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Guest Message by DevFuse

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Leaking head gasket

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7 replies to this topic

#1 alias20035


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Posted 23 December 2003 - 10:43 PM

My 01 Outback just started to leak coolant out of the left side head gasket. It was doing it three years ago when the car was brand new in -30C weather, the dealer indicated the leak was just because the car was new and the leak would seal itself. Well it did, but only until yesterday morning.

It appears as though coolant is leaking out into the exhaust collector overnight. The leaked coolant boils about five minutes after starting the car which is when I notice the smell. I can not see any sign of a leak, but I am fairly sure that it is the left side since the dealer reported signs of a very minor coolant leak on that side back in 2001.

I have lost less than 1/2 litre of coolant (coolant has now dropped about 1 1/2 inches lower than "Full" in the overflow tank), and once the initial coolant smell is gone it does not return until the car is allowed to fully cool down (overnight) at which point it again leaks a small amount of coolant. So I can assume that I am not loosing coolant when the engine is warm and running.

I have no cross contamination, no oil in coolant or coolant in oil, and there are no signs of bubbles in the coolant.

The local dealer's service department is now closed until January.

I have to drive from Northern Ontario to Calgary (about 3200km) on Boxing day (Dec 26th) towing a small trailer.

I do know of one failed head gasket as the result of this leak, but it was neglected and leaking for over a year and very low on coolant.

But I am reasonably sure that I can make it to Calgary without any serious problems and plan on monitoring the engine for loss of coolant, overheating and fluid contamination.

Does anyone think that I can NOT make it?

I may try adding coolant system stop leak, since Subaru does add it to the new cars at the Factory and I recently changed my coolant and do not currently have coolant stop leak in the system at present. I seem to recall that some people have temporarily sealed this type of leak on the Phase II EJ25 SOHC engines by adding stop leak, but the leak always returns a few months or so later.

#2 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 24 December 2003 - 12:57 AM

I have a sense that you feel the risk is minimal. I'd suggest perhaps acquiring a set of headgaskets to take a long with you, making note of a few good dealerships mechs (or forum members!) along the route. Just be a little more 'prepared' than normal for an unscheduled delay. It would seem your greatest enemy is going to be letting the engine cool off, more frequent gas refills will keep the engine warm and allow for more coolant level inspections too.

all guess work on my part but it's all I got!

#3 forester2002s


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Posted 24 December 2003 - 01:33 AM

Good luck with your trip. Let us all know how you fared.

And throw a warm sleeping bag in the back, as well as a thermos of hot toddy!

#4 cookie


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Posted 24 December 2003 - 12:48 PM

Mine was cheerfully doing exactly what yours is and the former owner drove it from DC to SF.
She said it would just go down a bit when it was cool and did the same thing for the several years she owned it.
As soon as I located the leak on the left side I had the dealer change both for preventitive maintence.
If you keep an eye on the levels I would think you should be fine.
I am going to put a few hundred miles on my 99 forester in the next couple of days with five people and a heavy load of luggage and presents.
I plan to stop and check all fluids every 1.5 hours.
By the way I have made New York with a Greyhound bus that had a cracked head when I left SF by keeping the fluid levels up.

#5 northguy


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Posted 24 December 2003 - 01:08 PM

Alias, for as many responses as you've written on this topic in the last 2 months, you should know better than about anyone else whether or not it'll make it to Calgary. If I had to lay odds, I'd go with your call on it. Happy Holidays.

#6 brus brother

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Posted 24 December 2003 - 08:42 PM

Hopefully the dealer documented the leak back when it started as this pre-exisitng condition should have been remedied at that time. Regardless of the -30 degrees, a car sold in that climate should be able to stand up to those conditions without an excuse! Perhaps you can now strike a deal even if the warranty is up. Heed all the cautions about packing provisions for being "out in the cold" and G'luck.

#7 DerFahrer


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Posted 24 December 2003 - 09:38 PM

You are leaking coolant to the outside of the engine, not the inside (the combustion chamber). Therefore, as long as the leak doesn't spread to the cylinder, and you keep replacing the coolant it's losing, of course you'll make it. Your compression is not in danger, I doubt you'll cause any head warpage.

You're just throwing coolant away and making a big mess under your hood :D

#8 alias20035


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Posted 25 December 2003 - 03:13 AM

Well I don't see anyone indicating that the car will not last for the duration of my journey, so off I will go.

I have tracked the leak to the left head gasket near the exhaust collector, virtually impossible to see without a flashlight and mirror. I am loosing about 50-100ml of coolant each night, which is not a significant amount. Still no signs of cross contamination between oil/coolant and no apparent leak while the engine is running (after a five minute warmup, I can smell coolant for a few minutes, but then the smell disappears and does not return until the following morning).

The expert opinion that I would give anyone is to get their gaskets fixed ASAP if this problem is encountered. But in this case I will ignore my own advice since the dealers have closed for the holidays and I really need to get to Calgary. My major concern is that the head gasket will let go causing a major leak. I have not seen this happen and no one seems to have posted any concerns. I will be monitoring the coolant level and watching for signs of overheating.

My Outback did have this problem when the car was brand new, but it was -30C to -35C for about 3 weeks straight just after I bought the car, and new seals do need a bit of time to set in (and -35C is about the worst conditions cars will ever see). The last two winters were above average temperatures in Calgary, and I did "garage" the car most nights and did not encounter any coolant smell or signs of a coolant leak.

My car is still under its powertrain warrenty, so their is no issue as to who is going to pay for this. Thus far my 01 Outback has chocked up $2100 in warranty repairs, which happens to be about the same amount that I spent in 6 years and 410,000 km on my 93 Legacy. So needless to say I am a little concerned about the quality of Subaru's newer products, although the vast majoriy of problems that I have encountered are one time events.

I will have a wide selection of outdoor equipment with me, so I can survive being stranded for several days (which can happen in Canada if a major blizzard happens to pass through).

Merry X-Mas everyone

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