4th Dec 2006, 21:32

I have a 98 Outback and have suffered the dreaded blown head gasket problem at about 110k miles. I live in Colorado with thousands of other Suby owners. A local mechanic who works only on Subys said that he could put a 2004 engine in the 98 Outback without any mechanical or electrical problems. Has anyone heard of this or, better yet, tried it?

The mechanic swears that he has done this dozens of time without any adverse consequences. He seems like a trustworthy guy. He said that the 2004 engine does not have the same head gasket problems as the 98. If I don't want to go the 2004 engine route, he has also offered to do the 98 head gasket repair / replacement for $1200.


5th Dec 2006, 20:41

I myself own a 99 Outback..

Last February the passenger side head gasket blew for no apparent reason.. no overheating, knew it blew because of all the smoke.. dumped a whole radiator of antifreeze into the exhaust.. pulled motor, changed head gasket, problem solved till one month ago.

Driver side head gasket blew for no reason.. no overheating to cause this. Pulled the motor, changed the gasket and like before with an exhaust full of anti freeze it smoked for awhile. decided to drive it down the road, got no more than 2 miles away and car was HOT!! Got it home, went to Subaru and bought another gasket. Now this is 2 gaskets in 2 days.. Did Subaru ask why so many gaskets?? NO!! they just continued to sell them..

Put new gasket in thinking maybe it just wasn't clean enough when I replaced it and guess what.. Same problem.. once again pulled the motor, decided to have the heads checked for cracks and planed to correct the warpage that had occured.. decided to do both just to make sure this didn't happen in the future.. driver side was very warped and passenger side not so bad..

Bought two new head gaskets again and does Subaru ask why so many gaskets?? NO!! Put it all together, started it and of course it smoked a lot.. drove it about 50 miles and it got a little warmer than usual.. pulled over, checked the fluid and it was low for some reason.. refilled and it brought the temp down and guess what.. it stopped smoking.. I thought great.. got home, let the car cool off and restarted it.. smokin like a beast again, and again the fluid was low..

I am out of options and don't know what to do?? Maybe the block is warped, but that's too much work.. $1500 on Ebay for a new motor might be my option.. Don't know.. I am sooo confused.. Had the motor out 4 times for the same problem, and many hundreds of dollars, and still it is not fixed.. anyone have any ideas or forums I can go on to maybe get some help on this.. I am desperate here.. :(

Subaru sucks all around.. I have owned the car since day one off the lot.. original owner VERY well maintained.. the car was great when it ran without smoking, like it was on fire with an unbearable smell of antifreeze, but with so many people having the same problems you would think they would have a recall of some sort.. and charging $1200-$3000 to fix this problem is ridiculous..

Head gaskets $90 for 2, machining the heads $80 for 2, pulling the motor 1 hour tops, and changing head gaskets 2 hours tops for 2. That's 3 hours tops of real work.. How does that equal $1200 at a minimum?? How much do these places charge per hour?? That's ridiculous..

5th Dec 2006, 23:06

OK how about this one...1996 Subaru Outback. Horrible clunking knocking noise met by a ton of resistance when turning at low speeds. Doing a U turn sounds like the car will break. 90,000 miles. Any ideas???


7th Dec 2006, 11:32

I own an Auto repair shop in NJ. I have regular customer who recently (6 months ago) purchased a 96 Subaru Legacy with 93K miles on it. He got it for $3500---not bad, car is in nice shape. He brought it in to me a couple of weeks ago with this random overheating problem. It has the 2.5L engine. I haven't heard of this head gasket problem as I am not a Subaru specialist. I checked this thing over and over and could not find the cause of this random overheating situation. I have seen many head gasket failures in my 15 years as a professional mechanic. This one did not act like a head gasket? I searched on line and found many forums like this one describing the problems with these engines blowing head gaskets. I sold my customer the repair. I removed the engine. I first removed the R/S cylinder head and inspected it----it was not blown (now I was worried). I removed the L/S cylinder head and there it was----thankfully. The head gasket was blown at coolant passage right next to the cylinder bore. This engine uses the old style 1 piece head gaskets----many manufactures have had problems with these. I worked in a Honda dealer for 7 years before I opened my own shop. We used to replaced head gaskets on a regular basis---same thing, 1 piece design.

I replaced both head gaskets, both valve cover gasket sets, all 4 cam seals, the rear main seal (since the engine was out) both coolant o-rings on top the block, timing belt, water pump, timing belt tensioner, both radiator hoses, intake manifold gaskets, exhaust gaskets----the whole 9 yards. Do the job right and do it once! It cost my customer $1600 for the whole job. The motor now runs excellent and is very solid---as I addressed the other possible future problems I.E. extra seals, gaskets, hoses timing belt etc. My customer should have trouble free (engine anyway) driving for a long, long time.

I do not think Subaru makes a bad vehicle. Yes you must remove the engine to replace the head gaskets, because of the horizontal design of the engine, but it was not a bad vehicle to work on----Heck it could've been a VW!!!

A piece of advise for all you people out there with this head gasket problem. All manufactures that were using the 1 piece head gasket through out the nineties had problems with head gasket failure. It is a gasket, these things happen. All the others were just easier to diagnose than this Subaru was. The new gaskets for this Subaru engine are a revised design---it is a multi layer steel gasket. Almost all manufactures are switching over to this new design head gasket. I personally have never seen these multi layer head gaskets fail on any engine yet.

Good luck to all of you. I hope this advice helps you.

If any of you live near N/W NJ you can call my shop. I would be happy to take care of your head gasket problems.

As stated above---it cost my customer $1600 for the entire job and I used all genuine Subaru parts and went well above and beyond simply replacing just the head gaskets.

DO it right, Do it once.

(908) 475-1509.