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Oil leak and head gaskets


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13 replies to this topic

#1 nwsunni

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 07:49 PM

Greetings:

I have been having mechanic repair everything that is causing oil leaks in my 89 Subaru GL/Sedan. It has 164,000 miles on it and otherwise runs perfectly.

I have had the o-ring, timing belt, oil seal, cam seals (camshaft gear seals, both ohc-sohc) valve cover gasket repaired during the past three months. Put a new muffler and new tires on it today.

As of today, I am down to just a few drips of oil leaking rather than the gush I was experiencing. I took it to my mechanic to see if we can pinpoint the cause of the final drips and he put it on the hoist.

Several of the guys looked at it. There are about three tiny drip areas. He pointed to "seams" along the engine. He said it appears to be coming from the head gasket.

I have zero overheating. I monitor the oil constantly. There's no oil/water problems. No radiator or low water issues. No burning of oil. Cylinders were tested about 5 months ago and they guy said the numbers were amazingly perfect.

Tomorrow, my mechanic is going to call me to tell me cost. I have the car.

OK, so what does this mean folks? Engine going? Is this a car I should not be driving? Any thoughts???

Pooh. Not too happy.

Sunni

#2 Andy FitzGibbon

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 08:01 PM

Are you sure he's looking at the head gasket seams (the seams between the heads and the block), and not the cam case seams (between the heads and cam cases)? I would expect oil leaks at the cam case seams a lot sooner than at the head gasket.
Either way, as long as your oil and water levels are staying constant and you aren't getting any mixing of the two, I'd leave it as is. A little bit of dripping oil isn't going to hurt anything.
Andy

Greetings:

I have been having mechanic repair everything that is causing oil leaks in my 89 Subaru GL/Sedan. It has 164,000 miles on it and otherwise runs perfectly.

I have had the o-ring, timing belt, oil seal, cam seals (camshaft gear seals, both ohc-sohc) valve cover gasket repaired during the past three months. Put a new muffler and new tires on it today.

As of today, I am down to just a few drips of oil leaking rather than the gush I was experiencing. I took it to my mechanic to see if we can pinpoint the cause of the final drips and he put it on the hoist.

Several of the guys looked at it. There are about three tiny drip areas. He pointed to "seams" along the engine. He said it appears to be coming from the head gasket.

I have zero overheating. I monitor the oil constantly. There's no oil/water problems. No radiator or low water issues. No burning of oil. Cylinders were tested about 5 months ago and they guy said the numbers were amazingly perfect.

Tomorrow, my mechanic is going to call me to tell me cost. I have the car.

OK, so what does this mean folks? Engine going? Is this a car I should not be driving? Any thoughts???

Pooh. Not too happy.

Sunni



#3 nwsunni

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 08:12 PM

In answer to your question, I dunno! Cam seals (camshaft gear seals per invoice) were done earlier. Are these the same seals you are mentioning? He said "looks like gaskets in the head are leaking."

I am wondering if I put up a picture of the leaking engine, would that help?

Couple of non-soob-owning friends here grimaced loudly when I told them the mechanic's diagnosis. Said that could result in a warped head and a list of other calamities.

One finally told me to go the USMB board (that I rave about) and see what folks here say.

#4 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 08:16 PM

It's probably the cam case o-rings rather than the head gaskets. And if it is the head gaskets and it's only a few drops of oil then don't concern yourself with it - just leave it be and monitor your oil usage. If it's the cam case o-rings, then they should be replaced to keep proper oil pressure to the lifters and keep the cams properly lubed. They are special metal reinforced o-rings that should only be obtained from the dealer. They cost about $3 each, but the labor to install them involves takeing all the stuff apart they already dissasembled to replace the timing belt's and everything else. These SHOULD have been done at that time and if they were not it indicates your mechanic is not familair enough with the particulars of the EA82 engine.

You should probably consider taking it to someone that really knows EA82's. Most mechanics aren't familair enough with the specifics of these engines to properly maintain them. They are different than almost all other automotive engine designs in several key areas.

To propely pinpoint any leaks, the engine should be entirely steam cleaned and then run till the leaks can be propely identified.

I didn't see that you have replaced the oil pan gasket - that is a major source of leaks on these engines. Use only the OEM dealer gasket and coat it fully in a thin layer of RTV to prevent it from failing again in the future.

These are old cars - if you are uncomfortable with working on it yourself, or are unable to do so you should seriously consider getting a 90-94 1st generation Legacy with lower mileage. They are quite a bit more reliable and you'll have a much easier time finding people that know them.

GD

#5 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 08:22 PM

In answer to your question, I dunno! Cam seals (camshaft gear seals per invoice) were done earlier. Are these the same seals you are mentioning? He said "looks like gaskets in the head are leaking."


No - the cam case o-rings are not the same as the cam seals. They most likely were not done from the sounds of it.

I am wondering if I put up a picture of the leaking engine, would that help?


You can try. It might take several rounds of pictures before you get what we need. Steam clean the whole shebang first if you can.

Couple of non-soob-owning friends here grimaced loudly when I told them the mechanic's diagnosis. Said that could result in a warped head and a list of other calamities.


Warped heads are almost unheard of and at most will result in an extra $75 charge to have them milled flat again. These engines are 100% aluminium so they rarely warp or crack heads on the non-turbo engines such as your's. Also oil-leakage with no evidence of coolant leakage, overheating, or compression problems is no reason to assume the head gaskets are going to cause any issues whatsoever beyond leaking some oil.

One finally told me to go the USMB board (that I rave about) and see what folks here say.


Excelent advice ;)

GD

#6 nwsunni

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 08:32 PM

Hello GD!

I'm looking at past invoice. It says o-rings were done at the same time that the timing belt and cam seals were done. (Two o-rings cost 14.30 total for parts)

This is the same thing as the "cam case o-rings" you are mentioning, right?

Oil pan gasket -- no, that has not been replaced. But we did have to tighten the oil pan recently. I'm going to pass on what you said re the oil pan gasket. Thanks!

While the bottom has not been steam cleaned, he had one of his guys do a pretty good job of cleaning off all the oil from the bottom. After the past work was done, he said he wanted it cleaned off so he could see where there might be more leaks. No charge for this. And no charges for diagnosis, either.

I have started to put aside money for a used/newer car. Actually looked at Kias, Hyundai this past weekend. But my darn Soobie humms along just fine and as I have been her sole owner (can you believe?), I know all of her sounds and hiccups and history.

So, what I am hearing is that there's suspicion that this is not a case of head gaskets......and that even if it is, it's not fatal? If it is, can't they deteriorate further and eventually cause engine ruination?

#7 GeneralDisorder

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 08:49 PM

Hello GD!

I'm looking at past invoice. It says o-rings were done at the same time that the timing belt and cam seals were done. (Two o-rings cost 14.30 total for parts)


Probably not - the cam seals also have a large o-ring behind their retainer plate that is replaced at the same time as the cam seals themselves. To replace the cam tower o-ring the cams must be removed from the heads. It sounds very much like the mechanic is not aware that the cam towers are seperate entities from the heads as that is not typical of overhead cam engine design - it's unusual, and specific to the EA82. The result is TWO seams on each side - one for the tower, and one for the head gasket itself. I would lay money on them mistaking the cam tower seam for the head gasket seam, and thus your oil leak is the cam tower o-ring and not the head gaskets.


This is the same thing as the "cam case o-rings" you are mentioning, right?


Highly doubt it.

Oil pan gasket -- no, that has not been replaced. But we did have to tighten the oil pan recently. I'm going to pass on what you said re the oil pan gasket. Thanks!


You're welcome.

While the bottom has not been steam cleaned, he had one of his guys do a pretty good job of cleaning off all the oil from the bottom. After the past work was done, he said he wanted it cleaned off so he could see where there might be more leaks. No charge for this. And no charges for diagnosis, either.


It's good they seem to be honest, but don't mistake honesty for knowledge. If they don't know what they are looking at then they are as useless as a dishonest mechanic.

I have started to put aside money for a used/newer car. Actually looked at Kias, Hyundai this past weekend. But my darn Soobie humms along just fine and as I have been her sole owner (can you believe?), I know all of her sounds and hiccups and history.


Hyundia and Kia are both a step down from your EA82 in my opinion. I've worked on both and of the two Kia is better but none of the Korean made cars can compare to the Japanese products for reliability and quality of construction.

So, what I am hearing is that there's suspicion that this is not a case of head gaskets......and that even if it is, it's not fatal? If it is, can't they deteriorate further and eventually cause engine ruination?


Most likely no. At the mileage you are at the head gaskets are extremely unlikely to be bad at all. The EA82's are good for 200 to 250k on the original head gaskets and usually 300k or more on the mechanical components with good maintenance. Even if they blew completely and you overheated it till it wouldn't run anymore (unlikely), simply replacing them would fix it. No permanent damage is likely to result.

GD

#8 nwsunni

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 09:07 PM

:clap: Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I'm so glad you are here to provide feedback. It really means a lot to me. :-)

I'm going to take my car down to the mechanic tomorrow and have him hoist it up so I can take a few pics of the underside. I know he'll let me do that for free. He started this biz about ten years back when he was at another shop that was screwing with people. He got pissed and determined to build an affordable and honest shop. He has got a huge and very loyal following of people; focuses on imports. And he loves Soobs. I agree with you re your mechanic comments. What's nice about this guy is that he'll have no qualms about me sharing what you and others on the board say. I like that his ego doesn't flare up. But you're right I don't think he knows this engine like you and others here do. If I believed that, I wouldn't be here. We don't have a Subaru dealership here ( or Kia or Hyundai.) The drawback of being in a small town!

Anywho, my upset stomach has disappeared, thanks to you and yours! So now, I'll treat myself to a bowl of peppermint ice cream.

Tomorrow, I'll post photos.

THANK YOU!!!!!!!

#9 grossgary

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 09:21 PM

i'll go ahead and say read GD's posts again.

it is unlikely you replaced these orings being talked about. you are talking about cam orings, he is talking about cam carrier orings. they are usually around 2.13 from subaru.

this oil seapage you're talking about is likely very minor and not a big deal. i'd get a gauge on how much it's actually leaking and let us know before you take the plunge on fixing it. it's not going to cause any engine problems, no matter what it is. and it's certainly not a sign that bad things are in the future at all.

"some" oil leaks cause problems. not "all" oil leaks cause problems. usually it's the later and not a big deal. that's most likely where you are.

if you keep this engine from overheating or running out of oil it would be extremely odd to have any major issues with it any time soon.

#10 nwsunni

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 11:47 PM

Will do. And you are right re differentiating between the o-rings. To my uneducated mind, an oring should be an oring. But now I get that there is a difference. I'm going to print this thread out and bring to mechanic tomorrow (sans a few of the mechanic comments). And I'll definitely determine how much leakage is actually occurring. It's so much less that what I had before that I'm pretty happy. Prior to repairs, I was actually getting pools of oil on top of my catalytic converter. Talk about smoke.

I'm very reassured by everything everybody is saying. Like I stated earlier, I'm in hog heaven that this forum exists and that you folks give of your time.

I determined tonight that I am donating. It's only right that I give back!

More chatter on this topic later, once I know more!

Thanks!!!!!!

#11 Robert M

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Posted 22 April 2008 - 02:05 AM

It is EXTREMELY unlikely that the head gasket is leaking oil. If it were, the oil would go FIRST down the cylinders, the path of lesser resistance, before going to the outside through the head gasket. And if the oil really was leaking there, it would also get sucked into the cylinders as the car runs. This would cause smoking out the exhaust. Therefore, if the car is not excessively smoking, it probably isn't the head.

Oil coming out through a head gasket is a rare occurance. Mostly it will be anti-freeze, anyway. Remember: when you have a head leak, it usually goes BOTH ways, anti-freeze to oil, or vice versa. If oil and antifreeze are clean and not mixed, it usually isn't the head.

#12 Gloyale

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Posted 22 April 2008 - 09:48 AM

It is EXTREMELY unlikely that the head gasket is leaking oil. If it were, the oil would go FIRST down the cylinders, the path of lesser resistance, before going to the outside through the head gasket.


This isn't true.

The oil return galley are at the very bottom of the head. It actually IS fairly common to see the headgaskets leak externally. It's happened to several of my EA82s.

Now what everyone has said about the Cam Case seals is also possible. NWSunni, your Mechanic probably doesn;'t know about those O-rings. I would think he could clearly see the difference in the seems between the head and the cam case. But possibly not. If you're pulling the Cam cases to replace the o-ring you might as well replace the headgasket so it not that big a deal either way.

The good news is that other than leaking some oil, the weeping Headgasket won't hurt anything.

If you start to getr overheating, big clouds of smoke, water in oil, then things have gotten worse, but that is unlikely.

Start saving you're money, and have the engine resealed at some convenient point in the future. Don't worry til then.

#13 levonspradlin

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 12:56 PM

My 88 EA82 wagon leaks a bit more oil than I would like, after about 5 minutes of idling... I drove an old Tercel around for about 5 years that leaked oil, not a lot, but consistently added a quart a month. Almost didn't need to change oil at that rate :)

The Soob drips oil onto the exhaust, so it smokes out the front. Then engine runs very smooth for having 237k miles. I got a gasket and timing kit, since I have the Hitachi off for a rebuild. I have the heads, valve covers, belts, tensioners and many other smaller gaskets and bits. A little leak never bothered me... as long as it runs well.

Now, if I could find where that rear axle fell off... :lol:

#14 MilesFox

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Posted 29 April 2008 - 12:20 AM

cam tower o-ring:
Posted Image

notice the dab of silicone on the o-ring itself to hold it in place during installation




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