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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 2011 Outback 2.5L with 240,000 miles, original owner, and no real problems to date other than a replacement of the CVT transmission 3 years ago (dealer covered it at 100%). About a month ago, I started occasionally hearing a little gurgling behind the dash board, which I have read is not uncommon when there are head gasket issues. Few days ago, I had a dead battery (probably unrelated but put that in there just in case). When I got it started and took it for a new battery at my local mechanic, it overheated on the way there. The mechanic replaced the battery and diagnosed it with a bad thermostat. After he replaced the thermostat, it did not fix the overheating problem and he was concerned for blown head gasket. He kept it for another day and a half of testing & trouble-shooting, and ruled out the head gasket, said he thinks the head gasket is fine. He directed me back to the dealer with a copy of a TSB from 2012, for a problem with the ECM (ECM Update for on-board diagnostic system for the engine coolant thermostat). He said he is pretty sure that is the cause of the problems. Today I dropped it off at the dealership and they said they'd take a look.

Any insights, ideas, words of wisdom, past experience with this issue? I tried looking for answers online for my model and problem and didn't come up with much.
 

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Outback 2011 3.6R Premium
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Gurgling is typically caused by a low coolant level in the radiator. When the coolant is low in the radiator the engine will overheat.

When changing a thermostat the cooling system needs to be “burped” to remove all air from the system or guess what, the engine will overheat. You cannot use any aftermarket thermostat in a Subaru and if your mechanic did not use a Subaru thermostat or an OEM equivalent (Mahle etc) then this will also cause cooling system problems.

At a guess you have a small coolant leak somewhere (check the radiator hose clamps at both ends of both the upper and lower radiator hoses and the heater hose clamps) and this small leak caused the gurgling and subsequent overheating problem.

You need to have the cooling system properly burped and then check the radiator AND overflow bottle EVERY day (when engine is cold) and top up the coolant as needed. If the coolant level keeps dropping, you still have a leak that you need to find and fix.

Once the coolant level stops dropping check the radiator AND overflow bottle every week for a few weeks to ensure there is no further coolant loss. Once you fix one leak it is not uncommon for another leak to appear soon after.

Seagrass
 

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2001 VDC/SC One of a Kind
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All shops do not understand how to check for HG problems in a boxer. The way the block and heads are decked, they assume a typical HG failure similar to inline and V engines looking for oil/water mix or checking for gases. Neither is part of the equation with a boxer. It's been shown many times on this forum that a breech in the HG doesn't always result in gases in the coolant at a level to react with the gas tester.

Depending on how hot the engine got and whether or not it has MLS HG installed, it is possible to create a breech with a single overheating event. So keep this in mind.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Ah well... after several days at the dealer, they called to tell me that there is a very small leak in the head gasket, small enough that it did take them a while to find it, but big enough that it's the cause of the problems. He did say that they also reset the ECM as per the TSB, because that was needed anyway, even though that wasn't the cause of this problem.

The service manager recommended I should just give up, not bother fixing it because of the age, until I told him about the new transmission three years ago (and the new brakes, tires, and exhaust in the recent past). Also, when the tech did the 21-point inspection (for which they send you the video and talk you through it, which was really cool!), he told me that despite 240k miles on the car, most everything looked almost new and had very little wear and tear. So after we discussed it, the service manager said he changed his mind and recommended going ahead with the repair. He said I could probably continue to drive another 2-3 years, because it would almost be like a new car at this point, and still get a couple thousand trade-in value this way.

Hoping I made the right decision... although I feel pretty confident that I did. I've been driving my Outback for 4 years without a car payment, and for the cost of maybe 5 car payments, I can drive it another 2-3 years. Not bad, you certainly can't even buy an old junker used car for that price these days.
 

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2001 VDC/SC One of a Kind
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I suggest you ask him to put the EJ255 MLS head gaskets in rather than the OEM SLS. The cost for the gaskets are identical. Labor is nothing extra. They should have them in the shelf. Doing this will keep it from leaking oil in the future and it will help with any overheating events to prevent a HG breech.
 
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