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Guest Message by DevFuse

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My notes from head gasket, timing belt, valve clearance and clutch job

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8 replies to this topic

#1 bearbalu


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Posted 03 January 2005 - 03:08 AM

Phew – what a month it has been - doing the head gasket, timing belt, valve clearance, clutch, waterpump and oil pump job on my 98 outback 2.5L DOHC EJ 25 engine. I started right after thanksgiving and it took me a whole month. I learnt so much over last month about my Subaru!

Many thanks to folks on this forum for helping me through the project. And thanks to theotherskip for the wonderful site he created (
http://mysite.verizon.net/vze730qe/index.html) – that’s what really encouraged me to take on this project in the first place.
Here are a few things I found useful in addition to what I learned through this forum.

Engine removal/Misc:
  • Separating engine from transmission – I have heard of horror stories here– I was scratching my head for 2 hours. The lower engine to transmission mount were under tension. I just RAISED the front of engine (from under timing cover) a little and it popped right out. This is similar to pulling out a stuck drawer in a cabinet.
  • Lower left engine/transmission mount nut : You will need a universal joint adapter and an 6 inch extension to get it out.
  • Mark location of nuts on accelarator/cruise cables before removing – you can replace to same location, avoiding adjustment to them later.
  • Do a compression/leak down test BEFORE embarking on the project - you don't want to find out about valve problems or worn piston rings after you have put the engine back together only to dismantle it again. If you had check engine lights in past, I would definitely do it. After I put my engine together, I had a check engine light scare and it seemed like it might be valve problem. Fortunately, everything turned out okay (so I hope). Compression is also harder to measure with engine out, measure if before.
  • Power steering pump, Subaru service manual (worth every dime of the 20 bucks you pay) just mentions 3 bolt in the front, there is one in the back that must be removed as well.
  • Don’t discharge A/C – you can tie it off to side to remove the engine
  • Instead of renting a hoist, buy one and resell – I bought a used one for 75 bucks. I used a tilt pulley to keep the engine straight and leveled.
  • Buy an engine stand (and resell it) - 50 bucks at Autozone/Pep boys, Waterpump /oil pump easier to remove. You can also rotate the engine making it easier to work on head. You can move the engine with stand (and work in Sun instead of just dingy garage!)
  • If you cannot afford engine stand, get used tires from any tire shop (Big-O-Tires) to use as engine work bench– they will give it away for free. You cannot access clutch components on engine stand if you are replacing clutch, so you need this anyway. Local dealership uses aluminum trash drum of right diameter. If you use tires to do head gasket job, get the right inner diameter tires – short block is no more than 15-16 inches across with heads removed.
  • Use a digital camera to take lots of pictures as documentation. While re-assembling, if in doubt, can use a big screen TV and zoom to specific location.
Timing belt:
  • Timing marks – counting teeth is the only reliable method – count teeth from crankshaft sprocket mark to camshaft sprocket marks. The marks on sprocket might not alight perfectly with the mark on inside timing cover due to manufacturing variances – mine didn’t and I freaked out for a moment until I counted the teeth.
  • Crank sprocket mark - it is NOT the triangle on the front face, the true one is simple mark on the rear teeth of crank sprocket. See http://www.ultimates...ead.php?t=28199
  • Note any factory paint marks – specially ones that mark the alignment of intake and exhaust sprockets in relation to each other (double marks/4 fingers that point to each other) – these paint marks(not the etched marks) aligned perfectly giving me the confidence things were right.
  • If you are replacing clutch, have the flywheel on the engine while removing and putting back the timing belt- you need to be able to undo the crank bolt which you will use to turn the engine. To undo crank bolt, you can use a screwdriver to jam the flywheel.
  • Removing timing belt when marks are aligned – left side is under tension (valves are pushed in by camshaft) and might rotate which is OKAY. Intake will rotate counterclockwise, exhaust clockwise to take them out of tension. End wrench article(http://www.endwrench.com/pdf/engine/FtTimingBeltReplaceF00.pdf) suggests that you need the special Subaru double hex tool – not true.
  • Crank pulley – put PB blaster to loosen it while removing it – I punched a hole in timing cover – once I used PB Blaster, it was a breeze.
  • Crank pulley and bolt – tighten it to 130 ft-lb by jamming flywheel BEFORE putting engine back in car – Autozone had ½ inch torque wrench as loaners that went upto 150 ft-lb.
  • Make sure you listen for noisy idlers by listening against your ears – if in doubt compare with new ones at dealership
  • Compressing the tensioner – You can do it at home with a horizontal vice – the mechanic at dealership uses a horizontal type – the reason they recommend vertical type is to make sure that the tensioner adjustor rod is pressed straight - not at an angle. If you don’t have a vice, o just go to Orchard Hardware supply and use the shop one they use for cutting pipes/glass.
  • Waterpump – no sealant required for metal gasket unlike what Haynes manual says
  • Resealing oil-pump: I used Ultra-Grey (Subaru Recommendation), Haynes recommends anerobic sealant. Folks on this forum have used either of them and they seem to have done fine. If you buy the engine overhaul gasket set, theotherskip site says that he could not find the o-ring since multiple ones of them looked the same but might be slightly different. I went to dealership with same confusion, turns out the one to use is 10991AA000 (O-ring cylinder block) - one that you get 4 of and look identifical - they are in fact identical
Head gasket:
  • To drive in replacement seals you can buy plumbing couplings of 1" (camshaft) , 1 ¼ (crankshaft )inch and 3 inches(rear main seal) from your local Orchard Hardware/Home Depot.
  • Cam sprocket bolts - Some folks on this forum have loosened them by using tension on timing belt and jamming the flywheel. There was some concern that this might break the timing belt or hurt the tensioner. Others have used the hex portion on camshaft after valve covers is removed. I used the hex portion, but used timing belt as a backup.
  • I found one screw on rear oil separator plate loose – won’t hurt using little Locktite blue to retighten it. I replaced plastic plate with aluminum.
  • Use gasket remover solvent to clean gasket surfaces. I used a plastic putty knife and sand paper of 800 grade for head gasket surface.
  • Clean exhaust manifold gasket surface on the head while engine is on stand – you can rotate engine upside down.
  • Spark plugs –put then back on while engine is out...easier. To build oil pressure without sparks, disconnect the connector at ignition coil and crank the engine.
  • I called the dealer to find out the machine shop they used, just felt safer with them! BTW, I made friends with a mechanic at dealership who answered questions for me...I tipped him...
  • EGR pipe – if you can’t remove the nut connecting it to left side head, machine shop will when they resurface the heads.
  • Valve seals - The engine overhaul gasket set has new valve seals. I had the machine shop take out the old ones and put in the new ones for 30 bucks. Not sure if they ever leak, I did it anyway. The added benefit was that machine shop took out the valves and they got an inspection as well. Have them check for leaky/burnt valves.
  • Half-moons - 1stsubaruparts recommended I replace them and I did. They are 3.86 each (need 4). The old ones seemed perfectly fine to me though. I recommend resealing them using Ultra Grey. Some folks on this forum had a hard time removing them, I just put some gasket remover and pulled them off with a plier in five minutes.
Valve clearances:
  • Measure valve clearance in mm –not inches, since it is more granular. Specs call for +- .02 mm and shims come in .01mm increments. Minimum in inches is .001 which is .025 mm. I worked with inches and realized too late. E.g intake spec is .20mm +- .02. I measured my one intake at .006inch which translates to anything from .15 to .175...deciding what replacement shims became guesswork.
  • You can measure valve clearances with timing marks aligned – that way you can measure 12 out of 16 clearance in one single position. Only left side 2 intake and 4 exhaust cannot be measured.
  • Measuring shim thickness – Most micrometers are in inches. Hard to find mm one. You might be able to avoid the need for one by read the thickness written on back side of shims though sometimes they are worn away. Dealerships usually have a micrometer. Kragen auto had a 25 dollar vernier caliper that could read in mm.
  • Since clutch /flywheel can’t be removed while on engine stand, take out the clutch by putting engine on tires or hoist. Keep the flywheel on for doing timing belt on engine stand. Remove flywheel after you have finished timing belt by moving the engine back to tires. You can do clutch job first on tires and then move to engine stand to prevent going back and forth, though I recommend doing clutch in the end to keep grease from getting into clutch components.
  • Flywheel might not have zero mark or might be hard to find– put a mark on flywheel ring teeth in relation to pressure plate before removing pressure plate. Makel note of the zero mark on old and new pressure plate (a yellow mark on transmission side if you buy it at 1stsubaruparts). Haynes manual says flywheel is keyed since bolt holes are not spaced evenly. This is not true for EJ25. What a zero mark means on a flywheel which is not keyed is still unclear to me...
  • Clutch alignment tool – hard to find at auto shops, ask the place where you buy clutch parts if they have one as part of clutch kit.
  • Clutch disc – OEM plate did not mark the pressure plate /flywheel sides. The side with springs raised goes towards pressure plate, other side towards flywheel. Mark the old plate before you remove it if you might get confused!
  • Replace clips for throw out (release) bearing and clutch lever – if you order when you order clutch they are cheap - they are just 1.64 each at 1stsubaruparts.

#2 ron917


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Posted 03 January 2005 - 10:41 AM

Thanks for posting your notes. I'll be doing this job on my '99 Outback soon (auto tranny, so no clutch job).

#3 phlash


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Posted 04 January 2005 - 01:11 PM

Thank you VERY MUCH for this invaluable information!

You have firmly convinced me to take it to my local repair shop for this work.


#4 bearbalu


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Posted 04 January 2005 - 06:34 PM

Thank you VERY MUCH for this invaluable information!

You have firmly convinced me to take it to my local repair shop for this work.


You are welcome. The project was mostly straight forward but time consuming, specially if you have never done it before like me.

#5 99obw


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Posted 04 January 2005 - 06:44 PM

I saw some permatex gasket remover as Napa today and I grabbed some. If it works it will really speed up resealing jobs, as cleaning up the mating surfaces is very time consuming. Thanks for the tip. ;)

#6 bearbalu


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Posted 04 January 2005 - 09:23 PM

Gasket remover helps to loosen some stuff up, but you still need a scraper/sand paper. I generally found Autozone to be cheapest for everything - Permatex Gasket remover is 2.99 out there, 3.99 at Pep Boys and I think even 4.99 at Kragen.

BTW, I think I spent at least 25% of entire "touch time" cleaning parts, bolts and surfaces. Not sure if mechanics/dealers do that when they open up engines.
For instance I cleaned up top of pistons, cylinder bore, degreased the engine, injectors, intake/exhaust/waterpump/oil pump/head gasket surfaces, throttle body, inside of oil pump, timing covers, sprockets, transmission bell housing (real dirty!), rear main seal and oil separator cover area...

#7 shimonmor


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Posted 04 January 2005 - 10:27 PM

Excellent post. I'll save this for when I have to so my HG.

#8 YetiMan


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Posted 14 March 2006 - 05:31 AM

just thought I'd mention in the context of gasket removal that a single edged razor blade can work very well if you're careful.

#9 svxpert


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Posted 14 March 2006 - 08:00 AM

<<Removing timing belt when marks are aligned – left side is under tension (valves are pushed in by camshaft) and might rotate which is OKAY. Intake will rotate counterclockwise, exhaust clockwise to take them out of tension. End wrench article http://www.endwrench.com/pdf/engine/FtTimingBeltReplaceF00.pdf) suggests that you need the special Subaru double hex tool – not true.>>

what did you use to hold the cams when you put the belt on?

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