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Guest Message by DevFuse

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Blown head gasket...now what?!?

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9 replies to this topic

#1 Guest_RideABMX_*

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Posted 02 July 2003 - 08:31 PM

Add it to the list! ...and someone with more motivation than I, and perhaps some legal training, get these stupid things paid for by Subaru.

Here are the stats:
1997 Subaru Outback 2.5L (Phase I) with 116,000 miles. First symptoms at around 100,000 miles, just finally got it diagnosed when it started chronically overheating.
The symptoms, for all those trying to find out why their car is overheating for no reason, are, well, overheating. If there are air bubbles coming up in your reservoir tank after it overheats, you most likely have a blown head gasket. Also, a trickling water sound right after you start up the car after it's been sitting are an indication of gas in the system, and as such a blown head gasket is the most likely culprit on these cars from what I've read and heard. Take it in and have your coolant tested for hydrocarbons (CO2 specifically I guess), and if I were you, I'd do this anyway just to check (especially before doing something like the water pump to solve your overheating issues).

At any rate, now I have to do something with this car, and I'm not sure what to do. A local dealer quoted me $640 to replace both head gaskets, but I'm assuming that a complete head rebuild is in order if I want it to last long at all. Is this true?

From what I've seen, a head rebuild is at least $1000-$1200. I know a number of people have had those done; how long will that last? I'm sure it's incredibly variable, so a "worst case I've ever seen" would be nice to all those out there that have experience with these types of things.

As a side note, I called a place in Portland (Oregon--I'm in Corvallis) and they won't even do head-only rebuilds on these engines. They will only do FULL ENGINE rebuilds ($3000-$4000) because they said that rebuilding the heads increases the compression and causes the car a burn oil (blue smoke out the tailpipe) because the bottom half of the engine is still 100,000 miles old and it puts a lot of strain on it to only do the top half. Has anyone seen this happen? Is this condition drive-able or is this something else that has to be serviced to operate the car?

Josh Ellis

#2 Guest_TinyClark_*

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Posted 02 July 2003 - 11:06 PM

That additonal strain thing is a good story, if you like fairy tales. Did they start out with "Once upon a time..." ;)

I may be wrong, and maybe some of the Subie engine experts here can shwack me if I am, but even if they shaved .020 off the head for warpage, that won't raise the compression ratio much at all.

How many rod and crank bearing failures do the Subie's experience? Probably not that many...

#3 Guest_Dinero_*

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Posted 03 July 2003 - 05:52 AM

Subaru engines take overheating very, very badly. So, doing nothing is not an option. Actually, consider yourself lucky if the heads haven't warped already. The phase I engine probably blows head gasket due to poor design. So, theoretically the replacement gaskets could go again at any time.
You could always fix the heads and then sell the car to some unsuspecting fellow. If it was me, I would put the very minimum in this car to keep it running. I would then run it until the wheels "fell off". If the car goes another 100,000 miles before another head gasket failure , then you got your money out of the car. Also, if you have an AT, the likelyhood of that major component requiring costly service greatly increases after 100,000 miles.

#4 Guest_RideABMX_*

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Posted 03 July 2003 - 03:06 PM

My dad knows some guy from way back in the day who happens to be a service manager at a Subaru dealership in Arizona I think (completely unassociated with my car purchase since I live in Oregon). At any rate, this guy told my dad that the head gasket blew BECAUSE it overheated (i.e., thermostat went and then that blew the head gasket). Whether that's true or not, I cannot tell at this point.

Anyway, I suppose my only option at this point is to repair it and keep it, because everything else sounds way to daunting.
Anyone know any good Subaru mechanics in the Portland, Oregon/Eugene, Oregon area?!?

Josh Ellis

#5 Guest_Commuter_*

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Posted 03 July 2003 - 03:44 PM

I have the same car. My head gasket went just over a year ago at 160k miles. The full story is in the archives. Not to scare you, but I ran into a bottom end failure as well. To the best of my determination, the 2 were NOT related. They just happened one after the other. Head gaskets have become a known issue on these engines. Bottom end failures seem quite rare. If you are experiencing the piston slap issue, beware. I had a bit of that... In hindsight, I think it was really conrod bearing wear... very slow progression. How much oil does your engine consume?

Options... The going rate for head gaskets is about $1000 US. This includes machining of the heads, valve regrind, etc. I was told that there is actually very little they can take off the head before it is no longer usable. As pointed out, affect on compression is minimal. The head gasket p/n has been changed by Subaru 3 times (at least). The current one (well, as of a year ago) is a 4 layer affair. I've put just over a year and 45k miles on mine. So far, so good. I'm still worried about the head gasket though. More to do with head bolt torquing (potential) issues than the gasket itself. Fingers crossed.

Used engine... If it's the DOHC engine, you'd better know what you are getting. If it's a SOHC engine, you can do 2 things. While you "can" put it in with the original wiring and ECU, there are some challenges. It has been done. And these engines are also experiencing "some" head gasket failures; usually external leaks. Other option is to steal the short block from it and use the rest from your engine. It would only make sense to do this if you are concerned about the state/age of your current engine. Expensive route to go.

Rebuilt engine... $, but you get a warranty. CCR Engines Inc. has gotten good reports from others on this board. They are a Subaru engine rebuilder. They know the problems and how to mitigate them. Talk to Rick or Emily.

I feel your pain. I've been there.


#6 Guest_tcspeer_*

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Posted 03 July 2003 - 06:00 PM

I had the valve's ground on a chev. pickup with a V-8 engine and it did in fact start burning more oil, (lot's more) I then asked local mechinic's and they said that is common after a valve job.

#7 Guest_tcspeer_*

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Posted 03 July 2003 - 06:10 PM

Have you tried Bar's no leak, if you don't have it their, ask any auto store what they have that may stop leak. I know these are not a permanent fix, but I have had good luck with no leak product's.

#8 Guest_ccrinc_*

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Posted 04 July 2003 - 08:05 AM

I highly advise against using ANY no-leak product in any Subaru!!!!!!! :evil:
While it may temporarily fix the symptom, believe me, it will end up causing far more problems in the long run. Aluminum engines do not like stop leak stuff, and Subaru radiators especially.


#9 mazzy111


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Posted 05 October 2003 - 03:05 PM

My check engine light is on at 140,000 miles on a 97 Outback. In check in the valve clearances, an exhaust valve for cylinder 4 has zero clearance at all cam shaft rotations. Is the valve likely broken/cracked/stretched? Is the seal worn? Please advise on likely cause and solutions.

From reading through the forums, I understand that the head gaskets are a problem as well, so perhaps a head gasket/valve job is in order.


#10 cookie


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Posted 06 October 2003 - 12:26 AM

read and try a valve adjustment. If you still have compression in that cylinder this may be savable with out a gasket job.
Valves wear the seats and the valve face down as they run, which is why there must be some form of adjustment, personally I love hydraulic adjusters as I have done more than enough mechanical and shim jobs to last till I die.
Codes can be on for several reasons including simple stuff like loose gas caps.
I hear a lot about camshaft position sensors.
Do you have some place like a Pep Boys locally that will check codes?
If you have adaquate money I do think head gasket and valve jobs are good insurance on these engines.

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