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Just bought a 2000 Outback for my son to take to college. 105K, seemed very well maintained by orig owner. Timing belt not done. Pre-purchase inspection by CarTalk recommended mechanic only found leaky oil pan (about a tablespoon on the ground a day) and low rear brake pads. After purchase brought to highly regarded local shop for timing belt, brakes, and oil leak.

Seemingly very knowledgable and trustworthy garage owner, tells me oil leak is bad head gasket.

I've now done quite a bit of web research on the head gasket issue and everything seems to be about coolant leaks not oil leaks. The garage owner explained a scenario where these things start as coolant leaks and develop into oil leaks, hmmm... haven't seen that anywhere else, and wouldn't I still be seeing a coolant leak.

Thoughts? Ideas for how I might better assess the issue.

Many Thanks in advance.

CB

PS: Paid 4K for car, figured on $800 for timing belt. Local garage wants $2500 for head gaskets, including head machining, timing belt, all kinds of seals and covers -- thinking it's worth doing if it needs to be done.
 

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2008 Subaru Tribeca
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906 Posts
what side of the oil pan has oil leaking? Probably be something different then the pan.
 

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I simply cannot abide useless people.
2006 2.5i and 2002 3.0 wagons.
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12,305 Posts
HG leaking oil isn't the end of the world IF you keep the levels monitored and don't let it get low.

$2500 is a little high, but not totally unreasonable for a total HG job + timing belt and goodies.
 

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2001 VDC/SC One of a Kind
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14,790 Posts
The oil pressure sending unit tends to leak oil. It will be on top of the block and run down the front and rear of the block when inertia takes over. It screws into the block just under the alternator with a single wire plug.

Power steering will leak from a worn seal on the base of the reservoir or the short hose with the spring clamps. If the fluid is dirty, it will appear black like oil.

Other than that, oil could be leaking from a cam seal, which ought to be replaced with the main seal during a timing belt replacement. DO NOT use aftermarket seals. They don't fit properly and tend to leak right away or much earlier than expected. Get them from Subaru.

These 3 things will let oil run down the seam of the head and block. The head gaskets do not leak oil.

Find another mechanic.
 

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OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
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12,390 Posts
yes - the 99-04 SOHC EJ25's can leak oil too and not coolant. very common, though coolant is more common on this era EJ25. (in later 05+ models the oil leaks are more common).

first - make absolutely certain it is the headgasket. clean the engine off and then look for leaks - i'd be very cautious assuming it is a headgasket right now, you want to be 100% sure of it. that diagnosis should be made with a perfectly clean engine. with years and many miles of a slow oil seap and grime and dirt sticking to it and it blowing, running, dripping...it can be hard to be sure where it's coming from.

*but* - personally I would drive it a few thousand miles and see how much oil you're using. these leaks generally start out really slowly and don't progress very quickly at all. you may find it such a small amount that you would rather not put the money in it now. the oil under the engine may be 5 years worth of oil seaping and not really any significant loss at all.

if you want to get it repaired, then go for it. i'd be using the EJ25 Turbo headgaskets, they are far better and if you don't they're going to be installing the same headgasket that already failed once on this motor...no point in doing that when there's another alternative. the EJ25 Turbo engines do not blow headgaskets at all like the non-turbo's because they have a better headgasket.

i'd be installing an Ebay timing belt kit - they're only $200 and include all new tensioner and timing pulleys. i would not trust the originals to 210,000 miles.
 
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