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Discussion Starter #1
We're trying to buy a 2.5L 2005 Outback wagon with 110,000 miles. We test-drove it for hours (really), brought it to our own trusted mechanic for a physical, and then it went back to the seller's service shop to get fixed up before the sale. Now the two mechanics have given us conflicting reports and I would really, really love some smart advice on who to trust here.

OUR GUY: "This is a nice car, well-maintained, but head gaskets are leaking pretty seriously and were previously patched up with stop-leak product. The stop-leak goo has seriously leaked into the coolant. So in addition to new HG, it needs a coolant flush and might or might not need a heater core in the future. It's also time for a timing belt, so make sure to get the whole kit done."

THEIR GUY: "Your hometown trusted mechanic is lying to you. HG and timing belt were both just replaced 3000 miles ago. We pressure-tested the new HG and did a ph test and the coolant looks fine." He gave us a copy of the receipt from that work, which he got from the nearby dealership where it was done, and a bunch of photos that make everything look clean.

If we don't walk away from this sale right now, we'll take it to a 3rd mechanic. But before we get that far: is it possible for these 2 accounts both to be accurate?

1. Are there typical signs of prior leakage that our guy could have seen and stopped his inspection before noticing that the HG was just replaced? And could the stop-leak goo not be detectable by ph test the way oil might?

2. Is a new timing belt obvious to the eye? That's such a basic thing that it seems stupid for either mechanic to try to mislead. Either it was done or it wasn't. Can you actually see the thing without taking it apart? I'd definitely LIKE to think that our guy, who has been caring for our cars for years, just assumed it hadn't been done but couldn't know for sure without opening it up. Is that possible?

Thanks for any insight . . .
 

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A 2005 with 110K on it and both shops are indicating it had or has HG issues?

I would pass... Plenty of 05's out there which don't have HG issues. Anything 2003 and newer that has had HG issues at 100K high probability it didn't see proper oil change history and was driven hard. Regardless of HG repaired or not - not really the sort of Used car I buy unless it is majorly discounted and near perfect in all other aspects.
 

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I suspect that you mechanic is unfarmilar with the special 'Subaru Coolant Conditioner' which is required in all Subarus of this vintage.

It is largely reported to be stop leak, but I've seen some conflicting info on that as well. Anyway, if you are maintaining to spec, it should be put in with the coolant change. It appears the previous maintenance did that, which I view as a good thing!

You mechanic is seeing the evidence of the old head gasket leak, no current leak, and what appears to be stop leak in the system, and saying "Hold on a minute here." Good for him that he put that together! He just isn't familiar enough with Subarus.

However, it appears the seller is most likely on the up and up. With fresh head gaskets on there, make sure that the work from the dealer is transferable to you, but hopefully after 3k any issues would have shown up. Explain all this all to your mechanic, and make sure the new head gaskets do not in fact have any existing leaks.
 

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the subaru cooling system conditioner is not stop leak nothing like it. Stop leak you use in a car you have zero plans on keeping longer term. It plugs up all sorts of stuff that should not be plugged up. Which is why all auto makers void your warranty on any work or parts once a stop leak product is put in the car.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hmmm . . . thanks, subiesailor! That's making me rethink.

We've been assuming that buying any older Subaru, even post-2004, would involve HG problems (but that, for us, other features outweigh that built-in cost). Not so? This is actually the 3rd used Outback we've brought for pre-purchase inspection and all 3 have had significant headgasket leaks.

We do live in a snowy hilly liberal town, so Subarus are extremely popular here and owners seem to hold on to them. After searching for months we've come to believe that all the ones that end up on our market around 100,000 miles are being sold because they've hit the headgasket mileage wall and the owners are choosing to sell them to buy newer Outbacks.

All that said, is it possible for a seriously leaky HG to get cleaned and polished up so that it doesn't look bad for inspection? Once the seal is broken and it's really dripping, can the problem be easily hidden?
 

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Hmmm . . . thanks, subiesailor! That's making me rethink.

We've been assuming that buying any older Subaru, even post-2004, would involve HG problems (but that, for us, other features outweigh that built-in cost). Not so? This is actually the 3rd used Outback we've brought for pre-purchase inspection and all 3 have had significant headgasket leaks.

We do live in a snowy hilly liberal town, so Subarus are extremely popular here and owners seem to hold on to them. After searching for months we've come to believe that all the ones that end up on our market around 100,000 miles are being sold because they've hit the headgasket mileage wall and the owners are choosing to sell them to buy newer Outbacks.

All that said, is it possible for a seriously leaky HG to get cleaned and polished up so that it doesn't look bad for inspection? Once the seal is broken and it's really dripping, can the problem be easily hidden?
LOL I've found that the hippy owners rarely if ever change the oil or anything else regarding maint. Which case by 100,000 miles even if the car is post 2003 HG issues - it will probably have HG issues given any make with poor service history will have that type of issue. Leaky gaskets - failed metal Headgaskets etc.

You can't hide a failed Head Gasket - you can dump some stop leak crap in the car power wash it and it will appear fine for a while - long enough to pass a test drive and a few weeks or month of normal every day to work and back use. After that the new owner finds out they need the HG replaced.

Also timing belts cant be checked to see if they were done. Only proof is proper receipt with vehicle vin # on the work order.
 

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Never assume that a HG replacement job was actually done by a skilled person and will actually hold and stay leak free for what should be at least another 150K of proper maintained use. Most HG jobs I have found rarely are done well and often end up leaking sooner than later. So the skilled hands that actually do the job are more important than the actual HG job its self.

If the seller had the HG job done. Find out by who - do some research on the person who did the job. References from prior customers who had work done etc. Thats about as close as you can get to making sure the persons work actually holds up and was done properly.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I did ask that exact question about the conditioner product and confirmed that what he found was the stop leak (he called it a "cousin" to the Subaru product).

However, I hadn't thought of asking for the dealership to transfer the warranty. There's another party in between -- the dealer (who did the HG repair) sold it to the local imports seller and we would be buying it from them. So it might not work, but it's definitely looking into!

Ugh, this is still a dilemma. (Or tri-lemma, really.) Walk away because there is a 2005 with a good tight HG out there someplace waiting for us to buy it . . . walk away because our mechanic emphatically says we shouldn't trust the seller . . . or bring the Outback to a 3rd shop to see what they think of the HG . . . ?
 

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You're answering my questions faster than I can ask them! :) Thanks about the timing belt -- that's what I was suspecting and hoping to hear.

Sounds like if we took it to shop #3 right now the HG problems would likely be covered up anyway. We should still do that if we choose not to walk away, but it might not put our concerns to rest.

I do think it's weird that the headgasket was replaced just 3000 miles before the Outback was sold. It had 1 owner and they sold/traded it back to the dealer where they bought it, which was again the same dealer that did the headgasket replacement. Perhaps that's enough of a red flag to settle the matter.
 

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The subaru coolant conditioner was developed by GM to address weeping gaskets. It does not work like stop leak and is not related to it in any manner other than its a additional thing added to the coolant which is what you do with the stop leak products which plug up all sorts of stuff - and for the oil leak stop leak stuff they swell gaskets which eventually leads to excessive oil leaks all over the place as the gaskets which were not leaking swell also and eventually due to the swelling start leaking also.

Like I said stop leak is a temporary fix which is used when you plan on junking the vehicle when the stop leak has plugged it all up or ran its course and now you have bigger leaks and problems.
 

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Another thought I've purchased two used cars this past summer and sold one. One was for my self and one for a family member.

#1 Rule in today used car market
DO NOT PURCHASE USED FROM A DEALER!!! IF you do the car should be a lower price than a private seller - single owner with all records. Given you can interview the owner get a sense of the cars use and condition and see all its records. You know what your getting!!

With a dealer and todays high used car values - Dealers scrape up cars from anywhere they can find em - have NO CLUE about the vehicle history and they ASK TOP DOLLAR for them. Not to mention your dealing with a professional sales org vs a private owner simply selling their car.

Tip stop shopping dealers for used cars and start looking at private sellers!!!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
We've just about given up on the private seller Subie market here -- after 3 or 4 months of looking, this was our first attempt through a dealer (though we did visit one or two when researching) and we were willing to chance this particular Outback because it's a one-owner car that's had a close relationship with the dealer where it was purchased and eventually traded back to. It just runs beautifully and feels like it's been taken care of, which has not been the case with the private owner cars we've driven so far. But I see your point and I do agree!

Our budget is $8-10k. On the private market we're seeing 150,000-mile Outbacks and wagons in mediocre condition for $6k (overpriced, I know) and then lower mileage for $12k and up. Nothing in between. We just might have to realize that at $9k we're priced out of Subarus and have to start looking at lesser vehicles. Which makes me so sad . . . I was already sad to be giving up my beloved Volvo 240, but at least replacing it with a Subaru eased the pain.

But I digress from headgaskets, and this thread is still in the headgasket forum. Thanks for the awesome information subiesailor and tdelker!!
 

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We've just about given up on the private seller Subie market here -- after 3 or 4 months of looking, this was our first attempt through a dealer (though we did visit one or two when researching) and we were willing to chance this particular Outback because it's a one-owner car that's had a close relationship with the dealer where it was purchased and eventually traded back to. It just runs beautifully and feels like it's been taken care of, which has not been the case with the private owner cars we've driven so far. But I see your point and I do agree!

Our budget is $8-10k. On the private market we're seeing 150,000-mile Outbacks and wagons in mediocre condition for $6k (overpriced, I know) and then lower mileage for $12k and up. Nothing in between. We just might have to realize that at $9k we're priced out of Subarus and have to start looking at lesser vehicles. Which makes me so sad . . . I was already sad to be giving up my beloved Volvo 240, but at least replacing it with a Subaru eased the pain.

But I digress from headgaskets, and this thread is still in the headgasket forum. Thanks for the awesome information subiesailor and tdelker!!
Used car prices have shot up in the past two years and based on what I was told by a auction buyer who fills used car orders for dealers - they expect to see prices go higher over the next two years. Primary cause of this is the large reduction in rentals and leased cars during the 06 late 08 time frame when the economy was really in the crapper.

Due to this very well known and expected increase in used car value dealers who use to only deal in new cars have actually switched their model built an actual used car lot and have stocked up on used cars. Given their profits on used cars can be upwards of 5X that of a new car.

My land cruiser we bought it in late 2003 with 100K single owner soccer mom - for $8000. A good deal then. I sold it for $7000 this summer at 150,000 miles in far better condition than it was when we bought it with bald tires- worn out shocks, leaky valve cover gasket and leaky inner axle seals. Sold it with good tires, no leaks and all new brake lines. Needed more space hence the Sequoia.
 

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the subaru cooling system conditioner is not stop leak nothing like it. Stop leak you use in a car you have zero plans on keeping longer term. It plugs up all sorts of stuff that should not be plugged up. Which is why all auto makers void your warranty on any work or parts once a stop leak product is put in the car.
I disagree. Looks just like it when you pour it in. Plenty of posts on this forum claiming it is rebranded RadWeld. Container is identical.

I'm fairly sure this is what the mechanic said was 'leak stop'.

I 100% agree with the 'Don't buy from a dealer' but a lot of people aren't confortable with that.

I assume you are looking on Craigslist? It's the best source for used cars.

http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums...t-conditioner-black-coolant-3.html#post457737

Although I would only put the Subaru version in my XT. I'm superstitious that way. You really don't know their secret sauce.

Tom
 

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I disagree. Looks just like it when you pour it in. Plenty of posts on this forum claiming it is rebranded RadWeld. Container is identical.
This is correct. It is rebranded Holt's RadWeld, one of the less likely to gum everything up conditioner/stop leaks.
 

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Lets Address Headgaskets 1st. Headgaskets don't nessesarily completely fail, tho' they are known to leak either coolant Pre-2003 cars or Oil Post-2003 Cars. Subaru Cooling System conditioner in most cases will address Item #1 Coolant leaks. If the Car your looking at is post 2003 the likely leak was oil. I would tend to trust a seller with a receipt for work as evidence that the work was done as long as things on the docs match mostly the VIN# and Mileage. Your Mechanic seems like he's looking out for your best interests purchase wise, but I'm not convinced he's not going on real observations more than heresay about the product. The second issue is the Timing belt, which can be inspected pretty easily by removing the Coolant recovery bottle, and the 3 10mm bolts holding on the T/belt cover on the Drivers side of the engine. A belt with a very shiny flat side or cracking has likley NOT been Changed in awhile, if you can see the paint/inking marks on the belt clearly, and the flat non-cogged side is dull, it is most likey a fresh belt. The short T/belt cover is placed so that a Technician can inspect the Belt during servicing.
 

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. . . walk away because our mechanic emphatically says we shouldn't trust the seller . . . or bring the Outback to a 3rd shop to see what they think of the HG . . . ?
Winter is a hard time to buy an AWD you know.

If your mechanic knows that you would not buy the car if it has these problems what is his incentive to lie to you? Trust your own mechanic. They look out for you because they want you back, they need you to tell others how awesome they are to survive. Dealers know they may never see you again and do a lot of... stuff. I'll say this too, if the car is soooo awesome and has no issues, then why didn't the Dealer sell it to a person? Why is it going through this 3rd party? You think that the Import Dealer is selling the car for what they bought it for? HAHAAAAA!!!

The Import Dealer will tell you the car is fine, of course. The Dealer will tell you the car is fine, because they don't want to have problems with the Import Dealer whom they obviously do business with. The Dealer decided to sell the car off to a 3rd party, even thought they did all the work on it (RED FLAG).

There are enough red flags with this car. The whole thing smells bad to me.

Walk.

Imagine, three days from now you will see the car you are looking for for the price you want... and you have that piece of junk already in your drive way. How will you feel then? If you can answer that question you know your answer.
 

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I agree with the resent posts. But no one has answered the question as to why the car was traded in 3,000 miles after the HG's were replaced. The answer should be self evident. The owner is afraid that the HG's will start to leak again, maybe soon, maybe later.

If a person can afford it, trading a subaru with a leaking HG for a new one is what I would recommend, except if you really trust the person doing the replacement. A lot of people, me included, don't think that a lot of subaru dealers will properly repair a HG.
 

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I agree with the resent posts. But no one has answered the question as to why the car was traded in 3,000 miles after the HG's were replaced. The answer should be self evident. The owner is afraid that the HG's will start to leak again, maybe soon, maybe later.

If a person can afford it, trading a subaru with a leaking HG for a new one is what I would recommend, except if you really trust the person doing the replacement. A lot of people, me included, don't think that a lot of subaru dealers will properly repair a HG.
What comes to mind when I think of this is I can't ever remember a time when I had one thing fixed and some other problem was pointed out that needed fixing.
They could have tore into it and found other problems that the owner decided would be too expensive to justify dumping money into an older car.
 
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