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Discussion Starter #1
So I bought my car last Monday, everything looked good. I sniffed and eyed the coolant overflow bottle and didn't smell or see the signs of a bad head gasket. I took a look under the heads to see if there was any residue and nothing showed up. So I bought the car. It's been great. Drove from Orlando, FL to Texarkana, AR yesterday and once I got into towns and had to sit in traffic the car will begin to overheat almost instantly. I pulled into a gas station and sat for a few. When I restarted the car the temp was back down to normal operating range. Sat for no more than 5 seconds and the temp gauge started climbing to hot, pretty quickly. I started driving and the gauge moves just as fast back down to normal operating temp at anything about 35-40 mph.

Is this an air in the system issue? If so how do I burp it? I've burped cars in the past but not here. Sorry I'm sure there is a how to but I'm working on a crappy cell phone ans searching is painful!

If it's not air then would it be a head gasket or thermostat? I drove the car daily last week and never had any issues running errands around the city. I cannot say I've looked very hard for leaks yet, but didn't notice anything yesterday at the gas station I pulled into. And the coolant overflow was still full.

Car is a 2003 Outback wagon with around 156k miles.
 

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Make sure the fans run. Turn on the AC both fans should run. Probably wise to have tge therostat replaced subaru brand only thermostat. Cheap parts store tstats are known for doing this
 

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ditto subiesailor's suggestions.

In addition, if the gauge seems to start to rise soon after the car is started and idled, open the hood before starting and then check to see if the fans are on as soon as the temperature gauge makes even the slightest move above normal. This is to be sure that the ECM fan control responds equally to the apparent high coolant temperature as it does to the AC being turned on.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I took a drive today and ran some errands. First to the car wash, then to walmart, then dollar store, then another dollar store. Each stop I would sit for about a minute and watch the gauge, turn the a/c on and could easily hear the fans start up, turn the a/c off and watch the gauge a bit longer. No change, sat right at normal. Started home after my last stop and was giddy and happy, chalking it up to just the very long drive and hoping sitting overnight helped it. Soon as I was about to turn into the neighborhood waiting on some traffic to clear the overheating crept back... Got up to just under the top white line seconds before I parked. I left the keys on, engine off, and could hear both fans running, popped the hood and took a look, nothing leaking or hissing or smoking (evaporating). The radiator cap had good pressure, everything looked like it should except the engine running hot and the overflow bottle was about half as full as the last time I checked it.

I'll try to get a new t-stat this week. Is there a preferred dealer? Do I have to order through Subaru dealership?
 

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I simply cannot abide useless people.
2006 2.5i and 2002 3.0 wagons.
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You will want a genuine Subaru tstat, not an aftermarket one. They're made VERY different.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
understood. Is there a preferred dealer? I looked a "subaru parts" through a google search and kept getting crap from amazon and ebay.
 

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I simply cannot abide useless people.
2006 2.5i and 2002 3.0 wagons.
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I've ordered from http://subarupartsforyou.com/ with no issues.

Although there's a good chance the newer Stant Xactstat 48457 is rebranded OEM, they look identical. Can be found on Amazon and Rockauto.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Also, yesterday I went to walmart and bought a jug of coolant/antifreeze. I noticed the overflow bottle had emptied itself. I started the car and let it warm up, made sure the radiator was full and then refilled the overflow bottle. If I'm losing coolant, is that an indicator of another problem?
 

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00 Outback Wagon...269K 09 Legacy 2.5 Sedan...93k
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If I'm losing coolant, is that an indicator of another problem?
Yes...
FIRST...
Do a vacuum check...DON'T just do what many are in the habit of and start just throwing new(and unecessary) parts at a problem that may, or may not exist.

Hook a gauge up the the port just forward of the TB and look for signs of a HG or intake manifold leak. Look for a solid needle around 20" or so. If there's a leak, you may catch it using this as a preliminary test. Refer to
Technical Articles: Engine testing with a Vacuum Gauge - at Greg's Engine & Machine for a good tutorial.

This will be a good base check, and EASY to do.
If this test give an indication, then a compression check is in order to narrow down the location.

Pull a plug(passenger side, because it's easy) and look for signs of a coolant leak also(white plugs).
 

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2015 Subaru Outback Premium | 2007 Outback 2.5i
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Another thing to make sure you do - zero cost - is to make sure the system has been burbed properly/thoroughly.

Here's a video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQ-6EUdK6ac

This is the best thing to start with, especially if any work has been done that required the coolant to be drained/changed.

Then, you can borrow/rent the coolant pressure tester from Autozone/Advanced Auto to confirm you're not loosing anything (at cold temperatures) and proceed as others have suggested.
 
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