Subaru Outback Forums banner
  • Hey everyone! Enter your ride HERE to be a part of this month's Ride of the Month Challenge!

1 - 20 of 60 Posts

·
Registered
2006
Joined
·
103 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

I know I posted about a possible starter issue a few months ago. That strange sound seems to keep happening. However, here is the latest. I had an oil change done about 2 weeks ago. Shortly after, the car was leaking oil in very small amounts. I took it back in and they found it to be a faulty filter and installed a new one. While under there, they noticed the left head gasket may be leaking.

Up until this morning, the car has been fine and not leaking a single drop. The last few days, we've had a nasty cold snap, like 0 for the low at night. However, I do keep the car in the garage where it stays about 30 degrees.

This morning I saw another leak spot, but this time it was the size of my palm. Now the last 2 weeks, the car hasn't dropped a drop of oil and the weather has been quite warm. Now that the weather has gotten FRIGID, I am seeing this oil leak.

Question, is it truly an oil leak or are we looking at a head gasket issue as was pointed out to me when I took it back in. The mechanic said that often, the head gaskets will leak with nasty cold temperatures. I did go under the car while she was on the lift and they point out the issue, but they are also unsure if it's actually the head gasket leaking slowly or if this is a faulty filter....again.

The oil spot is center under the car with one or two small drops off to the left.

The car just hit 93K and has not had the timing belt changed yet. Any thoughts on this would be very helpful. Please let me know if I need to provide further details.

Many thanks in advance.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,802 Posts
Hi all,

I know I posted about a possible starter issue a few months ago. That strange sound seems to keep happening. However, here is the latest. I had an oil change done about 2 weeks ago. Shortly after, the car was leaking oil in very small amounts. I took it back in and they found it to be a faulty filter and installed a new one. While under there, they noticed the left head gasket may be leaking.

Up until this morning, the car has been fine and not leaking a single drop. The last few days, we've had a nasty cold snap, like 0 for the low at night. However, I do keep the car in the garage where it stays about 30 degrees.

This morning I saw another leak spot, but this time it was the size of my palm. Now the last 2 weeks, the car hasn't dropped a drop of oil and the weather has been quite warm. Now that the weather has gotten FRIGID, I am seeing this oil leak.

Question, is it truly an oil leak or are we looking at a head gasket issue as was pointed out to me when I took it back in. The mechanic said that often, the head gaskets will leak with nasty cold temperatures. I did go under the car while she was on the lift and they point out the issue, but they are also unsure if it's actually the head gasket leaking slowly or if this is a faulty filter....again.

The oil spot is center under the car with one or two small drops off to the left.

The car just hit 93K and has not had the timing belt changed yet. Any thoughts on this would be very helpful. Please let me know if I need to provide further details.

Many thanks in advance.
The most common issue of oil leaks after a change is caused by the oil change shop removing the crush washer on the drain plug and putting a rubber gasket on it. The end result will be nice drips under the car on your garage floor.

Head gaskets rarely if EVER leak oil and you do not want a HG issue... So check all the simple and most common issues first starting with the crush washer on the drain plug being replaced with a cheap rubber gasket. Most oil change places know by now that subaru uses a metal crush washer and if they do not have any - its best to keep the washer thats on there on it given they generally can last a couple of oil changes before needing to be replaced. If they indeed used a cheap rubber gasket - swing by your local subaru dealer get a few crush washers toss them in the glove box. Then stop by the oil change shop and tell them you have oil leaking since they changed your oil and ask if they used a crush washer on the drain plug. If not hand them the crush washer and tell them ALL subarus use crush washers on the drain plug and to fix it.
 

·
Registered
2006
Joined
·
103 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
I have confirmed my shop uses the crush washer, not a rubber gasket. Could it be that I was the lucky recipient of two faulty filters?

So, if this is a head gasket issue (and it sounds rare), thoughts on what I should do? Should I invest the money and get the car repaired?

I do not want to buy a new car. I really don't. First, I can't afford the payments and second, I really love my car.
 

·
Registered
2004 Outback Wagon, 2.5, 4EAT, All weather package.
Joined
·
1,036 Posts
Chances are the cost of having the head gasket repaired will be a lot less money than the value of the car, certainly a whole lot less than a new car. While they are in there, have the timing belt/components and water pump replaced as well, that way you get all of the big expenses out of the way at once and save on labor since they only need to go in once.
 

·
Registered
2006
Joined
·
103 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Chances are the cost of having the head gasket repaired will be a lot less money than the value of the car, certainly a whole lot less than a new car. While they are in there, have the timing belt/components and water pump replaced as well, that way you get all of the big expenses out of the way at once and save on labor since they only need to go in once.
SE95, glad you brought this up. The last time I was in the shop, we spoke about this very topic. I was quoted about $2200 for the whole deal: changing the timing belt, water pump, oil pump, oil pan, head gasket repair, and what he called an "engine seal". To me, it sounded like I was getting a refurbished engine (for the lack of a better term). Does that sounds right? What else should they do while in there?

Question, I am in a bit of a financial pickle for a few more months. Can I let the car go as is or should I address this issue ASAP?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,802 Posts
First off - as I said HG issue rarely leaks oil. And if you suggest what the issue is a shop will say yes its a HG and be more than happy to charge you for a major repair.

The leak could be one of many things - valve covers common and possible, an oil filter simply not put on with enough grease on the gasket, they may have dumped some oil when refilling it etc etc etc.

If in deed the HG is leaking you can drive the car in that state for a long time AS LONG AS YOU check the oil on a regular bases and top off as needed.

If it is the HG number one thing to know!! The hands that do the HG replacement are just as important as the gasket its self!! You want a highly skilled shop with subaru experience and good customer feedback who will also warranty the HG work for 3-5yrs in writing!!! We see it all the time on this forum where people get HG's done poorly by some random shop and find they have leaky or much worse gasket issues a year or two later all due to the lack of skill of the tech who did the HG replacement. A good shop will charge you $1300-$1500 for the HG job and given you are almost due for a Timing belt they will suggest you do that while they have the car torn down. All of the pulleys and guides should be replaced when they do the timing belt replacement this will add about another $600 to your bill.

If the shop is GOOD! You will never have an issue with the HG again.

#1 Never tell a shop what you suspect the issue is - they will agree with you even if that is not the issue and its actually a minor low cost fix.
 

·
Registered
2006
Joined
·
103 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
First off - as I said HG issue rarely leaks oil. And if you suggest what the issue is a shop will say yes its a HG and be more than happy to charge you for a major repair.

The leak could be one of many things - valve covers common and possible, an oil filter simply not put on with enough grease on the gasket, they may have dumped some oil when refilling it etc etc etc.

If in deed the HG is leaking you can drive the car in that state for a long time AS LONG AS YOU check the oil on a regular bases and top off as needed.

If it is the HG number one thing to know!! The hands that do the HG replacement are just as important as the gasket its self!! You want a highly skilled shop with subaru experience and good customer feedback who will also warranty the HG work for 3-5yrs in writing!!! We see it all the time on this forum where people get HG's done poorly by some random shop and find they have leaky or much worse gasket issues a year or two later all due to the lack of skill of the tech who did the HG replacement. A good shop will charge you $1300-$1500 for the HG job and given you are almost due for a Timing belt they will suggest you do that while they have the car torn down. All of the pulleys and guides should be replaced when they do the timing belt replacement this will add about another $600 to your bill.

If the shop is GOOD! You will never have an issue with the HG again.

#1 Never tell a shop what you suspect the issue is - they will agree with you even if that is not the issue and its actually a minor low cost fix.
My shop only works on Subaru's and nothing else. I was not the one to bring up the head gasket issue. When I took the car back in for the oil leak, they brought me into the bay and under the car and showed me exactly what was going on. They said THEY suspected a head gasket leak because there was oil in the area (left side) where that head gasket lives.

They did put in a new filter, but they also said they have been having issues with the filters leaking oil.

What I don't understand is why when the temperatures were warm and the filter was changed after the initial leak, all oil stopped. Then we had this cold snap for the last 3-4 days and the oil is back, right in the same spot. Is the temperature just coincidental?

I simply went in for an oil change and now I have a car that seems to keep leaking oil. I've never experienced this issue and am beyond frustrated. :mad:
 

·
Registered
2006
Joined
·
103 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
First off - as I said HG issue rarely leaks oil. And if you suggest what the issue is a shop will say yes its a HG and be more than happy to charge you for a major repair.

The leak could be one of many things - valve covers common and possible, an oil filter simply not put on with enough grease on the gasket, they may have dumped some oil when refilling it etc etc etc.

If in deed the HG is leaking you can drive the car in that state for a long time AS LONG AS YOU check the oil on a regular bases and top off as needed.

If it is the HG number one thing to know!! The hands that do the HG replacement are just as important as the gasket its self!! You want a highly skilled shop with subaru experience and good customer feedback who will also warranty the HG work for 3-5yrs in writing!!! We see it all the time on this forum where people get HG's done poorly by some random shop and find they have leaky or much worse gasket issues a year or two later all due to the lack of skill of the tech who did the HG replacement. A good shop will charge you $1300-$1500 for the HG job and given you are almost due for a Timing belt they will suggest you do that while they have the car torn down. All of the pulleys and guides should be replaced when they do the timing belt replacement this will add about another $600 to your bill.

If the shop is GOOD! You will never have an issue with the HG again.

#1 Never tell a shop what you suspect the issue is - they will agree with you even if that is not the issue and its actually a minor low cost fix.
Subie, part of the cost I posted earlier did include all of the pullies and rollers as well. Does this sound reasonable for all this work? He needs the car for a full 2 days.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,802 Posts
My shop only works on Subaru's and nothing else. I was not the one to bring up the head gasket issue. When I took the car back in for the oil leak, they brought me into the bay and under the car and showed me exactly what was going on. They said THEY suspected a head gasket leak because there was oil in the area (left side) where that head gasket lives.

They did put in a new filter, but they also said they have been having issues with the filters leaking oil.

What I don't understand is why when the temperatures were warm and the filter was changed after the initial leak, all oil stopped. Then we had this cold snap for the last 3-4 days and the oil is back, right in the same spot. Is the temperature just coincidental?

I simply went in for an oil change and now I have a car that seems to keep leaking oil. I've never experienced this issue and am beyond frustrated. :mad:
Oil filter is a can - with a rubber seal on the top of it. When its cold rubber gets hard and less pliable and will leak. Sounds to me like the oil filter is leaking simply from you description of temp related and seems to be tied to when the oil gets changed. Not uncommon to need a fair bit of heavy grease applied to the seal on the oil filter to get them to seal especially when its cold out.
 

·
Registered
2006
Joined
·
103 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Oil filter is a can - with a rubber seal on the top of it. When its cold rubber gets hard and less pliable and will leak. Sounds to me like the oil filter is leaking simply from you description of temp related and seems to be tied to when the oil gets changed. Not uncommon to need a fair bit of heavy grease applied to the seal on the oil filter to get them to seal especially when its cold out.
Subie, you are calming my nerves quite a bit. Thank you. Now, it's supposed to warm up pretty good here in the next day or so (into the 50's). I am supposed to take the car back in this Friday. If I see the leakage stop, should I bother with taking it back in? In all my years of oil changes and Lord only knows I have tons (we all have), I think this has happened maybe once.

It definitely makes sense if the rubber is contracting and is less pliable, therefore not creating the snug seal it should. If it stop, let me know if I should waste my time taking it back in.

I really appreciate everyone's help.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,802 Posts
A good shop will keep a can of heavy grease laying around and on cold days where they have issues getting the oil filters to seal - they simply slap some grease on the seal and then spin the filter on. Most of the quickie shops never do this and the few techs at the quickie change shops might take some engine oil on a finger and run it around the gasket to try and help the sealing effort. But if its cold enough about the only way to get a rubber gasket on the oil filter to seal is to put some heavy grease on it. HG leak will not happen on just cold days or when your oil is changed. But leaky oil filters and drain plugs will do this.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18,722 Posts
Subaru recently had a run of bad filters, the genuine Subaru blue ones uses on the 2.5 engine. If the shop is using the genuine Subaru blue filter, it should check into this. They might have a box of them. See: http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums...80-important-potential-leaky-oil-filters.html

A head gasket that is leaking oil will not usually leave a palm-size puddle when the engine is off. You might see some staining around the head gasket, and occasionally a drop hanging down at the bottom, but it's not likely to leave such a large spot overnight.

Just "suspecting" the head gasket doesn't seem to justify the work. They should do a more thorough examination to see if perhaps there's a leak elsewhere. There's a number of other possibilities, including the valve cover gaskets, and the left side variable valve lift solenoid or pressure sensor switch.

Cold temperatures cause most materials to shrink. This could be allowing what was a tight seal to become less tight, allowing fluid to seep through. Any of the leak source possibilities discussed so far could be affected by temperature. Normally, they are tight enough to maintain the seal regardless, but if there's a fault, incorrect tightening, or as mentioned an incorrect part (gasket), things could be quite different.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18,722 Posts
But if its cold enough about the only way to get a rubber gasket on the oil filter to seal is to put some heavy grease on it.
subiesailor:

I don't understand how this could be a factor in this case. I would imagine that the shop is heated, or at least well above freezing, and so temperature should not be a problem. For that matter, I've often changed the oil and filter in my cars when the ambient temperature is near the freezing point (we have a long winter), and have never had to do anything special -- just the normal application of some oil to the gasket which is recommended at any installation, regardless of temperature. In any event, if the shop is a Subaru specialist, they would surely know how to install the filter so that it would not leak, barring a defect.
 

·
Registered
2006
Joined
·
103 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
Subaru recently had a run of bad filters, the genuine Subaru blue ones uses on the 2.5 engine. If the shop is using the genuine Subaru blue filter, it should check into this. They might have a box of them. See: http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums...80-important-potential-leaky-oil-filters.html

A head gasket that is leaking oil will not usually leave a palm-size puddle when the engine is off. You might see some staining around the head gasket, and occasionally a drop hanging down at the bottom, but it's not likely to leave such a large spot overnight.

Just "suspecting" the head gasket doesn't seem to justify the work. They should do a more thorough examination to see if perhaps there's a leak elsewhere. There's a number of other possibilities, including the valve cover gaskets, and the left side variable valve lift solenoid or pressure sensor switch.

Cold temperatures cause most materials to shrink. This could be allowing what was a tight seal to become less tight, allowing fluid to seep through. Any of the leak source possibilities discussed so far could be affected by temperature. Normally, they are tight enough to maintain the seal regardless, but if there's a fault, incorrect tightening, or as mentioned an incorrect part (gasket), things could be quite different.
Plain, my shop did say they were having a bad run with OEM blue filters. It could very well be this. As for the HG, it was a simply suspect due to what they saw. They have not confirmed this, again, all suspect.

As for the palm sized oil, it's not from the HG because it's directly beneath the car, not off the the left side where the HG in question is located. However, there was a tiny drop of oil on that left side. Who knows, perhaps the oil leaking just worked it's way over there and perhaps I'm exaggerating with the palm sized sample. What I'm trying to say is that the first time I noticed the leak, there were drops. Now, I'm seeing more oil in the same location where I park the car in the garage.

Subie, when I had the oil changed 2+ weeks ago and then the filter changed again, each day was warm. But it seems that when that nasty cold hits, it will start to leak.
 

·
Registered
2003 Outback Limited 2.5L H4 5MT Regatta Red Pearl w/ lift and audio system
Joined
·
1,255 Posts
Head gaskets rarely if EVER leak oil
Uh, Yes they do. Head gaskets can and do fail anywhere and everywhere. It happens on many cars and is common on Phase II EJ25s like the one in my '03. Both of my head gaskets were leaking oil out the bottom where the main oil passages are.

To radgirl. If the leak is that substantial, someone (the shop) should be able to find the source with no doubt. As plain said, head gasket oil leaks won't really drip unless the gasket is blown to bits (in which case it would leak like a sieve while running).

The fact that the oil is leaking directly below the engine may not mean much. If you look at the underside of your car, the lowest point around the engine is right at the bottom of the engine crossmember. Often the leaking oil will find its way to this point (as gravity will dictate) and finally start dripping because it has nowhere else to go. Don't take that as fact...because the leak certainly could be coming from the middle/back of the engine. The only thing I am trying to say is that leaks can be deceiving, and where the oil falls on the ground does not always relate to where it originated from.
 

·
Registered
2006
Joined
·
103 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Ok folks, so what do I do here. I take the car in Friday and then what? They simply change the filter again? Or do I waste the time and money for a full diagnostic?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,802 Posts
Ok folks, so what do I do here. I take the car in Friday and then what? They simply change the filter again? Or do I waste the time and money for a full diagnostic?
Option #3 - put your grubby clothes on and just take a peek under the car. A oil filter with a bad seal will have oil dripping off of it and making a mess. Couple of minutes just looking around will give you a very good idea whats going on. It's not rocket science and only requires a flash light - and a few minutes laying on the cold ground eye balling the under side. By the way the oil pan plug if its leaking will also have oil dripping off of it. If its not leaking it will be clean no oil given it gets blasted with spray from rain water when your driving on wet roads etc.

Leaky Head Gaskets will have oil running to the back bottom corners of the engine passenger side and or Driver side or both given your car has two Head gaskets one on each side of the engine. This is easily seen by looking forward from just behind the front wheels the bottom back corner of the engine both sides are easily seen by poking your head under the car from behind the front wheels looking forward in the direction of the engine. If its a mess oil etc you won't miss it - if its clean ie no HG leak then you won't see anything regarding oil mess (unless the valve covers are leaking) Which case the rear most corners of the heads will be a mess caked in oil etc. No HG leaks the rear most corners of the engine both sides will be fairly clean especially in the winter months where they get washed with road spray every time you drive the car in the rain.

Valve covers seals are cheap fix not a big deal but when they start leaking they can make a big mess and shops looking for a pay day wouldn't hesitate to turn a Valve cover seal ie cheap repair into a bigger HG repair if they were a little questionable on ethics.
 

·
Registered
2006
Joined
·
103 Posts
Discussion Starter #20
Option #3 - put your grubby clothes on and just take a peek under the car. A oil filter with a bad seal will have oil dripping off of it and making a mess. Couple of minutes just looking around will give you a very good idea whats going on. It's not rocket science and only requires a flash light - and a few minutes laying on the cold ground eye balling the under side.

Leaky Head Gaskets will have oil running to the back bottom corners of the engine passenger side and or Driver side or both given your car has two Head gaskets one on each side of the engine. Which case the rear most corners of the heads will be a mess caked in oil etc. No HG leaks the rear most corners of the engine both sides will be fairly clean especially in the winter months where they get washed with road spray every time you drive the car in the rain.
Thanks. I'll report what either I find or what the shop finds. I have more conflicting answers than not and it's best to find something definitive. However, I do appreciate the help.
 
1 - 20 of 60 Posts
Top