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I have a '98 Outback wagon purchased new with about 54,300 miles on the odo. It has been trouble free until last week when the engine was lugging in first and second gear. To make a long story short, I took the car into a local independent Subie shop who said that the timing belt needed replacement. There were a few other items (leaking power steering, parking brake, belt replace placement) that needed repaired. He quoted me a low $2000.00 and suggested doing the head gaskets as well. I gave the OK and the final bill was almost $3800.00. This did include the full head gasket deal (water pump, cam seals, timing belt, tensioner, idlers, thermostats, plugs), new a/c and alternator belts and a new clutch kit as well as fixing the power steering, parking brake oil and coolant. Was this a fair price or even worth doing given the age of the car? It was kind of sticker shock to get the final bill.
 

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Ouch...

I think your mechanic decided you were his christmas bonus. While the price is in line with general retail for the work listed, I'd be bothered by the jump from the estimate to the check-out. That's the only part of your story that bothers me.

It does seem like a lot to pay on a '98, but on the other hand you probably now have the best '98 Outback on earth. You probably won't be able to recover that value if you sell it anytime soon, but you're likely to get another 8-10 years out of it. Amortized across that schedule, you're doing OK.
 

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very expensive lesson - move on and ask here first next time.

But - you got a new clutch and proper timing belt job - pulleys, tensioner, water pump, etc. So you're hopefully good to go for awhile now.

Generally it's a good idea to consider EJ25 headgaskets if the engine has to come out for something else - like clutch in this case. Otherwise they shouldn't be touched without a compelling reason.

Since the timing belt has to come off to do the headgasket, it sounds like you were double charged for the timing belt labor - the original timing belt quote and then the headgasket quote. Normally you pay for a headagasket job and then just parts prices for a timing belt since it has to come off anyway - there's no additional labor at all to replace the timing belt during a head gasket job. An hour (or two if you're really lazy) to replace the sprockets, tensioner, pulleys, water pump, and seals tops....that stuff is all easy once the belt is off.

Headgaskets run $1,200 - $1,500 at Subaru, should be $2,000 with a clutch job and new timing belt (already has to come off so almost zero extra labor) as well. $800 in parts, and ancillary stuff you had done and it should have come in about $1,000 less than you paid in my opinion.
 

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very expensive lesson - move on and ask here first next time.

But - you got a new clutch and proper timing belt job - pulleys, tensioner, water pump, etc. So you're hopefully good to go for awhile now.

Generally it's a good idea to consider EJ25 headgaskets if the engine has to come out for something else - like clutch in this case. Otherwise they shouldn't be touched without a compelling reason.

Since the timing belt has to come off to do the headgasket, it sounds like you were double charged for the timing belt labor - the original timing belt quote and then the headgasket quote. Normally you pay for a headagasket job and then just parts prices for a timing belt since it has to come off anyway - there's no additional labor at all to replace the timing belt during a head gasket job. An hour (or two if you're really lazy) to replace the sprockets, tensioner, pulleys, water pump, and seals tops....that stuff is all easy once the belt is off.

Headgaskets run $1,200 - $1,500 at Subaru, should be $2,000 with a clutch job and new timing belt (already has to come off so almost zero extra labor) as well. $800 in parts, and ancillary stuff you had done and it should have come in about $1,000 less than you paid in my opinion.
Here is the price break down: the labour was $1842.20, parts $1635.03, sublet (whatever that is) $150, sales tax 128.42.

The labour charges were: $102.67 for the diagnosis, $30.80 for the rear brake adjustment, $1,437.38 for head gaskets (including timing belt, idlers, tensioner, cam seals, water pump, thermostat, reseal of oil pump and replacement of rear separator plate), 205.34 for reseal of the power steering pump, head milling (what is this?) $150.00, spark plug replacement $51.34 and $14.67 for hazardous material disposal.

The parts charges were for all the parts (head gasket, clutch, timing belt, water pump etc, etc, etc).

Does this seem reasonable?
 

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head milling is resurfacing the heads and yes they should be doing that.

it's already paid for and done so it was obviously reasonable enough for you to pull the trigger, so in some ways it was perfectly reasonable.

one thing about your engine is that those engines overheat randomly so while it wasn't needed it is nice to have it done assuming you never have headgasket issues.

colorado is a subaru rich state so they're everwhere. out here in the rust belt your car is getting old and they don't command as high prices, so the cost of the repairs seems higher too.
 
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