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I hear the first generation Outbacks have had problems with failing head gaskets. I am wondering of head gasket failures are more common with cars that do not get their gaskets inspected regularly? I am looking at getting a used first generation Subaru and the head gasket will be the first thing I will ask about. But it seems that what I have heard are a lot of people complaining of head gaskets failing at 80K and causing $2000 worth of damage. I inspect my gaskets roughly with every other oil change. It doesn't take long to do and can be added to any routine maitainance trip to the shop. I am just wondering if the concern on the head gasket for the Outback truly is genuine, or is it just more about being a little more vigilant with inspecting?
 

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I've said it here before as have many others, the Head Gasket problem is an issue with a minority of the 1st Gen. Outbacks, not a majority. If it were more of a problem a recall probably would have been issued years ago due to all the customer complaints.

Of course you are going to hear/read more about the bad gaskets than the good ones, because people love to complain but no one really ever praises their engines (except for most of us here at this board!)

My '97 just crossed 147.5k, I bought it with 127k. As far as I know, it never had the problem, I never got to speak with the original owner. But the service record online at my.subaru.com shows no gasket replacements, at least none that were reported by any shops.

I'd say as long as things look good, the gaskets look healthy, there are none of the tell-tale signs of oncoming failure, then you should be OK.

Talk to the prev. owner if you can about how well they maintained things.
I think you'll be in good shape.
Early 2nd Gens are really coming down in price now that they are 5 years old, maybe you would consider one of those instead. The higher price tag might save you in the long run...
But, I love my 1st Gen. I love the way it looks and performs. If it was a woman, I'd marry it.
 

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it is true for any car, but things that use cast iron engine blocks instead of bolted-together aluminum assemblies for the engine are less terminally affected. this is inherent in design and materials, and has been the death of many Subs even waaaay before the Legacy was introduced.....either letting it get low or letting it overheat due to not servicing the coling system when needed or even failing to change your coolant when the anti-corrosion stuff in it gets used up.

as you correctly note, just stay on top of it, change coolant as needed, and shut it down before it hits the red zone. :)

no one really ever praises their engines (except for most of us here at this board!)
uh, have you ever signed onto any of the VW bus/vanagon boards and read the happy comments of the guys who've done the 2.2 or 2.5 conversion....? one character was amazed...suddenly his vanagon didn't burn oil, could max out the speedo, and got 23 mpg cruising at 70-75. :) :)

in fact, VW's experience with their "wasserboxer" motor (another water cooled bolted-together alum block boxer 4) is instructive on how relatively trouble free Subies are...the wasserboxers were infamous for cooling system problems, often leading to major engine dmg :(
 

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The_Lizard said:
Just don't ever let it run low on coolant and overheat.
Let me first say that doing this is not a guarantee to avoid headgasket problem. Ask me, I know.

Despite all my problems, I really do like this car and engine.
 

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FMGreen said:
I'd say as long as things look good, the gaskets look healthy, there are none of the tell-tale signs of oncoming failure, then you should be OK.

I hate to get to basic but, what are the tell-tale signs?
 
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