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Which head gasket is best for a Subaru?

If you’re finally going to have your head gaskets done on your Subaru it’s only smart to choose the best possible gasket available at that time . For a while the only option was a genuine Subaru gasket. Now we offer a solution that is arguably better than anything Subaru currently has to offer for the phase 2 2.5 engine. Plus you’ll no longer be required to install the Subaru Coolant Additive to your cooling system. Stay tuned for more detail as I add to this blog or stop by in person for more info.

MikeQuite possibly the last head gasket you'll ever need for your Subaru

Updated: June 2010

Six-Star® Head gaskets are a multi-layer stainless steel head gasket engineered to insure years of longevity for your Subaru.

We believe so strongly in these gaskets that we exclusively use Six-Star® brand head gaskets on all of the phase1 and phase2 2.5 engines we repair at Smart Service.

Click here to view our Six-Star Head Gaskets

We all know that a head gasket issue can be one of the biggest headaches you’ll ever run into on your Subaru. We only use Six-Star® gaskets at Smart Service when we perform a head gasket repair because we want it to be the final time you ever have to replace your head gaskets.

In our opinion, they are currently the best gasket available for the repair.

In comparison to the original single layer head gaskets your Subaru originally was equipped with, these head gaskets are comprised of three layers of stainless steel. Stainless steel is used for added strength, it’s ability to rebound, and it’s natural resistance to corrosion.  They are constructed of 3 layers. The inner core is a layer of flat stainless steel sandwiched between and riveted to 2 layers of .010 embossed stainless with a flouroelastomer Viton coating.

The Viton rubber coating is one of Dupont’s high performance elastomers. In technical terms, Viton flouroelastomer rubber based material will easily handle temperatures from -40° to over 400ºF with the ability to withstand temperatures up to over 700°F for short periods.

The composition of these gaskets along with the interlocking embossments create unsurpassed sealing properties making Six-Star® Head Gaskets the ultimate choice for your all aluminum Subaru engine.

No More Coolant Additive!

The unique design and properties of the multi-layered stainless steel gasket combined with superior ability of the Viton coating to withstand heat, chemicals and corrosion, it may be last head gasket replacement you’ll ever need for your Subaru engine. Not to mention, you’ll never need to use the Subaru Coolant Additive ever again on your engine.

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Subaru Head Gasket, Will Subaru pay for repair?

Failed Subaru Head Gasket

Have you been a victim of this?

Many Subaru owners have been faced with the dreaded head gasket failure on their Subaru. There has been much discussion about what the problem is, why it happened etc. I would like to discuss another subject that doesn’t come up often.

Is there any way Subaru will pay for my head gasket repair and how do I get them to do it?

Let’s start out with a few basics and work from there. When you first purchase your Subaru it comes with a factory backed warranty. A 3 year/36,000 mile bumper to bumper and a 5 year 60,000 mile powertrain warranty is standard. If you have head gasket failure within that time you are one of the lucky ones. Once that warranty expires you’re on your own.

Now I would like to share some of my experiences on how Subaru owners whose warranty expired did their homework and were fortunate enough to have Subaru pay for the repair.

For the most part I’ve  found that dealing with Subaru of America is a pleasant experience. They are very straight forward reasonable people that want you to be happy with their Subaru. Unfortunately they have to draw a line somewhere or Subaru would have limitless requests of persons wanting their Subarus repaired way outside of warranty.

In the old days of the automotive industry, we wouldn’t think twice if a car had a major mechanical failure at 60,000 miles or more. At 100,000 we thought it was a major milestone and were ready to trade it in on the next car before it broke down.

With advancements in engineering and higher quality control, we’re seeing Subarus and many other makes go well over 300,000 without any major failures as long as a person has kept up on their maintenance.

Now that  our expectations have been raised on how long a car should last, we’re thrown a bit of a curve ball when our head gaskets fail before we think they should. Especially if one has been meticulous about their maintenance.

Click here to view our Six-Star Head Gaskets

If you happen to be a victim of failing head gaskets on your Subaru there are some things that some of our customers have shared with us that were helpful in getting Subaru to pay for the repair even though the cars were technically out of the warranty period.

1. Check with the dealer for any outstanding campaigns or recalls.

A simple call to any Subaru service department with your VIN # will reveal if there are any outstanding recalls or campaigns relating to your head gaskets. There was a campaign ( WWP-99 ) in which Subaru added a coolant additive and would then provide a 8 year 100,000 mile warranty for external head gasket coolant leakage.  Most of those cars are now beyond the limits of the campaign but it never hurts to check.

2. Keep your Subaru maintained and save every receipt.

Even under the factory warranty,  Subaru can deny a claim if they believe lack of maintenance contributed to the problem.  It’s within your rights to have your maintenance done anywhere you like so don’t let them use that as a reason, but you must be able to provide them with documentation that you have met their minimum maintenance requirements as defined in the warranty manual that came with your Subaru.

3. Put together a history of all the Subarus that you and your family may have purchased over the years.

This may be very good leverage to show them that you are a very loyal client. It may even help on a local level with a Subaru dealer you’ve purchased your car through.

4. Call 1-800-SUBARU3

This is the customer service hotline to begin your effort to get help from Subaru. Once you’ve done all of the above, call Subaru and explain your situation. They will likely refer you to a local Subaru dealer to confirm the issue before discussing things further. They will also likely be in close contact with that dealer.You may even want to ask for an appointment with the regional Subaru rep. for that dealer. It may make sense for him/her to be present when your car is being looked at.

From there things can go in many different directions. Here’s a few examples I’ve heard of.

A customer schedules their appointment with the dealer. The dealer confirms the issue then relays the info to Subaru. From there a decision is made whether or not Subaru the dealer will participate in the repair.

Whether they offer to help will usually be related to all of the above items I discussed. Once it’s been decided you’ll either be told no, or they will offer to fix the car. The level of participation can vary .  In some cases the whole repair will be covered by Subaru. In other cases Subaru may say no but the dealer decides to use some of their own discretionary good will fund to help you out. Most dealerships have a fund set aside just for this kind of situation. You may be offered some kind of partial help also. An example may be either a discounted price or a split between you and the dealer.

Keep in mind that if they do opt to help, they will only repair the very minimum that is necessary. If only one head gasket is failing they will only repair one. If that is the case you might inquire how much it would be to add in the second head gasket and timing belt since things will be partially apart anyway and the second gasket may fail in the future.

Smart Service will always be there to repair Subaru head gaskets and we even carry a gasket that we believe is Superior to what Subaru has to offer. If that time comes give us a call and we’ll take good care of you but if there’s a chance that you can get it done and paid for by Subaru it’s worth a little effort.

Based on our customer reports, Subaru is choosing to opt out of helping in most cases but I am writing this because there have been a few that actually did get help from Subaru. The information above is what helped them sway Subaru into partcipating.

If you were  successful for you in getting help from Subaru in an out of warranty situation, please share it with us. We’ll pass it on.


Mike Corbin

Featured post

Making Head gaskets Last on my Subaru

Subaru head gaskets are about as hot of a topic as national health care lately.  If you own a Subaru you know what I mean.

Since the 2.5 liter Subaru engine was put into production there have been thousands of head gaskets replaced across the country. We’ve done a good portion of those ourselves. In another post I’ll go into further detail about the details of Subaru head gaskets but for today I would like to offer some suggestions on how to help prolong the ones you have.

Subaru head gaskets can fail for numerous reasons. Failure of sealant, improper torque, surface imperfections in the cylinder head or engine block and of course heat or excess heat.

Click here to view our quality head gaskets

I’m going to focus on excess heat. Within the engine block the coolant is circulating to keep the engine cool due to internal combustion occurring. The coolant remains in contact with the metal and is able to absorb heat, travel to the radiator and release the heat to the atmosphere.

Two important things must occur to for the coolant to do it’s job. It must have adequate flow to move the heat away from the internal areas of the engine and it must remain in contact with the areas it’s trying to cool.

There are 3 very important items that may individually have a negative impact on the coolant’s ability to do it’s job. If all 3 components are bad or inferior,  problems could develop even sooner.

Subaru Radiator Caps OLD vs NEW

Subaru Radiator Cap

Subaru Radiator Cap

Click here to view our cooling system products

Radiator cap:

Keeps coolant in a sealed system, allows overflow to exit and return as coolant expands and contracts,  but most importantly it raises the boiling point of the coolant in the system by keeping the cooling system pressurized.  Most radiator caps for stock vehicles keep the system pressurized between 13-15psi. This can raise the boiling point depending on the mix of coolant/water an additional 35-40 degrees.  A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water has a boiling point around 265 degrees. Add to that a radiator cap that holds 13psi and now you have coolant that won’t boil until 300 degrees .

There are areas throughout the engine where the coolant circulates that become very hot. So hot that it can boil coolant. Since we must have the coolant in contact with the metal to perform it’s heat transfer duties we now have a problem. Scenario: Radiator cap is weak (which we run into all the time on Subarus). A weak radiator cap not holding pressure may not let all of the coolant get hot enough to boil but there are areas within the engine that are now boiling. Boiling coolant has air bubbles that now keep the coolant from contacting the cylinder walls and other extremely hot areas within the engine. This heat is more than the engine and gasket were designed to withstand on a regular basis and thus a situation that will accelerate the failure of the gasket.

Flow of the coolant is important also. To keep from boiling the hot coolant must be quickly moved away from the hot cylinder walls up to the radiator so it can release it’s heat. Below is a picture of a Subaru water pump and also a quality Japanese aftermarket water pump. Although we for the most part believe in genuine Subaru parts, here’s a case where genuine Subaru part’s may not  be the best choice. Note the  stamped steel vanes on the Subaru pump vs the quality cast and machined impeller on the Japanese counterpart. The tight clearances and  defined impeller vanes are very efficient at moving coolant through your Subaru engine. (an interesting side note that  older Subaru water pumps  were made nearly identical to the pump on the right).

Subaru Water Pump1

Genuine Subaru Water Pump VS Aftermarket Japanese Waterpump

Genuine Subaru Water Pump VS Aftermarket Japanese Water Pump


Another important part of keeping the hot coolant flowing out to the radiator and away from the internal hot spots in the engine is a high quality thermostat. I’ve shown below the comparison between a generic aftermarket brand on the left and a genuine Subaru thermostat on the right.


Aftermarket Thermostat VS Subaru Thermostat

Aftermarket Thermostat VS Subaru Thermostat

Note the Subaru version has a much larger spring, larger diameter central area for coolant flow and is made of steel and brass. The generic brand contains copper, a big no no with Subaru. Subaru actually states that copper in a Subaru cooling system is ill advised and may cause excessive electrolysis and corrosion.

Even after trying to be dilligent about providing the best possible cooling for your Subaru you still may need to cross the head gasket bridge some day. If you ever get to that point, Smart Service will have a solution for you. We now offer  new and improved aftermarket head gaskets which we believe will be the last ones your car will ever need. I’ll make a future post with more details about their construction.



Do I fix my Subaru or replace it with a new one…..comparison

“I told you we should have taken care of that last week!”

Often we come to a crossroads where a large expense occurs with our Subaru and the decision on whether to re-invest into the car vs replacing the car is thrust upon us. One of the first questions we ask a customer facing this dilemma is do they still enjoy the car and is it meeting all of their needs.  If the answer is yes to both questions  then it becomes a numbers comparison. Subarus, as well as other cars, are getting more and more expensive and re-investing into your current Subaru can actually make sense and save you thousands in the long run. In my cost of ownership analysis I compared a brand new entry level 2018 Subaru Impreza to a 2005 Subaru Outback. I also assumed no money down an a 0% interest 4 year loan.  After researching some numbers it’s pretty clear which scenario is more financially beneficial.  Here are my findings below:

  Cost of Ownershp over 4 Years
  Own Outright New Purchase
  2005 Subaru Outback 2018 Subaru Impreza
Purchase price incl tax/lic $0.00  no monthly pmt. $22,360 ($466 monthly pmt. 0 down 0% interest)
4yrs Lic/Reg/RTA est. $92 $0
  $88 $360
  $85 $320
  $80 $290
Insurance(no comp/coll on 05) $575 $750
  $575 $750
  $575 $750
  $575 $750
Yearly Maint/Repairs $2,000 $400
Estimated worst case $2,000 $500
on 2005 model $2,000 $800
  $2,000 $1,000
Fuel Cost $8,000 $6,000
Depriciation over 4 yrs $3,000 $11,470 
based on Edmonds.com    
Total Cost of Ownership $21,645.00 $46,500

I tried to be agressive on the expense side for the 2005 Outback but in reality it would be out of the norm for one of our customers to spend $8000 in repairs and maintenance over 4 years even if it needed head gaskets during that time.

Now I realize that not all decisions are based on financial reasons. Having a shiney new car is nice without a doubt as well as all of the new safety and technology that comes along with it. I just wanted to make sure when you make the decision to repair or replace that you have looked at the complete picture so no matter what you decide you are happy with your decision.



Mike Corbin

Smart Service

Subaru Parts Online Smartqualityparts.com is now open!

Visit SmartQualityParts.com

Smart Service has just launched our online parts store Smartqualityparts.com.  We have chosen to offer the same parts quality Subaru parts we use day in and day out on our own customers cars. Six-Star head gaskets, Tranquil Transmission sleeve kits, timing belts, etc. are among the offerings. All parts come with a 2 year unlimited mileage warranty. Check back often as we are always expanding our selection. For you head gasket DIY’ers we even have a complimentary head gasket installation guide with our head gasket kits!

We value your input so please let us know if there’s something else you’d like to see offered on the site.



Mike Corbin

Smart Service your Independent Subaru Expert



Subaru Parts for Sale


Online Store

Did you know you can buy parts for your Subaru at either of our Subaru locations or at our online store? It’s true.  We stock a wide variety of fast moving genuine Subaru parts as well as a large selection of quality aftermarket and OEM parts for your Subaru.  We have Six-Star Subaru head gasket kits as well as other Six-Star offerings. Check us out at: www.Smart-Service.com


Mike Corbin
Smart Service – Your Independent Subaru Expert

Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid Discontinued

subaru-xv-crosstrek-hybridIt was an attempt at what Subaru owners have been wanting for years but unfortunately has fallen short of the mark. For years consumers have been pushing Subaru to offer us a hybrid. Pretty much everyone else in the market had been producing hybrids for quite some time so Subaru finally had to do something. Unfortunately they really weren’t ready in my opinion but they still came out with the 2014 Crosstrek XV Hybrid. The first thing I noticed upon reading  the new 2014 brochure for the Crosstrek Hybrid was that  the 2014 Impreza non-hybrid offering actually got better fuel mileage than the hybrid Crosstrek! I was floored.  I was hoping that this was just a quick hitter to appease the Subaru entheusiasts that had to have a hybrid but unfortunately after just a couple years of production and no significant improvements Subaru has decided to discontinue the model. They were certainly very well equipped zippy little cars if you judged them strictly on the fun and comfort factor but unfortunately I think that 90% of us wanted something that would get the best fuel mileage in all Subaru had to offer.

I hope they can learn from this and come back with a better offering to top the fuel mileage list. Whether it is a hybrid or diesel, they have to know that Subaru owners want to get better mileage while reducing their total carbon footprint. Good luck Subaru!



Mike Corbin
Smart Service – Your Independent Subaru Expert


Free Subaru Headlight Replacement!

2010-2012-legacy-outback-headlampIf you own a 2010-2012 Subaru Outback or Legacy you will be pleased to hear that Subaru has just issued extended warranty coverage on the low  beam headlight bulb extending to 10 years from the date of purchase.

Many of you may have received a letter from Subaru explaining this but if not you may still be covered. The letter states that the extended coverage applies to 2010-2012 Legacy through Aug 8, 2011 production and Outback through Aug 22,2011 production date. It’s coverage extends for 10 years from the purchase date of the vehicle regardless of mileage. If your headlights are OK there is no action needed. It is not a recall. The letter also stated that if you had to pay to have one of the headlights replaced in the past, that you may qualify for reimbursement if you can provide an invoice and proof of payment. To get reimbursement for any previously installed bulbs, you must submit your information by November 17, 2016 This is a great development considering how often some of the headlights were burning out as well as how hard they are to replace compared to prior Subarus.   If you have any questions for Subaru on how to submit a claim call 1-855-384-8926 and have your vehicle VIN # ready.

Click here to discover the services our experienced and certified technicians can perform on your Subaru


Mike Corbin
Smart Service – Your Independent Subaru Expert




2008 WRX Underhood Fire Alert-Secondary Air Pump?

This is more of a public service announcement than anything but I just wanted to share a story about a customer of ours with a 2008 WRX that nearly had his car burn to the ground.

He parked his 2008 stock WRX and went into his gym to work out. A person in the gym alerted him that smoke was coming out from under his hood. He immediately went to check it and  there were flames starting to come out the hood scoop. Upon opening the hood there were flames around the secondary air pump and other items nearby. Luckily someone had an extinguisher handy and was able to stop the spread of the fire. Since we’re not trained in fire forensics, I can’t say for sure what caused the fire but from our inspection it appears that the secondary air pump (made of plastic composite) somehow caught fire and then caused subsequent items to catch fire. That’s all we know at this point. The incident has been reported to the NHTSA (safecar.gov) and we just wanted to alert other Subaru owners that  have this same secondary air pump system about what happened. It may be an isolated incident but then again we don’t know. If you have experienced the same issue, I encourage you to report it to the NHTSA.  If we hear anything further from the NHTSA we’ll update this post.


Mike Corbin
Smart Service – Your Independent Subaru Expert

Click here to discover the services our experienced and certified technicians can perform on your Subaru

Seattle, WA

IMG_0172 IMG_0162 IMG_0163 IMG_0164 IMG_0166 IMG_0168

Airbag recall for Takata now includes Subarus

airbag-check-650x400 (1)Well it seemed like Subaru owners may have dodged a bullet with this massive airbag recall by Takata but unfortunately news has just been released to add select model Subarus (and also some Saabarus) to the recall list.  Fortunately most Subarus will not be affected but if yours is, you should be receiving a letter from Subaru instructing you on how to proceed.
If you don’t get a letter you can still check for any outstanding recalls on your vehicle by visiting the safercar.gov recall page and enter your VIN number.
                                                                 Safercar.gov Recalls
Vehicles that may be included
03-04 Legacy,Baja
04 Impreza and WRX
04 Saab 92-X
From what I have read, it may be a while until replacement units are readily available.


Mike Corbin
Smart Service – Your Independent Subaru Expert

From Two time Zones away..

Hello All!

My Subie and i have made it about 2000 miles from lovely Western Washington. I have seen much along the road, and certainly met an innumerable amount of good people as i’ve strolled along.  It seems this country is full of them. Today i write to you from Elgin, a small suburb outside of Chicago. I plan to make my way into the big city this afternoon for a trip to the zoo. Perhaps even a deep dish pizza, if i make a few bucks street performing.

My glorious little car is running as strong as ever, the little four cylinder tackled  mountains of Yellowstone, and day long drives through the flatness of the west.  With any luck i’ll keep heading east and find the Atlantic ocean in the next few weeks.

This is the furthest east i’ve been, and i’ve still got a ways to go.


A side shot of Washington at Mt. Rushmore, in the lovely Black Hills of South Dakota.

A side shot of Washington at Mt. Rushmore, in the lovely Black Hills of South Dakota.









Mike Corbin
Smart Service – Your Independent Subaru Expert



Jack Johnson’s Travels

Hello there!

I’ve been on the road for a few days now, and couldn’t be happier with the state of my ‘ol reliable Subaru. Yesterday it got me through the Bitterroot National forest, and what a beautiful drive that is. If you’ve ever got an excuse to hop on US-12 towards Montana, the forest is gorgeous, and there are plenty of pull offs to stop and look at the nature.
Today i am in Missoula, and will be busking the streets near the University here to make some money for lunch. Couldn’t have gotten here without the Smart Service crew getting my Subie (and current home) ready for travel.  I’ll be updating regularly, so keep an eye out to see where i go next!



Mike Corbin
Smart Service – Your Independent Subaru Expert