'01 OB 2.5, overheating after dealership t-belt change - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-21-2011, 09:19 AM Thread Starter
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'01 OB 2.5, overheating after dealership t-belt change

Greetings Everyone.

I recently bought my mother a 2001 Outback with the 2.5 engine. The car does have 120k miles, and a little piston slap when it's cold, but other than that after 6 months of ownership the car has been stellar.

Since the condition of the timing belt was unknown when I bought the car, I had her (my mother) take it to a local dealership to have the timing belt changed.

$364 later, I was comforted knowing that there was no danger of the belt breaking and ruining the valves.

2 days after the timing belt change, my mother was on her way to visit me, (I live an hour away), it was about 23 degrees outside, and after about 3 miles on the interstate the car overheated. My mother is a chronic gauge watcher so she noticed it immediately, pulled off the interstate and called AAA.

I thought the procedure to replace the timing belt included removing the radiator, which would mean draining the coolant. The service manager gets "evasive" when confronted with this question.

At this point, I have had a pressure test done on the cooling system and according to the same dealership the radiator is "bad" and one of the head gaskets is "cracked".

This ain't my first trip to this kind rodeo. I get the feeling that the mechanic at the dealership did not properly refill the cooling system, which lead to the car overheating and blowing the head gasket.

The new repair bill (new radiator and replacing a head gasket) is over $1600

Before I go storming the place with my ASE certifications and Lawyer-friend in tow, do any of you folks think I'm out of line? Does this sound suspicious to anyone else?

The car made the 6 hour trip back to Kentucky with only one issue which was a knock sensor. It was flawless otherwise, and after changing the knock sensor, the car ran perfectly for 6 months.

I believe this dealership is attempting to take advantage of my mother, who simply wants her car back.

I've located a couple of used motors with less miles on them for roughly $1500, and I'm reluctant to spend $1600 for a radiator and head gasket.

I'm also tempted to file suit against the dealership for causing this blown head gasket because they didn't refill the car with coolant. I'm not seeking anything other than making the car as right as it was before the timing belt change.

Am I way off base here?
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-21-2011, 07:07 PM
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They did not drain my coolant when the dealer replaced the timing belt. If she pulled over at the first sign of heat issues that wouldn't blow a hg. But you say cracked head that would be pretty rare and does not happen overnight.
My guess is that it had a failing hg when you bought it and the seller put stop leak in the cooling system and it got you 6months of use. $1600 for a proper HG job at a dealer is actually a good price. If the engine is other wise in good shape no leaks etc I would get the hg done and keep it. Used crate engines are a big question mark at least with this one you know what you have
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-21-2011, 08:32 PM
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I saw something similar, but it was by my own hand so there is no mystery about a dealership screwing me over (the beauty of doing your own work).

Situation was this - my mother-in-law's 2001 Forester had about 100k miles on it, original coolant. I changed the coolant, and when draining the old stuff out, noticed it was full of particles. This was either stop-leak (may have been Suby's coolant conditioner) or just silicates/phosphates that have "dropped out" of old antifreeze that should have been changed loooong ago.

Anyway, the car never used coolant. After this coolant change, the car started DRINKING coolant. If I had it done at a shop, and I didn't know better about how Subys have lousy head gaskets, I would totally be blaming the shop for this. Anyway, my theory is that the particles (whether they were stop-leak or silicates/phosphates) were acting as a "false seal" and when I drained the old coolant/particles out and put the new coolant in, that false seal was gone and the car probably had slightly compromised head gaskets all along for who knows how long.

My fix was pouring in a whole bottle of Bar's Leak Liquid Aluminum, stopped the consumption almost immediately.

By the way, $364 is awefully cheap for a timing belt job. I assume it was just the timing belt itself, and not the other items which should have been done at the same time - water pump, oil pump reseal, tensioner, idler pulleys, cams seal, crank seal, exterior v-belts if necessary. If that's the case, just changing the belt itself is a false sense of security...really should do the complete job.

The belt itself can be done without radiator removal, but it's a major pain in the butt due to the slim clearance. Usually water pump is done at the same time (see my paragraph above), so coolant draining is part of the job. But due to the price, doesn't sound like you got that.

If you're not comfortable with this dealership, you should just find a good trustworthy independent mechanic.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-21-2011, 08:45 PM
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I have no idea where people get this thing that the water pump and oil pump needs replacing at the 105k timing belt Chang? The water pump run 190 -200k with proper coolant maint so why replace the early? Just to spend extra money?

The normal timing belt service runs right around $400 always has. If the oil pump seals are leaking there is potential for more cost replacing the o-ring seals or the pump. The tensioner bits all are part of the timing belt job at $400
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2011, 01:57 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the info.

The $364 for the timing belt change did not include tensioner, water pump, or seals. According to the mechanic, they didn't need to be changed.

While it's possible the dealer we bought the car from had filled it full of bars leak, or some other sealant, if the dealer that did the t-belt swap didn't drain the coolant, the problem wouldn't have appeared immediately afterward. The system would have continued to operate with the sealant preventing the coolant loss, and maybe over time the effects would have been noticed.

If the mechanic did drain the coolant for the t-belt swap, and refilled it as it needed, then I can understand missing coolant over a week, but not catastrophically in two days, otherwise there would have been some evidence like a puddle on the floor of the garage, or huge clouds of steam or water running out the exhaust. Neither of which happened.

This same dealership currently has the car, and after I spoke with the service manager, they have agreed to significantly discount the cost of the head gasket repair, which I find acceptable, but to be honest, I don't think I should have to pay for anything other than the replacement radiator, or I would go so far as to pay for the parts to replace the head gasket, but I still feel they should eat the labor.

Now, because of the questionable reliability of this Subaru, I'm giving her my E320 4Matic which I know to be bullet proof, and I'm going to drive the Subaru for a while to make certain my mother isn't going to be left stranded on the side of the interstate again.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2011, 02:07 PM
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Chances are the HG was failing long before you bought it. Regardless of stop leak it was bound to finally reach a point of no return -thats what I was figuring. My 01 had the leaky gasket and the way they leak they don't leave puddles because it drips on the hot exhaust driver side rear bottom corner of the block leaving no evidence. Which is why its easy to miss. Mine finally caught my attention when you could hear the coolant hissing as it hit the hot exhaust and smell the cooked coolant. After subaru corrected the bad gasket the car was great well beyond the original HG issue at 60K. We traded it for another one last year with 160K on it and not a single leak ran great too.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2011, 02:15 PM
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Generally what happens is that you loose just enough coolant to get a bubble going and the Tstat will get the bubble and will fail to open. So you may have coolant in the system but a small burp of air can result in it not flowing and spiking the heat gauge. Thats probably what happened to your mom.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2011, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by SinisterMoose View Post
The $364 for the timing belt change did not include tensioner, water pump, or seals. According to the mechanic, they didn't need to be changed.
Hate to say it, but your mechanic is dead wrong on that. If the tensioner wears out before the belt is due again at 210k, it could easily do as much damage as never changing the belt and having it break (I really don't enjoy interference engines, TB breaks = rebuild). Same with the water pump.

2003 Outback wagon: "Kaylee". 156,000 and counting.
Mods: 2004 Forester XT shift knob, Fumoto oil drain valve, Phillips VisionPlus H1 low beams, Phillips 9011 HIR1 high beam upgrade. Also: More rust than I care to think about.

2002 L.L. Bean 3.0 Outback wagon: 101,000 and counting.
Mods: Scangauge II, otherwise bone stock for now with a bit of fixing up to do.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2011, 06:09 PM
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I have gone through the head gasket issue with my 2000 Outback. It is likely that this car is building pressure in the cooling system due to the failed headgasket/ cracked head. The compression and or powerstroke of the affected cylinder(s) is causing air/fuel/combusting gas to leak into the cooling system. As a result, the coolant will be rapidly displaced and ejected from the system. It is most likely causing coolant to be blown out of the coolant reservour. This will occur very fast; certainly within two days (it did to me). I agree with Subiesailor; it is highly unlikely that any of this damage occurred from briefly overheating the engine. Further, it is almost certain that a preexisting headgasket leak caused this. I paid $2,200.00 for my headgasket job; you are getting a deal. I would fix this engine and drive the car. Good Luck!
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