That's and odd situation about oil changes - sometimes a part can look funny, be compromised, dirty and mistaken for something it's not (aftermarket when it's really OEM).
Yes they are correct about the head gasket - that particular engine will run 50,000 miles (i'm making that number up but it is 10's of thousands of miles) on externally leaking headgaskets. They begin to slowly seep at first then very gradually get worse over time. In general it would be odd to ignore it, hence your hesitation - but due to the nature of this particular engine, one can say with 100% certainty you have no worries about a 2,000 mile road trip. There is literally zero additional risk (beyond normal risk) of failure that will cause issues while traveling due to that oil leak. Monitoring oil levels would be a good idea just to get an initial bead on how much it's leaking now, since you haven't before.
It's such a common issue on that engine that they dealers are generally adept at ignoring it. I wouldn't be immediately alarmed by them not saying much and seeming unalarmed by it.
Why would they have to "pay out"? If it's still under warranty then I'd have it repaired. In general dealers don't repair them very well though - they don't resurface the heads and aren't into alternative options for better headgaskets which is silly on an engine with known headgasket issues. And if you combine timing components so you're expensive 105,000 mile maintenance is out of the way - they're timing component pricing is terrible. So that means dealers never replace all the timing components - only the belt or belt/tensioner and not the belt/tensioner/sprocket/2 idlers which many people like me and independent shops will do routinely as a matter of course.
1. monitor oil levels - when they start leaking it's so small it won't even register between oil changes. get an actual quantitative number on how much it's leaking - like check every 1,000 miles. then every 3,000 if it's insignificant, etc.
2. if it's under warranty then have it repaired. resurface the heads, dealers won't generally do that but it's silly on these heads. it should only cost $50-$75, there's absolutely no need for a full on valve job and pressure testing or even measuring on these heads. they are very robust and never have issue with that.
3. i'd time the repair with a full timing belt job - timing belt, tensioner, 2 idler pulleys, and the sprocket. kits are only $125 on amazon for all of that stuff - but it's like $400 from the dealer + mad labor. then you're basically good to go for another 100,000 miles.
the timing belt has to be removed to replace the headgaskets so it's zero additional labor to replace the timing belt with a headgasket job. timing belt is $59 from Subaru so for that they can install a new belt.
if you're paying out of pocket i'd aim for doing the headgaskets around 90k-100k and doing the timing belt at the same time. i'd find a good independent that's familiar with Subaru's and will do everything i listed above, giving you a bettter end product than the dealer and also being cheaper.
dealer warranties are only 12,000 miles/1 year and the way they get paid, there's not much incentive to do the best job they possibly can.
Edited by grossgary, 05 April 2014 - 10:40 PM.