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.

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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

528 Comments

  1. Nancy Knuckles
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi there,
    So i was given a forester by my mother and it has under 100,00 mile on it and i have been told that i need new gaskets on the passenger side of the car since i know that there are two heads in the type of car. I had a quote of 1900 to get that done might you be cheaper. my car is not using any oil but i can every once in a while smell some burning after i driven the car. Thank you for your time. Nancy Knuckles

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Nancy,

      $1900 is a reasonable quote depending how much is being done and what kind of parts are being used. Our price on that job ranges from a bare minimum of $1599 all the way to $2600 if you add all the bells and whistles during the job.

      Mike

  2. Karen Schwartz
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    My 2004 Subaru outback with only 46K miles went in for a diagnostic (they offer to check everything for you), and the result was a head gasket problem that would cost roughly $3000. I called the service manager and told him this was outrageous in a car with only 46,000 miles. He looked in his system and saw that: I had purchased this car and two others from his dealership; I had performed all the scheduled maintenance religiously, including the 45,000 service within the past 6 months; I had also purchased the extended warranty, which was expired by time but not by mileage. He said he would “help me” and did. Subaru covered 100% of the repair cost. He also got me a free loaner car.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I’m glad to hear your situation had a happy ending! It was smart to point out your relationship and history to the dealership. It’s too bad that that what it takes to get something done on something we all probably agree is happening too soon and too often.

      Good job!
      Mike Corbin

  3. Claudio Barrientos
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hey Mike,

    You site is VERY helpful. Thank you for this great service.

    On the market for a used Subie and while doing my research, the head gasket problem is something that keeps coming up. First of all, I am looking to buy a used Subie (Outback or Forrester) for $5K, which puts me right in that sweet spot for the head gasket problems on most subies I’ve been checking out (100K – 150K).

    A couple of questions:

    1) Approx how frequent is this HG prob in the 2.5L engines? 5 out of 10 cars? less? Happy w/ a guestimate.

    2) Are there any steps I can take PRIOR to purchasing my used Subie? Besides taking it to a mechanic of course…

    3) 2000-2004 Impreza’s will have the same prob? correct?

    THANK YOU in advance

    -Claudio

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Claudio, Here’s a few answers to help you in your quest to find a Subaru to fit your needs.

      1. Depending on how old the Subaru is you are purchasing, if it has never had head gaskets replaced yet, I would budget for it in your future. The best situation is if you can buy a Subaru that’s had them done already. With the phase 1 and phase 2 2.5 L. engines and the changes we’ve seen in the Subaru headgasket over the years it’s hard to even make a guestimate on what the failure rate is.

      2. Get a carfax first. If that is clean, have it checked out at a mechanic, have him look visibly very closely at the head gaskets and the coolant level. Also have the cooling system checked for the presence of hydrocarbons (exhaust getting into the coolant from failing headgaskets). Last but not least, call the local dealer with the VIN # and ask if there are any outstanding recalls or campaigns on that particular Subaru.

      3. We do head gasket replacements on 2000-2004 Imprezas as well (with the exception of the WRX). The 2.0 turbo motor is appearing to have a much less frequent failure rate than the non-turbo Subaru engine based on the cars we’ve had come through our shop.

      Take care,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  4. Greg
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for answering these questions. I recently bought an ’06 Legacy, and love it. But the last few days I’ve noticed that the engine has been running hot (thought the temperature gauge says cool) and I’ve smelt burning coming from the engine. Yesterday, the CEL came on. I checked the engine, and the coolant level was very low, so I replenished it. But reading the commments above, I’m now worried it might be a HG issue. Do these sound like symptoms for the HG issue? I plan to bring it to your shop in a few days to get the CEL diagnosed.

    Thanks,

    Greg

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I would be surprised if it were actually a head gasket issue on a Subaru that new, but the evidince should be obvious once we diagnose it. My concern is finding out why the coolant was low. Did a prior owner not properly top up the radiator? Subarus are a but finicky burping out the coolant during a coolant change and that could explain it. There are other possibilities too which all involve diagnosing why it became low on coolant.

      See you soon at the shop,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  5. Larry Ellis
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Just ran across this website trying to get some info on Subaru service. My daughter and I bought her a used 2009 Legacy with a 2.5L GT LTD engine, with 26,000 miles. First, after a couple of months, it started running badly and we took it in. First time, they said nothing, the oil had been changed it was smoke from spillage. Kept running funny. Took it in again. Told us it was the oil sending valve. They fixed, and on the way home ti started smoking again. Took it right back. This time, after a week, we were told it was the turbo and it would have to be replaced, but was under original factory warranty. They took about 2 weeks but fixed it, gave us a loaner in the meantime, and it ran well for a couple of months.
    Recently, it lost power when she was driving and stopped running. NO warning lights, no smoke, no pinging, no noise, just stopped. When she tried to start it, it sounded like a jackhammer. Towed to a dealership and the service guy told us that a rod had been thrown. They made us dig up all the receipts we had for oil changes. We could find the last four, including one done just 3 weeks prior, but could not account for a period of about 10-12,000 miles. Daughter said she paid cash, and in one case they didn’t ask her name at the Subaru dealership, just did the oil change, in and out.
    The service manager contacted SOA for warranty (we had 60,000 and extended warranty, and Gold Plus coverage). They denied liability based on no maintenance records from 26,000 to 40,000. Daughter is trying to get those from the places she had the oil changed, but being young and naive, she paid cash and doesn’t have receipts.

    I saw that this exact engine, 2.5 L Turbo – had a stop sale in 2008 and 2009, and have had several friends tell me of cases of getting new engines when they heard a noise. Looking it up on the internet, my daughter’s car’s VIN is JUST after the stop range.

    What should I do next? We are trying to get the other records. I believe my daughter when she says she went in every 4-5000 for an oil change, although not always at a dealership. I don’t believe for one second that this was caused by lack of maintenance or anything else – I beleive this is the same probloem I have been reading about with 2008 and early 2009 engines.

    One service manager (where we bought the car) suggested calling the regional Subaru service manager first. I have not been able since then to get the number. I have tried calling SOA 3 times, and all 3 times on hold for over an hour.

    Do you have some advice?

    Frustrated father, Larry Ellis

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Larry,
      I sympathize with your dilemma on your daughters Subaru. I know how difficult it can be to straighten out a situation when you’re not in the middle of it.

      The first part of the question I’d like to address is the failure of the turbo. I have seen the 2005 and newer Subaru Legacy GT’s develop an issue in the oil supply line to the turbocharger and AVCS (active valve control system). Due to oil sludge buildup in the fine mesh of the screen, the oil supply to the turbo is restricted thus causing the turbo bearing to fail from lack of lubrication. In my experience, most of these turbo failures result in the metal particles of the bearing circulating throughout the engine. These screens seem to plug up more frequently on vehicles have had their oil changed less often than manufacturer recommends. I’m sure other items contribute also but in most the cases we’ve seen the oil change frequency was much less than what Subaru recommends (3750 miles or 3.7months-whichever comes first).

      Once the turbo bearing fails and metalic particles are circulated through out the engine, (evident when draining the oil of a Subaru whose turbo has failed) there is a possibility that metal causes subsequent damage to the engine bearings, cam bearings and or oil pump. Also, if the oil was not changed as often as required or allowed to be driven with a low oil level, internal engine damage can occur.

      I’ve seen situations during a turbo replacement that resulted in metal in the oil that the customer opts to take their chances and just install the new turbo, change the oil and hope for the best. For some cars this has worked fine but others were back within weeks with lower engine bearing knocking as the rod bearings had worn excessively.

      Were you advised to change the engine oil and clean out the turbo oil supply lines,screens etc when they first repaired the turbo? What was the condition of the oil? This might be a point to bring up in your discussions. Calling 1-800-Subaru3 is the best way to get things accomplished even if you are put on hold.

      If you can find your records that would be greatly to your benefit. I recommend your daughter goes to each business she had the oil changed and request the record. Even if a person pays cash for an oil change but lost their receipt, the business should still have the record on file and can usually find it by just entering the license plate in their system. From there they can reprint you receipt of the service. Even hand written work orders are made in triplicate and saved for the companies records.

      Subaru as well as other manufacturers don’t have the same ability to good will repairs in todays economic climate and are very specific on their requirements in order to provide repairs under warranty. They will stand behind their vehicles 100% but they expect a Subaru owner closely follows the service intervals recommended in the owners manual.

      I hope this helps you out Larry. If you have any other concerns or questions, please call me at 206-417-0880.

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  6. A Hay
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2001 Subaru Legacy with a leaky head gasket (oil leakage, aroma of burnt oil, slightly less power when driving, etc). Because of the high cost of HG replacement ($3,000), I have decided to do it myself. I have some mechanic experience, evening classes, etc. I have replaced a gasket on a honda (didn’t need to take out engine, because HG on top). I have the service manual for my 2001 Subaru Legacy and have been studying it. I also youtube for subaru engine swap. Any suggestions for other resources on I have should best prepare myself for this job. This is my third Subaru I have owned. Signed, a heart broken Subaru, that is seeking desperate means to keep my beloved Subaru. Thanks.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      If you don’t have the genuine Subaru manual, I’d consider purchasing an individual subscription to Alldata.com.

      This will give you step by step procedures, torquing sequence etc. If you have the genuine Subaru shop manual then just use it and follow it to the letter.

      Take your time and stay very organized. Pre-read the procedure fully before starting.

      Good luck,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  7. Debbie
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike;
    I have a couple of questions.
    I bought a 2001 subaru Legacy L last year, with 98k miles, now it has 106K. Shortly after I bought it the CEL came on P420 code. Over the year I had o2 sensors checked, they said normal range, Cat converter checked, no rattling, mechanic said do not replace, just put seafoam product in engine to blow out gunk. I did not have him do it as he had trouble putting the air filter back on. yikes ;(. It is still on intermittley, well mostly on. What do I do?
    Now I have a bigger problem, the engine overheated, and the verdict is head gasket, because there is exhaust in the antifreeze. Estimates are $1500-$1600.00, ouch. I called Subaru3, they said to take it to dealer for diagonstic check. then call back. I will have it towed there as it heats up in just a few miles. The dealer said the recall is only for external leaks, and mine is internal. In my opinion a bad head gasket is a bad head gasket, internal or external. Is a dealer the best option or another mechanic that is a subaru specialist. I do not want to get ripped off. Is this going to be a money pit? I switched from Toyota to subaru, and with these expensive problems, not impressed.
    Thanks,
    Debbie

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Per our discusson over the phone about your Subaru head gaskets, please let me how it works out in the end Debbie.

      Thanks,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  8. Debbie
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike;

    SOA came thru, and covered $500.00 of the bill because it was an external as well as an internal leak. He checked the timing belt as well as water pump and did not need replacing as they looked new. So I hope this will be the end of major repairs for my car. Well, except for the CEL p0420 code.:( Any suggestions on that?
    Thanks Mike,
    Debbie

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Glad to hear you got some help Debbie! On your PO420 code… I’d suggest having your your catalytic converter tested with a Subaru select monitor scan tool (actually monitor the oxygen sensors) to see if the cat is truley worn out. It would not be out of the question for the catalytic converter to be showing signs of age by now.

      Cheers,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  9. A Benz
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    2006 Subaru Outback rough idle and stalling

    have a 2006 subaru outback2.5L XT that idles rough pretty much all the time and the rpm gauge fluctuates at stop lights. The car also stalls at low speeds and almost always about 1/2 a mile from my house when the engine is cool and seems to not do it as much when the engine is warm. No mechanic can figure out what it is yet. Gas mileage is getting bad, check engine light is on. One mechanic thought it was the fuel injector, then an engine coil (although diagnostic does not point here). Now they think it is a head gasket. Any help?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Did the check engine light coincide with the problem? A bit more info on what the diagnostic code was for the check engine light may help me understand the problem a little better. Your Subaru has AVCS or Active Valve Control System which can become stuck if the oil is cold and sludgey. It’s common on turbo equiped Subarus of your model year when the oil system has been neglected. It’s not as common on a well maintained Subaru but can still happen.

      Send me more info on the check engine light when you can.

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Serivice
      Independent Subaru Expert

  10. J P
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2004 Outback that I purchased used in 2005. Last winter I had the oil changed and they accidentally drained the transmission fluid. Since then the oil temp sensor light has flashed on periodically. This summer I used it to tow a trailer that was on the upper end of the max recommended weight. It was a very hot day and I had to keep my speed under 55 mph to keep the engine temp down.

    Recently I have been going through coolant at an alarming rate. My local repair guy put the car on a lift and said the leaks are at the water pump and head gasket. He wants to replace both for $2500. He did not pull the head gasket or water pump out to look at them. Instead he is assuming they need to be replaced based on where he saw leaking coolant.

    The car now has 100k miles on it and I am trying to decide whether or not to go ahead and do the repairs or trade it in. If I can’t afford to fix both at once, can the water pump wait?

    I thought they had fixed the head gasket issues in the 2004 models?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi JP
      Well, if you’ve kept the car well maintained I’d probably opt to repair the head gaskets and waterpump at the same time since there is overlapping labor. The quote seems reasonable. They don’t necessisarily need to remove the water pump or head gaskets to confirm that they are leaking. If there is visible coolant leaking externally from either that is enough to go on.

      As far as the transmission goes… One would need to see if the AT temp light is storing a fault code or actually getting hot. The AT Temp light is to alert you about temperature of ATF but also serves as the “check engine light” for the transmission and usually has a fault code associated with it.

      Good luck,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  11. Jessica
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have at 2002 impreza with 103,000 miles. I love this car and have kept her well maintained. Just today I was told that I need to replace my head gaskets as they are starting to leak and it will cost about $1100. I just had her serviced at 100,000 miles (and at a cost of $1500 -new struts) and the gasket issue was not noticed. While looking back at my service records I noticed that at 59000 miles I had the head gasket replaced. This seems strange to me to have to do the same major (and pricy) repair again on a well maintained car. I bought this car brand new and am the only driver. Any advice?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Well, if you like the car you are going to have to fix it. Not necessarily right away though. You want to ask the shop,” How bad are they leaking?” and “What type of fluid is leaking”

      If they are only leaking oil, you may not need to do anything for quite some time. It’s when they find a coolant leak that immediate action has to be taken. Just beware that some shops may be a bit overly agressive in recommending gaskets due to the public knowledge of the Subaru head gasket issue. When in doubt, get a second opinion or even have them raise it up in the air so you can see for yourself.

      Take care,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle
      206-417-0880

  12. caspar dioge
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    hi Mike:

    appreciate your website … having head gasket issues on a 2002 outback with 66K. Anti-freeze coming out of the back of the drivers side cylinder head …

    This is a well cared for, well serviced car that’s been in my family its entire life … Its painful to think that this known factory defect has to be fought over.

    Are there any magic words to use with the Subaru Service Person to get them to do a fix on it?

    Thanks

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I think you included the magic words in your post. I think showing a history of the service records, along with the low mileage would be a great start. Hopefully you had the Subaru coolant conditioner recall done also.

      Last but not least, don’t be afraid to call 1-800-SUBARU3 and see what kind of help you can get directly from the manufacturer.

      Good luck,

      Mike

  13. Linda Jean Cameron
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I bought new my 2002 Outback. All the maintenace has been done by authorized Subaru dealerships. I keep strict records and I change oil every 3K miles. I put about 8K miles a year on the car. At 50K miles, in 2006, the Left head gasket was leaking and the engine was over-heating.

    I never received the W-99 recall notice covering the LHG. Subaru paid for the repair under warranty recall.

    Then in July 2010 at 80K, during a routine oil change, it was noted the LHG was leaking (that is 30K since the fix).

    The garage was hesitant to help as I was over the 60K miles the warranty. All my extended family own Subaru’s,

    I wanted to talk with the district rep. The serive manager said he would. It was also documented in all services that the lubricant was added to the coolant.

    The agreement was Subaru would cover the LHG again, and I paid the additional cost for the RHG. On the bill it states the repair covered as a goodwill gesture as per Subaru District Service Manager.

    I also had the timing belt and 90K service done at the same time.

    Now I wonder how long the “fix” will last.

  14. Radiohound
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    hello mike: I took your advice, made nice with the dealer and they replaced the head gasket on both sides of my 2002 outback. I asked them to put in a new timing belt even though the car only has 67,000 miles on it. They charged me $200 for everything.

    150 miles later, I was driving on the expressway, when I heared a slight clicking sound which sounded like a lifter ..and then it went to a loud clacking ..the car began slowing and I pulled over as soon as I could get out of the traffic. The engine did not overheat or the CEL did not come on,

    I shut the engine down and it would not re-start for a couple of hours .. it turned over slowly but it would not fire… 3 hours later, when it ws towed to the dealers lot, I then was able to start it briefly and it clacked away like crazy. Sounds to me like a rod bearing or two is going.

    The question: who is on the hook for this? Could something the dealer did on the top end cause these kind of problems or am I on the hook with a lunched engine?

    thanks
    frank

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I think the fact that it happened within 150 miles could mean it has something to do with the repair. Hopefully if they are honest, they will assess the damage and look for anything they could have done to cause it. (not enough oil, oil loss etc). It does sound like a rod type of failure at this point and although not a common failure on Subarus there is still a slight chance it did fail on it’s own.

      I hope the dealer gives you the cause of failure.

      good luck,
      Mike

  15. Shelly
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have A 2006 B9 Tribeca with 104,000.00. At the 100,000 mile service my mechanic found a “clean” spark plug, low coolant and diagnosed a bad head gasket. They didn’t do the whole 100,000 mile service as part of it was easier to do with the engine disassembled. It was all fixed, but now I am still smelling that sweet syrupy smell again. Heater is not working correctly and car is overheating again. Cooland was almost empty. Oh my! This is so discouraging after all the trust I have had in my Subaru. I have had all scheduled maintenance and oil changes done. Very expensive with gas prices and bad economy. Have you heard of other Tribecas with this problem?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Shelly,

      I’m sorry to hear of your Tribeca problem. We rarely if ever deal with failing Tribeca head gaskets. Hopefully whoever did them last used genuine Subaru head gaskets on that particular model and did them with attention to detail. I also hoped they closely inspected the cylinder heads for any imperfections that would necessitate machining.

      The heater isn’t working because there is no coolant circulating through it. Once the head gasket issue is resolved it will work again.

      Good luck, Mike

  16. Alex
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I’m going to go look at a 1998 Legacy Outback 2.5 with 123,000 miles. If i check the carfax and see that the HG has been replaced would you recommend purchasing it?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      It would certainly be one I would consider strongly over one that has never had the head gaskets done. It really depends on who did the head gasket work and what kind of quality gasket they used in the process. I would also suggest having the vehicle thoroughly inspected by a professional before making the purchase.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle

  17. Andy
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I own a 2003 Subabru Outback limited. Great car but at 65,000 miles and never having had the head gaskets replaced, should I worry that that car is a time bomb? How likely is this and if so is there anything I can do to keep it from happening sooner?

    Thanks,
    Andy

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Andy,

      Sounds like you have a very nice Subaru with only 65k on the odometer. Odds are in your favor that you’ll see many more miles before the head gaskets become an issue. Although I’ve seen some of the low mileage Oubacks have head gasket failure it’s been very rare. I would suggest staying on top of the maintenance, using genuine Subaru coolant (change every 30k) and use the Subaru Coolant conditioner every time it is changed.

      Other than that… it may someday need head gaskets so it doesn’t hurt to set some money aside for the repair. It’s not usually a time bomb (unless a person just ignores the obvious signs of coolant leakage, coolant smell etc).

      Take care of it and even if some day they need replacement, it should still easly go 200,000 miles or more with proper care and maintenance.

      Happy motoring,

      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, WA

  18. Chris
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I recently purchased an 06 Tribeca from a non-subaru dealership. We have only been in possession of the car for 5 days. When the car sits overnight, and then I start it in the morning, there is a cloud of white smoke that comes out of the exhaust and quickly blows away. I haven’t seen any issues with overheating at all. This only happens when the car has been sitting for a while.

    Is that an early sign of a leaking head gasket? Please advise.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Chris,

      Contratulations on the purchase of your Tribeca. Your concern with the smoke out the tailpipe is a valid one. It may be normal condensation evaporating out of the exhaust when it heats up, It may be oil smoke, or coolant evaporating.

      You will need to smell the exhaust when it first starts. If the only thing you smell is fuel and exhaust smell then it’s probably fine. If it’s coolant it well produce kind of a sickly sweet smell. Oil has a burned oil type smell.

      I would also check your coolant level under the hood. If it’s level stays consistent it’s probably ok. Thus far we’ve seen very few Tribecas with any engine mechanical issues whatsoever. The 6 cylinders have had dramatically less instances of head gasket failure than the 4 cylinder 2.5 engines.

      Good luck,

      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Shoreline, WA

  19. Aaron
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hey Mike,

    This site is very informative, Thanks very much for your time and effort.

    I’ve recently purchased an 02 Legacy GT (4 cylinder) with 121K, all three of the factory recall/campaigns were completed. (Engine Cooling System Conditioner, Rear Suspension Sub-frame Corrosion, and Automatic Transmission Parking Rod).

    The car has run very well for the first 4k miles I’ve given it, this was summer time driving in the heat. Just the other day though amidst the heatwave on a 100 degree day, my girlfriend told me the “At Oil Temp” light popped on, and the car took two tries to start.

    After some research I’ve found that this could be anything from just the heat, to an early HG problem symptom. I started the car up again the other day, after letting it cool, and it started fine, and i only saw the light when engaging the battery but not the engine. After flicking the key, it started fine, and sounded the same as it always has.

    Do you recommend that I take some preventative measures? Hang tight to see if this type of incident reoccurs? Sell the car? [;) i hope not].

    Thanks! Aaron

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      HI Aaron,

      Congratulations on your purchase of the Legacy GT. That’s a great car and with that mileage, you should have many good years ahead of you. It’s glad to see that the Subaru dealer performed all the needed recalls.

      As far as your symptom of the hard start and AT Oil Temp light, I would have some diagnostics performed on the transmission control module.

      The AT Oil Temp light is similar to the check engine light for the engine computer. If it notices a fault that can have an affect on the transmission system, it sets off the light to alert you of the possible problem.

      A scan tool can then be hooked up to see what fault code has been generated. Then you’ll know more. Even if the light is no longer on and the car runs fine, the code will still be registered in the transmission computer’s memory.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  20. tom
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    hi mike,

    i recently bought a used 2003 subaru forester with 173000 km on it. and few days ago i notice some oil leaks on my drive way. it definitly leaking from the under the driverside engine part, right above the steering rack intersection. i don’t see any coolant or green stuff leaking, all i find is 4 to 5 oil drops night. its not the power steering fluid coz its level stayed same.

    so mike could it be a HG leak or something else. Please help me….thank you

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Tom,

      From the area you are describing, it does sound like the leak is from the same area that we see the head gaskets leak.

      The drivers side head gasket is the one that usually fails first. If you are only seeing oil and not coolant and have not needed to add coolant it may not be in need of immediate repair. I would consult with a shop that has a hoist so you can get a better look at things to be sure. Eventually you may see coolant coming from that same area of the head gasket. You can either do them now as more preventive work or later once coolant begins to leak. Just keep a close eye on the oil and coolant level and make sure to re-check the leak area from time to time.

      Take care,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle

  21. tom
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you so much for the prompt reply.

    Currently i am looking for someone to fix this problem on much cheaper price coz the dealer over charges u alot. And i don’t trust them much.

    So is it ok to drive the vehicle? as i saw some oil drips on the exhaust pipe and i am being scared of catching fire.

    With best regards

    Tom

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      There is always a chance that oil dripping onto the exhaust could ignite but in my years around Subarus I have yet to see it and I’ve seen some pretty bad leaks.

      The best option is just to perform the repair as soon as it’s financally possible to minimize risk.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert

  22. tom
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    And Mike,

    Is there anything i can add in the oil or coolant to stop the leak for a timebeing?

    Thank you

    Tom

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      If the car has never had the Subaru Coolant Conditioner you may try adding a bottle of it. In a few cases I’ve seen it help. (it’s basically a stop-leak). Nothing to stop the oil though.

      Mike

  23. tom
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks alot …. Mike

    Getting ready to do it myself starting next week.

    Hopes everything goes fine.

    Tom

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Tom, Sorry to hear of your Forester woes.

      It is possible to bend one valve if it was open and the engine was rolled over and stopped immediately after hitting that valve. If the engine was cranked over with the timing belt off, you’d have more than just one bent.

      Valves certainly can leak to varying degrees. A leakdown test (performed prior to the disassembly) can be a valuable tool in determining the leakage. Also, make sure they check the pistons. They have been known to break the ring lands and create idle issues as well as oil consumption.

      Good luck,
      Mike

  24. Dick Kleinsmith
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike, My wife has a 2004 Outback Wagon with 71K miles that now needs head gaskets. Dealer told me that they should be replaced in 2 months or less and no long trips. After following your step-by-step, I called SOA and provided the rep with all the info. She told me she would call the dealer where I bought car new and discuss with them to see if they can provide any help. I told her that we’ve owned 7 Subby’s since 1984 and all service was done at dealer. Supposed to hear from the SOA rep (Barbara) in a few days.

    Thanks to you I did not go into this blind.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Dick,

      I hope Subaru does something for you in the end. I’m glad to hear they are at least open to discussing it.

      Take Care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service

  25. Erin Barcus
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi! I purchased my Subaru Forester S with 145,000 miles 2 years ago. Since that time I have had to replace the right wheel bearing, the struts, the radiator, and now the head gasket went out (apparently for the 2nd time). It also needs the 02 sensor and knock sensors replaced. All together the repairs are going to cost $2600, and I’m wondering if it’s worth putting that much money into a car with (now) 190,000 miles on it? What do you think?

    Thanks!
    Erin

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Erin,
      Considering the price of new Subarus, if that’s all that is wrong with the car and $2600 will take care of it I would tend to want to fix it. (assuming you like the car and it fits your needs). The exception would be something like the car burns lots of oil or has other immediate issues beyond the head gaskets.

      Take Care,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert

  26. Leah K.
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    I was searching the internet with regard to Subaru head gasket problems and stumbled upon your site. I have a 2004 Outback with 67,000 miles and was told by the dealer’s service dept. that I had 2 leaking gaskets which needed repair for $1800. I had a 6yr/60,000 warranty that had expired due to the years not miles. I took your advice and contacted Subaru to advise them that I have been a loyal customer for 16 years, have had all service done at the same dealer and that my extended warranty had expired. I asked if there was anything they could do to help me out.

    They opened a case, agreed to contact the dealer and have a field rep get involved and get back to me in 24hrs. Within 36 hours, I got a call from the dealer telling me they had been in touch with Subaru and they were going to help me out since I was a loyal customer and they agreed to do the job for free. They also suggested replacing the timing belt for $90 since it would save me money on the labor at a later date if it needed to be done separately.

    So, thank you for the excellent advice regarding how to approach Subaru — it worked! As we speak, I have a loaner car and my Outback is being repaired at the dealer.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Wow, that is GREAT! Well done.

      It is always nice to hear when someone steps and just does what is best for the customer. I wish more stories ended like this one.

      Take care,
      Mike

  27. John Hall
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike: I have a 2004 subaru legacy wagon with 191,000 kilometers. It has been perfectly maintained by me through my dealership. Just before it went off warranty at 100,000 kilometers they replaced the head gaskets under warranty. Now several years later they advised me the head gaskets are leaking. The service rep says he has never heard of this repair being required twice but they are only offering me a 15% discount on the repair. Is this normal that head gaskets go every 100,000 kilometers on Subarus. This is my second Subaru and I had a similar problem at 100,000 kilometers with the first but traded it at about 150,000 kilometers. It seems all the comments relate to head gaskets.

    What do I do?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi John,

      I’m sorry to hear you are having a repeat failure on your Subaru Legacy. We have seen a some of the head gaskets that have been replaced in the past fail again. Although the Subaru offering in head gaskets has improved it can still have a repeat failure. We have used a head gasket called the “Six Star” head gasket and from our experience, it seems to be having fewer repeat failures than the Subaru gasket.

      I do believe that if you like your Subaru and it is still in good condition that it is worth fixing. You may inquire if they would install Six Star gaskets for you during the process.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru in Seattle
      206-417-0880
      425-315-9999

  28. Lindsay H
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    I have read through all your posts and the information is great! I look forward to your advice about my Subaru.

    I have a 2005 Subaru Forester with just over 90,000 miles. I bought the car “new” with 5000 miles. “New” meaning never taxed or tagged, supposedly it was the manager’s car and I guess it was the test drive car. Not sure if the money I saved when I bought it is coming back to bite me now.
    I relocated about a year ago, and I recently started noticing weird things with the car. I took it to my new local dealership. The car is shaking when making tight turns, especially pulling in and backing out of parking spaces. The technician concluded that the valve body in the transmission has an internal failure causing incorrect transmission performance. Estimate cost is $1300.

    The technician also came back and said that both head gaskets are leaking and estimated cost for repair is $1355 including drive belts (ac and alternator). The service manager said the head gaskets are leaking coolant externally. I am a little skeptical because I have not noticed any syrupy smell, over heating or low coolant levels.

    I have already called Subaru of America and they have agreed to pay for half of the head gasket repair but nothing for the valve body. The dealership also said they would charge warranty rate for the HG so I would end up paying about $440 for HGs and belts in the end.

    Sorry for the long post but here are my questions for you:
    1. Do I go ahead and have the dealership replace the HGs and belts for $440 or do I get a second opinion since I never noticed any problems? I do not know enough about engines to look myself. Also, does the water pump need to be replaced too, as I have read in other posts?

    2. Do you have experience with the valve body in the transmission problem? I spoke with my service manager at my old dealership where I bought the car, and he said to take the car to an empty lot and do figure-8’s because sometimes that will fix the valves that are stuck. And, if that doesn’t work, change the transmission fluid and do figure-8s.

    I am also wondering if the dealership can charge warranty rates for the HGs, is it too much to ask for warranty rate on the valve body?

    I love my Subaru, and I want it to last (without nickel-and-diming me). Oh yeah, the struts were replaced at about 60K and completely covered by Subaru even though the warranty expired.

    It can’t be a lemon,
    L

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Lindsay,
      I think I would tend to have the dealership replace the head gaskets on the Forester. It isn’t a bad idea for you to have them point out to you what and where the leak is if possible. I would just let them know that you are just curious and would like to have a better understanding of what a head gasket actually is and how they leak. While it is apart you definately want to request a new timing belt. The water pump is an option that is a good idea to replace as a preventitive maintenance item while everything is apart. It’s just much easier to get to when the engine is apart.

      The transmission issue is not one we’ve run across yet nor heard of as a common issue. Sometimes things just happen.

      Good luck,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle
      206-417-0880

  29. John Hall
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike: Subaru and my dealership have worked out what I consider to be a fair resolution. Subaru are paying for the parts in the head gasket repair and the dealership is providing the labour at 15% off. I will get it repaired and keep on driving.

    Thanks for your website

    John

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi John,

      I’m always glad to hear when Subaru and or a dealer gets involved with any kind of help or discount.

      Good job,

      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle

  30. Grace
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2006 Subaru Tribeca with almost 88k miles on it. I have it serviced regularly and this summer it nearly overheated a few times and both times the coolant was very low even though I had gotten it services about a month before the problem. I had the mechanic check for a coolant leak but he didn’t find one. This week, the check engine light came on and I started having smoke that smelled like burning coolant and took it to the dealer here in San Antonio (we only have one – I usually don’t go there for service). They said the head gasket is failing and I need to replace it but they quoted $4500 which seems much higher than what I’m seeing quoted here. Is it more on a Tribeca? They did say this included all new gaskets, replacing the timing chain and tensioners (sp?) and I believe he said new spark plugs (I admit I was in shock form the high quote so I may not have the spark plug part correct). Is this a reasonable quote considering the work they quoted?

    I need to give them an answer Monday on what I want to do so I’m hoping you can give me some guidance.

    Grace

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Grace,

      I’m sorry to hear of your Tribeca problems. Unfortunately it is quite a bit more to replace head gaskets on a Tribeca. The engine is a 6 cylinder which just has more to disassemble than a 4 cyl. The price of $4500 sounds in the ballpark for most dealerships. I would also suggest they install a new water pump when it is disassembeled since it costs much less to do when it’s apart.

      Take care,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Experts

  31. Peg
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike-

    I have a 2002 Forester with almost 130,000 miles and found out recently that it has the dreaded head gasket problem. Since I can’t afford to have it fixed (it’s either this or my overdue property taxes), I keep an eye on the coolant and fill it when necessary. Unfortunately, the time between fills is shrinking. This is my second Subaru and I bought it new and it has always been serviced properly. I have two questions. How long do you think I can get away with only filling the coolant? My luck usually stinks, but I’ll ask anyway: do you think there is any way that Subaru would help fix my car?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Peg,
      Just keep adding coolant every morning when the car is cold to stay ahead of things. If the car hasn’t had Subaru coolant conditioner, do put some it. This sometimes will help slow the leak. As far as Subaru participation… I haven’t heard of it happening on a car of that age with that many miles but it never hurts to call and ask them.

      Good luck and remember if it goes too long and overheats the price of the repair just about doubles.

      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, WA

  32. Theresa
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Dear Mike,

    I recently bought a 2001 Subaru Outback for $6700. Car had only one owner prior to my purchase at 97,000miles I have receipts from this previous owner. I bought it because I have heard of the subaru name from several friends and since I am required to drive in snow conditions it seemed the way to go. Car engine starts up every time and drives strong, though lately at 105,000 miles, I have noticed green coolant leaking from engine and at the same time white smoke. The engine still is driving without problems and has not had any signs of overheating. I took it into a independant auto shop and was told that it is the head gaskets. He told me it would be $1500.00 to fix. He told me he would put a bandaid on the car now if I absolutely needed to drive it. He told me to stay local only. This was because he couldn”t work on it for about 2 more weeks. This auto shop has come recommended to me. I opted to leave to car there and find alternate transportation until repair is done. Start of repair is to be done this Monday. Is there any thing I should mention regarding type of gasket(six-star), warping, bearings? He did tell me repairs included water pump, timing belt, wires, thermostat and head gasket. I don’t want to sink alot of money into a car if it is not worth it!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Theresa,

      Looks like I may have seen this post later than when the repair was being done but I would certainly advise using Six Star gaskets if possible and if not my second choice is the Genuine Subaru gasket. $1500 seems like a great price to me if it’s done properly. Also it may make sense to have any other seals and gaskets that are easy to get to when the engine is out done at the same time. (not to mention a timing belt and possibly a valve adjustment that is due at 105k anyway)

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  33. Theresa
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Dear Mike,

    Is it really necessary to use genuine Subaru coolant and conditioner?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Resa,
      It is something Subaru suggests on all of their vehicles every time the coolant is changed. It’s not necessary if your car has the Six Star head gaskets but otherwise I’d use it. (of course if you have a 1995 or earlier Subaru you may not have any benefit from it)

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru in Seattle

  34. Steve Dunwell
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello, Mike –
    Clearly, you are the expert.
    I am considering purchase of a used Subaru Impreza Outback SE, to replace my 1992 SAAB 900, which was whacked recently. Two options:
    (1) a 2005 car, 60k miles, manual 5 sp….brakes replaced last yr (not sure – disks, pads?), but otherwise no serious repairs or improvements (private seller)
    (2) a 2006 car, 120k miles, auto trans…dealer replaces HG, brakes, etc & warranties for 30 days.
    I really prefer manual trans, but car #1 sounds a bit noisy in the back, as if the rear gears are “busy.”
    .
    an advice is much appreciated ! Thanks !

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I’d go for car #1 and have it checked before the purchase. Your loud sound from the rear is probably a rear wheel bearing beginning to fail.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  35. Kim
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I am the second owner of a 2000 Subaru Outback. From 51k miles (at purchase) until a year or so ago, it was problem free. I now have about 111,000 miles on it and just noticed the coolant leak. I am told that it needs a head gasket at about $2600. I have recently (in the last two years)done the brakes, timing belt, battery, new tires, oil change, new windshield, fluids flushed and a couple of other things. I have never owned a Subaru before, but am wondering if it is financially worth it to hold on to this one or maybe to buy another one that is a 2005 or 2006. I cannot afford the gasket, much less many more costly repairs. Do you suggest any particular years for Outbacks? Thanks so much.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I think it’s financially more affordable to repair the Subaru headgaskets than to replace the whole car. $2600 is not even a down payment these days not to mention you’d be paying years of payments after that if you upgrade now. If the rest of your Outback is in good condition I think it’s well worth the repair. Even if you decide to sell it a month later, it’s worth more than it is now if you fix it.

      Good luck in your decision,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, WA

  36. Julie
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi, Mike.

    Your advice site is great. I’m looking to buy a used wagon and was planning to look at Subarus. But Consumer Reports didn’t give the 2000-2006 models in price range a good rating on engines because of the head gasket problem. Given the problems, would you even recommend buying a used Subaru? Should I be looking at Toyota wagons instead? If I can scrape together the money, have the head gasket problems been fixed in the 2008 and newer models?

    Thank you!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Julie,

      Depending on if AWD is important to you or not Toyota wagons have a pretty good track record. I still think Subarus have a very good track record other than the fact that sometime during the car’s life it will need to have it’s headgaskets replaced. The AWD is second to none and for that alone it may be worth choosing a Subaru. Basically, the newer the Subaru, the fewer head gasket problems we see. Also if you choose to get a Subaru that is the 6 cylinder equipped model we rarely see any head gasket issues with these until well over 200000 miles.

      Make sure whatever you purchase, do your research, do your carfax, and have a qualified shop check it over thoroughly before purchasing it.

      Take care
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert at Smart Service in Seattle

  37. Susan
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    We have a 2000 Subaru Legacy wagon. At 52K mi. the dealership added the coolant conditioner per Subaru (WWP99). At 62K (12/06) our head gaskets were said to be leaking. We were not aware or made aware that Subaru had possibly issued a voluntary recall on the head gaskets, extending the warranty to 8yrs or 100K mi. The dealer said the leak was light and probably slow and that we could probably get by with watchful waiting. Subsequently, head gasket leaks were noted at most followup repairs, with no recommendation to repair until 12/10 at 103K. It was the first time the dealer wrote needs to have the cylinder head gaskets resealed and a new timing belt. We had the work done and we paid the dealer, still unaware of the voluntary recall. In hindsight, should the dealer have made the repairs under warranty sooner? What is the likelihood that the dealer or Subaru would reimburse us for the work ALREADY completed?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Susan,

      My first advice is to compile your records/receipts that have any notations about the head gasket condition on them. Keep in mind that Subaru was only willing to pay for external coolant leakage so if it was an oil leak they were mentioning Subaru would not have covered it. After you compile and organize a timeline of the head gasket related receipts from the dealer, call 1-800-SUBARU3 with the information. If a Subaru dealer is abusing the system then Subaru customer service will probably get involved and help you. If they have merely been telling you about an oil leak from the head gasket but no coolant then it may just be a bad coincidence.

      Please let us know how it works out,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Experts
      AAA Top Shop

  38. Ken
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike,

    Thank you for manning this web site and offering your experienced input. I have a 2006 2.5i Outback Wagon with 75K miles. A couple of months ago, we noticed small drops of oil leaking from the lower driver’s side of the engine onto our garage floor. Took it to our local dealer, and they said it was a head gasket repair…$1900 total to replace both head gaskets. I called SOA and complained. They have offered to reimburse $750 after we have the repair done. I guess that’s better than nothing, but it still leaves us with an $1156 balance…a rather substantial amount of money we never expected to have to pay so soon in the game with a Subaru (this is our first Subaru, and we had never heard about the head gasket issue). I’m trying to determine wheter to accept the $750 offer or to contest it further. It seems I read somewhere that Subaru had cleared up the issue in 2006 and newer vehicles…is that correct? If so, then I shouldn’t even be experiencing the problem. If not, it just seems a bit strange to me that this head gasket failure has been going on for many years, yet Subaru has done nothing to remedy the situation. Mike, in your experience, would you suggest that I try to protest this further with SOA, or do you think I’ve hit the max assistance I should expect from them? Any chance the dealer might discount their price a bit as well? Also, I’m concerned about the fact that it sounds like they have to literally lift the engine out of the car to get to those gaskets. Is that correct? What kind of impact will that have on the original fit and drive of the vehicle (any vibration issues, etc.) once the engine is placed back in position? Is there a particular type of Subaru dealer or independent Subaru service center that would be better to do the work than others (we currently go to Subaru of Gwinnett here in Atlanta for all of our service)? Lastly, you have suggested timing belt replacements, etc. during such a repair. What other repairs would you suggest we do at the same time on this specific 2006 Outback to save future expenditures. Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Ken,

      From what I’ve seen, although not completely leakproof, the 2006 and newer vehicles seem to be leaking less often than their predesessors. If Subaru is offering $750 to help out it may be best to take the offer. Of course, if you are a good negotiator you may be able to get more so I’ll leave that part up to you.Depending on your relationship with the dealer, you may get them to throw in some assistance also beyond what Subaru corporate is offering. If the engine repair is done properly, there should be no concern about removing the engine. While it is apart you may as well spend the money for the timing belt (since it’s due at 105k anyway).

      Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair
      Seattle

  39. Susan
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thank you Mike for your rapid and helpful response! My records say the head gaskets were leaking oil (or a few times early on simply “head gaskets are leaking” — in the future I will ask for more clarification) with no mention of leaking coolant. I believe I overlooked the warranty point about external COOLANT leaks only. Your blog is much appreciated. At some time I may just travel the 60+ miles to visit your Mulkiteo shop! Susan

  40. Will
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Nice blog on this specific issue. Just wanted to chime in with my experience… my first Subaru was a 2000 Legacy L with the 2.5L NA engine. That was subject to the known issue and extended powertrain warranty that you mentioned where Subaru fixed the specific issue beyond the standard powertrain warranty.

    I, too, thought that this issue had been cleared up with newer models and purchased a 2006 2.5i Legacy brand new from the dealer. Now, at 63K miles and out of warranty, it’s leaking oil from the engine head gaskets. Ugh. I’ll see what I can get Subaru to do.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Thanks for the info. Please keep us updated if Subaru gets involved in helping.

      Mike

  41. John
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I am currently trying to figure out my next course of action regarding my 2003 Forester. I had the head gaskets replaced about 1 1/2 years ago at 85,000 miles. Subaru had even offered to pay part of the repair cost. So at that time I had the timing belt and water pump replaced as well. I had just brought the car in to a different dealer for the recent lower control arm recall and was told that oil was leaking from the head gaskets again and it would cost $2300 to repair. I have put on about 16,000 miles since the first repair. I thought that this repair would last me at least three years minimum. Subaru has only offered a small amount this time ($250) toward the repair or a $500 loyalty rebate on a new vehicle. I still can’t believe that the original repair failed so soon.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi John,

      Sorry to hear that the head gaskets may be leaking again. Did you look at them yourself? We’ve found that since the problem has become widely known by the public that they are likely to assume they need head gaskets and just do them upon the advice of the repair facility. The only problem is that we see a number of shops taking advantage of the public fear of leaking head gaskets and present them more agressively than they car actually needs. We’ve given a second opinion to more than a hand full of clients that have been told by the dealer that they need their head gaskets done only to see that there was barely any oil residue around the gasket and it may be years if ever that replacement becomes necessary. Not to say this is the case with your car but beware of those saying you need gaskets. Ask how bad the leak is, which side is it coming from, is it coolant or oil etc. If they stumble on any of their answers don’t be surprised. Best is to have them show you the severity of the leak and then help you decide how soon you need to fix it.

      So… before seeing what action you need to take, you need to find out if there’s really a problem. I’d suggest taking it back to the dealer that did the work. Request an appointment where they will bring the car in and inspect the underside with you due to a claim another shop made about a leak. If it is leaking again, then you put them on the spot and ask how they’ll help you solve this repeat failure.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Repair by Smart Service

  42. Dave,
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike, You really know your stuff. I took a bunch of time and read through many of your comments, you’re advice is greatly valued.
    I am a possible first time Subaru buyer. I have admired them for many years but didn’t really look into them until now because of the larger size of the Legacy now.

    I am looking at a pre-owned(but not certified) 2011 Legacy with less than 25k on the odometer(4 cyl). It appears to be in great condition, carfax is clean and test drive went well except for some minor braking noise(which could just be pads).

    My 1st question is why would a dealer chooose not to certify that vehicle from the get go? I looked at other cars on their website and they have the same year (not necessarily in that exact model) and with both more and less mileage. It does have a clean carfax, but I am suspicious because of the lack of certification. I explained to them that this was a deal breaker so they are running it up the ladder.

    This leads me question #2,do you know of any issues with 2010 or 2011 Legacy 4cyl models???

    Question #3 If there are issues which Extended Warranty type would you suggest obtaining to cover the issues you may have mentioned in question #2?

    Thank you very much for your advice in advance.

    Dave

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Dave and thanks for your questions.

      I can’t even venture to guess why a dealer would choose to certify some vehilces and not others. The vehicle you’re looking at should still have bumper to bumper and power train warranty in effect so maybe they feel it isn’t needed.

      No known issues with the 2010-2011 Outbacks that we’ve seen thus far. I would still pay to have a mechanical inspection done by a 3rd party if possible.

      The best extended warranty is called Subaru Added Security. It is affiliated with Subaru and tends to have the best and most specific coverage. The caviat is that you have to have the work performed at a Subaru dealer.

      Have fun in you new Subaru!

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independednt Subaru Repair
      Seattle Wa

  43. Michael
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2005 outback wagon 4cyl, 127000, My mechanic added some tracer dye to see if the head gasket is leaking. We are the original owners. 3 months ago we had the timing belt and pump changed. What is the average price for replacing the HG and should anything else be changed? We also have a 2012 outback and a 95 impreza. The Impreza has 130000 miles. Should we expect problems with the Impreza?
    Thanks
    Michael

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Michael.
      Depending on how much a shop includes in the job, the range will be from $1500-2500. When you do the head gaskets, the higher end prices will included head gaskets, all other engine seals and gaskets including the rear main seal, seperator plate and oring, timing belt, valve adjustment, water pipe orings and possibly water pump and timing belt tensioner pulleys, coolant, oil change, thermostat.

      I don’t expect the problems on the 95 Impreza. It has the 2.2 engine that was the most reliable Subaru has made to date and rarely do I see any head gasket problems with that model.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle

  44. Angela Perry-Borders
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    WOW! I am glad I googled this! The information was very helpful. I just got the word that my 2004 Forrester with only 93,000 needs this repair. I am so upset! $2,200 is the quote I have. My dealer is not convenient to my house/work so I have always used a local mechanic who has been wonderful with me. Next car will not be a Subaru.. and i am only about two months from a new car!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Angela,

      Sorry to hear your Forester is in line for head gaskets along with other Subarus. I understand your frustration and am sorry to hear you’re leaving the Subaru brand. Good luck on whatever your next vehicle is.

      Cheers,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair
      Seattle, WA

  45. Heather Bartlett
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I was just in an accident with my 08 Subaru Legacy 2.5i sedan. The vehicle is totaled and I’m looking to get another Subaru. I had both HG failing on my 08 vehicle, and hadn’t fixed them yet when the accident happened. My question is whether you’ve heard of anyone else having issues with HG on an 08? (I had 100K miles). I’m looking at an 08 or 09 Legacy leaning towards the 09 because of the advancements in the Vehicle Dynamics Control. What is the differences in a 2.5i and GT engine? Thank you

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Heather,

      I’m sorry to hear of the accident. I’m glad the car kept you safe. I haven’t seen the head gasket leak on the 08’s yet but I also haven’t seen an 08 in our shop yet with 100k miles on it either.

      As far as the 09 engines, The 2.5i is the 4 cylinder normally aspirated engine with 170hp and rated at 20/26mpg.

      The 2.5 GT Engine is a turbocharged version of the above that has 243hp and 18/25mpg.

      The GT is a fun car but maintenance costs are a little higher espescially considering oil changes should be done with synthetic oil to best protect the turbo. I must add that I rarely see a 2.5 turbo engine with head gasket issues.

      Good luck in your decision,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880
      Independent Subaru in Seattle

  46. Joe
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike,

    You rock with your advice! I just found out today that my 2007 Legacy’s head gaskets are leaking on both sides and need to be replaced. I brought it in because I was smelling burn oil on occasion. The advisor said it doesn’t need to be done immediately – It’s not burning oil or any collant leaks yet,etc – just the leak on the outside onto the engine creating the smell.The dealer is willing to fix for $1500 – including replacing the timing belt (recommended at 105k). The bottom line is I need to make it 3 months before I have the cash. Do you think I’ll make it if I check the oil level and collant etc everytime I fill up? Should I trade it in??? Thanks!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Joe,
      From your description of the leak, most likely you’ll be fine monitoring the oil level until replacement of the head gaskets can be performed.

      Good luck
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru in Seattle

  47. JD
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi, Mike. I’m driving a 2004 Impreza Outback Sport Auto with 130,000 miles. Been a great car. At my last service, they mentioned that my head gaskets were beginning to leak oil, but didn’t recommend a repair at this point. They said to just keep an eye on the oil level.

    Lately, I’m starting to smell burning oil at stoplights, and I figure it’s from the leaking head gaskets. I called the dealer and they said it would be about $1,800 to replace them both if I wanted to do it, but they didn’t act as though it was necessarily a good idea. (Maybe they just want me to buy a new car?) The price seems to be in line with what other owners are paying.

    I infer from your other answers that it is worthwhile to do this repair as long as the vehicle has been well maintained and is in good shape, which is the case here. My question, then, is whether or not there is any good reason to rush ahead and do the repair now, or wait until it gets worse. If I waited, I would make a point of monitoring my oil level and my coolant level (although I haven’t smelled any “sweet” coolant fumes yet) regularly, but I don’t want to run the risk of allowing the problem to worsen and end up costing me even more to fix.

    Is there a downside to waiting, as long as I monitor the fluid levels?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi JD,

      I like your assessment of your situation. To be sure it’s the head gaskets making the smell I advise you check to see where the oil is coming from. It’s possible that something else has leaked thus causing the smell (oil filter seal etc). It still may be the gaskets and if that is the case you’ll need to closely monitor your fluid levels and visually check the head gasket leak from time to time. It may be an eventuall oil smell annoyance that causes you to replace the gaskets long before they ever would cause mechanical harm.

      Take care of that Subaru!

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Care since 1999

  48. Joe
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello Mike,

    Awesome blog my friend! I have a 2007 Legacy 2.5L with 85k miles on it. I love the car but I’m mad this known issue is still an issue!!! I need to have both HG replaced. They quoted me $1,500 (which includes the timing belt while they are in there)which from what I have read on your blog is a good price. The catch is I won’t have the cash to fix for a few months. My service advisor told me it doesn’t have to be done right away, I should keep an eye on it and check my oil level – which has been good so far – and look for oil on the ground – none as of yet.

    Question #1 – I don’t want to damage the car further as I want to keep it as long as I can. Do you think I can reasonably make it for another 90 days and 3k miles ???

    Question #2 – I’ve negotiated with SOA in the past to go 50/50 on a transmission replacement on a 1999 Forester with 68K miles (out of warranty by 8k) on it. I want to give negotiation a shot with this HG issue. In your experience what are my chances of getting a 50/50 deal again???

    All the best,

    Joe

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Joe,

      I think you’ll probably be ok to save up for the head gasket repair on your Legacy while you closely monitor the oil and coolant levels. It’s not something that I’ve seen just suddenly blow out. Usually they just get worse and worse over a time span.

      Sounds like a great price you’re getting quoted on the head gaskets from a dealer nonetheless!

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru care since 1999

  49. John
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for your suggestions you posted on Feb. 22 from my post on Feb.19. I took the car back to the dealer that did the original work and they verified the external oil leak located at the driver side head gasket. The service manager contacted the Subaru rep and informed me that I would only need to pay for the parts (approx. $225) and Subaru would pick up the labor charges for the repair. The leak is not bad at this point but I am considering having the repair done because I really don’t have an idea of how fast this leak may become worse.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      John,
      Great news! I’m glad you took the time to have the look at it.

      I think that you need to find out how long the dealer offer is open for. If they will fix it 6 months from now, just let it go and monitor until then. It probably won’t get worse in that short period of time.

      Nice job,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880

  50. John
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Currently negotiating with Subaru Customer Care to have head gaskets replaced on my 2008 Outback with 68K miles. Quoted $1900 by dealer for th job. What is approx. parts vs. labor for this job?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      It’s probably about a 65/35% split Labor/Parts in most cases.

      Mike

  51. John
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Subaru has agreed to pay for 50% of the head gasket job cost, and the dealer has agreed to charge the warranty labor and parts rate vs. retail labor and parts rate. Estimate that will cost me $700 out of pocket vs. the $1900 originally quoted. I’m gonna get the timing belt done at the same time for part cost only. Based on previous posts, that seems pretty good. Thanks for providing this blog, which helped a lot in the process.

  52. Kelsey
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Your site has been super helpful and informative. Six months ago I bought a used 2003 Impreza Outback with 53,000 miles on it from the third owner of the car. I’ve never had a Subaru before, but they seemed like they’d be great for winter driving, so I switched from Honda. I absolutely love my car, but it’s also been really expensive. Four months ago I had the catalytic converter replaced, and now my local independent Subaru shop is saying it’ll be another 2800 to replace the head gaskets that are leaking oil onto the crossmember. I took your advice and called the dealer and they said they would do it for $1450 max, which is better but still a lot of money. Do you think I even have a chance at getting a lower price or for Subaru to pick up the tab? Or is the car even worth keeping with so many problems in so short a time?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Kelsey,

      I think your 2003 Impreza Outback will be probably be a great car many years to come once you have the head gaskets done. The option the dealer gave you is reasonable considering the year of the car and the fact that many people have been turned down with the same problem. I think investing in the repair is much more dollar wise than replacing the car.

      Good luck
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880
      Independent Subaru
      Seattle, Everett and Vicinity

  53. Larry
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi, finding oil pooling on top of engine passenger side only. Cleaned it up and came back quickly. Mechanic says HG both sides. Could it be anything else. 2007 Outback wagon 2.5l
    Thanks Larry

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Larry,

      It is hard to say if the head gasket is causing the oil on the top of the engine or not. It’s somewhat unusual to leak out the top of ghe gasket compared to how many we see that come out the bottom side. I would suggest cleaning it off, adding a oil tracer dye and checking it in a week or less to see if the oil has returned and where it is coming from. It technically could be the head gasket but just not probable. In a few rare cases I’ve seen pourous casting in the aluminum of the block or head that allowed oil or coolant to ooze through.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru in Seattle
      206-417-0880

  54. Mike
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Just took our 2007 Impreza Sport to the dealer for the control arm recall and found out that both head gaskets are leaking – a $2,200 repair including timing chain (they’ll provide a free loaner car for 3 days). The car has 51k miles but was purchased in December ’06 so I’ve been off warranty for 3 months!!! Did not purchase extended warranty due to “bullet proof” reputation of Subaru vehicles.

    Wish me luck when I call Subaru Customer Service tomorrow. Luckily I have all maintenance records – I hope they can help with the cost.

    We were thinking this was going to be a 200k mile car for us – now we have our doubts.

    Mike in NJ

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I think you’ll do well with Subaru considering your age and mileage of Subaru. Glad you have good maintenance records also. That will help tremendously.

      Good luck,
      Mike

      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  55. Theresa
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Dear Mike,

    I wrote earlier in December about my 2001 Subaru outback. I did get the Headgasket done also, thermostat,water pump,timing belt, hoses. At first the car needed some minor adjustments and had to take it back to the shop twice. Since then I have been driving it and have had no problems. I love this car. I had a foot of snow last 24 hours and am so glad that I kept it. The headgasket problem can be a bummer, but shop around and getting recommendations go a long way. Anyways, Thanks for listening.

    Resa

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Theresa,
      You’re welcome. I’m glad you’re back to enjoying your Subaru again!

      Mike

  56. Larry
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks Mike.
    I think I’d rather have a HG problem than a porous block. But I’ll explore all options first.
    Larry

  57. Molly McKee
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike –

    What a great site. I would like to get your opinion. I have owned Toyotas and Hondas for the last 30 years and have never had any major repairs on my vehicles. I am considering buying either a new 2012 Forester or a 2012 Honda CRV (the RAV4 is too small in the back).
    I like the look and feel of both cars and the mpg. The Forester has higher ground clearance than the CRV (8.7″ vs 6.7″) which is important for some of the roads I drive at times. The Forester price for similar models is about $3000 less than the CRV. The Forester model is the 2.5L 4 cyl 4 sp automatic AWD.

    I have heard about the head gasket repair and am wondering if a 2012 Forester would potentially have this problem in the future – or is this more common to older Outbacks? Am i worrying about nothing?
    I plan to own this car for 10 years or so (about 120K miles) and want something that will be reliable.

    Molly in Oregon

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Molly,

      I think that the potential for the 2012 to eventually need head gaskets is a possibility but not likely. If you do some research on all wheel drive systems the Subaru wins hands down. Everyone else is trying to incorporate all wheel drive but since Subaru’s system is so unique and patented, I don’t think anyone else will ever be as good. On the bright side, if it is 3000 less and the head gaskets ever do fail years from now, you’ll have more than enough to cover the repair!

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Washington
      206-417-0880

  58. Carol
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello Mike:

    Great site find! Have a 2004 Subaru Legacy Sedan Anniversary Edition and it has been wonderful for 116,000 miles. Unfortunately, during an oil change last week, they said the car was wet underneath – leaking oil – so they injected dye to check where the oil may be coming from. The next day after driving for about 30 miles, they indicated a head gasket leak. The mechanic said not to fix it. He said the gasket was warped from probably the engine running hot at some point, and even if the head gasket was fixed, the bottom would probably give out and it would need a new engine. He has said to keep using the car and check the oil level at least every 2 weeks. He said perhaps we would get 3-6 months out of the car, maybe longer. He said to replace it as soon as it starts to leak more and that the engine will start making a telltale pinging noise.

    Do you think it is worth fixing, or does it sound like good advice?

    Thank you!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Carol,

      It sounds like you need to get a second opinion. There’s no actualy way to tell if a head gasket is warped or engine is warped without taking apart the engine. Oil leakage from a head gasket is not because of warpage, it’s due to deterioration of the gasket itself and it’s sealing ability. I can’t imagine you’re leaking so much oil you need to check it every 2 weeks unless something has either just blown out or the car has been so poorly maintained it burns oil. It’s very possible that you can get the head gaskets done properly with a Six Star gasket and get another 100k out of the car if you like it.

      Get a second opinion from a professional. Even a Subaru dealer if there’s one in the area.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru in Seattle

  59. melissa
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi mike,

    Im am from spokane and have been looking at the tribecas. I found one here that is a 2006 fully loaded with 44,000 miles. The dealership took it on trade and when they ran it thru their shop they discovered the headgaskets need to be replaced. They said it would cost $4,200 to fix the problem. What is the dealers actual cost to repair this? Have you found that the heads need to be machined when doing this? I just want to be sure that this car would be worth the investment after the repair is done.
    Thank you for your time.
    Melissa

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Melissa,

      I really have no idea what the dealers cost would be on the repair but $4200 to repair the head gaskets on a Tribeca is a bit on the high side but not by much for all the labor that must be done. Also they may be replacing other seals and gaskets while it’s apart too which may justify the price a bit more.

      I think it would be a good car once the head gaskets are done. We don’t see too many Tribecas that ever need head gaskets so I think it’s likely you’ll get a lot of miles out of it with not too many troubles.

      Take care,
      Mike

  60. Karen
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello,
    I had just bought my mother’s subaru to the dealer because of the check engine light was on they told me it needs both head gaskets replaced and both cats replaced and they said the warranty was up on march 20,2012 and we went on the march 31 2012. Is there anything I can do to see it if it will be covered under warranty. The cost is 5,000.00 .And the car only has 54,000 it’s a 2004 Subaru Outback 2.5 Thanks for your help .

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Karen,

      I think the first thing to do is call 1-800-SUBARU with your issue. You are so close to being within warranty that they may opt to “bend the rules” for you.

      Good luck,
      Mike

  61. Ryan
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    My 07 STI is flashing CEL with loss of power and car almost stalls at 1st gear. I suspect misfire in one of the cylinders or the common exhaust valve damage due to overheating (researched blogs). Over the phone some dealer said it would cost up to $4k to tear down+fix. STI has 66K miles and since the powertrain warranty expires at 60K, what do you think my options are?

    Thanks for the help & advice

    Ryan

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Ryan,

      I suspect you’re correct in assuming it’s a missfire. Once you find out which cylinder you may want to have a leakdown and compression test done.

      You may find a cracked ringland on #3 cylinder.

      Don’t drive it any more until you get it figured out. If the car is un-modified and you have good records that you’ve been maintaining it to Subaru’s requirements then you may want to call 1-800-SUBARU3.

      If it’s not covered, be ready to spend some $$. If the piston is damaged you’ll probably end up with installing a replacement short block along with labor and gaskets you’ll probably be in the mid $7000 range give or take depending what shop you have it done at.

      Good luck,

      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru in Seattle
      1-866-417-0880

  62. Matt Siegfried
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    This is good info. I have an ’07 B9 Tribeca Limited with 80,000 Miles. I just started seeing smoke out the drivers side exhaust last week, and sure enough – the coolant tank level is below the outer tank (not sure how much coolant is left, but no warning lights). Looks like i will start this quest… I did the first major service, I think around 40k miles, but I skipped the second that should have been around 66k? Outside of that, I religously changed oil and only ever used high grade oil and filters, and even 10-30 during the summers, but never retained receipts. Wish me luck.

    Thanks,
    Matt

  63. Debbie
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Dear Mike,
    Thank you for setting up this blog. It has some great information. I thought I would add my story as well. I have a 2003 Subaru Outback wagon with 72K miles on it. I used the dealer for maintenance for the first few years but have been using an independent mechanic that was located more conveniently for the past few years.

    Last week, I spent about $500 on new brakes, new axle, oil & filter change and a variety of other small details and was grumbling about the need to spend more on new tire soon. Who knew that this would be least of my problems.

    On Monday, my CEL came on, and the temperature gauge immediately started to climb. I instinctively put on the heat and only cold air came out. I was able to get it home, however, the ride was rough. The next morning, I drove the mile to the mechanic who did a diagnostic on the CEL code which was PO304/cylinder 4 was misfiring. He found fluid on the spark plug tip and diagnosed a possible coolant leak into cylinder 4. He suggested I take it to the dealer because it might be a head gasket issue which the mechanic said would be very costly.

    I found my way to your blog (thank you, again, Mike) and I followed your steps:

    1). Called 1-800-SUBARU3 and told them of the issue. He was very nice. He asked me to fax him the 30K & 60K service records to make sure they were done properly. He agreed that I did not have to have the service done at a Subaru dealer.

    2). Was told to make an appointment with a Subaru dealer to confirm the headgaskets need to be replaced.

    3). Got the car into my dealer who confirmed the headgaskets needed to be replaced. The cost to fix: $2650 to replace headgasket, the spark plugs, thermostat, timing belt, coolant, etc. It also includes a fuel injection cleaning for $149? If resurfacing of heads is needed, cost goes up to $3340.

    4). 1-800 Subaru3 wrote me as well. Here is their offer: “I spoke to your dealer. They did confirm the headgaskets need to be replaced. They indicated that they do not have any recent service history with you, and so are not willing to make any considerations or reductions in the cost of the repair. Although we would prefer that you use an authorized Subaru dealer for all your service, the maintenance docs that you provided from your independent do seem to be well documented and in line with what our engineers recommend. Because of the good maintenance documentation and your long-time Subaru ownership, I would like to offer you a one-time goodwill gesture of $500 towards the head gasket repair. If you would like to accept that offer, please have the repair completed at the Subaru dealer. Once you have paid for the repair, you can submit a copy of the paid repair order to my attention, and I will then request the goodwill check for you. Checks are usually received from our accounting department the week after I request them, and we would mail that directly to you. Based on the length of time that your vehicle has been out of warranty coverage, and age of the vehicle, it would not be possible for us to offer more financial assistance at this time. Best Wishes.”

    So, at least they offered me $500, which is better than a poke in the eye. However, I wonder about the cost of the head gasket replacment, etc. Seems high from what I have seen. Would it be better to have it done not at the dealer?

    The car has lower mileage but is starting to show its age with rattlings and some body scratches. And, I also have to get the tires replaced too so it seems like good money after bad. Do you have a suggestion on whether I should fix it? I guess there is no trade-in value on the darn thing unless I get it fixed.

    Thanks for your help.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Debbie,

      I’m glad to hear that at least they are offering something for your troubles. The price does seem a bit high compared to what I see in the local area but every dealer can be different depending on what they include.

      If you discount it by $500 then it becomes more reasonable in comparison. Not knowing the knowledge of the independent shop you’re comparing it too, I would probably opt for the dealer for this repair.

      It’s too bad it has to come to this but at least you should have a good car for many years to come once the repair is done.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru in Seattle

  64. Mark Adelic
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Im about to get an 04 subaru wrx, and there’s the only one thing wrong with it. The passanger head gasket is just starting to show symptoms of fault. This has just started and i’m wondering how much it is going to cost and how long i should push this repair off.

    Thanks

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Mark,

      Depending on what the symptom of the head gasket failure is it’s hard to tell how long. If it’s just residual external oil leakage, it could be years before it develops into something serious. If the head gasket is getting exhaust into the coolant or leaking coolant externaly, it’s a repair that should be done as soon as possible to avoid further possible damage to the engine.

      I hope this helps,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair
      206-417-0880

  65. Jack B
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    First, let me say this website is excellent, I wish I had found it earlier while I was getting information on Subaru Foresters. I’m in process of purchasing a new 2012 Forester 2.5X Premium with the All Weather Package. The dealer of course is pushing the 100,000 warranty on us (as all dealers try to do). Seeing all of the posts on the head gasket issues of the past I am wondering if I should spring the $$$ for the extra 40K miles. We are low miles per year people, probably in the 8-10K range for the past few years, it looks like we’ll be doing even less in the years to come.
    Are the issues with the head gaskets at this time a thing of the past? Are there other worries I should be aware of? All vehicles have their quirks, problems, but should I be especially aware of any Subaru known issues?
    Otherwise we are impressed by the build quality, we’ve gotten some good pricing after doing a bit of haggling, comparing dealer pricing, etc.
    And again, kudos on the site. Very fair, very knowledgable, very impressive.
    Jack

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Greetings Jack,

      Time will tell if head gaskets will be a thing of the past. There will always be cars needing head gaskets from time to time but it would sure be good to see a much lower freequency than we have in the past. Subaru is always trying to improve it’s product so going with that train of thought, I have to expect the 2012’s should do much better than head gaskets of the past.

      As far as the warranty goes… I’m not a big believer. The car’s have a great warranty to start with and if you took that same amount of money and invested it conservatively today, by the time the car’s warranty is up in 5 years it should be worth more than enough to handle most repairs the car may have had covered. Just my opinion.

      On the other hand, if you’re a person that really likes to minimize all future risk then it may be a good way to go.

      Enjoy your new Subaru!

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  66. mifasola
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    When you see my sedona red Subaru Forester S with 201,300 miles, you assume it has only 90K on it. The interior is spotless as is the exterior, however, after much contemplation, I’m trading it in today for a Dodge Caliber. I religiously maintained my Subaru at the dealer, bought an extended warranty and after it expired, continued to keep up my maintenance with a very trustworthy mechanic. For the past 11 years my Subaru’s check engine light has been going on at least 3 times a month. No one, not even the dealer could correct it after all these years and four catalytic converters, oxygen sensors, coolant leaks, etc, etc. Now, I’ve got head gasket problems and don’t feel like having another Subaru dealer charge me $3000 to fix that and the timing chain. I’ve had enough. I’ve been nickle and dimed to death and I just can’t take it anymore. I’m going to use that money and buy a new vehicle as I shed a tear when I see them drive away with my trade in.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Wow, I wish everyone put as much effort into caring for their Subaru as you have. I completely sympathize with your decision. It’s really a bummer when you keep such great care of a car like your Forester and it still bleeds you to death.

      I hope the Caliber prooves to be good car for you.

      Take care

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880

  67. Preston Page
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I brought a 2005 subaru last spring from used car dealer. First car was an impreza with a rebuilt motor. Died within a week as mechanic forgot to put in wrist pin on one of the pistons. Dealer rebuilt second motor that lasted about 2 1/2 months. Engine had a pin hole in block water leak. Dealer then put me in 2005 outback with 100000 miles. Put 10000 miles on car. Had trouble this spring with car overheating. Took it to dealer twice second time replaced thermistat. Car now has blown motor Top of piston broke off and destroyed head. Dealer says whole thing my fault and paying for a rebuilt motor. Not feeling to good about having them rebuild another motor. Questions is do u think engine failure like this could have been casued by bad head gasket?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Preston,

      I think it’s possible this overheating could have been head gasket related but there are many other things that could have equally contributed to the multiple failures of the engine.

      Good luck

      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Repair.

  68. adam ondrusek
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I own a 2000 subaru outback sedan. I bought it used from a used car dealership knowing it had a gasket issue, I had three thousand taken off the asking price. I did my reasearch and noticed that because it was under 100k mileage it was still covered by subaru. So I called subaru of america and explained my situation and made it clear I understood the situation. They said next step would be to have it diagnosed by a dealer. I delt with brandon palmer at carr subaru in beaverton oregon. I can’t say enough about how helpful he was. Subaru covered half of the repairs! I really found this site helpfull as well as I used the techniques disscussed above. It is definately worth trying as subaru of america was a pleasure to work with. I got two gaskets replaced, timing belt, water pump, tensioner, and valve seals done for a total of 1240 dollars! Good deal.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Adam, WOW, what an amazing Subaru story!

      Very smart on negotiating your purchase price and to top it off you were able to get Subaru to help you out.

      This has to be one of the best Subaru experiences I’ve heard in quite some time. Doing your research ahead of time literally saved you thousands of dollars. Nicely done.

      I hope other Subaru owners can learn from your experience.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru in Seattle
      206-417-0880

  69. Melissa Weeks
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I recently purchased a used 2002 Subaru impreza rs. It has over 135,000 miles on it. Yesterday the check engine light began blinking and the engine seems to be misfiring. My coolant seems low, and a friend says the driver side of the engine seems to have something leaking, or possibly from the oil being filled and someone missing the hole. I think my friend might be being nice to me after reading these posts. When viewing the coolant it doesn’t seem to have oil present. When checking the oil level it seems high. Does it sound like this is a head gasket? I think I might be praying for something that is irreverasable, but I figured I could hear your opinion before jumping the gun.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Melissa,

      Well, the first part is that the check engine light is blinking because it’s detecting a missfire on one or more of the cylinder’s that’s severe enough that it could damage the catalytic converter. It is recommended that you don’t drive it until that part of the problem is resolved. As far as something leaking from the engine, that may be another issue altogether. I don’t think you should panic yet but just get it in to a reputable shop. Your WRX could be as simple as an oil leak that’s been there for years and now it just started to missfire because of an old spark plug or bad ignition coil.

      Good luck,

      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru in Seattle
      206-417-0880

  70. Diane Cooper
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Dear Mike,

    Your site is wonderful — thank you!

    I have about 67,000 miles on my 2005 Forester. It has been running fine and serviced regularly. I was traveling on Highway 5 on a hot day and a slight buzzing kind of sound started up; in rapid succession I determined it occurred when pressing on the accelerator, and the car then overheated (per gauge), with slight black smoke, and stopped running. I pulled over to the side of the freeway and it did not turn over again after that; could not be restarted. We have now been told by a Subaru dealer that it has a cracked block and needs a new engine. They did not mention any assistance from Subaru or overheating problems.

    We have talked to our personal mechanic and he has suggested either rebuilding the engine for $6000+ or replacing it with a used engine that has been located from a 2005 Forester with 75,000 miles, for $4400 with a 1 year warranty. We are concerned about what to do next — we were not aware of any recommendation from Subaru about their coolant additive, or of these problems, but we can’t think of any preventable cause for this because the fluids had all been checked before the trip, the car had been regularly serviced and all seemed fine. I am especially concerned now that I have read the posts here that we not experience this a second time, and I would greatly appreciate help from Subaru, as this was my lifetime car; I love it and have told everyone how wonderful Subarus are. I am now in great danger of being disillusioned.

    Any thoughts about how to approach this would be very helpful!

    Best wishes,

    Diane

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Diane,
      Sorry to hear about the woes of your Forester. The mystery is why did it happen. If the fluids were checked properly before the trip it is a big mystery. If they just checked the coolant overflow bottle but did not look in the radiator, it may have been low all along and just overheated.

      Either way, with the way the engine failed it needs to be replaced. I believe the pricing on both options is reasonable. The 2005 engine with 75000 miles is a reasonable option but if you want to keep the car long term it may be best to go new. Even the 2005 engine with that mileage may need head gaskets at some point.

      Sometimes if it’s in the budget, we will get a used engine for a customer and replace the head gaskets on it before it’s put in the car. You’ll have to crunch the numbers to see if it’s even worthwhile. It may end up costing as much as new once you’re done.

      I hope it works out for the best and I hope someone discovers the root cause before putting in a new engine so it won’t happen again.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880

  71. Gene
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I bought a 2001 Suburu Outback for my daughter a week ago. It had just 78,000 miles on it. Carfax checked out – no problems. Two days after purchase the car heated up. I had it towed back to the dealer (not Suburu), and they checked it out. The coolant was showing in the resevoir, so we didn’t think it was low on coolant. It was discovered it was low. The mechanic said it was probably caused by a bubble not allowing the coolant to flow through. They corrected the problem, and the car did fine for a couple days. Then it started heating up again. The guage would go up to the red for about 30 seconds, then cool down to normal. I called the dealer and told them that I wondered if the problem is the gasket. I was told that they had the gasket replaced two days before I bought the car. I took the car in. The ran more diagnostics including a combustion test. No exhaust gases are in the coolant. Another note is that the mechanic checked the coolant resevoir with a flashlight when the car was hot, and he saw bubbles coming in to the coolant. I thought that would be a tell tale sign of a leak somewhere. The mechanic had the car all day today, and replaced the thermostat. He will keep the car overnight and check more tomorrow. He thinks the problem is solved. Everybody at the dealer tells me that it sure sounds like a thermostat to them. What should I be asking them? Thank you for your site.

    Gene

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Gene,

      It sure sounds like a head gasket. A thermostat will usually cause the car to overheat then keep overheating instead of just going up to the red and then coming back down.

      For the gauge to go up and down like that it’s more likely that there’s an air pocket (or exhaust pocket) circulating around in there and at times it gets trapped near the water pump and the temp goes up.

      I’m not sure how they checked for combustion gasses but just make sure you get some sort of warranty in writing. We are replacing head gaskets right now on a car that a shop just installed a brand new set of gaskets but due to improper repair procedures, the car leaked coolant right away. They got frustrated and brought it to us to have it done right.

      Good luck,
      Mike

  72. Eden
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2004 Subaru Outback that has had head gasket issues. In December 2010 at 44,000 miles head gasket was leaking. Subaru stated that they would replace both head gaskets for partial payment of $750, now less than a year and a half later and the car at 55,000 miles the head gasket is leaking again. The Subaru dealer mechanic supervisor confirmed that it was an issue (head gasket leaking for Subarus from 1996-2004) but Subaru of America states that it is not a “known problem” and will only pay $450, states that I need to pay $1500 to have it fixed again. In addition, the oil pump is leaking. All at 55,000 miles. I am really frusterated as my car has low mileage and has been regularly maintained. Friends recently lost their SUbaru Outback when the head gasket blew up while on road trip with children in the car. Feel like something more needs to be done about this recurring issue. Do not know why this is a recommended family car. (Also bought 2 Subarus with in a 5 month period, which makes me even more upset).

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Wow Eden, I feel your frustration.

      The statement by Subaru that it’s not a “known problem” leaves my jaw dropping every time I hear it. I wish in your case they would see what a great customer of theirs that you’ve been and just take care of it for you.

      I’m sorry to hear it has gone that way for you but hope it will get better.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service

  73. Diane
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks so much, Mike. Turns out they did do the full check on the fluids so it’s still a mystery. The only other thing I still worry about is that we had the air conditioner on high because it’s never been that efficient. So far no one has suggested that would have been an issue though.

    We were inclined to do the rebuild, so are encouraged in that direction because we would like to keep the car long term. If you have any thoughts on anything we should be sure they check that might not be otherwise done in the normal course of the rebuild, I would love to hear them. Otherwise, thanks again for your thoughts on this! Diane

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Well Diane, If they are going to rebuild it I would have them purchase the remanufactured short block assembly from a Subaru dealer. The shotblocks that we’ve seen from Subaru have been very well done. They also include a new water pump, oil pump, rear main seal and oil pan with the unit. Once you have that you will want the cylinder heads sent out to be machined (make sure there’s no galling of the camshafts). When they do the valve job on the heads, have them inspect the valve guides to make sure none have moved. On Subaru heads we do see that issue from time to time.

      Other than that, re-assemble it with care using Six-Star gasekts and genuine Subaru seals or OEM seals.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Subaru Repair in Seattle
      206-417-0880

  74. anne marie
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Having bought a Subaru twice from the Jacksonville dealership, I am taken aback at the poor and rude manner in which my repair complaint was handled today. I had my 90000 scheduled maintenance done a the appropriate time and had the timing belt replaced, as they recommended. Now, at 126,000 miles, I heard a weird noise and took it into a reputable repair shop, who then discovered that the seals were not put on at the time the belt was replaced. I contacted the dealership to have it either towed there for them to look at it or have them send a mechanic to take a look. they refused either one. They refused to have anything at all to do with this car. I talked to the “acting” service manager, Shawn, who is actually the parts manager, and he said that because I did not take it to them, their original work was not guaranteed. Also, the owner, Mr. Porter, stated that because I haven’t been into the dealership foe 12 months, he can’t guarantee anything and he can’t guarantee the 90000 mile work that was done.
    A reputable owner of a reputable repair shop stated that the seals were not put on the timing chain. He took it apart and found they were not there. Should not Subaru taken a more pro-active approach in investigating this situation? I was a very, very loyal Subaru owner, but honestly, this has left me with a very bad taste in my mouth. I would like the number to a district service manager so that I make take this manner further.

    anne marie

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I’m sorry to hear of your treatmentAnne Marie. You may want to call 1-800-subaru3 to discuss matters with the Subaru customer service center. If a dealer gets too many complaints Subaru corporate will get involved.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Indpendent Subaru repair in Seattle

  75. Geoff
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike – I bought my elderly mother a 2006 Subaru Outback 2.5i in 2007 with only 11,998 miles on the engine. Due to her age and health, she is no longer driving and has elected to return the Outback to me. She used the Outback very little over the 5 years . . . it only has 17,000 miles on it today! I will be traveling this weekend to retrieve the Outback and drive it 1,400 miles back to my home. Before I depart on the 2-day return 1,400 mile trip, I intend to have the oil changed. After reading your comments in the terrific posts above, it seems to me that I should also have the coolant flushed, filled and conditioned by Subaru as well. Do you agree and are there any other maintenance efforts I should have performed (aside from fluid level checks and tire inflation) that I should also have performed? Your insight and frank comments are greatly appreciated.
    Thank you in advance,
    Geoff

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Geoff,

      I couldn’t agree more with you on your plan of action. Since the coolant has been sitting in that engine for 6 years it’s a great idea to get it changed out (as well as most of the other fluids also).

      I hope your Subaru gives you many years of trouble free travel.

      Cheers,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Care
      Shoreline, WA

  76. Samuel
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike, First, this is really a great site, and thanks for spending the time to respond honestly, and with much insight into our questions.

    I bought a 2005 Forester 1.5 years ago with 70K miles on it. It just hit 100K miles, and brought it in for a full service. The dealer said I needed the head gasket replaced and quoted me $4K for the repair. I brought it somewhere else for a second opinion, and said they would replace it for $2K. I have been a great customer of Subaru,had a recall, and maintained my car. Would it be worth contacting Subaru and seeing if they would help with the HG replacement? Thanks Sam

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Sam,
      Before we go too far, just make sure the head gaskets are leaking bad enough to necessitate replacement. If they’re leaking coolant or quite a bit of oil, it’s time. If it’s just a small amount of oil with no sign of coolant leak, then you may want to leave well enough alone until it further develops.

      Your first route is to request that the dealer helps you out with some of their “goodwill” money that Subaru alots to each dealer. If you don’t get any help there then I would call 1-800-subaru3 and see if you get any assistance from Subaru corporate.

      Good luck as always,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru in Seattle
      206-417-0880

  77. Randy Bettis
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I am retired and recently was forced to “junk” my 89 Ford F-250 (with 77000 miles) because of a faulty catalytic converter. ( I live in CA and they won’t let you replace it).
    I bought a 2007 Outback Wagon with 125.000 mi on it. Very clean car and the 125,000 service was just done.Immediately I noticed that when the outside air setting was on, all you could smell was exhaust when you were at a stop light. Dealer said it was the position of the intake and just leave the recirc button on.
    The RPM’s were fluctuating at a stop as well (500-900) All seemed fine for about3000 miles and at that point it started to overheat. Plenty of coolant in the overflow, so I had it towed to the dealer.
    They “flushed the radiator and said they could find no problems. One week later it overheated. Tool it to a local mechanic who replaced the thermostat. One week later it overheated. Coolant was boiling in the overflow and dealer said I need new head gaskets.
    I had no idea of the unreliability of this car. Have I been screwed?? They want 1900 to fix it.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Randy, it appears you may have been subject to a string of incomplete diagnosis from shop to shop on your Subaru. The line about the smell sounds like a bunch of baloney to me. If you were getting an exhast smell in the car something was not right. It may have actually been exhaust or it could also have been the smell of burning oil evaporating off the engine or exhaust from a leak. A Subaru doesn’t need the recirc on just to smell clean inside. I wouldn’t look at this like a string of repair after repair. It probably needed head gaskets from the get go and at that time they could have put in a new thermostat and also checked the radiator flow. Unfortunately there are a lot of shops out there that are either ignorant about the specifics of Subaru or just downright lazy when it comes to a thorough diagnosis.

      I hope the shop it’s at now is a quality shop that has thoroughly assessed the whole situation. $1900 to replace the head gaskets is actually quite reasonable in todays repair market.

      Good luck and I would suggest using Six Star head gaskets if you go ahead with the repair and have the heads and block closely inspected for any imperfections that may necessitate machining.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com

  78. Randy Bettis
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Just as an aside, I bought the car for reliability and since I put about 3000 miles per year, I assumed it would be OK. Should have bought a Honda!

  79. Julie
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Wow, great site,thanks. I’m seriously considering a new Subaru, and I read somewhere that the Subaru engines were
    redesigned in 2011, to put less stress on the heads ?
    Had you heard that and do you have any input ??

    (That might be in your site and I could have missed it, if so I apologize.)

    Thanks so much

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Julie,
      The Subaru engine indeed was redesigned. It has many changes including eliminating a timing belt. I haven’t come across any information about the redesign having to do with putting less stress on the heads but if you ever come across any information put out by Subaru on this issue, please forward it to me.

      Thank you,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880
      Smart Independent Subaru Repair

  80. Will
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hey Mike,
    I’m sort of the opposite of most of your posters, I’m trying to SELL a 2004 Impreza 2.5RS. It’s at 94,000 and it’s had the 100k tune-up (timing belt, etc), but I’ve been told the gaskets are leaking a tiny bit of oil right now(according to my mechanic). I’ve got one offer on the table but it is about $1000 lower than I am hoping for strictly because the guy took it to his mechanic who says the gaskets have to be replaced. How urgent is the problem? I know the car has been well maintained and I’d like to think the small amount of oil means there is time before the gaskets need to be changed…or am I driving a time bomb? What do you think is a fair price for such a vehicle which is in great shape in every other way?

    Thanks!

    Will

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Will,

      If the coolant level has always remained full and there’s just some oil residue on the engine in the head gasket area and no oil drips onto the frame, it may be quite some time before it ever develops into something more significant. There’s no way of knowing for sure but if you were my customer and the leak fit that description, I would just note it in your file and tell you to keep an eye on it to see if it ever progressed beyond that. If I saw any coolant residue or the oil leak became heavy,then I’d recommend doing them.

      We’ve seen some Subarus with light oil seepage around the head gasket as early as 50,000 miles and they’re still running fine at over 100k years later. Their oil seep becomes slightly heavier but hasn’t become necessary to repair yet.

      I’m not sure if yours falls into this catagory since I haven’t seen it myself but if that were the case I think I’d be a bit more firm on my price. It may be best for you to have the car raised up and look at it yourself.

      Good luck in the sale,
      Mike Corbin,
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Advice in Seattle
      206-417-0880

  81. Dirk
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello Mike you have quite the awesome site here.

    I will admit I think I am being paranoid but heres the deal (I really like my car thats why im paranoid i believe). I have an 07 2.5i Impreza Wagon (4eat) that I bought 2.5 years ago with 32000 miles that has roughly 52000 miles on it now. I noticed that it tends to smell after longer drive, that being said I keep track of all my fluids and the only one that has ever lost a drop is my oil. I go through about a quart every 4000 to 5000 miles (running full synthetic changing oil and filter around every 5000 to 6000 miles). I also do realize that when changing the oil i have spilled some on the exhaust and expect that to smell for a week or so but it seems to smell all the time after really long drives. I am wondering if the smell is caused by a leaking head gasket or if the car just puts out a warm smell after a long drive. Also should I be worried about the disapearing quart of oil (I have had previous cars and trucks where that was normal and not anything to worry about).

    Thanks in advance for your response!

    -Dirk

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Dirk,

      Thanks for your post. I don’t think it’s time to be concerned yet. An engine will smell hot after a long drive espescially in the summer months. It is still a good idea to visually inspect the top and bottom of the engine for any residual leaks or seepage. If it all looks fine on the outside then it’s probably just a normal smell.

      As far as having to add oil, this is pretty normal considering how many miles are being put on the oil. If you change the oil every 3000 miles you’ll probably find it isn’t quite needing a quart by the time you change it. There are many self proclaimed experts telling you that you don’t need your oil changed as often but they don’t see the inside of these engines after years of use. I would still advise every 3000-3500 miles on your Subaru unless you’re using a full synthetic oil like Mobil 1. Then I’d go every 4000-4500.

      Frankly, oil changes are the least expensive and most important bit of protection that you can do for your car.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle
      206-417-0880
      https://www.smart-service.com

  82. Rob
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Have a 2006 outback,my repairs include rear wheelbearing, both front drive axles, broken strut, and now my headgasket leaks. Dealership is stating its between 2000-2500. The rear wheelbearing went bad at 80000 miles but dealership said my VIN was outside of 2006 recall so I had to pay to fix it.
    I will never buy a subaru again.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Not sure if this is meant to be a question or comment but I sympathize with what you have had to do at such low mileage on your Subaru.

      Mike

  83. XT
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a Subaru Outback XT 2008, 64,900 miles (warranty expired at 60k) bought it new. “Check Engine” light came up. I disconnected the battery to clear the code, thinking it is your typical gas cap deal, it came back 2 days later though. I went to a local auto shop and their diagnostic tool read PO304 – piston 4 misfire, there were couple thing listed as potential problem, spark plugs, plugged injectors or a problem with a piston. When in low revs (f.e. at lights) it started to idle more rough that before.
    After couple of weeks and maybe 100 miles of driving I went for spark plugs replacement (would not even consider there might be sth else wrong) yet I was bit surprised that they would need replacing right after 60k mile mark. It was done at a local shop – 4 spark plugs were replaced and 2 coil-packs as well which were damaged due to misfiring in cylinders 2 and 4. The mechanic said that spark plugs looked good. They were able to clear code from cylinders but misfire code in cylinder 4 came back. Pressure was measured, in a cylinder 2 it measured 140lbs while a cylinder 4 only 110lbs. I was told engine needs to be taken apart and inspected for possible damage of piston rings or piston itself. After car was assembled back I drove it home – during 10 mile drive car died about 5-6 time in low rev situations – at the traffic lights. Not sure what to do next but it seems I should call 1 800 Subaru 3. Any idea what else could cause pressure drop other than what described as a possible problem by a mechanic?

    huge thanks,
    XT

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi XT

      I think it’s best to have them continue with further diagnosis such as a leakdown test to see if the problem is due to the piston and or valves not sealing properly. Also, what grade of gas do you use in the car. We’ve had a few premature engine failures on the turbo models because folks weren’t aware that the engine required premium fuel as well as close attention to oil change intervals.

      If you’ve maintained the car per the Subaru recommendations, have your receipts and have been using premium unleaded, then a call to the Subaru hotline may be in order.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru in Seattle

  84. XT
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    thanks for responding. Yup I use 92 or higher gas and keep oil intervals the way it is recomended by Subaru, All servcing done at the dealer except for spark plugs.

    I am going to follow steps you suggested in your post (check for recalls, get maintenance records and a list of people who have Subaru’s due to my recommendation) then I am callling 1 800 Subaru 3. Will post outcome here.

    Thanks again,
    XT

  85. OC Subie Owner
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    This is a pretty informative blog you have here. I don’t see too many folks in my situation though. I have an ’08 Legacy 2.5i Limited. I just got it back from the auto body shop after a collision, and it is now running very rough at stoplights and stop signs. The body shopped feigned ignorance and suggested I take it so the dealership, which I did. They chalked up the sudden rough idle and stalling to a dirty throttle body and fuel injectors, but they also noted that I have a head gasket leak (oil seepage). At this time, there is no oil in the coolant, and it doesnt seem as if coolant is leaking into the oil or combustion chambers. They gave me an estimate of $1800, and also recommended the timing belt for an additional $1000. The car has 104K miles on it, and I bought it new. I’ve been pretty spot on with oil changes, although once or twice I stretched it out from 7500 to 9500 miles.
    Is it premature to have head gasket failure on an ’08 with 104K miles? I’m frustrated because I bought the car expecting realibility, but I’m on my third power steering pump, have had tthe cats and all sensors replaced under warranty, had two ECM recalls, had sunroof and window motors fail, and the transmission “slams” into 2nd gear on deceleration ever since the car was new.
    Your thoughts?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hmmm….

      First of all, if it ran fine before the body shop/accident I would focus on solving that specific issue first. If the car was started and stopped a lot at the body shop as they moved it around it may be as simple as fouled plugs. It’s fairly common for this to happen due the fact the cars are started for just a minute or two and then shut down. The fuel mixture is rich and it just fouls the plugs.

      As far as dirty throttle and fuel injectors… this is something that would have developed slowly over a long period of time, not overnight. Be wary on that one. Oil seepage is nothing to worry about but I would do the timing belt at 105k when it’s due.

      The other items sound like more problems on an 08 than I’m used to hearing about.

      I understand your dilemma and hope they’re able to fix it.

      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Care Seattle to Everett
      206-417-0880

  86. Katherine Jean
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    The head gaskets on my 03 Forester were replaced at 60K miles. The dealer picked up the cost but I had to pay for the water pump. Ok, so I take my 08 Forester in, 56K miles and they say the head gaskets are leaking- I will pursue this with the dealer but my question is my ’10 Forester destine for the same problem? Another question on my mind, my 03 seems to be consuming lots of oil between oil changes-all work is done at the dealers on all our Subarus and we are proactive in getting all recommended check ups. Could there be a correlation between oil consumption and the replaced head gaskets? Thanks for you help and time.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Well I hope your 2010 Subaru won’t need it’s head gaskets as soon as your other Subaru gaskets fail but it may be something that happens years in the future. We’ve seen 0 2010’s and newer with this issue but they’re still new enough that more time must pass before we can really evaluate the longevity.

      As far as the 03 Forester oil consumption, it is probably burning some oil. If you’re adding a quart or two between oil changes that is certainly acceptable for a Subaru of that age and mileage. (although not optimum we do see it from time to time).

      I don’t think that the oil consumption has to do with the head gaskets in my opinion.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru repair in Seattle.
      206-417-0880
      https://www.smart-service.com

  87. Katherine Jean
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for the info Mike. My 08 Forester with 55,135 miles has leaking head gaskets (SOA may help me out) the wheel bearing was replaced today under warranty and I was told that the power steering rack was leaking- the dealer said he could do nothing about that but take my $1000 for the repair. I’ve had five Subaru- two of which have had head gaskets problems at around 60K miles. I am very disappointed with Subaru and cant under stand the power steering issue at all. What are you thoughts. Thank you again for your time and expertise.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Katherine,

      I think that with a little persuasion to Subaru corporate you may be able to get some assistance. Call 1-800subaru3 and explain your issue.

      With that low mileage and how new the car is I hope they help.

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair in Washington

  88. Matthew H
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hey Mike,
    Reading this forum, and your helpful replies… I thought I would give you a shot. 🙂
    Well, I have a 2004 Impreza Wagon wish 21k miles on it. My grandmother had it and maintained it very well. She got the oil changes every 3 months (even if she drove it 500 miles).
    She gave me the car, and I haven’t had time to get an appointed oil change, since my work schedule, but the head gasket is gone. Do you know if Subaru might cover me? It’s been 8 years since the car was purchased, but other than that very well maintained. She and I were both in shock it’s gone at 21000 miles. She’s bummed, and so am I. Especially reading people are talking over 100k miles of use. Please help 🙁

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Matthew,

      It’s worth a shot seeing if a dealer will help you or if Subaru corporate will help but the years on the vehicle may prevent them from helping you.

      Sometimes low mileage vehicles have more issues with leakage than high mileage cars.

      I hope they help you but in this case I won’t be surprised if they decline.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle

  89. Matthew H
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Sorry, I didn’t clarify enough;
    *I have gotten the appointed oil change but not at the dealer.
    *I have loaded high grade oil in the car when needed between changes – which isn’t much.
    *It was a nice car so I gave my Toyota away to my dad thinking this prime vehicle was mine. lol

  90. giri
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike –
    I stumbled on your website while searching for subaru head gasket issues. Great site and tons of information. I just want to appreciate your goodwill and taking the time to answer the questions of all these people. Thanks man.

    -Giri

  91. xen
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike, thanks for your site — it’s excellent reading, even for us living overseas. I especially enjoyed your “About me” section.

    I hate to hijack the head gasket topic, but I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on the subject of the turbo engine recall for the 2008-09 Foresters.

    My MY09 Forester XT was bought locally in Athens, Greece. All I have is praise for this car which has served me and my family very well.

    Well, enter the economic crash of 2010, which, among other things, has forced Subaru to withdraw from our (small) market. Plus, fuel prices are more than double what you have to pay in the States. Still, we manage to have some fun with our subies (http://www.youtube.com/user/xenophon61).

    My concern is whether the turbo engine recall of 2009 applies to my case (VIN# JF1-SH9-LT5-9G-0-04348). Searching the web for the answer has left me with more questions, as it is not clear whether it’s in the affected VIN range.

    I’m sure you have more expertise on the subject.

    Thanks for a great site.

    Xen

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Xen, Based on the US Recall your vin number does not fall within the range but their production numbers may not be the same as your market. I think I would suggest following up with Subaru by contacting them any way possible via email or customer help lines. I don’t know how to further advise you since they pulled out of your market.

      Good luck, Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Repair in Seattle

  92. Kirk Bielovitz
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Our Subaru is currently at the dealer and we’re being told the bolts that hold the tranny onto the engine are missing. I broke down at a gas station near a Pep Boys where they did a quick check but no service. All they did was leave 2 pieces of the bell housing (they found on starter) in the car for the techs at the dealership.

    Right before I broke down there was a horrible cranking noise coming from under the hood…turned it off for gas and it wouldn’t start back up…just a constant grinding noise.

    The car (2009 Subaru Outback) has 126,000 on it but never heard of the tranny bolts (bell housing)coming loose. I hope they at least help me out with this cost….if not, no more Subarus.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Kirk,
      That is a very strange problem and I have not seen it unless some one had had the bolts out previously and never fully tightened them. There may be other causes but it would be beyond me what failure would have caused that in and of itself.

      I would check the records to see who had the engine or transmission out in the past and discuss the issue with them. Let me know if more information becomes available. I’m very interested in what may have caused it.

      Thank you,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com

  93. TML
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello, I have an 07 Subaru Legacy with only 67,000 miles and was told my head gaskets need replacing. It’s frustrating reading all of this but looks like some people had some luck. I really thought the head gasket problems were long gone but it doesn’t look like it. I am very disapointed as we also own an 08 Subaru. My dealership will not help with the cost at all. I am thinking of contacting another dealership and then if no help there contacting Subaru. What are your thoughts?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I would contact the dealer you purchased the Subarus from and hopefully the fact that you have purchased Subarus from them will weigh on their decision. If not I’d call Subaru directly and not worry about wasting time with other dealers.

      I think you have a strong case of getting help if you have a good track record of maintenance.

      Good luck, Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Shoreline, Wa

  94. Jens
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I looked at a 2000 Subaru Outback tonight. The guy is asking only $1950 for it because it has an engine noise. To me it sounds like lifters, but I don’t know that much about cars to be sure. It’s a clicking noise that when I put it in neutral and pressed on the gas got a little loud and a lot faster.
    I am going to have my mechanic look at it to diagnose the issue. My question is can my mechanic tell from looking at this car if the head gasket has been replaced? The car has 184k miles and had a newer (but still used) engine put in around 75k miles I believe. I’m guessing with that mileage it had to already have been replaced.

    thanks.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      It sounds like your Subaru Outback engine may have a piston rod bearing knock. If it gets louder as you rev it I’d be concerned. They do have adjustable valves so it’s a slight possibility that it’s only in need of a valve adjustment but I’d plan on budgeting to replace the engine if and when you make any offer on the car.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Experts in Seattle
      206-417-0880

  95. Jacqlyn
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I came across your blog this summer after I experienced overheating on my 2008 Outback (2.5i engine). I had driven the car up to Leadville, CO (which is at 10,000ft). I did not notice any problems heading up to Leadville from Denver. The problem started early in the morning when temperatures were very cool (compared to Denver) and realively easy driving conditions (other than being at 10,000ft). As I was pulling into the trail head parking lot the temperature gauge started going up and also the engine started to sound like it was running higher. I shut the car down and let it be for about 9 hours. When I left later that day to head back to Denver the car started to overheat as I was going up the mountain passes. I quickly turned on the heater to cool down the engine (which worked as expected). I didn’t have any problems until about a month later I repeated the same trip and the same thing happened. I don’t have any problems in my day-to-day driving until this week. Now when I start up my car white smoke comes out of the exhaust. After the first incident I talked to a friend who is a mechanic and his first reaction was Head Gasket. Some other friends have indicated that seems odd on a 2008 with only 65,000 miles (it had 61,000 when this first happened.) I am the original owner and I keep up on my necessary maintenance. Before I go drop $2,700 I wanted to see if you had any thoughts. After all I have read / researched it seems very likely to be a head gasket problem. 🙁 Like a lot of other people I have toyed with trading it in (mainly because it’s not paid off yet).

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated! If I lived in WA I wouldn’t hesitate to bring my car to you. 🙂

    Jacqlyn

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Jacqlyn,

      It’s not unheard of for even a 2008 Outback 2.5 engine to have a head gasket issue. From your description it may be what is going on. What caused it should be investegated too. If the head gaskets were the cause of the overheating then just replacing them will solve it but if something caused the Outback to overheat and damaged the head gaskets then that issue will need to be remedied along with the replacement of the head gaskets.

      I might suggest that you enlist the help of a Subaru dealer. With how new your Subaru is and the low mileage makes it a very good candidate to recieve some sort of help from Subaru. You’ll want to have all of your service records in hand before contacting them to show you’ve taken good care of the car up to this point. If they offer no help then call 1-800-subaru3 and they may help you.

      I’m sorry to hear of the problem and I hope Subaru decides to help you since you have such low mileage. If they don’t and you have to pay for it yourself, I suggest getting some Six-Star head gaskets to install if the repair is needed.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Diagnostics and Repair in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com

  96. Gary
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello

    My daughter was Informed by a Subaru dealership that her 2003 Outback Sedan 2.5 with 70,000 miles had a bad head gasket leak. To make a long story short, I told her to call Subaru of America and ask for some help. After she paid the $2,100 dollar bill, they sent her a $500 dollar check. They Included the timing belt and water pump from what she told me. The car was well mantained having just had the 60,00 mile service done. I have a 2004 Subaru Outback sedan 2.5 with 60,000 miles and starting to get very nervous driving it! LOL!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Gary,

      Thanks for sharing the story of Subaru helping out with the head gasket job. I wish it was one I heard more frequently but any help on such an expensive job surely helps matters.

      As for your car, I think the odds are in your favor it may be quite a bit longer before you ever need to replace your head gaskets. The newer Subarus from 07 on up seem to be in less frequently for that problem thus far.

      Cheers,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru repair in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com
      Home of the “Six-Star” head gasket

  97. Gary
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I must add, when I state “they Included the timing belt and water pump”, I didn’t mean that Subie paid for it. It was part of the cost!

  98. Mary Scott
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    We bought a used 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback about 2 years ago. They told us that they had a different engine put in because of a head gasket issue. I have the paper work on the engine. It was not a new engine. It was done by a guy that had worked for a Subaru dealer at one point, but opened his own buiness. Now we just took our Subaru to our mechanic and he says it is the head gasket. We live in Frankfort KY and were do I take it and about how much are we looking at? I’m guessing that we don’t qualify for Subaru paying for to be fix. Right? And if we do get it fix, will it be for sure it won’t happen again? The car has 161,000 miles on it. HELP!!!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Mary,

      Unfortunately I don’t believe Subaru would offer any help on a Subaru of your vintage based on what I’ve seen in the past. If it were a 2008 Outback that may be another matter but it isn’t.

      To repair the head gaskets you’ll probably see a price range of $1700-2500 depending on how thorough the shop is or how cut rate they are. If you don’t have an independent Subaru specialist in the area I’d suggest checking with whoever your local Subaru dealer is.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880

  99. CYNTHIA MCNICHOLS
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi,
    I have a 2004 Outback wagon and just found out that I need head gasket and axle boots, 2500 dollars from dealer.
    I have 116ooo miles and was wondering if my car will be the same if I repair it. I am looking at your website and this is a little disconcerting if this is a common problem. I love my Subaru but am thinking that a different car might be in order. Can someone please give me some advice.Thanks.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Cynthia,

      If you replace the head gaskets with the Six-Star brand, chances are you wouldn’t have to replace them again. If you can’t get a set, the Genuine Subaru head gaskets are still imporved over what was originally on your car so even they will last quite a while before ever needing replacement if at all.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Care in Shoreline
      https://www.smart-service.com

  100. matt
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2010 wrx that blew the motor just under 36000 miles I took it to the dealer ship and dealt with soa I had my car serviced with in the mandated miles with synthetic oil but my warranty was turned down because they found sludgey oil and metal chips. I took it to my mechanic and he found a blown head gasket and another piston blown apart it do you know of any cases like this and the best way to present this to soa to get it warrantied

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Wow, I’m sorry to hear of the problem. I think the best way to approach it is to have a detailed folder of receipts of every service that has ever been performed on the car. It also helps if the car is completely stock without modifications. If the oil is sludgey like you say then it will certainly give them reason to believe the car hasn’t been maintained. I’ve owned many Subarus and if you change the oil frequently they don’t build up sludge. (espescially synthetic oil).

      If you’re unable to come up with documentation that the car was properly maintained then there isn’t much chance of them helping out.

      It sounds like a tough one and I hope you’re able to get it worked out.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Service
      Seattle Washington

  101. Robin
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    So my gasket just went on my 2008 legacy, 4 years old?!?!? Yes she has 103,000 miles on her, but she is very well taken care of and as we all do I paid well for her to avoid things you would not expect to happen. I am floored. I am a little worried that I have not kept all my receipts, there are some car fax records as well, and I was just about to take her in for her timing belt replacement. Should I try to fight this? I am single mom that can’t be in an unsafe or without a car, and it’s breaking my heart. Not too mention, I’m still paying payments, I just can’t affoard it!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Robin,

      I’m sorry to hear of the gasket (I assume head gasket). I think your best bet is to compile your receipts and present your case to a Subaru dealer. If they don’t help, call 1-800-SUBARU3 for the national customer hotline. If you can’t find all your receipts, many shops can reprint prior receipts for you upon request.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Shoreline, WA

  102. Eric
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike, Good afternoon. I am interested in buying 2006-09 Outback, and I live in Shoreline, WA. Would you be willing to do a inspection of a car that we find? This is a great site and thank you for your expertese on these issues.

    Eric

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Eric,
      We would be happy to perform a pre-purchase inspection for you on any Subaru you may be interested in purchasing. Please call us at 206-417-0880 when you find a vehicle you need inspected. From there we’ll set up an appoint at your earliest convenience. Feel free to drop in and discuss the pros/cons of the different models you may be looking at.

      Thank you,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880

  103. David
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I need new head gaskets and the dealership told me to contact Subaru, but they were unwilling to help. my dealership didn’t offer help either, I have been calling around and can get the service performed elsewhere for cheaper. I am considering doing that, but I am not sure if there are places that would be better than others is there specific things that Subaru would do that another repair shop wouldn’t? And is there a specific kind of headgasket I should ask for? I know the ones in my subaru are sub par, do they make all the factory ones better now?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi David,

      They do make a better head gasket than what originally was on your Subaru. I can’t advise you where to go since I don’t know the reputations of the shops in your area but usually sticking with the Subaru dealer will be a safe bet unless there is a high quality independent Subaru shop in your area. I prefer “Six-Star” brand head gaskets but the genuine Subaru gasket being offered now is still quite an upgrade over what you originally had.

      Good luck
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880

  104. Emily
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    wow, this info is all great but overwhelming. I just found out that my 2006 Forester needs new headgaskets at only 78k miles. I haven’t contacted Subaru yet, but I have talked to the dealership where I bought my car they seem to be the cheapest dealership and quoted me $2500, but other auto shops I have been to are quoting me up to 800 less, and I was also thinking of going with one of them, now I am second guessing, but it is so much money, and I really cannot afford this right now, it’s a big decision and i am not sure what to do. Subaru is very convincing, they told me that if I went elsewhere for service I could get non subaru grade coolant or parts and it could hurt my car and end up costing more, I don’t know who to trust.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Emily,

      Unless you know about the reputation of the other shops I’d go to the Subaru dealer. By going to them they you will also have a chance for Subaru to help financially. If you take it to an independent it’s unlikely that Subaru will help you at all. I would call the Subaru help line to check with them then set up an appointment with the dealer of your choice.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert
      206-417-0880

  105. John
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike,

    Thanks very much for all the information. I’ve got a 2006 Legacy, bought used in 2009 with 76k on it, now have about 97k on it. Took it to the dealership yesterday and found out it was leaking oil on the LHG. No drips in the garage, so I’m thinking it’s not that bad. I’ve decided to watch the oil and the antifreeze for anything abnormal.

    Too bad dealerships don’t have someone like you at the customer service counter, I think there would be a lot fewer upset Subie owners. Having someone cheerily give you a $1900 estimate is a bit rough.

    Thanks and regards,

    John

  106. Jenny
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    We bought a Subaru Legacy brand new in 06. It only has 72k miles on it and has bad head gaskets. I was so disappointed to hear this after having a Honda for years and not having any problems. The repairs will be around $1800. Thanks to seeing your site and reading the replies, I was able to get SOA to cover $500 of it. While I am happy for that, I am still disappointed in Subaru for clearly not fixing this problem. I will think twice about buying another Subaru, and am also worried that this will happen again a few thousand miles down the road. It looks like that has happened to other posters on here.

  107. Wesley Mahan
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    This is great source of info for Subarus! Thanks for maintaining it.

    We’ve had several Subarus since 1995, but this latest is the first where we’ve had serious problems (the old head gasket story!). It’s a 2001 Forester with 160k, and when it started using more coolant than normal, someone diagnosed bad head gaskets. Though it was fairly minor: no leaking oil or coolant, and no noticeable exchange of oil or coolant with those systems, and no steam from the exhaust.

    I couldn’t afford new head gaskets, so I poured in some gasket sealant, and it immediately stopped the loss of coolant. It runs beautifully, no overheating or any other problems.

    Now, I know this isn’t a permanent solution, but how long do you think I can the Forester going with this solution? There are several other repairs waiting around the corner (catalytic converter, CV joint/boots on front axles, rear wheel bearing) which might make a total repair bill of more than $4000. So I’ll probably buy a small, non-Subaru compact car when that point comes, I’m so gun-shy now of bad head gaskets, piston slap, etc. But I’d like to keep this Forester going as long as I can’

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Wesley,

      Well, that’s the first time I’ve heard of a stop leak type of sealant stop the leak. I’ve seen it attempted many times only to end up plugging the radiator and heater core but never actually fixing the leak. I really have no idea how long it may last but I will advise saving up so you can be in the position to either fix it or replace the car altogether.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service

  108. Rob
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Broke down and got my 2006 Outback HG replaced by subaru dealer in VA beach for $1880. Price I paid was less expensive than the dealer’s first estimate of 2000-2500. Would rather have not had to replace the HG.

  109. Chrys
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 1999 Subaru Forester appox 137,000 mile with a head gasket problem. Oil and fumes enter the passenger compartment if vent inside is not closed. I’m wondering if this problem has raised any legal issues and if so how has Subaru addressed them. Buy looking at this blog there seems to be a definite problem. This car belongs to my 76 year old mother. Just wondering if there is a recall on this…

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Chrys,

      I don’t know of any legal action that has been taken against Subaru over this issue.

      As far as the fumes go, it may be just that you have some oil leaks. It’s not always the head gaskets. I suggest having it checked out by a qualified shop.

      Cheers,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      https://www.smart-service.com
      Independent Subaru repair in Seattle

  110. Christine
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    My 99 Forester, with 157,000 miles has been a wonderful car. I have maintained it well. It recently started over heating and I had it checked. It turns out it needs a new head gasket and similar to all your other readers the cost estimate is around 3000k. Would I be better off having rebuilt engine placed, instead of replacing the head gasket? I was unaware that this a problem for this engine until now and would like to keep my well maintained little car for another 100000 miles if possible!
    Thanks!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      If the car has been well maintained, I think it would be reasonable to get another 100k miles out of the Forester after the head gaskets are done. The $3000 is reasonable assuming they are doing more than just the head gaskets. (timing belt, rear engine seals, front engine seals, valve adjustment etc.).

      I hope you get another 150 out of it if you choose to have it repaired!

      Cheers,

      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru expert in Seattle

  111. Barbara
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    We have a 2008 outback and have just been told we have leaky head gaskets. it will cost $1750.00 to fix this problem. This car has been serviced and maintained by a subaru dealer several times a year. Will subaru do anything about this problem. We have 89,ooo miles on this vehicle. We expected to accumlate a lot more miles before major problems. Very dissapointed.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Barbara,

      I would definately present the issue to Subaru and if you don’t get any help from the factory Subaru helpline, see if you can convince the dealer to help you out. They have some good will money they alot for situations just like yours that allows them to either make repairs for free or at a greatly reduced price. I know if it wer my 2008 Outback with only 89k miles I’d be pushing pretty hard for some assistance.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, WA
      https://www.smart-service.com

  112. Evan
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2006 Subaru Legacy Wagon (2.5 liter engine) with 78,000 miles which was diagnosed as having head gasket leaks on both sides. I followed the advice that Mike gave above. I created an Excel spreadsheet listing all maintenance and repairs and scanned and emailed all receipts to SOA–we had all regular maintenance done according to the warranty schedule, but most of it was done at an independent garage. The estimate for repair is $1400. Unfortunately, after talking to the dealer, SOA said that they cannot help with the repair “at this time.” They did offer to help with the purchase of a new Subaru and I did not even listen to their offer. I have had a series of Japanese cars over the years, usually Mazdas, and have never had issues of this type-where there has been a known design flaw. I am a bit stubborn, but I told SOA that I will never buy another Subaru again, which is true. To me, whether SOA stepped up in this situation makes all the difference between whether I will purchase another Subaru and they just lost a customer.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I’m sorry to hear they didn’t help and I agree with you completely on how their help and involvement can make or break a future deal. Cars can have problems but when they happen at lower mileage it is certainly a statement when the factory steps up and provides help after warranty. It sounds like you couldn’t have presented it any better. Sorry to hear they didn’t step up to help with the Legacy head gaskets.

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880
      Independent Subaru in Seattle

  113. Trish
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    What a helpful site! I first learned how to drive in a subaru many years ago, however, I am so fed up with my 2008 Subaru Outback 2.4i limited! We have 73,000 miles on it, had it into the dealer in October for $1100 in maintenance and repairs (including driver side axle boot and drive belts). Had given this car to our new teenage driver to use for its dependability! Called from school today when check engine light came on. Dealer is going to replace the catalytic converter, but also said that two head gaskets need replacing. This is my question- Subaru dealerships are supposed to be good, but we really don’t know that we trust his diagnostics. Before he even looked at the car, he was already talking to us about getting a new timing belt. They always seem to be up-selling us on maintenance. The only other Subaru dealership is in another city. How can we know if the head gaskets really need to be replaced? If we wait on this, would this pose a safety risk to our daughter? Help! We need someone we can trust!!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Trish,

      I think it’s good to be skeptical. I would hope that if there was an issue with the head gaskets that they would have mentioned something back in October. As far as your timing belt goes, it’s not recommended in the Subaru manual until 105000 miles. Whether the head gaskets need replacing is another story. Many people are being scared into replacing their gaskets because some shops realize that Subaru owners already know about the potential problem and it doesn’t take much to sell them a head gasket job when they expect it to happen someday. In your case I would get specifics on what fluid is leaking, how much, which side of the engine etc. Ask them to either show you the problem in person or to email you some photos that point out the leak.

      If only a little oil is leaking than it’s only a minor issue that will continue to slowly ooze and get a litle worse over the years but doesn’t necessarily need replacement to keep the car reliable. On the other hand, if the head gaskets are leaking coolant I would recommend they be fixed at your earliest convenience. They won’t just blow out but can allow enough coolant to leak out over time to eventually cause an overheating problem with the engine.

      If you have any other questions please feel free to ask.

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair.
      Seattle, Washington
      https://www.smart-service.com

  114. mark
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello Mike,

    I need to tap your knowledge. I have a 2007 Outback with 49,xxx km on it. I took it in for its 50k service and I have been told it needs new head gaskets and that this will cost $3500 including the service. I asked how this is possible with such low milage and was told that the cause was the car ‘not being driven enough’. It has always been Subaru serviced.

    No contibution offered towards repairing it, sadly.

    Does this sound at all normal?

    Thanks,
    Mark

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Mark,

      Well first of all if I owned a 2007 Outback with only 49k miles on it I would be really pressing the dealership hard and Subaru hard to fix them for you. Especially if you have records that it has been well maintained. The car originally came with a 5 year 60000 mile powertrain warranty so you’re in on mileage and must be close on age. You may want to call a different Subaru dealer with your VIN to see when you’re warranty expired. I hope your dealer ran your VIN before quoting you a price.

      If you truley are out of warranty I would call 1-800-SUBARU3 and explain your situation to them. I really hope they will stand behind their product and offer some kind of help to you.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880

  115. maureen kast
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    I own a 2007 Subaru outback legacy with 88,000 miles. Always been serviced on schedule by the Subaru dealer. Today while car was being serviced I was told there is some oil leakage around one of the head gaskets. Didn’t need immediate repair but I should watch it. Also told to repair this would cost $3500.00. There are no recalls or campaigns on my vehicle and I just came out of my Gold coverage warranty in Nov. of 2011. This is my second Subaru and I am really disappointed having to face a major repair like this with under 100,000 miles on the car. The dealer is not offering any assistance except to tell me I can wait as its not real bad yet. Guess I need to contact Subaru??

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Maureen,

      It may be a case that your head gaskets have been having some light oil seepage over time and there may be no repair needed for a long time to come. I would suggest cleaning off all the old oil residue and monitoring it visually from this point forward to see how quickly the leak comes back.

      Hopefully it is months before you see any sign of oil coming out of the head gaskets.

      Hope this helps,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Shoreline, WA
      98155

  116. Jim (in Australia)
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I naustralia read your blog on blown Subaru Head Gaskets.
    I owned a New 05 WRX (stock) always serviced with Fully Synth Oil, traded it in in 2007 for a New 07 STI (kept totally stock) reg dealer service and fully synth oil same as o5 WRX). Am happy to report WRX 53k trouble free km. STI now at 168k km no HG issues leaks or groans. Only issue had front struts on STI replaced three times and rear struts replaced once(all under manuafacturers 6 yr 100,000km warranty. Runs well and I drive the car 190-250km every other day. Some sensor issues etc but fixed with regular servicing. Car is very reliable mechanically. The other industry fault with Subaru (WRX and STI) is battery quality and going flat after 10-14 days non-use (completed 30yrs Australian Army finished in 2009). Replaced battery with better quality marine type battery and its performing perfectly 3yrs later (Its toally a lime green colour thats all I can remember without looking). I love Subaru and its safety and all wheel drive surefootedness in the wet. Got 49500km from factory tyres 62500 out of Dunlop 3000s and currently look to getting 80,000km plus out of same Dunlop 3000 on car. Good blog mate keep up the common sense technical advice well done. PS: Are “Six-Star” brand head gaskets the best available or the best cost effective option only Cheers Jim

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Thanks for th epost Jim,

      The Six Star brand are the best available at this time in my opinion. They are among the most expensive also.

      Cheers,
      Mike

  117. Nick
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hey there Mike,

    So i recently purchased a 97 Legacy GT, the previous owner had most of the receipts from prior maintenance, but the car has 153k miles at the moment and I can’t seem to find any receipts headgasket replacement.

    The car does not leak a single drop of oil, but the temp gauge rises a little over halfway during longer drives, especially when i do not have the heater on. Once I blast the heat, the temperature gauge drops. I replaced the radiator cap, and it seemed to help a little bit, but now and then, the car still rises in temperature. The car had a new water pump put in within the last 20k miles but i have my suspicions that the thermostat is starting to go, or hopefully just needs a good burping of the coolant system… what do you think/reccommend?

    thanks,
    Nick

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Nick,

      Let’s assume the head gaskets are fine. The next thing I’d be focusing on is how well the radiator is working. When the car is used for light duty it may not overheat but when the engine has to work on a long trip the radiator may be restricted enough it just can’t keep up. Probably not the thermostat but a good item to replace with the radiator if it’s needed.

      Good luck,
      Mike Coribn

  118. David Tonkin
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    We took the advice in the blog and called Subaru USA after a $1900.00 quote for a head gasket repair on our 2004 Outback.

    We called at 06:00 PM on 01/31/2013. They listened … checked the service records and said that they would get back to us.

    At 09:00 AM today 02/01/2013 they called and said that they had spoken to the dealership and between them they would cut the price by between 50% and 60%. They are also providing a loaner for the duration of the 2 day repair.

    Thank you again for the great ideas!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Great news David, I’m glad it worked out in your favor.

      Mike

  119. Liz Southworth
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I recently became aware that my 2001 Forester has a leaking head gasket and a bad wheel bearing. Although the vehicle is 12 years old, it has only 95,000 miles and has been meticulously cared for (I have all the service records dating back to the first oil change).

    I contacted Subaru and kindly asked that they include my car in their extended head gasket warranty because of the vehicle’s low mileage and outstanding repair record. At their request, I took the vehicle to Ira Subaru of Danvers, MA for factory authorized diagnosis of the problem. Ira agreed with the original service provider and handed me an estimated repair bill of $3987.00, roughly the total value of the vehicle!

    In the end, Subaru stated they could provide no repair assistance whatsoever. Subaru’s “kind” offer was to allow me a $750.00 “incentive” toward the purchase of a new Subaru vehicle. Wow, what a generous offer to a valued customer anticipating almost $4000.00 in repairs due to their faulty manufacturing.

    I purchased a Subaru in part because of their reputation for building reliable, road-worthy vehicles. I’ve learned the hard way, Subaru vehicles are totally unreliable and poorly manufactured! I am furthermore surprised that their “valued” customers mean so little to them. Why else would they offer me such an insulting “incentive”? Did they actually think I’d even consider the purchase of another one of their vehicles?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Liz,
      Unfortunately your sentiment is echoed by many Subaru owners who’ve been in your shoes. It’s hard to keep owner loyalty when so little is offered to help.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert

  120. Roy
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2004 Subaru Legacy SE 30th. Annv. wagon with the 2.5L. I started smelling antifreeze around 45,000 miles but problem was not diagnosed until 73,000 miles despite complaining about the problem several times to the dealer in between. Although they did replace the thermostat about three times it was not the correct diagnosis it was the head gaskets. After finally finding out it was the head gaskets the dealer said it would not be covered under warranty and could offer no other assistance. I called Subaru customer service and they were no help either. They said the car was out of warranty and that there was nothing more they could do for the problem with the head gasket repair. They offered to give me $500 towards the purchase of a new Subaru. Ha, what a slap in the face. I paid $1,800.00 to repair the car and now 13 months later (and less than 10,000 miles later) I started seeing (and smelling) antifreeze drips under my car. I took the car to my my local garage to have it looked at and sure enough the mechanic said the head gaskets were leaking again. Unbelievable! So I called the dealership and told them the head gaskets were leaking again. They made a appointment for me to bring the car in and have it looked at. I ask them if it would be covered under warranty and the service guy said they only cover repairs for 12 months when he new that it had been 13 months since the repair (actually 12 months and 12 days to the date). So I am on the phone with Subaru customer service AGAIN! They better make this right or else (unless) I guess they expect me to dole out $1,800.00 everytime the head gaskets crap-out. I think (I’m sure) that this is (my second and) my last Subaru that I buy/own. Thanks, Subaru. Also my Subaru and from what I found researching on the internet has a problem with the catalytic converters, I had to have mine replaced at only 42,000 miles. The guy at the dealership said I was lucky it was still under warranty or else it would have cost me close to $3,000. He said I must be putting bad gas in the car. Give me a break! What am I supposed to do carry around a chemistry set around with me and test the gas at the gas station before I put it in my car everytime. What a bunch of b.s.! Like I said I researched the problem on the internet and found out that it was another one of Subaru’s cronic problems. I wouldn’t mind if Subaru was up front with there customers and tried to help them out and make amends for their mistakes with their cars but when they lie and deceit their customers for the sake of profit it just gives themselves a bad name and reputation in the industry.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Roy,

      I’m sorry to hear you were treated that way. I am as surprised as you that the head gaskets are already leaking again. (I’m sure the service manager of the dealership is too).

      I really hope they will take care of things and at least show you that they’re willing to do the right thing.

      Cheers,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880
      Independent Subaru in Seattle

  121. Chip Roy
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    We just rec’d the bad news from the dealership for my wife’s 2006 Forester with 35,000….ridiculous. This is our 2nd Forester. The first one was 9 yrs old w/50K miles had been pretty much flawless. Based on that experience we traded it in for another one. We were told $1,200 for the left side gasket repair, which actually seems “reasonable” based on other experiences listed here. We were going to give this vehicle to our daughter in a couple of months and buy a new Outback for my wife. Given this situation, we will probably have to look at other vehicles. We will call Subaru to see if it gets us anywhere……..

  122. Gary
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hey Mike, I have a 07 outback with 73,000 miles that I bought used. When changing the oil I noticed the headgaskets were leaking pretty bad.

    I have been smelling oil burning as it had been driping on the pipe. Also the I have been watching the reservoir bottle go down slow. The car never ran hot because I was keeping on top of what was going on.

    I emailed Subaru and they said can’t help out of warranty. I emailed back politely giving them reasons why they should help with this repair.

    They email me back saying, ok to help we need the service records for 30k, 60k and we will reveiw the records.

    I email back and tell them I bought the car used so I don’t have any records and I don’t know if the 30k and 60k were ever done.

    But…I ask.. if the headgaskets are leaking and your willing to help with the repair if the 30k, 60k were done that in itself is saying it does not really matter if the 30k 60k were done at all… these headgaskets are leaking anyhow right ?

    They email back with a $750 reimbursement offer and they recommend I take my car to a Subaru Dealer. Fax a copy of the paid repair and we will send you a check.

    If I had the records I think I could done better but with out records I think it was a fare offer.

    The dealer confimred headgaskets leaking, New Headgaskets seals etc., with a new timing belt, spark plugs, serpentine and power steering belt for 1850 plus taxs. I’m sure I would been ok with all the old belts but this way I should be ok for a while.

    Faxed the copy and they reply check will be in the mail.

    Moral of the story don’t give up so easy, have some good reasons why you feel they should help.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Good job Gary!

      I think your persistence paid off. I also think that it shows the importance of putting it down in writing so they have to give you a formal answer.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Shoreline, WA
      206-417-0880

  123. Gary
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I’ll try this again, first time my post didn’t go threw.

    I bought a 07 Outback used about 6 mounths ago. The other day I smell oil burning and see the coolent overflow bottle was also low almost empty. Looking under the car I see it was also leaking oil from the headgasket above the oil filter and driping on the pipe.

    I emailed Subaru, they said no help. After a couple more emails back and forth and some good reasons why I thought they should help, they did give me a check for $750. I had to show them a copy of the paid repair bill from the dealer once the repair was done.

    This car had 70,000 on it with no service records.

  124. Michael
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike. We just took our 2005 Forester (91,000 miles) in for regular maintenance. In addition to the work done, they recommended a number of other things: replacing both leaking valve cover gaskets ($450), “head gasket seeping on left side–monitor and replace both left and right if it gets worse ($2890), replace rotted catylitic converter if head gaskets replaced ($1239) and replace rotted engine oil pan ($429). Two questions. First, do these repair estimates seem reasonable? And second, given the age of the car and these looming issues, does making the $5,000 investment in repairs on this vehicle stand a good chance of leaving us with a vehicle that will give us solid performance for a number of years? We’re likely in the market for a used car, and we’d prefer the Subaru to spending $10k or more on something else if this one has a chance of performing well after the needed repairs.

    Thanks

    Michael

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Michael,

      The repair estimates are in the normal range of what I’ve seen. In my opinion, if the car was well maintained and you like it, it’s probably a good choice to have it repaired. You may not even need to do the head gaskets for quite some time. I would at least hold off until 105k miles if possible since you have to do a timing belt then anyway. If they’re leaking worse by then, that may be the time to move forward with the head gasket repair because of the overlapping labor on the timing belt job.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, Washington
      https://www.smart-service.com

  125. doug
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi, thanks for your very helpful site. Just contributing a data point: 2006 Legacy sedan with 106,000 miles developed a head gasket leak on both sides. Not a lot of oil use yet but a distinct odor of burning oil each time it was driven, and drips on the garage floor. Per your advice, we called Subaru of America and got the dealer involved. The dealer confirmed the leaks, quoted $1900 to repair, and the dealer and Subaru of America each put in $500. We tried but they wouldn’t go higher. So we spent $900 which is not bad at all. So far, the car is fixed.

    Probably helped that we had bought 4 new Subarus, 3 of them at this dealer.

  126. Gary Alan
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Just been informed by an independent shop that my wife’s
    2006 Subaru Forester, with 79,000 miles on it, has developed
    a head gasket leak. It has some 25 oil changes on it plus the
    30,000 and 60,000 maintenance, so it’s been pretty well
    taken care of. When she bought the car new in ’06 she
    paid for an Added Security Agreement, “New Gold Plus” (100,000 miles or 7 years) which expires March 3. Should that
    cover the cost of fixing the HG leak without any argument
    from the dealership service department?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Gary,
      Without seeing the contract I’m only guessing but I believe Subaru Added Security to be the best coverage you could have purchased at that time. I’m betting they’ll take care of it for your deductible.

      It’s nice to see a policy pay for itself.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert,
      Shoreline, Washington
      https://www.smart-service.com

  127. D. Greenbaum
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I bought my 2003 Legacy L 2.5l wagon new. Religiously maintained. (Oil changes evry 2500 to 3000 miles, like my old GM’s and Chryslers, regular servicings, two sets of brake pads, two tune ups, one set of front and rear suspensions, and axles at 87000 when the cv boots went.) In 2010, I did the timing belt and water pump, and the dealership tried to sell m a short block on top. I’ve 91K miles on it now, and a small coolant leak on the left cylinder head. Subaru of America offered me an incentive towards a new vehicle – which is horse dung, on an engine that’s been meticulously maintained. I feel like a GM owner from the 1970s ’80s. What reputation for reliability ought Subaru to have? This is infuriating!

  128. Kate
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I got a 2001 Subaru Outback around Christmas. It has a little over 100,000 miles on it and it drives very well. However, I took it to my shop for an oil change and they found a leaky cylinder head gasket which I gather is a common problem with Subarus. I havnen’t noticed any problems with the car yet, but I know I need to get it repaired. They said it could cost up to $3500. I’ve been looking at other posts about head gasket replacement in the cost range of $2000. Why would mine be so much more? I’ve been going to this shop for a while and I trust them, but jeez! That’s a lot of money.
    Thanks
    Kate

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Kate,

      Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when you compare quotes. The $3500 may be a worst case scenario and the $2000 may be for just doing the gaskets only. If you are still unsure, get written estimates from both parties and compare them. If they’re not willing to give you a written estimate with details they may not be worth going to in the first place.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru in Seattle

  129. Janice Crisp
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    We have just found a 2001 Outback w 103,000 miles, one-owner, well-maintained for sale at a Subaru dealer. I’ve read all this thread about the head gaskets and catalytic converters, etc. I noticed you said timing belt needed replacement at 105,000, so I am guessing this will soon need to be done. Car is offered at $6900.
    Is the car worth buying? We’d probably want a lower price now that we are aware of how expensive repairs may be.
    Anything we should do or pay attention to?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Janice,

      The price sounds reasonable if there isn’t much wrong with the car. I would take it to a reputable shop and have it inspected before signing on the bottom line. At that price I think it should have very littl wrong with it.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair in Seattle

  130. Anthony
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hey Mike,
    Just bought a 98 Legacy Outback LTD with 206,876 miles on it. The head gaskets on this car actually made it to 206,798 Miles. Surprising I know! But anyway the guy I bought it from got it and replaced them. He changed the oil pan gaskets, the timing belt, spark plugs and wires, and the clutch pilot bearing. Driving down the highway coming home something blew. It blew some kind of liquid out the exhaust pipe, says my co-pilot driving behind me. Immediately the temp gauge went to H and was spewing coolant out of the radiator. The car would only go a few miles before over heating past the point of driveability. There was no heat in the cabin and we figured it needed a new thermostat. NOPE lol. The top radiator hose was hot while the bottom was ice cold. What do you think happened? Another headgasket failure?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      My guess is first the thermostat failed but then the head gaskets went soon after. You may try a new thermostat and then properly burp the air out of the system. You may have been lucky but unfortunately odds aren’t in your favor.

      Let me know how it works out.

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  131. Katherine
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks so much for the info! We have an ’08 Subaru Outback and the Head Gasket started leaking. We took it to the dealership and then I called Corporate. They offered to help only if I could send all the documentation for past maintenance on the car. Thankfully we keep a file for all that stuff. They decided to send us $1,000 towards the repair of our car. I LOVE Subaru! Thanks again.

  132. Ana
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    First off thanks for taking the time to review all these comments.

    I just bought a 2010 subaru impreza outback sport at a non-subaru dealership less than a week ago and was convinced to get service warranty for $2,000 for 36kmiles or 3yrs. Is it worth getting this warranty when the major problems come after the warranty expires and event then it seems like dealership mechanics dont really do the job right. Reading through now that HG are going to come up in the future and are really expensive. This is my first subaru and wanted to get a reliable car without much repair (coming from a 99 nissan altima that always had something wrong with it every couple month)
    So i know you are pretty experienced in the timing of repairs on subarus do you think its a waste of money to get the sevice warranty?

    Thanks Ana

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Anna,

      Without seeing the contract I can’t tell you if it’s a good decision or not to have purchased the policy. If it’s a well written warranty that covers most everything then it could be a very good investment. I’ve also seen sham’s where the warranty actually covers very little once you read the fine print.

      Take some time to familliarize yourself with the details. Some of them require maintenance records in the future and they can deny a repair claim if you don’t provide adequate documentation that the required maintenance was done.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com

  133. Larry Buzzeo
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I own a 2007 Impezza which I have maintained…not always at Subaru because the neighborhood station is more convenient. But the oil has been changed every 2500 to 3000 miles. I have under 34,000 miles on the car.
    I recently had Subaru do an oil change for me and I was told the car needs two head gaskets. I was given a price of $1800 for the repair…extra if I have the belt replaced. Subaru has offered me $750 toward the repair. Even though the car is out of warrantee, it seems that Subaru should have offered more toward the repair. I should have done more homework before I purchased a Subaru. My last car was a Honda which had triple the amount of milage with absolutely NO repairs outside of brakes. What a mistake I made.

    Anyone who purchases

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Larry,
      Sorry to hear about the Impreza Head gaskets at such low miles. I’m glad that Subaru is helping some and hopefully after years of future driving you won’t feel as strongly that it was a mistake.

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

  134. David
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    I just purchased a used 2002 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport with 83k miles private party. I just did an oil change at the dealership and they told me about the HG needing to be replaced. A couple notes, there is oil on the bottom of the car, but seems rather old. The car doesn’t overheat and I had to drive up a mountain highway after purchasing the car. The temp gauge stayed right where it should be. The coolant doesn’t look milky, but it is semi dark. The car does sputter at WOT so I’m going to replace the valve gasket, spark plug gasket, and plugs. Is there a chance that the oil is just leaking because of the valve gasket and not the HG?
    Thanks in advance,
    David

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi David,

      There have been many cases of misdiagnosed head gaskets. Subaru owners are so hypersensitive to this issue that many shops push the repair even long before it’s actually needed. Your valve cover theory may be correct in this case. For your peace of mind, I would suggest getting a second opinion as well as asking to see the details for yourself when the car is up on a hoist.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, WA

  135. don
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike, obviously the saga continues with the subaru gasket defects…2007 legacy..87000 miles..head and valve gaskets leaking…honestly have bought new cars for 50 years..first subaru…never seen a car with more maint probs, not even in the 70’s FixOrRepairDaily days! Dealer says gasket problem normal wear and tear at 87000…what a crock! Ready for 2nd or is it 3rd brake job..car Rarely exceeds 60 mph. Thought ours was one bad apple until hit your site..left aghast..somebody needs to hold subaru accountable…are you old enough to remember the Edsel…and what it did to Ford’s reputation…

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Don,
      Sorry to hear about the gaskets. Before getting to concerned, get a second opinion. Valve cover gaskets at 87000 miles would not be out of the ordinary but for the head gaskets it would seem a bit early. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are only oozing a bit and the shop wanted to point it our hoping you’d just do it all.

      As far as comparing to earlier cars, the fact that they are getting 170 horsepower out of 151 cubic inches (2.5 liters) is amazing and powering a 3500 lb. car to boot. Back in the 70’s a smog equipped American with a 302 cubic inch engine barely produced that much not to mention how much constant work they needed.

      Like you, I think we should be able to see the head gaskets last much longer than 87000 miles (if they actually are failing already) but overall I think a Subaru is a very good car for what it offers.

      Take care and I hope you get that second opinion.

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service

      Oh and by the way, I think if the Edsels actually looked better, people might have put up with the reliability problems… look at those Italian sports cars! People will put up with anything to drive them!

  136. Tim
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    2007 Legacy Wagon 2.5i “special edition”, 83K miles, headgasket failure. Dealer service schedule has been followed to the letter. Subaru offered $500, which is a little disappointing, but in reading threads like these, it seems the dealer’s cost for the repair + timing belt was about as low as it gets($1900). Working on getting the dealer to at least throw in something, but so far no luck.

    Plan to keep the car for at least another 5 years, but even with Subaru’s good-will, will have to at least take a peek at other makes.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Tim,

      I’m glad Subaru is doing something to help with your head gaskets and I wish they could have done more. I can’t blame you for thinking of looking at the competition next time around but I still think that Subaru’s are hard to beat if the AWD is an important feature. I think if you really wanted to get something comparable you’d need to step up to the Audi AWD system.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      SMart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair in Shoreline

  137. Bonnie
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thank you for the most informative input. I am sorry to say, I am one of the owners of a Subaru Forester (2004) that has also been told I have a leaking head gasket. I have already taken care of timing belt, water pump, etc. back at 103,000 and now at 121,819 miles. I bought this car in 2009, and have faithfully maintained it, as well as the previous owner at the dealership. The cost appears flucuating for various owners for the repair. Mine being in the $1500 range, with an extra $100 for hose replacements. I have owned subaru’s since 1996. I love impreza’s but (had a 93) but purchased a forester for the AWD feature. Do you think Subaru’s with AWD attribute to the ongoing HG problems? Do you think Subaru will help extend any warranties for me?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Bonnie,

      Sorry to hear of your Forester’s head gasket problem. Before jumping into the repair or replacement of the head gaskets, find out how bad they are leaking and whether they are leaking oil or coolant or both.

      If it is just a small oil leak the head gaskets may have many more miles before their replacement is needed. You can even ask them to raise the car up and show you the problem to be sure you’re not being taken.

      The $1500 price is one of the lower one’s I’ve heard of but different parts of the country have different labor rates. I don’t think the AWD has anything to do with ongoing head gasket problems. I’ve written other posts about what I think may be part of the problem but these are only theories and not scientific facts.

      As far as Subaru helping you, I think you have too high of mileage for them to do anything. It never hurts to ask though. Just call 1-800-SUBARU3 and explain your situation.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair
      Shoreline, WA
      https://www.smart-service.com

  138. Bob
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Just took the car in a 5-6 yr old Outback (115k) in for the Catlytic Converter recall and smelled a burning smell (which i called and they said was normal) well it’s a week later and the burning smell is still there..but there’s also a small puddle of oil on the passengers side about where the wheel is (in terms of distance back) so…
    1) could the catalytic converter warranty work be related to this new issue?
    2) how likely is it this is the dreaded HG issue?

    will check the oil level in morning and try to see where coming from…

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Bob,

      I doubt the cat converter is related to the burning smell. I would advise you to have the car put on a lift and look for any area of the engine that could be leaking oil down onto the exhaust system. This is the likely cause. It may or may not have anything to do with the head gaskets. The small puddle may actually be water if it’s by the RF Wheel. There is an AC drain in that area that drains condensation off of the evaporator.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880
      Your Independent Subaru Expert

  139. Bonita
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi, I bought a suburb rx impreza 2001 second hand 6 weeks ago. It has done 150,000ks.. I have service history and has always been services through surbaru. (Last service was the day before purchase. Today however i heard a funny noise and looked and it was overheating. I stopped immediately and let it cool down. I put in coolant as it was empty in both reserves and radiator,,, it took a good 2 litres. Upon driving again i could only go 1k before it over heated again. Could you please help me find why this is doing this as there is no leaks and should not happen as ive only driven 2000ks since last service. I am thinking the worst

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      It could be possible that the water pump has frozen up. The water pump is driven by the timing belt and that could explain the noise prior to the overheating. If that is what is happening it won’t be long before it causes the timing belt to break so I would have it professionally inspected as soon as you can.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair
      Shoreline, WA
      https://www.smart-service.com

  140. Andy
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike, thanks for all your help to Subaru owners.

    I have 2001 Subaru Legacy, L, 132,000 miles. I have always maintained it well win major services at dealerships and everything else at my local mechanic.

    Car was running fine, except since past few weeks CEL came on with oxygen sensor and Cat converter codes. There is some burning smell around car when car is running. 3 major issues have me worried.

    1) this happens only during winter. When I turn the fan heat on, and car is not n motion, there is strong gas smell in the cabin. So I can’t use heat at all in the winter. But this smell persists only when car is stopped. Once the car is moving, cranking up the fan heat to the maximum, will not bring any gas odor in to the cabin.

    2) I check fluid levels regularly. Few weeks ago, I noticed coolant level was below the recommended mark, so I topped it off. I has held it since then.
    Should I be worried about head gasket etc, because I haven’t seen any coolant leak from underneath.

    3) this issue also occurred some 3 weeks ago. I was driving and while shifting from 1 to 2 and 2 to 3, I noticed that there was a loss of power. Car didn’t stall but no matter how much gas I gave, gears didn’t up shift. I would release gas pedal and try and and it would work fine. Also, this happens occasionally and randomly.

    I would appreciate any advice, suggestion. I rather get this addressed than buy new Subaru.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Andy,

      Ok first of all on your 2001 Legacy, I think the fuel smell (only in winter) may be a slight fuel leak from the fuel rail connections on the intake manifold. Subaru had a recall on the WRX for this issue. When it gets cold, the rubber fuel line connecting to the hard line drips a bit of fuel out of the area where it’s clamped. In many cases just tightening the clamp solves it but sometimes the section of hose will need replacing.

      As far as the coolant being added having anything to do with the head gaskets I think you may be ok on this one. If you find that it’s consistently low then you should have it checked further.

      On the last issue I’m going to take a wild guess. If the symptom only occurs during the first 15-20 minutes of driving and then doesn’t happen again the rest of the day it may be valves sticking in the guides. We’ve seen some Subarus that have the same symptom. It seems to be worse if you’re accelerating on to the freeway or going up a long hill. Carbon buildup on the valve guides cause this and it seems more finicky during warmup. If this fits your description then an agressive fuel injection/engine decarbon is in order.

      I hope this answers some if not all of your questions.

      Cheers,

      Mike Corbin
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com
      https://www.facebook.com/subie.guys.5

  141. Andy
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for the advice Mike. I added a bottle of Techrone cleaner to the almost empty fuel tank and then filled up the tank. Also added another engine cleaner to the engine oil as per instruction on the bottle. Yesterday I drove 40 miles (2 trips of 20 miles, fewhours apart), and so far there was no engin hesitation while peeing up. Will continue to monitor it.

  142. Mark W
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for the forum, Mike. I am the proud owner of a (yellow!) 2003 Subaru Baja. This week it will flip 250,000 miles! I bought it new and I have carefully followed the recommended maintenance schedule; the dealer I often go to for some service says that the car is in excellent condition…. except, sadly the head gasket has just failed and coolant is leaking into the engine. This is not the first… not the second… but the THIRD head gasket failure in this car! The first was in 2007 99.3K miles. It was a $2,000 repair job but fortunately it was fully covered under extended warranty. I was told at the time by the dealer that Subaru had discovered a flaw in the original head gasket design and that the replacement gasket was an improved design. That “improved” design failed in 2009 only 66.7K miles later! I called Subaru and asked them to cover the repair; to their credit they did. Now, just 84K miles later here I am with the replacement-of-the-replacement leaking coolant into the engine. As last time, I have called Subaru and so far they have offered $500 but I have asked them to do more. They are focused on the high mileage of the car, which is ironic Subaru is proud to advertise that 95% of Subarus built in the last 12 years are still on the road. I feel that the mileage of this car is totally irrelevant — the only reason that this car which is just shy of 10 years old won’t make it to 12 years is because of a significant design flaw and I feel Subaru needs to take responsibility for it. I love my Baja and there is no reason other than this issue that the car should not easily surpass 300K miles and beyond. I commute about 100 a day and I also feel that this is a safety issue since the car could drop coolant or overheat in the middle of traffic and cause injury to me or other drivers. I am honestly surprised that there hasn’t been a recall given the extent of the problem. I will report back on the final agreement with Subaru for other readers to see. Thanks again.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Congratulations on the high miles on the Baja and thank you for your comments.

      Mike

  143. Amber M
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike,

    I’ve been driving a 1998 Forester since 2008 (75K) and love it. Last August we purchased a 2005 Forester at 114K and it was just diagnosed with the head gasket issue in early July. At purchase I bought the third-party extended warranty offered by the Subaru dealership that covered the vehicle for 24K or 24 months. The vehicle commutes 100-130 miles per day and has meticulous service records at the Subaru dealership. At around 300 miles past the extended warranty mileage expiration, it was diagnosed with the head gasket issue. I called the extended warranty company, as did my Subaru dealership on my behalf to see what could be done to cover the repair, since the service records were excellent, and the vehicle barely busted the mileage expiration and was still well within the time window to be covered. The third party extended warranty company stone-walled and refused to cover any of the cost. I then called Subaru of America to see if they could help, and they worked with the dealership to look at the service records and determine that they could provide a $500 reimbursement to help with the cost. The bill came to $3537, so that $500 covers the tax and a bit more. At roughly 1/7 of the total cost, it’s not much, but considering that the vehicle was out of warranty for both the manufacturer and the extended plan, I appreciate it all the same. I guess the moral of my story is that EVEN IF your vehicle is completely out of warranty, if you call Subaru and demonstrate loyalty and consistent vehicle maintenance, they will try to help you out.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Amber,

      I’m glad to hear they did something to help pay for your Forester head gaskets. Another lesson to be learned is to be aware of the expiration date and mileage of a warranty policy and have your Subaru checked over thoroughly one last time just before it expires.

      Cheers,

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

  144. Stephen Allen
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike — thank you for this article, a huge help! I just took our family Subaru, a 2001 Outback H6 3.0, to Super Rupair in Boulder. They let us know that the head gasket is blown and that the radiator needs to be replaced. They actually recommended a new used engine rather than doing the labor on the gasket, which would be more expensive (engine + radiator = $3400, gasket + radiator = $4000). The vehicle has about 190K on it right now, and is otherwise in very good shape (regular maintenance, etc.). Do you have any thoughts here, and does this seem like a worthwhile repair for a vehicle with this many miles on it? Thanks again for putting together this article!
    Stephen

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Stephen,
      I would normally try to repair the engine that is in the Outback rather than replacing it. If it has been well maintained, isn’t burning any oil and looks good on disassembly I would just reseal it. If it is otherwise then I would replace it. The problem with a used engine is that you don’t know whether it will be better or worse than what you have. Does it still have it’s original head gaskets, was it well maintained also? Also the term “new used engine” is confusing. It’s a used engine. Normally the used engine warranty is much shorter than if you have the actual repair completed. Get all the details about their warranty should the used engine fail and compare it to the warranty on the parts/labor should they repair your current engine. Most places have a 12/12 warranty on their work but used components are an exception. They will usually not warranty any of the labor should the item fail but the engine supplier will usually supply another engine.

      I hope this helps you make a good decision what ever it may be on your Outback H6. They’re one of the nicer cars Subaru ever made and it is worth it to keep it going.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com

  145. Stephen Allen
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike, Thank you for the information — this certainly will help me with the decision. I spoke with another mechanic about the problem (a family friend) and they gave advice very similar to yours: look into warranties after the repair, and be very very cautious about a used engine b/x you do not know its history. They also suggested pricing a remanufactured (vs. used) engine as an alternative to a used engine as a potentially better alternative, because they come with new seals, pistons, etc. But they warned that they usually cost a lot more. Thanks for your help and for pointing out some of these important factors.
    Stephen

  146. Elsa Johnson
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2005 Subaru Outback Legacy. From the very beginning of purchase, whenever I drove up a hill, I smelled something burning. I had the dealer check it our several times. I’ve taken my car into the dealer for all the scheduled maintenance. At the last maitenence, the dealer told me my car has a leaking head gasket. Could the burning smell which the car has had since I first purchased it have been caused by a leaking head gasket?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Elsa,
      It certainly could have. What was their diagnosis the first times you brought it in for the smell? If they were leaking they should have mentioned it then. You may want to review your records to see if it’s something they should have addressed under warranty or if they just passed it off as a minor leak.

      Good luck,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  147. Mike C
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike

    I recently bought a used 2006 Impreza Outback Sport with roughly 84,000 miles on the engine from a private dealership. One of the selling points for me was the car’s impecible service records(since 2006 the car had been into a Subaru dealer 16 times for regular servicing). Needless to say, I was sold after a quick test drive and look over.

    Not two days after buying my car, I heard a strange whining noise coming from the engine and decided to have the local Subaru dealership investigate. To my horror they came back and told me that the whining was minor but my head gaskets were leaking and I was facing a $2000+ bill!

    I received no help from the dealership of purchase, but after a few email exchanges and submission of the Impreza’s service records, Subaru of America offered to pay $700 of the repair costs. The key seemed to be that my car was well taken care of, and assessed repeadedly by certified Subaru technicians. I’m thrilled to have any help in this situation. I’m a supportor of SOA now, but definitley not of the local dealership I bought the car from.

    Without this page, I would have never thought to seek help from Subaru directly. Thanks for the advice!

    Cheers

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Mike,

      I’m glad Subaru stepped up to help you out. I hope the trend continues for other Subaru owners.

      Take care,

      Mike

  148. Eric
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    1st time Subaru owner of Certified pre-owned 2007 Outback 2.5i. 5 year warranty expired in March 2013, head gaskets failed August 2013. Dealer asking $2275 for the repairs as well as replacing belts etc. Really puts the Subaru’s as being reliable into perspective. The customer service representative at the dealership didn’t sound surprised when the technician’s diagnosed it as bad head gaskets. Sounded like it was almost common on my car.

    Hard to believe they wouldn’t at least check your head gaskets at some point if it seems like a common issue. I’ve maintained the car well and have been to the dealer 2-3 times over the course of ownership from 2009 for various maintenance.

    Sad Subaru Owner

  149. Ben
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Dear Mike,

    I am faced with a head gasket repair after I took my 2005 forester into the shop for overheating issues. The thermostat was checked as well as the radiator and they were both ruled out. My forester has only 108k on it and I was wondering if this is a common problem? Also I was wondering if you could give me a baseline price on what it might cost to get everything fixed assuming it is the head gasket? And my follow up question is there anything Ican do to help lower the cost of the repair?
    I called suburu but there were no outstanding recalls either.

    Ben

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Ben,
      I’m sorry to hear about your head gasket issue on the Forester.

      In the Seattle area, at a reputable shop I’d expect to pay in the $1700-$1900 range for just the minimum required to do the head gaskets. If it were done for much less I’d wonder what corners that may be getting cut or what the parts quality is.

      If you want to do it right, you’ll probably opt to have all the other related seals and gaskets done as well as the heads machined, timing belt, tensioner, idlers, and water pump replaced which can take the job to the $2800 range. I guess you have to decide how much you like the car and if there are any other issues with it. If it’s a clean car and there aren’t any major issues it can be a very good investment in the long run as opposed to buying a new car.

      One last VERY IMPORTANT thing is to make sure the head gaskets area actually bad. Just because a person said the radiator and thermostat aren’t the problems I’d want conclusive evidence that the head gaskets are causing the overheating.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru in Seattle

  150. Alaa
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    I’ve been looking for subaru legacy for a while. I found one that is 2009 subaru legacy special edition with stick shift that has 45000 miles on it, I checked it’s carfax but it doesn’t show a regular maintenance. I’m hesitate to buy it because of the head gasket. Is the head gasket a common problem in 2009, if it is does the car still under subaru warranty. Also, how do I check for the head gasket?
    Best regards,
    Alaa

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Alaa,

      The Subaru warranty will be good for 5 years or 60000 miles on the power train(whichever comes first). They may ask for maintenance records before performing any warranty work so be ware of that.

      As far as head gaskets on a 2009 Subaru, I haven’t seen one yet. I think that may be a good sign because back in 2002 were seeing them come in after a couple of years. If you are concerned about the head gasket I would recommend you have a qualified shop look it over for you. It may save you money in the long run.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair in Seattle

  151. Jen
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you in advance for your input and guidance. I am in the process of purchasing a pre-owned 2003 Forester with 68K miles from my local Subaru dealership to replace my current high-mileage Outback. The car is in great shape and I’ve taken it to my personal mechanic to check it out and give the thumbs up on purchasing. The dealership did a lot to get the car ready for selling (new brakes, new belts, new tires etc.etc.) so it seems great. Currently, there are no signs of head gasket issues. However, knowing the history of these particular models, I am hoping to get some sort of upfront documentation that Subaru would cover the cost of repair if they were ever to be an issue. My mechanic suggested this as well since he sees a lot of Foresters in there with that same issue. Carfax says this vehicle had 3+ owners and I can’t know how well they maintained it. I have requested some sort of upfront agreement from my local dealership and they declined, but offered me a $2,000 two year bumper-to-bumper warranty. This is not appealing to me since it only lasts two years for such a high price and I’m not concerned about anything but the head gaskets. Any advice on how I might approach SOA to work with me on this?

    Warmly,
    Jen

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Jen,

      I don’t think you’re going to be able to get the dealer or Subaru to offer anyhing unless you pay for the warranty up front. Since the waranty is just a bit less than a head gasket job I think it’s a wash and you may as well keep the money in your pocket until if and when they fail.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Experts in Seattle

  152. Ana
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thank you, Mike. This website has been extremely helpful. We own a 2006 Forester and at only 81,000 miles we currently have problems with the rack n pinion and the driver side head gaskets. The dealer is quoting us $1,100 for a new rack n pinion and $1,800 for both gaskets.

    It is frustrating because we had the same problem with our prior 1998 Forester several years ago. At 51,000 miles (yes 1,000 after the warranty expired) we paid $1,400 for the head gaskets repair. Since we liked Subaru we got later the 2006.

    What are the odds of the same household having the same problem with two different models! Obviously is an on going problem. We called Subaru after reading your posts and we are hoping we get a good response since we can certainly show the maintenance records and our loyalty to Subaru.

    Do you know if this head gasket issue is on-going with the 2013 & 2014 models? Is this an issue more frequently experienced in warm weather like in California? Someone just told us Subaru are cool weather cars and we are wondering if we should continue our loyalty to Subaru while living in So. California.

    Thanks again for all your great feedback through these posts.

    Ana

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Ana,

      As the head gasket saga on Subaru has continued over the years it seems to be fewer and fewer as the newer models get some mileage on them.
      During the 2000-2004 era they were coming in quite frequently with low mileage on them. As the models have become newer we are still doing head gaskets from time to time but in my opinion it’s less frequently than we used to. As far as the 2013 and 2014 models I can only hope for the best. They don’t have enough milege on them yet to tell how it’s going to go. I’m pretty confident they will be better as Subaru always in improving it’s products but we won’t know for sure till they’ve been around a while.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Everett
      206-417-0880
      https://www.smart-service.com

  153. Karla
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2006 Subaru Tribeca, it has been an awesome car, but this weekend it started making a crackling noise and then it died on me. I had to have it towed to the nearest mechanic, and it turns out that I need an entire new engine! the car has 86K miles on it and its a 2006!. I have had all its major repairs and maintenance done at the subaru dealership closest to me, not the one I bought it from, so this is a shock! I’m so upset because I dont have $5000 to put towards a car that in my opinion should have no business in having a blown engine!! I live in Colorado so we go up and down passes all the time since we live in the mountains, but that is why I trusted Subaru cars in the first place. My mother and father have subaru’s we have another subaru impreza which is awesome. I just dont know what to do, I really hope that the Subaru customer service can assist me with this issue. Any suggestions? Can this really happen? ugh…so upset

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Karly, Sorry to hear about the Tribeca,

      Well, if it has been well maintained then I think it really is a rare occurence. Without knowing it’s service history, it’s hard to tell if anything relating to lack of maintenance in the past could have shortened it’s life.

      If it was maintained well since day one, then it may be a flaw that was just waiting to happen from the day it was made.

      I hope Subaru will offer you some assistance. It always helps to try.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      206-417-0880

  154. meg
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi
    I have 2001 Subaru Legacy with 106,000 miles. Estimate to fix is 1980.00 for head gaskets, timing and drive belts. Subaru said they would pay 750.00 towards it. Do you think it is worth fixing?

    Any advise will help.

    Thanks, Maegann

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Meg,

      I most definately do think it’s worth it if the rest of the car is in good shape.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Shoreline, Washington
      206-417-0880

  155. Mary Milligan
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    This forum is so informative. I purchased a 2006 Impreza with 97,000 miles on it 7 months ago from a suburu dealership. We took it in to get the transmission fluid changed, and we’re informed that the head gasket had an oil leak. The local mechanic quoted the repairs at 1900. Do you think there would be anyway the dealership or suburu would pay for any of repairs? The mechanic recommended getting it done within 3 months. Is that necessary? We love this car but didn’t expect such a costly repair this early. Any advice would be fantastic!

    Thanks!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Mary,

      If the head gasket’s are just leaking oil on the Impreza than it may not need immediate repair. It really depends how bad it’s leaking oil. If it were leaking coolant than I’d agree to have it done asap. Sometimes with oil leaks, it’s best to have the shop clean off the oil on the engine and stop back in a week to see how much new oil has leaked out. This will help tell you how soon you should do them. Calling Subaru for assistance is always a good idea even if they turn you down. You never know until you ask.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Shoreline, WA

  156. Tim Marcy
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    Love the info and comments on this site. First a little background about my Subaru ownership.
    #1 1996 Outback (2.2L). Was mine bought ~2003 w/294k, given to son in 2008 with 370k. No problems.
    #2 2000 Subaru (2.5L. Was wife’s purchased in 2004 with 60k, replaced HG at 105k then gave to son in 2012 with 120k. He’s still driving it.
    #3 1996 Outback (2.2L) with 198k purchased in 2008 (to replace one given to son, and sold in 2012 with 228k. No problems.
    #4 2001 Outback (2.5L) Mine purchased 9/2012 with 205k and very recent HG, WP and TB. Has 219k and no problems.
    #5 2008 Outback (2.5L) Wife’s purchased 9/2012 with 54k. Now has 59k and is loosing antifreeze. All these were purchased from non Subaru dealers. The 2008 is normally only driven short distances. Oil changes at least every 4 months or less even if it only goes 1000 miles. (dealer included lifetime oil changes at 3/3000.) It was the dealer (Chevy) that brought the low antifreeze to my attention and told me “you know what that may mean”. Yes I do. Checked it 3 weeks ago and it was low. Added more AF and check it frequently. Looks a little lower (1/2 cup at cold). I didn’t think I would have HG issues with a 2008. Maybe I should see about the AF treatment. What do you think?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Tim,

      First I would document how much anti freeze you need to add per month. Check it cold in the morining in the radiator and recovery bottle.

      If you confirm you’re loosing it, get a visual inspection done to see if any coolant is visible coming out of the head gasket area. If you see there is some coolant leak, adding the Subaru coolant conditioner will certainly be a resonable option to see if it helps but more than likely it will take a repair to eventually solve it.

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

  157. Estille Charboneau
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Share the love! The history of our Subaru experience: We bought a new 2009 Subaru Forester Premium X. The first day had a problem with side moulding flapping in the wind, took 5 visits and 28,680 miles for dealership to get corrected. At 29,046 miles it had loud grinding/squealing took to dealership for them to say it was my brakes and me telling them it was the center carrier bearing on the drive shaft. I had to bring back the next day to have service manager agree with my diagnosis, so drive shaft gets replaced. 37,000 miles the paint in the interior starts flaking/chipping. 47,325 miles both head gaskets leak to where it would burn on the exhaust, they get replaced by dealership. At 50,420 miles (still under warranty!) I bring back to dealership because since gasket change it needs 2-3 quarts of oil added every 1,500 miles. I have brought to dealership every 1,0000 miles and it has been 1.25 to 1.5 quarts low every time. Today at 54,450 miles dealership admits problem exist requires engine change. BUT for them to replace it will cost $140 for a compression test and they will cover only 50% of the cost of repair for an issue that existed under warranty. It is funny how in the Subaru warranty it states that ,”Under these warranties, parts that malfunction or fail during the warranty period as a result of a manufacturing defect will be repaired without charge.” I spoke to SOA rep hopefully SOA make this right so I don’t have to fight for what is correct.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Estille,

      I am surprised that they would charge you for a compression test. I believe the loss of oil alone should be enough to prove that there is an internal engine problem that needs to be corrected whatever the compression.

      Good luck

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Everett/Seattle and vicinity

  158. Leanna Grimm
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve been reading all of the replies on this site all morning and they’ve really been giving me a lot of insight. I too have a head gasket leaking in a 2007 subaru impreza 2.5i sedan that I bought from a Subaru dealership in January 2012 with 37,000 and now it only has 63,000 miles on it. The dealership is refusing to provide any kind of help other than a rental car for it and have quoted me $2600 plus tax for that and the water pump, oil gasket, and timing belt since its cheaper to do those at the time of repair. I just wanted to see if this sounded reasonable, looking at some of the other repair cost it looks a little bit on the high side. I have now contacted SOA by email to see what they can do for help if anything. Let me know what you think as well. Ive done all recommended services with the car (whether I chose to do them with a cheaper mechanic or myself since the dealership tends to overcharge).

    Sincerely,
    A concerned Subaru Owner
    Leanna Grimm

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Leanna,

      I’m sorry to hear that your Impreza head gaskets have failed so early. I think you did the right thing by calling Subaru customer service. Hopefully they will provide some help in the repair. Also remember that the dealer does have some goodwill money of their own that they can contribute to the repair if they so choose. It’s completely their choice but if you ask to speak with the service manager you may be able to get something in conjunction with anything Subaru chooses to help with. Sometimes if they’ll even just do the repair at an internal rate it can save you money.

      I hope this works out costing you less than $2600 and you get many trouble free miles out of your Subaru once it’s done.

      Take care,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, Shoreline, Everett and Mukilteo
      https://www.smart-service.com

  159. Suzanne Ashley
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    I bought a 2005 Forester XT from a car dealer. They provided a inspection document from an independent garage that showed all things checked out.
    I hadn’t driven the car a month and the turbo blew. I am not a hard driver and the car seemed to lose power several times prior to the failure. I took it to the nearest garage which was a GM dealer. The car was too fat from a large center to get it to a Subaru dealer. The dealer confirmed it was the turbo and installed a new one. I asked them to check the engine for damage and they stated it was fine.
    After picking up the car I drove about 100 km and I heard terrible sounds and the car lost power. I pulled off the highway and had it towed to the Subaru dealer in the nearest city.
    The Subaru dealer first stated that the turbo had been incorrectly installed and it needed a new one. I asked them to check for engine damage and when they took the pan off they said they found filings. The service manager first said I needed a new engine. Upon questioning further he said he would need to put the new turbo in before knowing if the engine would run properly. Now the story changed from the service manager and he claims it was debris from the bearings and that engine had to be damaged prior and that is what was causing the turbo to fail.
    It is important for me to get this sorted out as the GM dealer is responsible for the replacement if the turbo. If the engine was damaged by the turbo blowing after they had installed it incorrectly than they will also be responsible for the replacement of the engine. When I asked the Subaru dealer for a written report they refused to provide it and said I was not entitled to one since the GM dealer was paying for installing a new turbo. I am feeling that I need another opinion and my trust is being challenged by the service manager due to conflicting reports. How can I get the answers I seek?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Suzanne,

      Well, for the most part, when a turbo blows a procedure must be followed to make sure there isn’t subsequent damage on a Subaru engine. When a turbo fails, it sends metal particles down stream through the rest of the engine. This can shorten the life of the cams, crank and rod bearings.

      Upon a failed turbo, it’s best to remove the turbo, remove all the oil lines related to the turbo and check that they are free and clear of contamination. Removal of the cam bearing caps to see that there is no damage done there and finally removal of the oil pan to inspect for metal particulates. If there is metal in the pan it may be best to go with a new short block.

      As far as the mis-install from GM, make sure the Subaru dealer documents what they found very specifically.

      Also, with the Subaru dealer not providing a report to you, that sounds like there’s some poor management decisions being done. You should be in on all the details if the Subaru dealer wants to make you happy. You can always call 1-800-SUBARU3 and discuss it with corporate customer service if you feel they’re giving you the run around.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, WA

  160. Pat
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Thinking about buying my first Subaru based on some friends past experiences with them. The idea is a budget move – that I am going to sell my 2001 Toyota Tundra which has been great & my 2003 Lincoln Town Car & purchase a 2003 Subaru Baja. Found one here locally South Western PA – 2nd owner, but they had the car since 16,000 miles – it currently has 135,000, body, interior, & underneath look great. All maintenance records – (Timing Belt, Water pump, Spark Plugs, Thermostat, Antifreeze, Head Gaskets, 4 new rotors all new at approximately 100,000 miles)…about $8,000.00 for the Baja….not having a Subaru before the 125,000 miles is a bit scary…I will be using it for my family (4 doors = replaced Linc. & some trips to Home Depot / Lowes for some household projects replaces Tundra)…trying to save on insurance / mileage, but not looking to come up with a pig….any recommendation…also any thoughts about an after market warranty….loved reading over your other comments…nice site….Pat

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Pat,

      The first thing I’d like to make sure of is that the rust isn’t too big of an issue. We’ve seen a lot of East coast cars with exhausts rotting and brakes pitting and calipers sticking due to rust.

      Other than that, since all of the work has been done already I would think it could be a pretty good car for another 100k. I don’t think it will be a pig but Subarus only get fair mpg. If that one is a non turbo I’d expect 19-24 hwy/city for the most part.

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

  161. Matt
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike, I have a 2009 Outback 2.5i SE with 91,000 miles and I have a head gasket leak. Is this a common issue with 2009 outbacks.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Matt,

      It would be the first 2009 Outback I’ve seen with a head gasket issue. Now I have seen plenty of 2009 Subarus with some oil residue around the head gasket but no sign of any failure that would need a repair. Make sure you get a second opinion before going off to replace them.

      Good luck,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Experts
      Seattle, WA

  162. Matt
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike, Too late to get second opinion as Subaru immediately offered to repair for free. They have ahd the car for 3 days now. Think I still should have gotten a second opinion. Im now concerned about the quality of work they are going to do. Bee reading stories of bad resurfacing of the heads buy subaru. Should I be concerned about why they so quickly offered to do the repair at no charge for me. i am having a lot of other work done, ie belts, all fluids, basicly a full 90000 mile service plus Im getting anew timing belt since they are doing the headgasket. Do you feel there is something shady going on here?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      No worries, A second opinion would be more important if it wasn’t being done for free. I doubt anything shady is going on. More likely just trying to take care of it to minimize the damage to their reputation on head gasket issues. I think the additional items you’re having done now make very good sense. You may also request a valve adjustment while it’s apart since it’s due at 105k miles anyway.

      Glad to hear Subaru stepped up this time.

      Cheers,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Experts
      https://www.smart-service.com
      Seattle, WA

  163. Barbara
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike
    I concur that this is a great blog.

    I have had a 2001 Subaru and 70K miles when the rings were leaking..
    Now I have a 2006 Subaru at 77K and the head gasket went which was precipitated with and oil and coolant leak.

    I don’t understand how this is still a problem for all of these years.. and we have to pay for almost a given situation known to be in the future.. 2 cars and same problem spanning over 6 years for me.

    Do I have any chance at recourse…
    Car is serviced regularly…
    Very disappointed and like the car.
    Barbara in NY

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Barbara,

      On the 06 you may try calling 1-800-SUBARU3 customer service to see if they will get involved and help. I think the 01 is too old for them to get involved in but it’s worth mentioning in the same conversation.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert

  164. Lynn
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I am considering buying a used 2006 Subaru Outback 2.5 with 134500 miles. It is a two owner and the dealer that has it now also sold it to the 2nd owner. It is a reputable used car dealer that I have purchased from in the past several times…and they are in the top 10% of car sales in our state each month (and they only deal in used cars). Anyway, after test driving the vehicle (which looks very well maintained, very clean) I noticed an oil smell and checked under the hood to see if the new oil change had spilled any oil. I found oil on top of the block and the dealer had a local mechanic they use to pick it up…verdict – head gasket. This repair (paid by the dealer) will cost $970 and thus the price of the car will go up. I think I am still interested as I have been looking for an Outback because we love my wife’s 2008 Legacy. SO…any tips in what else I should look for or ask the mechanic. I know the price is going to include new timing belt and water pump…but should I be concerned this blown gasket has caused other damage in the engine? Also the new asking price will be $8900 after repairs.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Lynn,

      Before purchasing the car, I would have it inspected at a shop other than their in house mechanic if you’re serious about that particular car.
      I think it’s a bit out of the ordinary that they would offer to fix it but you will have to pay extra for the car. In most reputable car sales, if a dealer finds a problem like that on a car they have for sale, they’re embarrassed and will usually offer to have it fixed at no charge to you or discount the price accordingly and let you have it fixed where you choose. If it were me and I really liked the car, I would make them an offer that was no more than their original asking price as well as stipulate that before taking delivery of the car, the repair must be done at a Subaru dealer and documentation must be provided. A head gasket job done properly on that car will actually range from $1900-2500 depending on how thorough they are. Or I would offer $2500 less than the asking price and let them know that you will have it taken care of yourself. (make sure your mechanic still looks it over before making any further offer to make sure that’s not the only thing wrong).

      I hope this helps you in your purchase,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, Wa
      https://www.smart-service.com

  165. Linda
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    I have a 2007 Subaru Forester which I purchased used from the local Subaru dealer in the fall of 2008. Regular oil changes and maintenance have been done by that same dealer. It had 34K mi on it when I bought it and now has 79.5K miles. At the recent routine oil change and multi-point inspection I was told that the head gaskets are beginning to leak oil, the starter is “noisy”and needs replacement, and they hear a growl in the differential which needs rebuild as soon as possible. The service dept is quoting me $562 for the starter, $1474 for the right and left head gaskets, and $1440 for the differential plus whatever damage they find after they take it apart. Here in my city there doesnt seem to be another shop that works on Subarus that could give me a 2nd opinion so I seem to be at the mercy of this Subaru dealer to get the work done correctly. I do have trust issues with the dealer, warranted or just due to my anxiety dealing with this. Even the service tech said these things dont usually happen with this low mileage. A couple years ago they told me the starter was arcing sparks but another shop said it was not and they have not mentioned it since. Do you think it would help to talk to SOA customer service? Or any chance they would help with cost, etc.? Any advice would be appreciated. My service appointment is Jan 7, 2014.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Linda,
      Whether Subaru will help or not is a good question. The only way to know is to call them.

      If the head gaskets are only leaking a little oil, it could be years before they become significant enough to need replacement. The starter and differential are a different story. Depending on what is faulty with either, you may want to get those addressed first.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880

  166. Tim L.
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike,
    thank you for your time to answer questions. I hope to get a reply. 2004 Outback Wagon, no maintenance had been done for 50k and always driven very short distances with fender benders included (nice and shiny today). I purchased the car from Mom and had the 60k service and developed 2 codes after service, 1443 Evaps and a 240 cat code and a head gasket leak. I’m thinking the plugged cat’s caused the head gasket leak? 1443 repaired, $3000 repair for the cat’s and Subaru paid half but I signed off the warranty. Question: I’m going to put Steal Seal (no fibers) head gasket sealant in the antifreeze (100%) guaranteed permanent fix. $85. for 4 cylinders are you familiar with this product? I’m skeptical and haven’t made up my mind. Head gasket quote $1700 if they don’t have problems. HELP!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Tim,

      I would not put any additive in the coolant unless it’s the Subaru additive. I’ve seen too many issues of radiators and heater cores plugging up and even after replacement plugging up again from the residual stop leak product in the engine.

      I would try the Subaru stuff and if that doesn’t help, then just have the job done right.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      https://www.smart-service.com
      Independent Subaru Care in Seattle

  167. Linda
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for your reply to my Dec 31st post. Due to the extreme cold here in Ia last couple days (minus 24 last nite, wind chill 54 below, daytime high 10 below), I postponed my Forester appointment till Jan 14th.
    Decided to have the service done only on the differential for now and wait for a 2nd opinion on the starter & head gaskets. Funny the service tech did not mention doing timing belt at same time as gaskets and learned here that would be something to consider if and when gaskets have to be done. Something I did not mention earlier: for 2-3 weeks before Dec 18th oil change the car had a clunk – like hard shifting- when going into 3rd &/or 4th gear. This happened about 70% of the time & only the 1st time it went into those gears after sitting overnight in garage. Then was Ok each time after initial clunk when car was cold. Of course I mentioned this to the service tech but they didnt hear the clunk–only happened when car sat overnite–& couldnt say if due to the differential. Interesting the last time I heard the shifting clunk was the morning I took the Forester in on Dec 18th! Coincidence? They say they did nothing but the oil change & inspection. Any insight or comment? Will post again after differential appointment & diagnosis.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Linda,
      If the car behaves like that while sitting overnight it probably has an internal seal within the transmission bleeding down fluid overnight. It’s expensive to go into the transmission to repair but as long as you let the car warm up for the first 3 minutes when you start it you may never have to deal with it. (because it will have a chance to build the pressure back up before you shift it).

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, WA
      https://www.smart-service.com

  168. Kevin
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Great information – thanks. I’m helping my parents figure out what to do with this issue on one of their Subarus. I’m shopping for a car for two new drivers in my house and was shopping Subaru, Toyota, and Mazda. I’m now shopping Toyota and Mazda.

  169. Scott Asbjornsen
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I am replacing the engine in my 2003 Impreza Outback, at 199,000. It has leaked oil for 7 years, and a mix up of info regarding interference vs. non-interfernce left me with a broken timing belt, and dead engine. I am having a rebuilt long block shipped into Fife from a Michigan Indenpendent Subaru Shop. They used Six Star Head gaskets, and before they rebuilt (No Cylinder work, but everything else, and 52K on the engine before dis-aasembly). The price, when considering using even a low mileage used engine as a replacement is a real bargain, because the used engine will still need at least The Six Star Head Gaskets, before being dropped in the car. I will not replace the car. It has a one year old clutch and some inner trans work, EBC sport rotors, new front suspension work,a set of new KYB front struts in the garage,New tires, and two new wheels. Even if the final bill, including a nre crank sensor abd timing belt cover to verify vale damage, is $3,500, I will have a better engine core than came from the factory. I know that it will run for anoother 200K, but without the oil leaks. As a former Spares Buyer at Boeing, I consider the scope and very high failure rate of the Head Gaskets to be a Subaru procurement department problem. They did not demand action from their supplier in a timely manner. The rebuilt long blocks are sold on E-Bay, and on their website. They might offer some good options for your customers.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Scott,

      Thank you for the info. Sounds like it’s going to be a nice car again once it’s all said and done and for 1/8th the cost of a new one.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert.

  170. Rob Ball
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I have a 2009 Subaru Forester (limited) that I change the oil and do pretty good regular maintenance. I took the car into a local Subaru dealer for the 60k maintenance and was given some bad news. The car has 74k miles on it and I was told both head gaskets were shot. With a quote to fix just the 2 head gaskets starting at $1,800 to fix, plus Oil change, Coolant change, Transmission fluid change, and a power steering issue, I was ready to blow up on the phone with the service manager.

    I did a little research and with the help of your website and calling 800-Subaru3 I was able to get a one time good will of $500. I hope the rest of my journey goes well with the Forester, as I have enjoyed the car, but a little weary of the head gasket problems.

    I would have loved to brought the vehicle into your shop,and purchased a six star MLS head gasket but I am in NYC. Please pass along any local contacts you know in the NYC area as I would love to have a great Subaru mechanic in my rolodex. Thanks again, and loved the website!

    Rob

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Rob,
      Glad to hear that your extra effort contacting Subaru will bring you some help. I don’t have any Subaru contacts at this time but will post something if I ever come across a reputable shop.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Experts
      Seattle, WA
      https://www.smart-service.com

  171. Scott Asbjornsen
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I wasn’t familiar with your shop until I went looking for engines, and the best Head Gasket Replacements. It is at Hawk’s in Fife, and has been since last Wednesday, when it was towed from Skyway. It was the only place around Milton that I knew that had a good reputation. But, I will tell people about your Shop.

    Scott

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Thank you Scott, I hope all goes well at the other shop anf feel free to call us if you have any questions.

      Cheers,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Experts in Shoreline
      https://www.smart-service.com

  172. Charlene Gilmore
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello Mr. Corbin,

    Firstly, I’m amazed and appreciative that you’ve taken the time to answer so many questions about Subaru’s on your site. What an amazing resource and I sincerely wish I lived near your shop! Thank you for your time.

    I have a 2006 4cyl, Subaru Outback wagon and I do love it. It was my first ‘real’ car purchase and I planned to drive it for about 15 years or 250-275k miles- long as possible. So, I’ve been pretty good at keeping it maintained, repaired, etc- either through 2 local dealers (we moved) or one other local mechanic.

    However, at 106k miles, I started noticing some odd clicking or popping noises from the engine and about 2 week later, the CEL came on while driving – solid light w/ flashing cruise light. Took it to local mechanic and he noted that the oil was very low- less than 2 quarts- and that there were 7 diagnostic codes active/stored. HE did oil change, checked all the code areas (P026, P028, P0140, P0851, P1152, P1153, P1518). He couldn’t find anything else wrong though so they cleaned all the connections and cleared the codes.

    Two weeks later, CEL comes on, same thing. Straight to mechanic (less than 10 miles)and he says same codes (we think- they didn’t write them on my invoice this time), but no issues, but about 1/2 quart LOW on oil, so I must be burning oil. I had just checked the oil about 5 days before and it was full. I drive mostly city to work and back, so I also started noticing oil smell/taste in cabin after this visit. Decided to take it to dealer for 2nd opinion.

    Dealer says: leaking cylinder head gasket, leaking power steering pump, but they can’t tell quite what all the codes were about- except perhaps related to starter and Oxy sensors/drivability. I have had a problem w/ the car (very occasionally- maybe 2 times a year) not starting on first try and I do know the last time it happened was between the first mechanic visit and second CEL. But the Oxy censor indicators have me worried. Dealer also said my car was NOT low on oil, but was about 1/2 quart OVER-filled. Dealer is driving car for a couple of days and I have a loaner. Unless we can get those codes to show up again, I’m worried about making a 3100 repair (for HG w/ wires (not plugs), Power steering pump, and timing belt). Because if there is another significant expense (>2k), I may look to buy new.

    So, here are my questions (after all that info):
    1) other mechanic (non-subaru) says he can do same repairs and add in water pump for 2800. I’m inclined to stick w/ dealer because I want Subaru parts, but this mechanic also says he thinks that dealer is blowing smoke on the HG issue. I like the guy and he’s been good for our other cars, but I’m hesitating here. Any thoughts?
    2) Any other ideas about the other code issues? Oxy stuff has me worried- that there are other outstanding issues and further repairs are coming.
    3) Would overfull oil cause the nasty smell/taste in car cabin?
    4) Until CEL comes on again, is it safe to drive the car, but just check the oil often/top up, if leaking?
    5) what other questions should I ask the dealer?

    Thanks for your time,
    Charlene

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Charlene,

      The dealer price and independent prices are both about where I’d expect them to be. The first thing I’d do though is get a second opinion on the head gaskets. We have seen plenty of dealer smoke blowing so to speak when it comes to head gaskets. Most Subaru dealers are commission so when you buy something, the guy at the front counter just put a little more money in his pocket. There are lots of good honest service advisors out there but there are also some that will try and sell you head gaskets even if it’s a small residual oil leak that may take years to evolve into something worthy of repair.

      I think that some shops take advantage of the pre-conceived notion that their head gaskets will fail at sometime anyway and when they are told they are leaking they just go ahead and fix them. Rarely do they ask the question how bad are they leaking.

      No ideas on the code but if they are engine related sensor codes, we’ve seen a few engine wire harnesses that have caused a similar complaint.

      Overfull oil by just 1/2 qt won’t cause any nasty smell. That would probably be related to some fluid leak on the engine that is burning off when warm.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Experts
      Seattle WA
      https://www.smart-service.com

  173. Ray Shieh
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have 2010 Legacy 2.5i (SOHC engine) with 99000 mile on it, I bough it from Siemens FAE group (they have very good service record) with 86000 mile on it; last month the coolant overflow from reservoir; I check engine oil, it doesn’t have milky stuff (coolant dose not getting into oil); engine still running OK, It could be just exhaust air leak to coolant; took it to dealer; after diagnosis, they told me it will cost me $6900 to rebuild whole engine.
    My questions is:
    1. If engine burn, why it still run OK? and doesn’t have coolant in oil?
    2. It take $6900 to rebuild engine? how much to buy rebuild engine? Is dealer (San Jose Subaru) ripping customer?

    Call Subaru customer service; they said they don’t have head gasket problem after 2003, they can’t help me at all.

    This is my first Subaru; look like it will be my last Subaru due to bad design/bad quality, and outrages cost.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Ray,

      The first thing I advise is to take it for a second opinion to another professional shop. I don’t have enough details to discuss why they may be recommending a whole engine but the other shop should be able to give you an idea. I don’t know of any affordable rebuilt engines for that car that I can refer you to.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com

  174. Oliver
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    Very informative website. Im not a subaru owner yet, but I am considering buying a 2014 legacy touring edition(manual) or an imprezza sport premium. Im very much on the fence between subaru and toyota. Currently I am driving a 1995 mercedes C280, which I purchased with 60,000 miles and now has 230,000. Shes been a very good car over the years and still runs like a champ! Its time now to put her to pasture and move on, and subaru is the direction Im leaning towards. Ive been doing plenty of research and like to think I know a little bit about cars, I maintain my vehicles and expect them to last. Reliability and build quality are my must haves in a car. I wanted to know if subaru did anything to combat this head gasket issue in later models engines. Looking through consumer reports I see that this was a major problem in pre2010 legacys. Im looking to buy new and wanted to check how subaru remedied this problem. if at all. I know plenty of subaru owners who have yet to go through any major problems,and just wanted to address this concern before I join the subaru team. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Oliver,

      From what I’m seeing so far and what I’m hearing from my friends at the dealership, they are not seeing much incident with 2010 and up head gaskets. I hope this is a good indication since some of the earlier head gasket issues on the older model Subarus were cropping up by now.

      Good luck in your decision,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Your Independent Subaru Experts
      Seattle, Wa https://www.smart-service.com

  175. Ray Shieh
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Thank you for reply and suggestion.

    I turn down the offer of whole engine rebuilt, just ask them to re- surface engine head and change head gasket, it cost me $1900; they said, because I do not have full engine rebuilt, they are not guaranty the job; when I got the car back this morning, I open the hood, found they just change HG on passanger siide, the driver side are are not touch at all ( the HG has small piece sticked up, the new one is quick different than old one) but they charge me labor/parts for both side.

    I hope Subaru should hire more people like you to help customer; don’t upset or rip off them, with good quality and good service, that is only way to gain business.

    Thanks again. Best wish

    Ray

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Ray, I’m sorry to hear about their dishonesty. I suggest you file a complaint with your state attorney general and take good pictures put together documentation of what was quoted and what was actually done. This is just the kind of nightmare that a few bad apples cause but end up affecting the whole public opinion about repair shops in general.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Your Independent Subaru Experts
      Seattle, Wa https://www.smart-service.com

  176. Dave
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi, Mike – thanks for the great forum!
    There is an ’04 Forester with 77000 miles I was going to buy at the Subaru dealership. They told me, however, that during their diagnostic tests they found leaky gaskets and weren’t going to sell it to me. Now they have said they are fixing it and that it would be a great deal.
    I have been a Subaru owner for some time, and the dealership manager is my neighbor, so I trust his judgment. Do you have any advice on what I should be concerned about and/or what questions I should be asking moving forward? Once ‘fixed’ is it likely to re-occur?
    I’m about to drive across the country to the Pacific NW and want something reliable…and for a long time. I appreciate your thoughts.
    Cheers,
    Dave G.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I think if you are intending on buying it you should make sure that any and all seals and gaskets related to it are done now so you’re not doing them for a long time in the future.

      If a head gasket job is done properly and the rest of the car is in good shape, I’d have no problem buying it and expecting a long reliable life.

      Good luck,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Your Independent Subaru Experts
      Seattle, Wa https://www.smart-service.com

  177. elaine toussatint
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi, was just informed by Subaru that head gaskets leaking oil, recommend to replace headgasket repair along with timing belt & tensioner. Price $2060. I have a 2005 Legacy with 102,000. Should I repair, & is the cost resonable? I have had no major problems w/the car.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Elaine,
      I think the price is reasonable if they really are needed. It also saves you some money on the timing belt replacement that is due at 105,000 miles.

      Just have them show the leaks to you to make sure they are severe enough that they’re really needed. I’m all for taking care of leaks but if it’s just slight oil residue, you may want to save your money for a later date.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Experts in Seattle

  178. Linda
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    Just getting around to posting update since my posts here Dec 31 & Jan 7 regarding possible differential issues with my 2007 Forester. Took it to scheduled appt Jan 14 to fix differential after raising some fuss in 2 phone calls to service manager just prior to that–told them they needed to be very sure there actually was a problem and that, if there was, I planned to call Subaru Customer Service for help with payment.
    Rather than proceed with fix, they had me wait while they repeated the inspection. Then took me out to show me car running in gear on the hoist. After originally telling me the differential growl was “very loud” they now said the noise was barely noticeable and that they might not have noticed it at all if I had not mentioned the clunk I noticed with cold shifting in early Dec. I have had no further clunk but do think I have a little more lug than normal when shifts at 30mph. Anyway they sent me home & put repair on hold for now to see if clunk may return saying that would more likely be transmission & would result in going into same area twice. For the leaking head gaskets they originally diagnosed they showed me some oil on the bottom of the engine as evidence they need replacement but not on the gaskets themselves. Suppose they spilled oil during oil change? When I asked if the oil was low when they changed it Dec 18, they said NO. Ill definitely get 2nd opinion before spending $ on gaskets. So Im in limbo on the differential/transmission thing pending doing more driving with spring coming. Have so appreciated your blog & your willingness to communicate from your expert knowledge to help us Subaru owners.. Thank You.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      You’re welcome Linda,

      I’m glad you stood your ground and had them show you the head gaskets and that the transmission is behaving now. If more people got second opinions, fewer head gaskets would be replaced prematurely.

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, Everett, Mukilteo, Lynnwood
      https://www.smart-service.com
      206-417-0880

  179. marco
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I bought a Legacy 05 Wagon used last year. 80k miles. Blown head gasket. 3 k to fix.

  180. Patricia King
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I just found your website when my 2003 Subaru Outback engine imploded less than two years after I had the head gasket replaced by a Subaru dealership in Maryland. This same dealership told me I would now need a new engine because a hole had been blown through mine. They took a deposit of more than $3600 and then told me they had 1] ordered a short block engine rather than a long block; 2] ordered a rebuilt engine that did not include valves; 3] could not find a rebuilt engine to fit my car so offered a used engine with nearly 60,000 miles on it and only a 101 day guarantee. My engine has less than 80,000 on it. I found a rebuilt engine through Gearhead on the internet but since I am not an expert and don’t want to order the wrong engine, I asked the Parts Department to talk to them and make sure it was the right engine. They refused because they would not be able to charge me a mark-up if I ordered the engine. I contacted Subaru because this is my third Subaru station wagon and the first time I have had this much trouble with the vehicle or a dealership. I feel like I don’t know what to do next. My engine-less car is sitting at the dealership who seems to have no interest in helping me get it fixed. Are there any other options that I am missing? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Patricia,

      Well I don’t know why you’re getting such a run around with the shop your Subaru is at. The story sounds like a mess. If we were doing something like that I would usually order a new or remanufactured shortblock from Subaru and use the rest of the parts off your current engine. If the cylinder heads are still in good shape you can just transfer them over to the new shortblock. If not you can still have a valve grind done before reassembling the engine.

      It sounds like you may be better off getting your deposit back and taking it in to the dealer. They will at least give you a 12 minth 12000 mile warranty.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Experts.

  181. Malvin
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike.

    I am thinking about buying a Subaru Forester L, 2002 [136,711] miles or 2004,2.5 X [116,188]miles from a Honda Dealer but I am kind worried about the head gasket failure. What should I ask when I go to see those cars? Should the carfax says if the head gasket were replaced? because I don’t see such on it. Both Carfax have a good history services on Subaru dealers.

    Thank you for your time.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Malvin,
      The first thing I would do is ask to take it to a trusted professional shop (hopefully Subaru specific) and have it thoroughly mechanically inspected, including the head gaskets.

      Carfax will not always show up if the business does not report.

      A good shop will be able to tell if they are the original head gaskets or if they have been updated.

      They are both pretty much the same vehicle so I’d probably take the newer with lower miles if it checks out well.

      Good luck,

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

  182. Mike Sentance
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Good day Mike,

    Found your site today – very informative.

    I have an 04 impreza outback with 245,000 KM which is leaking coolant at about 1 resevoir per week. The head gaskets have not been change – they have been telling me it is leaking for the last 145,000 km – but very slowly.

    We recently hit an empty 20 gallon water jug blowing across the road, and the rate of leaking has increased. The subaru dealer looked at it yesterday and said – head gasket.

    I had the conditioner added to see if that would slow the leaking, and he indicated that spring and fall are the worst times for these leaks.

    At any rate, my question – finally, where does the coolant come from for this sort of leak? The base of my rad seems wet and the coolant seems to be at the front of the car.

    Is this where the head gasket leak will be visible, or did the dealer just assume gasket and tell me that?

    Any advice would be appreciated, I am very happy with the car and it is otherwise great, so I am leaning towards the repair, but don’t want to do it if a new rad / hoses would solve the problem.

    Thanks

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Mike,

      Normally if you have a head gasket coolant leak on your particular Subaru, it will be coming from the LH head gasket toward the rear of the engine. It can also develop on the RT side eventually but tends to fail on the left side first. Also, if the base of the radiator is wet it may be a leaking seam on the radiator and will need to be replaced.

      I suggest that the next time they are diagnosing the car, have them show you exactly what they are talking about when the car is on a hoist.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-414-0770
      Independent Subaru Experts in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com

  183. Shari
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi, Mike.

    I ran across this website while doing some research & trying to figure out my next steps (like most everyone else here). Today my 2004 Forester basically died on me in the middle of a busy freeway during rush hour! One moment I was going 65 mph & all was fine, the next moment I’m slowing down for traffic & the car starts sputtering, smoke spews out from under the hood, and I was lucky enough that it limped over a couple of lanes to get out of traffic. All the gauges were fine and there was absolutely no warning that something catastrophic was happening. Fortunately, I was able to maneuver to the side of the road and got the car towed to the shop that I use.

    They are telling me that the radiator broke (cracked in several places), drained out, the car overheated, and the head gasket blew. At least that’s my take on it–I was still in shock when I spoke to the mechanic. The estimate for the head gasket, a new radiator, and a timing belt (since it’s close to needing replacement again anyway) is around $3k. My main question at this point is: for a 10 year old car with 165,000 miles on it, is it worth fixing? Was I lucky to get this far without the head gasket going before now? I was hoping to get another 35,000 miles on this car, but I don’t want to cough up this amount of money for a car that might now start nickel-diming me to death and take the chance of ending up on the side of the highway again.

    I’m also wondering how this could have happened when I’ve been meticulous about the maintenance, aware that there is a head gasket issue with these cars, and had no signs of this impending disaster. Thanks for any insights. I’m kind of under the gun trying to figure out whether to fix this car or buy a new car. Not sure I’d go for a Subaru again after this experience, although otherwise it’s been a great car. And will anyone buy the car at this point? What do I do with it if I don’t have it fixed?

    Phew, that’s a lot of stuff. I’d be grateful for any guidance. Thanks.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Shari,

      Well first of all, if the radiator blew and it overheated, it very well may need exactly what they diagnosed. If the rest of the car is still in good condition and it still serves your purpose it can be a very good investment to fix it as opposed to buying new (in a strictly numbers sense).

      With the fact that it overheated badly enough to die and with the fact it has 165k on it, I’d ask them how much more to install a Subaru remanufactured short block with the job. This will probably bring the total up to around $5000 but if the rest of the car is in good condition it may be a good way to go. It’s virtually like having a new engine.

      I hope it works out for the best for you.

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

  184. johnny b
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    HI! i just bought a “Q certified” 2005 outback from a local subaru dealer last week. the main reason i bought it was because it only has 39k miles, 1 owner carfax and looks and drives like it was garage kept and babied its whole life.

    im not exaggerating, all the plastic and rubber, even under the car looks and feels new.

    but after doing some reading up on these now and crawling under it i notice that both heads are wet with oil along the gasket. do you think this is something i should be overly concerned with and possibly raise a stink about now because i just bought it? they gave me a 2 year warranty but specifically told me it does not cover any gaskets. im just starting to get a little worried after reading some of the horror story’s around the net because i dropped 9k in cash on this car and dont have a penny to my name now with a kid on the way so i need this thing to run!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Johnny,

      I would definitely take it back to at least show them and discuss it with them. I would be interested in the fine print of what “Q Certified” means and if selling it with oil leaking from the head gaskets is within the definition.

      Without seeing the leak, I don’t know if it’s really anything to be concerned about. If it’s just a little residue without any drip hanging off it may be normal.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Shoreline, WA
      https://www.smart-service.com

  185. johnny b
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    here is the best i could find online from the place i purchased it, http://www.baierlsubaru.com/q-certified.htm

    there was a 120 something point checklist they were suppose to do and give me a copy of but looking through the paper work i did not get it, figures.

    they specifically told me that this warranty does NOT cover gaskets, and tried to sell me 1 that does and extends it to 4yrs for $1400

    about 4 days ago i wiped the heads dry and they are wet again now, but not to the point of dripping.

  186. Franny
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Dear Mike,

    Great site, and thread on the HG issue.
    I just bought a 2004 Outback Wagon 5 speed with 111,000 – $5000. At 115 000 I started to smell syrup in the cabin, looked underneath and I’m losing oil – I am so upset as I thought this issue was fixed on the 04, and I am now in no place to spend $1500 on fixing them.

    I’m taking it into my local Subaru center, having called 1 800 Subaru3 the insist I take it into the dealer to have them tell me what I already know is leaking gaskets (wet to the touch, but not dripping).

    Do you think there’s any way they’ll help me with repairs? The cars previous owner always maintained the car with subaru, and has invested in all the major components i.e. timing belt, water pump, valve cover gaskets, CV’s, rear diff…

    I’ve also read about a ‘sealant’ additive. Is that worth a shot ?

    thank you for your time.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      There is certainly the possibility that the dealer will help you. It may not amount to a full repair but I’ve heard them giving some large discounts toward the repair in situations like yours. I think before jumping to conclusions though it is wise to have it fully diagnosed so you know what you are up against.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com

  187. Mike
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello Mike –

    I have an ’08 Impreza 2.5i. Took it in for an oil change the other day and they told me my head gaskets were leaking and quoted $2000. Then they informed me that this would have been covered by my warranty which expired Feb. 28th (exactly one month before). My service advisor then told me that they had made a note that my head gaskets were leaking the last time I had the car serviced, but no one bothered to tell me. So not only have I been driving with leaking head gaskets unknowingly, but they knew about it and didn’t fix it when my car was still under warranty. I brought this to the attention of the service manager and he told me I was out of luck and the best he could do is offer me a 15% discount. This is obviously unethical but do I have any legal retribution against them? If so what advice can you give me? Thanks!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I would take any documents you have that state the oil leaks were happening back under warranty and call 1-800-subaru3. This is the Subaru corporate customer service number. I expect you’ll get more help from them than the dealer if in fact it was still under warranty when they were noticed.

      I hope you are able to get them done under warranty. Keep us posted.

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

  188. Julie
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I’m a 1st time owner of a 2005 (bought new) 5-speed Forester. I have 67,800 miles on it. I have it serviced religiously. My most recent visit revealed a head gasket leak, requiring $2400 to repair per my dealership. After asking for re-sale value, they told me it was worth $4000. I’ve had zero problems with my car to date. Should I go to an independent garage as 2nd opinion?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Julie, Yes yes yes, I would go to another shop and get a second opinion. At your low mileage, hopefully they’re only seeing a slight oil leak if anything. As for the value, sure it would be $4000 for a trade in but in good condition on the private market, there’s no reason you couldn’t get $6000-8000 out of it.

      I hope the second opinion reveals things aren’t as bad as they seem.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com

  189. Sue
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    I am the proud owner of a 2004 35th Ed. Subaru Legacy with 152,000 miles. I rcently had one of my catalytic converters replaced and my CEL code revealed that the other one is bad too. My other issue is that I was told that I have a head gasket leak. I want to repair the HG but this will be my second one. First one was done at 60,000 miles and under warranty. I know that my car will last another 30K miles because this is my 3rd Subaru. Should I invest the money to get these repairs? HG quoted $1900 and cat conv around $1,000.

    Thanks for your advise,
    Sue

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Sue,

      Not knowing how bad the head gaskets leak I can’t advise if they should be repaired yet. If they are just a minor leak I would hold off unless it is a coolant leak. If it’s a coolant leak then it becomes a more pressing issue. The $1900 to repair them sounds reasonable. As far at the cat converter goes, I would take care of it at your convenience once the head gaskets have been done.

      If the car is overall in good condition I think it very well may be worth fixing. Compared to a new car price, if you can put that money into it and drive it another couple of years or more it easily pays you back for what you’ve put into it.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      206-417-0880
      Independent Subaru Repair in Seattle, WA

  190. Tien
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I just wanted to add to your blog because it inspired me to contact Subaru of America when the gasket on my 2007 Legacy Wagon started leaking after 78,000 miles. Dealer quote was $2,300 but got it down to $1,900. I think they made up for it with Tires and “bad” battery (let that slide). Anyway, called SOA and they paid for half. Got a check 1.5 weeks later. They were actually really nice but you have to kind of prod your dealer to vouch for you. I had all service receipts but they didn’t ask for them. I was 4 months past due my extended warranty. What might have helped was again, dealer said car was very clean (which I’d like to think so too). They did my timing and other belts but did not replace any pulleys, water pump, tensioners..they said they rarely “go”. Think I’m in trouble? Thanks for blog and hopefully this will help others to just make the call because in reality this should not be happening after so few miles/years.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Tien,

      Glad to hear they helped on the head gasket issue. As far as the other pulleys, you’re probably not in any immediate danger if they looked good when it was apart. It is always best to put them on if you can afford to but that isn’t always in the budget. They do last a long time but I’m a proponent of preventive maintenance if you can afford it. If just one of those pulleys fails in the future, it can break the timing belt and bend the valves on the engine.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com

  191. Tien
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the response. You’re really doing a great service by starting this blog. I should say that sometimes the dealer isn’t the way to go. After I left the lot blue smoke came out of my exhaust and when I checked under the hood the hose from my PCV valve came out and was spurting oil. They overfilled the engine oil so much that the pressure had to come out somewhere. Geez…

    Thanks again,

    Tien

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Yikes….

  192. Justin
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    I have seen you guys several times in the past decade, I appear to have oil in my coolant, but not coolant in my oil, and no smoke. It started with coolant loss which led to a coolant change, which led to the discovery of oil in my coolant. Is the head gasket done with?
    Thanks.
    Justin

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Justin,

      If you want to swing by we can do a free Hydrocarbons check on your cooling system. It probably is the first sign that the head gaskets are failing but that test will verify for sure what is going on.

      Thank you,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      https://www.smart-service.com
      Your Independent Subaru Expert

  193. Elizabeth
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve been reading this blog and the comments associated with it, and was wondering your input on my specific situation.
    I have a 2004 Subaru Outback I bought with 110k miles from a dealership in Washington state, I am in Minnesota now. I naively nabbed it for a price that was well under what other Subs were listed at, it had 4 previous owners, I suspect because of the head gasket issues.

    Would I qualify for any help from Subaru with this problem? I have been yanked back and forth by multiple mechanics over the past 6 months, getting quotes from $1700-$5000.
    Since owning the car in September 2013 I have preformed all oil changes at the right mileage but the past couple I have done myself, but could find records of the oil filter purchased.

    I am at a loss for what to do because of being lied to by the dealership that sold me the car, and many mechanics trying to swindle me out of thousands of unnecessary dollars, using fear mongering tactics on me and the like. Any advice is appreciated.

    -Elizabeth

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Sorry to hear of your situation. I hope the price you paid for the car left you some room for the repair. As far as Subaru helping out with the cost, I very much doubt it due to the year of the car. Not knowing what they quoted I can’t give you too much advice other than recommending going to the dealer due the fact that if there is a chance Subaru will help out, they may have some leverage with Subaru. Feel free to comment once you know a bit more detail about what is being done for the quotes given.

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

  194. Carol DiCenso
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2011 forester which I bought just 17000 miles ago. Have had oil consumption issues, hard starts, blowing smoke out tailpipe. Been thru oil consumption test, going back in shop for 2nd time next week. I know there is a fix for it, but getting them to do it is the problem! Feeling ripped off. Dealer never mentioned oil consumption issues although they obviously knew about problem. I am meeting with manager of dealership to see what they are willing to do. I have also contacted attorney at Lemon Law. My big question is…..do you know if problems have been fixed in the 2015 forester? Would consider trade in if they bought it back from me. But not if I just get another oil burner. HELP!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Carol,

      I have heard of some of the earlier Foresters with your particular engine that had oil consumption issues and most Subaru dealers are aware of them. If you don’t feel you are getting help from that particular dealer, call 1-800-SUBARU3 and talk to customer service about your issue and request a suggestion of another dealer to deal with. As far as 2015’s go I haven’t heard any problems about them so far but then again, they’ve just come out. Subaru is pretty good about improving upon things like that so I’d assume by 2015 they have things sorted out.

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

  195. Mike Moore
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    I sure appreciate your blog. It is a great public service. I bought a 2007 Forester LL Bean which we really like. We actually prefer it to the 2014 loaner we just had. I had not heard of the head gasket issue until I was told yesterday that at 123,000 miles, I have a stage 3 leak. (Not yet dripping). I just had belts and pulleys done, and hoses yesterday etc. I am trying to decide what to do. Having read so much last night, I am convinced that somehow Subaru has a design defect in the gasket f not the 4 cal engine. I spoke to a shop in Wa this morning who uses the Star 6 head gaskets and offer a lifetime warranty. Although probably unrealistic, it at least indicates their faith in that head gasket being a good idea. (1.) What is your reaction to that? (2.) What do you think about new head bolts versus reusing yielded bolts? (I’m a retired engineer and overthink everything !) (3.) My dealer has quoted a range of $2800-$3500 for head gaskets, or $5500 for a new engine. I hate to think of replacing head gaskets every 100k miles. I drove my Cavalier 300k miles, I still have my 62 Chrysler with vower 300k miles and my 59 TR3 -so I keep cars I like. I love the Subie, but hate this problem. Would a new engine have any improvements?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Mike,

      We do like the Six Star gaskets. Although we don’t offer a lifetime warranty, from the great success we’ve had with them since 2008 we probably could.

      As far as the bolts go, we offer them for sale because many people believe they are necessary but at our shop, unless they are damaged or corroded we reuse them. When Subaru does warranty head gasket work, they do not require new bolts. My thinking is this: Subaru engineers have been dealing with the head gasket headache for a while and with all the time and research they’ve probably done to improve upon things, if installing new head bolts would insure a longer lasting repair, they would have required the dealers do it under warranty a long time ago. To the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t ever been a bulletin issued that requires them install new bolts.

      As far as what to do at this point. If the engine has been well serviced, I wouldn’t hesitate to continue with the current engine block and just install new head gaskets. Even though the head gaskets may be a weak spot, the internal components seem to last well over 300,000 with proper maintenance. I would only replace the block if any flaws or abnormal wear is found once it’s apart or if you’ve had excessive oil consumption issues.

      Good luck,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Shoreline, WA
      Mike Corbin

  196. Mike Moore
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    ps-I once owned a Triumph Stag V8 with a troublesome head gasket problem . It was SOP to periodically torque the head bolts, yet in all that I’ve read about our head gasket problem, there seems to be a moderate controversy about reusing yielded bolts as well as even re-torquing the bolts. Is it even possible to tighten head bolts in the car? Why would that not be a smart think to do if it begins to weep oil?
    Best, Mike Moore
    Morgan Hill, Ca

  197. Mike Moore
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Good morning Mike, thank you for your advice, you are a huge help even though I live in Morgan Hill, Ca! I called my dealership and they must use Subaru gaskets (understandable), I drove over to see a mechanic who is most highly respected here (in the top 20 of 1800 in our county says the newspaper).
    He is reputable, thorough and a little expensive (I’m ok with that). He will do it using 6* gaskets I provide (which I will), But, he says, he doesn’t t want to do it until it becomes a real leak as it will be a waste of money. Smitty says he thinks every Subaru he sees in his shop has a small leak from the head. He says because that engine has bolts and not studs, he removes the heads with the engine in the car. Also, he says since I had belts pulleys, hoses, water pump done less that 10k miles ago, that would be a waste of money. He also had a bnit to say about how dealerships work and how they ruin good mechanics because of the pressure to sell $ more work. Do you remove the engine on a 2007 Subaru Forester to do the heads? How exactly is that engine identified Mike, is it a 2.5X Single cam ? Again, you have been a terrific help.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Morning Mike,

      We prefer remove the engine because of the tight quarters. They can be done in the car but taking it our allows for much better inspection and cleaning of the block surface and insures that not a single scratch, nick or bump occurs to the head gasket material as well as no resudual oil or coolant from the block weeping out to contaminate the new surface. We also replace all the other seals and gaskets while it’s out as well as perform the valve adjustment. Unless it has extremely low miles it makes sense to do them for the long term. As far as engine i.d. it’s a 2.5 SOHC engine (EJ25 designation).

      As far as re-torquing the head bolts, I just don’t think there’s that much more give in the bolts, head,block or gasket even after some warmup/cooldown cycles. If it were a fiber/composite gasket it may be more reasonable but even after hundreds of cycles, when we disassemble an engine those head bolts are tighter than you know what.

      On another note, My brother used to live down in Morgan hill. We’d visit him on spring break and walk down to Trail Dust Barbecue. Man they could do barbecue right! Glad he moved back to Seattle but bummed I don’t have an excuse to go down there anymore!

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Shoreline, WA
      https://www.smart-service.com

  198. Mike Moore
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for taking the time to answer Mike. I put my Forester up on ramps this morning and crawled under it. I noticed right away that two of the push-fasteners were missing. I would have jhoped that they would put them all back in, and if any were missing, replace them and bill me! (This is not the first time that has happened. UI called the parts dept to get the p/n so I could order some and they refused.) Oh well-BUT, anyway, I crawled under the car and took a lot of pictures. I can to find any head leaks, Yes, there is a dark line at the interface but certainly not even wet. There is oil there from two sources perhaps (1.) I installed a valve to replace the drain plug, Unfortunately, it isn’t straight down so it sends oil over that plastic underpan which will run everywhere . So that was part of the mess. But then the drivers side power steering rack has heavy oil on the boot which seems to be coming from above , a gold colored plug on the side of , perhaps, the block or maybe the diff case. That IS a leak. If you had an email address, I will send you the pic if that is possible to identify what it is. I am back on ramps now going to go back and research what I’m seeing in pictures,. Traildust is still here. I am a BBQ aficionado (from Ala) and we like Dickeys a lot . Best regards, Mike

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Mike,

      I won’t put the email address here but feel free to go to the contact page of our website and use one from there to send the pic. Hopefully we can identify the leak for you.

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

  199. Katherine Smith
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Here is what happened to me. I have a 2002 Impreza with barely 106,000 miles on with a blown headgasket. Repair will cost will cost $2500. I went to SOA and explained that I really need the car to last me me a couple more years. That due to some life situations in past couple of years I could not afford to buy a new or used car or the repair bill. That I had bought my Subaru believing that it would last well past 100,000 miles, but this was not the case. Subaru was well aware of these headgasket problems.

    I got an email quoting the motor and power train warranty and told that since both had expired there would be no compensation for the repair. But they would offer me $500 towards the purchase of a new or used Subaru for customer loyalty–oh yea, I had to send them the sales contract first. $500 for customer loyalty. The entire email was really condescending and the whole message said if you can’t buy a new car every 4 or 5 we don’t care! This Subaru lasted no longer than my American cars. I love it and the safety and high rating for pets, but the company and customer service need a real overhaul. Katherine Smith

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Katherine, I empathize with your situation and wish they would have done more. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with Subaru customer service.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, WA
      https://www.smart-service.com

  200. Mike Moore
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    My plans were to clean up the underside thoroughly after I remove the plastic underpan, put florescent dye in the oil, drive 200 miles and have my independent mech Smitty check for the leak. Then I got a call late yesterday from the service manager at the dealer who wanted to discuss my questions. He says he looked at the pics (same ones I sent you) and it is the head leaking , nothing else. He said he has seen a lot of steering racks changed out because of where the oil drips. Also said they have changed out hundreds of head gaskets (gasp!). Then he said I need to call Subaru Customer people. In many cases, he said, where folks have bought their car new and have loyally maintained it with the dealer, they will offer “warranty rates” except I would have to pay for subletting. He said my service record with them since new should stand me in good stead. He now wants me to follow my plan, but bring it to him and he and I will look at it ion the rack and he will show me the leaks , after which he will treat us to lunch. I believe they have a crappy situation and are doing what they can. He also says the stock Subaru gaskets are the best-which is not something I really want. I will never get them to do Six Star or Felpro, but I do think Colorado Components Company who must rebuild hundreds has a good thought also as they say they always use the turbo head gasket because it is thicker and better.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Mike,
      If the dealer is offering to do it for free or at a steep discount, I’d go with the gaskets they suggest. They will still be better than the ones that were on it. As far as using Turbo gaskets, we haven’t ever done it so I don’t have any opinion on that. I do know that the gaskets we use have been very successful and we’ll continue to use them for our in-house customers.

      Take care,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, Wa
      https://www.smart-service.com

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi there,
      From reading your story as well as the 214k miles on the engine it may not be a good canditate for repair unless you’re committed to also replacing the short block. To have overheated that badly is hard on even a low mile engine. The fact yours has 214k on it will have a much higher risk factor if you just put head gaskets on it.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair in Washington
      https://www.smart-service.com

  201. Mike Moore
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello Mike,
    I had called Subaru Customer rep and went bonkers trying to find out though the sale jargon if the new gasket was any different than the old gasket. They offered no help, but because the service rep had no idea what the new gasket would be, and because I wanted a 6 star MLS or a Subaru MLS, I took the car to one of the most highly respected independent shops in our county. I provided the gaskets which I bought from you as well as additional gaskets also from you. The machine shop just bought a $40,000 machine for head surfacing to fine finishes, and it got a new cutter to do my heads and another Forester Smitty had in. He really liked the 6 * gaskets I bought from you but could’t find a set here in San Jose. He says the price difference seems negligible for the better quality. My exhaust valves were pretty pitted so I had the valves reseated and pressure tested. The machine shop who does a lot of heads say everyone n San Jose is using a sealer even on MLS gaskets, Smitty says not on these gaskets! He will follow the manufacturers suggestions. Thanks You Smitty. As PM I’m also having the rest of the hoses replaced as well as the water pump (120k miles). I’m also having the oil pump resealed (o-rings). We had to replace one piece which had a stripped thread from the last dealership. I am most annoyed that I paid $1200 for oil, antifreeze,spark plugs, two radiator hoses THEN found out about having a head gasket problem which is duplicate work and material. But, who knew.
    Thanks Mike for all your support.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Mike,

      It sounds like your shop Smitty’s is a very professional shop. I hope they keep your Subaru going for many years to come. Thanks for the post.

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

  202. Mike Moore
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    My 2007 Forester is back from the shop now and all is well. The head work was $675 (machine shop adjust bought a $40k precision surfacing machine which must be paid for :-)). My exhaust valve seats were surprisingly pitted sty 120k miles. I had all hoses replaced and the water pump. My mechanic spent 15 hours doing the work and it all came to $3000. I have new head bolts, valve seals, crankshaft seal, and 6 star head gaskets (I supplied). I am pleased and I very much appreciate your help. Thank You! Mike Moore

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Mike,

      You’re welcome. I hope you get many more years of enjoyment out of your Subaru.

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

  203. Simon Tong
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike
    I am going to buy a 2015 Subaru Outback or the next generation of Forester. I wonder if these two subies will also have the same Head Gasket problem. To avoid this problem, is it better to buy the 3.6L instead of the 2.5L for both models.

    Thank you.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Simon,

      Well those cars are too new to predict but if we go on past history, the 6 cylinder has been far less likely to develop any head gasket issues.

      If you can afford it, the 6cyl is a very nice driving car.

      Take care,

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

  204. Ara
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello, Mr Corbin!

    I have a dilemma. I am trying to buy a Subaru Forester SW 2001 or 2002. The 2001 seller is asking $3600.00 and says the Subaru is in mint shape. The 2002 seller is honest and states the Head Gasket needs to be replaced. Both Subaru’s look identical in color and interior/exterior condition.

    I am reading in your thread and other threads on line that the HG is a common problem on those subaru’s of those years. Specially, when it is recommended to change the oil about every 3000 miles and ppl. do not do it.

    So, if I am most likely to have a HG problem on a Subaru 2001-2002 eventually. Will it be wiser to buy the Subaru 2002 that the owner states it def. needs a HG now?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Ara,

      I think it all depends on the price and the condition of the rest of the car. Many sellers will say their car is in mint shape but the only way I’ll believe it is if I have it checked out by a reputable shop as well as see that they’ve maintained impeccable records on the car. Without seeing both cars to inspect and knowing both prices I really can’t advise you from a distance. Unless you’re getting the one needing head gaskets for next to nothing or unless you are able to do the repairs yourself, I think I’d stay away from that one. Either way, what ever you decide to buy, never take a persons word at face value on a car, always have it inspected. We see people every day that think their cars are in mint condition only due to their lack of mechanical knowledge. Many are surprised when we show them the unexpected items they had know idea were leaking or worn out.

      Good luck in your search and I hope you end up with a good one!

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Repair in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com

  205. Amelia Carter
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    I was given an estimate of $4K to fix a head gasket on a 2006 Subaru Forester. Does this sound right? If I sell it before I get the work done, what is a reasonable price?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Amelia,

      Well $4k is quite a bit more than we do head gaskets for, but there may be more items included. If it is a turbo version it may explain the additional expense but if not I’d think more in the range of $2500-3000 would be a more reasonable range whether at dealer or independent.

      You can do a check at repairpal.com to get a better idea of what people in your area are charging for the same job.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert in Seattle
      https://www.smart-service.com

  206. James Rieck
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike
    I have an 04 Legacy with 132,660. Car has been well maintained by one Subaru dealership so all records are on file. Problem is I had the head gaskets replaced in 3/2008 with 70,293 on the clock. Repair done under extended warranty.
    One year later (4 days after the anniversary of the HG being replaced) the left HG goes south (85,409). Repair also done under warranty.
    Recently I notice oil on the the driveway and sure enough….both HG have to replaced.
    I have been in the motorcycle industry for over 25 years specializing in cylinder head porting/high performance engine building. I cannot help but notice that Subaru did not mill the cylinder heads with the previous repairs. When I asked about it I was told they only do it if the engine has overheated. I believe it wasn’t done because Subaru would not pay for under warranty. The machine shop I use has milled many 4 cylinder Subaru heads….I was shown were the surface goes “low” (almost a “V” area across the exhaust side and halfway down to the central chamber partition). I was told that, in general, .005 to .006 has to be removed to get the surface flat
    I am sure you understand that MLS head gaskets are very sensitive to surface RA and flatness. In a perfect world the heads should be milled and the cylinders decked after a million heat cycles.
    My question is have you had any luck in getting Subaru to pay for machine work (head milling)??? I spoke to Subaru customer service and started a case file in an attempt to have Subaru cover the cost. The rep was very pleasant but had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned the machine work. In the end I will have the machine work done at my machine shop (the dealer wants 280.00 to mill the 2 heads…..yikes!)…..I am just wondering, in your experience, if Subaru even acknowledges the procedure as a necessary part of the repair.
    BTW….I have 3 Subaru’s sitting in the driveway and you are correct in saying the newest generation Legacy with the 6 is a nice vehicle.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi James,

      I don’t really have any experience with the Subaru dealer paying for head machining or what the criteria is. I’m guessing different dealers have different criteria. We have nearly every head machined when we replace head gaskets in attempt to give the job the highest chance of succeeding long term. Even if they are not warped beyond factory specs, there is usually enough of an imperfection around the combustion sealing ring to justify having them machined.

      If they won’t pay for it , I definately would. Also you may want to check on the block yourself. A quick inspection may find an engine block deck within spec but if you methodically go over every section, you find a low spot here or there that justifies some resurfacing of the deck also. Since it’s in for the 3rd replacement I would be very particular and inspect everything closely. In my experience it’s quite out of the norm to be having so many repeat occurrences of the same problem.

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

  207. James Rieck
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike
    I would just like to do a quick follow up. Subaru of America will be paying 100% of the head gasket repair which is more than I hoped for. This also includes the cost of milling the heads! I am going to instruct the dealer to block sand the block…..no Roloc discs. I am also having the valves checked and adjusted if necessary while it is open. I’ll pick up the tab for that.
    Thanks again for your feedback and let my case give others some hope if the go through what I have experienced.
    James Rieck

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi James,

      That is wonderful to hear that Subaru will be repairing the head gaskets for free. That’s the kind of story I like to hear. I agree on having the valves adjusted. It’s just simpler when it’s out and apart.

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

  208. Mike Moore
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Good morning Mike,
    Just got back from vacation with my repaired Subaru 6 *gasketed Forester. At 4000 miles after, zero leaks. One issue possibly- my 2007 Forester has air, and when idling (stop right) , as the a/c compressor cycles, the engine rpm drops pretty low and it begins to stumble. It hasn’t stalled yet, but if the light turns green and I got the gas at the low rpm, it hesitates and sometimes coughs. I never noticed this before . I may well be hypersensitive to everything at this point, but is this normal?
    Thanks, Mike Moore
    >

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Mike,

      I don’t think it is normal. When the car is stopped and idling, the computer is constantly trying to keep the idle adjusted to it’s optimum rpm. If the AC system kicks in, the idle control system should be able to make a quick compensation that keeps the idle stable with the new load on the engine. It sounds like the idle control system may not be keeping up with the load of the AC system. There are a variety of reasons that would take way to long to get into but I would think most reputable shops familiar with Subaru would be able to diagnose the problem.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, WA
      https://www.smart-service.com

  209. Austin
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    My name is Austin from Sacramento California.
    I bought brand new Impreza 2.5i in 2009.
    I’ve babied my car, and even do my own detail work. Two days ago, took my car to dealership, and sure enough, both head gaskets are severely leaking. I’m losing 3 quarts of oil every 3 weeks. So bummed, not sure what to do, but my car is out of 60,000 mile warranty, and my car has 74,000 miles on it to date. I just think it’s b.s. This car should last a lot longer with no mechanical issues. At least a 100,000 or something. Now, I pretty much need new engine, and think it’s unfair to the quality if something like this. Wish Subaru would man up to it, since clearly there are thousands out there like me.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Austin,
      I’m sorry to hear about the situation with your Subaru. It’s very frustrating to say the least. All I can hope is that Subaru somehow will take care of your car in a reasonable manner.

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

  210. Mark D
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I have a 2008 (bought in July 2007) Outback. At 68,000 miles. I noticed/smelled oil. At 74k a shop confirmed both head gaskets were leaking. Also, a left rear bearing was “whining”. Following your suggestions, I contacted Subaru of America. I also informed that we have had 18 Subaru’s in my family with only the 2000/2001 needing head gaskets. My local dealership (Dick Hannah), then confirmed that both the gaskets were leaking oil and the bearing was whining. Both the Subaru CSR and the dealership were fantastic to work with. I received $1k off the head gasket work and no charge on replacing the left rear hub/bearing. I am extremely satisfied with my experience given that the car is out of warranty!
    I added in new platinum plugs, tranny fluid change, and a detail. My car looks as good (almost) as new!

    I hope the replacement gaskets last longer!

    I thought it odd that my mpg dropped by 4mpg after the work. Not sure if this is related. Winter fuel change comes into play…but not 4mpg I believe.

    Thanks for your advice!

    Mark

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Well that’s an early Christmas present if I ever heard one. Glad to hear it. Hat’s off to Dick Hannah Subaru. Sometimes the fuel mileage has to do with the fuel and sometimes the disconnecting of the battery resets the computers learning curve and it takes a while to get back to what you were used to.

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

  211. Jamie Sinden
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for all your efforts with this site!
    I’ve got a 2010 NA Forester w/68K and I was just told by the Dealer that I should have my Head Gaskets replaced because they are seeing some seepage around the head. He quoted $1950 for the repair and I asked if this is a common problem with Foresters. He said yes, most Foresters will have this problem! How can a Subaru Dealer say that with a straight face?
    Fortunately I purchased an extended warranty, so this repair will only cost my $100 deductible, but I can’t understand how Subaru will outright admit they have a MAJOR problem and then not support their customers. Don’t they care about selling more cars?

    Anyway keep up the good work! 🙂

    Jamie

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Jamie,
      To need head gaskets at 68k on your 2010 Forester definitely seems early to me. If there was just some seepage I would assume that they may be doing it because there is an extended warranty. Some dealers are more agressive than others. If it weren’t under warranty they may present it as light seepage as an item to monitor but not necessarily repair yet. I don’t necessarily agree with the idea that most Foresters will have that problem as it may not even be a problem. Oil seepage on gaskets will occur on many different makes and models and can be considered inconsequential in many cases. Subarus have had head gasket problems on older models but we see it very infrequently on the newer models. I would qualify his statement in saying that most older Foresters will eventually encounter a head gasket problem.

      One other suggestion. Depending on how long your extended warranty lasts, if you’re just seeping now, you may want to wait until it actually becomes a leak. Then you get the most out of the first set of gaskets as well as many more miles ahead of the new set.

      Good luck,

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

  212. Steve Gaulden
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello –

    I read as much as I could at 11:30pm before asking the dreaded question.I am in the process of looking at a Subaru Forester for my 18yr daughter for her first car. I am a little nervous about what I hear on the internet about head gasket replacement and cost. But when you are looking for a first car and only have around $3500.00 to spend, I understand I will have a high mileage car and possible work that needs to be done. But I will keep it short – I found a 2003 Subaru Forester X with 155,000 miles, located in San Diego. So no hope of being in the snow. Car looks good and has been serviced at the local Subaru dealer. (I did call to verify) The person selling the car has been honest over the phone and states that he was told by the dealer that the head gaskets are recommended due to sippage. (sp) I have asked around and the going price is $2000 – $2500 to fix. This is only going off a phone call and the recommendation of the dealer. I would like to know if it’s only a recommendation should I get it fixed ASAP, or drive it to when it fails – or what are my options. I have not purchased the car yet. The asking price is $3000.00 and I have yet to low ball him yet. I am looking for a piece of advice – He claims its not leaking oil at this time. I just don’t want to own a money pit – and what should I do? Living in California – I swear 90% of the cars have high mileage since we drive a lot.

    What else should I look for – and is $3000.00 a good price for a car with 155,000 and needing the head gaskets replaced.

    Please help – lol
    Maybe soon to be a Subaru owner.

    Thanks
    Steve Gaulden

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Steve,

      I can’t advise you on when to make the repair because I can’t tell how bad they’re leaking. If there is only residual seepage of oil and no coolant then it could be quite a while before they’re needed. Another angle for your price range is to look for a 98-98 Legacy wagon or sedan equipped with the 2.2 engine. Also the 93-98 Impreza is another great choice. You’ll probably get a longer lasting car for that amount of money with fewer repair issues. They don’t have any head gasket issues for the most part but just make sure you have it checked out before purchasing it.

      Good luck,

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

  213. Amber
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for this very helpful website. I currently have a 2005 Subaru Forester with 174k to it. I am the second owner and have had it since 110k. However, for the last three years I have been driving with the P0420 CEL on and have not had to worry about it until my move to NY and need to pass inspection. In addition to this, I have had a known oil leak for over two years and a coolant leak for over a year. Now that I am in New York and no longer in school, I would like to give my subie the attention she needs but have been quoted $5500 for repairs to fix the aforementioned problems, which would include replacing head gaskets, water pump, timing belt, and the cat converter. So here are my questions: 1) is this too high of a quote for the repairs? and 2) is it worth taking that money and buying a a used Subaru with a little over 100k miles on it but with the head gasket fixed? Or would I be better off fixing my current Forester?

    Thanks,
    Amber

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Amber,
      The price seems a bit on the upper end but is probably still within reason if it’s being done at a Subaru dealer. I think if the rest of the Forester is in great shape it could still be a good investment to repair the head gaskets and cat converter. When you consider the price of a new Subaru, and if your current car still fits your needs, you’d be money ahead by fixing it and driving it the next five years compared with making a big down payment and making payments the next five.

      I hope this helps and like I said IF the rest of the car is in good shape it could be a good investment. If it’s got all sorts of other troubles them maybe not.

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

  214. Ed
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    HI MIke, How long a replaced Head gasket would last? I am looking for a used Forester and found a dealer in my area that sell Subaru between 2001 to 2008 year, averaging 135K miles all with H Gasket, water pump and timing belt replaced, engine Warranty for 1 Year Prices varies between five to eight thousand. Will it be worth considering what this dealer offer?.

    Specifically a 2001 Forester – SUV – 5-Speed Manual – AWD Drive – 172,001 Miles – $4,498.

    Ed

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Ed, The price seems in the range we’d see in my area for a similar Forester. I would hope that any head gasket that is replaced with either a Six Star or Genuine Subaru gasket would make it beyond 100k before it fails if ever. Also beware the fine print of any warranty. Sometimes they require you to jump through lots of hoops in order for it to be valid.

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

  215. Chris
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I just had my oil changed at Jiffy Lube (no Subaru dealers in our area here in Florida). Somehow they mistakenly drained my transmission fluid and double filled my oil. A bunch of lights were on in the car and when I put it in drive and accelerated, it was jerky. They pushed the car back around and fixed the issue above. However, now I have a check engine light on, the traction light is staying on and the cruise control is not working. Did the above cause further damage to my car?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Chris,
      If they allowed you to drive without transmission fluid it may have taken some life out of the transmission. As far as the engine, the overfull oil may have caused a misfire to occur which in turn set the check engine light.

      If it were me, I would keep all the documentation and take the car to a dealer to have them fully inspect to see if any harm or damage was done and why the warning lights are on. I’d suggest having them reimburse you as well as put something in writing that they will warranty the transmission if it ever fails due to this issue.

      Good luck,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, WA
      https://www.smart-service.com

  216. Le Fish
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    My 2006 Baja (purchased new in 2007) head gaskets have failed. The car only has 54K miles on it. Subaru has lost me as a customer.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      I am sorry to hear this.

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

  217. Mike Lewandowski
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    What’s up with the failing rearview mirror compass. I have a 2009 Subaru Impreza the rearview mirror compass just quit working. Is Subaru offering any repairs?
    My 1994 jeep Grand Cherokee compass works just fine. Please let me know,

    Thanks

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Mike,

      Unless you have an extended warranty I doubt that Subaru will offer any repairs. Sorry to hear it stopped working.

      Take care,

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

  218. Ed
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Is Forester, Outback and Legacy head gasket Issue already fixed? What model year offers less or non possibility of blown/ leaking head gasket? Some say 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 2011 or later.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Ed,

      It’s hard to answer your question with “Fixed” but the in our shop we see far fewer head gasket issues on the 2005 and up models compared to the 1998-2004 models.

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

  219. Ellen Hladik
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    We are considering purchasing a 2007 Subaru that has had the head gasket replaced. Once it is replaced, will it last for a long time or be a re-occurring problem?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      If they have been replaced with a quality gasket and done properly it may be the last time you have to do them for the most part.
      You’ll want to ask what brand the gasket was. If it was genuine Subaru or Six Star that would be the best. The Six Star seems to be holding up better than the Subaru but overall the updated Subaru gaskets have been holding up much better than the first run.

      Good luck in your purchase,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Your Independent Subaru Expert
      Shoreline, WA
      https://www.smart-service.com
      206-417-0880

  220. Jason french
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi, good info. Quick question for you. I recently got a 2005 outback from my grandma. It only has 25,000 miles on it. However, recently I noticed it is leaking oil at a decent clip. I haven’t had it looked at yet, but if it turns out to be the dreaded head gasket, do you think this is something Subaru might help pay for? Thanks for your time.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Jason,
      Hopefully at your low mileage the head gaskets aren’t the culprit and something like an oil filter or drain plug is causing the leak but if it really was the head gaskets it may be worth a call to Subaru anyways.

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

  221. Cindy Beaulé
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Just had my head gasket replaced on my ’00 which only has 80K miles on it due to my mother-in-law hardly driving it before she couldn’t drive it at all due to dementia. The whole job cost $2400 at Meineke, where my BF knows the manager. IMHO, they replaced LOTS of other things at the same time, but my knowledge of the car is minimal and BF didn’t seem to think it was outrageous. Radiator was losing fluid and almost went dry on us, so it was def time. Post-repair, when the engine gets hot it still stinks like burning oil, possibly due to all the stuff they had to drain out of it getting all over. Considered using engine cleaner on the advice of a friend (who said she’d do it for me!), but other friends said it it’s not worth it as Forresters are notorious leakers of fluids. Wish I’d read your story about trying to call Subaru before I had the repair done, since M-I-L had the car very regularly serviced. Have you had experience with this smell issue?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Cindy, Sorry to hear about your mother-in-law. The pricing they charged seems within reason but the after effects don’t. Once head gaskets are done properly, you may get a slight smell right after the job as the residues burn off but once it’s had a couple of days of driving you should have no oil, coolant or hot smells coming from that area. I would suggest you have another shop evaluate it for you prior to going further to see if the job was done properly. From there you can decide what to do. If it is related to the work they performed, you’ll have to decide if you want them to repair it under warranty or have someone else do it. Independents like Meineke may be good at general repair but something as specific as head gaskets on a Subaru is often best done at a Subaru specialist or dealer.

      I hope this helps,

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

  222. jeremy m
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I have a 2007 Subaru Legacy with roughly 103k miles on it. When my car was at 49,000 i had a leak inspected by a local Subaru dealer, only to discover i needed a new head gasket. I had both replaced and just two days ago, with 103k on the car, my cylinder head went and now the dealership is suggesting a new gasket and rebuild. Does this make any sense to you, that in barely 100k miles, you could go through not one, but TWO head gaskets? Mind you, I maintained factory recommendations up until ~55k when i moved away (subaru never updated my new address and did not send mail). from 55-current mileage, i continued to maintain oil changes every 3k on the dot, and fluid checks.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Jeremy,

      I believe your two head gasket failures in 103k miles is way out of the norm from what we’ve seen. On a 2007 Legacy we see far fewer head gaskets needing replacement than once were needed and are seeing many over 150k miles before replacement is needed. I’m not sure what happened to yours in this case but it does seem out of the ordinary.

      I hope this helps,

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

  223. Rhonda Wheeler
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2010 Subaru Forester that I just purchased at a Fucillo dealership in Central NY, which has leaking head gaskets & is just out of warranty with 69,000 miles. I first contacted Subaru, who offered nothing at the customer service level. When I pushed for info. on how a recall gets initiated, hemumbled something about good will & said that he would bump it up to his Manager. We played phone tag for a few days & she offered $500 towards the repair. Then I called the dealership, which said that they would cover the power train warranty & pay for the balance of the repairs, especially when I said that my next call was to the State Attorney General. YAHOO!!! Then I saw your article – thanks for the heads-up on the other gasket & timing chain!!! I’ll ask about it!! Anyone with issues just needs to keep fighting!! Call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 1-888-327-4236 & issue a complaint!!! If enough people complain, then there will be a full recall & you’ll get a refund on any repairs you paid for out of pocket!!!!
    Thanks again!!!!!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Rhonda,
      Great story and I’m glad to see your persistence paid off. Good for you. I hope some of our other readers/Subaru owners get the same results in the future.

      Take care,

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

  224. Kurt Heise
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello,

    I’ve got a 2005 Subaru Outback with 118k, has leaky head gaskets, and torque bind problems, plus a front end shimmy over 60mph. Two shops have recommended replacing transmission in addition to the other issues. Is it worth plunking 4-5k in the car at this point? Thanks.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Kurt, The shimmy will probably be an inexpensive wheel or tire related item. The head gaskets are just one of those things and the torque bind can probably be repaired in the car by a shop that specializes in Subarus. If the rest of the transmission works well then have them determine exactly why it’s torquebinding. If it were my car and in good condition, I would probably repair it. This is assuming the shop doing the work does it with top quality parts and workmanship. It’s not worth it unless it will last a good 3 to 5 years without any other major issues.

      Take care,

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

  225. John
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Our local mechanic just informed us our 2008 Outback Wagon has two head gasket leaks and said he’s seen more problems with the Subaru ’08 MY. We have had a handful of recalls but none dealing with the head gasket and have had pretty good luck all in all (this is our third wagon). The car has been pretty well maintained and is not heavily used, we are the original owners and are just at 71k miles. Are you seeing more head gasket problems with the 08 MY? BTW – according to the Subaru Dealer, there are no recalls related to the head gasket for our model. We have an appointment with Subaru Dealer in a few days; any update on your stellar advice?

    Still happy… just not so happy.

    Thanks,

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi John,
      First of all make sure you get the exact specifics on the head gaskets and even look at them yourself with the technician if they will let you. Unless it’s leaking coolant from the head gaskets it may not need immediate repairs. In fact I’ve seen your exact model year go 5 years or more at the stage that we started seeing some oil on the head gaskets. Sometimes shops can be a bit exuberant recommending head gaskets long before they are needed. I’m not telling you that this is the case here but make sure you understand exactly what fluid is leaking and how much.

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

  226. Mike Moore
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike, my 6* gaskets we bought from you are working just great. Thanks for all your great help.

    So, my car was in the garage and I had just unloaded the groceries. Dear wife lowered the (under house) garage door-I was too late yelling her that the Forester tailgate was still up. She quick reversed the garage door button and raised the door. Too late I found the Subby with its tailgate being jammed up by a horizontal rail in the garage door. I lowered it and the tailgate closed ok. But, it leaked at the car wash. I paid a top body shop for time to realign. It still leaked, so the shop (they do restoration of upscale classic cars) suggested hinges may have been bent, I bought and they installed new factory hinges. They spent a lot of time trying to realign hatch. The rear hatch seems to fit fine,with even gaps, but still howls with wind leakage at 70 and still leaks a little at the car wash. Shop now says maybe I need a new tailgate due to warpage.

    My planned next step is to remove the old gasket totally, clean off everything the shop has tried to use as shims in the inside of the gasket, and install a brand new hatch gasket. If testing reveals continuing leaks, I plan on testing a section at a time with the dollar bill test and find any loose areas, then use appropriate gauge of electrical wire forced into the bottom of the gasket to shim it up.I have found I can make the old gasket tighter by using the wire, but before I do such a flakey fix, I want to start with a new gasket.

    What do you think about all this?

    A new tailgate seems an expensive proposition but we like the car a lot.

    Thanks so much for this wonderful site!

    Mike Moore
    Morgan Hill
    California

    Home of great bar-b-q :-))

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Mike,
      Sorry for the late reply. Been on vacation last week. One thing you can do is to apply baby powder to the whole sealing area around the tailgate. You should be able to see where it touches and where it doesn’t. Also you can get dish soap and mix it into a spray bottle with water then spray the whole area down. Run the vent system on high with all the doors/windows closed and you may see bubbles develop in the area of the leak. One last point it may have distorted the window seal on the back hatch and or broken a spot weld.

      I hope you find it.

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

  227. Mike Moore
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike, I have a second unrelated issue to ask about. Which tires would you recommend for the most COMFORTABLE ride in my 2007 Forester? I had always bought replacement Geolanders from Tire Rack, but last time around I bought Continental Eco Plus Pro contact 215/60 R instead. I also noticed whenever the car went to the dealers, it always came back riding rough because the dealer uses 35 lbs. of air instead of 28.
    Now though, with the newer tires, it rides pretty rough at 28 lbs. It matters because my bride has been taken by the comfort of the new Impalas and thinks a new Legacy might as soft (I have no idea).
    I am suggesting to her that if I can get rid of the noise and leaks from the tailgate, and buy some tires which are more “comfortable” (versus handling and traction performance) perhaps she will be happier and she agrees. Maybe. But her back does give her some discomfort and I do want to do what I can to help. THANKS for any thought s on this! Mike

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      i like the Goodyear Assurance Comfort tread Touring. Not the top rated for traction but pretty darn quiet.

      Good luck,

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

  228. Mike Moore
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks! I shall try as you suggest.

    Mike Moore

  229. Kevin Taube
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I purchased a 2009 Subaru Forrester with 30k miles. It currently has 84k miles and last time I brought it in for service I was shown oil and told hg was leaking. Qote to fix $2,000. (Included timing belt replacement) This is a pretty heavy hit for a car that is so highly rated! From what I have read on these threads it appears Subaru has a problem that hasNOT been resolved! (This will probably be my last Subaru!). Do RAV 4s have hg issues?

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Kevin,

      Before you condemn your Subaru it’s wise to get a second opinion. We’ve seen many cases where a shop tries to sell a head gasket job on a Subaru where it’s not needed. The Subaru owning public has come to know that a Subaru may need head gaskets some day and some shops are taking advantage of that fact by recommending them long before they have any significant leaks. Many cars under 100000 will exhibit some oil residues around the gaskets but many won’t develop into any significant leaks for many years to come.

      I hope for your case that your Subaru with 84k is still not needing gaskets but if it is I’m sorry to hear it.

      Take care,

      Mike Corbin

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

  230. Raj
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I am in a unique situation where my 2007 Outback limited with only 62000 miles (2nd owner) has piston damage and only options are to replace the engine or rebuild it. The cause for this is the serpentine belt broke on the highway (shredded) and ate thru the cover separating the timing and serpentine belts, interfered with the pulleys of the Timing belt and caused it to jump time – result was bent valves and piston damage. Now, the belt that broke was a brand new belt installed at a dealership less than 3 weeks ago as part of the 60 K service. After the incident happened on the highway, i had to tow it to the closest shop who wrote up the initial diagnostic from what they saw. I took it to the dealership who are giving me a hard time saying nothing can be conclusively proven as I did not bring it to them immediately. My immediate concern was to tow the car to a closest place and move the family to a safe location – but that does not seem to resonate with them. And now dealership is basically saying they can either –
    1) swap with a 150 K miles engine they found at junkyard (no warranty) OR
    2) I have to pay for parts $4K to rebuild engine

    I said no to swapping for a 150K engine and to that they are now forcing me to resolve the issue immediately.

    This is our 4th Subaru – and ironically this dealership worked on all my cars and the car in question was actually sold to the first owner from this dealership.

    What course of action can i take now? How can i hold the dealership responsible for the damage since the part they replaced broke and caused all this damage?
    Appreciate your feedback.

    Thanks,
    Raj.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Raj,

      I’m sorry to hear of your situation. Since the damage may be related to what the dealer did to your Subaru, I would first document all of the Subaru’s you’ve purchased and had serviced by them. The next step is to document and photograph everything that is currently wrong with the car relating to the serpentine belt. You may want to review your 60k paperwork to make sure they actually either inspected, adjusted or replaced it. Not all dealers replace the serpentine belt at 60k. Once you have all your ducks in a row, request a sit down appointment with the service manager of the Subaru dealer. Explain your situation to him as well as your loyal customer record with him. If all indicators point to something they did wrong or missed, I’d ask that he do what’s right and repair the engine to as good or better condition than it was in. If that means a new engine then that’s what I’d ask for. If they can find an engine with under 62k on it that would be a fair solution also. If you don’t get any where with the service manager and feel you really have a strong case I would then request an appointment with the owner or G.M.

      Not knowing all of the details here’s what I believe…. If most of the evidence points to the failure being caused by the dealer’s work at the 60000 mile service or if they neglected to tell you about a worn belt, I think morally they should step up and take care of the car for you. Legally they may have no obligation but hopefully they have someone in charge that sees the value of your loyalty.

      One last resort is to call 1-800-SUBARU3 and explain the whole thing to them. You may even want to tell the dealership that you have refrained from calling Subaru corporate because you were confident that the dealer would solve the problem without having to get them involved.

      Good luck,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Your Independent Subaru Expert
      https://www.smart-service.com
      206-417-0/880

  231. Lexa
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    2 years ago I purchased a 2003 Subaru Impreza with 43,000 miles on it. It now has 64,000 miles and a list of repairs. The Catalytic Converter is in need of replacement as it has a P0420 code and has been diagnosed that the converter tested bad. My rear wheel bearings need to be replaced as do the front boots, but the real kicker is that the left gasket is leaking coolant. For a total of around $6000. From everyone that I have spoken to this seems like a lot of repairs for such low milage. The dealer that I purchased the car from is the one that made the gasket diagnosis when it was in for it’s regular oil change. Since there were quite a few things listed for repairs, I took it to my family mechanic for them to diagnose and give an opinion as to if it was recommended to keep the car & make the repairs or sell it for what I could to put towards a new car. Their suggestion was to not spend any money on repairing the car. Looks like it will also need a new clutch and breaks in the not too distant future. There was a casual mention that they wouldn’t be surprised if the odometer was replaced with the amount of repairs needed. I returned to the dealer to inquire as to what they could do to assist or what they would offer for a trade-in. I was met with less than helpful service. I was given the Subaru of America number (requested that I not use the GM’s name until ‘last resort’) and told that I would receive a call at 1 pm that afternoon with information about trading in the car. Days later I have yet to receive a call from the GM from the local dealer. I am planning on calling Subaru of America on Monday to see what they can do. I am not terribly confident in this car and skeptical about the honesty of the Subaru Dealer. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations to share? Thanks!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Lexa,

      I don’t have any advice because you’re doing exactly what I would advise in the situation with your Subaru. You’ve gone through the proper steps and chain of command and now that you’re working with Subaru corporate things should start to move forward. As far as all the work needed at that mileage it’s hard to say other than some things deteriorate over time no matter what the mileage is. As far as spending $6000 for all the repairs… that’s a tough call. If done right that $6000 could buy you another 5 years of trouble free driving. If not or if the car has more issues, it may be just throwing good money away.

      Good luck,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Your Independent Subaru Expert
      https://www.smart-service.com
      206-417-0880

  232. Lexa
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Thank you for your reply!

    Unfortunately Subaru of America was less than helpful. They wouldn’t even consider helping because the car is “too far away from any warranty”. They could care less that my family has been loyal customers for decades or that I was disgruntled in any way. They certainly lost us as future Subaru owners. All the signs are there to move on. Most certainly wouldn’t recommend Subaru/Mazda of San Rafael, CA. I received a chipper automated email from them today wishing me a Happy Anniversary on my purchase of my car. It has now been 2 years to the day. They even ended the email with a “Come by and let us congratulate you in person.” So, I think I will do just that and see what they can for me. : )

    Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Sorry to hear it went that way.
      Take care,
      Mike

  233. Erik Anderson
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    I have a 2004 Outback with a leaky head gasket: it smokes a very little bit in hot weather and leaks a very little bit of coolant. Because it would be expensive to repair, my mechanic advises me to “just live with it”. How sound is this advice? My worry is that the leaky head gasket will cause my recently replaced catalytic converter to fail, and then I would really have an expensive job.

    Many thanks,
    Erik

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Erik,

      I have seen cases where a Subaru’s head gaskets are leaking a slight amount of coolant and a person is able to limp the car along by being diligent about maintaining their coolant level. Some get worse a few months later, some are still just seeping out a year later. It’s those that forget to top the coolant regularly that end up with the massive overheat that damages the engine. The most important thing is not to just check the coolant recovery bottle but when the car has been sitting overnight and is completely cold, check the radiator itself and make sure the coolant level is all the way to the top edge of the filler neck. By the way, if it’s leaking externally it shouldn’t harm the catalytic converter.

      I hope this helps you make it last a bit longer.

      Cheers,

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

  234. Jessica
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I just bought my first Subaru on 8-8-2015 from a dealership in Phoenix AZ.on the way home to my house in the white mountains on 8-13-2015 the check engine light came on and the engine almost went to the 3/4 mark on the temperature gauge while going up the hills then it would go back to half. I took the car to the Subaru dealership in Show Low and they made me an appointment for the following week when their Subaru tech would be back. On 8-25-2015 the car went into the dealership for diagnostics. On 8-27-2015 the dealership caller and said that the head gaskets are leaking exhaust gasses into the coolant system. The Subaru dealership called the other dealership and said that they would work with me be they would not call me back. I would like to know who is responsible for the repairs. The car is a 2005 Subaru Outback XT Limited. I feel I was a female disabled veteran that was taken advantage of. I payed a lot of money fro this car.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      If it was purchased at a Subaru dealer I would immediately call 1-800-SUBARU3 and speak with their national customer service hotline. They should be able to straighten things out. The car is out of manufacturer warranty but I’m not sure what your state law may do to protect you. In Washington State there are few laws protecting a used car buyer and the cars are sold AS IS for the most part so it’s the buyers responsibility to have it mechanically inspected.

      I hope you are able to get help and I thank you and all vetrans that have sacrificed to keep our country safe.

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

  235. Mark Shoenfield
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I just spoke to Subaru corporate and they will pay headgasket repair bill of my 2008 Legacy with only 85,000 miles. Because of low milage, good maint record and being a repeat Subaru buyer. It pays to complain.

    Thank you so much for providing the Subaru Corporate phone number 1800 78227830!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      EXCELLENT!!

      Mike

  236. Joe
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi, Mike:

    I just had my 05 Legacy (with 115,000 miles on it) checked and the guy told me that there is slightly oil leak around the engine. He was not sure whether it is from valve cover gasket or head gasket. Do you have any idea about how to determine where the leak comes from? If it is the head gasket, should I replace it now? Since it is a ~2000 bill, I don’t really want to spend on it. Thanks!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Joe,
      An experienced technician should be able to determine whether it’s a head gasket or valve cover gasket. If he can’t ask him to put ultraviolet dye in the engine oil, clean off all the residual oil, and then track the leak with a UV light. (common procedure in our industry).

      By the way, if there’s just a little oil in the head gasket area, there may be no immediate need for repair. They can go years with some oil residue on them without ever failing.

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

  237. Carol
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike – I have a 2008 Subaru Forester with about 104,500 miles. I purchased it in 2009 with about 26,000 miles. It has been a great car! Until Dec 2014 at about 93,000 miles in to a non-Subaru dealership mechanic (though very knowledgeable in Subarus) for routine 90,000 mile maintenance oil change, transmission fluid change and asked for eval on intermittent burn smell. I was told there was a gasket leak. Mechanic suggested deferring transmission fluid change and replacing gasket, cost about $900 including oil change, tire rotation and another minor maintenance item.

    I mistakenly thought this was a head gasket repair. When I picked up the car I was told that some oil spilled and I might smell oil burning for a few weeks. 2 months later still noticing burned oil smell intermittently. Same mechanic eval no problem found. 1 month later noted smoke arising from hood (had an early spring snow, very slushy) same mechanic eval and I was told it was a slight leak in head gasket and when I questioned what gasket was replaced in Dec 2014, I was told it was a valve cover gasket (I never heard of this type of gasket) and the head gasket would be $2,500 to replace and mechanic would need car for 4-5 days or I could continue to drive it, just not on long trips! I was about to drive over 400 miles for a nephew’s graduation in a few weeks. I felt very concerned because I understand the serious matter of head gaskets after having an older different model car many years ago blow a head gasket while driving on the expressway.

    So I called a local Subaru Dealer who had done a few services on my car and was told by phone that depending on the leak amount it could be driven for a while. Mileage was about 96,000 at that point and the Subaru service Rep did NOT remind me of the 100,000 mile powertrain warranty on the vehicle! It was recommended to place cardboard under car when parked to assess amount of leaking. Since March, 2015 I have had cardboard under car overnight most nights and maybe 3 times found quarter size oil spots, one time green. I have always kept up with recommended maintenance.

    At this point in time my doctor and physical therapist had recommended modifications to my driver seat and gas/brake pedals to assist with a back injury and my health insurance agreed to pay for the modifications though they would not be transferrable to another vehicle without me paying $400. So I began searching for a used Subaru Forester because it has many features that work really well for me and it seemed having the modifications placed in my next car that I hopefully would drive for a few years prior to replacing made sense, yet I am having trouble finding one I can afford. Now I am beyond the 100,000 mile powertrain warranty and the power steering is sticky and I am aware that the timing belt is due for replacing and I hear the water pump on these cars needs replacing about the same time! I had 2 other non-Subaru Dealer mechanics who are very familiar with Subarus confirm there is a head gasket leak still. Cardboard under car at night does not reveal any spots.

    Is it too late to call Subaru Corporate given this began at about 93,000 miles? Is is better to keep this 2008 Forester and hope the leak stays slow and small or continue searching for a used Forester I can afford given modifications needed for my back? Are there particular year Foresters to avoid and years that seem to have less problems? One big plus for me on the Forester is the large windows all around that give me a safe view, also the seat height is helpful for me as I am very small. It seems lots of cars opt for fancier look with windows and compromise a safer view!

    Thanks for any way you can help. My dad was my car “guru” and he passed away 4 years ago… I really appreciated reading the posts and have learned alot! I appreciate someone like you who is willing to educate consumers and support and assist the greater community with sharing hard earned knowledge! Bless you Mike for your community mindedness!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Carol,

      I’m sorry to hear of your dilemma.

      From what you’re saying about the independent repair shops, I might avoid them in this particular case. The conflicting stories just don’t make sense. Before thinking of buying another Subaru I would ask the dealer to go over your Forester with a fine tooth comb to see what it really needs. Once they’ve looked it over ask them to prioritize the list in order of safety items first, reliability items second then cosmetic items third. If they do multiple items, make sure they give you a discount in any repair that has overlapping labor. If they can do it for $4000.00 or less it may be a worthy investment. Then just keep good care of it from there on out based on the dealer recommended maintenance schedules.

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

  238. jim panousos
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    hi mike,
    i found your site online. thank you for the information.

    i have 2 issues concerning my wife’s 2007 imprezza outback wagon. it’s a 4 cylinder. we live in central, md, about 20 minutes north of baltimore.

    1) the car has 76,000 miles on it and is 8 years old. it now has a head gasket leak. we took it to the dealer on sat. where we purchased it. the estimate is $3,400 to repair the head gasket. except for a few oil changes, we have taken it to the dealer for all repairs. yesterday, we went back to the dealer to speak to the service manager. the service manager refused to help us out with the costs for the head gasket repair. repair. he said that it was out of warranty by time and mileage and that it was up to subaru. he said he would call subaru, but i am uncertain if he will. he seemed dismissive. we had all of the repair invoices from the dealer when we took it in yesterday and asked for their help. the service manager said it made no difference and would not review them. i will be callling subaru today for assistance.

    2) in march 2015, the dealer replaced all 4 tires. they are continental tires. when we took the car to the dealer for the leak on sat., the technician who worked on the car said that the back tires were bald and all 4 had dry rot and should be replaced. when we went to the dealer yesterday to ask for help with the head gasket, i asked the service manager if they would replace the tires without charge. again, the dealer seemed dismissive. he briefly examined the tires and said the baldness was probably due to poor alignment. i told him if they had recommended an allignment during prior services, we would have had it done. he also said that the dry rot was not really dry rot but due to oil leeching in the tires which was common given they are 3.5 years old and had 42,000 miles on them. we are taking the car back to the dealer tomorrow so he can put the car on a lift and thoroughly examine the tires. they were busy yesterday and could not work us in he said.

    so, this is where we are. any advice you can give would be helpful.

    thank you.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Jim,

      Based on the way you are being treated by the dealer I agree with your action to call Subaru directly and discuss this issue. Hopefully they have your customer history available to confirm that you have been maintaining the car based on Subaru’s maintenance schedule. In the cases I’ve seen over the years, the people that can document that they have been taking good care of their Subarus based on Subaru’s factory recommendations seem to get better results than those that can’t substantiate that the proper maintenance was done. Hopefully Subaru corporate will offer some assistance for the repair since you do have fairly low miles on the car.

      As far as the tires go, 42k miles is fairly reasonable wear for tread life on a Subaru. If you need a second opinion, consult a local tire dealer to see what their opinion is.

      Good luck in your endeavor,

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

  239. Mr Michael Grimm.
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    My wife bought a new Subaru Outback Legacy Wagon in February of 1998…It has the 2.5 DOHC Boxer engine..It has 120000. miles on it. Back in mid. summer (2015),, it started that almost instance overheating with the coolant bubbling out the overflow tank..We did not keep running it when it would get to hot.It only did that once until this december (2015)..After that ,it will do it just about any time..We are going to get it repaired at our local dealer..Price: $2500.00–both head gaskets,ect.. I think that is a big price,but we feel the Subaru Dealer will do the best work on it..I am not happy about this,but I thought I would share this with you..Wish you were closer to us.. P.S. Like your web page and great Imfo..MICHAEL…

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Michael,
      I’m sorry to hear it but once it’s done I hope you get another 120000k plus out of it. Make sure you think about replacing the hoses too if they are original to insure your investment doesn’t overheat again.

      Take care,

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

  240. Bev Michael
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2003 Subaru Outback Limited Wagon AWD 4cyl auto. I bought it back in 9/14/15. It started to heat up in January of this year 2016. Took it where I bought it. The coolant was backing up in the coolant bottle and blew the cap off and coolant went all over my engine. The mechanic said I needed a new radiator. They put a new one in which cost me $150.00. I drove it home. The same thing happened started backing up again. My son opened the coolant bottle cap and said he smelled gasoline / exhaust fumes in the coolant. Now I’m stuck. I only made 3 payments on it and I’m on a fixed income. I can’t afford a high repair bill. So my son thinks it’s a head gasket. It has 136,330 miles . I only put like 350 miles on it since I bought it. Please let me know if there is a recall on it and if that is the head gasket. The mechanic tried to say if it was head gasket the oil would be milky looking. My son said not necessarily. Please help I’m at my witts end with this. I love the car but I’m getting agrevated. Please Gmail me. Thank you. Bev M. Cincinnati, Ohio.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Bev,

      I’m sorry to hear about it and unfortunately it’s a story I hear too often about shops that just don’t seem to understand how to diagnose overheating Subarus. From your description it sounds very likely that the head gaskets are failing and pushing exhaust gasses into the coolant. The milky description they discussed doesn’t normally happen on Subarus. Unfortunately there are no recalls or campaigns for your head gaskets so you’ll have to have them repaired. I wouldn’t advise going to the shop that installed the radiator since they may not be well versed in Subarus.

      Take care,

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

  241. Jackie
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    So glad to find your blog and know that there are others like me.
    We have a 2010 Subaru Outback that we purchased in July of 2010 with 8,000 miles at Bill Kolb Jr dealer in NY. We have serviced it regularly at a local service shop. We also own a 2008 Subaru Impreza. Prior to both of these cars my husband had a 2000 Subaru legacy outback – at 100,000 the transmission went and we had to replace it. Of course we were just about to sell it, we spent over $3k to fix the transmission and something else went wrong – it was a huge fix so we sold it to a service station for pitance. But my husband LOVES Subarus and pushed me into getting the Subaru Outback bcse they are such reliable, good cars. I do a lot of local driving, last week on 1/6/2016 we had about a 30 degree temp drop and that morning I let the car run for about 15min. I drove 10 min away and on my way home the temperature light came on red. I called my local service station and brought it in. They said my coolant was slightly low, no external leaks were found – they brought the car up to 210 degrees, fan wasn’t pulling hot air. They recommended cooling system service & new thermostat. The light didn’t come back on for 2 days(with local driving again) brought it back 1/8, they drained coolant, purged system, filled with new coolant and replaced the thermostat, BTW- I have 76,000 on the car. On Sat 1/9 we drove on the highway about 65 miles from my house, 10 min before my destination the red light came on again. Once at our destination my husband drove to a local service station who diagnosed a blown head gasket, he said we might make it home, but to not incur further damage we should not drive it.
    We towed the car 65 miles back to our local Subaru dealer hoping that this was covered under warranty (we were told by service shop that Subaru extended the warranty to 8yrs 100,000 bcse of this problem). Well its not covered and after the $300 at the service shop initially, the $270 for the tow and now the $3600 quote for 2 blown head gaskets, a cracked radiator and new water pump – I’m freaking. We still owe $3200 on the loan for the car, I’ve had it just a little over 5yrs. This shouldn’t be happening??!! I read what Rhonda wrote and I’ve contacted Subaru direct. I gave them everything and I’ll see what I get back. They said they would contact the dealer direct and let me know what they could do. My car is supposed to be ready tonight. So Subaru said to pay for it and keep the invoice and if they can do anything they just go to me directly. But I’m afraid that once I’ve paid for it I won’t hear from them again, It’s all very upsetting.
    Also, I don’t think they were planning on changing my timing belt. Sounds like if they are going to change the water pump they should, is that correct? After all the problems that Toyota and Volkswagen have had – you would think that Subaru would step up and do a major recall, from what I’ve been reading it sounds like this is a really widespread problem.
    I just called the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and filed a complaint. I think more Subaru owners who have this problem need to do the same. Maybe we can make a change!
    Thanks,
    Jackie

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Jackie,

      Thanks for sharing your story and I hope Subaru does step up for you. I hope other Subaru owners get on board with you and take action. As far as a timing belt or water pump while it’s apart, considering your mileage I’d definitely do the timing belt and the water pump is going to be a judgment call because at your mileage it’s probably going to be ok. It will be a decision of preventive maintenance most likely.

      Good luck,

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

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

  242. Jackie
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for your support.
    I picked vehicle up today and they verbally never said this, but listed on my invoice it says that customer used wrong coolant in the vehicle? We take it to a local service station that deals with all types of cars, is there such a thing as putting the wrong coolant in? I’ve never heard of such a thing.
    Also, when I picked up my vehicle I noticed that the front passenger bumper was dented/scratched! The dealership said they would review their video tapes.
    Do you think I have any recourse to this?

    Thanks,
    Jackie

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Jackie,

      There are coolants that are meant to work with the Subaru aluminum engine. They must specify that they are a “Non-amine” type of coolant. Since the chemical make up of coolants can be hard to verify, we recommend using the genuine Subaru coolant to insure the longest life of your head gaskets as well as adding the Subaru Coolant Conditioner if you have genuine Subaru head gaskets on the car any time the coolant is changed.

      Take care,

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

  243. Dianna
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello, my father owns a 2006 Subaru Baja. He bought it new her in Massachusetts. My dad has taken his vehicle to the dealer for all repairs. My dad has been smelling a foul odor coming from the vents inside the car when he turns off the heat. I did some research and came upon this issue with blown head gaskets and also on one site, they stated that Subaru extended the warranty to 8 years or 100k miles. I just called the dealership where my dad purchased the Baja brand new in 2006 and a very arrogant female answered the phone. Basically gave me the run around stating that it’s Subaru of America’s issue and they did not personally extend the warranty. I pretty much told her my father will be coming there and if I have to return with him, this will get ugly. I’m trying to educate myself as much as possible on this issue to make sure we do have a leg to stand on. Any advice is greatly appreciated, and by the way great informative article. Dianna

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Dianna,
      First of all, before assuming the worst, get a diagnosis done. Find out what’s causing the smell. As far as an extended warranty on head gaskets, only some of the 2001-2002 models got that extension. There were no extensions on the 2006 unless you purchased an extended warranty which is the only thing at this point that would cover that type of repair. Depending on what the diagnosis ends up being, if it is an issue with head gaskets and the dealer won’t help, call the Subaru customer service line at 1-800-SUBARU3. Sometimes they are better listeners and can participate in helping with the cost of the repairs.

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

  244. Kyle
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hey Mike,
    Took my car in for its 2nd oil change the other day. They come out saying the front & rear differential fluid, power steering, and brake fluid are ether dirty or contaminated. Also they said that both my head gaskets would need replaced because of a minor oil seep. Just wanted to hear your opinion only drove 3k miles since my last oil change and now I have a 2000$ repair quote. Just wanted to hear your opinion.
    Thanks

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Kyle, if the car is only on it’s 2nd oil change everything should still be under warranty. I’m not sure I’m following you. If it’s a lube shop or something similar, I’d take the car to a Subaru dealer for a second opinion.

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

  245. Bob
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike, I own a 2008 Forester with 137,000 miles. Car in great shape and runs perfectly. Recently I started to smell anti freeze inside the car. My mechanic diagnosed it as a leaking head gasket dripping onto hot exhaust and burning off. This only happens once or twice per week. There are no other signs of anti freeze leaking, no sign of anti freeze loss in radiator or overflow, but after reading on line posts I believe the mechanic is correct. I was quoted approx. 2K but that was not confirmed until the got the heads off and see what else needs to be done. I did the timing belt and pump at 105,000 miles. The mechanic suggested “wait and see what happens” . In your opinion is this realistic or I am facing the inevitable problem getting worse and then a decision to fix the car or get rid of it? My wife has a 2010 Subaru Legacy so I’m worried that we will face the same crisis what that car? Any insight is appreciated.
    Thanks, Bob

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Bob,

      If you intend to keep the Forester long term I’d get them repaired sooner than later. Having a coolant leak is of more concern than if they were just leaking some oil. You can continue to monitor and top the coolant to limp it along but the concern is that if it were to become low and you overheat it, you may do more damage to the aluminum block.

      I suggest Six Star gaskets if you decide to go through with it.

      Good luck,

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

  246. Jane Howard
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike
    I have an appointment for next Monday to have my head gasket replaced at Quirk Subaru in Bangor Maine. It is a 2009 Subaru and I seem to be having a lot of repairs done to in the past year. The topper though is the he’d gasket. I had read an article that stated that Subaru had put in inferior head gaskets in for or five years of manufacturing of the car. I feel that they should stand by their cars and replace these bad parts free of charge. I am on social security and I cannot afford to have this done. I am going to call the number you gave out and beg them to help me. Any advice you can give me? They have done all service requirements. I haven’t saved all receipts. Can only find some. Quirk Subaru must have all my records in their computers. Any advise?
    Thanks,
    Jane Howard

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Jane,
      I am sorry to hear of your head gasket issue. I hope that calling the Subaru help number gets some results. The dealer should have any repairs you’ve done there on record as well as any maintenance. Being that the car is a 2009 it’s probable that they will argue it’s out of warranty based on time but it’s worth a try considering the cost. Even if they help a little it’s better than nothing.

      Good luck,

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

  247. Gaby Zavala
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,
    My 2008 Outback developed head gasket leaks just over 90,000 miles. Of course it’s out of warranty but I called SOA just to see if they might do something to help. They covered $500 of the $1500 repair! I had done all my major services at Subaru dealerships and oil changes at jiffy lube. I did also do the timing belt, hoses, and water pump at the same time which is extra of course.

    But I am concerned that a car that is driven fairly conservatively is falling apart. It also needed a bushing replaced on the air intake manifold because the intake pipe had come loose and will need a front control arm bushing replaced. I’m starting to regret buying Subaru. My Volvo never developed this many problems in over 250,000 miles.

    Thanks,
    Gaby

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Gaby,

      I’m glad to hear Subaru helped you out with your head gaskets. I hope it gives you years of trouble performance from here on out.

      Take care,

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

  248. Kevin
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    HEY Mike I have an 08 impreza . 114k miles. Never changed the timing belt or water pump. No tune ups. Nothing new except for a radiator and a few small things. Was just recently diagnosed with head gasket leakage. If I have all the necessary parts changed, (head gaskets, hoses, water pump, timing belt etc) it will probably cost $3000-$4000. The question is..Should I get the repairs? I don’t expect Subaru to cover the costs, I just need advice. Maybe its time for a trade-in but it just seems to be too early.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Kevin,

      It seems to me that as long as the rest of the car is in good shape it is a reasonable investment. It would be still less than the car is worth as well as get many more years out of the car if it’s done right. If it were mine and I liked driving the car, it still fit my needs, I’d lean toward doing the repairs.

      Good luck,

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

  249. Jan
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi, Mike.

    I have a 2010 3.6 Outback Limited. Last year, just approximately 1 month before my 5-year warranty was to expire, my “low-oil-level” light came on. I thought that was very odd because I routinely had my oil changed, I had never had any problems with my car, there were no oil drips where I park my car in the carport, AND it had lower-than-average mileage (I do not have my paperwork with me at the moment but seems that the mileage at that point was 39,000 to 40,000). I raised the hood to discover oil sprayed all over the front of the (?)engine and a pool of oil sitting in a little crosshatched well area!! I took it to my “local” (an hour away) Subaru dealer where I originally purchased the car new and where ALL of my routine maintenance work/service had been done. I was told that the problem was an “oil galley plug”. The plug was replaced and was covered under warranty. A few weeks later, I started hearing a squeeky sound. My husband looked under the hood and discovered there was oil still sitting in the little well area!! (We assumed the squeeky sound was a belt.) Afraid to drive it back (another hour) to the dealer AND upset that the oil was still leaking even after the oil galley plug had been replaced, I took it to a very reputable, professional, and extremely respected automotive shop here in my hometown. THEY notified me that there had been a service bulletin issued by Subaru in 2012 for the 2010 3.6 Outback – a problem with an oil leak at the head gasket; the fix was a re-design. The local service department strongly suggested that I take the car back to the Subaru dealer because this appeared to be a head gasket issue, not an oil galley plug issue. In the meantime, we had the local shop to replace a serpentine(?) belt. At this point, I contacted Subaru of America. The rep created a “case” and said she would work with me and the dealer. I took the car back to the dealer; they kept the car for a week. The end result was that they assured me and Subaru of America that the problem was just the oil galley plug and the oil we were then seeing was just “residual” oil that they didn’t clean up very well from the initial oil galley plug replacement. So….that was that. Fast forward to a year later. My window-washer-fluid light came on. My husband raised the hood to add window-washer-fluid. Lo and behold, guess what? Oil leaking and the little well was filling up with oil, yet again!! A NEW leak…or the same old leak that was never repaired properly?? I took the car to our local service shop. Just got my car back today. The report is that the head gasket was the problem. The technicians here say they are completely stunned that our Subaru dealer did not address/take care of this issue last year!! Because SoA was involved in this issue last year, right at the end of my warranty, what is your opinion? Is there a chance that SoA will cover/help cover the cost? This was a very expensive repair that we paid out of our pocket. I have very detailed, dated timeline notes, including emails with SoA. I cannot express how disappointed I am right now with Subaru. My husband has an 11 year old Forrester and after I bought my Outback in 2010, and loved it so much, we’ve said that we are “Subies for Life”! Not so sure how I feel about that now….I really feel like we have been “hood-winked” by the service department at the Subaru dealership! Thanks so much for your valuable time with my lengthy comment. jburton 05/02/2016

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Jan, What a story.

      I think if you bring that if you present a detailed timeline of the issues you’ve had to Subaru customer service that more likely than not they will get involved and help you.

      I would advise you to keep your confidence in Subaru even though that particular dealer may have been a bit on the clueless end of things.

      Good luck,

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

  250. Diane Aul
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    My 2011 Impreza just blew its head gasket. I called the number and they had no intention of helping. Subaru is not at all interested in helping people, they gave me crap because I didn’t keep every receipt – had I known when I bought the car it would break, yeah, I guess then I would have kept every scrap of paper. They gave me a hard time for going to a mom and pop shop that doesn’t use a computer, a very, very good mechanic who actually is more interested in fixing cars than fighting a computer ( and I don’t blame him, I wish computers would go away). Then, to add insult to injury, the Subaru rep handling my situation said the letters my mechanic and oil change place sent him were invalid because they didn’t write the VIN from my car on the letter. Good grief, like if he wanted that, why didn’t he say so in advance? All technicalities because they simply don’t want to own up to the fact their cars should be recalled and fixed. I’m not much of a car person, but I’m 60 years old and I’ve had cars and NEVER HEARD of a broken head gasket before in my life. NEVER known anyone to experience this. I used to think Garbage Motors (GM) was the worst, now I believe Subaru owns that rank.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Diane,

      I’m sorry to hear what happened to your Subaru. You’re not alone and I understand your frustration that Subaru would not help you. Having head gaskets on Subarus fail can be pretty annoying and costly but they can still be a great car for many years and miles after that if properly maintained.

      Take care,

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

  251. Onnette Mcelroy
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike,
    I recently had my head gasket replaced at the recommendation of my Subaru dealer. My 2007 Outback has 92,000 miles on it and has been a very good car except for this problem and also a cv joint repair. My bill was $2300. My dealer was very accommodating, gave me a loaner for a week as I had a vacation planned, even washed the car before returning it to me. All the personnel went above and beyond to fix my problem and cause me no inconvenience. However in reading about all the other people who have had head gasket problems at about 90,000 miles I would like to pursue it with the company. I hesitate because my dealer has been so helpful and I don’t want to jeopardize my future relationship with them. Can I pursue this with the company without involving my dealer? Is it worth it? Thanks

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Onette,

      It’s great to hear when a Subaru dealer has gone above and beyond to take care of their customer. If you contact Subaru of America customer svc it will get back to the dealer. What you might do is to go into the dealer and discuss with them the fact that you are very pleased with what they did for you but you were going to call Subaru of America’s customer service line to see if they will reimburse you some of your expenses. You’ll even have the opportunity to let Subaru know how well that you were taken care of.

      Good luck,

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

  252. Yvonne Brownlee
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike! Love your site. Its my classroom for learning. Thank you. Feel like someone advocating for the customer (diplomatically). I live in Maryland. Any shops like yours over here you know of. Thanks. Keep up good work. Much success for you.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Thank you Yvonne.

      I don’t have anyone in your area that I can recommend but if you do find a Subaru shop you are happy with please pass it along.

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

  253. Elizabeth
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2014 Subaru Outback that I bought 10 weeks ago from dealership in Maine and the engine has blown. The car had 65,000 and it was a bit high for 2014 but one owner highway miles. This would be my 3rd Subaru. My first one went 250,000 miles with minimal issues. So I’ve loved Subaru over the years. Well not so much now. Driving to work yesterday morning my car hesitated and died on side of the road! All in matter of 10 seconds. I was very lucky to be on backroad and not the highway as it just died. Had to call and pay for a tow. Couple hours later got a call that my engine has blown (catastrophic engine failure) with my 2014 Subaru outback. The dealership warranty is 3 months/3000 miles. I’ve had it 10 weeks and drove 3832 miles so Now I’m 832 miles over the warranty and the dealer that sold it to me telling me they don’t need to help me. This after I just paid them $22,000 10 weeks ago for a car I can’t drive and only made one car payment. I’ve only had the car for 10 weeks!! I’m wondering since my 2014 Subaru Outback has reached higher mileage then most 2014 likely have, I may have uncovered an issue with the 2014 Subaru Outback. Any insight greatly appreciated as I’m truly feeling very upset over the whole issue!!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Unfortunately there’s no way to know what kind of neglect or abuse may have occurred before the dealer got the car. If it had proper maintenance your catastrophic failure would be out of the ordinary. If your 2014 Outback was has a Manual transmission, there were a group of Subarus that were part of a class action lawsuit relating to oil consumption so you may want to explore that angle. http://www.oilconsumption.settlementclass.com/

      Good luck,

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

  254. Bev Michael
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Mike, do you know anyone in the Cincinnati, Ohio area that works on Subaru ‘s and could fix my head gaskets and put me on a payment plan? I talked to you in January and my car is still sitting . I haven’t been able to drive it. And i need to get it fixed. I am on a fixed income. I am still making car payments on it. I also got extended warranty on it. But it won’t cover it until i put another 400 miles on it. But i can’t drive it. It starts coverage April 12, 2016.and 137,000 miles. I got 136,400 miles . If you could help in any way I’d appreciate it. Thank you, Bev Michael.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Bev,
      I’m sorry but I don’t have any knowledge for referrals in your area.
      It’s odd that it won’t be covered until you put more mileage on it. Once you purchase an extended warranty it should cover the car from the moment you purchased it. If someone is advising you to drive it 400 miles first it may be due toe the fact that they are not allowed to sell a warranty on a car with a preexisting condition. (Some less reputable dealers sell extended warranties on cars they know need repairs then they advise their customers not to submit a claim for a few months so the insurance company pays for it instead of the dealer. Essentially fraud.)

      I hope you are able to solve your dilemma.

      Take care,
      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Your Independent Subaru Expert

  255. Elaine Temple
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a 2007 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport Wagon that was diagnosed with head gasket leakage when it had only a little over 59,000 miles on it. Luckily for me in researching the problem, I stumbled across your article, followed your suggestions and just found out today that Subaru is paying 100% of the hear gasket replacement! Thanks for your great advice!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      That’s great news Elaine!!

      Mike

  256. Dianna
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Dear Mike,

    I have a 2003 Subaru Forrester. There is a head gasket leak that needs repairing. I am concerned about spending so much money on the car because I don’t know if it is worth it or should I trade it in. I feel like I spend about 4000 a year on repairs. Breaks, steering, alternator, battery and now the dreaded head gaskets just this year. If I do repair the gaskets do you think the car will last a few more years? Do they keep going for a while?

    Thanks for the advice, Dianna

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Dianna,

      If the head gaskets are needed and repaired properly, as long as the rest of the car is in good shape I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t continue to give you many miles of reliable service in the future. As long as you’ve been keeping up on the oil change intervals and oil level the internals should still be in pretty good shape based on what I’ve seen over the years on your particular Forester.

      Take care and good luck,

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

  257. Brett Allen
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Went to get the oil changed in my 09 legacy 2.5i and was told that my head gasket was leaking.

    I was told that even if my head gasket is covered in my extended warranty, I would likely pay for the replacement of the timing belt and other parts needed to be replaced/removed to get to the head gasket.

    Does this sound accurate to you?

    Thanks for your help!

    Brett

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Brett,

      I am not sure about what all the fine print states in your extended warranty but normally you would be responsible for the wear and tear parts that aren’t necessarily required for the job but are just more convenient to do when it’s apart. For instance a timing belt or water pump is not necessary to replace during a head gasket job but many people opt to do so because everything is already apart.

      Usually any other seals and gaskets that must be removed to get to the head gaskets are included in the warranty repair.

      I hope this helps,

      Mike Corbin
      Smart Service
      Your Independent Subaru Expert
      Seattle, WA

  258. Paul Garnier
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I’m posting this mainly to echo how pervasive this problem is.

    A couple of weeks ago my well-maintained 2005 Outback started clacking and at the first gas station I pulled over and checked oil and it took 4 quarts to refill. There has never been any exhaust smoke or oil on the driveway, and basically no sign of burning oil, so this comes as a big surprise.

    My mechanic let me know a complete rebuild is necessary, so choice is between $6000 rebuild or new car.

    At the Toyota and VW dealers I didn’t even talk trade-in, at Carlsen Subaru where (I purchased the car new) I looked at new outbacks and was ready to roll off the lot if offered something reasonable. When it was time to strike a deal I handed keys over so mechanic could check out the car, comes back with a $300 trade-in value and the “news” that it needs a new engine. I said nothing about what I know about the gasket problem, went to their service dept for build quote. Quote is in line with what independent garages give, however at this point I’m not inclined to give Subaru business of any kind.

    I’ve spoken with a number of independent mechanics who specialize in Subaru, have been told that Subaru uses the same gasket. Of course I haven’t verified this but at this point will think twice about giving them business, certainly won’t buy their cars, and wouldn’t recommend their cars given the way this situation has been handled.

    The mechanic who will do the repair gets at least two of these per month, others I spoke with said the same.

    Up to now our only complaints with the car have been seats were seriously uncomfortable, and we’ve never got close to the mileage they claimed on the sticker.

    Not a great experience, maybe their slogan should be “(fill in the blank), it’s what makes a pissed-off Subaru owner a pissed-off Subaru owner.”

  259. Mike Burns
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello Mike,

    With all the complaints made by Sabaru owners regarding defective head gaskets, why has no one instituted a class action law suit against Sabaru ? Does anyone know of any class action filed against Sabaru for this re-occuring expensive defect? If not, would anyone like to join in on a class action?

    Regards,
    Mike Burns

  260. home remedies
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    I have a skin tag in my groin location, hope it
    diminishes.

  261. Julie
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hello, I bought my son a used 2005 Subaru Impreza RS Wagon. We owned it one month when the head gasket started its problems with us. We have been trying to sell the car ever since. If ANYONE wants to buy this car please let me know. Make an offer.

  262. maureen welch
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    hi, well, i guess i can join the unfortunate ranks of disappointed Subaru owners as my 2007 outback with 139000 miles has two blown head gaskets. Subaru has offered a goodwill gesture coupon for $500. This provides little comfort as the repair is $2600 and i cannot afford that plus the car payment. But most importantly, it is a repair that shouldn’t have to have done in the first place! I had a 2002 outback that had the head gasket issue that was covered by Subaru. I figured once the recall was over, Subaru would have most certainly fixed the issue. It is obvious they haven’t and that they are not owning up to their shortcomings. I am extremely disappointed. The better business bureau will be hearing from me along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This 2007 subaru was my fourth subaru and will be my last. Honda, here i come!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Maureen,

      Sorry to hear of your situation and I understand the frustration. I do applaud you for taking action though. If more people took the time to send a letter or email instead of just rant, Subaru would be pressured into doing more for their customers.

      Good luck whatever your next car!

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

  263. Mandy
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Good info. here. Thanks.
    So I have a 2011 Legacy with the 2.5L with 68K. About a week ago it started to over heat. I got to where I was heading & checked it out. The fans are working, I keep up on the maintenance, I put coolant back in it, the hoses are ok, no visible leaks. I have heard a water fall like sound behind the dash like the water is not draining out or there is air stuck in the heater core or cooling system perhaps.. It has been a few days & when I was pulling into work I noticed the temp. light was flashing. It has done that twice now & I have made sure the coolant level is good. The over flow bottle was bubbling up & pushing some coolant out. I pray it is not a head gasket. Doing a pressure test tonight & hoping for the best. No warranty. 🙁 . There seems to be conflicting info. on the warranty being extended to 8 years 100k. Luckly I’m not your average. I work at a shop & cars are my thing. This is my 2nd subaru & after this not sure if I will continue. Last one hit 100k & the timing belt went & we all know how that ends up.
    Mandy

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Mandy,

      I’m glad to hear you are able to do the work yourself if needed. From your description, I would check closely for HC’s present in the cooling system with an exhaust analyzer if possible. It fits the symptom of exhaust pushing past the head gasket into the cooling system.

      I hope it isn’t for your sake.

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

  264. Marian
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    Your advice just saved me $500!

    Subaru Customer Service is giving me $500 towards a head gasket repair at 103K miles. They recommend doing it together with the timing belt at $105K. This is at Fowler Subaru in Ukiah, California.

    My 2001 Forester never had a single issue. We donated it at 270K miles after 16 years. My 2010 Forester has had a broken air conditioner compressor recently at 95K miles – that was a pricey repair and now the head gaskets. Seems like quality has gone down.

    Thanks for providing excellent advice in layman’s language!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hello Marian, I am pleased to here this! Anytime Subaru chips in to help with such an involved repair is great.

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

  265. Dawn
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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!

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      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
      https://www.smart-service.com

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

  266. Michael Garrity
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      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
      https://www.smart-service.com
      Also for Subaru parts visit http://www.smartqualityparts.com

  267. Donald Voss
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      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
      https://www.smart-service.com
      Also for Subaru parts visit http://www.smartqualityparts.com

  268. Donald Voss
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      Hi Donald,
      The response from Subaru very disappointing to hear. I hope it is eventually solved.

      Good luck,
      Mike

  269. teamsterdan
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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.

  270. Donald Voss
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      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
      https://www.smart-service.com

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

  271. DOROTHY A PERSCHY
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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.

  272. David Sowell
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      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

  273. Corey Colvin
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      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
      https://www.smart-service.com

  274. Angela
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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.

  275. Victoria Sekula
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      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
      https://www.smart-service.com

  276. Janet
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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. 🙁

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      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

  277. Doug Pearl
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      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

  278. carmen
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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!).

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      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

  279. Doug Pearl
    February 26, 2010 Reply

    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.

    • Mike Corbin
      February 26, 2010 Reply

      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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