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Discussion Starter #1
So my 2003 Outback 2.5 that I just got from my neighbor for a steal seems to be running fine however I noticed the exhaust smokes quite a bit and doesn't stop whether it's warmed up or cold.... now I am in Vermont and I've been waiting to see if it was possibly because of the super cold weather the past couple weeks but now the past few days it has been warm here ( high 40's low 50's ) and it's still every time I start it and run it it smokes like a chimney.

Here's the thing... I got the receipts showing head gaskets were done however not a year ago as i was told but in 2015 however the car has hardly been driven in the past couple years.. literally the yearly inspection runs out the end of this month and it has only been driven 1,000 miles since last inspection. It doesn't seem to be using oil or coolant ( as of yet, of course I haven't driven it even 500 miles yet and it did have a fresh oil change documented 300 miles ago).

Could this be the head gaskets failing again? Anything I could do to keep it from falling apart... Overall to me it feels and is running good for a 2003 LOL it has power and throttle response, no CEL or any other issues just smoking out the exhaust more than I am used to with my Ford focus... but maybe that's a Subie thing that I am not used to. Thoughts??
 

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Is the exhaust a nornal color? And thickness of the smoke normal? Any puddles of liquid on the ground where you park?
 

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I doubt it has anything to do with the head gaskets.

It is more likely than someone has put a thin mineral based oil in the engine. I would try changing the oil to a full synthetic 10W40 oil and see what difference this makes. Synthetic oils produce far less smoke than mineral oil.

Seagrass
 

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Normal head gasket failure on these is an external oil leak, so I wouldn't go jumping to that conclusion.

What color is the smoke? White = Coolant, Blue = Oil, Black = fuel.

Does it happen at idle? While driving? Wide-open-throttle?


It's not "normal", but if it runs well, and you're not loosing much of the fluids, I wouldn't worry too much about it at this stage.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Is the exhaust a nornal color? And thickness of the smoke normal? Any puddles of liquid on the ground where you park?
It seems thick to me. seems like thicker white clouds of smoke as it idles... no puddles that I notice.
My Focus doesn't smoke at all hardly or isn't noticeable... not like this outback...
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I doubt it has anything to do with the head gaskets.

It is more likely than someone has put a thin mineral based oil in the engine. I would try changing the oil to a full synthetic 10W40 oil and see what difference this makes. Synthetic oils produce far less smoke than mineral oil.

Seagrass
Sounds good! They had the oil changes done regularly at a local shop and I'm sure it was cheapo thin oil... I was thinking of changing all the fluids just to be safe anyways. Thanks.
 

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I run cheap conventional 5w30 in my Outbacks (my 4-cylinder one has 330k miles on it), and they don't smoke a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Normal head gasket failure on these is an external oil leak, so I wouldn't go jumping to that conclusion.

What color is the smoke? White = Coolant, Blue = Oil, Black = fuel.

Does it happen at idle? While driving? Wide-open-throttle?


It's not "normal", but if it runs well, and you're not loosing much of the fluids, I wouldn't worry too much about it at this stage.
White smoke. smokes at idle and while driving as I have noticed... it's just a little alarming to me as everything else seems pretty good and I'd like to keep it as a beater for a while as long it lasts longer than a month LOL... just don't want to have to do the head gaskets any time real soon.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Normal head gasket failure on these is an external oil leak, so I wouldn't go jumping to that conclusion.

What color is the smoke? White = Coolant, Blue = Oil, Black = fuel.

Does it happen at idle? While driving? Wide-open-throttle?


It's not "normal", but if it runs well, and you're not loosing much of the fluids, I wouldn't worry too much about it at this stage.
When you say external oil leak on these... what do you mean? Oil leaking on the ground... Oil pan... oil in engine bay? Just curious. Thank you.
 

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First, I would not jump to any negative conclusions. If the combustion system is efficient, a lot of water vapor will appear in the exhaust, so in cold air temps will appear as white smoke.

Smell the exhaust. If it smells sweet there may be coolant vapor mixed in it.

Perhaps the valves seals should have been replaced when the headgasket work was done.
 

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White smoke. smokes at idle and while driving as I have noticed... it's just a little alarming to me as everything else seems pretty good and I'd like to keep it as a beater for a while as long it lasts longer than a month LOL... just don't want to have to do the head gaskets any time real soon.
White smoke would indicate coolant/water. This is a very uncommon failure for these engines.

I'd drive it and watch those fluid levels closely to see what you're loosing, how much, and make sure you aren't getting any oil/coolant mixing.

When you say external oil leak on these... what do you mean? Oil leaking on the ground... Oil pan... oil in engine bay? Just curious. Thank you.
Oil leaks out of the engine past the head gasket, and drips on the ground (and/or engine crossmember, blowing back on the bottom of the car as you drive). As long as you don't let it run out, this will not leave you stranded.
 

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a bad head gasket job maybe could make exhaust stink like coolant, or oil.

but just white smoke,....could just be the ambient vapor getting sucked up into the exhaust pipe as the car / engine cools. and then it takes a long time of running to get shoved back out.
I had a VW 30 years ago that would actually make a thick cloud as big as the car when I parked it outside on 20F nights. = a rabbit 1.6 gas engine, nothing wrong. just the weather / exhaust and engine temps on particular days / nights.

But in response to your thread title: as Alfred E Newan use to say, "what me worry?
(just get another EJ251, 2003-2004 leg / leg outback engine out of a local VT rust bucket if need be,...plenty with head gaskets done correctly in a car that is ready for the shredder.....avoiding any weirdo 2004 Ej259 = see build plate under hood on shock tower)
 

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If it's smoke from coolant it will smell a little sweet from the ethylene glycol. If it only smokes when it's cool that's just steam.
 
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