oil pan & coolant - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-03-2010, 08:59 PM Thread Starter
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oil pan & coolant

hey there,

i've a 1997 outback that just hit 150,000 miles
i had to replace the left front tie rod recently and a chirping sound developed a few days later
it has also been leaking oil for several months

i brought it back in and this time a different mechanic wanted to go over a few things
the tie rods were fine but the chirping was from the left front axle rod - seems odd to me that would occur only after having the tie rod replaced

more importantly, the oil is leaking from the oil pan
the garage said they couldn't fix it as it would require a great deal of disassembly to get at it and replaces it
they also pointed out the transmission fluid pan is getting ready to leak as well - not yet, but in time
it seems to be losing coolant, no leaks on the ground and plenty of green stuff in the radiator, but the reservoir keeps getting low

so considering that i'm due for inspection in a month, and i already know i'll have to replace the the rear O2 sensor and knock sensor, how much should i expect to pay for all of the above?
how much is too much? or is it worth it if i can get a trade-in of about $3,500?


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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-04-2010, 07:18 AM
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Depends how much you like the car and If you can afford the payments on a new one.

Knock sensor is easy to replace, even for someone not super mechanically inclined, all you need is a socket wrench.

o2 sensors are harder but not ridiculously so

Look for parts prices here to give you an idea what they cost.


o2 sensors can be had cheaper at napa or similar

They should not charge you more than 1/2 hour labor for the knock sensor [more like 15 minutes] and a 1/2-1 hour labor for both o2 sensors [if it takes the mechanic more than a 1/2 hour to rack the car and change both sensors, he's not a very good mechanic ... I can do it on my back in the driveway in that time]

How much oil is it leaking ? if it's a small leak that's just sort of a messy nuisance, clean it off every couple months and don't worry about it. If it's a lot and you're losing quite a bit between oil changes, you should reseal it. I would have to go look at the book but, I thought you just had to loosen the motor mounts and lift the motor a little to have enough room to pull the pan ... don't quote me on that yet.

not sure why you're losing coolant, any signs of head gasket failure ?

Coolant does not disappear, it either leaks out somewhere or gets blown through the motor out the exhaust or mixes with the oil through a blown head gasket.

check for bubbles in the res, oil in the coolant, coolant in the oil, sweet smell and green drips at the exhaust pipe. Any of those are signs of a head gasket failure.

If the head gasket is blown it's a pricey repair and may put you over the edge of wanting to keep the car. If you can trade it in, that's up to you ... the dealer should know enough to check for a head gasket failure and if he doesn't, his problem. Personally I don't sell anything private party without disclosing known problems and I think anyone who does is an A$#$*%&#.

No idea what the chirping is, are the boots torn ? grease everywhere around the inner or outer boot ?

Good luck

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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-04-2010, 08:44 AM
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You don't mention if yours is a 2.2 or 2.5L engine?

I read somewhere else on this forum (probably from nipper) that the oil pan generally does not leak on these cars it's usually the rear oil separator cover, or rear main crankshaft seal (not as likely). If your cover is original its probably plastic and should be replaced with a metal one. Both require engine or transmission removal to gain access. If the main seal isn't leaking, just leave it alone. Others have had bad experiences with replacing the rear mail oil seal when it wasn't leaking. It it ain't broke, don't fix it!

It may look like an oil pan leak cause that's where the oil that leaks from the rear plate ends up.

RobLog posted this info on another post:

11831AA210 Oil Separator Cover


Torque spec on the bolts is 4.7 ft-lbs.
The separator plate is to be sealed with "THREE BOND 1215 or equivalent". The sealant is available at Subaru dealers for about $20-25. The most commonly used approved substitute is, I believe, Permatex Ultra Grey RTV available at all auto parts stores for about $6-7.



Coolant leak could be water pump but there should be signs of coolant leaking from somewhere.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-04-2010, 09:07 AM
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Couple of other things to think about.

Did you have the timing belt changed at 105k?
If so did they change the waterpump/tensioner/idler pulleys?

If the answer to the above questions is NO, then you are looking at around $800 +/- to have that work done at a dealer ($250 in parts on ebay) YMMV. Less if you do it yourself.

Is it a 2.2 or 2.5L engine?

If a 2.5L engine its a phase I engine (1997) that have had some Head gaskets go and that can require engine removal to complete effectively. That's about $1200-$1600 if done right that should include the costs for the timing belt/water pump/tensioner/idlers. They can fix the oil leak at that time. Based on your description it may not be a Head Gasket. How long does it take for the coolant in the reservoir to drop? If its a 2.2L they seem to have less frequency of head gasket issues.

Bottom line is do you want to spend less than $2k and keep your car (what else does it need?) or do you want to have $500 car payments for 4-5 years?

If you are able to do some of this work yourself or have friends that can help it will cost a lot less to do. Labor charge at most dealers is around $100/hr so work like this gets spendy if you get it done at the dealer. Some independent shops charge less but may not have a lot of experience with Subaru's.

Keep talking with us!

Read this thread:

Yet Another Outback Rescue!

To just get the O2 sensor and Knock Sensor replaced at a dealer would probably run $250 for parts and another $100-$150 for labor. If you buy parts from non-OEM sources and have an independent shop (non-dealer) for less. I'm not sure if the oil leak/coolant leak would need to be fixed for the inspection.

Get some quotes and make a smart financial decision based on your needs and wallet contents.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-04-2010, 09:15 AM Thread Starter
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this forum is great ...

sorry, it's a 2.5L engine

yep, i did have the belt and water pump etc. replaced

i'd rather spend less than $2k and keep it - i'm just trying to feel out how much of this work really needs to be done or if the garage just wants more money

my other option is trade it in while i still can, and spend a little more on a new used outback with fewer miles

i'm at 150k now, and a new used car will have to pass inspection

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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-04-2010, 09:22 AM
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Thanks for the reply.

I would focus on the coolant leak (how long does it take to drop?) and if no major issues there then get the O2 Sensor/Knock Sensor replaced to pass inspection and work on the other issues as time and money permit.

My '99 has 232k miles and still going strong!
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 01-04-2011, 10:31 PM
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for future reference

This might help others i just wanna share what i know! Oh well the reason is because the oil is everywhere under the hood, flowing around and lubricating all the moving parts. Oil can leak from just about anywhere. You can have oil pan leaks, oil sender leaks, oil filter leaks, drain plug leaks, leaky seals and more. Having an unsightly oil stain in your driveway or garage is tough to drive home to everyday. But isn't there anything that can be done, or do you just have to deal with that burning oil smell, or slippery puddle? Some oil leaks are actually easy to fix, while others can be quite difficult. It just depends. Here are some of the different types of oil leaks and a few tips on fixing them.1. Leaks in Your Valve Cover. Most every car with higher mileage will have a leak like this, but often it doesn't really count as a leak. More like a slow seeping that won't ever cause a puddle of oil to form somewhere. These kind of leaks you don't especially need to worry about, unless they get worse. Since the leak is coming from around the engine, you should notice a slight burnt oil fume since the oil is contacting hot metal. You can sometimes repair these seeps and leaks by carefully tightening your bolts, but you shouldn't do it yourself. Ask your mechanic the next time you have an oil change to take a look.
2. Drain Plug Leak. This is a semi-common type of oil leak. Your drain plug is a little bolt that holds the oil in the oil pan, that the mechanic unscrews to let the old oil flow out while doing an oil change. The plug has to be screwed in again when the new oil is put in. Sometimes the threads get stripped or crossed and it starts to leak. If this screw is leaky, you can buy a new one and have it replaced the next time you get your oil changed.
3. Oil Sender Leaks. This happens when the oil sender, which does what it's name sounds like, gets damaged somehow. It's rare but I've seen it happen. In a friend's car, one of the belts snapped and smacked the oil sender. You better believe he now has a pretty substantial oil leak. The only way to fix it is to replace the oil sender.
4. Oil Filter Leaks. If the oil filter isn't tight enough, or the surface wasn't cleaned on both sides before the oil filter was screwed in, it can leak. An oil filter is a cylindrical part about six inches long and four inches in diameter on the underside of the car somewhere. Look up a picture if you've never seen one before. If you've got yourself an oil leak, you can go to your car and check to see if the filter is leaky.
5. Seal Leaks. This kind of leak is difficult to fix fully. Only oil stop leak will really be effective in fixing this kind of leak. Engine oil stop leak was created in order to treat the rubber rings and seals that are in an engine and elsewhere by softening the rubber and causing it to plump and expand. It's not a gummy solution that just gets in there and goops everything up. If you've got yourself a seal leak, you'll probably start noticing that oil is burning in your combustion and smoke is coming out of your tail pipe. Engine oil stop leak should do its job within the first hundred miles of driving after adding it. You'll definitely want to give this substance a try if you're living in a state that has emissions laws and smog tests.

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