Review of Subaru Head Gasket Problems
I have a 2003 Outback, 2.5L with 53,000 miles. Dealer just confirmed external coolant leak from both heads. I changed the anti-feeze and used Subaru's special conditioner at 25,000 and 50,000 miles. All maintenance exceeded Subaru specifications. Subaru corporate offered to pay for half of the repair. I was told by the dealer when I purchased my Outback that Subaru "fixed" the head gasket problem with the 2003 model year. Researching the issue on the net indicates that problems extends to the 2005 model year and possibly beyond. Where does it end? Similar to Toyota's recent recall for its accelerator and brakes, Subaru should take full responsibility for the failure of their head gaskets.
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The VIN of my '02 was outside of the covered range, and I too was told that there was no warranty extension. But mine first failed at 15k, and then again at 62k last year, so I had both a history of failure, and of regular preventive service. I had a Gold plan also, but was outside of the time by 4 months when they went again. In the end, they treated me very well, and I was quite happy. But, it did take some discussion to get there.
Technically, they owe you (or me) nothing. It isn't a safety issue, and you are a year or more beyond the time limit. On the other hand, they know it is a weakness, and their chances of getting a repeat buyer is very much dependent on what they do now!
The repair will run something around $1800, and they have offered half. When Toyota pulled something like this on me, they offered $0, which is why I don't drive a Toyota today! $900 isn't bad when you consider the alternative.... You could go back to SOA and ask for more - NICELY - given the extenuating circumstances. Remind them that this is a known issue, and that you are likely to be trading this car in on another Subi in the near future. I assume that you have otherwise liked it enough that this is in your long term plan? Even if they won't give more, it is still a decent offer. Unlikely you'd get any other car company today to meet you half way.
While you are in there, offer to pay for a new timing belt, external drive belts, maybe a water pump, and have them check the oil pump seals. It is a great opportunity to take care of a bunch of stuff coming due on a 7 year old auto.
Look at Consumer Reports.
Some Subarus show dramatic improvements for 2003, others for 2004/5. By '05 all are rated highly.
Our family has been lucky, I guess. Dad has an '01 Outback, sis has an '03 Forester, bro has an '04 Legacy. Cousin had a 99 Outback for a while. We had a 98 Forester for 9 years, and an 02 Legacy for 7 years, plus our new 09 Forester.
None of us have had any gasket issues at all.
Thank you for your insightful and sympathetic response. I did call corporate back and nicely asked for more consideration. However, they would not budge. They said my Outback was manufactured in March 2003 and it falls outside the extended warranty period for this problem. No further explanation. Some 2003 Outbacks are apparently covered.
I love the car, but I feel mislead. I don't think I would buy another.
I plan on following your advise for replacing the timing belts, water pump and oil seals. A friend of mine recommended the same to me.
You have to remove the accessory belts to do the HG repair, so putting on a new one just makes sense. It's cheap insurance. I believe that the H6 uses a timing chain rather than a belt, so at least you won't have to replace that as well.
Radiator caps today are pretty bulletproof, but seals can get damaged. Again, maybe $15-20?
A boot can get torn. Just drive over any loose debris on the road and it can happen. You'll likely see some ejected grease around it. Ask them to walk you into the shop for a look.
Since HG failure is not safety-related, they know they aren't going to have NHTSA on their backs. And since they are selling almost all the cars they can produce, they have less incentive to explicitly acknowledge a design/manufacturing defect and extend the warranty to all years.
We've hedged our exposure by purchasing 7/100 extended warranties on our two newest Subarus. And I hope Subaru isn't taking the position that it is less expensive for them to pay for some HG repairs than to fix the problem.
This is the first H-6 I've heard of with HG failure. I had thought they were exempt from the problem.
Split for 50/50 labor and parts for HG only. Timing belt, water pump, thermostat were not covered.
Total cost to me for Subaru's improper seating was $976.06 and three days loss of vehicle.
My advise is have your Outback checked before the warranty expires or consider this additional cost when you buy or consider another vehicle.
I agree that none of this should have happened to you, but at least you got something tangible out of it. Hopefully, you will get many more years of good service from the car. I know how much I enjoyed driving mine in to work thru the snow this morning!
No head gaskets, though.
I'll hit 210k pretty soon and need my second timing belt replacement.
what is the real problem?is it the gasket,or is the head itself cracking??and what would parts average me?..
-i'm on a limited income-not unlike lots of folks out there today,..haven't worked on one,but used to fix my old air cooled vw back in the day,and the subaru flat 4 seems to be real similar..as well as the durability factor-not unlike the old bugs..just ondering if that might be worth my time..thanks..
--sounds-and kinda reminds me of the old-air cooled vw's..did heads on those about every other year-till i learned to drive it..air cooled=high rpm's..specially when climbing hills !...all motors are really like that-happyist when oil pressure-air flo-coolant,etc-is flowing at max-without blowing up !
1996 Outback Head Gasket Project
--a great page !
--but---that one got away...and mebee i'm getting ambitious in my old age-just slightly past the mid-century mark..but,if a owner raves and loves a car that has gone through what that one did-well,i'm impressed!
the "crunched" car--was that the same one?? anyway,they did a good job building a survivable compartment!..
you're a braver man than me-gunga dinn !,as the closest i've come to weather like you describe-was a winter-mid -60'd,williston,north dakota..in the oil patch!..when it warmed to minus 20,we could work,as even running water would freeze in the pumps of the sizmograph rig..!unfortunately,no camera-and no picks!!..i did better later on,but still gotta scan them in,..they're on film..
many thanks for all the info!
As it is, that site is going away on 6/30, so perhaps that is the motivation I need to revamp something.
Crunched car... yep, that was the same one. Bad memories, those, so I'll just let that topic die.
The warming climate is quite evident this far north (especially this past decade), so winters are, for the most part, quite mild these days (as are the summers compared with those past). We get a week or two of intense cold most winters, but that sure beats the several weeks (almost guaranteed) of yesteryears.
-my situation is living in rental property/limited tools/no garage..basically,a weekend would be a MAX timetable,as landlords-as most people-get their panties in a knot when their parking lot turns into a graveyard of abandoned projects-
-i've gotten to calling them "lawn ornaments/scrap iorn sculpture,etc..
--had one place-i opened the hood to fix a broken ground strap to fix the wipers-about ten minutes--the manager drives up-says"you can't work on you car here (the jerks put it in the lease)..i asked"am i allowed to check the oil??"-cause thats about how long it took-apart from her distracting me-- i made my point,but--tearing out a engine--wile i have done it--it's -NOT- a option!-but-i found the knocking rod in my olds cierra,and THAT one was at that "fix it or f- it" points,where i replaced it -with a ford aerostar--twice the room,ran better,and --even better mileage !..
current ride is a -98 grand cherokee i saved from the crusher --only had to replace two windows!,but the rear axle's got a nasty growl,and with all the jeep freaks here--i've gotten guesstimates from $500 to 2 g's..more than i've got in it-..and the mileage-at 15 S.U.C.K.S ! !
all the gadgets are starting to fail,and-for a fella on food stamps,many think i'm "riding hi on the hog" altho i got it the week gas hit $4buks per,and got it for $500 buks,and th 318 sounded great..i drive it in town mostlyfluid levels and all that,but keeping a eye at someone who will swap me outta it,as those leather seats don't impress me,when you'r lookin at a potential lawn ornament.. :sick:
---SOOO, when my ritch uncle gets out of the poor house,(joke),and a fresh car is in the cards,a subaru is definately on the list..
--also,had a junior hi science teacher-whose parents were missionaries in point barrow,so i've heard-and kinda keep a eye on the hap's near the artic circle..
--give that little firecracker of yours a hug from me,and may the good lord keep a eye on y'all..thanks,and good luck!
While that car may have been reconstructed after that crash (Subaru is a very popular brand up here!), it was not by me - the crash ended my 6.5 year ownership of the car at 220,651 miles, if I recall correctly. I wanted to keep it and use the drivetrain to build an AWD buggy of some sort, but my wife would have none of it. So, in the interest of preserving my marriage (yes, things really were that tense at the time), I opted to scrap the car. We replaced it with that 2007 Outback shown on the top of the page you visited.
I actually have two "little firecrackers" (which is an apt description) now, so I'll be sure to keep the hugs heading their way....
Best of luck to you!
understand the "peacekeeping" aspect,but also saw a vid on u-tube where some russians,who built tanks.came up with a 4 wheel track drive system,where you drive up on kinda a car lift-take off the wheels,and you got a tanl with a car body and powerplant!..it looked like a fiat-with traks!...maybe she-d go for that,as nobody's gonna argue with tou-when you have the capabilitit to jusrt drive over them !!rofl)..
keep up th good work!
Mileage: 115k...symptoms: gradual loss of coolant, coolant turning darker with black particles floating in coolant (not oily) eventually overheated mildly at the nashville airport (not in the red). Dealer told me I was out of luck since the recall only covered an external HG leak not an internal one (what I had)
The black particles in the coolant were hard to tell if that was the coolant conditioner or something else. (which is btw totally useless) the only thing the subaru stop leak will do is clog up your cooling system. Gas was bubbling through the overflow jug.
I bought a coolant hydrocarbon test kit from snap-on and the test told me unequivocally that hydrocarbons from the cylinder were being forced into the water jacket around the cylinder. i.e. the head gasket had failed.
I wanted the repair to last and didn't trust the skill of the local dealer to do the job. So I pulled my engine and freighted it to All Wheel Drive Auto in Kirkland WA for a HG replacement, heads milling, and top end rebuild. My father and I re-installed the rehabbed engine in the car and it's been running great with 5k miles since the repair. Will let you know farther down the road.
Justin Stobb at AWD Auto is an expert in dealing with these issues and the only way he does these repairs is to pull the engine because he says you can't get all of the old HG material off the heads and block with the engine in the car. This is why the gasket replacement typically doesn't last when done at the dealers. Whew...
I replaced the gaskets on my '96 Outback at 192,000 miles. My gaskets' failure was identical in symptom to yours. I also pulled the engine but did the work myself - the total cost was about $550 in parts (including replacement timing belt, pulleys, and tensioner). I had the car to 220,000 miles and had no further problems with it.
Not cheap, but I couldn't find another car that had been taken care of for $2400...
Hopefully I will get to 250-300k with this repair..
Btw, it's running pretty sweet now with a wrapped borla header and new brakes with rebuilt calipers and ss lines. ( I actually wasn't going to rebuild the calipers but one of the rear calipers seized with rust last winter, so I replaced that one and rebuilt the other 3 for good measure)
All part of being a subaru owner right?