Failed Six Star Head Gaskets in Seattle

Recently we ran into a customer that had failed head gaskets in his 2001 Subaru Forester. This would seem somewhat normal except the customer had them replaced 2 years ago at a local Subaru independent in Seattle.June of 2013 the car came into Smart Service with overheating problems. Our diagnostics confirmed that the head gaskets were failing and pushing exhaust gasses into the cooling system.

Upon giving the customer our diagnosis, the customer mentioned that he had them done 2 years ago at a local Seattle Subaru independent.  Since the repairing shop warranty was limited 12 month, 12000 mile warranty, the customer was technically out of warranty so he opted not to return to them, and had us do the repair.

The disappointing part for the customer is the fact he spent over $2100 for the head gaskets to be done, along with some additional misc. work, and they had already failed. His first set from the factory lasted over 100,000 miles and he was hoping for at least this or better out of the Six Stars. ( a reasonable expectation in my opinion) Now there are rare cases in which a part has a manufacture flaw or defect that doesn’t arise until well after a warranty has expired so we went into the job with an open mind that it may have just been a fluke.

We carefully disassembled the engine, paying close attention to anything that may have caused these gaskets to fail so soon. The coolant and oil was full and clean, all the heads appeared properly torqued down but, when we removed the heads we found what we believe contributed to their failure.  The head gaskets were coated with some sort of “copper coat” gasket compound.

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In the picture below you can see the faint outline of the “Six Star” symbol with copper coat spray on it. Also below that you can see a screen shot of the instructions that come with Six Star head gaskets stating NOT to coat them with anything.

Even a Six Star will fail prematurely in instructions aren’t followed

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+.

14 thoughts on “Failed Six Star Head Gaskets in Seattle

  1. Dan

    Wow! THE SAME EXACT SITUATION I AM IN! Yes, I meant to do caps. 2yrs 4months ago with only 18k miles on the Six Star Gasket mine have failed again. The local independant Subaru repair shop made a few mentions of why they like to see the vehicle after a major service with oil changes. They also mentioned the the copper sealant that was now removed from the installation instructions from Six Star but mine could have been done during the time frame when they were still using the copper sealant.

    I have to bring my car up to them for them to confirm what another independant subuar shop found. I believe them to be a good shop but it is looking more and more like they did follow a step that led to this issue. Like I said I do think they overall are a good knowledgable shop and the owner really seems to care about his customers. I hope they at the very least cover the labor involved. I have not overheated the system or done any other service to it. I just noticed now in the last two weeks my radiator fan kicking in more than it ever used to.

  2. Pingback: Six Star HG failing at 18kmiles - Advice pls. - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums

  3. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    I know who you’re talking about. We’ve seen 2 or 3 come through here with failed head gaskets and they also had the copper coat put on by a local Subaru independent. Not sure why they would have done it but it since the procedure states to put them on dry.

    I hope they help you by either re-doing them or refunding your money.

    Good luck,

  4. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    We’ve seen at least 2 or 3 come through our shop that had copper coat on them and they were in for repair again at our shop. I hope they will either do it again without the copper coat for free or at least refund your money so you can have it done properly elsewhere.

    Good luck,

  5. Pete

    I also replaced my head gaskets on a 98 forester. When I did it, there was a mechanic that recommended applying a copper coating (maybe the forum was old) but I also used a new OEM gasket. It failed after 3000-4000 miles. I took the 8 steps to tighten down the head bolts. Did it more than once on each side to make sure I did it correctly. Would over torquing them from what the service manual recommends be a bad idea? Any other advice to prevent another blown gasket?

    Just before the gasket blew the second time I noticed the oil and coolant was very low. The car heat was starting to blow cold air so I check the coolant level and oil level. I added about a quart or 2 to each. I checked the oil about 2 weeks earlier and the level was fine (I didn’t check the coolant at that point). The head gasket went about 2-3 days later.

    Thank you for your time!

  6. steve

    hey there we do 2 or 3 a year on subarus , my question is what do recommend for gaskets are 6 star really better or do napa stock ones just as good , I never coat mine and follow spec , and never had a return , and advice to a novice would be greatly appreciated

  7. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Steve,
    I’m glad to hear you have been having success with the Napa gaskets but there’s no good way to give you a comparison. All I can say is that we’ve used the Six Star gaskets since 2008 with great success.

    Take care,

    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert

  8. Tom Peterson

    I am do for the head gasket replacement on my 2010 forester. I live way south in Battle Ground, Wa.
    Can you recommend anyone to do the job down this way?
    You can send your recommendations to my email address.

  9. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    Hi Tom, the only independent I know of somewhat close to you is Superior Import in the Portland area. They are a mostly Subaru specific shop that has been around for some time and are good folks.

    Take care,

  10. Lane

    I have seen where some people use the factory torque specs with the Six Star gaskets and some use the specs supplied with the gaskets (which are different for my 2009) Which do you use/recommend?

  11. Notharry1000

    Some like Victor (Mahle) gaskets. I have had 2 VR valve cover sets spark plug tube seals fail in the cover kits.
    Both within 14 months of installation. so I dont trust them. Now have felpro. ready to install on by bent valve heads after 600 at the machine shop for bent valves because of a GMB Amazon timing kit belt failure. Want a picture?? Also what are your feelings on NPW water pumps?
    Do you trust felpro? OEM? or just 6 Star?
    Thanks for helping us do the correct thing with our Subie’s A lot of crap parts out here…

  12. Mike CorbinMike Corbin Post author

    I prefer Six Star and or Genuine for those gaskets. (Or OEM which is essentially the same depending where you buy them). I think NPW are good waterpumps as well as Aisin.
    Good luck,

    Mike Corbin
    Smart Service
    Your Independent Subaru Expert

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