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So what's the deal with 2003 head gaskets?


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13 replies to this topic

#1 pasubie2

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 07:31 PM

Is 2003 2.5L out of the range of potential failure?..or was it 2004?

I am considering a 2003 outback with ~45,000 miles but I'd like to avoid any potential head gasket surprises.

#2 mellow65

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 12:29 AM

it was the DOHC that had problems, not to say the SOHC didn't pop head gaskets here and there, just much less then the older ones. In the legacys they changed to SOHC in 2000 in the impreza and forester it was 1999. so the 03 would be the phase 2 motor, AKA the SOHC motor and would be out of the years of major head gaskets issues.

#3 grossgary

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 08:52 AM

correction - the SOHC from 2000 - 2002/3 (explain later) definitely has head gasket issues. so much so that Subaru even acknowledges this one - they offer an extended 100,000 mile warranty on certain vehicles and adding the coolant conditioner is standard at the dealer. DOHC has internal head gasket failures the SOHC Phase I, which is what is in this veihcle, has external head gasket issues.

so - unfortunately yes that car you're looking at has some chance of experiencing head gasket issues. by subaru insiders it is supposed to be through "mid-2002" manufacture date vehicles. your 2003MY was manufactured in 2002 some point, you can check the stamp on the inner door jamb.

some people suggest seeing later models with head gasket issues, i have not seen that or heard that outside of commentary on this board.

my first step would be checking to see if this vehicle has already had them replaced and see if it qualifies for the extended 100,000 mile head gasket warranty from Subaru.

#4 fnlyfnd

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 12:54 PM

That's what I alway thought/rembered. Late 2003 and up should be fine.

#5 WAWalker

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 01:36 PM

MY2003 SOHC 2.5L engines still have the external leak. Have seen quite a few still under warranty and sent to dealer for repair. Have replaced at least one set (03 with over 100k) myself. My wife bought a used 03 Legacy with ~35k, had already had drivers side head gasket replaced. It is now at ~66k, both drivers side and passangers side head gaskets are leaking coolant externally.

#6 grossgary

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 02:47 PM

MY2003 SOHC 2.5L engines still have the external leak.

that's what i meant here:

your 2003MY was manufactured in 2002 some point, you can check the stamp on the inner door jamb.

had already had drivers side head gasket replaced. It is now at ~66k, both drivers side and passangers side head gaskets are leaking coolant externally.

gotta love those one side replacements? guess you'll get to do it right?

the info is vague. was the gasket design changed? when? when did they start installing those in vehicles? what we see is hard to decipher because the newer the car the quicker and more likely an owner is to replace it without anyone ever really knowing about it. older cars were more likely to see buying and selling and on these forums. newer cars, not so much.

#7 WAWalker

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 04:00 PM

My wifes car was built 9/02. It is for sure a MY2003 and not exactly built mid 2002.
Subaru doesn't use the build date to determine which cars qualifiy for the extended warranty anyway. They use the VIN. And from my experiance, if the emissions sticker under the hood says 2003, it will not qualifiy for the extended warranty.

Subaru specifically stated in the 2004 campaign, that the only cars affected are MY1999 to MY2002 cars. So, that would include cars built mid 1998- mid 2001, but not cars built mid 2002.


"APPLICABILITY:
2000-2002MY Subaru Legacy and Outback;
1999-2002MY Impreza; 1999-2002MY Forester
AFFECTED VEHICLES
2000-2002 MY Subaru Legacy and Outback with 2.5L engine.
1999-2002 MY Impreza with 2.5L engine.
1999-2002 MY Forester with 2.5L engine.
Affected vehicles are identified in the VIN range chart below. Only vehicles with a 2.5L engine are affected.
NOTE :Prior to performing repairs, confirm coverage for potentially affected vehicles by using the Vehicle Coverage Inquiry in the Dealer Communication System (DCS)."

Here is the VIN range chart.

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#8 WAWalker

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 04:17 PM


the info is vague. was the gasket design changed? when? when did they start installing those in vehicles?


All the 2.5L SOHC head gaskets that I have replaced look to be the same as the replacement gaskets that I buy from Subaru.

The part number has changed once that I know of, but the gaskets are still identical.

In the campagin, and letter to owners, Subaru said,
"Subaru of America, Inc. (SOA) has determined that over time, affected vehicles may develop small external coolant leaks at engine cylinder head gaskets. This is the result of normal expansion and contraction of engine components caused by the heating and cooling of these parts. To prevent cylinder head gasket leaks from developing or to correct existing leaks, a special Subaru Cooling System Conditioner should be added to affected vehicle cooling systems."

At one time I had a copy of the actual letter that SOA sent to the dealer ships. I don't remember it stating any cause for the leak, but that something was changed in "manufacturing" in mid 2002 to fix the problem. No more detail than that.

So yes, the info is very vague. There is know way to know when or if the problem was fixed. If you don't know the cause of the problem, and the only fix that has been offered is to put stop leak in ALL Subaru engines, then only time will tell if anything has changed. Basicly, when you stop hearing about head gasket problems after a certain MY, then you will know.

#9 grossgary

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 05:43 PM

hmm..wonder if they changed the heads, bolts, or torque sequence at the factory? they had to do something, no way they'd keep dealing with that.

okay, i am confusing. i often see xxxx-2002 and assumed it meant manufacture date. i heard "mid-2002" manufacture date, meaning 2003, an "insider" (who asked not to be named).

#10 mellow65

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 05:49 PM

i think it was a redesign of the head gaskets them selfs. if you talk to one of the local shops here that only works on subarus and had for many years, they will refer to the head gaskets in generations, just like a gen 1, 2, or 3 car. i think they said they are on a gen 3 style and haven't had any issues with them. even when they redo the older DOHC ones with the newer designed head gaskets they don't have issues with them ever again.

#11 grossgary

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 05:55 PM

the head gaskets in generations, just like a gen 1, 2, or 3 car. i think they said they are on a gen 3 style a

thing is, people have posted pictures of them and there's no noticeable difference or actual change. i had thought that i've seen multi-layer style gaskets that looked substantially different from the originals but maybe my memory or interpretation of what i saw is not correct.

#12 WAWalker

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 06:36 PM

There is a lot of confusion about Subaru 2.5L head gaskets.

I have seen a tendency for people to lump all 2.5L Subaru engines into one group. When in fact the head gasket problems with the DOHC vs. SOHC are totally different. And the head gaskets are totally different, and Subarus approach to rectifying the problems has been totally different.

I have been wondering if there is any way to track the number of times a part # has been superceded. I see different numbers thrown out all the time as to how many times the head gaskets have been changed.
Plus I wonder weather the part is really being changed everytime the part # changes.

I have two sets of SOHC 2.5L head gaskets in stock. PN 11044AA632 and 11044AA633. They all look identical. If they were out of the package and mixed up you couldn't tell one from the other.
And, the only difference between them and an OE gasket that I just removed from a '00 forester, is the fire rings. On the new gaskets the fire rings are connected between the cylinders (both fire rings made of one peice of metal), were as the old gasket they are not. And because the SOHC developes and external coolant or oil leak, and rarly (if ever, with OE gaskets) a combustion leak, the fire ring has no affect on the actual problem.

#13 WAWalker

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 06:42 PM

All the original SOHC 2.5L head gaskets that I have seen are single layer steel with a graphite impregnated paper coating.
The currant OE replacment is the same.
The only MLS head gasket that I have seen for the SOHC 2.5L has been an aftermarket part.

All original DOHC 2.5L head gaskets that I have seen have been MLS (3 layers). The currant OE replacment gaskets are MLS (4 layers).

#14 cookie

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 12:27 PM

It would be pretty hard to tell exactly how many revisions there are as WA says. I have heard three for both, but when you just change an element of a coating how can anyone tell? The switch to the four layer gasket on the DOHC at least appears major.




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