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Old 12-06-2012, 09:52 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default New member curious about head gasket issues

Hello everyone,

I'm looking for a nice winter beater and daily driver as I complete my BMW project, and I was thinking about a Subaru.

Later today I am going to look at a 1997 Subaru Outback 5 speed with 200k miles. According to the current owner drives fine. I don't know what engine it has, the ad didn't say. He's asking $1800.

Doing some research, I've found that the 2.5L engines are not very reliable when it comes to head gaskets, but I'm not sure about the 2.2L models... One site I read said that 1997 didn't even come with the 2.2L option, and another site I read said that the 2.2L came in 1997, but only with the 5 speed transmission, so I'm pretty confused at this point. As far as I can tell, the 2.2L in 1997 was actually really reliable, but I wanted to confirm this. Seems like the 2.2L engines started having HG issues in 1999.

So what I would like is clarification on what engines came in 1997, and what engines are reliable.

I'm sure this information is out there, and I have done some searching, but I was hoping maybe someone could give me a cold hard answer to this issue.


P.S. - I am very mechanically inclined, and I'd have no problem doing a head gasket myself if needed, but I'd much rather not. The 2.5L is pretty much out of the question for me as far as I'm concerned. I'm just trying to find a cheap, reliable, AWD car for this winter and to drive while I'm working on my other car, so if you can think of any other cars that fit those requirements, let me know.

Here are some of the sites on which i was reading about head gasket issues

Subaru Head Gasket Problems Explained. - Seattle Subaru Repair

Head Gasket Problems - Subaru 2.5 liter engine - Phase 1 and 2

Thanks for any help.
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Old 12-06-2012, 09:57 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Also, are there any other common problem items on the 1997 models that I should specifically look at?

If you were shopping for a MK4 Volkswagen i would tell you to avoid the auto transmissions because they always fail, and to make sure the intake isnt clogged with soot.... stuff like that that is specific to a single car. I can check all the regular car stuff.
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Old 12-06-2012, 10:04 AM   #3 (permalink)
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post your city and maybe someone can recommend a shop you can take the car too for a prepurchase inspection. Subarus are just odd enough that paying someone $100 or w'ever could save you a lot of headache. The 2.2 has a great reputation - but we're talking about a pretty old car and it's prior maintenance/'abuse' and present condition mean a LOT more than whether it's a Subaru or a Ford.
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Old 12-06-2012, 10:08 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks for the quick reply. I am just outside of St. Louis, MO. However, I have a car lift and can do all the regular inspecting myself... things like brakes, ball joints, belts, tie rods, etc. I just need to know if the 1997 2.2L was plagued with bad head gaskets like the later 2.2L and the 2.5Ls.
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Old 12-06-2012, 10:29 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
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I just need to know if the 1997 2.2L was plagued with bad head gaskets like the later 2.2L and the 2.5Ls.
nope - probably the most highly respected 'later' soob engine.

also, do a search here; http://www.ultimatesubaru.org/forum/index.php for 'frankenmotor'.
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Old 12-06-2012, 11:30 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
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so I'm pretty confused at this point.
Simple - All Outbacks came from the factory with EJ25 except 1996 manuals - they came with EJ22's.

1996-1999 offerings:
Legacy GT's, LSi, and SUS came with EJ25.
Legacy brighton, L, and LS came with EJ22.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joester View Post
1997 Subaru Outback 5 speed
EJ25 unless someone swapped it.

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As far as I can tell, the 2.2L in 1997 was actually really reliable, but I wanted to confirm this. Seems like the 2.2L engines started having HG issues in 1999.
EJ22's are one of Subaru's best motors. No headgasket issues in 1990-1998 EJ22's or EJ18's. If you don't overheat them or run them low oil and properly maintain them - they will run as long as you care to maintain the rest of the vehicle. 300,000 miles is rather easy...at this point the only issue you run into is prior maintenance/history - after 15 years a lot of things can happen. Get a nice one-owner EJ22 and maintain it and you got a good shot at 300,000 reliable miles from the engine. My EJ18 swapped LSi is getting in to 200,000 miles and 300,000 is almost a no brainer from the engine if the vehicle can make it that long (3 deer wrecks and it was totaled earlier this year at 75+ mph on the interstate by some friends...but i've rebuilt it every time).

1996 and earlier are non-interference.
1997 and up are interference (though I have seen one report of a 1996 being interference, so there may be some bleed over either way).

First step when buying any older used Subaru is to replace the complete timing gear - pulleys, tensioner, and belt. The newer style tensioners (around 1997 and up) are less reliable and should be replaced. The old style almost never fail and you can leave them. But you should still replace all the pulleys, after 15 years they are lacking grease and can heat, seize, and fail or break the belt (even if it's new). Ebay is the best place - older style kits are $60-$100 and newer style tensioner kits are $160-$200 (more expensive for a less reliable part, BOO!).

All 1990-1998 EJ22's are essentially the same engine with minor changes and different stuff bolted to them and thus are equal in reliability. Non interference is preferred by purest so a timing belt failure means no engine repair costs...though properly maintained timing belts rarely fail.

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Seems like the 2.2L engines started having HG issues in 1999.
I've never seen any EJ22's have headgasket issues but I have heard of folks say the Phase II EJ22 (1999-2001) can. It's a very rare engine to begin with as they were phasing those out so you don't see them much. The bore being smaller it's hard for me to imagine that it's just as bad as the EJ25.
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Old 12-06-2012, 11:40 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grossgary View Post
Simple - All Outbacks came from the factory with EJ25 except 1996 manuals - they came with EJ22's.

1996-1999 offerings:
Legacy GT's, LSi, and SUS came with EJ25.
Legacy brighton, L, and LS came with EJ22.

EJ25 unless someone swapped it.

EJ22's are one of Subaru's best motors. No headgasket issues in 1990-1998 EJ22's or EJ18's. If you don't overheat them or run them low oil and properly maintain them - they will run as long as you care to maintain the rest of the vehicle. 300,000 miles is rather easy...at this point the only issue you run into is prior maintenance/history - after 15 years a lot of things can happen. Get a nice one-owner EJ22 and maintain it and you got a good shot at 300,000 reliable miles from the engine. My EJ18 swapped LSi is getting in to 200,000 miles and 300,000 is almost a no brainer from the engine if the vehicle can make it that long (3 deer wrecks and it was totaled earlier this year at 75+ mph on the interstate by some friends...but i've rebuilt it every time).

1996 and earlier are non-interference.
1997 and up are interference (though I have seen one report of a 1996 being interference, so there may be some bleed over either way).

First step when buying any older used Subaru is to replace the complete timing gear - pulleys, tensioner, and belt. The newer style tensioners (around 1997 and up) are less reliable and should be replaced. The old style almost never fail and you can leave them. But you should still replace all the pulleys, after 15 years they are lacking grease and can heat, seize, and fail or break the belt (even if it's new). Ebay is the best place - older style kits are $60-$100 and newer style tensioner kits are $160-$200 (more expensive for a less reliable part, BOO!).

All 1990-1998 EJ22's are essentially the same engine with minor changes and different stuff bolted to them and thus are equal in reliability. Non interference is preferred by purest so a timing belt failure means no engine repair costs...though properly maintained timing belts rarely fail.

I've never seen any EJ22's have headgasket issues but I have heard of folks say the Phase II EJ22 (1999-2001) can. It's a very rare engine to begin with as they were phasing those out so you don't see them much. The bore being smaller it's hard for me to imagine that it's just as bad as the EJ25.

great post - I learned a lot.

is there a single ex port vs dual ex port year difference? sounds familiar to me.
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Old 12-06-2012, 12:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Thank you so much for your replies, guys. That really helped sort things out.

So i'm expecting it to be a 2.5L in the one I'm going to look at today. I don't plan on buying it, but I am still going to test drive it so I can feel how the outbacks handles and performs.

Is there a simple way to just look at the motor and tell if its an EJ22 or an EJ25? Different intake manifold or something?
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Old 12-06-2012, 12:32 PM   #9 (permalink)
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confirm all 4 tires are the same model and tread wear. Take the car to a flat,dry,paved parking lot and see if it will idle through tight donuts without jerking and without giving it any gas. (wouldn't hurt to look underneath and confirm the drive shaft is there - I know, I know, but supposedly it happened to someone)

search on 'torque bind' for more info.
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Old 12-06-2012, 01:57 PM   #10 (permalink)
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okay, I will make sure to check for torque bind as well.

Thank you once again for all your help on a subject I'm sure has been covered thousands of times.
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