Subaru Outback Forums banner
  • Our 4th of July contest is live! Enter HERE for your chance to win a $400 Walmart gift card.
  • Hey everyone! Enter your ride HERE to be a part of this month's Outback of the Month Challenge!

1 - 14 of 14 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
12 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I own a 2011 Subaru Outback (2.5i) with about 105k miles on it. A week or so ago I was driving home from work (less than 5 miles, but uphill) and the engine temperature light started flashing red as I was just getting home. I popped the hood open and noticed that coolant was bubbling out of the reservoir.

I ran a block tester kit (from Napa) and it came back negative for me for a head gasket issue. I took the car into a repair shop and they said that they also got a negative (or very slightly positive) test from a similar test kit. They decided to run a gas analyzer on the reservoir tank for a more accurate result and they said that the numbers spiked indicating a head gasket issue.

From my understanding, the multi layer steel gaskets are not "supposed" to fail or at least not this quickly? I have no other issues aside from the one time overheating and noticing that the coolant appears to be bubbling/very minor boil in the reservoir tank after a drive up a 1-2 mile relatively steep hill on a hot day. No coolant loss or oil loss and nothing else that I've noticed aside from what sounds like rushing water from behind the dash when accelerating and the car is cold. They said the radiator pressure tested just fine.

The shop quoted me $2750 to replace the head gaskets :surprise: This seems quite high to me, would you all agree? Do you think this might be worth getting a second opinion on or perhaps just finding another shop to do the work? I really was hoping to not have to deal with a head gasket problem in this model year of Subaru.

Is it possible that a false positive hydrocarbon test could occur if I had used a funnel to fill up the radiator that had small traces of oil in it? I cleaned the funnel the best I could but it's still possible that it had some oil residue so I'm not sure how much it would take to trip that test.

Should I try something simple like replacing the radiator cap first or should I just assume that this is something that the shop would have tested? I'm just kind of at my wits end right now and trying to figure out what I can even do :(


Any and all help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!
 

·
Registered
2011 Outback Premium 6spd
Joined
·
29 Posts
1. It's probably a head gasket.
2. The funnel with a little oil in it wouldn't cause a false positive.
3. Never hurts to get a second opinion. Over internet diagnostics and opinions are always 100% correct.
4. I'd definitely get a 2nd price. Although it's probably easier to do an engine swap than a HG because you've got to pull the engine anyways.
5. Bubbling could be your exhaust being pumped into your cooling system. :( Probably not due to boiling the coolant. Pull the rad cap and start it. If cooling blows everywhere it's a HG. Geyser of coolant test. Causing 3rd degree burns since 1987.
6. I have no idea about the rushing water behind the dash without hearing it myself.

How long have you had it? Any idea why it'd pop a HG?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the reply!

5. Bubbling could be your exhaust being pumped into your cooling system. Probably not due to boiling the coolant. Pull the rad cap and start it. If cooling blows everywhere it's a HG. Geyser of coolant test. Causing 3rd degree burns since 1987.
The weird thing is that the bubbling does not happen unless the car has been running for a while and is very hot. No bubbling on initial startup or even after idling for 5+ minutes.

If I take the cap off and start the engine the coolant stays where it is.

How long have you had it? Any idea why it'd pop a HG?
I've had it for about 2 years now (I was the second owner). No idea why it the HG would fail. We do not drive it hard and we have not added a ton of miles to it since we purchased it. I always keep up on the maintenance schedule and it hasn't had any other major problems before.
 

·
Registered
2011 Outback Premium 6spd
Joined
·
29 Posts
do you have an OBDII bluetooth or wireless sensor that you could actually watch the water temps? How hot is "very hot". It only takes on trip into the red and it can require head gaskets. My Mitsubishi just had to be close to red and it was a HG job.

I hate the MPG gauge has been put in place of a temp gauge. :rage:

Yeah that sucks man. Sometimes a pinhole leak can occur out of no-where and go undetected for a long time. I'd take a poll of the shops from friends who drive Subaru and pick a recommended one and have them check it out.

A compression check might tell you if one cyl is losing a lot of compression. The fluid can dissolve some of the gas into it, maybe that's what's happening? IDK man. Hard to diagnose from here. A shop should be able to tell you 100% in about an hour. Price out an engine vs. heads too if you want to find a used engine somehwere.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I do have an OBDII device but of course it stopped working in the last month or so. I'm not sure how hot "very hot" is, I just know it takes more than just driving around even at highway speeds. It seems to be a combo of very high heat, hills and speed? Hasn't happened since the one time and I caught it very quickly.

Are you in Portland, OR too? Any suggestions for a good repair shop in the area? The quote I got of $2750 for the head gaskets is about $1000+ over everything else I see online for quoted HG prices.

I hate the MPG gauge has been put in place of a temp gauge. :rage:
No kidding.
 

·
Registered
1999 30th Anniversary Legacy Outback DOHC 2.5L 4EAT, 2008 Impreza WRX 2.5L 5MT, 2008 Impreza Wagon 2.5L 4EAT
Joined
·
1,224 Posts
Several independent Subaru shops in PNW. A quality head gasket job will pull the engine. At your mileage a full timing belt job makes sense since they have to remove all of that fo do the HGs.

Low coolant (slow leak) can cause HGs to go bad (ask me how I know)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yeah, I just had the head gaskets done about 6k miles ago so hopefully that won't need to be re-done but I guess they still have to remove it all.

Definitely confirmed it's a HG leak :( The block tester kit that didn't show a positive result a few days ago now shows a positive if I catch it after a 20 minute drive around town (back from the shop). Hopefully another shop will give me a more reasonable price.
 

·
Registered
2013, OB Limited, 2.5, dark gray. July 2016 - approx 55,000 miles.
Joined
·
52 Posts
Thanks for the reply!



The weird thing is that the bubbling does not happen unless the car has been running for a while and is very hot. No bubbling on initial startup or even after idling for 5+ minutes.

If I take the cap off and start the engine the coolant stays where it is.



I've had it for about 2 years now (I was the second owner). No idea why it the HG would fail. We do not drive it hard and we have not added a ton of miles to it since we purchased it. I always keep up on the maintenance schedule and it hasn't had any other major problems before.
First, I am the furtherest person from an expert, so this could be way off. The air could be entering the coolant from startup, but trapped on the other side of the thermostat until it opens.

As for complete engine swap, that is interesting, as eBay shows a 55,000 mile engine for $1750, so maybe for $2700 you could get an engine half as old, and then if you really want, you could do the head gaskets yourself at home on a stand? Then maybe that engine is worth $1000? I really don't know though ...

Good luck.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1 Posts
I have this same issue with my 2011 Outback. Troubleshooting drove me crazy, but finally took it into the dealer and they confirmed head gasket. The issue with mine was, as the engine warmed up to open the thermostat, there was combustion gasses getting past the HG and “boiling” the coolant. What it was actually doing was passing air into the coolant system to the point where coolant would not circulate, causing the overheating. During troubleshooting, experienced the coolant “geyser” :)

My dilemma is I’ve overheat a few times, not severe but enough to question how my heads are doing. Unfortunate thing is, won’t know until we jump in and start the HG repair. As this has the potential to be a $4000.00+ repair bill, (heads redone, timing belt, gaskets, etc) I’m thinking of doing an engine replacement myself. Found an engine with half my current mileage for $2500.00 and a 6 month warranty.

Seems like a no brainer if I’m gonna flog it anyway. Pretty done with Subaru at the moment. May try to hit up Subaru Canada for possible cost coverage, but warranty has expired.
 

·
Registered
. . Current daily driver is a 2017 Outback.
Joined
·
51 Posts
. . For the record I think the MLS gaskets are the dumbest thing Subaru has ever done. . And they keep doing it. . Either change the gasket or close the deck around the top of the cylinders like so many performance engines have. .
. . $2700? ? Be sure you are compairing apples and apples. . Are both estimates including new timing belt and components? ? Water pump? ? Oil, filter, antifreeze, spark plugs? ?
 

Attachments

·
Registered
OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
Joined
·
12,385 Posts
My dilemma is I’ve overheat a few times, not severe but enough to question how my heads are doing. Unfortunate thing is, won’t know until we jump in and start the HG repair. As this has the potential to be a $4000.00+ repair bill, (heads redone, timing belt, gaskets, etc) I’m thinking of doing an engine replacement myself. Found an engine with half my current mileage for $2500.00 and a 6 month warranty.
If you can swap an engine you can replace a headgasket.

Pull heads, resurface them install gaskets and reassemble. $200 in parts + resurface.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
131 Posts
I have this exact issue with a 2011 2.5, 176K miles and same symptoms. This happened on a trip 300 miles from home (Boston Metrowest) in Saratoga Springs, NY -- the Subaru dealer estimated 2500-4000 and I did the timing belt the first time @ 105K with and oem parts kit/water pump.

The car is otherwise in good shape and already had the dreaded torque converter fail, somewhat covered by Subaru. So do I fix it, swap engines, or junk the car? My gut tells me to fix it because I know the car and tires, breaks, etc, all in good shape.

I also just bought my Mother's low mileage 2013 OB with the new engine design, but a quick look at Consumer Reports and looking at this forum suggests that engine is headed for major Oil consumption problems, so that car doesn't seem like a keeper after the 100K powertrain warranty.

Meanwhile, my wife's now rusting 2007 Honda Pilot chugs right along with 0 issues besides needing a $10 A/C recharge I do myself at the beginning of the summer. Maybe it's time to move on from Subaru, they don't seem to be able to get to 200K without major issues.

If I had the car at home, I would get someone to help me pull the engine and do it all myself, so maybe i should just get the car transported back home and deal with it later. What a total pain.

Anyone have any thoughts on what I should do?
 
1 - 14 of 14 Posts
Top