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Head Gasket Blown: Advice w/ Options Please


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19 replies to this topic

#1 nathanthepilot

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 10:44 AM

I have a 97 Legacy Outback Wagon 2.5 with 172k on it. Hind sight tells me I probably was having head gasket problems a year ago last summer, but now it's a full-blown problem I need to address. Please reply with comments or suggestions to what I think are possible options.

Current situation: Oily soot in coolant overflow tank. Overfills to over flow tank when I top off the radiator. If I let the radiator get too low, the temp gauge will start to climb and overheat at stoplights until I top of the radiator. Usually takes 1-2 weeks after topping off before this happens. Oil smells like fuel/exhaust after a fresh oil change. Also my tranny is acting weird when it shifts sometimes, and sometimes clunks into reverse. Probably needs to be replaced/rebuilt too while the motor is out.

Option 1: Used Japanese (JDM) engine with about 50k on it - $875. Used Japanese tranny $400. $200 to ship both. $1475 for both plus misc. parts to replace both myself in my garage. Down time: 2-3 days.

Option 2: Take motor out and have heads leveled and rebuilt at a machine shop. Buy the latest and greatest head gaskets from Subaru. Replace the tranny for $400 plus shipping. Total cost: $1100-1200?

Option 3: Sell the car as-is before it craps out all the way and buy something else to replace it. (I really like the car other than this issue)... it could get better gas mileage, but sure beats FWD cars in the snow! I might get $1500-2000 for it as it sits with the known problem. It's a Limited with leather...etc.

Any thoughts on these, or any other options would be greatly appreciated! Fortunately, I can do the work myself (other than machine shop work), so that will save me $.

Thanks!

#2 grossgary

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 03:49 PM

if you can do the work yourself and would like some more miles out of this car i'd keep it and do it right. if done right you could expect quite a few more miles/years out of this car.

normally i'd say repair the motor but if yours has been bad for a year i'd be concerned about the longetivity of the motor.

if you do it i'd plan on going the full road and doing all the timing belt components as well - all new pulleys, water pump, timing belt, thermostat, and reseal the front while the timing belt is off.

i would not go with a JDM motor. these engines have too many headgasket (and piston slap and bearing problems) to buy any used motor.

Option 4 (cheapest and most reliable option) is an EJ22 swap. plenty of info here about that and it's plug and play, no harder than swapping another EJ25 in place. far more reliable than an EJ25 and way less money. and if you get a 1995 or 1996 EJ22 they are not only interference but complete timing component kits are only $90 instead of $200 for the 1997+ kits.

That's what I would do. For only a few hundred you have great reliability.

The transmission might be fine. Have you ever changed the fluid and do all the tires match evenly? If not I'd change the fluid a few times.
These are 4WD transmissions the tires need to be rotated and properly inflated. Not doing so wears internal transmission components.

#3 OB99W

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 04:51 PM

[...]Also my tranny is acting weird when it shifts sometimes, and sometimes clunks into reverse. Probably needs to be replaced/rebuilt too while the motor is out.[...]

The transmission oil cooler is inside the radiator. Insufficient coolant and overheating the engine can therefore cause trans problems. As already suggested, a fluid change might help.


[...] and if you get a 1995 or 1996 EJ22 they are not only interference but complete timing component kits are only $90 instead of $200 for the 1997+ kits.[...]

Gary obviously meant to say that the 1995-96 EJ22 is a non-interference design.

#4 nathanthepilot

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 07:51 PM

if you can do the work yourself and would like some more miles out of this car i'd keep it and do it right. if done right you could expect quite a few more miles/years out of this car.

normally i'd say repair the motor but if yours has been bad for a year i'd be concerned about the longetivity of the motor.

if you do it i'd plan on going the full road and doing all the timing belt components as well - all new pulleys, water pump, timing belt, thermostat, and reseal the front while the timing belt is off.

i would not go with a JDM motor. these engines have too many headgasket (and piston slap and bearing problems) to buy any used motor.

Option 4 (cheapest and most reliable option) is an EJ22 swap. plenty of info here about that and it's plug and play, no harder than swapping another EJ25 in place. far more reliable than an EJ25 and way less money. and if you get a 1995 or 1996 EJ22 they are not only interference but complete timing component kits are only $90 instead of $200 for the 1997+ kits.

That's what I would do. For only a few hundred you have great reliability.

The transmission might be fine. Have you ever changed the fluid and do all the tires match evenly? If not I'd change the fluid a few times.
These are 4WD transmissions the tires need to be rotated and properly inflated. Not doing so wears internal transmission components.


Thanks for the reply. I have changed the fluid in the last 10k miles. It actually got over filled at first, but then I drained the excess out after I realized the problem. I got some bad info on the quantity to put in for a fluid change. It takes it a while to up-shift when it's cold and isn't very smooth at shifting overall. When I slow for a red light it lurches forward when it down-shifts to first. It's functional, but not smooth.

I like the idea of a different power plant so I don't have to mess with this one anymore. Is the 2.2 gutless though for this size of car? I think the 2.5 is 165hp. But the 2.2 has my interest. I'll do a little research on it. Where are people finding low mile EJ22's?

#5 grossgary

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 09:05 PM

"gutless" is mostly reserved for the old generation forum :lol:! although the EJ18 isn't splendid behind an AWD automatic.

anyway, the EJ22 will perform just fine. i've never minded and most folks on here that have done it have no complaints.

#6 3Pin

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 09:06 PM

You have lots of options.

I would take the motor out, fix the headgaskets and put her back in if she didn't have 172K on the clock. I did one at 162 and one at 137 and the one that had 162 ended up wearing out before the headgaskets.

I am a big fan of the 2.5 to 2.2 swap. 95 is really an easy swap and well documented here on the site. You don't notice much of a HP difference in my opinion.

Maybe you take the 2.5 out, put a 2.2 in and eventually you stumble across a subie with a bad motor for a song and you make some $$$.

Good luck!

#7 Olnick

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 09:48 PM

Is the 2.2 gutless though . . . .


Please, watch your language on this board.

#8 Bigbusa

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 03:59 PM

You'd lose around 30hp with the 2.2L. That doesn't sound like a lot until you push the gas pedal and not much happens. :slobber: :grin: :-\

130HP (at the crank) isn't exactly a lot when it's trying to move a 3230 lb. car adequately.

Heck, I had 152 (rear wheel) HP on my 500 lb. Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle. Now that's a nice HP to WT ratio! :)

Edited by Bigbusa, 08 September 2009 - 04:06 PM.


#9 nipper

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 04:29 PM

the 20.00 question.

Have you cooked the engine at any time during this discovery? If no you can rebuild the heads. If you have look at another engine.


nipper

#10 subaru360

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 09:14 PM

You'd lose around 30hp with the 2.2L. That doesn't sound like a lot until you push the gas pedal and not much happens. :slobber: :grin: :-\

130HP (at the crank) isn't exactly a lot when it's trying to move a 3230 lb. car adequately.

Heck, I had 152 (rear wheel) HP on my 500 lb. Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle. Now that's a nice HP to WT ratio! :)


Have you ever driven a 2.2 swapped outback? I have, more like 30 some of them. They go just fine. I've never had a complaint about any of the ones I have done as far as lack of power.

#11 nipper

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 09:31 PM

Have you ever driven a 2.2 swapped outback? I have, more like 30 some of them. They go just fine. I've never had a complaint about any of the ones I have done as far as lack of power.


The only time i found a difference between the two is on hill climbing. The 2.5 takes less gas to go up a hill then a 2.2L. Otherwise i really didnt see a difference.

MPG should be easier on the 2.2, but where i live with all the stop and go i never saw it.

nipper

#12 subaru360

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 10:12 PM

The only time i found a difference between the two is on hill climbing. The 2.5 takes less gas to go up a hill then a 2.2L. Otherwise i really didnt see a difference.

MPG should be easier on the 2.2, but where i live with all the stop and go i never saw it.

nipper


Was it a swapped Outback you drove? The 4.444 final drive in the formerly 2.5 auto ones helps out a lot.

#13 nipper

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 10:35 PM

Was it a swapped Outback you drove? The 4.444 final drive in the formerly 2.5 auto ones helps out a lot.


No just a legacy vs an outback.


nipper

#14 nathanthepilot

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 12:00 AM

Well, I'm still thinking about my options. Thanks to all for your advice. The 2.2 seems tempting, but maybe a re-do on the heads of the current engine w/ the new head gaskets would be a better idea. I think the bottom end of it is fine. I don't think I "toasted" it before. It doesn't burn that much oil. Maybe 1/2-3/4 a quart every 3-4k miles. I'm still thinking on the tranny though. $400 plus shipping doesn't seem that bad for a low mile tranny, and I'll have the old motor out any way... easy swap.

#15 grossgary

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 12:04 AM

i don't know your area but it's not hard to find a wrecked (or rusted) car for cheap around here. could keep your eyes out for a complete car and swap the entire lump into yours without ever disassembling the trans/engine.

also keep your eyes out here for transmissions, sometimes folks are parting out something. might want to throw up a thread in the parts wanted forum.

good luck.

#16 pearlm30

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 12:59 AM

Is it possible to take the engine/trans without taking them apart from the top with hood removed??? How difficult is it? Can a 2 and 1/2 ton engine crane do the job?
Thanks


could keep your eyes out for a complete car and swap the entire lump into yours without ever disassembling the trans/engine.



#17 grossgary

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 01:20 AM

Is it possible to take the engine/trans without taking them apart from the top with hood removed??? How difficult is it? Can a 2 and 1/2 ton engine crane do the job?
Thanks

yes on all counts, except no need to remove the hood. :lol:

i've done it multiple times on the worst (largest) possible set ups - EJ25 with AWD Automatic and ER27 (6 cylinder) with AWD Automatic. it is tricky to get it just right and it's a tough squeeze. you'll be adjusting, letting the whole deal down to readjust the angle and all as it's VERY vertical once it comes out all the way. a load-leveler of some sort would help greatly, but i've done it without one every time and am just using some Advanced Auto Parts cheapest engine lift thing I bought years ago.

Edited by grossgary, 09 September 2009 - 01:22 AM.


#18 nathanthepilot

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 01:56 AM

i don't know your area but it's not hard to find a wrecked (or rusted) car for cheap around here. could keep your eyes out for a complete car and swap the entire lump into yours without ever disassembling the trans/engine.

also keep your eyes out here for transmissions, sometimes folks are parting out something. might want to throw up a thread in the parts wanted forum.

good luck.


Yeah, I'll have to keep my eye's open for something. I wish my Subby got 50mpg like the TDi's... :-\

#19 grossgary

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 07:05 AM

get a FWD manual trans XT - they're good for 40mpg.

#20 Bigbusa

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 07:26 AM

Have you ever driven a 2.2 swapped outback? I have, more like 30 some of them. They go just fine. I've never had a complaint about any of the ones I have done as far as lack of power.


No, but I have a 2.2L in my impreza outback. The OBS weighs about 500 lbs less than the 97 legacy outback limited. I find the 2.2L to be pretty anemic and not all that great on gas mileage. Yes, it's adequate in the OBS but it's no powerhouse. If I was used to a 2.5L I couldn't swap in a 2.2L and be happy with the loss of HP, performance all while getting the same MPG as the 2.5L.

Edited by Bigbusa, 09 September 2009 - 07:32 AM.





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