

    Just perusing your site, I am impressed at how much time you have to respond to all of these posts! I’m a retired Audi certified expert technician, ASE certified master tech with L1. I’d have to agree with you on the Subaru vs. Audi cost comparo, but then Audi is a luxury automobile, as is a Volvo, which is entirely a different class of vehicle from Subaru. Subaru is not classed as luxury, I’m sure you and I can agree Subaru, like Jeep, is in a class of it’s own and can’t exactly be compared to other makes.

    So after retiring from the position of shop foreman at a Puget Sound Audi dealership, I bought myself a nice Subaru Outback, 2007. Of course I knew that it would more then likely need head gaskets replaced. Everyone knows this about Subarus. Subaru has, hands down, the greatest head gasket failure rate, over a long period of time, of any automobile manufacturer on Earth. To make excuses for Subaru is 100% laughable. The only reason that I bought a Subaru, despite this knowledge, is that Subaru offers unparallelled fuel mileage in an AWD platfrom.

    Why so many problems with Audi? They constantly over innovate, 5 valve technology, direct injection, all of these whacky over engineered ideas that they have. They haven’t kept the same engine in any vehicle for more then a few years since the inline 5 junk heap they used to make (now used by Volvo). I would never in a million years buy one of these pieces of garbage. Can’t speak much to Volvo, haven’t much experience. I’d be willing to bet that an AWD Mercedes would put all other to shame, I doubt very much that they have head gasket failures anything like Subarus at all.

    But here is the greater point. My wife drives a Honda. When you look under the hood of the Honda you see essentially the same engine that was there 20-30 years ago. Same with the Subaru. You see, Honda takes a design and improves it over time, making it better and better every years. Audi makes a new design every few years. Subaru takes the same design and does not improve it. Subaru’s head gasket problems are laughable and speak to a terrible level of engineering.

    I expect the head gaskets to fail on any engine that has an aluminum head on a cast iron block, probably around 150,00-200,000 miles. Well beyond the intended length of service by the manufacturer. You’re very very lucky to get to 100,00 miles on any NA 4 cyl Subaru without head gasket problems.

    You’ve picked the correct brand to center your independent repair business around. Subaru head gaskets will single-handedly keep a constant revenue stream heading your way.

    What garbage.

    1. Hi Master Mechanic,

      Thanks for the post. I appreciate your professional input.
      It’s interesting you bring up Mercedes Benz when deciding they could build a better AWD cross over type SUV. Since you are in the area I would suggest maybe heading over to Barrier and talking to the Tech’s there about how often they replace head gaskets to correct oil leaks, the exact same reason they are currently replaced in the 2007 Subaru you own. One of my Techs is a long time friend who came here two years ago from Barrier, the reason he left? To many warranty repairs including HG replacements. It’s not that a Benz isn’t going to have a HG replacement on some models, it’s that your hopefully “pre paying” to not have to pay out of pocket to have them replaced. Mercedes inline, and V6 engines typically would develop oil leaks from the head gaskets and just like a Subaru it would vary with mileage. Mercedes used an MLS type gasket to correct the issue, but even then it still could happen, the ultimate fix was a bead of silicone type sealer placed on the new head gasket, a trick that wouldn’t work on a “boxer” or “h” type engine. I agree the Mercedes builds an excellent car but it’s almost double the cost of the most highly appointed Subaru or Honda cross over and despite the costs can still develop the same type issues.
      The Subaru 2.5l has actually been improved more often than you are aware, but yes for many a HG replacement for oil leaks may still occur. Some improvements were about efficiency, some trying to address current issues, it appears at this point that a 2010-2012 Outback with the EJ2.5l is the best bet to avoid the HG issue, of course as time progresses that could prove to be less true than it appears now.
      Of course there is also the H6 engine which I currently have, it’s averaged 23.8 MPG in Seattle’s commute.
      What I want to know from you however is, if you are trying to advise someone who lives where we do, that Ski’s, hikes and loves the outdoors and also feels they need AWD and are concerned about the safety of the vehicle and the family they transport, what car should they buy?
      You, yourself knowing it may need a HG replacement still went that way, over an Audi you could easily repair or a Volvo or a Mercedes or a Toyota or a Honda.
      I just don’t agree with the idea that one common issue over a long list of issues for other models is somehow worse or laughable. The typical thing for a 2007 Outback is a couple of rear wheel bearings and oil leaks from the Head gaskets. I will put that up against Audi and Volvo and for that matter some other Japanese AWD Vehicles despite the lower total safety ratings. I agree that there is the perception of luxury with the Audi and Volvo over a Subaru but you are paying for it. If it wasn’t for CAFE and stricter tailpipe content rules the 2.2l and first gen 2.5l (95,96) with the composite HG might still be around and we could instead be talking how great those engines are. We could say this for just about every car maker however. Even though I believe Subaru made significant improvements to the last version of the EJ2.5l I also realize that because it’s a “H” engine it may still have a HG issue later in life. The issue at hand however is the H allows for the success of the rest of the platform. If my concern was fuel economy alone I would drive a 1989 Civic crx, traction alone = a Jeep Rubicon, luxury = Bentley, global footprint = Smart Car, performance = Audi R8 (V-10 model)

      I make no more excuses for Subaru than you just did for Audi in your post with this important distinction; I believe in the brand, I am an enthusiast, I have put most of my family and friends in a Subaru, some of those I care about have been in really bad car accidents in a Subaru and are all still with me today, I honestly don’t know if that’s true if it was a different car. We all have things we care about, my big deal is safety and if a car company focuses on that above all else and still competes on price, I will forgive a common issue if it lends itself to safety. I work on Subaru’s, opened a Subaru shop and have hired Subaru enthusiasts because I never wanted to work on garbage, or hire people that thought that what they worked on was, as it almost always comes across in their work. The reason I take the time or better yet make the time is I care.

      Thanks again for posting.


  73. My 2005 Legacy wagon just developed a head gasket leak (that the annual inspection mechanic said was a rack and pinion leak). Good thing I took car to my great mechanic who told me what was really leaking and said not to fix. Hard to complain after 155k miles. I’ll take my chances with one more NE winter and replace next year. Also had a 1997 I replaced with the ’05 after 145k miles.

  74. Hi Justin:
    I also posted this in the oil consumption thread but it may be more relevant here.

    I’ve got an ’09 Forester X, 5 speed, bought it new, changed over to full syn at about 11k miles. I’ve been having the dealer change oil and bringing in my own full syn. Valvoline Synpower for probably the first 30k of synthetic use, then Mobil 1 since then. Consumption was very predictable; about half a quart after 3500 miles (I would top it off) and maybe another half quart up to the 5500-6500 mile change intervals.

    I had an extended warranty, and right as the warranty timed out this April, the dealer found a slight oil seep out of head gaskets and changed them out for me under warranty at 72k miles. In the next 3k miles, it went thru 2 quarts of Mobil 1 5W30. I brought it to the dealer to check out the PCV valve (they said it was fine and would not change it) and check for leaks (none found). I also had the oil changed using their normal Valvoline non-synthetic 5W30 because I’ve read some unflattering stuff about Mobil 1 in Subarus. In 1500 miles since the change it has used about 2/3 of a quart–better but not like my “old engine”. They are monitoring consumption (I am bringing the car in every 700-900 miles when I’m in the neighborhood of the dealer). Actually it used no oil in the first 900 miles, and 2/3 quart in the next 600 miles.

    In some of your prior answers, you mention that a HG replacement can somehow affect the oil control rings. I’m a long time car freak (had probably 40 cars in my 45 years of driving) so I always check oil. I am at a loss as to how a HG change could possibly affect oil control rings. Dealer is willing to do further repair work (tagging onto the original warranty claim) if I start using a quart in 1000 miles–the factory line. I’ll have to deal with it either way and love the car. Will consider different oil (Castrol per your suggestion, maybe a high mileage version of Castrol or Valvoline, maybe 10W30 or 5W40 in the summer and during long trips.)

    Again, I am searching for some explanation as to how a HG replacement could affect oil control rings–the short block just sits there while the heads come off and go back on. Something about bolt torque changing the shape of the cylinder liners? Tiny increase in engine compression causing more pressure? I am assuming they didn’t put a handful of sand into the engine. Engine runs great, gas mileage is great, etc. HG replacement was done with engine out of the car and dealer is highly regarded Subaru-only dealer in the Detroit area.

    Thanks in advance for any insight or theories,

    1. Hello George,

      Sorry to hear about the current issues. Ill do my best to try and explain what can occur, it’s a lot easier if we are both looking at the engine together however. The oil control rings are so fragile and need such precision to work properly that any change in the combustion chamber can affect how they perform. Varnish, debris, change in quench area due to machining the heads are all real possibilities. From there minor changes in geometry are also possible removing the heads and re installing. A great place to start is with an induction service to see if it helps clean the combustion chamber, it sure can’t hurt to try at this point. From there I would try 5w30 blend form Castrol to see if it helps, one thing is for sure Mobil One doesn’t seem to help Oil use.


      1. Justin:

        First, let me commend you for your efforts in answering all these questions! Amazing! I am considering buying a new Subaru Outback in a few years, but all this trouble with the gaskets and oil usage concerns me. I read one of your responses that the new FB25 engine should not have at least the gasket issues. Question: does the new version of the Outback use the FB25 engine? Next, if the FB25 engine should be better, WHY is it better? What is done to it that should solve the gasket (and oil?) issue(s)? Thanks so much.

        1. Hi John,

          As far as a HG issue on the FB time will tell ultimately, but the engine has more surface area for the Head gasket to seal to, uses an MLS gasket from the factory and all of the chemical related issues seem to have been mitigated..

          The head gasket article pertains to the EJ engines only.

          As far as oil use there has been a piston ring change that is supposed to correct the issue, I guess check back in a couple of years and see what the results are.


  75. Jason,
    We just recently got a 1996 Subaru Legacy Outback with 187K miles. We do not know the history of this vehicle. The “check engine” light was on when we got it, and the prior owner stated he drove it for a year with no real issues other than it burning a quart of oil between oil changes. I got the oil changed, tires rotated, and an alignment at Pep Boys. They did not see any codes to be alarmed about and did not report any oil leaks. A couple of days after servicing, the “check engine” light came back on. We also notice a burning smell and some smoke coming from under the hood. I could not easily tell where the smoke was coming from. We are now concerned as to whether it is okay to drive the car or not. I do see some dark coloring on the reservoir of the radiator overflow. Is there any advice you can offer?

    1. Not sure who Jason is?

      But The check engine light and the smoking are most likely not related. But the latter needs to be addressed before you keep driving it. There are so many possibilities its difficult to guess at what could be wrong from here.


      1. Justin,
        Sorry about calling you the wrong name…it was late when I was doing this research as you can see (3:27 am). The light smoking was not apparent until I got the oil changed. Could they have overfilled with too much oil? How much oil does this 1996 Subaru Legacy Outback hold? I don’t have an owner’s manual. Thanks.

  76. I bought a 2002 Legacy L in 2012, with 168k miles on it. It ran OK, and everything seemed fine. That same year I had to replace some part of the transmission, for $1k. For now, nothing unexpected for a used car.

    About a year later I found a folder with the repair history (I am the second owner). The last receipt, from the dealer, dated 1 month before I bought the car, says the car is burning oil and needs HG repair for about $3k. I immediately checked the oil level: it was almost dry! I put only 5k miles on that year (I changed oil at 170k). My mechanic checked the car, and said the problem was minor: fixing it would be $2k, or that I could just the check oil level and add oil when needed. Dealer said the engine should be fixed right away, by them, for now $3.5k.

    The car still runs nice; if anything, it is a little underpowered in 1st gear, which I blame on a bad gas-saving driving habit of mine. I don’t see any white or blue fumes, but I keep adding 1 qt of synthetic high-mileage oil every month or so while I decide what to do.

    Besides this, the eternal wind noise from the front windows, and a not-so-cold AC, the car is perfect. What should I do?


    1. Hi Lucas,

      If it’s just a minor oil leak, it wouldn’t account for the oil consumption and if you are not seeing 4 quarts of oil on the ground you don’t have a 4 quart leak. Most likely the consumption is not the HG but instead worn oil control rings, valve guides or stem seals. If it went 5k in between oil changes that’s to long and could also account for the oil use, as the longer the oil is in the engine the more diluted it becomes with fuel, which lowers it’s flash point and use increases. Hg do not generally contribute to oil consumption, external oil leaks yes, overheating from a breach internally yes, and external coolant leaks yes.

      So what to do from here?

      Change the oil every 3 months or 3000 miles, monitor the engine for the head gasket leak as long as it’s just a small oil leak, change the head gaskets once its worse than just a small oil leak.

      Hope that helps


  77. My dads friend (a retired Subaru mechanic of 35 years) came and looked at the car. My problem is the oil separator is leaking he said. Head gaskets are fine (dry in that area), so at 197K, they have obviously been replaced already. Now I am wondering if this oil separator is going to be as big of a job as the head gasket? Is there any type of additive like Lucas stop oil leak that would take care of it… at least for a while. He said it wasn’t a big deal, but I do not like to see smoke coming from under the hood when I stop the car after shutting it off. The oil level stays the same, so obviously a very slow leak, but I don’t like it leaking. lol. Thanks!

  78. Hi Jason,

    First off, this site is a treasure trove of information, I can’t believe that you still respond to comments on a post from so long ago — thank you!

    We have an 02 Forester, bought it used with a warranty, soon followed by a head gasket replacement. Thing is, the engine never ran the same after. There were new ticks and a rougher idle. The car had started to consume oil at a higher rate, but no one could figure out why. A couple of years later, the engine failed. The most affordable option for us now is to put a 2.2L Impreza engine, used with 90K miles on it, to the tune of $2200. It comes with new head gaskets, timing belt, water pump, seals, etc. I am unfamiliar with this engine and am hoping you could share some of your wisdom…Is this a good idea? We do love the car and want to keep it, but I am hesitant as it’s a used engine. The repair shop is a Subaru specialist, and the owner says he’s tested the engine and it’s a good engine.

    Thank you for your advice!


    1. Hi Katie,

      I can’t really advocate putting a 2.2l in place of a 2.5l especially if you ever need to be tested for emissions. The 2.2l was a great engine in it’s time, but it’s time has passed. I like the idea of a used 2.5l with all the same repairs better than I like the idea of creating a problem down the road.


  79. Justin,

    I just dropped off Mom’s 2007 Impreza (85k miles) for HG repair. Should I be asking them to install MLS gaskets or will the OEM replacement gaskets keep the car out of the shop for a decent time?

    Many thanks for the education.


    1. Hi Mark,

      Most shops have a procedure in place and already know what they are going to use, if they are a good knowledgeable shop that specializes in Subaru most likely they are using a MLS.


  80. I think my question above that I posted on July 20th may have been overlooked, so reposting. I recently purchased a ’00 Outback Limited wagon with 197K miles. It seemed fine when I first looked at it. The owner said it had just got a good bill of health from the repair shop. I looked it over best I could and bought it. I drove it home 59 miles and when I pulled in the driveway (came up a steep drive) and got out, I smelled oil burning and seen smoke coming from the left front tire area. The smell went away quickly and smoke. I haven’t looked close under the hood since I got home, it was getting dark out. Anyway now I am worried it has a leaking head gasket. Hopefully I am not jumping to conclusions. Strange thing was the owner had met me where we made the deal and had just drove the car over 100 miles, some up mountain grades and when she pulled in I was already there. I didn’t smell anything or see any smoke and she said the car ran cool all the way here. Hopefully it is just a valve cover gasket or something. I see no leaks under the car. @ 197K, is it likely the originals have been changed? The timing belt was changed at 180K and she said the PO was a Subaru mechanic. I guess I either need to get to a mechanic or look at it close to see what I can see. I also found out some additional info… some paperwork indicated that last week a mechanic stated that the “oil pan had a small leak” and “axle seals leaking – need to be changed soon”, but not sure how knowledgeable he is. Looking under the car, there appears to have been oil or something leaking on the exhaust directly under the back of the engine, dead center where it turns into the “Y”. I snapped some photos of it. Some people on other Subaru sites said it looked to “central” to be a head gasket leaking. I plan on getting it to a Subaru mechanic soon or a Subaru dealer. Should I try to tighten the oil pan bolts, or would that make the leak worse? Thanks for any info.

    1. Hi Tony,

      It’s really difficult to comment about a leak I cant see, if it’s the left side or drivers side that the smoke is coming from the possibilities are the head gasket, axle seal on the left, the gasket between the front diff and transmission, valve cover gasket, rear cam plug, cam case sealant and I am sure I am neglecting something.

      Without removing the plastic splash pan and than knowing what to look for it’s tough to know what the leak is. It’s also possible its the passenger side inner Cv boot.

      As you eluded to the best course of action is to have it looked at, but it would have been better to do so pre purchase.

      Do not try and tighten the oil pan bolts, it’s silicone sealer and you may very well create a leak if you try.


      1. Thanks for the reply / info! It may have also been smoking from the passenger side, I didn’t walk over there, I was a little frustrated, but it did quickly stop. I do not think there is a splash pan under there anymore as I could see all under the car, even the oil pan was clearly visible. I guess someone got tired of removing it. From looking, there appears to have been oil leaking directly in the center of the car on the exhaust where it comes out at the “Y”, I snapped some photos. It actually looks more like it has went to the passenger side. Not sure if you can click on the link to the pic in photobucket, but here it is.
        I guess I will try to get to a shop next week. I should have had a shop check it myself, but like a fool I didn’t and her mechanic said it was the oil pan leaking, but he may not be knowledgeable on these cars. If it is the head gasket, I guess it will go bye-bye. 🙂 Thanks again!

  81. 05/28/02 Purchased New. Subaru Legacy Outback, 2.5 Liter Base Model, 5 speed manual transmission. All Service performed by Dealer through 2012.

    I just failed the Colorado emissions test, Hydrocarbons 2.2052 with a Limit of 1.2 and Carbon Monoxide 29.08 with a Limit of 15.0. I received a waiver so I don’t have to make the repairs right away. I realize that owning a 12 year old car will require maintenance, but based on the last few years, it’s been running $2k per year. Is it time to trade this one in? I don’t have a mechanic I trust to provide a recommendation or service. The one who has worked on my car the last 2 years is a bit of a hot head and recently “fired” me. Here’s the recent history.

    2011 Around 90,000 – 100,000 miles, significant problems commenced: Oil Pump plugs leaking,
    Oil Pan seap, Oil Leak behind timing cover, Due For new timing belt.

    09/21/11 105,000 Mile Service, Camshaft Timing-Replace Timing Belt and Tensioner, Front Seal, Reseal Neutral and Reverse Transmission Switches, Check Engine Light-Paid $135 to test, Code P0240 Catalytic Converter-Did not replace. TOTAL $1,033

    09/23/11 106,211 Replace Alternator. TOTAL $488

    2012 Needs Steering Rack Boots (torn) plus Alignment

    02/18/13 119,939 For the 1st time, went to a non-Dealer Subaru specialist. Raise Engine. Replaced: 1) right steering rack boot, 2) right rear wheel bearing, 3) both head gaskets (no one ever said they were bad before), thermostat, gaskets, valve cover, clogged idler pulley (reused timing belt and pulleys), flush radiator and replace anti-freeze and oil/filter, 4) Clutch Kit Assembly. Reseal Engine Pump. TOTAL $3,128
    Pending Service: 120,000 Service, Catalytic Converter with front and rear O2 sensors, Front Right Wheel Bearing just starting to go.

    02/18/14 127,071 Returned to same non-Dealer Subaru specialist. 90,000 Mile Service: serviced radiator, transmission fluid, front/rear differential fluids, flushed brake system, charging and starting system, battery, steam-cleaned engine. Engine Tune Up: spark plugs, fuel filter, oil/filter. Replaced Left Front Wheel Bering (They said right side in 02/2013 and when I inquired, they confirmed it was the left side-see 06/30/14 comment). TOTAL $725
    Pending Service: Catalytic Converter with front and rear O2 sensors, P/S Pump starting to leak, left front control arm bushing, drive belt starting to crack, windshield (already replaced 1x). Estimate $2,500-$3,500

    06/30/14 Either the front left wheel bearing they repaired in February 2014 is faulty or the right side is now failing (I can’t figure out which side it is). Estimate $400

    1. Hi Steve,

      At some point every used car will go through a bang and thrash phase, or a period of time where new money is spent as reinvestment to keep the car going for another period of time, some require thousands some hundreds. I don’t generally advise on bailing on the car until it reaches a point where the parts are becoming difficult to obtain or it no longer suits your needs, or lastly if you are unable to afford repairs but can qualify for a car loan on a new car. I constantly advise that once a car is 5 years old you should budget $1500 a year for repairs and maintenance. This includes tires, brakes, etc. components that should come as no surprise need to be replaced.

      A few things I am not clear about is you mentioned at 90k the following “2011 Around 90,000 – 100,000 miles, significant problems commenced: Oil Pump plugs leaking,
      Oil pan seap, Oil Leak behind timing cover, Due For new timing belt.” But you did not indicate if there were repairs made, the next mention is 15k? later for the timing belt which was scheduled maintenance and really can’t be counted as a repair an expense for sure but one that comes every 105k.

      Yes the Dealers are famous for doing the timing belt and ignoring the HG leak, only to advise later it’s leaking and charging full price for both repairs rather than full price for one, and just parts for the other. But it’s also fair to say maybe it wasn’t leaking prior?

      The troubling thing here is you have clearly paid to much for some services done to often, or at least from what I can see on the surface without having techs notes etc. The coolant should have been new with the HG repair and should not have needed servicing 6,000 miles later unless there was some sort of underlying reason such as contamination. We also generally suggest the K service as a huge discount when doing the HG repair, the drive belts should have also been done at the cost of parts and the spark plugs etc. so we can save you some serious forward going ownership costs, and I am sorry you didn’t have that experience and yes it appears that mostly our customers are the only ones who ever do. This is one thing that always drives me a little nuts when reading posts such as yours. Your Ownership experience is only going to be as good as who services it and the relationship the service provider and customer is able to foster, and from the sounds of it the car has been difficult, the fact you were fired as a customer kind of sheds some light on that. I can only imagine the amount of work the car has needed has been frustrating and it’s possible that frustration was passed along to the service provider and maybe he was ill equipped to deal with that?

      The Convertor is the reason it failed the emissions test most likely and it sounds like it has been a known for a while. My General advice is that the car still only has 130 to 140k by now and is half way to where its going, if you don’t repair it an drive it there someone else will, its just how it works. If you don’t trust the car and are tired of trips to the Auto shop, or if the car no longer suits your needs, I guess its time to move on, I hate rendering the advice either way without seeing it for my self. Most likely it the Wheel bearing that has not been replaced yet, almost everyone assumes that because the noise seems the same its the same thing, when in fact generally speaking the noise is similar but also usually the wheel bearing that has not been done yet if for some reason it’s the same bearing hopefully its under warranty..

      So it’s common for a 12 year old car to need multiple cash infusions past a certain point, this is going to be a combination of normal wear and tear, later scheduled maintenance and mechanical repairs from components reaching end of life.

      Your situation is that combined with with some less than stellar service I am afraid.

      Hope that helps


  82. I just purchased a ’00 Outback Limited wagon with 197K miles. It seemed fine when I first looked at it. The owner said it had just got a good bill of health from the repair shop. I looked it over best I could and bought it. I drove it home 59 miles and when I pulled in the driveway (came up a steep drive) and got out, I smelled oil burning and seen smoke coming from the left front tire area. The smell went away quickly and smoke. I haven’t looked close under the hood since I got home, it was getting dark out. Anyway now I am worried it has a leaking head gasket. Hopefully I am not jumping to conclusions. Strange thing was the owner had met me where we made the deal and had just drove the car over 100 miles, some up mountain grades and when she pulled in I was already there. I didn’t smell anything or see any smoke and she said the car ran cool all the way here. Hopefully it is just a valve cover gasket or something. I see no leaks under the car. @ 197K, is it likely the originals have been changed? The timing belt was changed at 180K and she said the PO was a Subaru mechanic. I guess I either need to get to a mechanic or look at it close to see what I can see. The car is excellent in and out and I thought I got a super deal… now I am worried. Thanks in advance.

    1. I found out some additional info… some paperwork indicated that last week a mechanic stated that the “oil pan had a small leak” and “axle seals leaking – need to be changed soon”, but not sure how knowledgeable he is. Looking under the car, there appears to have been oil or something leaking on the exhaust directly under the back of the engine, dead center where it turns into the “Y”. I snapped some photos of it. Some people on other Subaru sites said it looked to “central” to be a head gasket leaking. I plan on getting it to a Subaru mechanic soon or a Subaru dealer. Thanks for any info on the matter.

  83. Hi Justin,
    First of all how in hades do you find time to answer all these questions? ! I’m not so concerned about the replacement of an HG, I’ve done it twice on my 99 Olds Intrigue within 130k and still love the car. My understanding with an Intrigue is one you replace an HG you can expect to do it every 2 years or so. What gets me is the cost for all these Subarus. I paid $280 each time for my Intrigue at my mechanic’s shop. Is there something special about a Subaru HG? I am going to buy a 2015 Subaru in another month or two but can’t decide between a 2.5 Legacy or 2.5 Forester. Like the gas mileage of the Legacy but like the utility of the Forester so gotta decide which is more important to me. (Will be keeping the Intrigue). Any suggestions and should I expect a $2k bill if the head gasket fails?
    Bill C

    1. Hi Bill,

      I don’t think you will be dealing with a HG issue with the newer FB series engines. There have been a lot of significant changes that should address the previous issues.

      Hope that helps


  84. I have 2 Subarus, a 2001 Legacy Wagon and a 2004 Impreza WRX STI. Both cars have been serviced regularly by the dealer.

    The Legacy Wagon has slightly more than 130,000 miles. About every 2 months, the Legacy Wagon is driven approximately 250 miles at 75 mph over a 5 or 6 hour interval. A return trip occurs perhaps a day or 2 later which goes from sea level to over an 8,000 foot mountain pass. My impression is that the radiator fan is that the Legacy Wagon’s fan now runs more than when the car was new. Before recently learning about the head gasket problem, I have attributed that to an aging radiator. There is a little corrosion on the plate holding the battery in the car. In the past few years, on perhaps 3 occasions the car would not crank after a significant amount of driving so the problem shouldn’t have been a dead battery. After the most recent occurrence of that problem, I scoured the battery terminals and cable connectors with a wire brush battery tool and the problem has not reoccurred. The car is using no oil and doesn’t show any mayonaise.

    The WRX STI has about 33,000 miles. The WRX STI battery that has been replaced looks the same as when the car was new.

    I am less than enamored by the service performed by the local Subaru dealer.

    A few years ago after the WRX STI was serviced I noted oil on the garage floor under the rear differential. The plug in the differential was at best finger tight.

    A year ago I paid to have a leaky transmission on the Legacy wagon fixed. It is still leaking oil.

    Consequently, I don’t know who I can trust.

    Recently, while all the struts in the Legacy Wagon were being replaced, I was encouraged to replace the head gaskets. If I authorized the repair I was informed that all the belts would be replaced including the timing belt that had replaced less than 30,000 miles ago.

    Scheduling prevented my authorizing that repair at that time and I decided to consult the Internet.

    Among your recommendations for dealing with a potential head gasket problem are:
    1. a “voltage drop test;” and
    2. an unburned hydrocarbon test on the coolant.

    I can guess that the unburned hydrocarbon test is probably sniffing the coolant reservoir or perhaps the radiator with a smog tester. Since you advise running the vehicle hard before performing the unburned hydrocarbon test, I doubt that the text is performed on the radiator.

    However, I have no idea what constitutes a “voltage drop test.”

    The Legacy Wagon has two cables that leave the battery and go respectively to the starter and to the fuse box.

    What I could guess what constitute a “voltage drop test” might be disabling the ignition, and measuring the voltage difference between the battery and the starter while cranking the engine. However, that is just a guess, and during my life I have made wrong guesses.

    Based upon your comments regarding the skill exhibit by some repair shops I am not comfortable taking either vehicle anywhere and just asking for a “voltage drop test.” If someone performed a test, I would have no idea whether they performed the proper test. If they asked me to explain what constituted a “voltage drop test,” all I could do is shrug my shoulders.

    1. Hi Donald,

      Both test are done for different reasons, the hydrocarbon test is done to spot a failed head gasket that has breached internally. The voltage drop test is done to make sure the battery cable is still cable of allowing for the proper amount of current flow.

      The techs at a Subaru dealer are paid on a flat rate pay plan, they want as much gravy work as possible and don’t, won’t, can’t get involved in real testing. It’s just the business at a Dealership as the public still doesn’t make the dealer pay for it’s track record of poor service.

      Many just think the Dealer is place to go, they are the experts.

      At a good independent, techs are superior technicians, they may not be as fast at replacing parts as the crew at a dealer but will be generally better at performing tests and looking for the root cause, as they have to in order to diagnose something. At a Dealership the trend is your friend if the guy next to found a faulty fuel injector on a 2008 Legacy yesterday, it would stand to reason the same thing could be the issue with the 2009 Legacy in front of you today.

      When have My IT guy come here when I am having a network related issue, many times I also shrug my shoulders, but I have a long standing relationship and I trust them. I don’t know how so many get around needing a service of some type without having a trusted relationship with a service provider.

      The on time for the cooling fans may still be a restricted radiator, you did not indicate how the gasket have failed? External oil leak, external coolant leak or internal failure?

      If they are just leaking some oil the fan question has not been answered.


  85. Justin,

    This forum is absolutely the bee’s knees. I am about to purchase my first (used) Subaru. I live in Colorado and really want the AWD. First off, I agree 100% with you that all cars have their own problems and in the scheme of things a Head Gasket is better than being nickel and dimed. If anyone disagrees then I have a Saturn Vue that likely needs it’s 3rd transmission before 100k that I would love to sell them.

    Anyways, do you mind quickly summarizing which years the head gaskets are questionable for the Outbacks, Foresters, and Imprezas? I tried to read through the thread but couldn’t find a quick summary (the beginning post was confusing to me).

    Thank you!!

  86. Helpful info here–thanks!

    I’m looking for a 4th generation (04-09) Outback with turbo. From some of the research I’ve done it looks like the XT doesn’t suffer from the same high incidence of HG issues. Is that due to a design difference between turbo & non-turbo models, or just a random coincidence?

    1. Hi Wes,

      The turbo models use a MLS type Headgasket from the factory as well as a semi closed deck block with more surface mass. Those are two big reasons they have less issues.


  87. I currently have a ’97 Outback with 182,000m. I bought it in ’07 and I’ve been quite satisfied over nearly seven years now. Purchase price plus all maintenance totals about $9,000 for these seven years, which seems quite reasonable to me. However, the oil leak is getting excessive and is not worth fixing.

    I’m looking at an ’07 Outback now. It’s got 68,000m and had both head gaskets done a year ago at 60,000. They also replaced the complete steering rack assembly due to leaks, all front and rear brake pads, resurfaced the front rotors and replaced the rear rotors, flushed the coolant. It had all the recommended service done at the 60,000m point (all fluids replaced).

    By my layman’s assessment, this car should be ready for 100,000m with no problems. Am I being overly optimistic here?

    1. Hi Jon,

      I see no reason that the car shouldn’t last another 200k, there will be times when it needs some money put into it however. I would still advise you have a prepurchase inspection performed.

      Did you have the 1997 looked at and the estimate was high? That car as well has some life left in it.


      1. Thank you for your response. Of course, I’m expecting to put money into it over the years–part of owning a car. I’m planning to take it to my mechanic, a Subaru specialist, for the inspection this week. If he gives the thumbs up, then I’ll plunge in.

        The ’97 suffers from considerable rust issues at all the typical points (wheel wells, doors) and has various little items that are too pricey to fix–leaky AC (as in no AC), window motor problems, antennae motor problems, grill held on with zip-ties, etc.–and the oil leaks would cost far more than any potential resale value. Even my mechanic, who would make the money off the repairs, recommends against it. Unfortunately, the car runs great! So I’ll probably just keep it for now and my wife and I will be a two car house for the first time ever. When it gets too problematic, it’ll be turned out to pasture.

        However, I was considering dumping a quart of one of those dura-seal type leak repairs in it just to see what happens. At this point, I’ve got nothing to lose.

        Thanks for the great webpage here–this is a terrific source of information!

  88. Dear Justin,

    Thank you so much for this wonderful resource. I have a 2001 Subaru Forester, with 84,000 miles. I bought it from the original owner in 2009 at 56K miles. I’ve been told by two different sources (the dealership, and an independent mechanic) that the head gaskets should be replaced. They aren’t leaking oil, per sé, but oil is “collecting” (there is another oil leak, coming from the base of the oil filter — the O ring — that I’m having fixed tomorrow. Everything else looks works great.

    Estimates to fix the HG range from $2100 (dealership, w/o timing belt), to $2500-$3000 (including timing belt.) Blue Book, the last time I looked, was $4000-ish to $4600, so investing in the head gaskets would have to yield a pretty good return (long life? I bought this car to replace my other 2001 Forester, which was totaled in an accident. It had 148,000 miles, and had NOT needed the head gaskets replaced.)

    Two questions: should I invest in fixing the HG? And, if the O ring leak is fixed, and the HG is only “collecting oil”, would it be safe to drive approx 100 miles, over some reasonable grades, on a hot day? (A friend has expressed interest in buying it, but he lives 100 miles away.)

    Thanks so much!


    1. Hi Jo,

      I would like suggest that first of all the “Blue Book” value should have no bearing at all in regards to the decision to repair. Instead consider the replacement cost of the vehicle. If you are in the business of buying and selling cars blue book value is important, if you are merely looking to own a car for a period of time it just doesn’t represent the whole picture.

      If it’s just leaking some oil it should be just fine to drive 100 miles. A Hg leaking oil poses no greater threat than the oil cooler o-ring thats leaking. A minor external oil leak from the HG is not the same as having a “blown HG”.

      Personally I think it’s unwise to get rid of a 2001 Forester with 84k you already own unless your situation has changed or it no longer suits your needs.


  89. I am wanting to buy my first subaru from where i work. It is a 2003 Subaru Baja with 117k miles. The head gasket thing has me a little worried though. I have checked its carfax and there is no history of a replaced head gasket. Is there any way to visually see if it has the better head gaskets?

    1. Hello Eduardio,

      A trained eye can tell if it has the Six Star gaskets if that’s what you mean? There is no updated better gasket from Subaru for a 2003 as the update was in 2002 and it would have the updated Subaru gasket from the Factory.


  90. I have 2004 Forester with 135K on it. I was considering trading for a new vehicle about 5 months before my second major service. After the service, I was told everything is good. On my first oil change recently I am told HG is leaking and will take 2200 to fix.I dont see any oil leakage nor temperature change. I was only planning to keep the car until this winter but now I am upset and confused as to what to do. I was going to go for a new 2015 Forester but not sure anymore.

    I want to thank you for this website. It extremely useful and contains invaluable information.

  91. This article makes me happy! just bought a 1999 forester with 115k miles. Head gaskets done and valves replaced 15k ago. bought for $3500CAN. Seems like that work alone is worth at least half that!!

  92. Hi Justin,

    Thank you so much for all of the great Subaru info, it has help educate me a lot. I found out recently that our 2007 Subaru Outback wagon 2.5L H4 SOHC with 45,500 miles has leaking head gaskets and valve cover gaskets.

    With all your experience have you seen both HG and VC leaks at the same time? Our service adviser at the local independent Subaru shop said leaks were seen in the cross member and in the plugs.

    Do you also recommend replacing the plug wires or any belts at the same time?

    We were quoted $2,300 – $2,800 plus another $500 to finish 45K service.

    Any professional advise would be great! Heck have you ever thought about opening a shop in AK? There are plenty of Subbies up North and only one independent shop beside the dealer.

    All the Best
    – Cary

    1. Hello Cary,

      Love to come up to Alaska, would never talk the wife into it though,lol.

      Yes it’s common for the spark plug tube seals or valve covers all to leak, and yes it could be at the same time the spark plug tube seals and valve covers are replaced as part of the HG service at most shops. I would do the spark plug wires and spark plugs at the same time. It’s difficult to comment on prices, but the $500 for the rest of the 45k seems high, but not knowing whats included I could be off with that comment, but typically speaking a 15/45k service is generally an oil change, tire rotation, air filter, brake fluid service and maybe the cabin filter plus an inspection. It should be around $150. Its possible they have some other items they are replacing?


  93. I have a Subaru Legacy 2.5i 2008 and dealer says head gasket needs replacement – after ONLY 51950 miles. $2100 estimate. I am shocked that it gave way so early. I do the dealer recommended changes such as on the last visit it was for belts and power steering flush.

    I don’t see any of the following:
    No engine overheating (cars temperature gauge goes only halfway – however long I drive – and its been that way since day one)
    No signs of oil (admittedly hard to see)
    No white smoke from tail pipes. (only happens a little when car is started each morning).

    How can I be certain that I do need to replace the HG?

    Car is almost 7 years old. Are the AAA approved guys as good as the dealer for this kind of work?

    1. Hello Raju,

      So I can’t speak to the level of repairs made at a AAA shop, but the dealer really should not ever be your first choice.

      Id start with looking for a good independent whop knows Subaru and let them have a look, it may still not be at a point where it needs repairs.


      1. Raju,

        Just to comment, I have an ’06 Outback Sport with 183K. I was told by my Subaru shop almost 2 years (and 40K mi) ago that my HG was going, and to keep an eye on it. Like you, I (still) don’t see any evidence of a HG problem (with the exception of some leaking oil). I don’t know if its luck or what, but the HG is still holding up (much to my mechanic’s surprise). It helps having a mechanic you can trust. Good luck.

  94. HI Justin,
    I own a 2006 2.5 outback I bought new with 52,000 miles, serviced regularly, and always garaged.
    I was told I need HG repair. The car runs great, does not overheat.
    I was told that Subaru head gaskets were defective on these types of vehicles, that it is common. Is this true?
    I did notice a very small amount of some type of leakage on my garage floor on the left side.
    I do feel that the head gaskets should not have failed this soon. Also, they recommend replacing the timing belts at the same time. Is this advisable?
    Thanks a lot,

    1. Hi Brenda,

      So the 2006 2.5I uses the same gasket since mid 2002 all the way up to 2009 in the Outback. In the 2006 model typically it will develop an oil leak that leaks a small amount of oil externally that can typically be monitored for a while before repairs may be needed, having not seen the car I cannot comment 100% if this is what is going on with your Outback.

      I will comment that a car that is only used 6500 miles a year will unfortunately have this happen sooner than a car that is used 15000 miles a year in many cases.

      If the head gaskets are done it would be advisable to also replace the timing belt on a 8 year old vehicle.


  95. I can tell you that I will never buy another Subaru again. I have a 2013 Impreza. My husband has a 2009 Forester and was just told the headgasket on his Forester is going. This bullshit, Subaru has know of this problems for decades now and has done nothing to correct it. It is gravey money in repairs for the dealerships. I have never had a headgasket go in any other car that I have owned. I have had Nissons, Hondas and Toyotas and never had this happen to them.

    1. The 2013 Impreza uses a totally different engine and gasket design, the 2009 Forester uses the same design Subaru has had issues with. The Forester is 5 years old and may still be covered under warranty.

  96. So, I’ve been reading about these blown head gaskets. I’ve spent the last week looking for a good used Subaru so I’ve been researching the brand. It’s been stated here that all brands have some kind of cost of ownership. Well, I have to say that my 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser has 95,000 TROUBLE FREE miles on it. Regularly scheduled oil/fluid changes and a set of brake pads and that’s all I’ve done.
    I like Subarus but I’m getting some serious reservations about a purchase.

    1. Hi Brandon,

      If a head gasket leaks oil externally how is the gasket blown?

      The term Blown head gasket is from the 1950’s and is used to describe when a gasket would fail or “blow” internally and allow for an over heat condition. Most of what happens to the EJ 2.5 post 2005 was external oil leaks. People read the term “head gasket” and go into panic mode, when instead they should understand whats going on, we have Subaru’s that we have monitored oil leaks from the head gaskets for years without making repairs, and we have some that leak much more and need repairs

      The FJ Cruiser has been a pretty good Vehicle, we have lots of Subaru customers that have had the exact same experience with their Subaru, and we have had some that have replaced HG for oil leaks. I bring this up as I am aware of some FJ cruisers having engine front cover oil leaks, and even some with failed rear main seals, most have been under warranty but not all, at the end of the day we are talking about an oil leak in most cases.

      I also don’t think the FB series engines with the increased surface mass and MLS gaskets are going to have “mass” HG issues.


  97. My 2003 Legacy wagon has 78,000 on it and needs HG replaced. I got 3 estimates $2,100, $1,850 and $1,300. All 3 have good reputations in my area. The $2,100 estimate is from my former service provider who is good but always high. The $1,300 bid excludes water pump replacement but includes my cost of replacement parts that are to be provided by me, which I’m sure is saving me money.

    I have ordered from you the HG set, Head bolt set, and thermostat. Do you think I should replace the water pump?

    Also, I have 1 3/4 gallons of 50/50 Subaru Long Life coolant. If that’s not enough is it OK if I top it off with Peak green coolant, which I already have on hand?

    1. Hi Jim,

      I don’t typically suggest mixing the Subaru Long life, but you shouldn’t really be adding that much of the peak so it will be okay, and since you purchased the Six Star gasket you can really use any coolant you want minus Dex cool.

      Just make sure whomever makes the repair that the surfaces are in great shape.


  98. Many thanks! Wish we had a shop like yours around here, but even checking Subi forums, the shops around here (called a couple) are NOT pulling the engine. Thanks again!

  99. Hi Justin,
    WOW. Just found your site, and really glad I did! My Dad had an ’02 Legacy L wagon and when he passed away last year, we got the car for my daughter. Dad didn’t drive it much; only 44K. Recently I’ve started to smell burning oil from under the hood. Had it to an independent shop, but not a Subi specialist the other day and he diagnosed the left head gasket as leaking. The car’s never overheated, and based on your earlier comments, I checked the coolant overflow reservoir and just smelled coolant – though it looked a little dark (but also didn’t see bubbles or oil slick) – no gas/sulfur, etc. No exhaust burning oil/blue smoke. So hopefully this is early. Rather than jumping on repair, shop recommended I call SOA due to the low mileage, and rep suggested he might actually help, but required me to take the car to a (gulp) dealer to document their diagnosis. You’ve suggested that if it’s just external leaks, one can drive for a while. But if it really is a HG issue, I’m inclined to fix now because (1) it stinks (the burning that is) and (2) my daughter will be taking it 500 miles away from here and I don’t want her stuck alone (or taking it on the long trip). My questions, if I may:

    (1) Based on your advice (which makes TOTAL sense), I intend to ask if they pull the engine. If they say no, I’m imagining you’ll say take it elsewhere where they will, right? Both sides, of course. I’m worried as dealer priced HG alone at $1700, the indie shop said $2500 (!)

    (2) Is Subaru HG acceptable in your opinion (I saw another post where you indicate that this will just be the same type that failed; I guess Subaru didn’t make any changes despite these issues), or the Six Star; what if they don’t have that – any others you recommend?

    (3) What else should be done?
    a. Dealer service writer when I called (and you seem to agree) suggested timing belt (even at the low miles, but we’re >> 7yrs).
    b. You said something about TB tensioner?
    c. Water pump?
    d. Other things I should ask about? Should anything be done w/cooling system?
    e. Are the valve cover gaskets done as part of this, anyway?

    (4) Happen to know any good shops in Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.? (figured I’d ask)

    MANY thanks! Definitely bookmarking your site, as we’re strongly considering a new Outback for my wife and me to replace an old minivan!

    Paul in VA

    1. Hi Paul,

      In regards to the price difference I would suggest looking at both estimates side by side and looking for differences, I can only assume that the Independent shop has some things included that the Dealer is omitting? Its quite possible the Independent shop has already included items such as the timing belt, tensioner water pump etc. If they are the same than its possible the Independent is just more expensive?

      It is correct that the only way SOA would entertain any participation is for you to take it to the Dealer, that’s a franchise agreement thing. Yes it is okay to monitor a HG that is leaking oil, if it starts to leak coolant it needs to be repaired.

      Ill never give the okay on a repair made in the car, we just see to many dealer repairs leaking a year or two later, this is also the same for some cars repaired at independent shops as well.

      I just don’t know of any shops to send you to, Sorry. I like the Six star gasket and that’s really about it.

      The valve covers have to come off to replace the headgaskets so yes they should be included in any price you have been quoted. It would be my suggestion to replace the timing belt, tensioner idlers, and water pump as part of the repair, hoses based on inspection.


  100. I have a 2006 Forester with 78,000 miles and was just told that the head gaskets are leaking. The dealer added ‘coolant conditioner’ to try to stop the leaking. Is this effective and for how long? I was also told to monitor the the temperature and fluid level in the coolant reservoir. They quoted $2400 replace the head gaskets and timing belt and advised against long trips unless they checked the car out first. Is replacing the head gastkets successful? I was disappointed to read that this problem goes so far back with Subaru.

    1. Hi Karen,

      So head gasket can leak oil, coolant or even fail internally. If its leaking oil, coolant conditioner wont help a thing, so I can only assume it was leaking coolant or coolant and oil.

      “Is replacing the head gaskets successful”

      For many it is, for many it could reoccur, this is based on who makes the repairs and what is used, the Dealer in most cases should be your last alternative. The profit model a Auto Dealer has in place is not in line with your best interests as a consumer. This is my general advice, I cannot speak specifically about your situation as I don’t know the Dealer or the tech working on the car, I have no idea what kind of Independent shops there are around you and if anyone locally to you is using the Six Star Head gasket in lieu of taking out what already didn’t work for you and putting the exact something in hoping for a different result.

      Hope that helps


  101. Hello Justin,

    I have a 2000 Outback that I bought about 2 months ago with 118K odd miles. The subaru dealer said that there is a small leak on the driver side HG leaking coolant and oil. In the 900 miles I have had it, I took one 600 mile round trip and another 100 mile round trip. After all these miles, I have seem to lost about little less than 1/4th of an inch in the overflow tank. It is $2800 at the dealers around here and $2500 at a local shop for getting the HG fixed. The dealer will be doing all the seals and timing belt, water pump – pretty much everything other than machining the heads. They will be using an “updated” version of the HG that they say does not fail. The car has not over heated and the oil level is static. Temp gauge has never gone past half mark.

    I have a trip to Florida coming up (about 2300 miles round trip) in 2 months time and couple more trips of 400 miles each.

    How quickly do these HGs go to the point of complete failure? I have been reading your blog here and would really greatly appreciate if you can advice me.

    Thanks in advance,


    1. Hello Jay,

      First of all “They will be using an “updated” version of the HG that they say does not fail” is inaccurate, look to the Q and A on this thread to see if you see any 2003 and newer models with complaints of leaks.

      The gasket they will be installing is the 633 gasket the same one used in production post mid year 2002.

      The head gaskets really need to be replaced when they go from leaking oil to leaking coolant. One of the issues is the coolant leak represents a leak further up toward the combustion chamber, what follows is warped heads and an internal failure leading to overheat and being stranded, I would never suggest taking a car in need of a HG repair on any type of a trip, it may work out for you but if it fails on the road you will be in a bad spot to try and resolve it.


  102. Hi Justin!

    My girlfriend is looking into buying a 2002 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport with 134,000 miles on the odometer. It is very clean inside and out, no dings, dents, and only a little bit of rust on the right rear wheel well.

    The private owner wants $5000 for it. But we have a couple questions:

    Is this a solid price? I thought it was, but after learning about the potential HG issue I’m not so sure.

    What should we look for to see if this car is prone to the HG issue?

    Thank-you so much!

    1. Hi Paul,

      Like I tell everyone, if you are concerned about a car you are thinking about buying, you need to pay a pro to have a pre purchase inspection. Let them tell you the overall state of the Car and make you buying decision based on the facts of the Car.


  103. Hi Justin,

    Thanks heaps for this page – its been interesting to read all about why our Liberty head gasket all but fell off!

    I am looking at purchasing a 2005 Subaru Forester 79V XT Luxury MY06 second hand with 150,000k privately,

    Is there anything special I should look out for or be wary of when I go to look at it? I assume its likely it might have HG problems, but how to tell at a cursory glance ?

    Thanks for being genuinely helpful!


    1. Hello Pete,

      The Subaru Forester XT uses a MLS gasket not prone to the same type of external fluid leaks the NA engines have.

      They can go internally in some cases and your nose smelling the coolant overflow bottle for signs of exhaust smells is your best tool.


  104. I have been wrenching for 40 Years. I bought a 2001 Legacy with 60,000 mi. for my kids. What a mistake! 1st had to replace axle shaft, now it looks like a head gasket on left side. It was hard to diagnose. Your info clarified a lot of things. Thanx!!! Well time to go to work on this little darling.

  105. I have a 1995 Legacy wagon with a 2.1 engine. No one ever mentions the 2.1 regarding overheating and head gaskets. But I have the same problem. Intermittent times when the heater goes cold and the temp. gauge pegs to the top. It does not happen in the summer. I think it might not happen when the heater is not used in the winter. I got a tow home last night and drove the last 2 miles on a rough dirt road. It started to overheat on the first rise. Then, just as suddenly, it went to normal – and the heater worked. It’s happened twice in the past two weeks. A bubble caused by a leaky head gasket is one theory. Now I want to upgrade to a 68-2002 Outback but sites like this scare me.

    What’s going on with my 1995? I guess I will re-register and re-insure my 1992 Loyale life-boat that cost $130 on C’list and has been totally reliable if rather primitive compared to a ’95 Legacy Brighton. I’m 75, disabled, live in a rural location and cannot afford to be left stranded with a hot car.

  106. Justin Stobb, how do you do it? I give kudo’s to you for actually replying to all the people who are posting “buy Honda” “Buy Toyota” etc etc.

    This mentality is just terrible.

    I also can’t believe people think that Subaru should warranty a HG on a vehicle that’s 10+ years old with over 100k miles? Amazing.

    Thanks for answering everyone’s questions and I give respect for you because you’re able to do this with all the totally un logical posts on here.

    To all those who are reasonable people NONE of my post applies to you.

  107. Thank you for the great posting. We just ran into the HG problem with our 2002 Outback Wagon during a routine servicing. The information you provided may help explain why we’ve had to replace the battery twice over the last few years and sometimes felt as if the engine was overheating, especially during particularly cold weather. At any rate, we are having the replacement job done and will definitely keep your advice in mind so that we can hopefully get another 175K out of it. Thanks again for the “on the money” advice.


  108. Hello. I am in the process of changing vehicles due to my work. Because of mileage I am getting out of my 05 Titan and get into something more fuel friendly and family friendly. I am considering an 04 forester. I got to say the head gasket issue worries me. It will be driven for work possibly around 50 to 100 a day, with most of it being from house to house. It’s utility work for the local gas company here in Wisconsin(snow = 4×4). Lots of starting and stopping (envision a postal truck with about 10 minutes in between stops) The one I’m looking at has 95xxx miles on it and belonged to an employee at the dealer I’m buying it from (chevy). What should I look for gasket wise and will it be up to the demands of lots of starting and stopping over the course of the next several years as well as be a good vehicle for the family. Thanks for the insight. I’ve been studying this thread for hours. You know your stuff.


    1. Hi Ken,

      As far as what to look for, external fluid leaks after removing the splash pan. Any car with 95k should have a Subaru shop perform an inspection prior to buying it, you would never catch me buying a house or a boat without an inspection and you just cant beat a man at his own game in my opinion so allowing a pro to have a look is step one.

      If it checks out than just take good care of it, it will take the use you are describing just fine.


  109. Hi Justin,
    You are THE MAN. Have been a viewer/fan since, well, forever.

    Times are tough and we are looking to replace our 2 clunkers (couldn’t afford the repairs) as we cannot get by w/out a vehicle. On Craigslist an individual is offering a 1999 Forester. The odometer-190,000 rebuilt engine w/30,000 miles. Says “heads done”. All documentation provided. Asking $2999.

    My question: I am more familiar with Subi Outbacks. I am concerned with this Forester and the rebuilt engine and heads. Would the head gasket problem be likely to rear itself up on such a vehicle? We certainly couldn’t afford for that to happen. Does this vehicle sound like it would be free of this problem with the replacements made by its current owner?

    Many thanks and blessings on you for helping so many folks.

    1. Hello Sharon,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      So a 1999 Forester has the same drive train as a 2000 to 2004 Outback. If the engine was done 30k ago and done well it should have plenty of life left to it as a general statement however. Its always about the car and if buying a car for $3000 leaves you no money for the unexpected you need to have it professionally inspected by a Subaru guy prior to buying it. This does not guarantee there wont be any issues but can go a long way in making you aware of it’s current state as well as potential future needs.

      Hope that helps


      1. Many thanks, Justin. I was planning on having someone look at it but I’m glad you mentioned that he should have Subaru experience. Very important! They are special vehicles, and I mean that in a positive way. It was hard losing two vehicles within months of each other and we certainly are not ready for anything major to happen this soon.

        There is also another seller who has a 2001 Outback for $3450 with gaskets, timing belt, water pump etc. recently done; 92000 miles on it. Would be good to compare the two.

        This website is marvelous and I highly recommend it to anyone even mildly interested in this brand. Best wishes to all,

  110. we purchased a 200 subaru outback limited legacy… with 100,000 miles on it… a month after driving it, it started to back fire and stall. we had the spark plugs, spark wire set, fuel filter, air filter, o2 sensor, catalytic converter/ gasket… oil changed/ fresh anitfreeze, thermostat and seal replaced. i drove it for 2 weeks, and it is almost stalling when i slow down, i put it in neutral and rev the engine and put it back in drive when i have to move…. i have had it in the garage all weekend …. not sure if i need a new timing belt or if its time to get rid of it… please advise… thanks!!

  111. Just got a 2002 outback needs headgasket can i drive it if no overheating? Need a few weeks to come up with the $2400 to have it fixed Thanks

  112. 2009 Outback, 70k miles. Already told by dealership expect gasket replacement soon. Cost? About $2,400.

    Folks, Subaru’s suck. I will never buy another one. I only bought the Outback because the back holds my dogs comfortably.

    I’ll be looking at another car when it’s time to replace this POS.

  113. Hi Justin,

    I have a 1996 Subaru outback and it’s been bullet proof over its life, since I bought it (brand new). Never had any head gasket problems or any other than normal maintenance.

    I love Subaru with all my heart and I have a 2011 Audi a6 and a 2009 Montero sport but I wouldn’t change my Subaru.
    The question I have is because I want to buy a Subaru legacy H6 and I’ve been doing some research on known problems. By the way you talk; I can tell you love Subaru’s as much as I do, so I would like to have your opinion.
    It’s a 2008 Subaru legacy H6 with 44000 miles, 5 speed automatic gearbox and keyless start. I live in Colombia and car prices here are very hi compared to your prices, so I would like to invest my money in the best I can get for its price. (Around 25000 usd).
    Thanks for your time,

    1. I love the H6 Legacy models very reliable.

      Its always about the care however and not the thought, what ever car you consider should be inspected if that’s possible.


    2. Hello Eduardio,

      The 2005 to 2006 H^ models are some of the best That Subaru has made save for the possibility of expensive emissions components such as the Convertors being very expensive to replace.

      Thats kind of the thing with the H6 they need less repairs generally speaking but when they need them they are expensive.

      If at all possible Id suggest any car should be inspected

      Hope that helps


  114. i thought the drivers side head gasket failure was related to the thermostat positioning and coolants reverse flow type cooling system.

  115. Hi Justin,

    Have you encountered a 2.5 (2002 legacy) that drops in rpm’s when you pull up at a light and begins to run rough unless you pop it into neutral? Is this a fuel pump issue? My mechanic can’t figure it out. I live in Vancover B.C and wondered if you do repairs Saturdays?

    Thank you for being the Subaguru!!

  116. Hello justin,

    There is no way I could read through all this…but I did search and didn’t find an answer to my question so I’ll just ask. I’m looking to purchase a 2009 impreza 2.5 i sedan with just over 90k miles.

    I’m confused about whether the head gasket is an issue for this year and model.

    I had to have head gasket repairs 2 months after purchasing my last subaru (a 1999 legacy outback) and I don’t want to repeat that. I love my subaru when it’s up and running but I can’t face a car payment and repairs in my near future.

    I don’t have many car guys in my life and I want to make a good decision!

    Thanks so much,

    1. Hello Manda,

      So the 2009 can over time develop a oil leak externally that may or may not lead to the need for replacement.

      If you want to avoid a repeat of what happened to you with the 1999 you need to have a pre purchase inspection performed by a Tech familiar with Subaru.


  117. Justin,

    In your opinion, what is the least problematic/most reliable of the mid-90’s to early-2000’s engines? And maybe specific models to look for?

  118. Just found out that the left head gaskets on my 07 Forester needs to be replaced. Now I’m glad I bought the IWS warranty because this should be covered. I only have 77,000 miles on it and love the car hope to put 300,000 more miles on it, this will be the car my kids learn how to drive.

    I noticed a burning oil smell and then had the car in at the shop and they noticed the coolant was very low so had them do a leak check and that is when they discovered the left side head gaskets had small leak.

  119. Thank you Justin for so many years of providing supportive information to so many.

    After digesting your website, I just scheduled to have the head gaskets of our 2000 Outback replaced. We bought it new and it has 112,000 miles with 3,000 mile oil changes (standard 5/30 oil) and we’ve done regular scheduled maintenance. It began smelling of burnt oil after longer drives early on but it did not drip oil. More recently it began smelling of burnt coolant. Now it drips coolant on the garage floor and I’ve had to add some coolant to the overflow container. The coolant looks a bit dirty or off color. The oil and oil level has been fine but I’ve only been paying close attention for the last couple months.

    We have been considering trading up to a new Outback but given the decent overall shape of the car and the likely penalty of selling it with the HG issue we decided to fix it and keep in another couple years.

    We live in Wenatchee (on the east side of the Cascade Mountains) and plan to have the HGs replaced by a local Subaru independent auto shop (H & D Automotive). They’ve been fairly priced and very helpful in the several years that we’ve taken the car to them. The mechanic says they will pull the engine out of the car and replace the HG with Subaru O.E. gaskets but will use other non-O.E. products elsewhere. Cost estimate is $1600 to 1800. Have you heard anything good or not-so-good about H & D, and is our plan reasonable in your experience? Thanks, Rich

  120. I’ve been shopping for an update on my one-owner ’94 Legacy wagon, which boasts 201K, still no oil consumption, leaks, or HG issues. I love it, but given it’s longevity, decided to upgrade to an automatic, leather heated seats, and other bells and whistles the newer models offer.
    Found a 2000 Outback with 134K for $5000. It drove out nice and was unusually clean. Thank God I took it to my trusted (for 20 yrs) mechanic before shelling out the cash. For $48 I learned it needs about $2,150 in repairs because it has a HG leak a diff seal leak, and worn-out rear brake pads. I told my man it is the best $48 I ever spent!

    Then I blundered into your blog site and am very impressed by your thoroughness and patience with so many “innocent” consumers, mostly disappointed with Subaru. But I hear you–vehicles require maintenance and Subaru is head and shoulders above so many others, despite HG and timing belt issues.

    What I want to add to the mix is that most drivers I observe are insensitive to their vehicles. Start from cold and gun it, run flat out with little thought for the small displacement 4-cylinder and how hard it has to work. I live about 3 miles from the freeway entrance, but if starting out on a freeway trip, I “know” my drive train is not ready for 75mph even after 3 miles and I stay in the right lane and go maybe 60-65 for a few miles, gradually increase speed, and set the cruise at 73mph. Rarely faster. Not saying that’s why I have no leaks, oil consumption, or HG problems, but maybe “mechanical sensitivity” contributes. I hear that modern engines don’t need to “warm up” (maybe mfrs are encouraging new car sales), but even with a heated garage, I give it at least a little time, just like me when I first wake up (I’m 78 years old and start slow). Or maybe I’m just lucky.

    Anyway, I’m no mechanic, but second your motion that the best way to get maximum value on an otherwise good vehicle is to maintain it, pay the repairs as needed, and take what comfort one can in knowing the belt or heads or whatever are at least renewed. Those with later models who love their Subarus should listen to you: Bite the bullet, pay the price, and keep the car they love. There’s no free lunch, and the inherent winter safety of AWD is important here in Montana. Thanks for your many insights.

    1. Lynx,

      Just wanted to pass on a friendly message and let you know of your great advice you just posted. I do the same thing to my 99 Forester by starting out slow on the interstate (I’m about the same distance as you from my house) and take it slow for a few miles. I see nothing but heavy footed drivers anymore be it at a stop light or interstate. There is no mystery why there are so many vehicle problems out there. You are right 100% that’s why you don’t have any problems with your Subaru, because you go the extra mile to ensure your car is not abused. Some people you cannot convince.
      I just spent 2200 on a long list of maintenance on my Forester (HG, TB,WP, new radiator, idlers,seals,clutch plate,pilot bearing, oil sep plate) and these were either previous owner neglect or design defects as in the case of the HG but with only 110k on the clock I can now have peace of mind knowing it will provide me with many more years of service.

  121. Hello,

    Thanks for all the words of wisdom.

    Have a question regarding a 2005 Outback XT – 2.5 Liter Turbocharged All Wheel Drive

    It is one we are looking to purchase and when we asked the seller if the HG has every been an issue, or replaced, he said “the turbos never had HG issues, google it.” Now, obviously ANY car could potentially have a HG go out but he was referring to the fact that the ” Subaru HG issue” as we all know it to be is not an issue with this turbo engine.

    Thoughts? Is he correct?

    1. Hello Nate,

      Any car can develop a HG issue yes. Its correct to say that the turbo engines don’t have the failure rate that some N/A engines have, but any car should have a professional inspection to help rule out the possibility that the car you are buying might be in need of any type of repair soon, not just the HG.

      Service records are a good idea to have and history on the Turbo as well.


  122. Justin, great site, been reading it for the last few hours, thanks for the info. Somewhere you said the turbos have few HG issues. I just had my 2004 WRX (127,000 miles original owner) oil/ filter changed at the Sub dealer, while there they suggested a carbon induction clean out service. Car was very responsive after this and I was happy to spend the money for the service.
    Next day while stopped for a light, I notice an “oily” rag smell coming through the air vents (no a/c on), goes away when moving, comes back while stopped. I thought it was just some spilled oil and it would eventually burn off. After a couple of weeks, smell is still there so I bring it back to the dealer, they put it up on the lift and show me oil coming down the passenger side from the HG and starting to show on the driver side. was not a gusher but you can see it. They gave me a ballpark price of $1700.00, engine removed, both sides done and all seals replaced also(Subaru’s “kit”). They were actually doing a Baja that day for HG and the engine WAS on the stand. Car is running fine right now, no overheating issues or misfires, can I watch and wait on this (I do not beat on this car, still have the original clutch for example) Have you ever heard of the solvent in the induction cleaner service eating the seals of a head gasket? to much of a coincidence for me I guess. Changed oil regularly, coolant, T belt, idlers. comparatively speaking, low cost of ownership for the years that I have it. Trouble is, not a lot of indie Subaru repair shops in FL. I will say this particular dealership is more trusted than the one I had in CT.

    1. Hello Richard,

      Have not seen to may Turbo engines develop external leaks, some will fail internally usually due to an overheat situation.

      Id like to suggest that the leak may actually be somewhere else and is being mistaken for an external HG leak such as the oil cooler o-ring or Valve cover gaskets or rear cam plugs.

      It’s tough to say for sure without seeing it but I just don’t see to many MLS gaskets leak externally and I am basing my thoughts on the norm.

      Fuel system services shouldn’t really create a HG issue, but I suppose if one was imminent already it could push it off the cliff if you will.


  123. Hi Justin, I posted earlier (in the wrong thread!) about my 2003 Outback with a blown head gasket (I got stranded).

    The thing is repaired (I suggested the guy get gaskets from you but he used a Felpro kit instead) so we went back over to get it. Just drove back home and got 28 MPG on the almost 300 mile trip (temps dropped to single digits for the last 100 miles). I have three more quick questions: The tech used NAPA coolant — for this generation of the 4 cylinder engine, is that OK or should I switch out for the Subaru coolant? Second, he replaced the plugs (I am not sure what brand he used) – it ran very well but I wondered if I should make sure they are NGK (the OEM plugs people seem to recommend); third, all belts were replaced but when I first started it it seemed a bit noisier in the belt/pulley area — anything I should be concerned about or keep an eye on?

    Thanks again for your original answers — it helped me decided what to do. We are going to keep the car for a few months and see how we do.

    1. Hello Richard,

      I am really conflicted on how to answer you, par of me wants to tell you that I am sorry to hear they were used, mostly because we see them fail in a year in many cases, but I am also glad to hear the repair was a success. The Napa brand coolant is just fine, The spark plugs should be NGK.

      Hard to comment about a noise I cant hear, is the noise a belt type noise?


      1. It just sounds like the belt area has more noise than before — almost like one of the hubs/shafts turning are noisier – he used GATES belts, BTW. I will keep an eye/ear on it — if it’s a continuing thing, I might even record it and see if I can’t attach it or send it along… I want to be optimistic about the gaskets… I am going to change the radiator cap myself (he left the original one in place) just in case that was part of the original problem. I did look at the original gaskets (but didn’t take a picture or keep them) — there was a small shiny path through the black of the rest of the gasket right into Cylinder #3 — that was the misfire location. Be optimistic for me, OK? Ha ha.

  124. I am in a situation my 2003 Impreza Outback, with 199,000 miles where I most likely will have a low mileage used engine shipped into a good Japanese Shop in Fife. (Sorry, I didn’t know about this shop until just a few days ago.) I made a very big mistake. My mechanic that does things like my Struts, Brakes, Axle and CV work told me that the 2.5 SOHC was a Non-Interference model. It is my car and I should have check online for myself. Wednesday, I was out doing my Appraisal Field work in Skyway, and at about 20 Mph, I thought that I ran over something. The car was to go over for Front Struts, and a dual core all aluminum radiator, later on in the day. I looked behind me to see what I had ran over. Nothing. Then I saw my dashlights on. Tried to restart the car, no crank, but there was electrical. I started to think that it was the original timing belt. I had the kit at home, and was going to do the repair when it broke. Got the car down to Fife, mechanic says that it is an Interference Engine. Oh Boy. They got a look at it yesterday morning, and said that the belt did break, and it broke the Crankshaft Sensor, and the timing belt cover. They wanted to repair that, so they could find out if the valves were bent. I told the owner that if there was internal damage, I would get a used engine to them. Can’t justify major repairs on an engine with that kind of mileage. Got one lined up, with 70K miles ($1,300 shipped). I will most likely have them replace the head gaskets with the improved ones while the replacement engine is on the pallet. I have owned the car since May of 2005 (18k, 5 speed, $3,000 under book), and it started to leak oil less than 2 years later. One thing that I have learned over the years is that 5W oil will not properly protest the engine, and that using 10-30W will properly protect it. Trouble is, there are laws that shops are under, and they can’t use heavier that 5W. Also add Lucas Stop Leak additive after an oil change will help to keep the gaskets from drying out from the heat, and lengthen the life. I buy almost all of my own parts, and have for over 30 years. Since my 2003 has drums in the back, I have EBC Sport rotors (Dimpled and Slotted), and high quality Semi-Metallic pads on the front. Ceramic pads make keep your wheels cleaner, but for passenger cars, they do not stop the car nearly as well. I don’t turn my rotors. Don’t need to. You can save a lot of money are parts on EBay, but you must know what you are doing in regards to brands. I look at it this way: Since I can save up to 50% on Ebay, I will get the best parts available, especially when it is for Brakes, Suspension, and Tires. With online resources, you can make you car safer. The sticking point is the shop that you use. Will they let you buy your own parts? Some will, it they are good quality, and meet OEM standards. Even if you are not that knowledgeable, or as ambitious as I am, at least find out when important maintenance items on your model need attention.

    1. Hello Scott,

      I guess one lesson to learn is never wait for something to break before you repair it.

      Yes Subaru has not made a non interference engine since the mid nineties, I am not aware of a Low mileage 2.5l JDM N/A engine being available for the 2003 Impreza.

      What is available is a 2.0l and that would be the wrong direction to go, it will be an anomaly of expense after expense with limited parts support.

      There is no law stating 10w oil cant be used in place of 5w oil, not sure where you may be getting that from.

      I understand the concept of trying to save some money but typically in the long run it bites you, such as in the case of bad advice from a shop that was used that was not a Subaru Expert resulting in a damaged engine.


  125. HI Justin,

    I want to thank you for offering your time for all of us. I just wanted to know, when it comes to playing it safe with head gaskets, on Monday my wife and I will be choosing between 2 2005 Suabrus. Both will have new timing belts, one is 74k miles and the other is 85k.

    What should we ask them when it comes to finding out if the recall/replacement (if it were needed) were installed and, if nothing has been done, what ‘warning signs’ / preventative measures can we take to ensure we don’t get hit with a $2,000 pie in the face?

    Thank you.

    1. Hello Joel,

      You would want to have a good shop perform a pre purchase inspection, there is no other way of trying to avoid the dread of buying a used car and being hit with big expenses.

      I am not sure which recall in 2005 you are referring to but any and all recall work will show up if performed on a Car fax type report. There is no recall for HG in 2005


  126. Hi Justin,

    My ’97 Legacy GT started having overheating problems starting about a month ago. After replacing 2 thermostats, removing and inspecting the water pump, and adding Subaru coolant conditioner, overheating still persisted. It was only overheated severely twice, and every time since was caught before the water temp gauge moved beyond halfway. After removing the pump and re-installing it with a new gasket, the car behaved normally for about a day, then began acting up again. The motor is now out of the car, with both heads removed, and the condition of the head gaskets look exactly the same as that in the first picture of the failed first gen gasket. Upon visual inspection, the heads and block both appear to be unwarped and uncracked, but the techs at Napa advised me to take the heads in to a shop to be inspected for cracks and warping.

    Should I take their advice and take it in to be professionally inspected before I reassemble the engine with new gaskets?

    Also, how important is it to use new head bolts? I have heard that they should not be re-used, but how true is that?


    1. Hello Cole,

      Yes the heads need to be checked to see if they are flat, if they are warped (the allowance is 2 thousands of an inch) or you cant refinish them properly then they would need to be machined.


  127. I”m about to buy a 2006 subaru outback wagon. Its got the 2.5i 4cyl. I took it for a test drive and i loved it. Its a smooth ride and it seemed to handle better on the snowy roads than the forester I used after.

    The 06 Outback doesnt have a report of HG replacement but it is inspected by the subaru dealer im getting it from. 11,700.

    The 03 Forester has had HG replaced but the engine sounds louder and a little rougher than the outback. And i thought i heard some ticking in the engine. 9,000$

    Did i make the right choice and will I expect severe issues? I had a 98 outback which i totalted but i loved that little thing. only owned it a year so no experience.

    1. Hello Joshua,

      You need to have an independent Pre Purchase inspection done on either or both cars to help device which is the best value, if the HG on the 2006 were just seaping out a bit of oil do you think it would show up on the Dealers inspection, and if it did would you want to buy it?

      The Forester is going to be much loader than the Outback especially from the drivers seat. The 2006 Outback would have quieter valve train as well.


  128. Hello Justin:
    I have a 2008 2.5i PZEV Outback with 98,000 miles. At my most recent service last week, the dealer repair personnel say it is developing a head gasket leak.The fix would be $2100. I’ve maintained it in accordance with the Subaru maintenance guide by the dealer. My wife (who mostly drives the Outback) told me she occasionally hears a “noise” from the front left side of the car from time to time. I also asked the dealer repair folks to investigate this intermittent noise. After their inspection, they told me the noise was from a left side differential bearing. Replacing the bearing alone required removing the transmission and that would cost more than simply replacing the entire transmission- which would cost $4200. ( lots of labor in this effort)
    We like the car but were stunned. I can deal with the head gasket finding- it isn’t a big surprise and the quoted cost is in line with what others have mentioned. But replacing a transmission ? I’m a bit uncomfortable with the thought of doing all that work on a 6 year old car- although it does appear to be otherwise in good shape.
    I guess my thought is the transmission is such a fundamental part of the car- is taking it out and replacing it a big warning sign? Is this something which isn’t done often and likely to start us on a slow downhill slide of increasing repairs.
    Have other folks had differential bearing problems at around 100,000 miles? And is a transmission replacement the only thing which is really likely to solve the problem?
    Thanks for your thoughts,

    1. Hello Bob,

      Thats never easy to hear when there are two major issues at once.

      Ill try to answer the best I can. So replacing any or all of the bearings in the front differential would never add up to $4200.00 The issue at hand is that the Techs at the Dealer do not want to make a bearing repair as they are most likely not qualified to do so and most likely way out of their comfort zone.. The Dealer is the last place you want to have a major repair done. I understand that in some parts of the country there are limited options.

      Puzzling to me is that typically a differential bearing noise is not intermittent and this is also very low mileage for that type of a repair. I think a second opinion is in order.

      Head gaskets can develop oil leaks years ahead of actually needing to be replaced, what you need is someone you can trust to monitor it for you and advise to when they need to be replaced.

      You mentioned it was maintained based on the Dealers suggestions, would you please post back with the frequency of oil changes and how often the Gear oil in the Differential has been changed. Its good for others to be able to see those intervals.

      Hope that helps


  129. HI Justin,
    My wife took our 2006 Forester in for an oil change and the dealer put the fear of God in her saying that the master seal needed replacing asap and probably should do timing belt too. they said that both head gaskets were leaking oil badly. all repairs were estimate to be about $4000.

    I took the car in for a second opinion and they did not find one leak anywhere on the car. Even the skid plate was clean. The maintenance shop said that a common sign of this would be engine overheating which would lead to damaging the gaskets. I explained that the car runs fine. Also, I explained that the dealer said they saw the damaged seal when taking off the oil pan which was somewhat baffling to the maintenance shop as they were not sure why the pan was removed during an oil change.

    Anyway, not sure who to believe or that just because this is a 2006 Subaru that actually has the problem with the gasket.


    1. Hello Scott,

      There is no such thing as a master seal? The independent shop might be over their head, as a 2006 SOHC would leak fluid externally.

      One main issue you are having is terminology.

      Its the “Splash pan” was removed not “oil pan” The car does not have a “Skid plate” it has a “splash pan” that must be removed to inspect for external fluid leaks from the head gaskets which I will venture to guess was not performed?

      Option C and your next step is looking for a good independent that knows the car.


  130. Hi Justin

    Do you have the proper or exact drive cycle for 99 Legacy SUS 2.5L AT? I see a few different versions online and not sure if they are all good for my car. After clearing P0440 without repair, EGR system and Oxygen Sensor are not ready.

    Thank you for your assistance.



  131. My wife has a 2002 Outback H6-3.0 purchased new that we’ve been told by the dealer needs a new head gasket because of the oil leak despite the 62,006 miles on the car. As the last three cars we’ve purchased have been new ones from that dealer, we’re hoping that Subaru will take care of this. Is there any record of excessive HG failures with this engine?

    1. Hello Leo,

      No but a low mileage older car is going to be much more susceptible to external oil leaks, I would be surprised to ever see a H6 engine leaking so much oil out the head gaskets they need to be done, that’s not the norm, We see all to often the dealer or general repair shop suggest head gaskets when its just the timing chain cover that needs to be resealed that’s the common leak.

      Curious to know if the car has had 4 oil changes a year?


  132. Hi Justin;

    Have been following your web site for years – GREAT ADVISE!I have noticed a bulletin at the dealer stating the timing belt should be changed every 103,000 miles or 9yrs. I have a 2005 outback with only 56,000 miles and no gasket issues yet. I understand that parts wear out over time but do I really need to get it replaced? If I were to do so wouldn’t I want to go ahead and replace the water pump and gaskets too? This would of course be done by your shop.I love the car but worry about spending that kind of money so soon. I won’t have over a 100,000 miles until 5yrs or more.

    Thanks Rolf

    1. Hello Rolf,

      So the belt is technically due every 105k or 7 years assuming, I have seen the time be adjusted out to 9 years as well. I understand the hesitation to do it when the mileage is so low, the problem with not doing it based on time is trying to figure out when will you do it? We can always remove one cover and take a peak for cracks and glazing but that won’t really evaluate stretch, which is the very reason for doing it on a schedule, not just to prevent breakage but to maintain proper cam shaft timing.

      The water pump, idlers and tensioner should all be done as well as well as coolant service, thermostat and maybe the acc drive belts if they show any signs of cracking or wear.

      Hope that helps


  133. Very informative site, Justin. Thanks for doing this!
    I have a 2007 Legacy that just had a head gasket repaired – $3,300 (after a $200 “discount”, $2000 labor and $1300 parts)) at the dealership where I purchased the car (suburban Detroit). My questions are:

    1. You mentioned you aren’t fond of dealership repairs. Why? If I had the car repaired elsewhere (and I don’t know of anyone in my area qualified to do so), wouldn’t I have less leverage with SOA when I have a complaint? What alternatives do I have to dealership repairs?

    2. After reading many of the posts here, it seems to me that I was really taken to the cleaners by my dealer. $3,300 to me is a near fatal blow. What would you suggest a reasonable price should have been?

    3. You have mentioned writing to SOA, and I think I would like to do so, but a friend of mine counseled me to work with the dealer first. Do you have any reason why you think I should skip the dealer and go straight to SOA? Would you be able to post an address for SOA?


    1. Hello Bill,

      Post HG repair you don’t have much leverage.

      I could write a book about how the industry functions and maybe there would be some better insight to the profit machine that is a Automotive Dealership, maybe I will some day but in reality I doubt it would sell well as no one really cares. Its difficult to explain all of the in and outs and pitfalls for a consumer choosing a dealership as a repair center not understanding they have merely been successfully marketed to by the manufacture and group of dealerships in a way that makes it seem like somehow the dealer is superior than the independent, when in all actuality for repairs its just the opposite.

      While there are always going to be exceptions the pay structure at a dealership is counter intuitive to quality repairs, it instead only rewards how fast and how much work is done. Because Auto repair is just that “a repair” the quality is only ever going to be as good as the owner of the business, the owner of a dealership is so detached from the service department its always and will always be deemed as “the necessary evil” of the entire operation, in recent years whats known as fixed operations, (parts, service, detail) were seen as a way through the great recession, now that its over the service department is again not much of a concern to most owners, ad to that most Dealerships are just big corporations hiding behind a persons name.

      I have talked about this many time on this site, mostly to owners that came here after their repair only lasted a year, I truly hope yours lasts longer than that. I will say it again, the dealership regardless of make and model is almost always going to cost more while delivering the least amount of value per dollar spent. As far as price, I am just not able to provide prices unless you are a local customer to us and even then its a bad idea to just post prices without explaining what we do as me clients will just keep calling around until they have the lowest price without understanding why someone else’s price is less, I have no idea what the going rate for labor is where you live, how much the average overhead is, what is the cost of parts, fluids and labor are, how much competition is there for this repair, who is considered the expert in the area and how much do they charge and just don’t have the time to conduct the research.

      A Repair is a service, you can obtain three bids to have a deck replaced at your house and they could vary greatly as each will have variables, the exact same thing is true about a repair to your car. For $3300 I cant imagine the only thing that was done was head gaskets, but without reviewing your paperwork and looking at the breakdown doesn’t of the serviced rendered I have no idea what was done and if it was fair or reasonable. There may have been many items done in conjunction with the HG replacements that drove up the overall cost, sometimes this is money well spent on items such as a timing belt, and idlers, sometimes its that they charged a lot for a basic HG replacement.

      At this point you can maybe call SOA and let them know of your grievance, they may credit back as much as $500, but as far as leverage with anyone if your unhappy, at some point in time you need to understand this is your car just like a year after you buy a TV it is your TV.

      As far as post a a address to SOA, that wouldn’t be appropriate for me to be involved in, SOA and I are not friends, I have no leverage, I am just a simple shop owner who also tries to help out the greater community of Subaru owners regardless of where they reside.

      Hindsight is always tough and never 20/20, not knowing the shops in your area its hard to say if you could have done anything different, maybe that’s just the going rate where you live?

      I do however encourage you to always try and establish a relationship with an independent shop regardless of what you drive, your ownership experience will only ever be as good as who services the car for you.

      Hope that helps answer some of your questions.


  134. Incredible article! Thanks!!!

    Ive got an ’06 Baja. I have yet to see a leak but when I pull into the garage I can smell antifreeze. there are 88,000 miles on the clock and I really like this car. I agree that no matter what car I get there are going to be issues.
    I talked to the Subaru dealer and was told that they have to pull the engine to replace the HG’s. When they do I was told I might as well replace the water pump, the cerp belt, a gear in the back of the engine(cant remember which one) and something else.
    was quoted $3600.

    does this sound correct or am I being hoodwinked.

    would SOA help with any of these repairs?

    also I was told to try subaru’s coolant conditioner which I hear is stop leak. Any ideas how long that would last. I also noticed head gasket leak repair which is a permanant fix according to the label on the bottle. but you have to drain the coolant and flush the engine with water.
    any experience with these options?

    1. The Price seems high, but I just don’t know the market place where you reside.

      You can always call SOA but the car is well out of any warranty and most likely the most they would offer is $500.00 towards repairs or purchase of a car and I am never fond of the Dealer repairs.

      I just don’t support the idea of using Subaru Stop leak it will just cost more in the long run form our experience.


  135. Great website. 03 Legacy L Wagon with 245,000 miles. I like my mechanic here in WI (independant) but if I was in Seatle I would think about trying you just based on this website.

    And all you whiners – get a life. This website is super informative and a great service.

      1. Justin,

        Looking at a ’98 Legacy GT for my son with 136K. Can an experience (or inexperienced) mechanical visually tell if the head gasket has been replaced?


          1. You know I had the head gasket job done at 132,000 miles, both sides. Now I am almost to 150,000 miles, a year and a half later and damn if I am not back where I was 2 years ago, looking at another couple thousand dollars. 2002 Outback manual shift, same shop did a friend’s Baja which is still good, I thought I would be good to 300k. Cost of another head gasket repair now exceeds the value of the car. Much as I like it, this will be my last Subaru.

          2. Sorry to hear that Joe,

            There are many reasons a repair may not last as long as we would like.

            If you are ready to give up on the car by all means do so, and no one would blame you, but buying something else will cost much more than a repair. At the end of the day the value of what you drive matters not. I only bring it up as you mentioned the cost of the repair VS the value as a rationale.


    1. Hi David,

      I’m also in Wisconsin and curious as to who your mechanic is. I’ve had 5 Subarus since ’96 (currently ’11 &’13 Outbacks) and do most work myself but have gone to the dealer for major service (timing belt, head gaskets, etc)


  136. My 2005 Subaru Outback has developed an oil leak in both head gaskets at 126,000km (78,000 miles). From reading the above posts it looks like this is a common and expensive problem with Subaru. Before this problem was diagnosed would I have recommended a Subaru? Yes. After discovering this defect and reading all the similar complaints would I recommend a Subaru now? No way!

  137. I have a 2008 Legacy. A few days ago I got the bad news (after finding oil on my garage floor – I knew it was bad) New head gasket will be done over the next two days. I NEVER had a car need this major work at only 70K miles. I would not buy a Subaru again. My next car will be a Honda CRV, hopefully not in the near future. Ford? Don’t they get terrible gas mileage? Fords used to be good but then most cars “used to be good.” I don’t know what a good car is any more. I think I’d rather have all my teeth pulled than buy another car, so I’m having it fixed and hope for the best.

  138. Justin,

    Your informative website is great! Wish I’d read it earlier. In 2006 I purchased a Subaru Forester Premium “S” model with 101,000 miles on it, so it was high mileage for the year. It’s mainly my wife’s car so I knew the mileage would average out in time, and it has since it is Nov. 2013 and only has 145,000 on it. It’s been very reliable so far. The original battery went out about 2 years ago. The “Die Hard” replacement “died easily” in only 2 years so I recently had to put another battery in it, but I’ve always kept things clean under the hood, including wiping off the battery, etc. Other than one brake job and the right axle shaft being replaced that’s been it until now. My wife had noticed a strange smell and last Sunday on our way to church (4 miles) I noted a white smoke appearing over the left front tire. When we got home, I looked things over and noted some oil accumulation on the left rear of the engine. I took the car to a little local garage that has done normal maintenance for me over the years on her Subaru and whatever else I’ve been driving. At first glance, the garage owner said he smelled anti freeze. I left it with them to check it out. They called me to say they thought there’s a very small head gasket leak and showed me the spot. They’d cleaned the engine off some and showed me the the back side on left of the engine. It is a barely noticeable stain at this point. There’s been no overheating, or drips on the driveway or anything like that. They also pointed out a torn axle boot on the left and replaced that axle. Maybe this is where the strange smell may have come from as it had thrown some grease out. This garage is not prepared to do the head gaskets as they said they are not familiar enough with this engine. I also noted somewhere in your answers you’d mentioned if you don’t need AWD maybe one shouldn’t have a car with this. In our area of central NC we hardly do need this. We like the car but wonder would it be time to say good-bye or just bite the bullet and do the repair. The car doesn’t get used that much and only locally. I see from your site this is a pretty expensive repair. With things being a bit tight right now, How long could we safely let this be – if at all?

    Thank you so much, I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

    1. Hello Ted,

      So the passenger side inner cv boot leaking grease out onto the Catalytic convertor does in fact create quite a pungent and strong smell. I point out passenger side as you mentioned left but I am not sure if you are aware that left is the drivers side or not, as in the car world everything is as if you are in the drivers seat. If the smoke was from the drivers side it may be some coolant leaking out from the back of the left side Head gasket.

      Once its leaking coolant it really needs to be done, and by the sounds of it not by your local shop.

      My advice is always the same, if you like the car and it suits your needs I would suggest you make the repairs and mostly because it’s going to impact your finances the least of all options available to you.

      If you don’t need AWD but still want one of the safest cars to have your wife drive around in, Id stick with it post repairs for at least another 5 years and closer to 200k, by then fuel economy standards will have legged up again, the hydrogen and CNG vehicles coming out next year will have most of the bugs worked out and there will be some less expensive options to the Tesla, if fuel economy or alternative propulsion systems are a concern at all. Just some ideas.

      Thanks for posting


  139. Hi Justin,

    I apologize if this has already been asked/answered, but there is so much great information, I thought this might be quicker.

    I have a 2001 Sub Legacy wagon (163K miles). New timing belt/wheel bearings last winter.

    Head gasket leak now – my Subaru-specific mechanic quoted me $1200

    My question: I know this is a difficult question to answer in that there are many factors at play, but do you believe it would be worth fixing the HG? If doing so would mean I could get many more miles/a few more years out of it, I’d be willing to do so.

    It seems silly to put too much money into a car that might not be worth much more than that (I paid $2500 last winter + $600 repairs mentioned above).

    Any insight would be much appreciated. Have a happy holiday!

    1. One additional note : I’ve had 2 mechanics take a look, both felt they were fairly “minor” leaks. Both felt it was necessary for immediate repair, and to check oil levels very frequently.

    2. Hello Leah,

      Generally speaking its good advice to repair it and keep it until its truly time for a new car, this advice rings true if the rest of the car is in decent shape and the repairs can be made competently.

      I would like to think the car has at least another 100k left to go, maybe a little longer.


  140. I’m looking at a 2001 Subaru Outback VDC (H6 engine) with just over 100k miles. What should I ask the mechanic to focus on when inspecting the vehicle? Are H6’s known for head gasket failures as the H4’s are? I believe the gasket was changed once before – I don’t know the mileage of when it was changed though. Thank you!

  141. Hi Justin –
    Very informative website! I appreciate all your comments and explanations. I have a 2010 Forester with 62,500 miles. My mechanic just told me that I have the beginning of a HG problem –slight leak. He was adamant that I push back to the dealership and/or SOA. The majority of my maintenance has not been done at the dealership so I’m hesitant to push on them.

    My understanding is that Subaru updated the 2010 models to correct the HG problem. If this is true, do you think there is any value for me to contact Subaru?
    Thanks very much for your time.

    1. Hello Kc,

      Its always worth a call to SOA, it doesn’t matter who maintains it, just that its maintained.

      The 2010 Forester has the same gasket that’s been used from mid 2002. In 2010 the Outback received a MLS gasket new to the SOHC 2.5l, Subaru did not do this with the Forester as they changed the entire engine in 2011 to the FB series.


  142. I thought I submitted this comment this morning, but I can’t find it in this thread. My apologies if it ends up being a double post.

    My 1996 Legacy Outback with 137k miles has the type of head gasket leak that allows exhaust into the radiator. This problem was discovered right after I had the radiator replaced due a crack in it. The engine still runs fine — though I haven’t gone far — but coolant is being pushed out of the radiator into the overflow after about 10 miles and eventually spills out onto the road or driveway. (I am not driving it now.) The independent repair shop that replaced the radiator, hoses, and thermostat at a cost of $750 gave me an estimate of $1700 to $2000 to replace the head gaskets. I don’t want to put that kind of money into a 17 year old car. However, I’d like to get some use out of it for the $750 I sunk into it for the radiator, and additional $ for tires I replaced 5k miles ago. So, my questions are: Will a leak-stop additive/treatment be effective on this type of leak, and what are the pros and cons of using it? Thanks.

    1. Sorry Ned,

      There is nothing in a bottle that will repair a internal breach in a HG. And yes it cant really be driven until its repaired the only way you will see any value out of the repairs you have made would be to repair it and drive it or sell it and let someone else repair it and drive it.


  143. My 1996 Legacy Outback with 137k miles has the type of head gasket leak that sends exhaust into the radiator. This problem was discovered right after I had the radiator replaced due a crack in it. The engine now runs fine but coolant gets pushed out of the radiator into the overflow after about 10 miles and eventually spills out onto the ground. I am not driving it now. The independent repair shop that replaced the radiator, hoses, and thermostat at a cost of $750 gave me an estimate of $1700 to $2000 to replace the head gaskets. I don’t want to put that kind of money into a 17 year old car. However, I’d like to get some use out of it for the $750 I sunk into it for the radiator, and additional $ for tires I replaced 5k miles ago. So, my questions are: Will a leak-stop additive/treatment be effective on this type of leak, and what are the pros and cons of using it? Thanks.

  144. We have a similar story. Our 06 Subaru with only 57,000 miles on it needs a new head gasket. We were about to sell the car because it is in otherwise excellent condition. All maintenance is up to date, etc. We agreed to let the buyer have the car checked out by a mechanic, and this problem was brought to light. We have ordered a 2014 Forester that we are thinking of cancelling. This seems to be a recurrent problem with Subarus??

  145. I have an 03 Forester, replaced head gaskets in January 2012. Now at the same dealer while getting something else fixed, they said they are leaking and need replaced. The warranty on the last replacement only lasts 20k miles or one year. The car has 190k miles on it but has been driven less than 15k since the first replacement. I think they are taking advantage of me – how can I test this on my own or find out if there’s really a problem? I have no symptoms of an issue, no leaking fluid or overheating.

  146. Justin,
    Love your site and the way you care for your customers. I purchased a used 2005 Imprezza RS for my daughter to take to college over a year ago. Car is nice and drives fine. I was changing the oil a month ago and noticed a drop of oil on bottom of filter. More troubling was some type of fluid further back located on some type frame? metal bar. This bar is located dead center of car between the oil pan and just before where the two exhaust pipes join. Not sure of its function or what it is called. The bolts on this metal bar as well as bar had a film of fluid that looks green (coolant?). The drivers side axial also had this fluid on it as well as two small diameter pipes (tubes) that run parallel to axial. I had my local garage take a look and they reported a very minimal almost undetectable gasket leak. I had them replace coolant for the upcoming winter and have noticed a greater amount of of this unknown fluid on axial/pipes/metal bar. I check oil/coolant/transmission fluids every weekend and have noticed no loss of such fluids. I am at a loss to know what is leaking or from where. Would you have any clue as to what it could be? I am planning on dropping car off to Subaru to look at as independent subaru experts are not located near me. Thank you.

  147. I have a 2003 Forester and was just told I need a head gasket replaced. I said I think I had one done before, and at the dealer. They checked and said it was done in 2009. Is this normal for it to go so soon? I have 98,000 miles now, and only 70,795 in 2009. I was having the timing belt done now. Should there be some kind of warranty on the the gasket. Why would it fail again? Did they not do it right? Very upset!

    1. Hello Angela,

      I’m sorry to learn you have have had a second failure. It’s tough to determine why it might have occurred again. Did they mention if it was just some minor oil leaking or if the gaskets were leaking coolant?

      Maybe it’s not something that needs to be done for a while.


  148. Hi Justin –

    Great info, especially appreciate that you are continuing to monitor the replies after all this time.

    My 2006 Outback 2.5 has about 65K and I think is showing the early signs of a HG problem. No coolant loss or overheating, but I’m noticing some oil leakage on the driver’s side.

    Two questions:
    Is a small amount of oil seepage ever normal here? My wife drives the car, and I think it has been happening for a while (perhaps >1yr??) without any apparent problems.

    Has Subaru come out with any type of upgraded gasket from what was installed new on an ’06? If it is a HG failure, I would hope the exact same part wouldn’t go back in and lead me to hope it would last longer than the first one.


    1. Hello Eric,

      As long as its just leaking oil you can continue to drive it and just look it over and each subsequent oil change.

      Unfortunately no, Subaru will sell you the same gasket that came in the Car in 2006 as a replacement, which is why we prefer the Six Star to the OE.


  149. Hello my 2009 Subaru Legacy with 72,000 miles just blew a head gasket. It’s still under the extended 5year/100,000 mile warranty I bought with the car. After reading your article I’m not filled with confidence that the dealer repair will last a long time.

  150. Hi Justin. This is quite a service you are performing. Thank you!

    I own a 2006 Outback 2.5i with just under 109,000 miles on it and I’ve recently been told that I, like many others on your page, need both head gaskets replaced. I’m in the Washington, D.C. Area so the repairs will be pricey: $2400. I would also need to replace the timing belt.

    Is this repair something about which I should be outraged or is this reasonable on a 7 year old Subaru with similar mileage?


    1. Hello Dana,

      Lots become outraged and some make really poor decisions as a result, doesn’t sound like that’s you which is refreshing.

      What I can say is the AWD system works really well, the car is very safe and reliable and that’s due to the Boxer engine design, but the boxer design in some circumstances can be more susceptible to HG leaks.

      Major repairs always come as a shock, and are never pleasant. At 109,000 the car is already due for a timing belt which would be around $500 for the basic service most likely done at the same time as the HG its just the cost of the belt, so the Hg repair is really more like $1900, which is still a lot of money. If you can put 100k more on the car until a possible repeat its pennies per mile.

      If you like the car and it still suits your needs, id fix it and hopefully concentrate on the next 100k.


      1. Thanks, Justin. For the sake of clarity and to be sure I get your best advice, the HG replacement would cost $2400; the timing belt would be an additional charge. Still the same advice?


      2. Hi Justin
        Thank you very much for your dedications and knowledge on Subaru. It is my first time owning a Subaru – 1999 SUS Limited with very low milage. The car doesn’t have HG problem, as yet. I would like your inputs or suggestions on the following questions.

        Regarding minimizing coolant contamination:
        1. Would a higher octane (89 or 91) gasoline help?
        2. Would gasoline without ethanol mix make a difference in trying to prolong the HG?
        3. When changing the coolant, does it has to be Subaru coolant only? If aftermarket coolant can be used, what specific quality of coolant is desired?

        Regarding the AWD system, there is a FWD switch shown on the electrical diagram. I think it is physically located in the engine compartment near the wiper motor. What is its purpose? Can it be disconnected from ground lead (so to get FWD mode) for summer driving? And can it be done without causing harms or retardment to the transmission and the engine in anyway?

        Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts.

        Best regards,


        1. Hello Joe,

          1. Would a higher octane (89 or 91) gasoline help?

          Yes my belief is that a higher octane fuel will help prolong all aspects of the engine

          2. Would gasoline without ethanol mix make a difference in trying to prolong the HG?

          Its also my belief that ethanol is a terrible idea, and we are faced with all sorts of fuel related shortcomings, this ranges from prematurely failed fuel pumps to cracked fuel lines as well as excessive carbon build up.

          3. When changing the coolant, does it has to be Subaru coolant only? If aftermarket coolant can be used, what specific quality of coolant is desired?

          In your era 1996 to 1999 DOHC, there is no compelling reason to use the Subaru coolant, I would stay away from Dex cool however.

          The FWD fuse holder is meant to be used to assist a Tech in diagnosing a problem with the AWD system by disabling the transfer clutch solenoid. If you did this for a long period of time you should expect for the AWD system to develop a problem.

          Hope that helps


  151. Interesting, I just bought a used 2005 outback with a new engine. Old had 121K miles. I bet it had this problem.

  152. Hello Justin,

    Love your attitude on “when hit with a $2K repair buy a new car”!?!

    Anyway, I found a ’99 OBW with 170K on it which I’m told had a replaced water everything (pump, sensors, etc.) and runs well but still throws a light after running a while. This vehicle has been “lovingly maintained by family mechanic” ’til now. I’m willing to pay a local mech. (foreign specialist) do a HC test in the coolant. The A/C was not very cool during a quick test drive so I’m expecting a positive HC test. If they’re asking $3600 and the test comes back with exhaust in the coolant, should I knock $1500 off the price and have this repaired at my mechanic’s to have a long running car?

    1. Hello Stuart,

      I think if there is room on the price and it suits your needs, buy it make the repairs and you should have many good years of service for your money.

      Its also possible the AC is just low, maybe its not as bad as you think?


  153. Hi, great website,
    My wifes best friend has a 2000 subaru legacy wagon
    187000, head gasket problem. Should she fix it or sell it. Otherwise car great.

    1. Hello Mark,

      The 2000 still has a lot of great life left, the question depends on the condition of the rest of the car however, if the rest of the car is slid then yes, if its in need of everything else than there should be some concern.


  154. Hi Justin…great info here. Just a quick question:
    I’m currently looking at few subaru outback wagons, few of them being year 96 with the 2.5 engine.
    It has come to my attention, that 96 is the only year for the 2.5 to require premium fuel?…
    Is there any way I can program the ECM to the other year specs so the vehicle no longer requires premium fuel?
    Or are there some differences in the actual engine between 96 and other years, which I can’t do much about?
    thank you

    1. Hello Dave,

      The only difference between 1996 and 1997 to 1999 DOHC is the head gasket used in 1996 is composite and the 1997 to 1999 DOHC is MLS.

      Where are you reading the premium fuel piece?


  155. Greetings from downunder. Very much appreciate the effort & info that have gone into this site over years. Can I point out that acid coolant has a low pH? Also, the coolant levels in a pressurised system don’t change in the block, unless a heap of gas, ie air has got in. So the HG in an upright engine is not ” out of the water” when the engine is off. In oz, Ford built a 3.9 L 6 for many years , iron block & alloy head, and you could take bets on it (hg) failing at 200,000ks. Many went earlier, of course. A designed in HG problem is not a subi exclusive. I was fascinated by the electrical system influence on the HGs, thanks for that

    1. Dearest Stuart,

      “Can I point out that acid coolant has a low pH”

      Are you stating that elevated electrolysis levels in the cooling system decrease the PH levels? That would be a false assumption and I wonder what kind of testing you have done? Have you ever looked into the correlation between increased voltage in the cooling system and increased PH levels?

      “Also, the coolant levels in a pressurized system don’t change in the block, unless a heap of gas, ie air has got in”

      The coolant in the cooling system is not under pressure at all times, instead there are times the system is actually under vacuum or under no pressure at all, it builds pressure as the cooling system heats up that pressurized coolant expands into the coolant overflow bottle or coolant expansion tank, and then as the engine cools the coolant is pulled back into the radiator as the pressure in the radiator becomes less than atmospheric. This constant yin and yang can also create small air pockets that under normal circumstances should bleed out past the radiator cap and into the overflow bottle, but that’s not always the case especially if the rad cap is left to chance, and lastly you have completely looked past the evaporation factor.

      My point about the head gaskets as it pertains to coolant that sits “on top of” the head gaskets utilizing gravity as a form of pressure, this is unique to the Boxer design.

      Not sure where you were going with your post, but hopefully this information helps you a bit?

      Thanks for posting


  156. Justin,

    Thanks for all the great information. I live on the east side of the cascades from you and am volunteer ski patrol therefore considering an all wheel drive vehicle.

    I am considering a 05-08 Legacy or OB. From what I can tell I am better off in regard to HG and timing belt issues if I look at an H6.

    I have only done a couple of days of research on Subaru specifically so your insight into my thought process would be appreciated.

    I also saw just a few posts above that there are potentially heigher ownership costs associated with H6 models, what are those?

    Thanks again,


    1. Hello Chris,

      By 2005 Subaru had done a good job of teaching the Dealer Service departments about the importance of using the right coolant, they added ground straps and the gasket was updated starting in 2002. So mostly a 2005 to 2009 may slowly over time develop an external oil leak, this could eventually turn into a coolant leak and possibly an internal failure but that’s not that common.

      The Subaru H6 models use a MLS type gasket and have more surface mass, as such the head gaskets do hold up better if all other things are considered equal (maintenance, use, etc).

      The increase in ownership costs are derived from it uses 7 quarts of oil at an oil change interval VS 4.3 to 4.7 depending on which year H4, it has two more spark plugs and they are much more expensive as well as some years requiring premium fuel. Depending on what year the H6 models are known for acc belt and component failures (at higher mileages) fuel pumps, and power steering pumps, they go through front brakes more often than the H4 models, as its the same braking system but more weight upfront given the larger engine size.

      I have owned just about every configuration of Subaru to this point, and really liked the 200 to 2004 3.0l in the llbean and VDC, same thing for the 2005 to 2009 as well as the 2010 to current I also currently drive a 2012 Outback with the 3.6l.

      I prefer the 6 because I spend so much time going over the pass, and if you have ever driven Highway 2 the ability to pass is a must.

      If you need AWD ( which it sounds like you do) a Subaru is your best choice, you would be fine in either the 4 or 6 cylinder just make sure you have a prepurchase inspection done.

      Thanks for volunteering in the Ski Patrol!


  157. Hello AWDA,

    I had my 2003 OBW 2.5 HG fix performed @ AWDA June 2011 w/ 66k miles on the car. Just this week I noticed (now at 84k miles) the radiator fans running more often and my overflow tank is much higher than the full mark and has bubbles (about 2 bubbles a sec)in it while running or just after engine off. I was told I might just have a bad cap which I have now replaced. I topped off the actual radiator while the engine was cold and pumped out excess fluid in the reservoir so it was exactly at the full mark while cold. Over this last day I would take off the cap and top off the radiator (while engine cool or cold) some more thinking maybe I had some trapped air which is making room for more coolant. My temp needle at times has shown about 50% where it normally hovers closer to 40-45%. I purchased a yellow funnel air bleed kit thinking maybe I am just not getting all the air out (after bad cap replacement theory) and will try that next week when it arrives. There has been no flush or change of the cooling system since the HG fix was performed in 2011 (besides apprx yearly very minor top off of coolant in the reservoir tank).

    Does this sound like a cap, thermostat or air trap issue? I really hope this isn’t another HG failure at only 2yrs & 18k miles later. I doubt that Six Star gasket would be the issue. Any advice for stuff I should try before bringing it in for service? You guys have been excellent with all the past help and would like to thank you again for that.

    1. Hello Dan,

      We would really need to have a look to know whats going on. We don’t really see the Six Stars fail unless there was some sort of an underlying set of circumstances such as a bad cap, thermostat failed cooling fan etc which we did see earlier this year on a Customers car where the radiator cap failed and the car ended up with a air pocket that went unnoticed until it damaged the head gasket. The customer does his own oil changes and we had never seen the car post HG repairs which is why as a car ages its important to know all of the things to look for during an oil change. I actually posted it on the website as well Rad caps can fail in a few different ways, the seal on the one in question became swollen and did not allow for proper transfer of coolant from the expansion tank into the radiator as the water in the system evaporated slowly over time, this created a low coolant level situation that air pockets and hot spots in the cooling system. Now I have no idea if this applies to you, its just one that I still remember as we really felt bad for the customer and we discounted a second repair even though it was clearly not a workmanship or component issue, it was just us trying to help.

      If you are still local to us its probably a good idea to schedule some time to let us have a look.

      Maybe its an air pocket, or restricted radiator or maybe its worse.

      Here to help when your ready


  158. hello from Nova Scotia. Am investigating the purchase of a 2006 outback LTD with 160 K mileage. the dealer has agreed to have the cooling system pressure tested along with the exhaust. Are these 2 tests adequate to determine if head gaskets need replacing or do you recommend a physical inspection as well?

    1. Hello Michael,

      The 2006 is most likely going to leak externally so a visual inspection is important, you can pressure test the cooling system as well, but I am not sure what looking at the exhaust is going to do for you?

      Do you by chance mean a hydro carbon test for internal failures with an exhaust gas analyzer, while its possible for the SOHC engines to fail internally its not all that common.


  159. I almost stepped into it by purchasing a 2.5L Subaru, but the HG went on it right before I bought it and lucky the owner was a stand up guy and told me about it. His mechanic told him that Subaru’s have a long history of HG issues with their 4 cylinders. However, I am still interested in an AWD vehicle. How are Subaru’s 6 cylinder engines? Do they also have HG issues?

    1. Hello Roland,

      The six cylinder models don’t really have HG issues but can have higher ownership costs. That’s not to say we don’t ever replace Head Gaskets on the H6 just not nearly as often as the H4.


  160. 1997 Legacy Outback 2.5 225,000. Runs great, looks great for her age, just bought her for $2000. Took it to local Subie Guys for a $50 check up to check whole car over and check CE light. Told that I have bad HG’s that caused misfires in multiple banks, exhaust leaking into coolant also.

    Been wrenching on cars for many years and thought I may tackle this myself as opposed to paying $2000 +/-.

    3 questions:

    1. Engine sounds noise-free now, is it worth the time/money for the trouble? In other words, will I get 50,000ish more miles on the lower half if properly serviced?

    2. Machine shop close by. Gonna have head shaved/cleaned. Should I have it totally rebuilt – valves, etc.?

    3. Any advice, tips, or tricks-of-the-trade?

    Thanks much, great website!!!

    1. Hello Jamie,

      We make plenty of HG repairs to vehicles with that kind of mileage most go smooth, but every once and a while one uses oil or something else in the bottom end fails down the road.

      Its hard for me to tell you which will occur for you.

      Most likely the heads are okay but if you are unable to check for warp and are uncomfortable cleaning the surface your self then yes take them to a machine shop. I wouldn’t do a valve job however as it will put more pressure on the bottom end as will shaving the heads down.

      As far as tips, We sell a hg kit that comes with a guide and can offer some support if you buy from us.


  161. 2000 legacy Wagon. 2.5 Original head gaskets failed in spectacular fashion at 96,000 and Subaru changed them for free. They were leaking oil like rain every time I turned the car off. At 185,000, the gaskets were leaking again and I paid a guy on the side to do the timing belt, head gaskets, valve cover gaskets. He planed the heads for square and used four layer metal gaskets (the recommended fix). At 152,000 they are still bone dry at least on the outside. I’m not going to tell you what he charged, but you guys are paying way too much, get a local mechanic that has experience with these things to do it. The car needed a main engine wiring harness too and everything was under a thousand, timing belt, head gaskets, main engine wiring harness, all gaskets and seals OEM subaru parts.

    1. I’m actually running dex cool in my subaru. The change over sucked, but now it’s changed, it’s nice. But the change over does suck. Green and orange make mud so you have to get all the old coolant out and it’s not easy. If you do this, do it at your own risk, it’s not recommended by anyone.

      1. Hello Dave,

        Yes you are correct Dex Cool is not recommended by anybody and is known to have compatibility issues, so yes use at your own risk.

        Thanks for posting


  162. Justin, I have a 2004 Forester Suburu that needs an engine.
    I am from New York City and a local company has a few engines in the $700 range with the following note :



    Do you recommend avoiding this type? Is it better rebuilding the engine that is in the car now?

    1. I would not suggest going that route at all. Replacement parts are not easy to come by, the engine will have less power, and technically not be a legal install.


  163. I’d like to buy a 2009+ Forester. But I’m concerned about this Head Gasket issue. I have over 250k on my current Toyota and it’s ready for the next 250k with just scheduled maintenance. So the idea of having to spend thousands to replace head gaskets is potentially scaring me off from buying a Forester.

    How common is this issue on these later model Foresters? Are there any years where Subaru has “fixed” this problem? What should I look for on a prepurchase inspection?

    1. Hello Dan,

      I’m not sure what to tell you to look for on a pre-purchase inspection, are you the one doing the pre-purchase inspection or taking it to a shop? There are plenty of people who never make head gasket repairs to Subaru’s and some that do. I would suggest to you that you buy a car that suits your needs. Currently there are limited choices of vehicles that compare with the 2009 Forester. This would be in terms of functional AWD and 5-Star crash rating. Out of the vehicles that compete with Subaru in that class I have no hesitation recommending Subaru to you. If you don’t need the features that a Subaru provides there are other options, but I would be leery about current era Toyota’s being anywhere near as dependable as your current Toyota has been.

      Hope that helps.


  164. hey, Justin. Tomorrow, I am going to look at an ’03 Outback, 132k miles, 5 speed manual, 4 cylinder engine. I have talked to many people who love Subaru cars and I am , somewhat reluctantly, looking to replace my 95′ Volvo 940 wagon. Side note: I love Volvos but can attest to the cost of fixing them. I even do my own work, which does save a lot of money, but the costs are still there. Anyway, this head gasket issue does scare me a lot, frankly. However, I do need a car and this is the best Subaru, within my budget, I have seen around my location by far. What do you think the risk of having a gasket issue soon would be if I did purchase the car? What can I look for on the car to maybe tell if it is in need of one? Obviously, leaks from the head itself would point that out, and I have also heard battery corrosion is a sign sometimes.

    1. Hello Robert,

      ” Obviously, leaks from the head itself would point that out”

      Yes, the only thing you can do at this point is look to see if the gaskets are leaking now. If they are you have a head gasket leak and you need to factor this in. If the gaskets are currently dry and the engine hasn’t been recently steam cleaned, then there is a possibility they stay dry for the life of the vehicle, but they could start leaking tomorrow. There are just way to many variables to be able to tell you if the car you are looking at has or will have a head gasket leak.

      It’s great that you are doing research prior to making a big decision and I hope that if you don’t buy a Subaru you do as much painstaking research on any other model you consider. I feel that a Subaru vehicle would be great car to step up to from your current model of Volvo, especially if you need AWD and care about your families safety.

      Generally speaking most owners of a 2000-2004 Outback 5 speed are happy with their Subaru over the long run.

      Hope that helps


  165. I own Impreza 2.0l 2006 with 80,000 miles and overheating issues . It started after 50,000 miles with a failure coolant fan and that has been replaced twice,and I even replaced the radiator once but still have the overheating issues . Many mechanics checked and said you have HG failure(there’s bubbles in cooling system) but “Subaru Service” -in here- denied that.THE most shocking thing was when I asked for HG from the “Subaru Parts” and they give me HG with Part No 11044AA680 , I checked this part No 11044AA680 on google search and found it’s only in Russian country !!!
    How the hell you sell this type of car in A VERY HOT COUNTRY , a country that reach 118.4 °F .
    I will not buy any types of this again.

    1. I am sorry to hear of your troubles.

      But when the cooling system fan failed it may have damaged the Head gaskets.

      Lastly Subaru part number 11044AA680 is not for Vehicles imported int Russia Only, its for the JDM 2.0l STI.


      1. Hey, great website! We recenty bought a 2002 Outback for my daughter, a beautiful car w/130K. Having read your info. on HGL, I looked the engine over and found no external leaks, except for some valve cover seepage. HOWEVER, I have been adding coolant weekly to this car, no drips or coolant leaks of any kind. Is this a sign of an internal coolant leak?? Should I take it to a dealer for diagnostics for confirmation?
        If I have to pull the heads should I get them checked at a machine shop for warpage? Would I be money ahead to do the valves too?
        Thanks for any “Soob” advice!

        Bruce in Yakima

        1. Hello Bruce,

          An internal head gasket failure is one thing that it could have, but also coolant consumption can also be attributed to a cracked cylinder head, leaking radiator or any of the hoses you may not be seeing as it’s steaming off. The thing to do is to have the cooling system pressure tested and from there the leaks should be able to be found.

          If you elect to make the repairs yourself and it is in fact the head gaskets and you are unable to check the cylinder heads for warp, then yes you would need to take them into a machine shop and have them inspected. It’s not a bad idea to do a valve job while it’s apart, but typically not needed at this mileage.

          Hope that helps


  166. Justin: I am so impressed with your posts. I have owned two subbies, a 1981 wagon and a 1990 Legacy LSi. I was thinking of buying a friends 2003 Outback wagon for $6K, 118,000 miles and I know it has been well taken care of. I totally trust my mechanic, and he knows subbies and the HG problems. He specifically looked at the HG and said they were damp. He said HG could go in 2 weeks or 200,000 mi. I guess my question is, if I paid 6K for it and 2,000 for a gasket repair, did I overpay for the vehicle or should I move on and look for another car.

    1. Hello Lori,

      I think you would be happy with the car over the long run if you bought is and had to put some money into it as well. We have several Customers with 300k and counting on that era Subaru, and there is no reason the car you are looking at shouldn’t do the same. This advice really only works however if the rest of the car checks out ok as well.

      Id advise you to not get hung up as much on Blue book value and buy what suits your needs, take care of it and over a ten year period you should expect good use.

      Hope that helps


  167. I own a 2008 Subaru Outback with 59,145 miles and yesterday I had the head gaskets replaced with 2.5 SOHC New Gen, also both front and rear left wheel bearing and hub assembly and since it was close to the 60,000 they also replaced water pump, timing belt and a few other small things for a painful cost of $3,720. Since the car was under 60,000 miles I was hoping to cover some of the cost under warranty, however the warranty time frame had expired. After reading the other posts it would seem that Subaru would know that there are some problems with the head gaskets and I wonder why they wouldn’t have a recall on this part. I have always had a lot of respect for Subaru and when I bought this car I was hoping it would be low maintenance other than recommended services and now I am worried about other possible repair costs. What other known issues should I be aware of? Thank you for your professional advice.

    1. Hello Laurie,

      That is a lot to swallow all at once, but that’s actually the typical things that happen, so you should hopefully be good for a while.

      To the Recall thing, Recalls are typically predicated aground safety issues, such as a defect in a seat belt, air bag or wiring that could cause a fire. Sometimes if there is an engine related issue that could cause the vehicle to shut down that would also potentially trigger a recall or like in the case of Toyota floor mats that get stuck.

      There was a recall surrounding the wheel bearings on some 2005/2006 Outbacks but not the 2008. There was a Campaign for the 2000 to 2002 HG because they might leak coolant and overheat, but never for the 2008 as its just typically a oil leak.

      But now I want to speak about what bothers me about your post and I think you should call SOA (if this was done at a Subaru Dealer) and that’s that the whole thing should have been under warranty 5 years 60k, and if the bearings and HG are so bad now they must have been bad enough a few months ago as well.

      I dont know who services it, but I can only imagine it was the Subaru dealer and they waited until it was just out of warranty to inform you, and thats the part that bothers me.


  168. Now that you have seen a few years of the FB25 engine, do you have a feel for if the head gasket failure rate is any better or worse than previous engines?

    1. Hello Daniel,

      The FB series came out in 2011 and only in the Forester, then in 2012 in everything else, it will be years from know before we know what they are factually like.

      The only HG that showed up with an early failure was the 2000 to 2002, the rest all took many years to start to leak oil.


  169. Jason,
    Great informative blog. Thanks for the info! I am looking to replace a 98 2.5L H4 SOHC engine. My customer has asked me about JDM engines. Any thoughts? All I can find are DOHC engines however and am not sure if I can make that work in his car.

  170. I have a 1999 Subaru Outback who needs the head gaskets, the coolant its getting into the engine. I do not want to fix this car but I want to buy another Subaru. I just found a 2003 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport $4550 this is a good price but I am a little scared about the head gaskets, I really like Subarus but repleacing the head gaskets its like your worst nightmare. Anyway I only need the car for winter time, i live in Michigan, in the summer i like to use my Yamaha Zuma its so much fun!

    1. Hello Leo,

      Id let someone else have a look as if coolant is getting into the oil its not HG, its got a crack somewhere.

      If you only need the car for the Winter Id fix what you have, if you do instead gravitate to the 2003 have Someone check it out, that should either instill confidence or fear?

      Fixing a fluid leak from a HG on a SOHC does not have to be a night mare, there is a lot of stigma around the term “head gasket” that really doesn’t need to be there.