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.

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+.

231 thoughts on “Which head gasket is best for a Subaru?

  1. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Kathy,

    I don’t know if never replacing the radiator cap caused the issue although it certainly could have contributed. What it sounds like is the Head gaskets have failed. For a Subaru to go 164k plus and now be needing head gaskets not a good thing but certainly not completely out of the ordinary either. If it is the head gaskets, with the mileage you have you’re probably looking at a $3500-4500 repair depending on the wear and tear in the timing chain area of the engine, valves etc. The question of whether or not it needs fixing depends on your angle. The dealer obviously wants you to trade it in for a new car. Unfortunately they don’t make Tribecas any longer so if you like it you may want to fix it anyway. They do hold their value very well and once the repair is done, you should be able to get far more back out of it than you put into it assuming the rest of the car is in good shape.

    Get a written estimate from them before proceeding. That will help with your decision.

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

  2. Marcia

    Hi, I was looking at buying a 2015 outback but my mechanic said Subarus tend to have major engine issues, most prominently the headgasket problem. The dealership says headgasket problem was resolved after 2009. What’s your experience with Outbacks after 2009? Does it seem the headgasket issue has been addressed?
    Also, I read a couple of posts elsewhere that suggested buying a 6-cylinder should avoid the problem — is that true, and why is that?
    Thanks for any help you can give.
    Marcia

  3. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Marcia,
    Although the 2010 and newer models don’t have high enough miles on them to really be sure, we have yet to see one in either of our shops with any head gasket problems or any other major problems nonetheless. I do agree that on the cars that were having head gasket problems, the 6 cylinder seemed to hold up quite a lot longer than it’s 4 cylinder counterpart.

    I hope this helps,

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

  4. Marcia

    Thanks, Mike, this is very helpful. I appreciate this thread and your willingness to respond to inquiries. One more question: do you know what changes Subaru made to the engine in 2009 that might have helped address the headgasket problem?
    Thanks!

  5. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Marcia, there is no information or documentation that I have found that specifically states any design change that was made to improve the head gasket life.

    Mike

  6. Kayla Davis

    Hi I’m looking on different website’s to see what the problem with my Subaru outback 2010 could be. I’ve taken it to the dealership (no help) I’ve gotten my radiator and thermostat replaced and my car is still over heating. My gauge isn’t reading over 6 in the red the red coolant light is coming on. Coolant is flowing over into the reservoir and blocking up. For a while I could drive with the AC on and my car not over heat now it over heats regardless. One other thing I can leave it parked for days and then drive it for a few days before it starts acting up again.. I don’t know if there’s just a block somewhere or does this sound like a head gasket problem? Thank you for your time!

  7. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Kayla, It does sound like there’s a strong possibility of a head gasket. I would suggest having them test the radiator and overflow bottle with an exhaust gas analyzer for Hydrocarbons (exhaust).

    Take care and I hope they get to the bottom of it.

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

  8. C johnston

    Hi there,

    I have a 2007 Subaru forester with a leak on head gasket. I am told I need a new engine. Since this problem seems to be known, can Subaru do anything about it? Do you know of any recalls? Is it possible to change only the gaskets without changing the engine entirely? Thank you. FYI : 243,000 km on it.

  9. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hello,

    You are correct in stating it’s a known problem. Unfortunately with your km on the car I doubt you’ll get any help out of Subaru. It never hurts to ask though.

    Good luck

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

  10. Peter

    Hi Mike,
    I appreciate that you have been shared your wisdom with us mortals 🙂

    If you have minute I have a question for you. I’ve got a 2002 Forester with a classical blow head gasket. I had the engine out so I’m looking at it closely. I haven’t checked the heads ( I have another set to put back on it) but it’s the block that’s got me tangled up. I see that where the head gasket was blown, where it pressed against the block at the cylinder wall the surface is about .010 low. Just inside of that the aluminum is bulged up about .008 above flat. ( it seems it got hot and the aluminum got plastic and moved over from under the head gasket. It even pushed into the cylinder about .005 . At first I thought it was a ring ridge, but it seems the steel cylinder liner stops just above the top ring and between it and the top of the block is aluminum. One more thing. I shaved the “ring ridge bulge” off so I could pull the piston without breaking the rings or piston itself. As I was messing with it, I noticed that if I push in on the top surface of the block (right where it’s bulged up) I see a tiny bit of oil press out of a crack between the end of the cast in steel sleeve and that aluminum that is between it and the head gasket sealing surface. The issue isn’t the oil, it’s the fact that there is a crack there and it opens and closes a bit when I push on it. Before I saw this I was going to have the low area Heliarced and then cut it back down flat to be level with the rest of the block (rather than cut off .010 across the whole surface. I’m worried since I can see this area moving. Have you ever seen this before? I guess I’m going to go see my welder and see what he has to say. If he can re-flow the whole surface while building it up, it ought to be OK. When I pulled the piston I found the oil ring totally caked, so I guess I’ll re-ring it while I’m in there. If you have any thoughts on this I’d appreciate hearing them.

    Peter

  11. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Peter, From what you are describing on the block, I would not recommend reusing it. If it has become so hot to move metal, it may have other issues related to overall tensile strength. I would recommend getting a new/reman block from Subaru or at least a used block and rebuilding it yourself. On the blocks that have severly overheated, I’ve seen complications of case threads pulling out, head bolt threads pulling out etc.

    I hope this helps in your decision process.
    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert
    http://www.smart-service.com

  12. Ellie

    Mike, while going over my 2004 Subaru Imprezza Outback Sport during yearly inspection the mechanic mentioned my head gasket was beginning to fail as it was “wet”? He then added 2 qts. of coolant and told me to keep an eye on the temp. gauge. My car has 30,500 miles on it, is only driven locally, and has never overheated. Can you give me info on the best gasket (and part #) to have him use on my car? Are there any possible “hidden” problems I should be aware of related to having the gasket replaced?
    Any tips/comments you could provide would be welcome. Thank you.

  13. john henderson

    I have a 1996 outback. It’s got 243,960 miles on it. I had the head gaskets changed at about 120,000. Now it seems to need new gaskets again. Is there a certain type or brand you use. I want to use the best for the vehicle, it is a very good vehicle as you know..thank you.

  14. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Ellie, I’m sorry to hear about your head gasket leak. Sometimes we see that even the low mileage cars develop the same leak over time. I would suggest rechecking the coolant and the head gasket leak in a week or two just to see how severe the leak is. If the coolant level is still the same and there is no major sign of antifreeze in the head gasket area it may still be minor at this time. If not the gaskets we like the most are Six-Star head gaskets. They may be available locally for you or if not you can find them at our online store

    http://www.smart-service.com/12-products

    As far as hidden problems, we don’t see any.

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

  15. Bo

    I need to replace the head gaskets on my 98′ Suburu Forrester S.. How do i find out what phase my engine is? Also, can I do the repair without pulling the engine?

  16. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Your engine is a Phase 1 2.5 liter if it is original to the car. It will have spark plug holes going in horizontally from the side. (A phase II will have them going in at about a 45 degree angle from the top.

    Good luck and yes you can do the repair without pulling the engine but it’s very difficult. We advise just removing the engine.

    Good luck,

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

  17. Walter Stanley

    Mike, I have a 2010 Forester that was a fleet vehicle before I purchased it. I maintained it well as the fleet vehicle so was very happy to purchase the car, knowing it’s service record. Now I’m having, what a mechanic told me, is a head gasket leak. Small amount of oil found in the driveway, and a sweet smell from the exhaust once the engine warms up. Been reading your blogs and all about head gasket replacement and wondering if we need to bring it in for diagnosis, cost of replacement, is it worthy of replacing versus just selling the car as is, etc. Someone told my son it’s a $2500 job to replace the gasket. Any suggestions before we give you a call for an appointment?

  18. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Walter, If it really is head gaskets leaking, I don’t have any helpful suggestions other than getting it repaired. If the car is in overall good conditions you’d still be getting your money’s worth out of it due to it’s relatively strong blue book value. Your son is right that to have it done correctly is in the $2500-2600 range. Before you jump to conclusions though I think it would be good to drop in for a free second opinion. I have seen some oil leaks that get on exhaust that aren’t predominantly head gaskets and the sweet smell is sometimes also caused by slinging axle grease instead of anti freeze. Not to say yours won’t need them repaired but it’s worth seeing exactly what we’re up against. Give us a call to set something up and we can take it from there or if you’d just like to discuss it in further detail before taking any action. 206-417-0880

    Take care,
    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert

  19. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi John,

    I believe very strongly in the Six Star gaskets and would use them above any other current offerings out there. They should be installed clean and dry without any coating on the engine surfaces or gasket.

    Good luck,

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

  20. Les Leno

    We just purchased a wrecked ’99 Legacy Outback with a 2.5L DOHC for the purpose of using the engine as a replacement for a blown engine in a’97 Outback. The car shows 131,000 miles but we have no idea if this is accurate. In running a compression test on the 2.5 we found the following: 210, 210, 205 and 180. Could the higher numbers (except the 180) suggest heads from 2.2L? And what is the most likely reason for the 180 reading? What would you suggest we do to the engine to make it reliable while we have it out?

  21. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Les,

    It’s hard to tell what the compression means but I think it’s unlikely that it’s due to different heads. Higher readings can occur when carbon builds up over time. It can also be that the gauge itself is not 100% accurate. It’s more important that they are all even whatever their reading. The one that is only at 180 should be a concern. It could have some compression being lost past the valves or rings. The next step is to perform a leakdown test dry, then wet to see where the compression is being lost.

    Good luck,

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

  22. Edward Rush

    I have a 2010 Outback, and a 2013 Legacy. I started having problems with overheating, and it left my family and I stranded on the side of I-77 in South Carolina about 125 miles from home on a 95 degree day. Had the regular maintenance done with timing belt, hoses and thermostat as they could not find why the stupid thing broke down. Now, it started all over and come to find out, it was my head gasket. The awful smell of coolant, and the over flowing of coolant in my reservoir leaves me waiting for the fix to get it back. So, my comment is….the commercials about being dependable are completely bogus. Luckily I was with my Wife and children when this thing broke down. I no longer trust the brand as this is a continued issue with them. I am getting this thing fixed and getting rid of all of my Subarus. However, I do have a question about the gasket replacement. Should I make them use a MultiLayered gasket indicated in this post. I believe Subaru maintenance team wants to use the recommended part. But I don’t to sell this car to a family with the possibly of it breaking down them in the future. Anyway, I am just done with the Brand. My romance with this vehicle is over with.

  23. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Edward, I’m very sorry to hear about your experience. We’ve seen far fewer issues than ever before on the 2010 and newer model Subarus. I’m sorry to hear that wasn’t the case in your situation. Based on the fact that the head gaskets on the newer Subarus have been holding up better, I would advise using the genuine Subaru head gaskets.

    Take care,

    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert
    Shoreline, WA 98155
    http://www.smart-service.com

  24. Pingback: ('03-'05) Forester losing quart week after Head Gaskets job? - Subaru Forester Owners Forum

  25. boris

    Hi. I’m having head gasket issues on my ’99 legacy ej20 b5. I’ve purchased the fuji industries subi kit but wondering if there’s a better option so I can discuss with my mech..? Thanx

  26. Anders Lind

    Hi,
    does this DOHC head gasket also work fine in a wrx sti 2008?
    I have had Cosworth head gaskets for a while, but now, I get a bubble every 2 seconds at idle in my reservoir, and when I rev and boost the reservoire is flooding over.
    Do you rather think I have a crack in a block or head?

    I´m thinking of close-deckin my heads, do you think that would help me getting rid of this plague?

    Thanks
    Anders

  27. Debbie

    Hi Mike,
    I have a 2008 Subaru Legacy PZEV 2.5. I am the second owner. The car only has 48,750 miles on. I had it serviced recently and the dealer stated that the headgaskets were leaking. I find it hard to believe that I need to have headgaskets on a car that has less than 50,000 miles.What are your thoughts about this issue?
    Debbie

  28. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Dabbie,

    My thoughts are this: The first thing to do is get a second opinion and ask if you can see it for yourself. In many cases a slight oil leak develops at the head gaskets and some shops will agressively oversell this issue even though it poses no threat to the reliability of the car. Eventually if it is only an oil leak it may get messy enough that it causes burned oil smells and you finally need to take care of it due to that reason. Now on the other hand if they are leaking coolant, I advise getting them done asap. The oil leak won’t do much harm other than the mess but a coolant leak can lead to overheating and serious engine damage.

    I hope this helps,

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

    Also, buy parts for your Subaru online at http://www.smartqualityparts.com

  29. Chris Wahl

    FYI. I have a 2011 outback with 104k miles and it needs new head gasket. About $3800 includes timing belt. So, no, they did not fix the later models. At least up through 2011. Looking for the right gasket to replace the new OEM version. I’m retiring and I’d like to get another 200k out of it.
    Thanks.
    Chris

  30. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Chris,

    Hi Chris,
    Before doing the work you may want to get a second opinion. If it is just a small amount of oil residue, it may not need any attention. We’re seeing an increase of Subaru head gaskets being agressively oversold because of their prior reputation. Be cautious any time some recommends head gaskets on your Subaru. First and foremost you need them to qualify the leaks. Is it from the left side, right side both? Is it oil? Is it colant? Was the coolant or oil low?

    If it is only a minor oil seep or leak I would clean it off, monitor it for the next few months and if it does not come back, just continue to monitor it. If there is visible coolant coming out of either side then I would take action. Also if it is a heavy oil leak, then it would be a good time to do it with the timing belt.

    I appreciate you wanting to get another 200k out of it and with a proper maintenance schedule should be possible. I would recommend using Six-Star head gaskets if possible if you actually need to do the work.

    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

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