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Today I discovered very, very low oil and coolant levels in the Forester, and at 200000 KM I am hoping for good luck and a simple gasket change. As far as I can tell there is a delicate oily rainbow on the surface of the coolant in the radiator (difficult to tell with fresh pink coolant and brand new clean oil, and maybe this is possible under normal circumstances). I check levels more or less weekly, and until today all was OK...

I have not noticed steam, smoke or whatnot from the exhaust, but I am alarmed at the rate at which the oil has suddenly gone. I am going to run the engine to temp and make a visual.

What is more obvious is the fact that there is no external oil leak (I recently replaced the gushing plastic oil separator plate and crank main seal, and everything is still dry down there) but coolant has been spraying itself around the radiator top hose and cap area. Over -pressurised cooling system?

I am going to drive the car down to my workshop and start to dismantle. I have ordered two standard genuine gaskets, 11044AA483, in the hope that I shall be lucky and the aluminium is fine.


Regarding the head bolts, (can of worms)  I have done a number of head geaskets on various vehicles, always renewing bolts, where recommended, possible or economic - why not?

I notice on this forum (and others) some heated discussions regarding this topic. I dont see it mentioned in the official Subaru Forester workshop manual - they say USE NEW GASKETS, but the bolts are not mentioned. Looking at the torques applied, and compared to some cast iron diesels i have work on,  one could agree that they are reusable...



Wish me luck

PS the car is a 1999 SF Forester I, 2.0 N/A , totally stock standard, maintained with genuine parts (even down to the Geolandars), family runner, regular oil, general maintenance, NO racing, doughnuts, drag or burnouts. I do enjoy brisk driving.


Thank you in advance for any gems- SAVE THE FORESTER!!

Edited by Bdamit
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After a quick inspection of the exhaust gases and engine compartment, I noticed two things:


No steam from the tailpipe, no smoke, totally clean and smelling normally of catalytically converted gases. There is humidity inside the tailpipe tip, which i believe is normal as the engine is warming up. 

Second, there is a new hairline crack in the plastic radiator top, just where the top hose connects. That immediately explains the coolant loss and adjacent staining. any excessive pressure in the cooling system is obviously fed straight to the expansion bottle, so I suppose my rad had a weak spot where hottest and has finally failed.

I do not have any idea where that oil has gone.

Is there a way to repair a plastic radiator, or is it 350 euros to replace it?

I shall top up the oil, fix or replace the rad, and see if the head gaskets need changing presently.


Weird oil mystery is perplexing me....

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Replace the radiator - it's worth the coin for the sake of the engine.

Try replacing the PCV to curb oil usage.

If you're running with synthetic oil, if it's burning it you won't see the oil burning out the exhaust pipe as it burns "clean".



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Hi Bennie

That is an interesting note about the synth oil that I did not know.

Yesterday I ordered a new Nissens radiator at a ridiculously reasonable price, 80 euros delivered. Subaru want 375 euros for the Calsonic!


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 The PCV was a little black, not clogged nor oily, and it happily fap-fap-fapped when shaken. I have cleaned it up anyway and reinstalled with some ptfe tape on the threads.

After the radiator is replaced I shall  drive normally and check the levels carefully!

I'm not keen on opening up the heads until I am certain of their failure, the engine otherwise runs really smooth and clean, reasonable economy, blah blah

At least when the gaskets need changing I'll have the gaskets in my garage!

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The head bolts are 100% re-usable. I believe a 99 will have a phase 2 EJ201 or EJ202 engine, but any EJ20 should be able to-use the head bolts unless severely damaged. They can be a curse to remove (EJ20 isn't too bad compared to EJ25), but a long thinwall OD socket is a good investment.


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The Snap On man call's a 14 mm 12 point , 1/2 " drive socket the  Subaru Head Bolt Socket.  Buy a high quality one before doing your heads.

Replace your pcv with a Subaru one , they are not that expensive.  Confirm all the rubber piping from it & the valve covers to the block are pliable and have clamps (many are rock hard with age and the clamps are gone) 

When the head gaskets start leaking oil it will start slowly , lots of time to notice .

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4 hours ago, dfoyl said:

Brisk driving - in a Forester with an EJ20 ? I briefly drove a 98 Forester with an EJ20 and brisk was not a word I would have chosen to describe it (though it was an auto)...

Haha true.


not an sti by no means

I have always had comparatively underpowered cars but ones' driving technique can make all the difference. A few lumps of sti rubber underneath also help loads.

And I don't do autos!

On the short motorways here I'll chug along at 100kph 60mph but I enjoy maintaining that speed on the country roads. It's the handling I like on these cars, and third gear at 4000+ pulls quite well out of the corners.

The vivio with 660cc requires even more balls-out driving technique, but the rewards are in the handling when you think you're going into a curve too fast....in the wet, and the orange 4WD button on the gearknob comes into play! :D

I'd likely have a motorbike if I were a proper high speed junkie, but I have three sons- my maleness is proven beyond hp ;) 

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Thanks dfoyl for confirming reusable bolts, that saves a considerable outlay on hardware!

Montana Tom: Thank you for the tool tip, so my basic long hex socket won't be enough then...

As a rule I am all over this engine, quite anal in fact, but it is a fine piece of simple yet exotic 20 year old machinery which has a serious job to do, and I hate messy/expensive surprises. I have a water pump renewal and oil pump reseal on the cards, I just changed the belts with Gates and new genuine Japanese pulleys, clutch and flywheel from Subaru, Subaru metal oil separator plate, Subaru main crank seal etc etc. 

Im aiming for ten more years if law and fuel prices permit!

500000kms? Why not?

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