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Discussion Starter #1
EDIT: Just did the engine block sniff test and it's a head gasket... RIP. Gonna think on the next move for a while. Found a guy that would do the repair for/with me for $500, he knocked the price down from 600 when I told him I'd like to do it with him. He is a certified mechanic that got his experience in the military, seems good but still scary just because I met him outside of Auto Zone.

Its either that or dump in some BarLeak or other sort of cheap "fix" and see what happens. I won't shell out the money to send it to a mechanic, not worth it.

Thanks to all of you again for the help. Sadly it's another HG sob story.


ORIGINAL POST:
Just bought a 2002 H6 outback about 2 months ago, 180k miles on it. First car I ever purchased and plan to drive it until I get out of college and can afford something newer. I left it idling a few days ago for about 15 minutes in the hot sun before a 90 mile trip, stupid mistake just totally forgot about it. About 20 miles later I notice that the temp is in the red (first time it ever got hot for me) so I pull over and shut it off. Coolant is boiling, wait 20 minutes and do my best on the way home to keep it below the red.

I changed the coolant and thermostat when I got home and everything was working fine for 3 days. Interestingly, my CEL came on the same night that the repairs were done with a 'running lean' error, this shut off in about 48 hours. I know there's a HG problem with these models and I really hope that's not it but I could use some help in the diagnosis. As far as I can tell there is no bubbling in the radiator on idle, but it does seem to be losing coolant somewhere. If I take the radiator cap a minute after shutting the car off it shoots out a ton of antifreeze, not sure if this is normal because none of the other cars I've driven do this. I also don't think that it's pulling any coolant from the reservoir, I have seen the coolant in the radiator be low but the reservoir be totally full.

I tried a sniffer test the same day that I changed the coolant but the tester didn't fit my radiator cap. What do yall think, HG or something else? If it seems to be a HG issue how long do I have to drive and what precautions can I take to keep it running? I'm in college and can't really afford to take the $1000+ hit, especially on a car with 180k miles.

Thanks in advance for any help.
 

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Master Caster
2005 XT, Mildly Modified...2006 XT Limited, Highly Modifed
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I think you need to get coolant into the car and the air out. You definitely have air in the system. Stop taking the cap off when it's hot. That isn't helping, it's introducing more air into the system. You need to get all of the air bled out. Air in the system or low coolant was likely the cause of the 1st problem, or the auxiliary fans didn't come on when the car got hot. A car should never overheat while idling unless something is wrong.
 

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Master Caster
2005 XT, Mildly Modified...2006 XT Limited, Highly Modifed
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Thank you, I'll do that tonight.

EDIT: What makes you think there's air in the system? CEL?
Number one, because you opened it while hot. A coolant system is pressurized, when coolant get hot, it expands. The coolant system will pull a vacuum when it cools and this is what sucks back an forth in the expansion tank.

It is likely you didn't "burp"-"bleed", the system when you did the t-stat and coolant, correct?. I hope you used an OEM t-stat and NOT a cheapo from a parts store.
 

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It's common for these not to bleed fully.
I usually drive the front onto ramps, or at least uphill.
Cap off, heat as high as it goes.
I let it idle until it is fully warm, then rev it some. Hold it at 3k or so for a minute, rev it some, you get the idea.
Do this until you get no bubbling at all.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I did burp it but may not have nailed it. Will try again. Thermostat was OEM. Thanks.

So are we leaning toward not a HG problem? Still a noob when it comes to anything outside of normal maintenance.
 

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On the Super Mod Squad
2002 Pair: 3.0 VDC Wag & 2.5 Limited Sedan
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I did burp it but may not have nailed it. Will try again. Thermostat was OEM. Thanks.

So are we leaning toward not a HG problem? Still a noob when it comes to anything outside of normal maintenance.
H6 of 2001-2009 typically need repeat burping.

and any used car should come into your ownership with a new OEM rad cap and a new OEM stat right after.

is this a LLBean or a top dog VDC?
 

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'01 OBW 3.0 VDC 184,000 Miles '19 OB 2.5 Base <2,000 Miles - Formerly '14 Impreza Sedan 2.0 5spd 66,000 Miles at trade-in
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For your peace of mind and proper diagnosis, ease off the HG pedal for the time being.

Make sure it gets a thorough burp, A spill free funnel helped me- google them. I found one at a part store or wally and the small end of the funnel fits perfectly in the opening at the top of the radiator, nice and snug. It allows the coolant to expand as it heats up and you're burping it. Then on cool down it will be drawn back into the radiator, you top up as needed.

Make sure Rad cap is OEM and a new one could help.

Make sure the return hose in the reservoir is cut at a 45 degree angle and not sucking to the bottom. I believe @1 Lucky Texan and myself used a Zip Tie to cinch the return hose tight to where it connects at the Rad Cap- this will ensure the system is sealed at that point and prevent coolant coming out and air coming in from that point.

Bugs/mud/dirt blocking airflow through the radiator? If so, go to a self-service car wash with a pocketful of quarters and blast that junk out with the pressure washer.

Finally- FANS (my problem overheating an H6 at idle/low speeds) Pop the hood and force the AC on max with Re-circulation. Go back the front see and feel if both fans are running. If one is not spinning pop the black fuse box above the washer fluid reservoir. There are I believe 3 Relays for the fan operation. Do the horn test. Take the Horn Relay out and swap in the fan Relays and see if you can honk the horn on the steering wheel. I found 2 dead Relays with this method.

Finally Finally- Green Connector Test. The 2 fans have 3 speeds (low, medium, high) and both fans should run at the same speeds all the time. Low-Low, Med-Med, High-High. Possible that both fans are operating but 1 or both are not getting to the high speed needed to push enough air through the cooling system at low travel speeds and idle.
Green plastic connectors are under the dash dangling above/near the accelerator pedal. Clip them together and turn key to the On position, this will cycle all of the Relays in succession. Go to the front and listen for all 3 speeds of fan operation.


Do all of these and get back to us before even considering HGs again, your sanity will thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
is this a LLBean or a top dog VDC?
It's an LLBean.

Bgilly, that's an impressive response, thanks, and I'll go through that checklist. Ordering rad cap now.

Last night I tried to burp it for about 15 minutes and the bubbles slowed but never stopped... bad sign I know. When I get off work tonight I'll check it out and see if they still come.

Really appreciate y'all helping me out and making this process much less of a headache. Hope that it isn't all too bad in the end.
 

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'01 OBW 3.0 VDC 184,000 Miles '19 OB 2.5 Base <2,000 Miles - Formerly '14 Impreza Sedan 2.0 5spd 66,000 Miles at trade-in
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Did the rate of bubbles change under engine load? Once they slowed down did you rev it and see if they increased in frequency/size?
What color is the coolant? Bright Green or murky? Bubbles only means air in the system. Could be from the engine, but could just as easily be a crack/pinhole leak in the rad or any of the rubber hoses, which are presumably well aged and possibly rigid/brittle. Coolant coming out when hot/under pressure and air coming in when it cools and pulls some vacuum.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Went out and tried to burp it again, used a no spill funnel both times. In a day it was already low on coolant (maybe a fifth of a gallon, could still be from trapped air) and I noticed a drip right behind the passenger side tire that as far as I could tell was water. My guess is condensation of some sort, pretty slow drip. The reservoir has been gunky since I got it, a soob mechanic said not to worry about it but that goes against a lot of what I've read online. The coolant in the radiator is clean but it's also not even a week old.

When burping it tonight I noticed that the bubbles did pick up in size and frequency while revving. When its just idling it's small bubbles separated mostly 2 to 4 seconds apart.

The driver side fan won't kick on in the green connection test but it's relay is good. Obviously it's some other issue. For this I'll do my best to avoid traffic and stay at speed until I can get to a good mechanic. I don't mind getting my hands dirty, but with all the issues I may as well take it in to get a thorough check.

It seems that the car is in worse shape than I thought. Aside from an alternator replacement I had no issues until a week ago, now I'm noticing all of this at once.

I really appreciate the help from you guys, keep em coming if you have any ideas. I'll keep yall posted with any updates.
 

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03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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the green 'test' connector under the dash (usually near the steering column?) should cycle the fans on-off. If one fan doesn't work, it may be bad. If it does work, maybe the engine temp sensor or ???, is bad?

the way the 2 fans work is kinda odd but, with a/c on, I think they both should always be on...
 

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no Bar's leak type substance can work - pressures are in the wrong direction.

check into a JDM engine
 

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2001 VDC/SC One of a Kind
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I don't know about a $500 head gasket job on an H6. Maybe the guy doesn't understand the extent of the labor time and complexity of the repair. I charge $1150 for H4 HG repairs, and that's the low end cost.

Dito the JDM engine, cheaper and easier:
https://www.ebay.com/i/283006352704?chn=ps
https://www.ebay.com/p/03-09-Subaru-Legacy-Outback-3-0r-DOHC-V6-Engine-Auto-Trans-JDM-Ez30d-EZ30/1243772224?iid=253699207780&chn=ps
this one says 03-09, but it has the aluminum intake https://www.ebay.com/p/03-09-Subaru-Legacy-Outback-3-0r-DOHC-V6-Engine-Auto-Trans-JDM-Ez30d-EZ30/1243772224?iid=153069193284&chn=ps
https://www.ebay.com/i/192567339048?chn=ps

That's just a few of the many that popped up. True JDM engines will be low mileage, under 50K miles. Install new plugs, thermostat, serpentine belt, longer vacuum hose for the brake booster. You can remove your engine without disconnecting the PS, and AC. The accessory parts you don't need, sell em on Ebay, CL, or Offer UP. Put your engine up for scrap or parts (aluminum block $$$). Someone else may be able to use the block parts. You'll end up with a better engine and the cost will be lower than a mechanic outside autocrap guessing at what he's suppose to do for $500 after he starts, or walking away once he realizes he's over his head. Engine swap is a 1 day job for a DIY. :29:
 

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2002 Subaru Outback LL Bean H6
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I second the JDM engine over the head gasket repair. Had the same issue with mine.

Repaired the head gaskets along with some other repairs I found during the process and a month later my engine threw a rod bearing.

Wish I had just replaced in the first place and avoided the headache of rebuilding it just to throw all the work and money away.



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