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Head Gasket oil leak at 60,000 miles - second engine

joybelljoybell Posts: 275
My 2003 Forester must be the worst one Subaru ever made. I had some repairs under warranty (faulty hose clamps, axle boot replacement, axle replacement, rebuilt engine due to piston slap). Now, at just 60,000 miles, of which about half is on the "new engine", my Subaru mechanic (not a dealer) told me today that I have a slight oil leakage on the passenger side head gasket. Last fall he noticed a bit of coolant leakage which was odd because I always had the "Subaru Superglue" - or coolant conditioner added to the coolant.

I'm not putting any money into this car. The catalytic converter has also kicked the can (and sounds about the same). So my decision is just to run this car until it quits.

Will I get a warning or will the engine suddenly die?


  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 11,152
    It depends on how thoroughly you neglect it. If you want it to go down in a blaze of glory, it sounds like you're on the right path.

    I suspect that if your cat isn't working properly at that low mileage, you might have a slight internal coolant leak that has fouled the cat. If that's the case, ignoring it might mean you don't have too many more miles left.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • joybelljoybell Posts: 275
    I really don't want to deal with this engine anymore. So two choices, put another engine in from a higher mileage car, and replace the c.convertor or get what I can for it now, being honest of course, and look for a second hand Forester. There are lots of these around for sale so it's probably my best option. I have been keeping an eye out for a used Honda CRV but they are rare. So many used Foresters and no CRVs makes me a bit worried though. It used to be the other way around back when I bought my 2003 Forester new.
  • joybelljoybell Posts: 275
    Just out of curiousity, I called the Subaru dealer. $1,600 and they do both gaskets (even though only one is leaking) and give a one year warranty. An large independant garage that services only Subaru's will do just the one gasket, for $800, but give only 3 months warranty - with the added warning "that if you don't want problems then don't pick the 2.5L engine". As if there is a choice?
  • jd_24jd_24 Posts: 92
    I'm getting both gaskets done + plugs and wires for about $1600 on our 2001 Outback with 200K miles. So your price seems reasonable. My mechanic told me I should do both gaskets. If I remember correctly its the driver side gasket that used to fail the most. The timing belt, front cam seal, and water pump were done a few months ago, so they get skipped this time.

    The Subie dealer will change about another $1000 for a cat. converter if I remeber that repare estimate. A non-subaru cat will be cheaper.

    Ask yourself this, "Can you find a semi-reliable car for under $3000?"

    If we get another 2 to 3 years from it it will be worth it.
  • joybelljoybell Posts: 275
    I don't really want a semi-reliable car for under $3000. I would like a brand new Forester with a reliable engine - non turbo. Doesn't exist. I tried to trade in the Forester 4 years ago after the first engine replacement (rebuilt engine), for a brand new Impreza thinking that they had the 2.0L engine, but it also had 2.5L engine. So it made no sense to trade.

    There really is no choice. The dealer tells me that as of the 2011 models the engine design has changed. But I heard all this before, when I purchased the 2003 Forester new.

    I'm walking away this time.
  • aathertonaatherton Posts: 617
    edited May 2012
    "... The dealer tells me that as of the 2011 models the engine design has changed. But I heard all this before, when I purchased the 2003 Forester new. ..."

    There was no engine change in 2003. The EJ belt-driven SOHC engine was used in naturally aspirated Foresters essentially unchanged from 1999 to 2010.

    But it is true that in 2011 naturally aspirated Foresters were given the new FB chain-driven DOHC engine. This a completely new design. - - s

    One interesting change is that the heads of the FB engine have their own separate coolant supply, that does not come from the block through the head gaskets. This will eliminate the head gasket leaks that were possible with the EJ design, and were especially common in your 2003 year.
  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,788
    edited May 2012
    Sorry to hear you're still having problems with your car. As has been mentioned, Subaru is moving away from the older SOHC belt-driven EJ 4-cylinder engine to all-new FA and FB 4-cylinder engines, which are DOHC chain-driven engines.

    The FA is a performance-oriented engine, first to be found in their new BRZ sports car (FA20).

    The FB is more a mainstream engine, aimed at getting high gas mileage, especially so when combined with the new CVT transmission.

    The FB20 engine is in the new Impreza; and the soon-to-be-released XV Crosstrek, an Outback-like version of the Impreza (see links), with a jacked up suspension and larger tires. The Impreza is rated for up to 36 mpg on the highway, the best of any AWD car; the XV Crosstrek a little lower.

    The larger FB25 is in the Legacy, Outback and Forester models. It too gets improved gas mileage over the older EJ engine.

    One especially nice feature of the new FA/FB-based engines is that the oil filter is now on the top of the engine, in the front, thus making oil changes a breeze.

    I haven't heard of any problems with the new FB engines; but they are new, so only time will tell.

  • dcm61dcm61 Posts: 1,553
    The larger FB25 is in the Legacy, Outback and Forester models.

    Legacy/Outback does not get the FB25 'til MY2013.
  • joybelljoybell Posts: 275
    From the article on the Crosstrek:

    "Power comes from the same 2.0-liter boxer four that's found in the standard Impreza, putting out 148 horsepower and mated to either a five-speed manual or Continuously Variable Transmission."

    I know that when I wanted to trade in my Forester, there was no such thing as an Impreza with a 2.0L engine. In fact, when I checked, I found that the 2.0L engine was discontinued in the Impreza back in 2000.

    I do know that in Europe they have different engines - lower hp but the good reliable ones. Not as power crazy over there I guess. So maybe the article is referencing the Japanese and European model Imprezas.

    On another note, I found a really nice 2004 WRX Turbo that I am thinking about, although it's not really my style my research has found that the turbos do not have HG problems. A little old but probably better than sticking my neck out with new untried engine. Once burned........

    I did try out a new Honda CRV - didn't like the drive too much. So it's off to an independant garage for a HG fix for $600 (for one only) that will gain me some search time.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    the turbos do not have HG problems

    Semi-closed deck block sure helps...
  • dcm61dcm61 Posts: 1,553
    edited May 2012
    So maybe the article is referencing the Japanese and European model Imprezas.

    Nope, the 2012 U.S.-spec Impreza (non-WRX/STi) has the new FB20 (2.0L) engine.

    While the FB20 in my '12 Sport Limited has less HP and torque than my '03 OB EJ25, it "feels" like it has more power. Of course CVT vs. 4EAT, and slightly less weight, helps a lot .
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 11,152
    The closed deck blocks of the turbocharged engines are a stout design that does not have head gasket issues, but you do have to watch out for past treatment of the vehicle. Many of the WRX and STi out there are run through the ringer more than a few times by their previous owner(s), so you could end up with a whole host of other problems.

    A favorite tactic? Take an overused (abused?), highly modified WRX approaching its last leg, put it back to "stock," and try to pass it off to an unsuspecting buyer for top dollar. :sick:
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,788
    I know. Just pointing out that the non-turbo EJ engines are about to be history. :)

  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,788
    Dave, how are you enjoying your new Impreza? Any regrets?

  • dcm61dcm61 Posts: 1,553
    edited May 2012
    I'm enjoying my Sport Limited; now have ~850 miles.

    * Pleased with power (compared to '03 OB 2.5L 4EAT)
    * Loving the moonroof (haven't had one since my '86 VW Jetta GLi)
    * Getting ~29 to 30 mpg on my commute (was getting ~23 to 24 mpg with '03 OB)
    * Visibility is not that great (compared to '03 OB)
    * I'm going to have to keep on my toes if I want to keep the front end in one piece (haven't had a car sit this low in years)
    * I keep playing with the seat, but my back still gets sore ... I had no idea there was no lumbar support
  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,788
    Can relate to the sore back, as I have lower back problems. I keep the heated seats on almost year-round, which helps. My WRX has no lumbar adjustment too, but I find the seats pretty comfortable and supportive. Still love the bun warmers... ;)

  • subidubysubiduby Posts: 1
    I just paid 1400 for the whole cat sensor array and pressure manifold sensor. Now i have to take it back in for the head gaskets at 97000 miles. I've kept my car in like new condition so the whole car looks great, but the engine is another story. Rear linkage is also out, the dealer quoted me 2400 dollars for the headgasket replacement, and 180 bucks for the rear linkage. Ive been the sole owner of this 2003 X model, since May i will have put 4k in repairs in the car. My advice, dump the car and move on.
  • joybelljoybell Posts: 275
    That engine is an insult to an otherwise great car. It's sad....our family had 5 Foresters all at the same time. The only ones without head gasket problems were the 2002 (so far!!) and a 1999. Do the math...that's 60% with HG problems!! I still have the 2003 with the replaced head gaskets. One Forester was replaced with a Volvo and the other with a Honda. We love the cars but are so reluctant to have to deal with this engine again that we are waiting (forever?) for a new model to come out with maybe a 2.2l engine instead of the 2.5l
  • aathertonaatherton Posts: 617
    "... we are waiting (forever?) for a new model to come out with maybe a 2.2l engine instead of the 2.5l."

    Your wait was over with the 2011 FB 2.5L engine in the Forester, and the 2012 FB 2.0L engine in the Impreza. New head design, with separate cooling, no more coolant passing through the head gasket.
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