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Discussion Starter #1
Hello, First post on this great forum. 2005 Outback H4 with 96000 miles. Oil accumulates in recesses on top of the engine, passenger side. Not coming from oil sender unit, or PCV valve. Could it be coming from anywhere else, besides the head gasket? It's not the valve cover gasket either. Thanks for any help.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
No. Not using any fluid, plus I can see that area pretty well. I can't see the H/G seam because of the intake and other stuff on top. But don't know where else it could be from. Are there pressurized oil passages in the top of the head gasket?
 

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Are there pressurized oil passages in the top of the head gasket?
Leaks at the oil pressure sensor and the power steering pump are by far the most common source of oil on the top of the engine. I would encourage you to double-check these possibilities before looking toward the head gaskets.

In answer to your question, there are passages at the top, one on each side, that provide pressurized lubrication to the valve lifter assembly. However, based on the innumerable posts I've read about HG problems, external leaks are invariably evident at the back or bottom, not at the top.

The only time there have been HG oil leaks at the top, as far as I can recall, was when the HG was incorrectly installed during replacement, and the pressurized oil passage was being blocked by the gasket. With that, oil would be forced out past the gasket and come out near or on the top.

Attached is a diagram of the oil flow with the two passages identified by arrows.

The 2006+ engines have variable valve lift mechanisms that are controlled by solenoids and sensors on the heads. There have been reports of failures in these devices leading to oil leakage. The right side VVL solenoid and sensors are at the upper rear of the head. The oil leaks from these could collect on the top (initially rear) of the engine but again, tend to run down the back of the head.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I understand why you guys suspect a P/S leak, but I really, really don't think that it is. I've been watching this for weeks now, and have mopped up oil from the front recesses several times. I never have seen or felt oil on the P/S pump/hoses. Plus, the level in the P/S reservoir has not budged, even though I've mopped up many teaspoons of oil. And the engine oil level has dropped.

Also, it's dry around the pressure switch, so I don't think that's it either.

Replacing the head gasket without stopping the leak would really suck. I'm not gonna dig into it right away, but I don't know what else it could be. I'll keep watching it. Let me know if you guys have any other ideas, or if you still think I'm wrong on this. Thanks for all the comments.
 

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I've read of one person that had an odd mis-routing of valve breather and PCV hoses. But he didn't have any oil accumulating - jus missing, plus an odd gurgling sound from the dipstick tube while idling.

I dunno, clearly it's engine oil from your description.

Perhaps a trip to the car wash to degrease and spry-clean as much of the engine's top area as possible. Then, start wiping down as much 'stuff' (hoses, surfaces, under/behind things, etc.) as possible with clean paper towels - looking of course for new oil. Might be tricky as I'm sure you'd pick up a lot of old grime as well.

Is there a fluorescent dye for engine oil?
 

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. . .have mopped up oil from the front recesses several times. . . . many teaspoons of oil.
Can you provide more information as to exactly where the oil is pooling? I know it's rather crowded in that area, especially a few inches back from where the p.s. pump is, but more detail might enable us to compare to our engines to see if there's something we've missed. If you can post some photos, that would be helpful.

I've attached a photo of the area just behind the p.s. pump on my 07 2.5. Perhaps you could explain where the oil is pooling using this as a reference.
 

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I own 4 Subarus. A 95,97,02 and a 14. The first two are 2.2 and the last two 2.5.
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I vote for the PS. When my PS was leaking and pooling oil on the passengers side of the engine, the PS looked dry because of the way the air swirls around the engine. I finally changed the PS because I couldn't find any other source.

Problem solved. Besides the PS costs peanuts.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I'm attaching a photo. I'm not sure how well it turns out. Oil ends up around where it says "JAPAN", and in all the crevices around there. All the unseen crevices to the rear of this spot are filled with oil. It seems to spill over from the rear recesses to the front.

I sprayed it all down and cleaned it up a few weeks ago. At first I thought it was gone--no oil in the front visible recess for many days. Then after a week or two it came back. I think the rear recesses filled up and spilled over to the front. I still think it's engine oil, and coming from the HG area. I'm just hoping that one of you guys could convince me otherwise.

I wish it was PS fluid. But I doubt it, or the reservoir level would go down. And I'm pretty sure a leaking pressure switch would be evident after cleaning.

Thanks for all your comments. I hope I've answered your questions. Please let me know if you guys agree with the HG leak, or if you think I've got this wrong.
 

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When the head gasket failed on one of my 1998's, It leaked oil into that area that you are describing on top of the block. Oil also leaked into the cooling system in great quantity, which is where I first discovered the problem. No coolant leaked into the oil.

As you described, the rear passenger block-top area seemed to fill up and then gradually overflow towards the front.

Perhaps what has happened to your engine and mine is unusual, but it does seem to happen. BTW: my PS was not leaking either. I confirmed all of this by removing the engine from the car.

Norm
 

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I'm just hoping that one of you guys could convince me otherwise.
I have to say that I was hoping that too.

The fact that the more rearward recesses fill up first moves the source to the rear, and does lead to the possibility that the HG is leaking in the area of that oil supply passage that goes from the back end of the block to the head (for the lifters etc).

As I mentioned, as far as I know the only other source of oil in that area is the VVL system on the 2006+, which has a solenoid and two sensors in the upper rear area of the right side head. Oil leaking from these components usually runs down the back of the head, and because they are mounted on the head, it seems to me less likely that the oil would go over the head/block interface and fill block recesses without showing up elsewhere first. But just to be sure, attached is a photo of the VVL solenoid and pressure switch looking down at the back of the right side head. There's also an oil temperature sensor hidden in the photo. Perhaps check that area to confirm that your car does not have this.

Based on the layout of my 07, if the ignition coil is removed, it looks as if there would be a clearer view of the upper rear area that's in question. Probably redundant, but I guess "in for a penny, in for a pound" and I'd probably have a look.

Unusual, but as Norm pointed out, it can happen. I'm surprised we're looking at this in a 2005.

Hope you'll keep us informed . . .
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Mine doesn't have that VVL solenoid and Pressure sensor. So it can't be coming from there. I'll remove that ignition module for a better look next time.

I was hoping to hear of others with the same problem, confirming my speculation of HG leak (one post, Norm's, mentioned it on a 98). Have any of you guys with newer engines had this problem, and determined that it was from the HG?

Thanks for all the replies.
 

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Hi there.

I know it's been a while but I was curious if you ever diagnosed or fixed the oil leak? I have a similar problem in the same general area and wanted to ask for your resolution. Thanks in advance
 

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I've read of one person that had an odd mis-routing of valve breather and PCV hoses. But he didn't have any oil accumulating - jus missing, plus an odd gurgling sound from the dipstick tube while idling.

I dunno, clearly it's engine oil from your description.

Perhaps a trip to the car wash to degrease and spry-clean as much of the engine's top area as possible. Then, start wiping down as much 'stuff' (hoses, surfaces, under/behind things, etc.) as possible with clean paper towels - looking of course for new oil. Might be tricky as I'm sure you'd pick up a lot of old grime as well.

Is there a fluorescent dye for engine oil?
That's what I would do (clean the engine and observe) ... in the old days, I would steam clean the engine but I don't think steam cleaning is available anymore.... I wonder why....I was just looking for one (steam cleaner) not long ago....
 

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I recently posted the same problem and I wonder what the outcome was. I have an 07 and those pictures could just as well have been mine. :)
 

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Were you ever able to figure out what was causing this leak? I am having the same problem with my 2006 outback. I have replaced the pcv valve and have been watching the power steering, but neither seem to be the problem. Please let me know!
 
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