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New member curious about head gasket issues

3534 Views 13 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Joester
Hello everyone,

I'm looking for a nice winter beater and daily driver as I complete my BMW project, and I was thinking about a Subaru.

Later today I am going to look at a 1997 Subaru Outback 5 speed with 200k miles. According to the current owner drives fine. I don't know what engine it has, the ad didn't say. He's asking $1800.

Doing some research, I've found that the 2.5L engines are not very reliable when it comes to head gaskets, but I'm not sure about the 2.2L models... One site I read said that 1997 didn't even come with the 2.2L option, and another site I read said that the 2.2L came in 1997, but only with the 5 speed transmission, so I'm pretty confused at this point. As far as I can tell, the 2.2L in 1997 was actually really reliable, but I wanted to confirm this. Seems like the 2.2L engines started having HG issues in 1999.

So what I would like is clarification on what engines came in 1997, and what engines are reliable.

I'm sure this information is out there, and I have done some searching, but I was hoping maybe someone could give me a cold hard answer to this issue.

P.S. - I am very mechanically inclined, and I'd have no problem doing a head gasket myself if needed, but I'd much rather not. The 2.5L is pretty much out of the question for me as far as I'm concerned. I'm just trying to find a cheap, reliable, AWD car for this winter and to drive while I'm working on my other car, so if you can think of any other cars that fit those requirements, let me know.

Here are some of the sites on which i was reading about head gasket issues

Subaru Head Gasket Problems Explained. - Seattle Subaru Repair

Head Gasket Problems - Subaru 2.5 liter engine - Phase 1 and 2

Thanks for any help.
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Also, are there any other common problem items on the 1997 models that I should specifically look at?

If you were shopping for a MK4 Volkswagen i would tell you to avoid the auto transmissions because they always fail, and to make sure the intake isnt clogged with soot.... stuff like that that is specific to a single car. I can check all the regular car stuff.
Thanks for the quick reply. I am just outside of St. Louis, MO. However, I have a car lift and can do all the regular inspecting myself... things like brakes, ball joints, belts, tie rods, etc. I just need to know if the 1997 2.2L was plagued with bad head gaskets like the later 2.2L and the 2.5Ls.
Thank you so much for your replies, guys. That really helped sort things out.

So i'm expecting it to be a 2.5L in the one I'm going to look at today. I don't plan on buying it, but I am still going to test drive it so I can feel how the outbacks handles and performs.

Is there a simple way to just look at the motor and tell if its an EJ22 or an EJ25? Different intake manifold or something?
okay, I will make sure to check for torque bind as well.

Thank you once again for all your help on a subject I'm sure has been covered thousands of times.
I went and checked out the car last night. Turns out the dealer had 2 outbacks! (well, one of them was just a legacy wagon but i forgot which one)

anyways, they had the green 1997 5spd with the 2.5L that i didnt even look at

They also had a red 1996 2.2l wagon with 212k miles. I drove it and it seemed to drive fine, but it had a blown CV boot, suspension was about 150k miles overdue, and the rear diff was leaking as well as something up front, so I'm going to pass it up. They were only asking $1500 for each though, so it wasn't really a BAD deal per say, but id rather spend a tiny bit more and have a nicer car.

Thanks once again for everyone's advice!
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