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Great...I've joined the Headgasket Club


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31 replies to this topic

#1 mnwolftrack

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 12:10 PM

1998 Subaru OBW with (infamous) 2.5L and auto:

My wife and I are driving home from a nice mothers day dinner last night, the heat coming out the vents stops and turns cold, goes back warm, then back cold again. I look at the temp gauge and it's starting to climb. I coast and pull over about 2 blocks from the start of it and shut her off. I pulled the overflow cap and coolant is rising and there's a film of black sludge on top, and bubbles are blowing out (even with engine off). I make the call to have someone help me tow it home (don't want risk damage), and the coolant level in the reservoir drops back to normal but there's still some black goo clinging to the reservoir walls.

So.... surely this is headgasket that has failed. It never started running poorly, and I did not drive it more than about 2 blocks. I am going to try and do a leakdown test if I can get the tool into the spark plug hole.

So....I will just assume this is a failed headgasket.

1) pull entire engine and have shop rebuild engine
2) pull heads with block still in car?
3) I'm assuming these are classic symptoms of a headgasket failure on the 2.5L. Is there a common failure point I should look for if I end up doing the gaskets myself?

The car has 136k and runs/ran great (and this really caught me by surprise). The timing belt was due anyway. I'm not sure about the water pump or oil pump. What can I expect for costs for this assuming I either pull the heads and have a machine shop clean them up and check for cracks, vs. getting a basic rebuild? The engine really didn't use any oil and didn't have any piston slap.

#2 jon38iowa

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 12:29 PM

[quote name='mnwolftrack']1998 Subaru OBW with (infamous) 2.5L and auto:





So....I will just assume this is a failed headgasket.

1) pull entire engine and have shop rebuild engine
2) pull heads with block still in car?
3) I'm assuming these are classic symptoms of a headgasket failure on the 2.5L. Is there a common failure point I should look for if I end up doing the gaskets myself?


You Assume rightly-classic symptoms. If you search under head gasket here, you will have enough reading to keep you occupied the rest of this day.
I had my 2.5 SOHC rebuilt last year and here is the breakdown for this animal, yours may be a little less, as it is DOHC:
1) About 5 k for a quality rebuild
2) $1500-1700 for the heads to be machined, etc, and new gaskets.
3) $3500 used rebuilt replacement
4) $2-3000 low mileage used replacement

#3 ron917

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 12:46 PM

For my '99 Outback (also 2.5 DOHC), having the headgaskets replaced by a good independent shop cost $1800. This included head machining and valve job, replacing of all engine seals, new timing belt, idler, water pump, hoses and belts.

13,000 miles later, one of my camshafts siezed, and I ended up replacing the engine with a rebuilt from CCR. That cost just over $3000 including a new radiator, various minor parts as needed, and a few new tools, doing the work myself.

I would never buy a used 2.5 DOHC. The things are fragile, and replacements are in such high demand that even used ones are expensive.

When the HGs went, I debated whether to just get a rebuilt or repair engine. In retrospect, the rebuilt would have been cheaper, but you never know.

If you repair your engine, the headgaskets MUST be new stock from the Subaru dealer. Do not use any other brand!

#4 grossgary

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 01:04 PM

local Subaru dealer charges $1,500 for head gasket job. dealers typically range from $1000 - $1,600 depending on which dealer and what all they do (timing belt, clutch..etc).

in my oppinion there's only one option for replacing the engine and that's CCR. you'll find they have stellar reviews, excellent pricing and decades of Subaru only experience, they are top notch.

i wouldn't go used. warranties aren't typically very good or easy to follow through on and who knows the condition of the engine. if they were cheap that would be one thing, but due to demand (head gaskets) these engines easily sell for $1,000 +.

#5 The Dude

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 01:42 PM

You drive your Suby about 15,000 miles a year. With JUST the head gaskets replaced, the engine should be good for at least another 70,000 miles. That's about another five years. At that point you will have a 14 year old car. Given the length and ferocity of Minnesota winters, the body of your Suby will most likely resemble a slice of swiss cheese with the exposure to all that road salt. You bet cha.
Your car has seriously depreciated. Don't spend more money rebuilding the engine than the entire car is worth. Just replace the head gaskets and move on.

#6 mnwolftrack

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 07:19 PM

While I agree it would be great to have a new motor, I also feel the car isn't worth it, particularly after another few years (new motor or not). If this was a newer car or had a lot less miles, I'd reconsider.

My plan is to either pull the motor and have it rebuilt at a local machine shop, or, I pull the heads and do the work myself. I'm not apposed to pulling heads, since I've done it on several other types of vehicles, but now was not the greatest time for this to happen.

My main concern is, is it easier to pull the heads with the engine in the car or out of the car? If I have to pull the engine, I may just drop it off at the machine shop and let them do it (time constraints on my part right now). If it's quicker to pull the heads, I'll just do the work myself. I pulled a transmission out of my other '98 OBW a few months ago, so I'm fairly familiar with what to expect (including seating the torque converter properly).

If I do it myself, I'd basically be looking for a valve regrind "kit" which includes the head gaskets and all other gaskets needed to do a valve job. I will definately stick with Subi OEM parts.

#7 Jimmyowensfan20

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 08:39 PM

I just kept my eyes on the classifieds and got a wrecked legacy with a 2.2L and did away with that 2.5L moron motor!

everything plugs right up!

#8 Gloyale

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 10:53 PM

While I agree it would be great to have a new motor, I also feel the car isn't worth it, particularly after another few years (new motor or not). If this was a newer car or had a lot less miles, I'd reconsider.

My plan is to either pull the motor and have it rebuilt at a local machine shop, or, I pull the heads and do the work myself. I'm not apposed to pulling heads, since I've done it on several other types of vehicles, but now was not the greatest time for this to happen.

My main concern is, is it easier to pull the heads with the engine in the car or out of the car? If I have to pull the engine, I may just drop it off at the machine shop and let them do it (time constraints on my part right now). If it's quicker to pull the heads, I'll just do the work myself. I pulled a transmission out of my other '98 OBW a few months ago, so I'm fairly familiar with what to expect (including seating the torque converter properly).
If I do it myself, I'd basically be looking for a valve regrind "kit" which includes the head gaskets and all other gaskets needed to do a valve job. I will definately stick with Subi OEM parts.


Theres no real reson to pull the motor to do it unless you find the block to be warped. As long as the deck faces are flat you can leave the block in the car. If it's warped and needs work no hoist needed once the heads are off, just a buddy.:clap: Probably getaway with just the Gaskets or maybe just a head grind and get lots of miles out of her. If she was running good and not burning oil I wouldn't even do a valve job unless they pressure test really bad. I've seen freshly sealed top ends blow bottoms not redone.

#9 wtdash

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 11:28 PM

My '97 OB was @ 130K, $1500 @ a local shop, including t-belt and pulleys, and the heads. Mine never "blew" - just oil in the coolant, so I did it B4 it got hot.

Sounds like time is worth more than $$ 2U right now; shop around and get referrals if you're going to keep the 2.5. Drop it off and pick it up in a couple days.

I agree, just do the HG. You'll likely get another 50K (or maybe 100K+!) B4 any other major engine 'surprises'....

I did see a 2.5 on Ebay rebuilt and new HG sell for $800+shipping, so they're out there...but not likely if you need it yesterday.

Also, the '95 2.2 swap is probably the cheapest and most reliable option, if you won't miss the 30+HP for the next few years.

Been there...sorry UR2.

Good luck.

#10 Jimmyowensfan20

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 08:19 AM

A tip that will save you tons of frustration!

If you do decide to change it with block in car...when removing and re-installing heads.. only put the bottom 3 head bolts through and use them to hold gasket while inserting in engine compartment. You'll never get the head back in if you try to start them all. and you'll never get the bottom ones started if you put the head in without them already through.

#11 nipper

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 08:32 AM

Lets clear a few things up. first off congratulations you did everything correct. If i was you i would just replace the headgaskets and rebuild the heads.

There is no differnce between a new Engine and a rebuilt engine. They are both rebuilt engines. Evenb if you could get a fresh off the factory floor engine, sometimes a rebuild is better.

Secondly, the car is not worth it? Unless its beat to hell, it it is. Your subaru just hit middle age and has another 100,000 miles left in it. A car is not JUST its engine, its the sum of the whole. If everything else is working, and the cost of a new outback is getting towards 30K, its worth it (not to mention insurance). i put a dealer rebuilt engine in Blu when he threw a rod, for those very reasons (ok a seat heater doesnt work).
Subaru dealer hybrid blocks are rebuilt by a major deisel engine mfg in the south, so i am very positive it will outlive the car.

Now if you have that nasty plastic seperator in the back of the engine, now may be a good time to pull the engine and get rid of that.

Good luck, but you did the right things to minimize damage.

Dont forget an oil change.


nipper

#12 mnwolftrack

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 10:58 AM

Thanks for all the responses. I'm trying my best to read through previous HG threads, but it takes FOREVER on dialup Internet (and spare time is not available right now, but neither is money).

I've bought and fixed several vehicles that already had blown head gaskets, but this is the first one that actually blew while I was driving it. All the previous blown head gaskets I've dealt with (toyota's mainly), resulted in coolant leaking into the cylinders and blowing out the exhaust in big billowy clouds, and possibly leaking enough to hydrolock or at least bend a connecting rod. Up until this Subaru, I haven't experienced temp gauge flucutations or loss of heater output. I've read up enough on these other symptoms in other head gasket adventures, so I was rather prepared for it even though this was my first time experiencing one as it blew. The loss of heat coming out the vents tipped me off immediately (we were cold from standing outside and were trying to warm up).

While I'm certainly not going to junk the car and don't feel it's junk, my comment about the car not being worth it should perhaps be clarified. Locally, I see '95 and '96 OBW's selling for $2000-$4500. Cars of my vintage are selling for around $4500-7500 with low to comparable mileage. I really don't want to put $3k into this car's engine, when it may only be worth $3k for the whole car in a few years anyway. I'd rather put the money into a replacement car. The engine runs/ran great, and I never let the temp gauge max out so luck should be in my favor. In 3 years, the car will have another roughly 12,000 miles times 3 years or another 36,000 miles on it, or around 172,000 miles. I don't plan on having this car forever. I want to upgrade to the early 2000's body style (in my price range).

If time-wise it makes the most sense to leave the engine in the car and just pull the heads, I will do that. But if it is quicker to pull the motor, then I will pull it and either pull the heads myself or I will bring the whole motor to a machine shop and have them do it (save some time). I've read conflicting opinions on whether it's easier/quicker to pull the motor first then pull the heads, or leave the motor in and pull the heads--so it is not clear to me yet which direction I will be heading. Some say pulling the engine is the only way to go, some say it takes a lot longer to pull the motor, some say there isn't much clearance to pull the heads with the motor in the car.

I won't be forgetting an oil change. It's due anyway, and regardless, I always put new oil in when cylinder heads are pulled. Then, I change oil and filter again after about 20 minutes of running after installing new headgaskets. Despite the machine shops doing their best to clean the heads, there's always a chance something got in there.

#13 Jimmyowensfan20

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 01:08 PM

Dear sir,

If you only want to drive it 50,000 miles on the high end... Take out washer fluid reservoir,battery,air filter box,electric fans, coolant overflow tank, take out the rear support bar on top back of engine, unbolt exhaust,take off the 2 engine mount nuts and with a block of wood under oil pan jack the engine up, you may have to the rad hoses loose to get enough room.

now with heads off takes some sand paper, clean the gasket surface on block and heads and put new head gaskets on....i would change the timing belt and if nothing is leaking go back together with it. less than $100 bucks and you are back on the road in a couple days without paying out the wazoo for machine work and if you didn't get it HOT then the heads prbably aint warped any way.

Like you said Money and time are not a luxury you have and I don't care what anyone says about OH you gotta do this or that. I would fully expect the previously stated fix to run 50,000 miles. OR more.

#14 grossgary

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 01:14 PM

like nipper said, this vehicle will be good for another 100,000 if the job is done properly.

Some say pulling the engine is the only way to go, some say it takes a lot longer to pull the motor, some say there isn't much clearance to pull the heads with the motor in the car.


i had an EJ25 out in less than 2 hours last week by myself, it wasn't hard at all. it's actually fairly easy and straight forward.

pulling it is the best option, but it's not necessary. if youre using handtools, i'd definitely recommend pulling it. on the older gen soobs leaving the engine in the car is definitely faster with air tools, not worth pulling. i haven't messed around enough with the newer EJ's to determine if the 4 hours of pulling/installing is worth it or not. i think you should go ahead and pull it, it'll be worth the time and ease for your first time.

#15 Gloyale

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 01:29 PM

If he doesn't have an engine hoist that's more money to spend to pull it. I would say pull the heads off with the block in the car. Check the heads for flatness, and perhaps pressure test, but if the engine ran strong and did not get hot there most likely fine and that would again be more money. If the block surfaces are flat then leave the block in. Only reason to pull the engine otherwise would be to do rear main seal or a clutch/torque converter. Once the heads are off, if you do need to pull the block, it can be done manually with the help of a buddy. (the shortblocks are light, even with pistons and crank in them) The only thing that is even slightly hard with the block in car is getting the Valve cover bolts. And it's no where near as hard to do on an EJ as it is with the extra wide old EA82 motors.

#16 mnwolftrack

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 02:22 PM

Thanks, this is good info!

I do have an engine hoist, so that is not a problem. I do not have an engine stand, but they are quite cheap and not an issue if I need to get one. I can make a stand out of wood blocks or old tires if I need to, but I obvouisly wouldn't be able to flip it around.

If the valve cover bolts are the only difficult spot to get to, then I will investigate those before I decide. I thought I read in previous threads that it's easy to damage the head gaskets and difficult to slide the heads in because of the lack of space. Not having done this work before, I don't know what to make of that. Surely it can't be any harder than trying to lay a couple V8 cylinder heads in place in a full size vehicle when it's awkward to bend over and hold your arms out so far just to reach the engine.

If a couple of head gaskets, timing belt, maybe a water pump and some other small misc. things are all I need, that sure sounds like the way to go. If I pull the heads myself, i will definitely bring them into a machine shop though. I normally tell the shop to clean the heads up, check for cracks and warpage, and resurface if needed. If other machine shop work is needed, then so be it (but I don't think this engine will need a valve job or anything like that).

I did a transmission swap on this same type of car a few months ago, and it was much easier than I expected (note to self, still need to get a transmission jack).

#17 mnwolftrack

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 02:29 PM

i had an EJ25 out in less than 2 hours last week by myself, it wasn't hard at all. it's actually fairly easy and straight forward.


I do like the idea of pulling the engine though too. It's soooo much easier to work on stuff if the motor is out. I can't imagine I'd get it out in 2 hours though. Does the radiator or hood have to be yanked? (I'm assuming at least the hood does). If I pull the engine, where does the electrical harness disconnect? When I did the transmission swap a few months ago (noisy front pump whine, I had a few threads going here about it), I don't recall seeing any obvious spot to disconnect wiring. I'm used to larger vehicles with full frames, and they typically don't have an easy electrical disconnect to the engine harness. But if memory serves correct, you mentioned that small unibody cars like this are made for easier engine removal. In all of the engines I've worked on, wires have to be removed one by one and other things often have to be removed just to get to the wires.

#18 grossgary

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 02:39 PM

no it's easy. on the passengers side rear of the engine you'll see the plugs, simply unplug them and you're done.

the hood doesn't have to come out at all, just prop it up really high with the stock prop rod, it has mounting points for holding it up higher, perfect for pulling the engine. technically you can do this all...remove engine and/or replae headgasket without removing the radiator. but it's good and easy to pull it. it's like 2 extra bolts to get it out and 2 electrical connectors for the fans. very easy. don't remove the fans, don't remove the overflow tank...juts remove the entire radiator with that stuff still connected to it. it's easy to damamge the radiator if you levae it, best to take it out and yo'ull have a little extra room too.

2 14mm engine mounting bolts, 6 14mm exhaust nuts, unplug electrical connectors, 4 engine to transmission bolts (starter bolt is one of them), remove the other starter nut and pull it. then all the little stuff...intake hose, fuel lines, throttle cables, coolant lines...easy stuff.

if you do it in the car you do'nt have to remove quite as much...like fuel lines and some hoses and the throttle cables. unbolt the entire intake manifold from the engine and pull it up away from the engine block ,propping it up and out of the way. remove whatever you need to get enough room to work and that's it...leave everything else connected. it'll give you just enough room to work without unhooking a bunch of stuff. of course drain the coolant from the engine first so coolant doesn't rush down into the engine when you lift it off the block.

#19 grossgary

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 02:41 PM

i actually had my first one out in under 2 hours total time as well. it's not that bad really, i find them easier than the older generation subaru's. the only caveat to that is rust...if you have rusty exhaust nuts and engine mounts then things can start to suck bad real quick..i'm dealing with one right now like that.

#20 mnwolftrack

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 03:32 PM

no it's easy. on the passengers side rear of the engine you'll see the plugs, simply unplug them and you're done.


Ahhhh, I bet these are the same plugs I had to unhook when removing the transmission? If not, I'm assuming they are very close by.

If pulling the whole engine, the rest of the stuff sounds pretty easy, and I've already done the block-to-tranny bolts, starter, and intake assembly when I removed the transmission in my other '98 OBW. About the only thing I'm not sure of is where the fuel line disconnects.

If leaving the engine in, I take it I can start unbolting the intake manifold almost immediately? Again, I'm so used to having to unbolt or remove a hundred other things first. It sure sounds like they made this car a lot easier to remove stuff....

Believe me, I know all about rust. I make use of the lifetime warranties on tools. Fasteners can be so difficult to remove that sockets/wrenches/extensions and just about anything else can break (especially when a 4' cheater bar is required). Luckily, this car is clean!

#21 grossgary

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 03:38 PM

fuel lines are super easy. fuel filter is on the drivers side rear of the engine bay, up high. can't miss it. follow it, it will coincide with 2 other rubber hoses. two are screwed on clamps, unscrew them. the other just needs a wrench/pliers. very easy and you can't miss them, this takes about 24 seconds.

#22 jon38iowa

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Posted 15 May 2007 - 11:16 PM

fuel lines are super easy. fuel filter is on the drivers side rear of the engine bay, up high. can't miss it. follow it, it will coincide with 2 other rubber hoses. two are screwed on clamps, unscrew them. the other just needs a wrench/pliers. very easy and you can't miss them, this takes about 24 seconds.

Gary:
My manual says to depressurize the gas tank and diconect the battery. Is that really necessary for a simple fuel filter?

#23 grossgary

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Posted 16 May 2007 - 08:31 AM

Gary:
My manual says to depressurize the gas tank and diconect the battery. Is that really necessary for a simple fuel filter?


no, definitely not. i never do that. just don't get your eyes too close to the fuel lines! it will spray out, but it's not very much, wrap it with a towel/rag as you're pulling it off. definitely not worth depressurizing. i gaurantee you most of the shop guys aren't doing that. i'd rather not turn a 23 second job into 15 minutes.

#24 mnwolftrack

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Posted 16 May 2007 - 10:07 AM

I would have to agree. I've unhooked MANY a fuel line on various cars without doing an official de-pressurization, and it's never sprayed like a garden hose. I don't think I've even seen as much of a dribble short of a bit coming out due to gravity. Part of my experience may be because I crack open the gas cap first to depressurize the fuel tank.

The warning/disclaimer is likely there because it's a flammable material and not good for the eyes or skin should it actually spray.

#25 grossgary

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Posted 16 May 2007 - 10:15 AM

yep, i've rarely had much come out as well. if you just drove the car and then remove them, i've seen them spray. so it's pressurized for a short time at least.




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