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Head Gasket Questions....


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So I was looking into buying a 1997 Legacy Outback. It's fully loaded for a decent price. 100K miles on the odometer. As some of you already know, I already own a 1992 Legacy. I love the car, but I think it's time to get a more reliable car in time for the winter. The Legacy has been good to me, but recently the right inner tie rod snapped. I'm going to fix the car tomorrow and start my quest for a new car.

 

My main question is this...

What year, make, and trim level was affected by the faulty head gaskets in the 2.5L engine? I don't want to buy this car and find out the head gaskets are on their way out. I heard the problem occurs in all pre-2004 non turbo 2.5L engines, is this true?

 

My other concern is the timing belt. I want to make sure this has been done recently, seeing as the car just hit 100K miles.

 

Here is the link to the vehicle.

http://www.empireautomotivegroup.com/profile.asp?VIN=4S3BG685XV7615208&xMake=Subaru&FilterMake=0&zip=&distance=

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Based on the research I did before buying my 98...

 

The 96-99 2.5L has issues with an internal head gasket leak that lets combustion chamber gasses into the water jacket. The only way to test for this is a $50 or so coolant test to check for the presence of hydrocarbons. There only way you'll know a car has this problem is if it overheats, but that tends to only happen sporadically. Subaru will sell you an upgraded set of head gaskets to fix this, although it seems that some people have had the issue recur.

 

The 00-04 has issues with an external head gasket leak that leaks coolant to the ground. Obviously, this is easy to see because there will be a puddle in your driveway. Subaru will sell you a coolant additive (probably no different that Stop Leak) to fix this.

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I haven't heard of the upgraded gaskets being free. Subaru still hasn't even admitted that there is a head gasket problem with these motors.

 

And installing new head gaskets is a bit more involved than 'just drop them in and be done with it.' If you can turn a wrench you can install new head gaskets, and it will probably only cost you a couple hundred bucks in parts and a long weekend in the garage, but you do have to pull the motor out of the car and have a basic understanding of how everything works.

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I haven't heard of the upgraded gaskets being free. Subaru still hasn't even admitted that there is a head gasket problem with these motors.

 

And installing new head gaskets is a bit more involved than 'just drop them in and be done with it.' If you can turn a wrench you can install new head gaskets, and it will probably only cost you a couple hundred bucks in parts and a long weekend in the garage, but you do have to pull the motor out of the car and have a basic understanding of how everything works.

 

I haven't gone to a mechanic for a single thing in 6 years. I've done all work including head gaskets on other motors, the only difference being those engines didn't have to come out of the car to replace.

 

I guess the only problem is that I'm looking for a car that won't need anything more than basic maintenence. The last three cars I've owned have been sub-$1,000 cars that needed tons of work to make them road worthy. I think it's time I stopped buying these cheap rust buckets and actually bought a car that I shouldn't have to worry about, especially gearing up for winter. There's nothing worse than having to do a brake job or other work in a foot of snow, since I don't have a garage, I'm in a better place financially now than I've been in the last few years, so I want to take this opportunity to buy a more reliable car.

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Got a friend with a garage? If so, buy the car and just plan on replacing the head gaskets one weekend. While you're in there, clean everything up, replace the timing belt and maybe even do the clutch.

 

That's my plan, at least. I picked up my 98 a couple of months ago with plans to throw maybe $1,000 in parts at it and end up with a very reliable daily driver. Those plans are slightly sidetracked now since I'm in the process of buying a house and now have a big list of house projects to take care of, but I'll get to the Subaru some time this winter.

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My girlfriend parents garage would be perfect. They don't mind when I use it either.

 

The good news is that I found out through Carfax that the car had engine work, more specifically seal/gasket work in 2004. That's probably the head gaskets.

 

I think I'm actually leaning towards the Jeep Grand Cherokee at this point. I love straight 6 engines, the sound, the low end power, the power pulse, and the balanced design that surpasses even the boxer in smoothness and balance. If I go with the Jeep it will be the third straight 6 engine I've ever owned.

 

I still have the other Legacy though, which isn't going anywhere. I plan to fix it bit by bit and make it a respectable car again while I'm driving the Jeep. This is all speculation at this point anyway however, since I haven't looked at any of these cars yet in person.

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I do love the 4.0L in my Jeep, but the 2.5L in my Subaru is definitely a smoother running engine, even with 170,xxx miles on it. And if you're looking at ZJ's (I assume this based on your price range for the Subaru), you gotta go with the 5.2L, or even better the 5.9L V8. If you really want the 4.0L, buy a ZJ with 5.9L and I'll trade motors with you. :lol:
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I understand that one engine could run smoother than another, but theoretically a straight six is in complete balance, primary and secondary. The boxer engine is in primary balance in that each cylinder counteracts the forces of the opposing cylinder. The boxer, however, has a slight secondary imbalance caused by the cylinders on opposing banks being slightly offset from one another. I learned that from an old motorcycle website and added it to the Wikipedia Legacy page.

 

I love the 5.2L (Magnum 318) engine. It doesn't breath very well, but with the right upgrades it can be a small block beast. The 5.9 is just insane. I saw a Youtube video of a 5.9 Grand Cherokee stock with aftermarket mufflers smoke... I mean SMOKE a BMW 4.4L V8 suv to 110 MPH no problem... Needless to say it was epic... :lol:

 

I have a 1986 F150 with the 300 I6. It's got the same torque as the 302 but at a much lower RPM's. I raced a 95 Bronco 302 automatic (My truck is a 4 speed stick) and was just barely pulling away, but I was still pulling away. Those are torque motors with durability that cannot be beat by any other gasoline engine except maybe the Chrysler slant six and the 4.0L AMC/Jeep engines. The other straight 6 I owned was a 5.9L Cummins turbo diesel 6BT. That thing was downright CRAZY. 460 ft lbs of torque BEFORE 2,800 RPM. It was stupid powerful, like, you never need that much power in a 1990 pickup truck. That motor hooked up to a Getrag 5 speed transmission and Dana 70 axles meant I was ballin'.... :lol: I could do a brake stand from a dead stop in third gear like nobodies business. I could do a brake stand in first and second gear Without Even Stepping On The Gas, and that was on oversize BFGoodrich A/T tires and 16" GMC 8 lug rims. I miss that truck so bad. 300K miles on the original clutch and it still started in half a crank. I did donuts in the Wal-Mart parking lot once when they had just closed to a cheering crowd of stoned Wal-Mart employees... It was a good feeling.. Another time I picked this girl up from KFC in NH to give her a ride and did a 3rd gear brakestand all the way around the building. I still didn't get any though... :lol:

Edited by Platinum_Racing
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Based on the research I did before buying my 98...

 

The 96-99 2.5L has issues with an internal head gasket leak that lets combustion chamber gasses into the water jacket. The only way to test for this is a $50 or so coolant test to check for the presence of hydrocarbons. There only way you'll know a car has this problem is if it overheats, but that tends to only happen sporadically. Subaru will sell you an upgraded set of head gaskets to fix this, although it seems that some people have had the issue recur.

 

The 00-04 has issues with an external head gasket leak that leaks coolant to the ground. Obviously, this is easy to see because there will be a puddle in your driveway. Subaru will sell you a coolant additive (probably no different that Stop Leak) to fix this.

 

 

Would a 96-99 have a significant running problem if it were leaking carbon into the coolant? Or would the car tend to run just fine? Are there any other symptoms to pin pointing a head gasket problem? Are there any short term fixs until proper work can be performed?

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Would a 96-99 have a significant running problem if it were leaking carbon into the coolant? Or would the car tend to run just fine? Are there any other symptoms to pin pointing a head gasket problem? Are there any short term fixs until proper work can be performed?

 

That's why the head gasket issue is such a big problem, there really aren't any signs that its leaking. I suppose you might notice a power decrease, but for most people I believe the first sign of a problem comes when enough gas gets into the cooling system that the motor overheats.

 

My feeling is, at this point if your car were going to self destruct it would have done it already. I have no idea if my car has ever had head gasket issues or if any work (repair or preventative) has been done, but that isn't affecting how I drive the car. Like I said above, when I get around to it I'll replace the head gaskets and timing belt as preventative maintenance, but until then it will still be my daily driver.

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With a leaking head gasket there are two main causes of engine failure.....

 

Coolant getting into the oil. This can cause the oil to break down to the point where it is no longer lubricating the engine. This can lead to damage to the piston rings and cylinder walls, or in extreme, EXTREME cases even spinning a bearing somewhere. This is extremely rare, however. Oil dillution is a serious problem, it rarely leads to engine destruction unless you are a totally ignorant car owner who virtually NEVER checks or changes their oil.

 

&

 

The engine overheating to the point where either a cyliner head or the block will crack. This is far more common, since (Sadly) most car owners never notice their temp gauge rising and even when they do they do notice they don't know what to do about it so they keep driving.

 

Basically, if you have a brain in your skull you don't have to worry about the car dying completely.

 

With some engines, the crack in the head gasket is so severe that the car is undrivable due to loss of power (Loss of compression). Luckily Subaru gaskets (As far as I know) only develop small leaks that cause a notable loss of coolant and a slightly noticeable change in color of the oil.

Edited by Platinum_Racing
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so noone in this world has taking the time to make and test a gasket that wont leak in these motors. i am concerned cause i just bought a 1996 gt2.5. with like 170XXX on it. but the motor was changed out so idk what it has now. i gonna check that.

i have the vin

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There are companies out there who will make you a head gasket, but it's usually for custom projects that require thicker gaskets to reduce the compression ratio. I'm sure if you gave them the old ones they would be willing to make some changes to make them more durable, but this does get expensive. I'd say if your car is running good now leave it alone until it starts showing problems. :)
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