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Guest Message by DevFuse

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96 Legacy L Wagon 2.2 AWD AT with bad head gasket?

Head Head gasket 96 Legacy EJ22 2.2l Coolant leak

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11 replies to this topic

#1 haugenlee



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Posted 06 December 2013 - 05:40 PM

I have a 96 Legacy L Wagon with an EJ22 in it. I have 120,000 on the car, I bought it 3,000 miles ago. Now I have a head gasket leaking coolant from the passenger side under the timing belt cover (according to my mechanic).

The car runs fine. It has not overheated. I brought it in to have the cam and crank seals done because they were dumping oil. I am reading more and more about how uncommon this head gasket issue is on the 2.2. I am starting to wonder if this guy has it wrong.

Is there something else I should check out?


In order to do this, I need to cut some of the parts costs.

Do I have to get OEM head set? Is there something more reasonably priced available that will hold up for the many miles I have left on this engine if I can get it on track again? Quoted parts: $440 That seems higher than it has to be from my searches around the web.


Do I have to put in a new head bolt, too? I know some are designed to expand once. Is that true on this? Quoted: $125


I have checked out  few videos showing how easy it is to plane the heads, too. Easy enough for me to do on my own without messing it up? That would cut a significant cost for me, too. Quoted: $150


I would love to dig into it myself, but without a lot of experience, I need a big confidence boost or someone who knows more than me to help me out with it.

Thanks for you help.






#2 MilesFox


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Posted 06 December 2013 - 08:27 PM

Likely the water pump weep hole is leaking. The 1996 and earlier ej22e with composite HG's don't leak eternally like the newer MLS HG's int he ej22 from 200 and up, and 2.5's from 97 and up. Perhaps your mechanic is mistaking his diagnosis for a symptom of later model engines. Generally the composite gaskets will last the life of the engine if the cooling system has not been neglected.


You should focus on replacing the water pump, along with the timing belt and idlers, and may as well do the front seals while in there.


Do this first before assuming a HG failure. If this engine was failing the HG, you would either be getting coolant out the tailpipe, or exhaust bubbles in the radiator.


Should you need to do the HG's (verified by compression tests, fel-pro is the more affordable option, and it is not necessary to replace the head bolts as they are not torque to yield, as they thread into aluminum with a fine thread.


The only circumstance where i could see replacing the head bolts if they are pitted and corroded from cooling system neglect (rust, old coolant, tap water, etc) and only the affected bolts.


Give it a go yourself. there is nothing to really mess up. the 1996 engine *should* be non interference, and the only way to potentially damage any valve installing timing belts is by using the wrong marks (never use the arrows!)


One could easily do this work in their own garage with a basic compliment of tools. 


Here is an example:http://www.ultimates...ru +maintenance

#3 Fairtax4me



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Posted 06 December 2013 - 08:30 PM

I would want a second opinion. The old 2.2 head gaskets don't leak like that.
More than likely the leak is coming from the crossover pipe on top of the block, or even just a loose or old upper radiator hose.

There are some plugs on the block that go into the coolant passages. One of those could be loose and leaking or have a bad o-ring.

#4 mikec03


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Posted 06 December 2013 - 08:38 PM

+1 to doing the timing belt, pulleys, water pump, etc.  This would be easy for you do do.  Whenever you buy a used subaru, you have to do the timing belt etc if you can't determine the last time it was done. Once you have the timing belt covers off, you may be able to see where the leak is.  You can even leave off the covers and run it for a month to see if you can find the leak.


Forget about the HG's until you can find the leak.  Don't trust the mechanic.  Just be sure to check and add coolent frequently so it doesn't run low.

#5 upnorthguy


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Posted 06 December 2013 - 08:45 PM

I'm in a similar situation: picked up a Craigslist special '95 LS wagon with the EJ22 and the owners had been told the HG were bad.  I've replaced the water pump and gasket (absolutely only use one from the dealer (only $4 in person) as the ones sold at Autozone et al totally suck!) and so far no leaks.  I have not done a bunch of highway driving yet, but around town (up to 45-50 mph) everything is looking good with regards to coolant.  (Oil leaks are another story that I have yet to address).


There is some discussion about this in another thread that I started right after I got my wagon about how to test for HG leaks:

http://www.ultimates...=+machine +shop

#6 idosubaru


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Posted 06 December 2013 - 09:45 PM

probably not headgaskets - but there's not really anything else on the passengers side.


that being said - the car is coming up on 20 years old, if it's every been overheated before - run low on coolant, hose leak, radiator leak, etc - then that will cause the headgaskets to blow on any engine.


inspect the timing covers and look for signs of the plastic timing covers being warped, mis shaped or even melted.  a friend got an EJ22 craigslist specal (too cheap) and it ended up having melted covers and when installed it also had a rod knock.  it obviously had been overheated.

#7 haugenlee



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Posted 08 December 2013 - 11:45 PM

I appreciate the help and encouragement to give it a go on my own.

On Wednesday I will try to pop the TB cover off to take a look for myself to see if I can pinpoint where the coolant is coming out. I have not had to add any coolant to it, and there isn't a sign of any coolant on the ground. I was just told he found it behind the cover on the passenger side. Whatever leak there is, it has to be pretty small.


Are the cam and crank seals tough to do? So far I have only had a glance at the links you shared, and I might find my answer there, and I'm sure I can track down a good guide somewhere on the Internet. I was dumping oil out of one or a combination of those seals and out of the bottom of the TB cover very quickly. So, I have to do those, and based on how much oil was coming out, I can only assume the TB is covered in it. I don't want that to break it down too quickly even though it was done no more than 30k ago.


The other piece of this that I forgot is my check engine light is on with a coolant temp sensor code. Does that point to anything related to this? I know those have a tendency to have problems. Until now I just assumed it wasn't causing a problem, and I did not have a place to work on it to replace it on my own. I will obviously get that done now, too. I just wanted to offer any other information that might spark an idea in someone who knows a bit (or a lot) more than I do.


Thanks again for your help. I really want to make this one work, and I want to make sure it gets done right. I just can't do the $1600 I was quoted by this guy to get in there.

#8 upnorthguy


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Posted 09 December 2013 - 12:21 AM

For crank seals on the EJ22, watch this excellent video that Miles Fox put together:


#9 haugenlee



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Posted 11 December 2013 - 11:26 AM

Thank you for the video. And for making them, milesfox.

I think I will dig into it today to see what I can do.

#10 MilesFox


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Posted 20 December 2013 - 12:24 AM

Thanks for the comments. I am glad the video is helpful. 


I could imagine a low coolant condition (the leak) could make the engine temp sensor misread. If the temp gauge seems abnormally low, this is a sign of low coolant before it boils over and spikes the temp gauge. The engine temp sensor is east to replace with a 17mm tool, once you move a hose and a harness out of the way. These sensors are at the high point of the cooling systerm where an air pocket would hang out. 


The cam and crank sensors are accessible without removing any thing. They are mounted outside of the timing belt cover and are secured by a 10mm bolt. 


I just re-read your post and you mentioned the passenger side. I can imagine the leaking weep hole draining out of the other side if the rubber cover gasket is swollen and failed from the oil leak. I would bet on leaky cam seals. Best to do them anyway. Removing the pulleys and tightening them to proper torque is probably the most difficult part, but not so with the proper tools. The trick is to hold the works still. I suggest breaking torque loose on the pulley bolts before removing the belt, and after you align your marks.


Good luck.

#11 heartless


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Posted 20 December 2013 - 07:47 AM

coolant behind the timing cover on the passenger side? My vote goes to a leaky upper radiator hose dripping down behind there.


just did a timing job on my new to me 95 Legacy w/EJ22 - the radiator hoses didnt "look" bad visually, but the upper hose was about to blow out - could see daylight thru one area after pulling it off the car...

#12 ivans imports

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Posted 20 December 2013 - 10:45 AM

try retorquing the heads have fixed two 2.2s this way even my own that was leaking badly got a turn or more on all headbolts and stoped pressuring rad

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