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2001 Subaru Legacy Outback
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Discussion Starter #1
2001 Legacy Outback. 200k miles and I can smell coolant. Mechanic told me there's a tiny head gasket leak. Car runs perfectly fine for now, I can just smell some coolant. I am going to add the "Bar's Leak" additive to see it it stems the issue.

So, I might sell the car with full disclosure and get another one with lower miles. Figure sell this for $1500 and spend $5000 to get a decent one with 80-120k miles.

Question: Does the head gasket issue get resolved in newer models? Is it worth paying $7-9k for a newer Subaru or should I stick with the 1999-2004 about $5k range, b/c all of them will eventually have gasket issues.
 

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If its a very minor leak - DO NOT PUT BARS LEAK STOP in the car! - Go to your local dealer or online subaru store and order a can of the conditioner that Subaru tells all 2000-2002 owners to use! Not the same thing as the Bar's junk that plugs up all sorts of stuff even things that are not intended to be plugged.

If the leak is very minor - and the car is never over heated or run dry of coolant - all you simply need to do is pull the head and toss on the updated ie corrected HG. Fairly cheap fix. My 2001 did this exact thing at 65K subaru swapped the gaskets and it was perfectly fine at 180K when we sold the car and got a new 2010
 

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06 swp Outback
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I have an 06 with 82k with zero issues. I haven't really heard of hg issues with the 05 and up outbacks.

I would not use a stop leak additive as it goes through the entire cooling system and may expand in other areas of the cooling system.
 

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Head gasket resolved?

I have a '06 Outback wagon w/o turbo and the head gasket went at 50K. They replaced the gasket with one for a turbo engine. Service manager said it was a better gasket. 80K with no issues.
 

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2004 Outback Wagon, Mystic Blue Pearl
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First off, MOD NOTE: Don't cross post, pick the best forum and post once. Post 4 identical threads in 4 different sub-forums again and you will be banned. I merged all your threads, and moved them to the head gasket sub-forum.

And to your question, there is no evidence that the head gasket issue has been fixed. As newer models reach the typical age/mileage (5 years old, or 70k+ miles) of failure, we see failures. From 2003 on, they seem to happen at a fairly consistent rate, and are typically external oil leaks, which are fairly easily managed until they can be repair. So I'd recommend a 2003+, preferably that has had the head gaskets repaired.

For the 2013 model year there is an entirely new 4 cylinder, redesigned from the ground up. But only time will tell if it will be have failures.
 

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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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657 Posts
I got two quotes from midwest dealers for replacement of my HG for my 02 legacy. One was for $2500 and the other was for $3500. The second included replacement of the muffler/cat. I didn't use either because I doubted their workmanship. I used an indy shop for about $1400 which included fixing my
muffler/cat.

The following is an excellent description of what the procedure that should be followed.

Subaru Outback Head Gasket Repair: Import Car
 

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subiesailor, what did the HG repair cost you?
$1500 to pull the head / clean the surface / put new updated gasket on reinstall head. No overheat minor leak. Car was not leaking 130,000 miles later when sold. The seattle shop viewed as the formost leader in hg knowlege and subaru engines notes when this was done right before damaging the engine they didnt see a second failure.

The BS comment above that it was not addressed is a clearly a person that got hosed by a bad repair or had a failure that any car might have when run on poor oil or otherwise treated poorly.
 

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2014 Outback Premium 4cyl
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I had a 2000 Legacy L wagon. External head-gasket leak started at 70k miles. Used Bars stop leak which stopped the leak after 20 minutes of idling.

At 88k miles, still holding water from the Bars, Subaru recalled my car for a potential head-gasket leak defect. I told the service manager I needed Bars stop leak to prevent the leaking head gasket. They poured a bottle of special blend coolant conditioner in my radiator and sent me on my way with an extended warranty to 100,k miles for this problem.

I should have tested this "fix". Because, at about 105,k I replaced the coolant and added a bottle of Subaru coolant conditioner as directed. Within 5 days the head gasket was leaking as bad as ever.

Too late for warranty coverage, so I used Bars again which worked. And about every 20,000 miles afterwards I had to add 1/2 bottle of Bars, and with coolant change I had to add one bottle.

Bars caused no heating problems, car ran fine.

But about 125,000 miles an oil leak started to drip occasionally from the head gasket smelling on the exhaust, and that couldn't be stopped without fixing the head gasket. So unable to pay for the fix Subaru should have done, I kept an eye on the oil level and water temperature until 164,000 miles when I traded in on a used 2010 Outback wagon with 77,000 miles showing no signs of head-gasket or oil leaks.

I have read that the Subaru coolant conditioner is not stop leak, but is an electrical conductor to prevent the head gasket from burning an external leak due to electrolysis.

Now I see my 2010 Outback manual says that the same Subaru coolant conditioner is required when changing coolant (recommended first coolant change is about 130,000 miles, then every 60,k miles). And I see the coolant in the reserve bottle is murky dark-gray having this conditioner in it.

I think I'll be changing the coolant soon... and adding the special conditioner..... because it sounds like the defective head-gasket problem is not fixed or the conditioner would not be required.
 

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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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Derby:

Pretty interesting story. However, judging from all the posts about HG leaks, it's pretty unusual for you to have had the antifreeze leak before the oil leaks. On my 02, the oil started to leak first, for example. Anyway, congratulations on getting an extra 100K on the engine.

And you may be lucky on your choice of a 2010 model. Subaru changed the HG on NA cars to a MLS which is completely different from the 00-09 HG's. This may have solved the HG problem.
 

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2006 Outback Wagon 2.5i 5spd MT Atlantic Blue Pearl
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261 Posts
I don't believe the issue has been fixed. Mine had its HG replaced at around 90k miles if I remember correctly (I didn't buy the car until about 108k).
 

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2001 Subaru Legacy Outback
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94 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
If its a very minor leak - DO NOT PUT BARS LEAK STOP in the car! - Go to your local dealer or online subaru store and order a can of the conditioner that Subaru tells all 2000-2002 owners to use! Not the same thing as the Bar's junk that plugs up all sorts of stuff even things that are not intended to be plugged.

If the leak is very minor - and the car is never over heated or run dry of coolant - all you simply need to do is pull the head and toss on the updated ie corrected HG. Fairly cheap fix. My 2001 did this exact thing at 65K subaru swapped the gaskets and it was perfectly fine at 180K when we sold the car and got a new 2010
Mechanics quoted about $2000 to fix the head gasket. It also needs a catalytic ($500). So, I feel $2500 is too much to invest into a 200k car.

So, we ended up putting the BARS LEAK into the car, as a stop gap measure. If you had identified exactly what "all sorts of stuff even things that are not intended to be plugged" were, I'd take the warning more seriously. Otherwise, there are just too many groupthink urban legends perpetuated on car forums. If nothing else, I will update this thread with the results of the BARS LEAK on my Outback. Let's see if it overheats b/c of side effects of other things being blocked. Or if it works (doesn't lose any coolant and doesn't smells like coolant in the cabin)

Right now, the car runs fine, so I will try to sell this one for what I can get for it, with disclosure that the h.gasket has/had a small leak, and we used the BARS LEAK to slow it down. $1500-$2000?

I am planning on spending a little more, and buying another Leggacy Outback with fewer miles.
Figure $4000-$5000 for a car with 90-110k miles.

Thanks to everyone for the feedback.
 

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Chances are you don't need a cat - I replaced mine for $150 at the local ma and pa muffler shop. They simply cut out the old one and welded in a new one worked fine for the 40,000 miles I owned the car after that.
 

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2001 Subaru Legacy Outback
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94 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Chances are you don't need a cat - I replaced mine for $150 at the local ma and pa muffler shop. They simply cut out the old one and welded in a new one worked fine for the 40,000 miles I owned the car after that.
I don't understand this statement. I say I may not need a cat, but then you explain how you replaced your cat. Did I miss something?
 

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I don't understand this statement. I say I may not need a cat, but then you explain how you replaced your cat. Did I miss something?
I split mine open on a chunk of ice at 140,000 miles outside of that it was fine. This is a common money maker for the dealers when really the issue is a simple and cheap O2 sensor
 

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2001 Subaru Legacy Outback
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Discussion Starter #17
Oh ok. Thanks for the inside tip on the dealer scam. You're saying you'll get an O2 sensor code, yet the dealer will tell you it's the cat?

My friend is a mechanic and he told me I need a cat. I have a check engine light. If it was just an O2, I think he would have told me.
 

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The Cat's do not have sensors the sensor is a O2 sensor when these sensors trip the dash light the first thing shops want to do is replace the most expensive part ie read between the lines - the highest profit item.
 

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If your car is PZEV subaru has extended coverage on the CAT's so be sure to check into that with Subaru. Your friend won't do that and doesn't care who is paying him as long as he gets a shot at making some extra Xmas spending money replacing cats which he can then sell the old one for good scrap value ie doubling his winnings.
 

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2001 Subaru Legacy Outback
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Discussion Starter #20
I just called a seller about a 2005 Outback with 95k. He said the check engine light went on, and the dealer told him he needs a new head. I told him to get a 2nd opinion, but when exactly do these cars start showing head gasket problems? My friend anecdotally says it goes at 200k. Now, I am reading about people redoing head gaskets here before 100k?? What's the median miles at failure?
 
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