Head-Gasket leak of both sides of Subaru 2000 with Low-Mileages

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  #1  
Old 05-05-11, 10:10 AM
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Head-Gasket leak of both sides of Subaru 2000 with Low-Mileages

Hi:
Subaru/Outback 2000 with less than 60,000 mileages

I smelled 'anti-freeze' since early Spring whenever driving more than 10 - 15 mileages and finally took it to the shop the oher day.

The mechanic told me that there are NO leakage to any hoses, however there is a serious problem of the leakage under the engine. It's 'head-gasket leak.' He warned me to expect to spend more than $2,000 for it fix because the tech. needs to disassemble the engine to reach head gaskets. For that work, I need to bring it to the Subaru dealer.

I mentioned that I normally fill anti-freeze resevoir about once three weeks and didn't notice significant anit-freeze leak under the car/engine after driving. He told me that those leak evaporates because of proximity to the engine/hot.

My questions are;
(1) Since I do not expect that amount of service/more than $2,000, I want to fix it not right now, .... but after six months or later. Is it possible?

(2) In that condition, can I drive more than 50 miles on the Highway?

(3) I'm very naive and no knowledge regarding 'head gasket leak,' how to detect any serious situation, .... such as coolant went to all way to 'Red/hot' while driving?'

Thanks for any help on this, above.
 
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  #2  
Old 05-05-11, 11:51 AM
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I've never worked on a Suburu, but 2 grand for head gaskets sounds a little steep. Plus there's no reason to pay dealership service department prices for a job that any competent garage can do.

Head gaskets generally leak in one of two ways, either between the water jacket and one or more cylinders - in this case you should notice some white smoke and a sweet smell from the exhaust - or between the water jacket and the oil passages whcih results in getting coolant in the oil. This is usually pretty easy to check as once the water is in the oil the oil will turn a lighter shade of brown, often referred to as peanut butter and clearly look different on the dipstick. Although it's possible for a head gasket to leak externally, it's not very common. External coolant leaks would be more often casued by a leaky intake manifold gasket, freeze plug, or other source of coolant.

I think I would be getting a second opinion just in case before I shelled out big bucks for head gaskets.

Not sure I understood clearly; you had it overheat at some point?

Some additional info:

Head Gasket Basics

Note that in the pics it shows the engine removed, but that's for clarity; the gaskets are done with the engine installed.

Valvoline.com > Car Care > Automotive System > Engine > Head Gasket Basics
 
  #3  
Old 05-05-11, 02:06 PM
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Subarus are notorious for head gasket problems and they are not cheap to replace. Subaru had a recall for the problem. If the recall was fulfilled the warranty for the heads & gaskets was extended to 100'000 miles or 8 years. But, I'm afraid you're not covered. The problem was so common I think there was one or more class action lawsuits against Subaru of America. Do an online search for "subaru head gasket problems" and you will find that you are not alone. My wife and I used to love Subarus but by the late 90's this became all too common in our household. The second time it happened ended our love affair with them.

Take care of this problem sooner rather than later. It will not get better on it's own. DO NOT try those aftermarket bottles of radiator or coolant system leak stoppers. They will most likely clog the radiator adding to your troubles and expense. Also, keep a close eye on your engine coolant temperature until you get this fixed. If/when you see the temperature getting higher than normal pull over to a safe spot and turn the car off. Turning the passenger compartment heater on high will help cool the engine if you need to limp a little further before stopping.

I'm not sure if I clearly understand your numbered list at the end, but if you have been dealing with this problem for a long time, and have had the temp spike in the red it could be worse than just a head gasket repair. Your'e in for a lot of money just for the head gaskets because a fair bit has to be disassembled to get at them. Then if they get in there and find that the heads have warped or cracked the bill will get much worse. This is a very common repair and can be done by most shops accustomed to working on Subarus so you don't have to go back to the dealership. Jake sure you clearly discuss the problem with the shop and come up with a plan or limit they are to do. You don't want this repair to balloon and become more expensive than the car is worth.

---
EDIT: I suppose you can try the Subaru coolant additive. At this point I don't think it can do any harm. The recall adding the additive was a key part of the lawsuits against Subaru. Basically it was just a Band-Aid fix to try and get the cars through the warranty period.
 

Last edited by Pilot Dane; 05-05-11 at 02:26 PM. Reason: added about Subaru additive
  #4  
Old 05-05-11, 02:07 PM
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well, one never knows, really....




Two types of engines, two types of problems

This site contains links to information and hopefully some helpful explanations regarding head gasket problems with Subaru 2.5 liter normally aspirated (non turbo) engines. There are two types of engines, Phase 1 and Phase 2. Both variants can have head gasket problems associated with them, but the problems, how to diagnose them, and how to fix them, differ between the two phases.

PHASE 1 (Dual Overhead Cam):
Used in:
1996 to 1999 Legacy Outback
1996 to 1999 Legacy GT
1998 Impreza RS
1998 Forester

Typical failure mode:
Internal leak, not externally visible. May see bubbles in overflow reservoir, sludgy residue on walls of overflow reservoir, random overheating of engine.

Covered by service bulletin: No

Cost to repair:
DIY: $200 parts
Independent shop: $1000-$1500
Dealership: $2000

PHASE 2 (Single Overhead Cam):
Used in:
2000 to present (non-turbo) Legacy Outback
2000 to 2004 Legacy GT
2000 to present Legacy
1999 to present non-turbo Impreza 2.5 (RS, TS, Outback Sport)
1999 to present non-turbo Forester

Typical failure mode:
External leak, sweet smell, coolant visible on engine, slowly dropping coolant level.

Covered by service bulletin: WWP-99, for 1999 to 2002 model years, some models. Note this is only for Phase 2 engines, and some 1999 models have the Phase 1 engine and are NOT covered by this bulletin.

Cost to repair*:
* Subaru has a "coolant conditioner" that is added to the coolant. This is required to be added as part of the service bulletin and the cost is nominal. Subaru contends that this is all that is required to "repair" the leaks
. 2003 and newer models are not covered under WWP-99 and supposedly not prone to head gasket leakage.


More about diagnosing problems

Phase 1 engines:

Phase 1 engines typically experience an "internal" head gasket failure if failure happens. This is hard for a lot of mechanics to diagnose, is difficult to reliably duplicate, and often has resulted in the owners throwing money and parts at the problem. New thermostats, flushing coolant, new water pumps and radiators are examples which do not fix the problem if it is indeed head gasket failure. If the engine overheats too many times or too severely, it can result in warped heads and the need for a new engine. As of this date Subaru has never acknowledged the existence of any problem, and are unlikely to do so. They have redesigned the head gaskets and most people that have had the new gaskets properly installed have had good success. The "coolant conditioner" described in WWP-99 DOES NOT fix this internal leak, nor does it give you an extended warranty against head gasket failure. Headgasket replacement is your only option besides engine replacement.
Common symptoms:
Overheating, often when slowing or stopped after extended high load driving. The overheating can be seemingly random and sporadic.
Bubbles in coolant overflow reservoir, immediately after running.
Sludgy residue in coolant overflow tank.
Hydrocarbons in coolant overflow tank, this is tested by a mechanic with specialized equipment and is not evident visually.

Phase 2 engines:

* Phase 2 engines are SOHC (Single Overhead Cam), were used from 1999 or 2000 to present depending on model, and typically experience an "external" head gasket leakage if it happens. This problem, while pretty widespread, does not seem to be as damaging in nature to the engine. It has been acknowledged by Subaru in the form of a "Service Campaign" #WWP-99 which applies to certain '99 to '02 cars. It involves adding a "Coolant Conditioner" to the coolant and if this is done the owner's head gaskets are covered against external coolant leaks for 8 years or 100K miles.
Common symptoms:
"Sweet" smell after operating engine and then stopping.
External fluid leakage (green) visible on engine or below car.
Slowly dropping coolant level due to leakage.
 
  #5  
Old 05-05-11, 02:10 PM
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pinecone, sounds like i have just saved you a lot of $$$$$


also, just in case:

Skip's Subaru Repair Page
 
  #6  
Old 05-06-11, 04:20 AM
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Was wondering if Suburu maybe had issues in this area, but head gaskets leaking externally was a new one on me. With my wrecker being a wheel lift truck and Suburus being AWD, I don't have a lot of contact with them beyond a tire change or a jump start and I can't remember the last time I did either. Head gaskets @ 60,000 miles sounded like a 90's Ford 3.8L
 
  #7  
Old 05-06-11, 08:51 AM
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like i said, no one really knows...

in a nutshell, sounds like as far as you pour some of that Subaru's snake oil conditioner in, and have receipt in hand, that head gasket either stops leaking, or falls under 100 000 miles warranty and free repair.

pinecone, you are welcome.

This problem, while pretty widespread, does not seem to be as damaging in nature to the engine. It has been acknowledged by Subaru in the form of a "Service Campaign" #WWP-99 which applies to certain '99 to '02 cars. It involves adding a "Coolant Conditioner" to the coolant and if this is done the owner's head gaskets are covered against external coolant leaks for 8 years or 100K miles.

well, yes, of course, stupid me. his car is 2000, so snake oil does not warranty it anyway. still worth talking to dealership owner or even writing a letter to Subaru.

might as well cost that much. it's a boxer engine, their layout might be more complicated on heads removal. i'd just pour that conditioner in, and keep adding coolant. or rid of it.

yeah, guy says to pull engine out to even be able to get to engine heads. that will easily do 2 grand for the job. well, sounds like Subarus just joined my "do not consider":NO NO NO: list. German cars, Fords, Swedish cars, now this. Running out of options, he-he.
 
  #8  
Old 05-06-11, 09:57 AM
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Thanks all for the responses and concerns. I really appreciate for taking the time to respond to my query.

This morning I went to one of reputable shops nearby which does everything from oil-change to engine. The manager examined the Subaru for about 15 - 20 minutes and he said he didn't see any leakage, .... particularly 'head gaskets.'

Afterwards, the manager suggested me to bring the car if there is any significant drop in coolant reservoir or its coolant temperate going to the Red/Hot. Otherwise, he told me NOT to worry about.

There are two different opinions. ... one is 'worst case/head gaskets,' another is 'not to worry about.' I take between, .... I keep an eye on no matter what.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy driving the Subaru.

Thanks,
 
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