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Forester - Headgasket Repair & Engine Rebuild



  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    $2,600 is on the far side of the high end for replacing both gaskets (along with all the other stuff like the oil seals, water pump, timing belt, pulleys, etc., that are accessible and/or have to be removed during the gasket replacement). So, if they charged you that, I would expect the service to be absolutely thorough and complete. The radiator, if clogged, could be replaced at the price of the part only, since it has to be removed as part of the gasket repair and should have been tested as part of their initial diagnostics. So, estimating about $200 for the part, that puts you to $2,800. I'm not seeing where they get the $3,300.

    I think you're right in questioning their credibility here.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Plus, given the age, it's out of warranty, so why not try a local independent shop? I bet their labor rates are a lot lower.

    Still, I sold my '98 Forester for $7 grand about 2 years ago, so a '99 in decent shape should still be worth $5-6 grand or so.
  • once_for_allonce_for_all Posts: 1,640
    My 2003 Forester XS has been a great car, 148k so far. About 2 years ago (~ 40k ago) it started dripping oil from somewhere, not enough to make it to the ground, but enough to give an obnoxious burning oil smell from dripping on the exhaust.

    I finally dropped the belly pan and cleaned everything up...started it up and checked it 30 mins later...and saw that there was a very slow leak coming from the back lower portion of the head gasket, driver's side. Figuring it was a gravity feed return hole from the head back to the oil pan, and not wanting to spend a bunch to pull a great running engine apart, I thought I'd try a patch.

    There was no good access to the spot, the only possibility was between the motor mount and exhaust. I thought I'd try the RTV copper gasket maker to seal it. I found a small wooden handle brush in the shop, handle was about 1/2" wide, and used that as a dauber and applicator to put on a 1/4" bead about 3" long. Then I took a piece of aluminum tape, cut out about a 1 1/2" x 4" long piece, ran another 1/4" bead in the center, and used the same wooden handle to press it onto the area and smooth it out, making a tight seal.

    I didn't really expect this to work, but it's been clean now for several days and several hundred miles. "Good to go" the next 150k? Dunno, but not wrinkling my nose anymore at intersections.

  • jbur1jbur1 Posts: 14
    My 2003 Forester had the head gaskets replaced about 1 1/2 years ago at 85,000 miles. Subaru had even offered to pay part of the repair cost. So at that time I had the timing belt and water pump replaced as well. I just brought the car in to a different dealer for the recent lower control arm recall and was told that oil was leaking from the head gaskets again and it would cost $2300 to repair. :cry: I have put on about 16,000 miles since the first repair. I thought that this repair would last me at least three years minimum. Is the RTV fix you tried still holding? I would seriously consider this as an alternative fix if it is still holding.
  • I brought our Forester in for an oil change last week at the dealer and was told that the head gasket was leaking. We don't use the Subaru that much; it only has 54,000 miles on it!

    So it had taken us about 1.5 years to put the 5,000 miles on which made it time to bring it in again. Last time: everything fine

    This time they recommended:
    head gasket leaking $3200 repair
    throttle body service
    brake and power steering flush
    1 side valve cover gasket
    front and rear differential fluids
    drive belt
    all together $5000!

    Given that the car only has 54,000 miles on it, i'm pretty darned surprised that it needs this much work. I talked to an independent (ie, not at the dealer) mechanic. He said it is well known that the head gasket problems continued after 2002 but that Subaru refused to stand behind later model years and cover the work. And that it is common that Subaru dealers service departments would use stop leak fluid to deal with the problem until the car was out of warranty, at which time they would tell you that it needs to be replaced at your own cost.
    Given that i purchased the car 9.5 years ago, I really doubt that Subaru would give me any significant help to fix this.
    I'm thinking of trading in the car (for a new Rav4) rather than have all this work done to it. I probably can't, in good conscience, sell the car to an individual for very much since i would disclose this issue. I'm not sure that if i went to trade in at a dealer that the problem would be identified. Your thoughts? How long can one keep using the stop leak fluids rather than getting the thing repaired?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    If you only put 5k miles in 18 months, it could go for years before the problem got any worse. I'd try some stop-leak and just check the oil level at every fuel fill-up, which we should all do routinely anyway.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    In addition to that, everything else mentioned on that list is just normal maintenance. Periodic flushing/changing of fluids is important.

    $3,200 for the gaskets?! You should find a mechanic that doesn't smoke so much crack. Swap those first two numbers, and you'll be getting closer to an appropriate price for both gaskets, which would also include timing belt, water pump, and the valve cover gasket mentioned in your list.

    If you have all that work done and pay over half the quoted amount, the mechanic took you to the cleaners. :sick:
  • It is still holding. Since there is no pressure on the oil, it doesn't take much to stop it. The keys however, are to clearly identify where the leak is coming from, get a good solid contact, and a large patch area. Depending on the leak area, this may not always be possible. I thought it might work, as the RTV compound is not easy to remove once applied (from experience with scraping old gaskets).

    The idea is not much different than putting a patch on a bicycle inner tube.

  • baherbaher Posts: 1
    Hi John,

    Although I haven't confirmed the location yet, I seem to be having this exact same problem. Is the patch still holding? If so I'm thinking of doing the same thing.
    Let me know your thoughts.

  • yes, still holding. The key on this type of fix is that the leak needs to be on a low pressure return passage through the head. Not a chance of working, otherwise. It's worth taking an hour or two to thoroughly clean the area and identify exactly where it is coming from. The RTV is a great sealer, and the heavy foil on top of the RTV creates a long pathway for a leak to get through.

    Have 173k on this car now. Did the rear bearings last month. Other than that, have had just the normal maintenance. Clutch isn't as light and feathery as new, but still very solid. This model Forester is well put together.

  • rockmobilerockmobile Posts: 109

    Has the head gasket problem subsided or disappeared on the Outback for the years 2010 and newer models? I'm looking to buy a used one for any of those years, reason been is that I do not like the looks of the 2014 nor the CVTs.

  • once_for_allonce_for_all Posts: 1,640

    as much as it sounds like Subaru head gaskets are a general serious problem, it really isn't significant for 2003+ engines. Does it still occur? Sure. Any engine can suffer a head gasket failure. It is easy to get alarmed by reading posts and blogs, but that doesn't represent the thousands of cars that have no issues.

  • texasestexases Posts: 5,424

    The problem is still serious 2003+. Right now Consumer Reports shows 'Much Worse Than Average' for 'Engine, Major' for Foresters through 2007, with 'Worse Than Average' for 2008. The same is true for the Outback. This bums me out, I got a 2007 Forester expecting the problem had been fixed by then. Only now, with the closed-deck design, would I say the problem is fixed for sure.

  • rockmobilerockmobile Posts: 109
    edited January 7

    So I assume it's safe to get any Forester for the years 2010 and up. And hopefully the "closed-deck design" (dunno what that means) should have taken care of things. :) My first message also refers to the Forester, sorry about the mishap.

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268

    @rockmobile said: So I assume it's safe to get any Forester for the years 2010 and up.

    2011 is the start of the FB engine block's use in the Forester. So, if you want to ensure you're getting a car with the new block design, don't include 2010 in your search. :)

  • saedavesaedave Chicago, ILPosts: 679

    And 2014 is the first year for the XT turbo to have the new design. But the earlier turbos had a semi-closed deck block that usually did not have the gasket problem.

  • texasestexases Posts: 5,424

    @xwesx said: 2011 is the start of the FB engine block's use in the Forester. So, if you want to ensure you're getting a car with the new block design, don't include 2010 in your search. :)

    Another good reason to go for the FB design (2011 or newer) is that it now uses a timing chain instead of a belt. I'll not buy a car that has a timing belt.

  • rockmobilerockmobile Posts: 109

    @texases said: Another good reason to go for the FB design (2011 or newer) is that it now uses a timing chain instead of a belt. I'll not buy a car that has a timing belt.

    I guess 2011 thru 2013 would do the trick. No timing belt to worry about, and no CVT to worry about.

    According to the little I have read about CVTs, this kind of transmissions use some type of internal belts. Correct me if I'm wrong.

  • texasestexases Posts: 5,424

    I'm not a CVT fan, either. Not so much as far as reliability, the driving experience stinks for many of them. Some are OK, but a 'regular' 6+ speed automatic would be much better to me.

  • fandangofandango Posts: 17

    My 2007 Impreza 2.5i had to have the head gaskets redone at 150k miles. Did a valve resurfacing and changed the timing belt tensioner and water pump at the same time. Cost about $2100 at a reputable shop. The dealer had quoted $2500 for the same scope of work.

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