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Forester - Headgasket Repair & Engine Rebuild



  • leharveyleharvey Posts: 10
    They may be but there are 'specs' for clearance.
    These were replacement valves so adjustment would be necessary on initial install I would think??
  • asaasa Posts: 359
    You didn't reference the correct TSB; this is straight from an image of the official TSB. I've listed two in hope that people can link to one or the other:

    It reads that anytime coolant is changed, the Subaru stop leak must be added to the fresh fill and is clearly directed to 'All Models' on the header.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    They only say that WHEN SUBARU PAYS FOR THE REPAIR. It doesn't require it for non subaru paid for repairs. It also doesn't specify that it should be done on all repairs, if it were required they would have to put it in the owner's manual or notify the owners.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Still useful info. Thanks. :shades:
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Definitely useful, just didn't want folks to get the wrong idea.

  • asaasa Posts: 359
    I want to be clear that other than our head gasket woes, our (5-Speed) '04 Forester is a blast to drive and I like knowing that my wife and family are safe. We'd never owned an AWD vehicle before and the accelleration and handling are exceptional -- and ours is only normally aspirated. We'll see how long the engine lasts. The dealer added stop leak and it stopped coolant consumption for several months, but the steady drop in the bottle has recently resumed. However, there are definitely worse things in life to be faced with, right? :surprise:
  • colosubcolosub Posts: 2
    My 2000 Forester has had to have 3 O2 Sensors, 3 rear wheel bearings, and 2 head gaskets replaced. Does anyone know if these issues have been alleviated in the 2007 models? Any independent reviews I can read with proof in regards to these problems? I am trading in my 2000, and not sure if I want to deal with more potential problems, although I love other features about the car.
  • 98in_cuse98in_cuse Posts: 9
    I had to have a couple of cylinders "machined" and the valve guides repaired a couple of years ago on my '98 Forester. Since then the check engine light keeps coming on with the same message about misfire on the cylinder, but the shop keeps changing the explanation. I replaced the spark plugs twice and the wires again, they then blew out the injector and switched the wires. Now they are saying that the injectors need to be replaced. I am taking it to another shop for a post mortem but it may be at the end of the road at 130,000 miles as I am afraid it may be endless. I would like to hold onto it for two more years but hearing some of these stories, I wonder. The afore-mentioned job cost $1900, not to mention the followups. I did complain to Subaru but got no response - there was also an issue with warranty on the spark plugs. I don't know if this is a different issue from the one you are discussing, but it's interesting...
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Might be the ignition coil, too, that would trigger a misfire CEL.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Wheel bearing design changed significantly for MY2003. They now use sealed ones, completely different. We haven't observed nearly the same level of problems.

    Head gasket materials were revised several times, and again, the frequency of complaints here on Edmunds is way down.

    I didn't see a major pattern with 02 sensors before, so I cannot comment.

    If you check Consumer Reports, you will see higher problem rates on engine (headgasket) and drivetrain (wheelbearings) on certain years in the ranges I describe, so yes, they seem to have improved measurably.
  • colosubcolosub Posts: 2
    Thank-you very much for the quick reply.
  • jetfishjetfish Posts: 15
    Hi everyone,

    Now it's time for me to change the air filter for my Forester '99 built in Jan'99. I am not sure which brand of the replacement air filter I should buy. I searched on
    and found there are a few brands for Forester'99 such as K&N, Denso, NPN and unbranded OEM. The prices vary from $60 to $9.

    Which brands do you guys recommend? I'm from PA.

    Thank you.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I'm not totally certain but I think Subaru uses Purolator filters. The oil filter for my '98 was Purolator, and I replaced the air filter with one and they looked the same IIRC.
  • chienchien Posts: 6
    98 Forester, 104,500 miles. It seems worth it to rebuild engine but really would like opinions. I'm nervous about future breakdowns of other parts.

    No major problems before this. Car runs tight, no weird shifts, clangs, wobbles, noises. Body in good shape. Been rearended 2x at low speed, but frame OK. Front windshield cracked 2x and replaced; power steering pump replaced. Preventative replacement of water pump and timing belt at 60K big service.

    Head gasket blew 75 miles from home. Stopped as soon as temp rose and found ugly oily bubbly in coolant overflow. Local shop flushed radiator, new thermostat, etc. did not fix overheating. Pressure test showed head gasket problem. Towed car back home to my mechanic as I am AAA Plus member (100 miles free).

    My trusted mechanic says rebuild your engine, oil and coolant mixed in engine so head gasket repair won't be enough. Rebuilding my engine costs $3100, includes 3 yr unlimited mileage guarantee. Labor $1400. Includes new water pump, new seals/gaskets, new oil pump, new timing belt, new rings, new cam bearings, regrind valves, recycle bloc and cylinder heads.

    Tradein value seems low $3600, used car prices around $4500-5000. I bought Subaru expecting 200K so upset at this major engine flaw. Prefer not to buy new car, but am liking Honda Element.

    Opinions/experiences on rebuilding your engines would be greatly appreciated!"> :confuse:
  • I had the same or a similar thing happen to my '98 - it didn't overheat and blow up but I had to have half of the engine rebuilt due to cylinder misfirings. That was at 113,000 and I'm now at 136,000. It seems to happen to most of the '98's and some of the later models and most say that if this is taken care of the cars can run forever. I had some problems last summer but these seemed to be cured by a coolant flush and conditioner, new filters, though I may have routine engine issues with summer heat. But it's running great now and I'm trying to go for 200,000 - waiting for a better alternative.

    If the body is good, I would do the repair, especially with the waranty - you also seem to be getting more work done than I had to do, so I can't comment on the price. It may be a closer call with your costs and the value of the car. There are others in this forum that are better on the mechanical and cost issues!

  • p0926p0926 Posts: 4,423
    I don't know, when the cost of the repair approaches the value of the vehicle most people will recommend you go the new car route. How much for a remanufactured engine?

    It does seem a shame to give up on an otherwise good vehicle and unfortunate that the headgasket failed in the worse possible way. I had a Nissan that developed a head gasket leak but the leak was external so was cheaper to repair.

    Unfortunately, headgasket failures is the biggest issue with your model year. By nay chance did you get the coolant conditioner added?

    FYI, I believe that Juice sold his 98 Forester this past summer for $5k.

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    So, just to clarify, the mechanic drained the engine oil and there was coolant in it? I ask, because if there was just oil and/or combustion gunk in the coolant, you need not go overboard with the head gasket repair. At 118K miles, that engine has a lot of life left. Barring warped heads, replaced gaskets will likely extend the reasonable life of the car through 200K or more miles.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I 2nd the nomination for a re-man....
  • chienchien Posts: 6
    Without install labor, a reman costs the same as the rebuilding of my own engine - $3K from both Neco and CCR. A new engine is $5K (from Jasper). A cleaned up salvaged engine with guarantee was $1500-1800.

    The coolant conditioner was for the 99 engine which was a SOHC vs my engine, a DOHC. I never got any notification from Subaru about it.

    The sale prices for a running car are $4-5K. My car is not what I would call "running", so I guess it's value is $0. It goes for 5 - 10 miles before overheating. Some might try to trade it in without mentioning the head gasket but I just can't do that. I'm mad at Subaru for ignoring this, so my next car will not be a Subaru -- probably a Honda.

    I'm not sure if the oil was drained but the first mechanic I had the car at did a pressure test after trying the radiator flush/new thermostat route. I had checked the oil before leaving on my trip and the oil on the dipstick was brown not black. I didn't realize what I was looking at but my trusted mechanic says that indicated that oil and coolant had mixed in the engine and compromised the bearings. He'll have a closer look before the rebuild starts.

    I thought a lot about getting a new car (Honda Element springs to mind and I got quotes from CarsDirect and others) but I decided to make that $5K bet that I could keep the Sub running at least 3 more years as everything else on the car seems in good running condition.

    Personally, I hate throwing away stuff that still has use in it. Would love a new car but that would cost $23-25K and I don't want to buy on payments or lease. This was not an easy decision to make and it still depends on what my mechanic finds when he pulls the engine. I'll know soon!

    Thanks for your input!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Sell it as is or to a salvage yard. I wonder how much they'd give you for it.
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