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2008 OB XT Limited; 2002 Impreza 2.5TS
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

I have a 2002 with a head gasket problem: Bubbles in coolant reservoir, and it smells like coolant when it's hot, but I can't see any leaking (the smell seems to come from the exhaust).

I'll try the pour-in snake oils, but I'm not optimistic.

If it requires a new head gasket, then I would not do the work myself.


The car is 16+ years old, has 95,000 miles, and is our "beater" third car — we've only driven 2,600 miles in the last 15 months, and we only drive it locally.
There's body damage, and it would've been a $500 car if I sold it in good condition. With the bad head gasket, it's probably a $50 car.

So, I'm torn between spending the money ($1,500-$2,000?) to have it fixed, or just driving it until it stops, or giving it away to some charity.

Thoughts?!
 

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Premium Member
03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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has it ever had the timing belt system serviced? if not, it's 7 years overdue for that.

has it regularly or severely overheated? if so, HGs could be a waste - spend the money for that service, then 3 weeks later a rod bearing fails.

if you have combustion gasses in the coolant - don't waste time/money on ANY fix-it in a bottle. If it was only dripping/seeping externally, - maybe - .
 

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I simply cannot abide useless people.
2006 2.5i and 2002 3.0 wagons.
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12,304 Posts
An internal HG leak is rare on a 2nd gen, but not completely unheard of.

Try the Subaru conditioner only, much less cloggy than Bars and other sealers.

I think you could still get $500-$1000 for it as a mechanic special.
 

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2008 OB XT Limited; 2002 Impreza 2.5TS
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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks, guys.

It's actually an Impreza 2.5TS, but the motor is the same, and this is a better forum than NASIOC (and I also have a '08 OBXT).

Blue book is <$1,000, and with the driver's side doors smashed in, I can't imagine that I could sell it for more than $500... Not worth the hassle. I would give it away to NPR or the NRA or somebody.

I haven't done the timing belt — I'm looking at mileage, not age, and it's not due yet (120,000 miles, right?). Otherwise, the car is solid, and I don't drive it much, so the upside of paying to have the HG done is that I might be able to run this car as a beater/runabout for several more years.

So, far, it hasn't overheated, at least not that I've noticed, and I'm generally very aware — I have an aftermarket oil temp gauge, run a ScanGauge (with real coolant temp), and I'm the only one who drives this car.

It's due for a coolant change, so I'll do that this weekend and use the Subaru/Holt's conditioner. I did that years ago when I had an external coolant leak, and it actually stopped the leak...

I'm already anticipating that it won't fix it, though, so I'm trying to figure out what to do next...
 

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06 OBW 2.5, 05 Forester, had 03 H6 OBW
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NASIOC has some good niche information, maybe the constant churn there keeps that info 'near the top'. ;)
 

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2008 OB XT Limited; 2002 Impreza 2.5TS
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Discussion Starter #6
Confession: I did post over on NASIOC.

I've been a member over there since I bought the Impreza in 2001...

My sense is that NASIOC is more "I was running 30psi of boost and blew my motor" kind of threads...


I guess I'm just looking for a sounding board.

If I didn't like the car, or if it had other problems (even on the horizon), then it would be a slam-dunk to dump it.

If I needed the car, or if it were worth way more than the repair, then it would be an easier decision to fix it.

I'm afraid I find myself somewhere in the middle...
 

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03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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TB system service interval is 105K miles, or 105 Months, whichever is first.

it's an interference motor too.
 

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OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
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That's a $1,500-$2000 without a headgasket leak and $500-$1,000 with a headgasket leak.

People looking for sub $2,000 A-to-B vehicles routinely ignore body damage, which is nearly a non-issue at that price range. You rule out maybe 25% of buyers in that price range, and that's it. Although maybe in image conscious california it's different, LOL?
With tax returns piling in, someone needing a car that runs or they can fix or has friends that can help them fix it (been there, done that) might find it appealing.

The coolant conditioner generally won't help internal leaks, and if it has exhaust gases being pushed into it you run the risk of internal build up from the localized heat/cool/pockets cycling. So that's a tough call.

I would maybe look into:
1. removing the thermostat
2. getting a vented cap

I've nursed internal leaks along a few thousand miles like that which could mean 1-2 years for you. But it varies - not all internal leaks respond the same way to those items, so there's no guarantee it will work or won't work better than others have fared.

More than likely this engine was repaired before. Those are more prone to additional failure modes like internal failures.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
TB system service interval is 105K miles, or 105 Months, whichever is first.

it's an interference motor too.
Yeah, I know, but I don't see how a belt wears just sitting there...

And it's going to take me another 4 years to get to 105K, at the rate I'm going.


That's a $1,500-$2000 without a headgasket leak and $500-$1,000 with a headgasket leak.

People looking for sub $2,000 A-to-B vehicles routinely ignore body damage, which is nearly a non-issue at that price range...

I would maybe look into:
1. removing the thermostat
2. getting a vented cap

I've nursed internal leaks along a few thousand miles like that which could mean 1-2 years for you. But it varies - not all internal leaks respond the same way to those items, so there's no guarantee it will work or won't work better than others have fared.

More than likely this engine was repaired before. Those are more prone to additional failure modes like internal failures.

I'm not going to sell it with a bad head gasket, period... Of course I would fully disclose the problem, but even then, I don't want to deal with a buyer blowing the motor and coming back. I'll give it away and write it off.

I've owned the car since new, and this engine's never given me any trouble, except an external coolant leak years and years ago.

I feel almost morally obligated to give it away while it's still running, but on the other hand, if I could nurse it along for another six months or a year, then that would be nice.

Of course, I'm also starting to look forward to having a bunch more space in my garage.
 

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03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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changed belt and idlers and tensioner on my WRX at about 9 years, under 70K miles.

2 idlers were very dry and crunchy, one of those was a little wobbly - the toothed idler. That's the one that usually fails. Belts usually last longer than that idler.

would it have lasted another year?, 2 years?, 4 years? dunno, glad I did the service.

I mentioned it because, in addition to any other repair, it needs that service. It may help make your decision.

Is there a high school or tech school near you that teaches auto repair? might be a good donation for them.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I mentioned it because, in addition to any other repair, it needs that service. It may help make your decision.
I appreciate that...

If this were one of my daily drivers, then I'd be more eager to put time/energy/money into things like changing the timing belt.

Since it's now a beater, and since I only use it locally, I haven't been eager to deal with something like the timing belt.

Realistically, I probably wouldn't bother with it until at least 105k miles and that's years and years away.
 

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2002 3.0 VDC Wag + 2018 2.5 Leg Ltd
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with a rust free 2002 bug eye impreza TS wagon, that was blowing bubbles.

I would get a used engine if I wanted to keep it,

or just sell it as is listing it as needing a engine, someone will probably want to drop a bench built turbo engine in it.

and the next time you see it, it will have a humongous aftermarket scoop on it,

and you will be happy someone is enjoying it.

_____

and you can show them your 2008 Legacy H6, or 93 RX7,....or 95 Cadillac Fleetwood,...or good old pickup for home depot runs.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
just sell it as is listing it as needing a engine, someone will probably want to drop a bench built turbo engine in it.

and the next time you see it, it will have a humongous aftermarket scoop on it,

and you will be happy someone is enjoying it.

Well, if I give it away, then I don't have to deal with CraigsList or whatever, and it'll wind up the same way...

The charities that take old cars just put them up for auction.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
That is exactly how belts wear besides actually using it. Tires degrade over time and rubber ages out exactly for the same reason.

LOL, you guys are convincing me that the timing belt is a ticking bomb, which makes me less and less inclined to fix the head gasket...
 

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Well, if I give it away, then I don't have to deal with CraigsList or whatever, and it'll wind up the same way...

The charities that take old cars just put them up for auction.
your local NPR station probably participates in the car talk vehicle donation program.

found this right on my local NPR station: https://www.cartalkvdp.com/

don't like NPR,
I have bought donated trucks at auction listed as from the purple hearts veterans, and when I looked them up they looked OK to me.

("kars for kids" is apparently kind of $$$ odd).

______-

and anyone buying at auction can kind of assume there "maybe" something wrong. charity might get $600 for it when it passes over the block. ($1000 if the rice cooker turbo people are chomping at bug eyes that day).
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Yeah, I like CarTalk enough to give them my car.

I don't want to talk politics, but the NRA has a similar program.

There are lots of 'em nowadays...
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Oh, I forgot. The power steering leaks, too.

I think I'll change the coolant again, add the conditioner, and maybe try one or more of the magic elixers on the market...

If that doesn't work, then I'll feel like I've done enough, and I'll give it away.
 

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Oh, I forgot. The power steering leaks, too.

I think I'll change the coolant again, add the conditioner, and maybe try one or more of the magic elixers on the market...

If that doesn't work, then I'll feel like I've done enough, and I'll give it away.
before you put in a magic = CLOGGING elixir in

you might get a pressure test, looking for porous lines sucking air.

or a bad thermostat needing a OEM, or a bad rad cap needing a new OEM. (the pair of those might be $30 together).

______

before you put the magic elixir in,..
..you should call the
"donate me flat bed". as you are giving the present or new owner nothing but a clogged boat anchor.

last report from the ECU after the clog will be


 
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Discussion Starter #20
byou might get a pressure test, looking for porous lines sucking air.

or a bad thermostat needing a OEM, or a bad rad cap needing a new OEM. (the pair of those might be $30 together).

OK, tell me more... Given that I'm not seeing puddles of coolant, and I can smell burning coolant — my car stinks when I park it — is there any chance that my problem is a thermostat?

Keep in mind, I haven't actually had any overheating problems, and when I topped off the radiator last night, it wasn't very low.
 
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