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I just picked up a perfectly running 99 Outback. It has 128k on the clock. I am unsure if the Original Owner ever replaced the headgasket. However, coolant is perfect, no sludge or color in the reservoir, and oil is clear.

 

What advice would you give in regards to this engine. Should I bite the bullet and replace the headgaskets? Should I still have a machine shop check the heads? Aside from the machine shop checking the heads, and using the new OE head gaskets, I should be good, right?

 

Thanks for the insight.

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If original, the head gaskets may fail in the near future, or they may not. If they're original and you want to upgrade to the more recent HG's now and be assured that failure is unlikely, you can do that; on the other hand, if you want to avoid needless repairs and keep costs to a minimum, you can just keep up with normal maintenance and only deal with the problem if it arises.

 

Others have explained how to tell the difference between original and newer OEM gaskets; in my own '96 engine, I know they were changed at 134,000 miles (previous owner's records) and I can see on the exposed portion that sticks up that that all layers appear to be metallic. If the heads weren't inspected and milled as necessary (mine were, fortunately), even new gaskets may fail, sooner than you'd like.

 

For myself, absent any sign of a problem, I'd leave things alone and enjoy the car.

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This may be a case of if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Yes it may eventually develop the HG issue. But maybe it won't. If you have a backup vehicle available and can tolerate downtime, then I'd wait. If you can't tolerate any downtime, like you'll get fired, then maybe you want to replace now. And hey something else could blow up before the HG's go, who knows.

 

There's this d00d on toronto-subaru-club that swears by cometic HG's over OEM HG's....???

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first, it is an EJ25 right? if it's an impreza outback...it's an EJ22, if it's a legacy outback then it's an EJ25.

 

look at the head to engine mating surface, i'm fairly certain...like 99 percent that you can tell if it's been replaced or not. i have two at my house and one has a plain flat old headgasket. both are identical engines and vehicles, the other has a multilayer gasket with metal on both sides and a material in between...i've almost certain this one is the "updated" headgasket. those that have done more than i will verify. i can post pic's but i'm sure someone here knows. easiest spot to look might be between the power steering pump and alternator at the front of the block, behing the timing covers . part of the gasket protrudes outside of the engine.

 

if you have the original headgasket, it's a decision only you can make. this will turn out to be a 100 page thread of oppinions more than anything else. oppinions from people that dont' know you, don't know who's driving (wife, children, parents...), don't know what kind of driving (long road trips??) and what kind of reliability and how flexible you are as a person. reliability, type of driving and all of that is a decision only you can make. if you're the kind of person who gets all worked up when something goes wrong and you'll hate subaru's for the rest of your life if the headgasket blows...then have it replaced and spare us the flaming post later! if you're flexible and stuff doesn't both you...then don't worry about it. if you're somewhere in between, then make your decision accordingly.

 

myself...i don't know what i would do, but i do know that i wouldn't have my wife driving one for any extended distance unless it has updated headgaskets. and because of that, she drives an EJ22 vehicle. they are more reliable than an EJ25 with original headgaskets, so it's not worth it to me.

 

if you get them done, definitely send the heads to a machine shop. find a shop that knows subarus, ask the dealer who they use if you can't find any, and have them check it and mill it. do not skip that step and do not just replace one headgasket - those are two low percentage no-no's.

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