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.

Cheers,

Mike Corbin

Mike Corbin

About Mike Corbin

Smart Service is a Subaru service repair and maintenance shop operated independently of Subaru of America or Fuji Heavy Industries. We are a family run business that combine high quality Subaru care, personal friendly atmosphere and a cost savings over the Subaru dealer. We have been supporting the Subaru community since 1999. Follow Mike on Google+.

527 thoughts on “Subaru Head Gasket, Will Subaru pay for repair?

  1. Dawn

    I did a lot of research before acquiring two Subaru Legacies for my family – purchased mainly because of their safety record. The 2009 Legacy is still okay. The 2010 Legacy has had the following issues in the past 12 months: air conditioner needed replacement ($1800); transmission died and had to be rebuilt ($7000) and now we are facing the coolant fluid/head gasket issue. The car has barely over 100,000 k.
    After the transmission blew last fall, I went to the highest levels of Subaru Canada for help – they gave me the brush-off b/c it was past warranty. At this point, I just want revenge …I have been driving for over 50 years, many makes of car. Never had issues like this. The Subaru brand should take a beating!

  2. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Dawn,

    I’m sorry to hear of your situation and although I don’t why that car has had so many issues and am sorry Subaru did not offer to assist in any way. We’ve seen very few 2010’s and newer with the issues you’re describing. I have seen 2 transmissions fail so far but the car had nearly 200k miles on it and it was poorly maintained.

    Anyways, take care,

    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert
    http://www.smart-service.com

    Also for Six-Star and Subaru parts online visit http://www.smartqualityparts.com

  3. Michael Garrity

    Mike, I have a 2005 outback wagon, 171,000 miles. Head gaskets are seeping slightly. I know it would be wise to replace them now but can it wait for another 5,000 miles?
    There is also an oil leak at the front, cost of replacing the front seal?
    Thanks
    Mike

  4. Donald Voss

    I have a 2011 Subaru Forester (I bought new) with 84000 miles on it. It uses excessive amounts of oil. I just purchased a brand new 2017 Subaru Impreza last week and while I was at the dealership I told about the excessive oil consumption, I was told to bring the vehicle in for an oil consumption test. I was told they would drain and replace the oil with a measured amount and I was to drive it for several thousand mile and have the oil measured again at the end of the trial period. I brought the 2011 Forester in for the test and they drained the oil and informed that there were two minor oil leaks that I would have to have fixed before they would do the test. The repair cost would be $3100.00. The showed me an oil spot near the oil filter (which is top of the engine next to oil filler spout) and claimed it was leaking at this spot. The oil was not fresh and looked like it has been there for sometime and could have resulted from changing the oil filter or from adding oil. To add insult the dealership made me pay $75.00 for the oil they drained and replaced. I am having the engine cleaned and trace dye used to determine if in fact there is a oil leak. Since what I saw did not constitute any significant oil leakage (if any at all) I want my vehicle tested and since there are countless complaints of oil leaks with these vehicle due to faulty materials used, Subaru should fix these oil leaks at their cost.

  5. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hello Michael,

    It’s great to hear that at 171k you still only have seeping head gaskets. If it is only an oil leak, as long as it isn’t creating a mess it can be monitored until it gets worse. If it is leaking coolant I would address it right away. As far as the front seal goes, that can be done on it’s own with a timing belt or in the future with the head gaskets.

    Take care,

    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert
    http://www.smart-service.com
    Also for Subaru parts visit http://www.smartqualityparts.com

  6. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Don,

    If you are not seeing any drips on the ground or on the underbody splash pan then they won’t be significant enough to cause oil use. If indeed they are only seeps, it sounds fishy. If they really wanted to help, they would just do the oil consumption test and report. Once they figure how much oil is used within a certain amount of mileage it can be determined where it’s going. If you use 1 quart every 800 miles and they say this could be from the leak, then there would most certainly be huge amounts of oil dripping off the bottom of the car and blowing back under the car. Also, if they are determining the engine is worn and it’s needint the shortblock replaced, then any other oil leaks will be fixed in the process anyway due to the nature of the repair.

    If you aren’t getting a straight answer, call 1-800-SUBARU3 and talk with their customer svc. rep. Also if you don’t get anywhere, ask to have a meeting with the local region Subaru dealer rep. I’m sure they will listen a bit more knowing you just bought another Subaru.

    Good luck,

    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert
    http://www.smart-service.com
    Also for Subaru parts visit http://www.smartqualityparts.com

  7. Donald Voss

    Mr. Mike Corbin. Thank you for response to my email regarding the alleged oil leak and hence refusal to do the oil consumption test on my 2011 Subaru Forester. I did contact Subaru regarding this matter and they refused any assistance in my complaint and referred me to page 11 of the class action settlement which instructs the dealers to perform a THROUGH visual inspection to make sure there are no external oil leaks that could be contributing to the condition. I was told the dealership found an oil leak so they will not perform the oil consumption test. What the service department showed me was an oil spot so minute it was almost unrecognizable. When I mentioned this to the Subaru person in the customer service department at the Subaru Headquarters in New Jersey, he said the dealer has a right to refuse the do the test if there is a possible oil leak, so therefore good bye. I placed a bottle of trace oil dye in the engine on 7/24/2017 and will have the engine examined by a private repair shop on 7/29/2017 to determine if there an oil leak and if so, the extent of the leak. I will let you know the results. I also informed the dealership and the Subaru person I spoke with regarding this test and I was told they would not accept the results, and as far as they are concerned the car has an oil leak and regardless how minute they re not going to do the oil consumption test.

  8. teamsterdan

    Hey; I just wanted to thank you for the advice here regarding subaru’s known head gasket issues. My mother is the owner of a 07′ forester (76,106mi) that was diagnosed with “leaking head gaskets” and was given an estimate of $2,200…….after some research that included finding this page I was able to get her $500 from SOA and got the local dealership who has serviced the vehicle since purchase to match them. I took some time and a bit of patience but it’s better than nothing.

  9. Donald Voss

    Mike. Since my last post I received a call from Subaru customer service representative (whom I have spoken to on numerous occasions) and he stated he had contacted the dealer and was told the car had an oil leak and they were not going to do the oil consumption test based on the dealer’s word. This is the same dealer who wanted to charge $3200.00 for an alleged oil leak. When I asked to speak to the local regional service representative I was told there was no such person and the person I was speaking to (Mat) was the only person I could discuss my complaint with and his decision was he was not going to authorize the test. I then told him, as I did on several other occasions, that my car was not leaking oil and that I had the engine cleaned of the old spilled oil and trace dye placed in the oil. They checked at the local garage and found no leaks. The vehicle was then taken to another Subaru dealer, checked again and they found no oil leaks. This new dealership started the oil consumption test last week. I am concerned that Subaru will some how negate the findings of this dealership.

  10. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Donald,
    I like the procedure you followed and the fact that another dealer has now taken up the consumption test is a good sign. Hopefully they will be more interested in providing good customer service and an honest opinion than the prior dealer. Also, if it comes up again about a leak, ask to be shown in person and take some photos so if you need to email Subaru any information.

    I hope it works out well,

    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert
    http://www.smart-service.com

    Parts online at http://www.smartqualityparts.com

  11. DOROTHY A PERSCHY

    I recently brought my 2005 Subaru to my Subaru dealer in Allentown, Pa. for regular maintenance.
    In the process, they found a faulty head gasket which required replacement. Including the other maintenance that was done, the total cost for repairs was quoted at plus $ 2200. In my present situation, this cost was prohibitive. I am an ardent, vocal, owner of my Subaru. It is the best car i have ever owned. I promote the Subaru brand to all of my family and friends. A few years ago, i came home from vacation in a snow storm. I had a sever allergic reaction from an insect bite and needed to go to the hospital. My Subaru traveled through nearly a foot of snow without any problems–no problems! I would never buy any other car. Your financial help in my situation was a great relief.

  12. David Sowell

    My 2009 Forester was taken in for oil change and dealer informed me that the passenger side head gasket was leaking at 74,000 miles and the repair cost was $2500. Having driven Japanese cars for 40 years, I was shocked and angry. Later, the dealer called and offered 15% off repair cost and I said I would probably trade it.

    The more I thought about it the angrier I got. So, I called Subaru at 1-800-SUBARU3 and gave them my story. I told them that I was deeply disappointed in the failure of the head gasket at 74,000 miles and that I had owned other Japanese cares that went well over 100,000 miles with no problems. Also, I added that my family had purchased 7 Subaru’s in past 7 years,

    I then asked if Subaru could offer any assistance. In about 10 days, I received an email form Subaru wherein I was advised that Subaru would contribute $1000 towards the repair. I confirmed that I would accept their offer and took the car back to the dealer. When I inquired about the 15% discount they had offered, they said they didn’t know since I had declined their initial offer. I was told that I might come out better without it since the price would come down because Subaru was involved and the price quoted to them would be lower. Don’t you just love dealers?

    In any event, I am waiting for the car to be repaired and my faith in Subaru has been restored. Not so much regarding the dealer.

  13. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    I’m pleased to hear you got help from Subaru. Wish the dealer could have been more helpful though.

    Take care,

    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    20309-B Ballinger Way NE
    Shoreline, WA 98155

  14. Corey Colvin

    I have a 2011 Subaru Legacy 2.5L PREV engine. About 4 weeks ago, I started getting an intermittent temp light. I brought it into my garage (Monroe Muffler) and had them check for leaking hoses/ etc. My coolant level was down, so that seemed obvious. No leaks were found, coolant was added and bled. About 4 days later, my heat light started flashing again. I brought it back in and they did a pressure check, no leaks. It happened again and I brought it in again. This time they suggested that the radiator cap might be loose and the coolant could be evaporating. They replaced the radiator cap. I drove about 15 miles and my engine lights all came on, my block had cracked. I was relaying this story at work today and a coworker told me that he owned two Subaru’s (Forester and an Impreza) both had the 2,5L engine and they had the same thing happen to them at 90k miles. My car had 87500 miles on it. I took exceptional care of this vehicle and changed the oil regularly. I am super bummed about this. I took your advice and called Subaru . Shamus told me he would contact the dealer and get back to me. Fingers crossed.

  15. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Corey,

    I’m sad to hear of the issue. It’s hard to tell what happened or why due to the fact that a non-Subaru shop was doing the diagnostics and I’m not ever sure how proficient those types of shops are specifically with Subarus and that is the unknown at this point. I hope Subaru steps in and helps you out because it sounds like a very nice car that deserves to get another 100,000 miles.

    Good luck and let us know how it works out.

    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert
    http://www.smart-service.com

  16. Angela

    Hi Mike,

    I owe a 2009 Subaru Outback with about 82,000 miles on it. The car was purchased by new from the Subaru dealership in Newark, Delaware. Our family liked the Subaru so much that my father went and leased a new one (with the intention to buy). I was driving the Outback without any major problems for about 2 years. All of a sudden, the head gasket needed replacing. We started doing the research and found it best to contact Subaru of America to see if they could provide financial assistance. After being turned down several times (because of a mix-up at the DMV where my title was “branded” accidentally when my father signed the title over). We were back and forth with Subaru of America for almost 2 weeks before they decided to assist us to fix it…$750 out of $4500 ( the higher is mostly “recommended repairs” that are not necessary. We told the dealer that all we wanted to replace were the water pumps, headgasket, and belts. We got an estimate back for the headgasket (and possibly new cylinder heads), radiator, power steering racks, and brake pad. We then asked the service manager at our local subaru for some financial assistance as well (like; drop the $150.00 diagnostic fee or even a coupe hundred dollars would be helpful). He denied my request for assistance even though we’ve bought 2 cars from this dealership and have recommended Subaru to at least 6 family member and friends. We are going to continue with getting the work done since Subaru of America has been nice enough to help us. I am extremely disappointed with the service manager at my local dealership for not offering something, anything, to help! We definitely won’t be buying another Subaru anytime soon and I will make sure that everyone I know hears my story.

  17. Victoria Sekula

    2011 outback 2.5. Out the blue head gasket blew. Car had 80000 miles on it. Dealer serviced since purchasing. Service advisor theory was defective head gasket. Was reading your article while husband talked to service advisor. Quote of 2800 to 3500. Said if block was damaged up to 10000. We told advisor we needed to think about it. That we were going to call Subaru and see if they would do anything. 10 minutes later got a call from Service advisor. He said wait to call was going to talk to his boss and district service head. 30 minutes later called back said if we agreed to pay $500 deductible they would fix it. Thank you for this write up. I’m sure it was one of the reason local dealership did this.

  18. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Victoria, That’s great news. I’m glad to hear every time that Subaru stands behind their product even if it has gone beyond it’s origial warranty. I think that will continue to build trust in their product.

    Take care,
    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    http://www.smart-service.com

  19. Janet

    Has anyone had this problem? 2011 Outback. Had the head gasket replaced around 90,000. Now, at 140,000, I’m told I have dropped valves. Also told that this is early for this to happen after a head gasket replacement – the heads/valves should have been inspected and replaced if necessary during the head gasket replacement. The dealer who did the head gasket said it’s been too long and too many miles, and couldn’t possibly be due to anything they did or didn’t do. But, the head gasket plus regular maintenance plus this valve problem = over $10,000 in mechanic costs in under 3 years. Is this normal for a Subaru Outback? I’m floored that Subaru won’t help at all with something that appears to either be an omission by their dealership or an outright design flaw. I used to love Subaru. 🙁

  20. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Janet, I’m sorry to hear about the valve situation. It does happen from time to time on Subarus but usually a higher mileage. (I think it’s likely that the valve guide dropped not the valve). The only thing that could have changed the situation is if the valve guides had dropped back at 90,000 miles and a repair was done then. At 90,000 miles it’s rare that we see any issues with valves or valve guides on a Subaru if it has been well maintained. During a head gasket job it is a fairly normal part of the procedure to inspect the valves and valve guides. If there is any question of their condition it is normally recommended as an additional repair at that time since everything is apart. I don’t know that this solves the dilemma on how much you are spending but hopefully it makes more sense of the situation.

    Take care,
    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert

  21. Doug Pearl

    I have a 2005 Legacy 2.51 wagon. Head gaskets were found to be failing at 75k miles and replaced by local Subaru dealer. SoA comp’d me $500. This was 4.5 yrs ago.

    Now my independent Sub shop says they see evidence that gaskets are blow again. Mileage is 105k. The car also happens to need $1500 worth of suspension repairs. The shop quoted me $4400 for all repairs. The car is not even worth that much. I am in a horrible bind. It was a fairly solid car for a while, now is a confirmed lemon. Disgusted with Subaru.

  22. carmen

    2010 Forester – 45K miles – yes 45K miles – HG leaking! Seriously?!!? Dealer will do nothing – I loved this car before now and it’s practically a new car. If they know this is an issue, why can’t they do some form of recall (I know too expensive!).

  23. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Carmen,
    I’m sorry to hear about your situation. One thing I’d like to make sure of is that you get a second opinion before moving forward. Sometimes we’ll see some oil residue around the head gaskets on the newer models but it doesn’t equate to an actual leak. My advice is to have a shop clean off the area that is thought to have a leak and then have it checked a month later. If it hasn’t returned then you’re probably fine. (although it’s always good to monitor so if it did develop into something more significant).

    If it is actually in need then I’m sorry to hear it but might I advise using Six-Star brand head gaskets if you are going to keep it long term. In our opinion they’re far better than the originals.

    Take care,
    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert

  24. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Doug,

    Before jumping to conclusions based on the independent shop’s report, I’d advise you to get a second opinion (as well as let them show you the actual leak). I’m not sure what the suspension repairs are but sometimes when shops see a weep of oil at a head, they immediately jump to selling head gaskets. In many cases it can go for many years and miles before ever needing the repair done.

    I hope this helps.

    Take care,
    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert

  25. Doug Pearl

    Hi Mike, thanks for the reply. The shop said they see signs that the coolant is contaminated by exhaust (bubbling, residue, odor), which indicates internal head gasket failure. There is no external leak. I went to the Subaru dealer and they performed a block test (aka chemical test) and it came back negative. But according to other mechanics I have spoken to, this is an outdated and dubious test. And this dealership is shady and I do not trust them.

  26. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    One way to tell more conclusively is to find a shop with an emissions analyzer (4 gas analyzer). Have them check the coolant overflow tank and radiator for presence of hydrocarbons. Ambient air in a shop may range from 0-10ppm but if it’s in the 15-20ppm range or above it will confirm the head gaskets are allowing exhaust to be pushed past the head gasket into the cooling system. If you are seeing bubbles I suspect the analyzer will show those to be hydrocarbons.

    Good luck,
    Mike

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