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2006 Outback 2.5 5MT Limited
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've had a 2006 Outback Limited 2.5 5MT for the past 3 years. It's primarily used for schlepping hikers and bikers to trails on the weekends, so I'm only putting about 5,000 miles on it each year. Currently it's sitting right around 130k miles, and I'm reasonably certain that it could use a head gasket replacement. I'll smell burnt oil wafting from the engine bay after a long drive, the oil filter is oily, and there is a little drip happening onto the splash guard. Nothing staining my driveway yet, and I'm only having to add a half quart every 1000 or so miles to keep it at optimal levels.

I plan on picking up a newer Outback in the not-too-distant future, so I'd rather not spring for a new head gasket if it can wait. My question is, in general, how risky is it to drive it for the next 12 months/5000 miles as is, with a couple of quarts of oil and a bottle of coolant in my emergency kit for any needed top-offs? The temp gauge has never ventured above the halfway point, and everything else seems to be functioning properly. Will the leak gradually get worse, and am I being foolish and cheap by limping my weekend warrior along like this?
 

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Outback 2011 3.6R Premium
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2,491 Posts
This question is often asked and results in numerous and differing responses.

My daughters 2004 Impreza had the same symptoms as your vehicle and she drove it for around 2 years and 20,000 miles with normal scheduled maintenance and oil top ups as required (similar to yours).

The head gaskets have a coating and it is this coating that fails which results in an oil or coolant weep, typically at the rear of the engine on the drivers side where the head and engine join.

Seagrass
 

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On the Gen 3's the "typical" HG leak was oil & coolant, or coolant to combustion chamber. So look to see if the oil has a "milkshake" color, or if there is oil in under the radiator cap. One caveat, it is somewhat normal for condensation to gather in the crankcase, especially in winter, with short drives that doesnt evaporste the water Combustion chamber leaks are indicated by constant bubbling from a filled radiator while the car is running. Can confirm with a combustion gas check (Attaches to radiator, dye changes color when combustion gases are present)
Based on how you've described it, sounds to me more along the lines of a valve covers, or possibly camshaft seal. To check that, you can by a 1 oz bottle of leak dye at a parts house, and a $10 black light camera. Pour the dye in the oil, and drive a couple of days. When you are certain you have leaked some oil, shine the black light around the engine compartment (and under too) You should be able to see the source of the oil fairly quickly
 

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Super Moderator
Outback 2011 3.6R Premium
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2,491 Posts
On the Gen 3's the "typical" HG leak was oil & coolant, or coolant to combustion chamber. So look to see if the oil has a "milkshake" color, or if there is oil in under the radiator cap. One caveat, it is somewhat normal for condensation to gather in the crankcase, especially in winter, with short drives that doesnt evaporste the water Combustion chamber leaks are indicated by constant bubbling from a filled radiator while the car is running. Can confirm with a combustion gas check (Attaches to radiator, dye changes color when combustion gases are present)
Based on how you've described it, sounds to me more along the lines of a valve covers, or possibly camshaft seal. To check that, you can by a 1 oz bottle of leak dye at a parts house, and a $10 black light camera. Pour the dye in the oil, and drive a couple of days. When you are certain you have leaked some oil, shine the black light around the engine compartment (and under too) You should be able to see the source of the oil fairly quickly
Sorry this information is misleading. The typical Gen3 head gasket failure was an external weep of coolant or oil at the rear of the engine (mainly on the drivers side) where the head and engine join.

There are also reports of combustion chamber gases in the coolant and/or coolant in the oil but this is not a “typical” failure until there have been multiple “overheating events” of the engine.

There are reports from many forum members of their vehicles having no coolant in the oil AND their vehicle passing a test for combustion gases in the coolant BUT subsequently finding they had failed head gaskets.

Seagrass
 

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2008 OB Limited 2.5i, Portland OR USA
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I think 5000 miles and 12 months is a pretty safe bet, given what you've described abut how far along this is .

It would be great if sellers could recoup the cost they put into HG repairs, so that it would all come out in the wash; sadly, this isn't usually the case - and uninformed buyers unually are the ones left on the short end of the transaction, having paid too much for an undisclosed HG problem, then having to turn around and repair it themselves.
 
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