10th Dec 2008, 14:39

Hello all,

I own a 1995 Legacy Wagon. I bought it for my son 5 years ago when he was in college. It had 184,000 miles on it and now has 239,000 miles on it. Paid 1500 for it. A bargain.

Replaced the radiator and clutch. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. It still runs great, but because of the miles, I decided to buy a 1998 Legacy Outback with 147,000 on it. I haven't transfered the plates yet and now after reading this message board, I'm having second thoughts. I guess my question is whether or not the head gasket was already done? I should have done my homework. For some reason I thought the engines were the same. We'll see.

29th Dec 2008, 23:10

Thanks for this forum!!! I was about to buy a used 1998 Subaru Outback from the local Subaru dealer, and came across all these comments.

Luckily, I tracked down the previous owner of the car. The car was serviced to the letter, it even has a brand new transmission. But, sure enough, the car overheated a few weeks ago and the coolant in the radiator was empty.

The local mechanic couldn't diagnose the problem after a pressure test. So, she traded the car on something else. I come along, I was just about to ink the deal, and thought maybe I better Google this car, and up came all these pages about the head gaskets.

Evidently, the head gaskets on the 1998 Subaru are prone to failure, but the new gaskets on the newer models are not, because sometime a few years back Subaru redesigned the head gasket, and they no longer fail according to several sources on the Internet, including this one:


So, I took the car to a mechanic and had him test the coolant, and sure enough there is exhaust in the coolant. He said the repair would be about $3,000. Ouch!!!

I went back to the dealer and told them about the test. At first they wanted to show me some other Subaru Legacy cars of the same year. I said no-way, the engine will just fail.

So, they asked what I wanted them to do. I asked, "why don't you give me a deal on fixing the heads with the new type of gaskets since we caught the problem early." I added, "you can sell the car this way, but that wouldn't be very nice." I also said, "I'm not going to be the buyer and you'll get far less at auction than I will pay you for this car anyway."

They said OK it will be $1900.

I said no deal.

So, they finally agreed to do it for $1000.

So, tomorrow, I'm getting a Subaru that will have an almost new transmission and a nearly rebuilt engine once it goes into the dealership's shop probably next week sometime.

They have to not only do the head gaskets, but replace the timing belt, install new seals and basically reseal the entire engine down to the oil pan.

From these comments, it's obvious the original head gaskets suck. If you're going to buy one of these cars, get the test done for hydrocarbons in the coolant before inking any deal.

Then if the head is blown, make it the dealership's problem. Make them fix it or don't buy the car. I'm pretty confident with the head gaskets replaced with newly engineered ones from Subaru, that this car I'm getting is a pretty good deal for just over $5000.

3rd Jan 2009, 09:28

ALL of the 2.5 Subaru engines, PRIOR TO 2004, need head gasket replacement before 130,000 miles. Minimum cost is $1400 if you have a friendly mechanic; dealer charge will be about $2000. EVERY dealership knows this, and any missed diagnosis by a dealer would have to be suspect.

The symptom is overheating and loss of coolant; unfortunately if your neighborhood mechanic misses the diagnosis, the common result is valve damage and loss of the engine.

Because the problem is so very prevalent, replacement motors cost a fortune. The 2.5 appeared first in the 1995 or 1996 Legacy LSi model. On the other hand, the 2.2 motor, used in most Legacies until 2000 was virtually bullet proof and commonly ran to mid 200's without head issues. Watch out for the 1999 2.2 however, as it was an experiment by Subaru to increase hp without relying on the 2.5, where they already saw the head gasket problem. The experiment was not successful.

Incidentally, the early 2.5's also experienced piston slap (noisy engine, particularly before it warms up in cold temperatures) as a result of a structural flaw. The piston will be replaced for free within the warranty period.

8th Jan 2009, 14:39

My 2000 Outback had the problem this week. I was so pleased I had gotten 125,000 miles out of my clutch with minimal problems, and it rapidly went down hill and started to smoke.

The clutch is fine, however the driver's side head gasket is not and was pushing fluid into the clutch, and the leak got bigger and bigger until it smoked and the clutch was slippery. That's how it looks anyway, there is fluid all over on the driver's side. So it's a $1850 repair, the dealer wants $250 more. That's to fix the other seal since they have to pull the engine anyway. And a few other maintenance odds and ends.

I used the seal conditioner in there from the day I got the recall notice. If I didn't love my car and enjoy it so much, I would have walked away from it and moved on. It halls trailer loads of wood and other things around just great. I could use a new driver's seat and a tow hook cover.

17th Jan 2009, 20:57

I own a 98 Legacy GT Limited with about 150000 miles. It performs well, and I like how the car handles.

The only problem I have with it is how it overheats. I bought the car with about 100000 miles on it. I had no problems until about 130000 it started to overheat. I thought I was the only one with that problem; little did I know everyone has the same problem thanks to the head gasket. I should have done my homework.

Nice car, bad maintenance problems.

22nd Jan 2009, 17:20

Yup, 1999 Outback 120,000 miles and head gasket is blown. I was a text book case, overheat, flush, thermostat, in other words, misdiagnosis causing more money for no reason. Amazing how I never heard about these problems until doing a quick Google search. My mistake. Subaru dealer was unsympathetic and offered me $200 for a trade in value. My tires were brand new (1 week), even they were worth $300. I hate Subaru.

24th Jan 2009, 02:52

I have a 2002 Subaru Legacy.

Head gaskets started leaking around 80k miles. I should say head gasket because only the left side was leaking. I replaced the right side just because I had the timing belt out and would only take an extra half hour.

Subaru knows of this problem and that's why they came up with the coolant conditioner, which to me is a big mistake. It leads to other problems such as plugged radiators. So if I were you, tell your mechanic or dealer not to add that stuff.

Other than the head gasket problems, Subarus are great cars and easy to work on. I would also replace the timing belt and driver belts when doing head gaskets. No extra labor because all these parts have to he removed when doing a head gasket job, and no, the engine does not have to be removed to do it.