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06 Outback 2.5i
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Bought an 06 Outback 2.5 a few weeks ago, with a slight oil leak, dripping from the oil filter. Today I got around to degreasing the engine bay, and i'm pretty sure the leak is coming from the passenger side head gasket. After driving a few miles, I noticed oil slowly seeping from the head gasket area near the oil filter. Driver side HG looked clean, and I did not spot any other oil leaks in common spots (cams, valve covers, crank, etc).

1st - can someone confirm it's the HG?

What are my options? How long does the HG leak oil externally before having internal issues? Is this something that has to be addressed soon, or can I drive it like this indefinitely?

The timing belt (a gates) was installed 20k ago - pulleys and WP too - should I replace that at 20k or reinstall?
 

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2018 Dark Blue Outback 3.6R Touring arrived 8/31/2017
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The details of how bad and quickly a head gasket leak progresses will vary.

You may not have it be too bad, or it may progress to dangerous rates and types of issues quickly.

Watch your oil level and condition as well as coolant level and condition closely.

I'd not want to trust it for a long trip until you get it fixed and verified.
 
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OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
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1st - can someone confirm it's the HG?
I don't see anything. can you circle what you think is a headgasket leak? You just mean those dark lines of caked on crud? Those are benign - you're looking for actual dripping oil that would flow right onto your hand if you touched it without even touching the block - that's a leak.

Or wait until some actual seeping is evident then post pictures.

Current pictures show residual dirt from who knows when and what, there's no compelling evidence of any issues in those photos.

I see what appears to be a drop of oil on the lower rear timing belt cover that would be typical cam seal related.

The timing belt (a gates) was installed 20k ago - pulleys and WP too - should I replace that at 20k or reinstall?
I'd replace the belt and lower sprocket (the one with teeth) with OEM and inspect the others.

What are my options? How long does the HG leak oil externally before having internal issues? Is this something that has to be addressed soon, or can I drive it like this indefinitely?
There's nearly zero risk of any failure or issues if these are the original OEM gaskets.

It'll get worse over time - just keep topping off the oil. Generally you drive it until the dripping causes symptoms you can't tolerate any more - which is oil drops on the ground or hitting the exhaust and smoking off.

They generally take awhile to get worse - you have quite a few thousand miles, even 10's of thousands of miles.
 

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06 Outback 2.5i
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I know they weren't the best pictures, but if you zoom in on the HG by the oil filter and the engine coolant drain plug (the internal hex bolt), you should see some -
not very much - oil seeping out. I had just wiped that spot down less than a minute earlier with a rag, so it's not residual. Unfortunately I can't circle it as I'm on mobile.

I am experiencing the smell of burning oil almost every time the car stops. When I peak underneath the car, the oil collects on the oil filter and drips onto the exhaust.
 

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It's a nuisance problem that is likely to take a long time to progress. Keep topping up until you replace gaskets or change cars.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Here's a zoomed in picture, with arrows highlighting the leak. Prior to taking this picture, I degreased and cleaned a cold engine, then waited for everything to dry, and drove it around the block. I wiped down the seam, and almost immediately it started seeping from that area.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Another question - why is it that only the 2.5 engine seem to be plagued by HG issues? My 97 Legacy's 2.2L is bulletproof and still on the original HG's at 208k and - from what I understand - is the norm.
 

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2008 Outback 2.5
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Are the head gasket issues routinely in specific [weak] locations? If so, that would make sense to me.
 

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Another question - why is it that only the 2.5 engine seem to be plagued by HG issues? My 97 Legacy's 2.2L is bulletproof and still on the original HG's at 208k and - from what I understand - is the norm.
part of it, is the material / lack thereof of the head gaskets.

EJ25D / EJ251/EJ252/ EJ253 (used from 2005-2009) all were made with single layer steel head gaskets.

vs. turbos, or EZ30 engines of the same periods made with multilayer steel (MLS) head gaskets.

and doing head gaskets on a engine like yours usually starts with buying OEM head gaskets made for the Ej255 turbo.
(with bare steel, no black viton coating to wear away and leak again).

EJ253 used in outbacks / legacy in 2010-12 US spec cars have MLS head gaskets.
 

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Here's what my HG leak looked like at the oil filter and the rear passenger side of the head/engine:




It only dripped one drop maybe a couple of times in a 30 minute drive. Never any amount to notice between oil changes. The problem was that the oil dropped onto the exhaust and you'd get that terrible burning oil smell when the car was stopped at a light or if you were backing up.

So I bit the bullet, got an estimate for just under $2k from an independent shop. They also install race car parts (the owner owns several NASCAR West Series teams) so they said that if you bring the parts in, they'll install it with no parts guarantee, just the labor guarantee so that brought the cost down to $1k. I bought the Fel Pro complete gasket kit with the MLS head gaskets and a full set of new bolts for around $200. I probably didn't need the new bolts, but the service manual said to use them so since I was saving quite a bit on this, I bought them anyway. The mechanic did me a favor and installed all the new gaskets since he was taking the whole thing apart anyway. Now, no more leak and the HG's ought to last the rest of the life of the car.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
part of it, is the material / lack thereof of the head gaskets.

EJ25D / EJ251/EJ252/ EJ253 (used from 2005-2009) all were made with single layer steel head gaskets.

vs. turbos, or EZ30 engines of the same periods made with multilayer steel (MLS) head gaskets.

and doing head gaskets on a engine like yours usually starts with buying OEM head gaskets made for the Ej255 turbo.
(with bare steel, no black viton coating to wear away and leak again).

EJ253 used in outbacks / legacy in 2010-12 US spec cars have MLS head gaskets.
The EJ22 uses a single layer head gasket (542), has an open deck design, and in the case of the phase II EJ22, is an interference engine. 96.9mm bore x 75.0 stroke. The EJ253 uses a single layer head gasket (633), has an open deck design, and is an interference engine. Longer stroke and bigger bore - 99.5mm bore x 79.0mm stroke.

I guess the million dollar question is why is the EJ22 is completely unaffected by HG leaks, while the 2.5L is plagued by them? Looking at the 542 vs 633 HG, the 633 has a coating, while the 542 doesn't. Is the coating the cause? The bigger bore?

Do we know how long these turbo HG's (642) are lasting? Are they a permanent fix, or should I plan on having to do them again in 50-100k? Also, is it recommended to follow the turbo torque specs or the NA torque specs?

I saw ntippet's thread, where he stated he installed new six star HG's and they failed ~1 year later. He had the new turbo HG's, but sold the car less than 2 years later. Are there any other accounts of these HG's (or the six star or the fel pro MLS) holding up?

Here's what my HG leak looked like at the oil filter and the rear passenger side of the head/engine:

It only dripped one drop maybe a couple of times in a 30 minute drive. Never any amount to notice between oil changes. The problem was that the oil dropped onto the exhaust and you'd get that terrible burning oil smell when the car was stopped at a light or if you were backing up.

So I bit the bullet, got an estimate for just under $2k from an independent shop. They also install race car parts (the owner owns several NASCAR West Series teams) so they said that if you bring the parts in, they'll install it with no parts guarantee, just the labor guarantee so that brought the cost down to $1k. I bought the Fel Pro complete gasket kit with the MLS head gaskets and a full set of new bolts for around $200. I probably didn't need the new bolts, but the service manual said to use them so since I was saving quite a bit on this, I bought them anyway. The mechanic did me a favor and installed all the new gaskets since he was taking the whole thing apart anyway. Now, no more leak and the HG's ought to last the rest of the life of the car.
Thanks for sharing those pics. It looks like a more advanced leak than mine, BUT I get the same burning oil smell when stopped in traffic or especially when backing up.
How many miles have you gotten out of those fel-pros so far?
 

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you got to ask @idosubaru why those good old EJ22 were immune to the typical head gasket blues.

I have some kind of subaru OEM turbo bare MLS head gasket on my own EJ251,...for like 4 years now. (I did not buy them my mechanic had done like 10 such subaru jobs before that one).

Edit: and its been like 20,000 miles
 
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EJ22s are interference starting in 1997 but that's neither here nor there.

The EJ25D sucked because of the protruding pistons. That doubtfully helped anything.

I don't know I dislike questions like this because of where they typically lead.

Anyway, I would just guess the EJ22 has more material between the cylinder and coolant ports or head edges.

EJ heads are interchangeable so given that, the EJ22 cylinder ID being smaller gives more material for clamping. But I've never measured it, EJ22 heads never need to come off...hahaha just kidding.
 

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2.5 SE 3rd Gen 2007 Outback Met Green over Silver currently all original.
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Here's what my HG leak looked like at the oil filter and the rear passenger side of the head/engine:


It only dripped one drop maybe a couple of times in a 30 minute drive. Never any amount to notice between oil changes. The problem was that the oil dropped onto the exhaust and you'd get that terrible burning oil smell when the car was stopped at a light or if you were backing up.



So I bit the bullet, got an estimate for just under $2k from an independent shop. They also install race car parts (the owner owns several NASCAR West Series teams) so they said that if you bring the parts in, they'll install it with no parts guarantee, just the labor guarantee so that brought the cost down to $1k. I bought the Fel Pro complete gasket kit with the MLS head gaskets and a full set of new bolts for around $200. I probably didn't need the new bolts, but the service manual said to use them so since I was saving quite a bit on this, I bought them anyway. The mechanic did me a favor and installed all the new gaskets since he was taking the whole thing apart anyway. Now, no more leak and the HG's ought to last the rest of the life of the car.


Just had mine done and yes should last the life of the car. Mine is a 2007 with now 137k think the HG went about 131k got some life out of as it was oil just leaking. Now it's all clean no leeks.
Heads been skimmed and new bolts seals, spark plugs etc.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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1999 30th Anniversary Legacy Outback DOHC 2.5L 4EAT, 2008 Impreza WRX 2.5L 5MT, 2008 Impreza Wagon 2.5L 4EAT
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The preferred 2.5L HG is the MLS Turbo one 11044AA770
 

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The EJ22 uses a single layer head gasket (542), has an open deck design, and in the case of the phase II EJ22, is an interference engine. 96.9mm bore x 75.0 stroke. The EJ253 uses a single layer head gasket (633), has an open deck design, and is an interference engine. Longer stroke and bigger bore - 99.5mm bore x 79.0mm stroke.

I guess the million dollar question is why is the EJ22 is completely unaffected by HG leaks, while the 2.5L is plagued by them? Looking at the 542 vs 633 HG, the 633 has a coating, while the 542 doesn't. Is the coating the cause? The bigger bore?

Do we know how long these turbo HG's (642) are lasting? Are they a permanent fix, or should I plan on having to do them again in 50-100k? Also, is it recommended to follow the turbo torque specs or the NA torque specs?

I saw ntippet's thread, where he stated he installed new six star HG's and they failed ~1 year later. He had the new turbo HG's, but sold the car less than 2 years later. Are there any other accounts of these HG's (or the six star or the fel pro MLS) holding up?


Thanks for sharing those pics. It looks like a more advanced leak than mine, BUT I get the same burning oil smell when stopped in traffic or especially when backing up.
How many miles have you gotten out of those fel-pros so far?
I've only had them in for a year/15k miles but that doesn't count for much. The original HG lasted 8 years/130k miles.
 

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Okay - the first photo's I saw the discoloration but couldn't see it dripping, i thought it was just a stain.

If you topped off the oil ever time it's a quart low you can literally drive this thing nearly indefinitely if it's the original gaskets. It will come down to how long you can personally tolerate the drips at home and smoke while stopped.

A friend has a 150 mile commute all interstate and he drove his for years and like 100,000 miles while leaking, by the end it was profusely leaking. Being all interstate and almost no stopping, he didn't care.

I'm not sure I recommend that - i've never heard of a Subaru catching fire due to oil leaks on hot exhaust - but i wouldn't want someone blaming me for the first time either.

I guess the million dollar question is why is the EJ22 is completely unaffected by HG leaks
Phase II EJ22's aren't immune, but again that's not worth discussing IMO.
 

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For a data point, I've got 5 years and 100k miles on FelPro MLS head gaskets with zero issues. 30+ engines I've done also have FelPro MLS gaskets that are not having any issues (the ones I can keep track of). The Subaru 255/257 gaskets are good (factory MLS), but I'd rather save the $60, have a full 1-year warranty, and can buy off-the-shelf **** near anywhere (most of my local part stores stock the FelPro gasket, but none of the dealers stock the 257 gasket). Plus (for the shop), the parts houses reimburse me for labor if it fails. Luckily, I haven't had a single warranty swap yet (knock on wood).
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Okay - the first photo's I saw the discoloration but couldn't see it dripping, i thought it was just a stain.

If you topped off the oil ever time it's a quart low you can literally drive this thing nearly indefinitely if it's the original gaskets. It will come down to how long you can personally tolerate the drips at home and smoke while stopped.

A friend has a 150 mile commute all interstate and he drove his for years and like 100,000 miles while leaking, by the end it was profusely leaking. Being all interstate and almost no stopping, he didn't care.

I'm not sure I recommend that - i've never heard of a Subaru catching fire due to oil leaks on hot exhaust - but i wouldn't want someone blaming me for the first time either.

Phase II EJ22's aren't immune, but again that's not worth discussing IMO.
So is this the smoking gun my head gasket is responsible for the leak?
 
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