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Buying a Subaru: Head Gasket Concern


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19 replies to this topic

#1 jmoss5723

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 04:48 PM

I'm no subie noobie and I've done my time with bad head gaskets, but I was wondering if I could get some opinions on the matter. I did a search and I didn't really find what I was looking for.

 

I'm shopping for a 2000-2004 legacy for my wife. I know HG's are a concern. Most of the cars I'm looking at have 100,000+ miles.

 

I know there are no guarantees and HG's can leak internally or externally at any mileage, but what would you figure is a reasonably safe mileage?

 

What I'm looking for is "if it hasn't leaked by xxx,xxx miles, it probably won't." Side notes are welcome with your opinion, but please don't jack the thread.



#2 AdventureSubaru

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 07:47 PM

What I'm looking for is "if it hasn't leaked by xxx,xxx miles, it probably won't." Side notes are welcome with your opinion, but please don't jack the thread.

 

Not sure that's a fair question. I feel the right question is, "Have the original gaskets been properly replaced?" If the car was overheated, you never know what's going to happen. If the heads started leaking and they were done right, you'll be set for quite a while.

 

Our 2000 Outback has just turned 333,000 miles and is still going strong. Just noticing a bit of weeping on the passenger side head. The 2.5 is a good engine. If it's not showing issues, I wouldn't worry about buying one. It's just a known spot to keep a close eye on. I just check the heads and temperature gauge on the 2000 more often than the Impreza.



#3 Longtrailside

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 10:21 PM

Going to throw my 2 cents in on this because I just bought a 2001 outback. Long story short I got seriously screwed. I am going to tell you how not to get screwed with the 2000 to 2004 models. What I have found is the head gaskets generally never last past the first timing belt change which is 105,000 miles, unless if they did the recall and went to subaru and had the coolant conditioner additive added to the coolant. The second serious problem that you need to look for is piston or rod knock in these motors which generally happens around 150,000 miles. Make sure that when you go look at the car that it has not been pre warmed to hide the knock due to when the motor warmed it goes away and sounds like a tick ,,,but when cold it sounds like a pissed off monkey with a bat inside the motor. When I was looking for a replacement motor almost all the cars that were in the junkyard had bad rods, in the end I said screw it and went for a rebuilt motor to get around the bad HG's and bad rod issues. Next on the list is the tranny, mostly there pretty tough from what I found except for the one I got. The front transfer was toast. Lastly and this goes for ALL older cars is to have the catalytic converter tested or has been recently replaced otherwise it is another almost 800 (need to buy oem from subaru due to computer 02 tolerances)to replace and anything generally over 12 years is reaching or at the end of its life cycle due to high sulfuric gas in the US. Like I said I got screwed on mine BUT I know that these are tough reliable cars. Other brands have their issues like toyotas and engine sIudge at least you know what your getting into with subarus and can look out for what is going to happen but anything outside of that will be abnormal. I just found out that mine was a rental so it got pounded on. From what I have seen and heard and researched these cars are amazing in the snow with proper snow tires. I agree with AdventureSubaru on what he said. Do your homework on the car that you are going to look at and have a certified mechanic go thru it with a pre inspection. If the hg's are bad replace them and you should have a solid car or better yet buy one cheap with a rod knock and have a reman put in and all the issues will be taken care of and a 3 year warranty plus labor. Best of luck in your adventures in finding your subaru.   


Edited by Longtrailside, 18 November 2013 - 10:32 PM.


#4 jmoss5723

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 10:40 PM

I hear what you guys are saying and I don't disagree.

 

However, I'm trying to get a feel for around how many miles the original head gaskets seem to be going out in these cars.

 

Anyone else have some input? I know a lot of guys have had the HG's go out, so how many miles did the car have the problem showed up?



#5 Longtrailside

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Posted 18 November 2013 - 10:43 PM

Essentially between 75,000 to 120,000 they go but most pop at 90,000.



#6 later_Peter

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 01:34 AM

'99 OBW 192k... just the alternator & regular service...



#7 okamikai

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 05:03 AM

HGs & Engine Overhaul @ 167,500



#8 mikec03

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 09:03 AM

+1 for 75 to 120K for the 00-04's.  Of course there are exceptions.  My 02 went at 90K.

 

I wouldn't buy the 00-09 used subaru's knowing what I know now, unless it was from someone I know or at a rediculously low price.



#9 grossgary

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 10:03 AM

00-04's leak externally - so as you're buying you simply want to do the following:

1. assess if there are any current leaks

2. assess if they've ever been replaced before. 00-02 were under an extended Subaru headgasket recall (additive only) and warranty (100,000 miles) campaign.

3. change the coolant and add Subaru's required coolant conditioner immediately

4. make sure the engine is in good operating condition, tune up, no shaking, electrical system clean and sharp

*** If #2 is an affirmative then it would be nice to investigate what gaskets were used, if the heads were resurfaced, and if Subaru's conditioner was added.

 

 

However, I'm trying to get a feel for around how many miles the original head gaskets seem to be going out in these cars.

 

Anyone else have some input? I know a lot of guys have had the HG's go out, so how many miles did the car have the problem showed up?

 

there is absolutely no mileage relationship with Ej25 headgasket failure.

 

They were failing at 30,000 miles under warranty when they'd rarely show up in public forums like this.

 

Subaru offered a 100,000 mile extended headgasket warranty on 2000 - 2002 EJ25's - that can be interpreted multiple ways, but for them to take such an approach suggests early failures were prompting the need for customer confidence in that engine.

 

when mileages are given, like 120k, they are really just making a statement about the average mileage of most 00-04 cars that are on the road today, which is just what people see the most of. 10 years old, average yearly mileage of 12,000 and WALLA - you have 120,000 miles! amazing! the mileages are irrelevant and hold no value in ascertaining your purchase in regards to headgaskets.

 

or mileages represent a given persons experiences or the means through which the information is "seen" - the average mileage of those that hit the boards, their friends had, get worked on by DIY's, show up on craigslist, etc. lower and higher mileage cars aren't as likely to land on the radar screen due to lower mileage cars being more likely to get repaired off the radar screen because they have higher value, as well as higher mileage cars being more likely to end up as craigslist specials or sent to the scrap yard.

 

failed EJ25 headgaskets have come to me that were repaired at 30k and were leaking like sieves at 300k but never replaced.

 

if one can't sift through conflicting anecdotal experiences - just go look it up yourself.  headgasket failure logs affirm that there's no mileage to assign to EJ25 headgasket failure:

 

http://home.comcast....m/guestlog.html

https://www.google.c...baruoutback.org

 

you can also scour craigslist and find gobs of blown Ej25's with all sorts of mileage on them.

 

there are forces at work that would even make an average of those mileages inaccurate, but nonetheless they show gobs of low mileage failures and put to death the idea that a statistically relevant mileage can be assigned to EJ25 headgasket failure.


 



#10 RallyKeith

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 11:00 AM

+1 for 75 to 120K for the 00-04's.  Of course there are exceptions.  My 02 went at 90K.

 

I wouldn't buy the 00-09 used subaru's knowing what I know now, unless it was from someone I know or at a rediculously low price.

 

Unless I've missed something over the years there are no known issues with '05 and newer head gaskets.



#11 ivans imports

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 11:21 AM

I do most headgaskets between 130000kms to 265000kms some go higher have a 01 outback i bought last week has 295000kms never been apart leaking oil but no preshure in rad and no coolant leaking. Milage donest seem to matter as mutch as how the car was taken care of and if it had any time sitting. The headgaskets seem to go more on cars that are not used every day the coolant gets old or corodes but the ones that sitt around blow gaskets. The ones that never stop seem to last . At any rate make shure you have somone look at car and check for leaks on ds lower coner of head seam any oil leaking means money having to be spent cheers



#12 Gloyale

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 12:02 PM

Unless I've missed something over the years there are no known issues with '05 and newer head gaskets.

 

Yes there are.  We just aren't seeing as many yet because those cars are just now reaching high mileages.

 

100% aluminum engines will need headgaskets a few times in there lives.....period.

 

I've done headgaskets in every type of subaru engine EA81, EA82, EJ22, EJ22T, EJ25D, EJ255, EJ20g, EJ257.....except one......EJ18  These ones seem tough enough to last......EJ engine without much horsepower and small pistons.



#13 grossgary

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Posted 19 November 2013 - 12:35 PM

+1

Unless I've missed something over the years there are no known issues with '05 and newer head gaskets.

yes, they do....even 09's and 10's Ej25's have leaking head gaskets.



#14 Blue Whale

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 07:34 PM

Regarding Longtrailside's commentary about bearing knock--that's not bearing knock, but piston slap.  Piston slap is an annoyance while the engine is cold, but it fades out as the temperature comes up in the first couple of minutes of driving.  It's only a minor annoyance, not a sign that the engine is about to fail.  My 2000 OBW has it; no big thing, and the engine is in great shape (no HG leaks at 137K miles, by the way).

 

As for testing the catalytic converter...that's done automatically while the car is being driven; that's why there are O2 sensors before and after it.  You'll get an OBD code and a CEL if it appears that the cat isn't doing what it should.  O2 sensors don't last forever, so a code for cat efficiency may just indicate a sensor problem.



#15 Longtrailside

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 08:02 PM

Please thouroghly read my comments before commenting blue whale. This is what I said ( The second serious problem that you need to look for is piston or rod
knock in these motors which generally happens around 150,000 miles. Make
sure that when you go look at the car that it has not been pre warmed
to hide the knock due to when the motor warmed it goes away and sounds
like a tick ,,,but when cold it sounds like a pissed off monkey with a
bat inside the motor.) Yes this is a very serious problem for any motor in any car. The reason why it goes away is due to thermal expansion and contraction, the motor heats up and tolerances tighten up as it is cold the tolerances shrink which makes the gap in worn or damaged parts. Anyone who knows anything about motors will know this and after a piston shatters (which has happened to me in another vehicle) it destroys the engine and the bad part is that it can last for a long time or the next start you never know. As far as the cat o2 sensors read heat not air flow. O2 sensors are electical generators and a properly working one will read 1 volt of current when heated. The only true way to test a cat air flow is to do the highway test or to drill holes into the front and rear of the cat and read the air pressures.


Edited by Longtrailside, 20 November 2013 - 08:26 PM.


#16 Blue Whale

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 02:55 AM

Yes, I understood what you were saying.  My wife and I have been Subaru owners for 20 years now, owning a couple with EJ25's that have been close to 200,000 miles with no mechanical issues, and have several friends and family members who also own (and like) Subarus; but although I have a decent understanding of cars in general and have long done my own maintenance, I create software for a living.  However, you might look around on this board for how others have characterized the (very common) piston slap phenomenon with these engines.  Some people here are Subaru mechanics by trade and have extensive experience.  No need to pay attention to what I say, but you should definitely consider what they say.



#17 grossgary

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 07:04 AM

I'd carry the piston slap/rod bearing discussion to another thread - he's asking specifically about head gaskets here.  it sounds like a lengthy discussion would need to happen to clarify some of that because piston slap is benign, lower end bearing failure is not.  the former is common, the later is possible. start another thread if necessary, he's not asking it here.



#18 ivans imports

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 11:10 AM

6 07-09 outbacks with blown hg one 07 outback only had 120000kms and leaking oil all over exhuast others around 135000-175000kms I have seen no proff of any kind they that they fixed the hg problem worse if anything. Even the old 2.5d s at least went 200000kms to 300000kms before they blew



#19 mikec03

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 02:33 PM

I want to follow up on my previous post, where I said that I wouldn't buy a 00-09 subaru unless under very favorable conditions.  Everything posted here just confirms my thinking.  In 2010, subaru started to install MLS gaskets in the legacy/outback.  I have hope that this 3 layer gasket will eliminate HG failures, and consequently I have started to track the prices of the 10 and 11 legacy/outbacks.   In 12 they went to the FB engine [earlier in the forester and others] which may have also solve the HG problem.    



#20 ivans imports

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 10:59 AM

As long as they use steel gaskets they will never fix the problem If they whent back to grafite gaskets problems would be gone but steel gasket between to aluminum surfaces will never last






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