27th Apr 2008, 21:02

I suspect a lot of shops are making a lot of money from unnecessary head gasket replacements.

Late '90s Subaru's often have this gasket problem. Mine overheated for no reason a number of times. I'd let it cool down and top off the coolant, then it would run fine for weeks until it overheated again. Apparently the combination of engine design and original gasket suffers from occasional leaks as the engine heats up/cools down. Combustion gasses get blown into the coolant system, the coolant gets blown out onto the road, and the car overheats. (My layman's interpretation of what the mechanic told me, correctness not guaranteed.)

Most of the time, this can be fixed by adding stop-leak to the coolant. The best fix seems to be Blue Goo, which is expensive, but I decided to try the cheapo method first. I bought a bottle of no-name stop leak for $3, put in half of it. Completely fixed the problem. Before, the car overheated every couple of weeks. Since, it hasn't had the problem in a year and a half.

On a related note, I had a leaky front oil seal. The Subaru dealer charged me $300 to tell me I needed $3,000 of work, including replacement of the timing belt and water pump. An independent shop replaced the seal for $350, and told me the timing belt and water pump had already been replaced and were almost new.

Moral: A $2000 estimate for a head gasket job may have more to do with the mechanic's need to make money than your need to have a head gasket replaced. Try the stop-leak thing first.

9th May 2008, 08:31

Yes that is a possibility using the stop leak treatment. It's a gamble no matter which road you choose for auto repair. I work hard for my money and every dollar counts that I earn. Hopefully my roll of the dice will be successful with the full gasket repair.

Being a sales rep and relying on my Subaru to help me make money, I didn't have the time to babysit fluid additions in hopes of eliminating the overheating problem.

Call me foolish, but 1500 bux bought me piece of mind for the time being. Although with my new job, I need a pickup truck to pull a trailer, doh! Not trying that with the Subie. ;-)

4th Aug 2008, 12:04

I too have a Subaru Outback 2001 that has head problems... leaking oil and water... I have been driving it in spite of the burnt oil smell. I have to say too though that I have been driving a 1993 Legacy for years now. It has 290,000 miles on it. It has some oil leaks but not until recently. I think it has served me well and plan to buy another Subaru. It will be a later model though.

20th Oct 2008, 22:54

I had a 98 Wagon with the 2.5. It had 229,000 miles on it when I sold it, and it still ran perfect and got 30mpg.

Any car will be damaged from overheating. If you notice your temperature getting too far above normal, you should stop right away and not drive it until it's fixed.

14th Nov 2008, 23:43

Where have you been getting the work done? Please, please use a reputable Subaru dealer for any repairs. They stand behind their work and won't continue to add onto the repair bill time after time.

2nd Jan 2009, 16:13

Continued from thread of Feb. '08. Head work at 157k miles.

I ran the car until 179k miles without a lick of problems. I have since traded in the '96 Subaru OB wagon for a vehicle that suits my job as a Bike Rep... I need more interior cargo capacity.

During the 24k miles of hard highway driving from Philly to the beltways in DC, the car stayed solid and had no problems with overheating since the Head Work.

While my new car suits my job perfectly, I still miss the Subie... especially when my son (6 years old) cried the night we traded it in. Guess I wasn't the only fan of the car!

Given the history of the vehicle, I wouldn't change a thing and would definitely buy another Subaru given the chance. Heck, at least Subaru doesn't need a government bailout at this point!

26th Jan 2009, 11:55

7 months ago I bought a 1998 2.5L Outback. Last week I had to replace the entire exhaust and then this past weekend our head gasket blew. I thought I had checked the history of these vehicles but for some reason I did not see reports about the engine problems. Now I need to find $2000 to repair an 11 year old car that was supposed to "run forever'.

24th Sep 2009, 23:15

Bought 2003 Forester X used with 62K on it, and at 72K IT'S starting the infamous 'valve/piston' slap. Got a good deal on it due to its upcoming problems, but want to remedy the problem before the repairs climb too extensively. I will probably take it to the local Subie dealer and drop the usual $2000 and get it over with. This will be my Guinna pig car: If it goes 200000 K after the repair, I'll buy (2) of their flagship vehicles at MSRP!!

3rd Dec 2009, 20:33

We bought a 98 Outback a year ago, very cheap, but the previous owner had all the paperwork showing all the same problems with the head gasket that seems to be a problem. So far so good on the engine and tranny at 133K... I will keep an eye on it.

I just replaced the battery today, and noticed there is some kind of electrical issue. There is a distinct tick tick tick noise, and the dash lights, the tail lights, and both front tun signal lights all flash on and off, every now and then there is a short pause, then back to the tick tick tick again... probably the reason the battery died.

Curious if anyone has had this problem, and what was done to fix it? Thanks.

21st Dec 2009, 08:44

It's amazing reading all the comments on the Outback. Complaints are all over. I don't know what to expect out of my newly acquired '97, 176k, auto. The check engine light is on, the heater lights don't work, it needed an alternator & battery to get going at purchase. It is, however running good enough at the moment. No cooling issues. Slight miss when cold, clears up when warm. Tranny OK. Rides good. I'm up for the challenge. We'll see.

26th Jan 2010, 09:43

2001 Outback: Replaced engine @ 120,000-$4,000, cracked block due to "overheating" and "you must have been driving it hot for awhile" (diagnosis of cause per mechanic). Funny that the temp. gauge NEVER registered hot, nor did the check engine light come on. It was indeed cracked (I saw it).

Replaced radiator 3 years ago PRIOR to the engine replacement & need a new one now.

Valve cover gaskets leaking now on the replaced engine.

Love the way it handles in snow & off road.

Considering buying a new car. Shady mechanics -or- defective car? Another Subaru???

4th Mar 2010, 20:03

Yeah, I bought a '98 Legacy Outback with 150,000 miles on it in October of 2008 and for 14 months, it ran like a top. Best snow vehicle I ever drove. I'd been doing regular maintenance and things looked fine.

THEN the agony began... first the oxygen sensor blew (not awful, but $400), then on Xmas day with a carload of family, the clutch plate tore itself apart, taking the transmission with it. My car has been in the garage for TWO MONTHS while my mechanics search for working used parts for the transmission (as a new tranny from Subaru will be $3500+) and they have just about given up on getting it to work. Either I have to take it to a transmission specialist for who knows HOW much more money or junk it.

Had I known that Subaru's were so expensive to repair, I would never have bought one and never will again. Such a drag.