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Forester - Headgasket Repair & Engine Rebuild



  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
  • mariann2mariann2 Posts: 1
    Similar problems to what I've been reading here, but some differences. Please read and let me know what you think.

    127,000 major problems.
    When accelerating doesn't seem to get gas and won't go and proceeds very bumpy, then surges forward. Happens sporadically. Sometimes very rough idle ( car is almost jumping ). Pumping on the gas seems to keep it going.
    Check engine light comes on sometimes. It's reading o2 sensor, but my mechanic says it's definitely not that. Mechanic not sure...thinks it's maybe the fuel pump. ig expense for a maybe solution. Any ideas? Many thanks for any assistance.

    My mechanic has changed the oil filter, cleaned up various thingies and since the
  • chienchien Posts: 6
    I recently had a flashing Check Engine light and no power on acceleration. Flashing CEL is serious -- not to be ignored. A month or two before, I had a steady CEL (not as bad as flashing but still needs to be scanned) and after the diagnostic, the sensor was reset, and CEL went away. After the second steady CEL and more extensive diagnostic, my mechnic replaced the ignition coil as it was bad. I was running on only 3 cylinders. Car runs like new! Also, check to see if one or more of your ignition wires is corroded. Sporadic connection could account for sporadic performance.

    Good answer here at WikiAnswers: s_when_giving_gas_had_a_tune_up_done_and_replaced_bad_gas_any_other_ideas_of_wha- t_this_could_be_what's_a_v-tech_sensor
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Spark or fuel....

    First change the fuel filter, it's the cheapest.

    Then the spark plugs, then spark plug wires. At 127k you should be on your 3rd set of wires.

    Beyond that, the ignition coil or fuel pump, let's hope it's not the latter. Everything else is a cheap fix.
  • sd70sd70 Posts: 9
    I'm a little late but...

    My '01 Forester was doing the same exact thing a couple of months ago. They replaced the O2 sensor and she was running like a charm again. hope this helps.

    BTW.... I needed head gaskets a few years ago. I noticed my fan was running more often than it should be, but the car was not overheating. I was told I needed new gaskets, but it was covered under warranty. Seems to be great ever since. I was very happy to see Subaru step up to solve this issue.
  • Has any had a head gasket problem with the 2005 model? I brought my car in for a recall and was told I need new head gaskets, tires and brakes. My tires were two year old - annoying to say the least. But the head gasket issue is obviously a design flaw in subaru's. I was wondering if Subaru would give me half toward the HD repair. Anyone have any experience with that?

  • erikwierikwi Posts: 71
    Had my 2006 done under warranty at 43k and now my mom's getting the head gaskets replaced on her car at 30k under warranty. Do you have any warranty left?
  • I did not realize that the HG problem extended past the 03 models. We replaced our HG's on our 03 Forester and it runs great. If you don't have any warranty left -get in touch with Subaru of America and get them to at least pay half of the cost. Make sure it is your HG by reading up on the signs and symptoms in the forums. As for tires make sure they do an alignment and check tire warranty as well. We took our subie in to a private mechanic to confirm what the dealership had told us before giving the car up to the stealership for repair. SoA will only help with cost if you have it repaired at dealership. Best of luck.
  • Thanks for your reply. Wow - 2006 at at 43K! Unfortunately I don't have any warranty left - I just hit 75,000 miles and I am sure that is over the warranty.
    Any suggestions? Do you think it would help to call the corporate office?
  • Yes, apparently this is a design issue - a poor design -so it does extend beyond the 03 models. I will try getting in touch with Subaru of Ameica. I originally put the car in the dealer for a recall issue and they were the ones who told me I needed head gaskets. Do you think I should still have it confirmed somewhere else? I don't have any signs of a problem.
  • Hi CC
    Our symptoms for the HG issue was leaking coolant, a sweet smell like maple syrup, and some smoke from the hood after driving -Yikes! We went online to search for great reviews of the best independent Subaru mechanic in the Twin Cities and found a honest mechanic who did the oil/coolant test to confirm (along with other checks).
    I think he charged 40.00 to go over the entire car. There is an oil test you can order online and do yourself (read this forum) for less. We will only go to the dealership if SOA is going to help pay or a recall from now on. For example: We had a rattle sound under the hood and the dealership said it was our heat shield or something $$$$. Then we took it to the independent shop and the mechanic found that one of our deer whistles had broken off and was rattling around somewhere in the grill area. Save tons on that visit.
    Not all independent mechanics are honest but with a little research (click and clack) -you might find one in your town. Hope this helps
  • "... I'm back from the dealer... They've also suggested that my using pure synthetic oil may have caused the leak which I don't buy. Tech told me Subaru doesn't recommend the use of synthetic oil in the engine until it has at least 75k on it. If this is the case, why does it not say "No synthetic oil" in the owner's manual?.."

    Because Subaru says it is perfectly alright to use synthetic oil. The following is taken from an issue of EndWrench (, a Subaru publication for professional repair technicians in Subaru dealers:

    "The Use of Synthetic Engine Oil.
    Subaru of America, Inc. allows the use of synthetic oil that meets the same requirements for conventional engine oil. When using synthetic oil, you must use oil of the same classification, viscosity and grade specified for the vehicle, and you must follow the oil and filter changing intervals shown in the specified mainte- nance schedule."

    You say your Owners Manual does not say "No Synthetic Oil"? On the contrary, my Owners Manual goes so far as to specifically allow it. Page 11-11 says:

    "Synthetic oil.
    You can use synthetic engine oil that
    meets the same requirements given for
    conventional engine oil. When using
    synthetic oil, you must use oil of the same
    classification, viscosity and grade shown
    in this Owner’s Manual, and must follow
    the oil and filter changing intervals shown
    in the maintenance schedule."
  • erikwierikwi Posts: 71
    No, I said the dealer told me that Subaru doesn't recommend the use of synthetic oil even though the owner's manual clearly states it is acceptable provided it meets the same standards as regular oil. That was when I had it over there to have the HG replaced. The service manager said "That synthetic oil you use is probably why you have a head gasket leak at 43k miles."
  • No, Subaru says it does not matter what type of oil you use as long as it meets specs and is changed at the proper interval.
    And head gaskets have no physical connection to oil like bearings and seals, so it matters even less the type of oil used.
  • erikwierikwi Posts: 71
    You're missing the quote from the service manager. He's the one that told me face to face synthetic wasn't recommended. I quoted the owners' manual to him when he made the comment about my use of synthetic oil. I know oil has nothing to do with a head gasket leak. I'm not blaming the oil here I'm blaming a flaw in either the head gasket itself or their engine assembly process.
  • "You're missing the quote from the service manager. He's the one that told me face to face synthetic wasn't recommended... I'm blaming a flaw in either the head gasket itself or their engine assembly process."

    I saw that quote, but I don't think his opinion means anything.

    I think the flaw is in the "open-deck" engine design, not the engine assembly or gasket.
    The cylinder tops float in the block, completely surrounded by space, with no steadying bridges to the outer block. This is hard for a gasket to seal forever.
    The types of decks are explained here: - - x2.html#post716946

    In the new H-4 diesel engine, Subaru has gone to the semi-closed deck design:
    "... the BOXER DIESEL adopts a semi-closed cylinder block deck to improve the rigidity around the head gaskets..."
  • erikwierikwi Posts: 71
    Aaahhh, now I see what you're saying. I saw the block design pics on the other forum so I'm familiar with them. What year did they switch to the full open deck block? I'm wondering how many other 2006's are going to start having problems. If what you're saying is the cause, then there should be lots of cars with head gasket leaks showing up in the near future. Wonder what SOA will do to solve the problem?

    BTW, do you know whether or not they're bringing the diesel to the US?
  • I think the 2.5 engine has always been open deck. I think the head gasket failures changed from generalized to rare after 2003. I think that happened because the coolant formula was changed, a stop-leak additive was added at the factory, and is required to be added whenever the coolant was replaced. Head gasket leaks nowadays may be due to things like use of wrong coolant, not adding the additive, poor quality replacement gaskets, and not pulling the head off onto a workbench and thoroughly cleaning both the surfaces when a head gasket is replaced.

    There are no published plans to bring the Subaru Diesel here, though that is probably the eventual intent. I think they are waiting on certain issues like further testing in other markets and reformulation of US diesel to avoid a urea additive injection pump.
  • erikwierikwi Posts: 71
    Mine was actually leaking oil and a tiny amount of coolant. The stop leak they added at the 30k ended my having to continually add coolant to the tank every couple of months but didn't stop the HG leak since it was mainly oil. I've seen that oil additive that claims to stop oil leaks but am a little leary of it. Don't want any passages plugged up and then get oil starvation to a main bearing or rod bearing, you know.

    Rats on the diesel! It would've caused me to trade now instead of waiting a few years. I like the idea of 48mpg and AWD.
  • do you know what the terms are to get $1000 from subaru for head gasket problems. i have an 02 forester and the shop wants 2 grand for the repair. thanks...
  • prigglypriggly Posts: 642
    I had a head gasket failure in my 1997 Outback 2.5 engine at 139,000 miles and it resulted in the complete death of the engine. It cost me $7,000 to repair it in Canadian dollars and Subaru contributed NOTHING. ZERO. NADA. Left me with a bad taste in my mouth and a belief that Subaru engines are not particularly reliable or well designed.

    The internet is literally saturated with tales of head gasket problems for Subaru engines. Head gasket problems are definitely not rare.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Early 02s were covered for 7/100 but you're well past 7 years now.

    Call 800-SUBARU3 and be nice, see if they can help out in any way.
  • danielldaniell Posts: 128
    I hear you... I was lucky that Subaru paid half of the cost of my headgasket repair (2002 Forester S, headgasket failure at 72k miles, cost $1800 to fix). Both my brother and my friend had headgasket problems (2001 Outback, and 2001 Legacy, respectively). 3 out of 3 I know is pretty bad in my book. I might buy a Subaru again, but it will definitely be the 6 cyl. not the 4.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Your family had bad luck.

    I had a 98 Forester for 9 years, wifey had an 02 Legacy for 7 years. Dad has a 2000 Outback, sis has an 03 Forester, bro has an 04 Legacy.

    Remember these are boxers, so that's 10 flawless engines.

    I'm not counting our current 09 Forester or my cousin's 99 OB, also flawless.
  • danielldaniell Posts: 128
    I count 6 older engines, including your cousin's, not 10... your 09 is too new and doesn't count. As I am sure you are aware, problem seems to affect mainly the MY1998-2002. That cuts another 2 cars from your list...

    Problem was acknowledged by CR, internet forums etc. Yes, all brands have problems (I am not brand loyal), but this is clearly a problem with the Subaru 2.5l motor. If it wasn't a problem, Subaru wouldn't have issued the recall/extended warranty and pay 50% of repairs costs for many people excluded from the recall. So I'd say that your family was lucky.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    10 heads, I meant. There's a gasket on each side.

    If you count my cousin's that's 12 head gaskets.

    I'm not saying the problem didn't exist, far from it. Subaru acknowledged it with a 7/100 warranty, even. Thing is, they covered 'til model year 02, so those 7 years are up even for the later cars.

    What I'm just saying is it didn't affect every gasket.
  • dk11dk11 Posts: 3
    The head gasket on my 2003 Forester is leaking at only 55,000 miles which is ridiculous. I have the oil changed every 3,000 miles which is above and beyond what is recommended, but I wanted to take extra care of the engine and then this happens. Just found out this is a known defect on Subarus, though only the 1999-2002 models were recalled. Clearly, the problem was not resolved. I am trying to get Subaru to pitch in for the repair as though it's been over 5 years, it is still within the 60,000 mile warranty period. Clearly, if a head gasket goes at only 55,000 miles, there is a defect. I hope Subaru resolves this as if they don't this will be my last Subaru. Just wanted to post this so others are aware of the problem and don't assume that it's only on the 1999-2002 models.
  • Count us as another head gasket failure and repair (mostly out of our pocket) for the 03 Forester @60,000 miles. :mad:

    There was a previous post regarding the correlation between head gasket failure and the type of coolant used. Recommending only Subaru brand coolant? Can't find that post but it might help prevent further problems.
  • jbur1jbur1 Posts: 14
    I hear you. I also have a 2003 Forester and have started losing coolant. I don't understand why SOA does not expand its coverage when the problem still exists on later models. See my recent post with pics at Losing Coolant.
  • dk11dk11 Posts: 3
    Thanks for your reply. I am going to request that they do extend the warranty for the 2003 to 100,000 miles / 8 years as they did for the recalled 1999-2002 models since the 2003 still clearly has the same problem. May I ask at what mileage mark yours started to lose coolant?
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