1998 Subaru Outback from North America - Comments

19th Nov 2007, 21:59

I just bought a 98 Outback from a friend who bought it new and only has 68,000 miles on it. Last weekend I had it on my ramps to look for an oil leak and the smell it was creating and ran it for about 10 minutes. The tailpipe started smoking and the check engine light came on. I shut it off and am now worried (after reading all of these entries) that it has a head gasket problem.

I'm surprised I had never heard this before since it seems so prevalent. Now I am faced with getting expensive repairs and sounds like selling or trading it in on a Honda or something more reliable. I'm definitely not happy about this and think Subaru should take responsibility for the bad head gasket design. Remember the VW Rabbit valve problem?

20th Dec 2007, 19:58

I bought a 1998 Subaru Outback 107,000 from a Bourne MA dealership exactly 2.5 years ago. I love the car! It supposedly had one owner and no accidents? A few odd quirks with the doors and such. The first time it had issues with the temp gauge, but didn't seem to overheat, but lose power was about a year after I had it. I was told by a mechanic to replace the alternator. I went back to the dealership they fixed Other? issues for $600 and said not an alternator issue. I drove off about a few miles down to the road and issues again. I drove it back and they put in an alternator in 10 minutes for free. Now a year and a 1/2 later 4 days to Xmas and car overheats out of the blue at 145,000 miles. Guess, yes a cracked head gasket $1850+ timing belt just because they are in engine. I was thinking of turning in for a more recent model, but they say the car is great... I am hoping for the best when I pick it up in a few days.

16th Jan 2008, 13:28

I had a 1995 Subaru Legacy Wagon with 210,000 miles on it before I sold it. It ran great for almost 2 yrs and I only put about $1000 work into it - all common maintenance fixes, new tires, etc - nothing out of the ordinary. By the time I sold it I had to put another $1000 worth of work, so I got rid of it. But I liked it so much I bought a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback, for what I thought was a good deal at $2900 w/90,000 miles.

When I bought the car, it was leaking oil, and the owners mechanic said the seals needed to be replaced. Since that was so labor intensive, while he was in there I had him replace the timing belt and water pump, as it was getting to be that time to replace anyways. I drove it for about a week when I started to notice the car running rough.

Right after I bought it, the check engine light went on, and I noticed smoke and burning smell coming out of front of car after driving. mechanic told me it was a the baffle plate was cracked and needed replacing, but it wasn't urgent.

I got a tune up, as the misfiring was assumed (by two mechanics) to be from old spark plugs/wires. a week after the tuneup, the car ran worse, shuttering, loss of power and a burning smell with smoke getting worse.

I decided to take it to the Subaru Dealership, and they gave me the big whopper: Due to tensioner leaking, the timing jumped and caused the valves to be bent - major work, which will now cost me upwards of $2000. I was so upset by this, as I felt maybe this could've been prevented if the first mechanic who did the timing belt did a more thorough job.

After reading all the problems with Subarus from 1996-2000, I think my time has come. I'm going to get the works done on it - new head gasket, machined valves, replace baffle plate, and probably new clutch, and hopefully nothing major will happen to it for another 100,000 miles.

My mechanic said Subarus between 1996-2000 have engine problems, so I recommend you stay away from these year models!

26th Jan 2008, 11:05

I own a 98 Subaru Outback. At 65,000 miles a head gasket blew and cost over 1,500 to repair. Now, at 86,000 miles, my car needed to be towed from a ski resort when the car overheated. The repair shop replaced the radiator. Two days after this repair, the car is overheating and the check engine light is lit. I'll have to take the car back. My entire family owns Subarus and have experienced few problems. My car, however, is proving to be an expensive, unreliable, model year. I wouldn't recommend purchasing a used 98 outback. Hopefully, as other posts have mentioned, newer Subaru models, after the 90's, are more reliable.

9th Feb 2008, 21:27

I bought a 98 Subaru Outback in 2001 with about 60,000 miles on it. It now has about 140,000 miles and may not last much longer, but it's gotten me through Wisconsin winters carting my kids around, lots of hauling landscaping materials, furniture and bicycles and many cross country trips pretty reliably. Until recently it never needed any repairs apart from the usual oil change, brakes, tires. Now everything seems to be going at once, though. My engine is making a fluttering sound that I fear means the engine is dying. I just replaced the clutch and flywheel, timing belt, water pump, sparks and wires and knock sensor and thought that would do for a while. I'll take it back to the shop and see what they say.

9th Mar 2008, 03:58

We own a 1998 Subaru Forester and love the car hate the engine problems. I have been reading the other posts here and experienced the blown head gasket, multiple oil leaks including the front seal and premature timing belt wear. So, I am wondering why there wasn't some kind of recall on these engines? I'm sure there has been a statute of limitation passed by now. I'm not sure what has to take place before the powers that be make a company recall or repair their product, but these people's stories are not isolated incidents or freak occurences. We now have so much wrapped up in repairs that we keep thinking the last visit to the mechanic is the one that makes the car sound again, but there always seems to be just one more thing or leak to fix. It's been that way for over a year now...

22nd Mar 2008, 21:46

I own a 1996 Subaru Legacy Outback Wagon with 158k on the odometer when it was diagnosed with Head Gasket Failure. (I bought it used at the local Subaru dealer with 78k 5 years ago.) The mechanic at the dealership stated that it had a slight external head gasket leak and the service would cost around $1900.00 for parts and labor. Having done my own oil and filter changes on the vehicle for some time now, I have realized that the valve cover gaskets are in need of replacement too. If you're going to tear the motor out, why not take care of some other services too. I called the dealer back and inquired about adding the valve cover gasket service to the head work and the price is went up to $2400.00.

In a case of bad timing, I was slated to leave 3 days later for a scheduled trip to Vermont (February 2008). I threw the dice and packed the car to head north. I babied the car, kept it at 65mph and drove like an old man. (I'm 35yrs old, really) The coolant temp needle didn't budge. One day however after driving back from the mountain to the condo in the snow, I could smell burning coolant. I popped the hood and discovered coolant dripping onto the sub frame near the passenger side shock tower, ugh. This will be a fun trip home I thought.

On the way home from Vermont, I stopped at a rest stop to check the coolant level. The reservoir was a tad low but full of bubbles and a nasty black, oily color. I made it home without overheating. Had it been August... this would have been a sadder story.

To trade or not to trade. The local dealerships were quoting me trade in prices on the vehicle, as is; $1200 to $2500. I love the car and really didn't want to get rid of it knowing dang well it may have plenty of life left after all the work was done.

My wife just so happened to have a fellow employee who had the same car and issue as mine and took it to a local guy that specializes in only Subaru's. I called the guy up and we chatted a bit about having the car fully serviced; head work, valve cover gaskets. $1450.00 parts/labor and that included the valve cover gaskets. I booked a time to have the car repaired and away we went.

The car was gone for 3 days. I picked it up, chatted with the owner of the garage, laughed at the quirks the Subarus have and rolled home. Sometimes it pays to not take it to the dealership; giving the amount of turn over that occurs in the service departments. It was nice being able to talk to guy that worked on the car, too. I have worked in service based jobs for years and it's nice to hear what went on while servicing the gear, equipment or vehicle; from the technician.

Yes there are cases where 97k on Subaru's and the heads will go. I also believe that failure of Subaru's are due in part to their owners neglecting to maintain ALL of the vehicle. Tire rotation every oil change, coolant flushed, tranny fluid, rear diff and tire pressure have to be done religiously. These will all impact the zen of the AWD Subarus. Lack of maintenance in any of these departments will generate copious amounts of heat in the tranny, separator plate region, the block, binding of the Torsen differential, etc. As sure as people can't remember to inflate their Firestone tires on their Ford Exploders (remember that one?), some Subaru owners aren't watching what is going on below their bottoms. Take care of your car and it will take care of you!