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2000 Subaru Outback head gaskets?

Hi there.

I’ve got a 2000 Outback 4cyl. I bought it in early 2008 with 115K miles from a guy with extensive records. I now have 132K miles. I had a dealer pre-purchase inspection and they told me the head gaskets were “seeping” (as opposed to leaking) when I got it. I didn’t do anything about getting them replaced at the time because they quoted me ~$1800 and didn’t suggest it was urgent. I’ve never had trouble with oil on the driveway.

Last time I got the oil changed, they told me I was a quart low. I’m about due for a change now and went on a 350-mile (round) trip this weekend. I swear it was a quart low before I left, so I filled it up, but I look at it now and it looks like it might be almost 1/2 quart overfilled. I could have sworn it needed the whole quart!

Anyway, when we got home, I smelled what I thought was burning oil, but to be honest, I couldn’t tell you the difference between anti-freeze and oil with my nose–only my eyes.

I got the 120K mile service on time, which included a coolant flush. Coolant looks bright green and opaque in the overflow container.

Would a 1/2 quart oil overfill be the cause of my smell? Or are my head gaskets getting worse? Either way, am I SOL (short on luck) with Subaru of America with respect to the cost of the head gasket repair?

Thanks in advance for any wisdom!

A 1/2 quart oil overfill could cause your smell. The excess oil would be consumed during combustion. When you check the oil, if the engine has been running recently, always allow 5 or more minutes for the oil to drain back down into the oil pan before checking the oil level. Then, add what is needed. If you check the oil level directly after stopping the engine, the head may be full of oil, in which case the dipstick would read low.

A coolant smell will often come across as somewhat sweet and oil may have more of an acrid smell to it.

If the smell is oil then I would suggest having the front of the engine inspected for a leak in that area. With the age of the car and the mileage, oil pressure sending unit leaks are fairly common although there are other things in that area also; front crankshaft seal, oil pump seals, and cam seals.

Something else to consider on this car is the timing belt which is way overdue if it has not been done. If the timing belt is changed the tensioners, water pump, and the previously mentioned cam seals should also be changed.

You’re no doubt SOL on the head gaskets as far as Subaru of America is concerned.
Hope that helps.

I have no idea why a dealer/mechanic would recommend post poning head gaskets. Basically a simple repair turns into items like the block after bearings and other internals of the motor get destroyed as coolant makes a very poor lubricant.

It is very common on the Subaru with this motor called the 2.5L(non-turbo) up to till 2004. 2005 they changed the head a bit and revised the gasket.

I replaced the head gaskets and the problem is resolved. Not a cheap fix, though!