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Guest Message by DevFuse

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sigh... another head gasket failure?

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24 replies to this topic

#1 Guest_theotherskip_*

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Posted 10 July 2003 - 03:35 PM

long time listener, first time caller, blah blah blah...

i've been reading through the old posts, and came across 99obw's tale of the failure of his head gasket and similar replacement. my car seems to be following similar lines:

the car: 97 leg ob with 2.5l and 72k miles.

on the morning of the 4th, i was drove and was only about 5 minutes from the house when i saw the temp gauge rising beyond it's normal territory. by the time i got it pulled over, it was just reaching the top of the temp range (just moving to the line after the range - not pegged). i shut the car down, opened the hood and could hear it boiling over. after waiting about 5 minutes, i restarted it, with the heater on high. the temp gauge proceded to return to its normal spot, between the two waves on the temperature symbol. i figured it was a stuck thermostat & got a new one. when changing it, the old one looked fine (no crud, etc). so i tested it according to haynes, and it opened at the correct temperatures.

after refilling the system, i have been unable to get the radiator to stay filled (even using the purging technique), and get a slight bubble through the expansion tank after a longer drive. thinking the head gasket was gone, i did a compression test, but found all the readings (210, 200, 205, 205 psi) seem ok. i've also tried looking for the exhaust gas test kit, but haven't been able to locate one as of yet. are there any other ways to conclusively tell? being my current employment status, i cannot afford to have it done, and will probably be tackling this myself, but i think i will pull the engine and change the studdering clutch at the same time.

any help/thoughts would be greatly appericated. thanks...

#2 Guest_99obw_*

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Posted 10 July 2003 - 03:41 PM

Sorry to hear that you have joined the club.

I think that you may be able to use a household CO detector to confirm the diagnosis, but based on the info you gave, I am 99% certain your head gaskets are in need of replacement.

If I do it again I will pull the engine.

Good luck!


#3 Guest_Commuter_*

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Posted 10 July 2003 - 09:11 PM

With the way these things fail, your compression can very well be fine.

The "leak" may only open up under load (eg, towing, hills, hightway driving). Just sitting there cold doing a compression test, the engine will appear perfectly fine. Some people have even driven for weeks or months around town without a problem. Then one day on the highway and Bam... overheats and blows coolant out the expansion bottle.

The bubbles in the coolant are not a good sign. Probably products of combustion pushing thru into the coolant. The infamous internal head gasket leak of the 2.5L DOHC engine.

Sorry... but that's what it seems like. I have a 97 OB and I've also been there.


#4 Guest_1 Lucky Texan_*

Guest_1 Lucky Texan_*
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Posted 10 July 2003 - 09:56 PM

Another forum-maniac turned me on to www.bobistheoilguy.com where, among other things, there is a lot of forum activity related to used oil analysis (UOA). A UOA can apparently do a good job of spotting coolant leaks, intake leaks, fuel blowby,etc. might be worth taking a look.

1 Lucky Texan

#5 Guest_synapse79_*

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Posted 11 July 2003 - 10:12 AM

Let us know if you come up with a cheap way to test for CO in the coolant.
Was that a DOHC you changed the gaskets on without removing the motor? Bet that was fun..


#6 Guest_theotherskip_*

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Posted 11 July 2003 - 10:28 AM

this morning i went to the dealer where i bought the car to get a second estimate on having the work done, and to see how much it was to get the coolant checked. coolant check - $40, coolant check kit from napa - $48. i decided to wait and try my neighborhood shop (i'll do that later).

when i asked for a head gasket replacement estimate, he asked what symptoms. i told him of the overheat & bubbles in the expansion tank. he said that it was probably not the head gasket, but more likely the "cylinder liner separating from the engine block." he said that they have not had any problems with the head gasket on this car (97 2.5l), but have had a lot of problems with the BLOCK?!? i asked if there was any way to check this, and he said that you have to remove the heads and check the block. i asked if he felt that this was a normal problem, for the block to go bad at 72k miles, and he just seemed to shrug it off. feeling that he was full of @#$%, i walked out with the estimate... has anyone ever heard of this? i figured he was just giving me crap after saying that there were no head gasket problems on this car, especially after reading everything on this board.

#7 Guest_theotherskip_*

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Posted 11 July 2003 - 11:58 AM

just read something interesting about why the car will overheat and then cool down and act normal...

"Temperature gauge acting weird (the temperature gauge will get into the middle, and stay there for few minutes. Next, it will rapidly shoot for the “red” zone. It will do this in seconds. The moment the red zone is touched, the gauge falls just as fast to the middle, where it will stay for duration of the trip. Next day, same situation...)
When you first start your car leaking head gasket will introduce gas into the head cooling space. It will replace fluid from the area. The thermostat is closed so the gas has no place to go. The gas acts like an insulator so it will delay heat transfer to the thermostat. But other parts of the engine covered with the fluid blanket will heat the water up to the boiling point. Finally engine is hot enough to cause thermostat to open and let the gas go into the radiator. After the gas goes the overheated water and that's what causes your needle to rise on the gauge. Further operation is normal because thermostat is open and the gas goes to expansion tank as soon as it gets into the system. You need to repair the leak as soon as possible if that's the cause or you will end up with warped head due to spot overheating."

from: www.bmwe34.net/E34main/Tr...gasket.htm

#8 Guest_dwallbaum_*

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Posted 11 July 2003 - 01:11 PM



'99 Impreza 2.2 L engine, EJ22????

Ive been getting a trace of oil in the radiator (one mechanic who I took it to found nothing when I drove it in) but NOW Ive been getting similar overheat problems... the temp guage has ALWAYS been sitting right at the lower "wave" of the temp guage. Now its been shooting toward the red. I too thought it might be the thermostat, and have scheduled an appt. to have the T-stat replaced (can't find it.. it appears as tho I have to remove the intake manifold?????).

But this thread has me thinking about head gasket again.

I know the 2.2 does not have a history of head gasket failures, but could I be looking at head gasket instead of a flaky t-stat?



#9 Guest_synapse79_*

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Posted 11 July 2003 - 02:43 PM

Changing the T-stat is going to do nothing for getting oil in the coolant... Dont bother with that, especially on 99, that is not the problem in ur case.

Reading ur post is making me nervous. I have a 98 2.2 impreza... Great car i love it. The oil pump seal totally let go around 70k is the only major prob ive had. I pulled the motor and fixed a ton of stuff. Which is probably what you're going to be looking at doing soon. You could do the clutch if its a manual, id also recommend getting a set of STI motor mounts, resurface the flywheel, reseal the oil pump and backplate... Tbelt..

I didnt mess with the heads, but in ur case id look for a machine shop to port and pollish the heads... Should be able to find somebody to do it for around 100bux or so.

#10 Guest_dwallbaum_*

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Posted 12 July 2003 - 12:38 PM


My '99 Impreza has been bullet -proof until this year... hit 140K miles and its started having its share of problems.. front oil seal went, not probable head gasket.

Dealer wants $1500 for head gasket + $250/head to refinish valves, so that is $2K right there. Plus clutch.

Local mechanic will do the gasket for $800 labor plus parts....

Clearly, no cheap fix here. I was a bit disheartened when I talked to a dealer tech who said "oh, yeah, we do lots of those head gaskets..."

ONLY HG Ive had fail on me was a clapped-out Chrslyer minivan, so Im pretty bummed about this. The other suby we had ran until it rusted away....


#11 Guest_spagemurray_*

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Posted 15 July 2003 - 01:21 AM

Guess I'm that maniac? A UOA will tell very early on if you have coolant in oil, it sticks out like you know what!

#12 Guest_theotherskip_*

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Posted 15 July 2003 - 07:09 AM

where can you get a uoa done?

#13 Guest_synapse79_*

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Posted 15 July 2003 - 09:26 AM

You are crazy if you have the dealer do that work for you. For that price you could easily get a new motor.

Either do it yourself or check around a few local garages that work on imports.

#14 Guest_dwallbaum_*

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Posted 15 July 2003 - 10:55 AM


Doing it myself is not practical.. dont even have an engine hoist, much less all the other glop Id need... so Im force to a mechanic.

Talked to a local guy who came highly recommended, and after a groan of dispair when I mentioned "Subaru" and "head gasket" he made the following comments:

Whether seen or not, coolant has gotten into the oil. Coolant is highly corrosive, so this means the bearings have become worn.. may not be able to tell it now, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life...

Plus, there is 150K miles on the rings..

So, if you put a fresh top-end in, you have all this addtl. pressure on these now worn components, and the engine will smoke like a power plant since the rings wont be able to keep the oil in.

So this mech's idea is to replace the engine with either a rebuild or used. Oh yeah, plus Ill need a clutch, since IM still running the orig. clutch.

So, nuthin' here is gonna be cheap...


#15 Guest_theotherskip_*

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Posted 15 July 2003 - 11:09 AM

i think i read somewhere here that the ccr's rate for a 2.2 was around $1800. they quoted me $2700 for a ej25, with around 200 for shipping to the east coast. they seem to be the most competent rebuilder, and specalize in subaru rebuilds, so they know the problems associated with the engine. you also get a 3 year/36k warranty.

my current thoughts on my car are to just replace the head gaskets without doing a valve job (as long as the heads are in decent condition). i just caught the head gasket leak, so it hasn't been going on too long, so i don't think too much damage has been done to bearings, journals, etc. i am planning on doing the work myself, so labor is not the issue. i'm also not opposed to buy a few extra tools, since i am saving a heap o' cash. i think you can rent engine lifts, otherwise i am going to just buy a cheaper chain hoist and work some clever engineering.

if you get a used engine, you are likely to face a similar fate. at least a rebuilt engine has been throughly looked over and renewed.

overall, it is a tough call. in you situation, i would probably spring for a rebuilt over a used engine. valve jobs on 100k+ blocks seem to just be a bad idea where you will be putting a lot of strain on the bottom end.

#16 Guest_dwallbaum_*

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Posted 15 July 2003 - 04:54 PM


Had a call from a repair shop 'out of high rent' as it were, they have a good rep and seem to know their stuff. They have a local 2.2L engine, 40K miles that they can install, with a new clutch and radiator, new belts, tuneup yada yada for betw. $2800---$2900.

The look the engine over and reject it if it has not had oil changed, looks abused, yada yada.

$700-$1K to install a rebuild that I supply. So its probably all a wash. Have to do some thinking on this.. alas, my money supply is not bottomless... in fact, all I have in surplus is bottom... so I dont know which way Ill jump.

But Im shying away from the idea of just a gasket/valve job. With the mileage I have on the engine, to not do the bottom also doesnt make sense, so Ive just rebuilt my entire engine, and so here I am again....

#17 Guest_theotherskip_*

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Posted 15 July 2003 - 05:07 PM


what is your level of mechanical aptitude? i just called an equipment rental place - an engine crane rents for 24/day, 75/week. the long blocks from ccr come very complete, all you have to do is just switch over some of the accessories (a/c, etc). you won't need any special tools for things like the heads or timing belts, as they are already on. you can also easily do a clutch replacement while you have the engine out. if you have a buddy who can give you a hand with some of the "finessing" required to get it back in, it may be something to consider.

you can get a quote from them at www.ccrengines.com . send them your zip and they can include a shipping estimate.

i fully understand the non-bottomless cash well. i wasn't planning on having to do some major engine work on a 1997 car with 72k. oh well.

#18 Guest_dwallbaum_*

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Posted 16 July 2003 - 09:03 AM


<<what is your level of mechanical aptitude? >>

Well, Im not bad at one-to-one replacement stuff... bolt comes out of here and goes back into there. Most elaborate work Ive done is water pump replacement on a '68 Pontiac LeMans... and THAT was a mess... guy who was a good wrench was assisting.. ended up that we put the impeller in backwards, so we had to tear the whole thing down again, breaking a stud in the process, removing said stud, replacing stud, killed the entire weekend to save $60 (which was very important then, but it taught me a lesson about doing automotive work outside during the height of the summer in Savannah.)

And I have your basic brother-in-law who is a mechanic by trade who could prob. assist, but basically I have no place to do this.. no garage, no place I can leave stuff lying around until I get around to figuring out where it goes back in. And I really dont want the downtime of the car in bits and pieces for two weeks as I sort it out.

So, if I had NO alternative, I could probably figure out how to do it (the engine went in, it HAS to come back out....) BUT what I lack is all the "special knowledge" that makes such things rather simple. For example, Id probably try this by leaving the hood on.. and the cogniscenti probably know to remove the hood first... or of COURSE you remove the muffler bearing BEFORE you drain the blinker fluid.....everyone but me knows this stuff.

Or, to put it this way: Im armed with a $12 metric/SAE wrench set, now 20 yrs. old, a set of Vise grips and an adjustable pliers, plus a set of screw drivers from Sears. If that dont fix what is broke, it dont get fixed by me.

(One shop quoted 14 hrs. labor to r/r the engine.. figure double that for me...)


#19 Guest_theotherskip_*

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Posted 16 July 2003 - 01:13 PM

14 hours to pull & replace an engine seems pretty padded. i would guess a competent guy could do it in 8, probably even less. these engines are pretty easy to get in and out, but i have yet to actually try for myself...

i've done the usual brake jobs, a few timing belts on civics, half shafts, etc, but this is definately going to be my most challenging repair yet.

if you were anywhere near philly, i would offer to trade help, but i'm guessing your not... good luck...

#20 Guest_wrxsubaru_*

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Posted 17 July 2003 - 01:11 PM

North pacific imports engines from japn, it cost about $1700 US for the engine ej22, timing belt, clutch, all installed they did a great job. I think they offer a 1 year warrenty to.

#21 Guest_synapse79_*

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Posted 17 July 2003 - 02:19 PM

if you pull the motor urself... Make sure you sand down the alignment pins if the motor comes out hard. I would sand them with some light sandpaper then grease them when you go to replace the motor.

On my 98 we had a bitch of a time getting the pins to squeeze back in. IT took over an hour to just get the pins pushed in with the clutch lined up. I just let it sit til the next morning after that. I had the motor running again in less than two hours the following morning. About a year later i still havent replaced the AC belt or had the system charged...

that was the biggest pain... the rest of it goes really well...
I use a come-along wrapped to a rafter in my garage to pull motors...

#22 Guest_theotherskip_*

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Posted 17 July 2003 - 05:20 PM

thanks for the tips. about how heavy is the engine overall? i can't find that info anywhere, not that i have extensively looked...

#23 Guest_synapse79_*

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Posted 17 July 2003 - 08:48 PM

im guessing 150...ish...

#24 Guest_dwallbaum_*

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Posted 21 July 2003 - 02:00 PM


Thanks for the offer, but yeah, Im in SE Ohio, so we arent far apart, but far enough.. car will make it to the dealer, and maybe back, with a lot of rest stops.. the overheating problem is a major issue now, so its parked until I get it to the dealer for a final diagnosis and determine what to do.

If I swap the engine, Ill go with CCR.. they have a 3 yr. 36K mile warranty... but Im happy with NONE of this. Having a terminal engine failure at 150K is NOT doing anything for Subaru's legendary rep for reliability for me....

#25 Guest_theotherskip_*

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Posted 07 August 2003 - 07:55 PM

so... over the past 3 days, i've pulled the engine and stripped it down to the block. after i got off the passenger side heads, i found evidence of the head gasket leak. it leaked at the bottom of the block, from the cylinder to the coolant passages. it appears as though it was only leaking out, not into the cylinder, as the carbon build up was pretty uniform...usually it will be clean if it is sparying steam in. tomorrow i'll take them over to the machine shop to check for warpage and to have the flywheel surfaced & pilot bearing pressed it and tensioner compressed.

getting the cam sprockets off was a piece of cake. there is a hex portion cast into the cams. i was able to put a large adjustable wrench onto the flat spots and break the bolt loose. for those trying to do it with the engine in the car, you could use a crow's foot on a breaker bar - it looks to be about 25-26mm.

the only tools i had to get were a 1/2" 14mm 6-point for the exhaust header bolts (the 12-point was starting to round off the bolt heads), a 17mm flare wrench to remove the egr pipe bolts (the 17mm open was starting to round the nuts). i also had to get a 1/2" 14mm 12-point to get the heads off. orignially i was using a 3/8" socket, but the bolts were on really tight. i was using a piece of pipe over the breaker bar, when the extension shattered (in my hand!), so i went out and exchanged the extension and upgraded to a 1/2" drive socket...

i'm taking lots of pictures, and hope to write an article for others who are thinking of trying it. overall, it is not that difficult... working slow and methodically it seems to be going smoothly. i'm about 19 hrs. into it...

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