Subaru Outback Forums banner

1 - 8 of 8 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Had my 2011 Outback (4 cyl) serviced for a long road trip, asked them to give it a good full check. It had been driving fine and I know for sure there were no oil or anti freeze leeks. Had 104K miles so they did the timing belts, the water pump and all the stuff that goes along with that. They also replaced the battery and the leads as they found much corrosion. Told me otherwise car was in great shape. 1 week later and less than 500 miles later we overheated on the trip. Got lucky and found a mechanic who replaced the thermostat and filled the system. Made it to our destination, about 320 miles. Parked and did minimal driving for 2 days. Checked frequently, no leaks. Headed home and about 250 miles in, overheated. Got to a Subaru dealer and need new head gaskets. When it was overheating, we saw fluid had backed up and vented out of the reservoir but no leaks coming from the engine. From what I have learned it sounds like it may have been leaking out of the exhaust and the exhaust being pumped into the cooling system caused the backup/bubbling in the reservoir? My questions on what I am wondering and what I have read so far – 1. Based on the miles it had, The Outback's known Head Gasket issues and the battery corrosion issues, should the dealer have checked for Head Gasket issues when I had it in for the timing belts, etc? And if so, could/should they have found something? I’m stranded 7 hours from home now and wonder if they should have found this and fixed it prior to my trip. I'm now dropping $2400 on top of the $1800 a week ago, would have been nice and I am guessing cheaper to get it done all at once and not end up stranded 7 hours from home. 2. Could anything they did in doing all that work have caused the Head Gasket issue, or is the timing just a coincidence? Thanks...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
67 Posts
The problem with most coolant systems is that they operate at a pressure (usually ~20psi). At that pressure, fluid leaks can show up that are not present when the engine is cool (and pressure in the system is at zero). If the mechanic was reputable, I'd venture that he did nothing wrong and that this problem was coming no matter what.

When a headgasket leaks and you see no outward signs of fluid leaks, the pressure pushes coolant into the combustion chamber and it goes out the tailpipe after being flash vaporized. If fluid is backing up into the reservoir, it means that there was a pressure release somewhere in the system, and that due to that release of pressure, water was allowed to boil, with that gas displacing the water in the system and forcing it out somewhere else, in this case, the reservoir.

There is really no way to check for headgasket issues without either water showing up in the oil or steam coming out of the tailpipe. Occasionally loss of compression can show it but that's special circumstances for that issue. I have a small amount of coolant disappearing every three months (about a cup or two). In a sealed system, it would not be disappearing, so I know because I have no leaks it is going somewhere. Unfortunately, dealers have standards that say if fluid consumption is not above or below X amount (same thing for oil consumption) they are not required to do anything to fix it unless you want to pay for it.
 

·
Registered
OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
Joined
·
12,391 Posts
*** How did they verify the headgaskets are blown? What if it's just a leak and got low on coolant? I mean it sounds like it is if it happened twice to two mechanics, but best to be sure.

What we don't know is:
A. did the headgaskets blow and then cause the overheating?
or
B. did the car overheat and then blow the headgaskets?
we will likely never be able to answer that question so there's a lot of unknowns.

***Bubbling in the overflow tank is almost meaningless by itself - it could just mean it's boiling , or it could be exhaust gases pushing out, those are two different things that are easily confused if you're not well versed in discerning the difference.

Had 104K miles so they did the timing belts, the water pump and all the stuff that goes along with that. They also replaced the battery and the leads as they found much corrosion. Told me otherwise car was in great shape. 1 week later and less than 500 miles later we overheated on the trip.

2. Could anything they did in doing all that work have caused the Head Gasket issue, or is the timing just a coincidence? Thanks...
No...yes...sort of...unlikely..... if the coolant wasn't properly filled then the low coolant or air pockets in the cooling system would have caused overheating, which then caused the blown headgaskets.

But this would have likely happened immediately, not after 500 miles. If they have air pockets they generally leak quickly.

the more likely scenario, if this was causative, was they compromised something which leaked - like a radiator hose which were removed for the water pump job. after loosing coolant over 500 miles the car overheated and then blew a headgasket.

but we will never know - doesn't sound like the second mechanic or the current shop diagnosed any leaks and we don't know what happened in and around the failure and time the symptoms presented.

1 week later and less than 500 miles later we overheated on the trip. 1. Based on the miles it had, The Outback's known Head Gasket issues and the battery corrosion issues, should the dealer have checked for Head Gasket issues when I had it in for the timing belts, etc?
You can't test for headgasket issues if no symptoms are presenting. They did nothing wrong there.

I'm now dropping $2400 on top of the $1800 a week ago, would have been nice and I am guessing cheaper to get it done all at once
You are correct - you're paying for all the timing belt labor over again - it has to be removed to do the headgaskets.
 

·
Registered
OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
Joined
·
12,391 Posts
I would make sure the current shop:

1. uses Subaru headgaskets
2. resurfaces the heads. most dealers don't, ask them to specifically only resurface the heads.

that is standard practice of all the major, best known Subaru shops in the country. you don't want them to "check the heads" - there's nothing to check, it's archaic for shops to still throw around the terms "straight edge" and "check for warpage", which are nearly pointless on that engine. they can't check the surface finish and the heads always have high and low spots and fire ring markings.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Thank you for that detailed reply. The dealer in Georgia was great and had us back on the road mid morning yesterday, said they stayed late Tuesday night and took care of it. Pretty great service to take care of that job in 1 day for someone who is not a regular client. Now I hope it just doesn't happen again :). Pretty aggravating that a car that has been maintained by the dealer to dealer spec's and has had all servicing on time blows it's head gaskets to the tune of $2500 at 104K miles. Thanks again - appreciate it! Tom
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Yea so I guess now it was just bad luck & timing. The day the timing belt/water pump work was done I drove home about 40 miles with no issue and drove it the rest of the week with no issue (though I drive less than 10 miles per day). Probably had 80 miles or so on it "post work" when we took off on the trip. The 1 thing that made me suspicious was that the Monday after the timing belt work I thought the car smelled "exhausty" when I started it up, and both on the way to and home from work. Thought that was weird and was going to call the dealer if it continued, but on the little driving I did the rest of the week I did not notice it. Not being mechanical I did not see any possible relation between the work they had done and an exhaust smell but reading some of these forums made we wonder if that could have been a sign of a vaporized leak out of the tailpipe. I know nothing was leaking in liquid form to the ground because I have a new cement driveway and with what that dang thing cost us, I always check it to make sure nothing has leaked :). I was also checking below the car when we were in Florida to make sure we were not leaking on out friends driveway (and we were not). Thanks to you both for your responses. Tom
 

·
Registered
OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
Joined
·
12,391 Posts
wise - that's a freaking mess it happened like that, but your best bet is to just chalk it up to an outlier of bad luck and carry on.

the burning smell could have just been residual coolant burning off the engine/exhaust/hot surfaces. when they pull the coolant hoses or water pump for the replacement some benign amount of coolant is going to trickle somewhere and then burn off later.
 

·
Registered
2011 Outback Limited 2.5i/2018 Crosstrek limited
Joined
·
4,645 Posts
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Top