Head gaskets finally blew - need advice

Just had some burning coolant smell, and sure enough, I was told it's the head gaskets. I was quoted about $3,400 for a worst-case scenario, i.e., when there are no salvageable parts. I will need to get a list of exactly what the mechanic deems needs to be done, so that I can judge it better, but I'll first have to get over the shock.

I'd appreciate some guidance here. It's a '00 Outback, automatic, gently driven, ~98k miles.

Would it be an option to put in a re-built engine? I have no idea how much that would cost.

Any other suggestions as to how I should approach this situation?

Thanks so much in advance.



  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    If it didn't overheat badly and warp, there's no need for a rebuilt engine. Just replace the gaskets and have them make sure the heads are true.
  • I just spoke to the mechanic again. He said there is oil leaking from behind the timing belt cover, coolant/oil leaking from the driver-side gasket and oil leaking from the passenger-side gasket. Since he doesn't know where it's coming from, he said it could mean replacing whatever is behind the timing belt cover: the pulleys, water pump, hoses, perhaps even the timing belt (2 years old), various gaskets, etc.

    In any case, it would run upwards of $2,500, up to about $3,400.

    The engine has never overheated.

    Thanks again.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    My concern is the "oil leaking from behind the timing belt cover" part.
  • xwesxxwesx Member Posts: 16,716
    Well, cost of parts aside, replacing the head gaskets requires digging through anything else that may need replacing, so the labor differential between head gaskets only and head gaskets plus all others is exactly zero. That's the good news!

    The bad news is that it is spendy no matter which way you slice it.

    If the engine has never overheated and you were doing head gaskets only, I would estimate $1,800. If you're replacing pulleys and timing belt, you'll be in for another $450 or so. If you're replacing all the camshaft, crankshaft, and associated seals/gaskets, you'll add a couple more hundred. I would think $2,500 would be your TOP unless something major needed replacing, like a head.

    The leaking from behind the belt cover is either one or more camshaft seals or the crankshaft seal, with near certainty.

    When you're doing heavy duty work like this, though, it is not a bad idea to replace the water and oil pumps as a precautionary measure.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • crankeeecrankeee Member Posts: 298
    Good post on possible damage from failed head gaskets. One additional thought.. if the engine had long term coolant leak and the coolant mixed with the oil does the lower half meaning the crank shaft bearings beocme and issue- serious issue and usually requires short block or in layman's terms a new engine? Reason for question is that after doing upper half and reassembling you then find out lower half is in need of repair and you need a new engine ON TOP OF prior cost.
  • xwesxxwesx Member Posts: 16,716
    If coolant was mixing with the oil, yes, you'll likely have damage to the bearings, but it will depend to some extent on the amount of coolant and the length of exposure. Coolant mixing with the oil in the crank is actually not a common trait of the 2.5L gasket failure, at least not from what I have seen, read, or heard. More common is the external coolant and/or oil leak, and combustion gasses escaping into the coolant.

    However, it would be a good idea for the owner to have an oil sample processed (costs about $25.00) prior to making a decision on this just to ensure the likelihood of engine longevity after the repair! At the price quoted ($3,400), the cost of a rebuilt long block with install would be somewhat comparable.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
  • triumphertriumpher Member Posts: 58
    You may not have heard of it, but it is exactly what is going on in my 2003 with bad head gaskets!
  • xwesxxwesx Member Posts: 16,716
    You are referring to what?
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
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