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DIY 2001 Subaru Cylinder Head Gasket Replacement

143929 Views 116 Replies 27 Participants Last post by  greengoblin68
Hi everyone,
Yes, I'm new to posting on this forum, but trust me, I have poured over the threads and used this site on several occasions to fix my 2001 Subaru Outback, standard transmission, 2.5L SOHC 4 cylinder engine. Finally, at over 160K, my subie has developed the famous external head gasket leak. Yes, drivers side, rear. I have oil weeping from the seam, coolant in the back. Yes, I have strange odor. The coolant in my reservoir is still green but seems to be leaking more than the oil in my engine (which is not milky). I know what I need to do, the question is whether or not I can do it myself. I'm strongly inclined to try, but this would be the biggest automotive repair project I've ever tried. I've been studying these forums and reading and rereading my Haynes guide. My Haynes is going to be the step-by-step for my actions, specifically Chapter 2, Section 12 (Cylinder heads - removal and installation). Most of the instructions on this refer you to other manual sections, which I've spent the last two weekends just reading, looking and planning, and I think now is a good time to ask a couple of questions.

1) TDC vs. camshaft sprockets. Haynes instructs me to find Top Dead Center of the #1 cylinder by adjusting the camshaft pulley with a breaker bar while a compression gauge is in the sparkplug hole. I have a pretty good idea where this is already (the marks are still on the pulley from an earlier timing belt change), but I will run through the procedure anyways. I'm not really sure what to look for on the compression gauge though. Are there any play-by-plays out there for what to do exactly? Next I take off my drivebelts, then after a few other removals, Haynes recommends using a chain wrench to hold the pulley while loosening the crankshaft pulley bolt. I'm not sure about using a chain wrench here. Does anyone have any comments or alternatives? I feel like I'm going to have to wrench the heck out of the crankshaft pulley bolt. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I get even ONE tick off of TDC I'm screwed here correct? Last question on this point, and I feel like I have a big knowledge gap here, but after removing the pulley and the covers and the timing belt guide, the next step is to "Turn the crankshaft and align the marks on the crankshaft sprocket, the left camshaft sprocket and the right camshaft sprocket with etc., " Won't this throw off my TDC? I'm hugely concerned about this, if you respond to nothing else, please advise on this.

2) Camshaft removal - after removing sprockets, valve covers, CMP, rocker arm assembly, tb tensioner/bracket, and dipstick Haynes says to remove the "camshaft end cap assembly" then "remove the camshaft carefully from the cylinder head so that the lobes do not nick the journal bores. Remove the camshaft oil seal and the end plug from the camshaft end cap assembly." Is this it? There are no diagrams, no photos. I'm just really vague on what to expect when I get in there, what it will look like.

3) Unforeseen difficulties - I'm planning on being methodical. In fact, I will be photographing EVERYTHING, labeling EVERYTHING with tags and I writing EVERYTHING down. When I'm done, it will be posted. Promise. I'm planning on having to buy some tools. Of course I'll need a torque wrench, spark plug remover, compressor gauge, chain wrench, and pin wrench. I have a wrench set, socket set, hammer (just kidding). I also plan on replacing the left/right valve cover gaskets, spark plugs and, of course, cylinder gaskets. I guess I'll need new cam seals too. I have some money for unforeseen expenses, I have a little time, a place to work. Is there anything else that I'll need that you can think of? Has anyone who has followed the Haynes (or Chilton. . .it's about the same) done this before and found out that something just wasn't covered properly? I want to get everything I need, then do this all at once. I want to keep this car running a while longer, I also want to learn about what is under my hood. Thanks for all your help.
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<<It is also not necessary to completely remove the intake manifold. Once the intake manifold bolts are off, each side can be lifted high enough, either by a helper or a couple of heavy black rubber bungy cords. There are locating pins on the head that stick up (to locate the intake manifold gaskets), so you must lift to clear those when re-installing the heads.>>

JB, i cannot thank you enough for this bit of info. it literally cut out over 70% of the work in removing the right head. unbolted the manifolds and dropped it right out. and the intake manifold gaskets drop right out on both sides (even the left side, where we left the head in place) and at least in my car, don't look like they left any crap bonded to the head or manifold.

one thing i was surprised by was how much torque the head bolts took to remove.....i was straining really hard with a 1/2" breaker bar. never run into head bolts that were this tight on any other vehicle. and i think for the reinstall, i'll buy the special head bolt socket.....a 12 point 14mm fits and works, but doesn't fit well and chews up the bolt heads.
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i was more worried about rounding off the heads....ASA you apply serious torque, the socket wants to try to ride up the bolt head even if you're pressing it in place. i think you're right on the cause of the "felt" like similar "dissimilar-metal-and-not-previously-disassembled" situ.s i've hit before.

i wasn't aware of a special socket either but think there must be one. if i can't find one, will go buy some better quality 12-points....was using Ace Hdwe set, pretty similar to Crapsman quality. in past cases of difficult fasteners, using Snap-On or Matco etc grade tools makes a difference in being able to get stuff loose without rounding off or chewin up bolt and screw heads. i ordered a new set of head bolts to be on the safe side.

i've definitely learned something here. never would have thought you could bend valves turning it over on the wrench, but i measured the stems on the intakes at about 5.5mm diameter....great for reducing recip weight and consequently for revvability, but the tradeoff is comparative fragility.

JB, just spoke with the Allwheeldrive guys and they confirmed that there's no special socket, so i guess i do need to just get the better set of 12 points.
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OK, i done made another mistake i should know better than. i noticed the blue paint on one end of valve springs when i was pulling em out but didn't think anything of it, just assumed that was the mfgr's color coding for spring static length or tension.

now i go to reinstall and notice that these are variable rate springs, where one end has much tighter coils than the other, presumably to avoid valve float at high rpm's. except Stupid here didn't note which end was up when they came out. can anyone help me out here? do the closer-spaced coils go towards the head or towards the retainer? Haynes is of course no help here....manual doesn't even discuss removal/installation of the valves.

OK, thanks! that's what i suspected, as the springs normally compress from the top down (ie, the tightly wound coils will be the last to compress), so i'm sure your info is still correct for MY2002 engines. just feel better having the confirmation.
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