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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

My name is Andrew and I'm from central NC. I'm a member on several other car forums (including the forester one) but this is my first post here. I figured I would document my project and use this thread to ask some questions. Here's the stats of my project:

2002 2.5 Outback Automatic
Very clean exterior and interior
211K
New tires
New radiator
No AC
Timing belt and head gaskets were done about 10k ago BUT here's the kicker - previous owner busted his radiator and overheated the engine a few months ago. It's been sitting since. It has a new radiator now and cranks but blows billows of white smoke. Idle seems fairly smooth minus the smoke out the tailpipe. Classic coolant usage and sweet smoke smell.

I bought this thing for $320 with a clean title and am taking on the challenge of resurrecting it into a reliable DD. I want the whole thing to be under $1000 if possible. I'll be sourcing new gaskets obviously but everything else (including an AC compressor) will be used or from a junk yard.

Here's my first question: I'm obviously 99% sure the head gasket is blown. The car runs pretty well but how do I tell if there was further damage to the block? I will do the head gaskets myself and have them machined flat, I just hate to do all that work if there is an obvious other problem with the engine. Will a compression test tell me anything at this point or would a blown head gasket ruin the test?

Stay tuned. I'm new to subarus but a fairly knowledgeable shade tree mechanic so it should be an adventure.
 

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03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
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my concern would be if overheating event(s) were often/severe enough to cause bearing surface to be compromised. It would be disappointing to have rod knock show up 5 weeks after 'restoring' the car.

have you considered a JDM or junkyard engine swap?


I might consider sending an oil sample to Blackstone. If excess metals are found - that would be a red flag.
 

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2014 Outback 3.6R Limited w/Navigation & SAP
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I'd be concerned that the overheating could have warped the heads. Make sure they're OK before putting new gaskets on. Might want to consider replacing the head studs when you do the work, since they've been stressed.
 

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Lawn ornament XT
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Subaru heads rarely warp or crack. That wouldn't be a big concern of mine.

On the other hand, it's very common for an overheat event to cook the motor oil- eliminating or vastly reducing its ability to lubricate the bearings. Driving a half mile on a hot engine with overcooked oil is like doing 300k miles worth of normal miles in one monster shot- very hard on the bearings, and that's why you see a lot of these pull up with a burnt connecting rod shortly after a head gasket or radiator incident.

If you still have the oil that was in it during the overheat, send a sample to a lab. That could tell you whether it's worth anything to rebuild.

Apart from that the only worthwhile test I could think of is an oil pressure test- temporarily install a gauge and take readings at cold start, warm idle and warm 3k RPM. Scorched bearings can't hold oil pressure.
 

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if it runs - even poorly - Blackstone may be able to do something with the oil that's in it.

that is, if you KNOW fresh oil was put in say - 2 months ago, you let the lab know that, and they have massive historical data that lets them offer advice about how much iron or w'ever is 'allowable' in X miles/hours of operation. It's a data point with error bars like anything in life - but if they report "holy smokes that's a lot of iron!!!" - that might guide you to try something different than - "meh - iron's a tad high".
 

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Im trying to restore mine too, good luck my friend and welcome to the forum. Let me tell you this from experience these cars dont like generic parts buy OEM from a dealer.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
So I just checked the Service records and it looks like the oil was changed after the heating event and after a new radiator was installed. Looks like the previous owner put only a few hundred miles on since then - short trips that didn?t overheat it is what he told me. He just got tired of the smoke and was scared of the climbing temp gauge if he took it on the highway.

Will paying $35 and waiting a month really get me that much more info without the original heated oil? I?ll pull compression and oil pressure numbers tomorrow. Maybe that will help me out.

I?d love to start the HG job this weekend but don?t want to be foolish about it
 

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If you don't have the questionable oil around I'd probably skip that. Yes, they can still work out some neat info from whatever you give them, but I don't think it's valuable enough to wait.

Compression test will tell you about the rings and valves (head gaskets don't usually affect compression scores much in these) and then the oil pressure test will let you know what's left of the block.

Do you know for a fact that the oil is the correct grade? That can influence a pressure test, at least a little bit.
 

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Here's the project update for tonight:

1. Readings from a HF oil pressure gauge:
Startup: 74 PS - 5.1Bar - held for about 60 seconds then slowly fell
After 5 min: 14 or 15PSI and held steady

2. temp gauge held just under half for 10 min of idle

3. I tried to listen to the engine as carefully as my untrained ear could - it sounds a little louder than my '08 Forester but almost identical minus a squeakier belt. Definitely no knocks or recurring abnormal noises. a screwdriver to both heads just sounded like a sewing machine

4. I opened the radiator cap and no bubbles... just slowly overflowed

5. exhaust when compared to my 08 forester is just slightly "whiter" and has a totally different smell - sweet smell but it's definitely not billowing smoke.

6. One other odd observation- the fans never came on at all. Currently there is no AC belt on the car but shouldn't they come on at startup? Could this be causing overheating?

I'll pull compression numbers tomorrow but any thoughts on the above? Super thankful for your replies and the vast info on here. I appreciate it.
 

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What was the oil pressure once it was fully warmed up? Was there much change from what you saw at the 5 minute mark?

15 strikes me as a bit low. Not awful, but if it dropped further with more heat then I dunno if I'd spend more on it.
 

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sweet exhaust = that overheat caused it to start to leak coolant into the exhaust and most of it is getting burned up by the cat but not all.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Stayed at 15psi until about 10 min. Should I have let it run longer?

So you?re saying it?s pribably still burning coolant =head gasket? Or that the sweet smell is left over from heating incident?

Thanks
 

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Stayed at 15psi until about 10 min. Should I have let it run longer?

So you?re saying it?s pribably still burning coolant =head gasket? Or that the sweet smell is left over from heating incident?

Thanks
I would think residual stuff would burn off,

the rare subaru that I have seen dump coolant into the exhaust did it as soon as it reached operating temp.
(something turd EJ25D use to do when on their last legs)..
 

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If you elect to keep the engine install a new 10MM oil pump. I think the original was a 7MM that has insufficient flow. It may save your bearings if they haven't been too badly overheated.
 

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I looked up an old oil pressure test from my car:

95psi cold start
35psi warm idle
83psi warm rev/load

That was at 116k miles.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Yikes! that makes my 15PSI look really low but I've found several other posts stating that 15 is normalish. Haynes manual says 14 is the bottom range of normal. I've read several reports that full bearing explosion gives readings more in the range of 5-8PSI at idle. Would it be worth dropping the oil pan and checking for any big bearing pieces?

Compression results:

Dry - 149,150,149,151 scary consistent

Wet - In the ballpark of 185 (My readings got wonky because I think I got too much oil in the tester. I dont have an oil squirter so I just poured oil in the spark plug galleys and it became a very messy experiment.

My gut is that this 2.5 is obviously worn (200K) but not overly so. I'm tempted to spend a saturday and $150 worth of gaskets to give it several more years of life. I don't drive a ton so it won't see crazy milage from me. Is this crazy? I bet I can get another 50K out of it. I just don't know if I can justify a JDM motor, engine hoist, etc and be into this thing another $1200.
 

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Yikes! that makes my 15PSI look really low but I've found several other posts stating that 15 is normalish. Haynes manual says 14 is the bottom range of normal. I've read several reports that full bearing explosion gives readings more in the range of 5-8PSI at idle. Would it be worth dropping the oil pan and checking for any big bearing pieces?

Compression results:

Dry - 149,150,149,151 scary consistent

Wet - In the ballpark of 185 (My readings got wonky because I think I got too much oil in the tester. I dont have an oil squirter so I just poured oil in the spark plug galleys and it became a very messy experiment.

My gut is that this 2.5 is obviously worn (200K) but not overly so. I'm tempted to spend a saturday and $150 worth of gaskets to give it several more years of life. I don't drive a ton so it won't see crazy milage from me. Is this crazy? I bet I can get another 50K out of it. I just don't know if I can justify a JDM motor, engine hoist, etc and be into this thing another $1200.
no reason to get a JDM engine for this when they need head gasket work anyway.

easy to find a wreck or a rust bucket that has a USDM in it, head gaskets done, that you can pull and drop in. (just might take some time to find the "right" one)

edit: a EJ251 from a automatic legacy / legacy outback, 2000-2004 would be ideal (no swapping or alterations in parts,...except a 2003-2004 would need a plate over the EGR inlet hole).

Edit 2: If it gets that far.

..
 

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Yikes! that makes my 15PSI look really low but I've found several other posts stating that 15 is normalish. Haynes manual says 14 is the bottom range of normal.
Yep agreed. I'm sure mine would test lower than 35 today (185k current).

I've read several reports that full bearing explosion gives readings more in the range of 5-8PSI at idle. Would it be worth dropping the oil pan and checking for any big bearing pieces?
That's where it often helps to have the RPM or under load measurement. 5psi at idle is not that bad in terms of oil pressure, but only because it's at idle. The problem is when it stays low while you're actually putting some power through the crank, and when it is that bad yes the idle pressure will coincidentally be super low.

You can get that level of wear without any visible chunks, and that's why 1Lucky was talking up the oil analysis. More useful than a pan examination.

Compression results:

Dry - 149,150,149,151 scary consistent

Wet - In the ballpark of 185 (My readings got wonky because I think I got too much oil in the tester. I dont have an oil squirter so I just poured oil in the spark plug galleys and it became a very messy experiment.
Good results.

My gut is that this 2.5 is obviously worn (200K) but not overly so. I'm tempted to spend a saturday and $150 worth of gaskets to give it several more years of life. I don't drive a ton so it won't see crazy milage from me. Is this crazy? I bet I can get another 50K out of it. I just don't know if I can justify a JDM motor, engine hoist, etc and be into this thing another $1200.
I can't disagree with that- it's worth $150 and a day to try. Now you just need to hold that budget :)
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Good call - i'll take a measurement under load. I never thought of that and am a rookie.

If that number checks out, I think i'll go for it. Stay tuned I'll post pics and probably a funny story of a complete noob messing up. I'll be attempting to do the head gasket job engine in.
 
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