2000 Subaru Legacy Outback should it stay or should it go?


#1

Issues:

1. Catalytic converters are “low” (for 18 months now)

2. Head Gasket Leak since 2005 and no problem (knock on wood)

3. Radiator problem, I don’t really know what it is, no leak according to the mechanic.

4. Air conditioner goes on and off but hasn’t been a problem since I added coolant to the radiator.


#2

I think you need a second, and perhaps a third, opinion. There is no such thing as “low” catalytic converts. I have no idea what that means. A leaking head gasket should be repaired. Period. If it’s actually leaking. A unspecified radiator “problem” doesn’t give us much to go on. There is no connection that I’m aware between the level of coolant in the radiator and the operation of the AC system.

Ignoring a leaking head gasket for two years is not a good idea. I’m surprised there haven’t been overheating issues by now, which makes me wonder if it’s really leaking. Head gasket issues are common the this year Subaru, however, so it’s certainly possible.


#3

If your car is in decent running condition and you have any aspirations towards another car trade this in.

Head gasket repair is pricey pill to swallow. However in the end financially I can almost guarantee that repairing this will be cheaper in the long run. However you need some heart in it to muster on.


#4

First I suggest you dump this car and buy new. It appears clear that you don’t really want to keep it or these things would have all been addressed. Of course I could be wrong and you have a real looser of a mechanic who is telling you this stuff and telling you not to bother repairing it.

From the information given I can't really guess what condition the car is really in, but no way should all of those things be ignored and the rest, I don't have even an idea what they are from the descriptions.

#5

I agree with McP.

There’s no such thing as a “low” cat converter. A cat convereter is basically a stainless steel canister with a ceramic honeycomb inside coated with platinum-palladium, a metal. It doesn’t run “low”. It either adequately seperates the nitrogen and oxygen atoms (its main function) and allows some additional “pickup” of the now freed oxygen atoms to carbon monoxide creating carbon dioxide…possibly even allows the odd unburned hydrocarbon to break apart and bond to some oxygen atoms (combustion)…or it doesn’t. There is no “low”.

A headgaskst leak does not go on for two years without any problems. In addition to allowing passage of fluids, gasses, and heat to places they can create havoc, it also erodes and gets bigger. It can even erode a groove where the passage is taking place.

If the radiator isn’t leaking and it’s dissipating heat adequately (the engine is staying in the proper range) then why does it need replacing? Unless it has a green, crusty area that’s obviously corroding, then I find the diagnosis suspect.

I think you need a new garage more than you need a new car. Unless, of course, there’s more to the story that you haven’t yet told us.


#6

Anonymous is correct about the long-term head gasket leak. I’ve seen an engine block eroded by the constant leaking of combustion gases and coolant. Nice little “V” cut right through the block. Usually turns an otherwise good block into a boat anchor.


#7

Yes my mechanic did say to ignore the cat. converter issue as long as the car passed the smog.
He also told me that the cylinder head leak was small, that it would get worse and that it would cost over $1,000 to fix and that adding oil was fine.

Note: There was a recal for cooling system and I added coolant conditioner in March of 2004.

I just found the paperwork from December 2004 which states “Dual catyletic convertor assembly with internal failure” from the dealer.

Again, my mechanic said to ignore this unless the car does not pass the smog. The dealer told me the car would “blow up” if I didn’t fix it. My boyfriend told me to trust the mechanic. I did.

I have done all the routine maintenance on the car including replacing the timing belt, water pump, thermostat etc. at 100,000.

The total estimated cost to repair the oil leak ($1,200), the cats ($3,000), the aircon ($800 -$2,500), and the radiator ($350) = $5350 to $7050.

I really love my Subaru - it drives well, has been dependable and it has pretty decent crash ratings.

I don’t know much about cars (obviously) and am concerned about putting too much money into a car with 120,000 miles on it.


#8

Since that vehicle was less than 8 years old and I assume??? the mileage may have been less than 80k, then the converters should have been replaced under Federal emissions warranty for free back in 12/04.

Since you have the paperwork on this, maybe you should call the Subaru regional office and discuss what is called a “good will” warranty on the converter problem. You should not have to pay for it.

Head gasket replacements are expensive, but there was also a good will deal going on this; dependent on mileage.
If the head gasket is leaking externally then the car can go a long time like that, although I’m not personally fond of allowing it to happen.

Radiator problem I have no idea on. Not enough info. If it’s not leaking then maybe they’re insinuating that it’s clogged up. Flushing may help, but that’s a toss-up.

A/C in and out may mean a low refrigerant level. A pressure test and leak check may help determine the problem.


#9

I don’t know much about cars (to state the obvious).

CAT. CONVERTERS:
I just found the paperwork from December 2004 which states “Dual catyletic convertor assembly with internal failure” from the dealer. The dealer said I would have to replace both cats or the car would blow up. I took the car to my mechanic.

(I also found a hand written note from December of 2004 that states “TRANSPAN LEAK” I have no idea what that means)

My mechanic told me that it would cost $1,500 to replace each cat. with original Subaru parts. He also told me that the car would NOT blow up and that I could safely ignore the cat. converter issue as long as the car passed the smog.

On 3/5/2007 the check engine light was on and it is noted as follows: #0420 Catalyst efficiency N/L (or N/C)

OIL LEAK
On 12/23/2005 paperwork states “Cylinder Head Leak”
My mechanic told me that the cylinder head leak was small, that it would get worse and that it would cost over $1,000 to fix and that adding oil was fine.

RADIATOR/COOLING SYSTEM
In January of 2004 I had the dealer check the AC heater opperation. Dealer notes state: Replace thermostat and gasket. Also remover upper radiator hose and reseal looks like not leaking now ant upper hose section.

There was a recal for cooling system and dealer added coolant conditioner in March of 2004. The head Gaskets were inspected.

In May of 2007 I smelled something burning and took the car to my mechanic. He checked the coolant level and it was low. He applied pressure to the radiator and detected no leak. Coolant was added.

In June of 2007, the AC started cutting in and out. I took it in to my mechanic. He said that he could not fix the AC and that he estimated it would cost between $800 and $2,500 to fix the AC). A few days later my boyfriend was driving the car and it started to run hot. He added coolant and took it to the mechanic who again applied pressure to the radiator and found no leak.

I am now checking the coolant every morning before I drive the car. It has been fine but there is still an intermittent burning smell. Curiously the AC is working fine now.

I have done all the routine maintenance on the car including replacing the timing belt, water pump, thermostat etc. at 100,000.

The total estimated cost to repair the oil leak ($1,200), the cats ($3,000), the aircon ($800 -$2,500), and the radiator ($350) = $5350 to $7050.

I really love my Subaru - it drives well, has been dependable and it has pretty decent crash ratings.

I am concerned about putting $5,350 to $7,050 into a car with 120,000 miles on it.


#10

I just found the paperwork from 2004.

In 12/2004 there were 86,760 miles on the car.

CAT. CONVERTERS:
Paperwork from December 2004 states “Dual catyletic convertor assembly with internal failure” from the dealer. The dealer said I would have to replace both cats or the car would blow up. I took the car to my mechanic.

(I also found a hand written note from December of 2004 that states “TRANSPAN LEAK” I have no idea what that means)

My mechanic told me that it would cost $1,500 to replace each cat. with original Subaru parts. He also told me that the car would NOT blow up and that I could safely ignore the cat. converter issue as long as the car passed the smog.

On 3/5/2007 the check engine light was on and it is noted as follows: #0420 Catalyst efficiency N/L (or N/C)

OIL LEAK
On 12/23/2005 paperwork states “Cylinder Head Leak”
My mechanic told me that the cylinder head leak was small, that it would get worse and that it would cost over $1,000 to fix and that adding oil was fine.

RADIATOR/COOLING SYSTEM
In January of 2004 I had the dealer check the AC heater opperation. Dealer notes state: Replace thermostat and gasket. Also remover upper radiator hose and reseal looks like not leaking now ant upper hose section.

There was a recall for cooling system and dealer added coolant conditioner in March of 2004. The head Gaskets were inspected.

In May of 2007 I smelled something burning and took the car to my mechanic. He checked the coolant level and it was low. He applied pressure to the radiator and detected no leak. Coolant was added.

In June of 2007, the AC started cutting in and out. I took it in to my mechanic. He said that he could not fix the AC and that he estimated it would cost between $800 and $2,500 to fix the AC). A few days later my boyfriend was driving the car and it started to run hot. He added coolant and took it to the mechanic who again applied pressure to the radiator and found no leak.

I am now checking the coolant every morning before I drive the car. It has been fine but there is still an intermittent burning smell. Curiously the AC is working fine now.


#11

With the “transpan” comment, I would assume the car has an automatic transmission. If the transmission fluid pan is leaking this may be nothing more than a gasket. This should be a simple fix.

Your car will not blow up because of the cats; however, clogged cats can cause engine overheating.
In some cases it can be catastrophic.

The smell you notice may be residual leakage from the head gasket onto an exhaust header pipe. It could also be caused by the transmission pan leaking.

The price on the radiator is about right, but you should be able to find much cheaper converters, even generic, in the aftermarket.

The AC is a different matter. I don’t see how this could cost a couple of grand.
What really needs to be known on the AC problem are the high and low side pressures, and if the radiator cooling fans are cycling on when the AC is turned on
The reason for this is that the cooling system and the AC system are intertwined to some extent.

I’m tempted to say keep the car, but not at those prices. Do some local and internet parts pricing. You should be able to beat those prices quite a bit.

Some of the diagnosis you’ve been given may be pretty generic and scattershot in nature; the 800-2500 on the AC for instance. That’s a pretty wide range - too wide IMHO.


#12

Do I fix the Oil Leak?


#13

BTW - my mechanic says dump the car now and get out.