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Discussion Starter #1
So I know it's very short notice but I'm going to look at an outback tonight. Very nice looking car. I'm excited about it. This will be my first Subaru. It was between this car and an Impreza wagon. I like the larger car more I think.

I'm about to search the site for this, but are there any problem spots with the Outback I should look for? Any specific areas that rust or break or anything?

Thanks!
 

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So I know it's very short notice but I'm going to look at an outback tonight. Very nice looking car. I'm excited about it. This will be my first Subaru. It was between this car and an Impreza wagon. I like the larger car more I think.

I'm about to search the site for this, but are there any problem spots with the Outback I should look for? Any specific areas that rust or break or anything?

Thanks!
Primary thing is headgaskets. Do a search and you'll find tons of information on it and some ways to know if they might be going. From '96-'99, they all basically inevitably need them replaced at some point--usually it happens in the low to mid 100k mile range, but some go sooner and there have been a few that made it up to 200k or so.
 

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Thanks! The search got me lots of info. I didn't find a thread that said how to tell if it's going, just a lot saying how to detect if it's already gone. I believe this one is in very good shape, but I'll keep a close eye on the temp gauge. 117K miles isn't too high for a '99 I guess. Although it is right in the range of where you say the gasket may fail.
 

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For those old phase I engines, plan on the cost of hg repair. Make sure the deal still works financially with that extra burden.

Check the oil and coolant levels. Also check for gray or brown residue in the coolant recovery bottle- potentially sign of exhaust leaking through.

You can have a slow-failing head gasket in there and see nothing on the temp gauge until it gets quite severe, so you really ought to consider taking it to an inspection mechanic before signing papers.

A proper shop will be able to pressure test it and/or use chemical tests to detect exhaust traces in the coolant.
 

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Thanks! The search got me lots of info. I didn't find a thread that said how to tell if it's going, just a lot saying how to detect if it's already gone. I believe this one is in very good shape, but I'll keep a close eye on the temp gauge. 117K miles isn't too high for a '99 I guess. Although it is right in the range of where you say the gasket may fail.
Basically, if it hasn't been done plan on it going at some point.

Also, how about the timing belt? That should have been replaced at 105k. Because it's an interference engine, if the belt snaps you will do major damage to it. If it hasn't been replaced, do it ASAP.
 

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I'll ask if he has receipts for the timing belt job. I certainly don't want a failure, heading from FL to Cali in a week and need a reliable car! I did a quick search for head gasket replacement procedure, didn't find one. Is there one on the site, and for timing belt replacement. I'll search now, but if someone knows where to look...!
 

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I'll ask if he has receipts for the timing belt job. I certainly don't want a failure, heading from FL to Cali in a week and need a reliable car! I did a quick search for head gasket replacement procedure, didn't find one. Is there one on the site, and for timing belt replacement. I'll search now, but if someone knows where to look...!
I don't know if anyone has done a DIY thread for either one.

I did find this for the HGs: My Subaru Outback Head Gasket Repair Flounderings

Also, this does a great job of explaining the issues by model year: http://allwheeldriveauto.com/subaru-head-gasket-problems-explained/
 

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Outback HG and timing belt replacement

Hi. I wrote that blog post on the '97 HG replacement :). It also has pics of timing belt replacement in the photos link there; if you are doing HG replacement you have to take the TB off anyway, so might as well replace that too. TB replacement is a lot less work than HG since you don't have to take the heads and a lot of other parts off, but still is a lot of work.

However, I'm not aware of frequent timing belt issues on Outbacks. Critical component, but a lot of work to replace, so if it ain't broken...

Head gaskets on at least '96-2002 Outbacks are another story, as you now know. Maybe the most famous Outback issue and one of very few weaknesses of the old Outbacks. Otherwise great cars, although I dislike the new >2010 model; it's too big and looks like just another SUV. My '97 is still running great. Haven't done much to it since the HG work.

If you need to do DIY HG replacement, feel free to ping me for details.

Dave Baar
Photos, Dogs, Books, Cars, Calendars, Blog, and more
 

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However, I'm not aware of frequent timing belt issues on Outbacks. Critical component, but a lot of work to replace, so if it ain't broken...
It's not an issue unless someone ignores it. A belt with too many miles or lots of age can certainly snap. I've heard of it happening a few times. At the mileage this car has, it should have been done once already. If it hasn't, I wouldn't chance it--especially since the car is also 14 years old and age can do a number on the materials belts are made of.

Timing chains are another story, "if it ain't broke..." might apply more to those since there's no replacement interval on them.


Good write-up on the HGs, BTW!
 

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Outback HG and TB replacement

I agree with you re timing belts generally. I actually suspect that one reason that we don't see more TB failures in this vintage of Subaru's is simply that the HGs get replaced sooner than would a TB, typically around 60,000-120,000 miles, and most mechanics will simply put on a new timing belt anyway when they replace the HGs. They have to take the timing belt off to do the HG replacement anyway, so for the $50-100 cost of a TB, might as well put a new one on rather than put the old one back. Even this backyard mechanic did that :).

Cheers,
Dave
http://davebaar.com
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks a lot everyone for the replies. I didn't get to see the car Saturday afternoon because the seller canceled on me, then rescheduled for Sunday afternoon and he canceled again... So now I'm looking at an almost identical outback, '99 with 117k miles. I'll take the knowledge to this guys car! At least he's seeming interested in selling it to me!!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Found an '03 in a near by city and bought it last night! I'm pleased, has a lot of miles but it's runs great, no visible leaks on either head gasket and the coolant reservoir seemed clean, full of greenish/blue fluids, no oil or exhaust smells.

It's from Vermont so it's got a little surface rust issues underneath, but nothing seems bad. Is there a preferred method to taking care of the rust? I was going to just get a few cans of the rust stopper spray from local parts store.
 
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