Category Archives: Subaru Engine

Subaru engine and head gasket related posts

Theftproof your Subaru

SPD Blotter | Seattle Police News and Events

According to the Seattle Police SPD Blotter, if you own a Subaru 2001 or older, you’re in the top 3 of the most stolen cars in Seattle.

I have a tip that could help slow down that would be thief from being able to start your Subaru. Although some of the older Subarus have became a target, with a little know how you may be able to confuse or slow down that would be thief into passing up your Subaru.

Most thieves will insert a screwdriver type device into a doorlock and just twist until it breaks open and unlocks. Once inside, they hammer out the ignition tumbler assembly and just twist the electrical portion of the ignition switch and off they go.

This tip will hopefully slow them down long enough that they’ll pass on your car and move on. It involves a simple method of disabling the ignition system. Since 1990 Subaru has used a coil pack instead of a distributor to fire the spark plugs. These coil packs can be disabled thus keeping the car from starting. It is located on the firewall toward the rear of the engine.

On a 1990-1999 Subaru model we accomplish this by disconnecting the ignitor assembly. The ignitor is responsible for triggering spark from the coil. If we disable this, the car will only crank over but it won’t start without spark.

Subaru Ignitor 1

Disconnecting the ignitor assembly is a simple process. There is a small tab that you need to squeeze down on while at the same time, wiggling the connector and pulling back on it.

Subaru Ignitor Release Tab

Removing Subaru ConnectorDisconnected Subaru Ignitor

Once the ignitor is disconnected, you may want to leave the connector partially plugged in to make it appear it’s connected just to make it less obvious.

If you own a 2000 or newer model Subaru you’ll have to disconnect the ignition coil pack itself.  It’s located on the top/center of the engine. It has the 4 spark plug wires connected to it as well as the connector that has the signal wires that tell it when to fire.

You’ll be disconnecting that connector as seen below:

Subaru Ignition CoilDisconnecting Subaru Ignition Coil









Hopefully you’ll never have your Subaru stolen but at least you have some good ammo to help prevent or at least slow that would be Subaru thief. Remember, criminals are lazy. If you make something more difficult for them, it’s likely they’ll move onto another car instead of risk being caught trying to figure out why the your Subaru won’t start.

Good luck and just remember to plug everything back in before you drive away!

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


Mike Corbin
Smart Service – Your Independent Subaru Expert

Subaru Fuel Smell when Cold

This is just a follow up to a prior post about a strong fuel smell on the very cold mornings after the car has sat overnignt.

As the cars age and fuel lines age, we’re hearing this complaint more frequently. In most cases it can be traced back to fuel line connections under the hood.

The fuel lines loose their resiliency when they age as well as the very cold weather causes them to shrink thus sometimes causing them to leak where they are connected to the fuel rails. In some cases it’s found with a mirror and a flashlight. You may not actually see the wet fuel but usually you’ll see some staining on the underside of the hose. Replacement of the hose with new is optimum but in many cases just tightening of the clamp will solve the problem.

If you have an early WRX there was a recall may apply to this particular issue and it could be done at the dealer free of charge if your model is within the recall range. You simply have to call the dealer with your VIN number to see if it falls under the recall.

We hope this information helps some of you out there solve this problem.


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

Fuel Smell Alert! on Cold Days-Subaru Models

If you’ve noticed that since the weather has become colder you are getting an obvious raw fuel smell coming through the vents of your Subaru you’re not alone.  SUBARU RECALL NO. WVK-21 for 2002-2003 Subaru WRX Models resolves a fuel leak from the fuel line under the intake manifold during cold weather condition. The fuel leaks out onto the top of the engine block from the fuel line creating a possible fire hazard.  If you have one of these models and have experienced this symptom, call you local dealer with your V.I.N. so they can check if the recall applies. If so, they can repair it free of charge. You should mention that you are experiencing the fuel smell symptom during your inquiry.

Other Subaru models are affected too. We’ve seen similar issues of fuel leaking from fuel lines under the intake manifold during cold conditions on numerous other Subaru models including the Outback and Forester. There is no current recall or service bulletin at this time that I’m aware of. If you experience this symptom. Bring it to your local Subaru specialist to diagnose and repair the issue right away.


Mike Corbin

Independent Subaru Expert

If you ever experience this symptom have it checked as soon as possible. We’ve seen some that just seep a drop or two but we’ve also seen a couple that were actually pooling fuel on top of the engine.

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

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.

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.