2004 Subaru Piston Slap repair vs trade in on new or newer subaru?

I have a 2004 Subaru automatic 2.5 premium package vehicle with all the bells and whistles. It has 82,500 miles on it. I bought it used and owe about 5,500 dollars on the vehicle. I took my vehicle into a Subaru dealer in state college Pa ad the mechanic has informed me that the ticking noise I have been hearing for some time now is a piston slap problem. He also found a small leak on the head gasket. He indicated that I would need to get the piston or piston’s replaced with a new head gasket perhaps in the next 50,000 miles. He also suggested that I get the timing belt replaces at the same time. The approximate costs could be around 3,000 dollars - 3,400 or so. I was curious to what I might be able to get in a trade so I contacted other subaru dealers in the area. I might be able to get 10,000 dollars for the vehicle as a trade on a new 2011 Forester 2.5 similar but with standard transmission MSRP 25.300 Invoice price approximately 23,000. In you opinion would it be better for me to pay for repairs on the 2004 when needed or shell out the bucks to trade the 2004 in on a new Forester? Another option could be to trade the 2004 on a newer used subaru… What would you do in this situation?

Jack the Juggler

This is the first I’ve heard of a piston slapp problem on a Subie, but I do know that a blown headgasket can cause a ticking sound. I’d be incline dto just get the headgasket and timing belt done. I’ll bet the ticking will disappear too.

Sounds fishy to me. Get a second opinion on these conditions, whether or not they exist. If these were real problems, a suggestion to get them fixed “perhaps in the next 50,000 miles” seems ridiculous. You’d want to get them fixed asap.

Your next decision point is really at 105K miles, when the timing belt comes due. That is when you need to decide to get the rest of the work done.

I would suggest posing your question about piston slap on the ultimate Subaru message board. This is the first time I have heard that piston slap causes piston damage in these cars. I don’t recall seeing anyone complain about piston slap being so bad that pistons have to be replaced. Most of the advice I have seen about Subaru piston slap is to “live with it”.

Your call on 3.5K repairs vs 13K for a new car. If you are risk averse, then paying the 13K might be your best option.

For your head gasket leak, it may be too late, but I would start using the Subaru coolant conditioner that has stop leak in it. It may mitigate that issue. Should be been put in at 30 and 60K when the coolant was changed out. Costs less than $4 at Subaru dealer. I agree with Mountainbike that the head gasket leak may cause the ticking all by itself. Do the repair and make sure the coolant conditioner gets put in properly.

How do I submit this question to the subaru message board?

Go to www.subaruoutback.org

Or Ultimate Subaru Message Board (USMB)

Piston slap does not cause a ticking sound. A ticking could be caused by excessive valve lash on one or more valve adjusters and inspection of the lash is something that should be done at 30k miles intervals.

There’s a bit more to replacing pistons than what you were told. One cannot simply throw a new set in and call it good. This may involve boring the engine block and this means a complete engine overhaul. Even if the cylinders are in good shape honing for the new pistons/rings must be done very carefully.

Head gasket weepage can often be caused by the head gaskets and head bolts relaxing so to speak.
Why not try this. Have someone remove the valve covers and retorque the head bolts. This can often stop any head gasket weepage. Since the covers are off have the valve lash inspected to see if that ticking sound is a loose adjuster and adjust as necessary.

Thanks for all your responses… I was able to get 12,500 for a trade price for my 2004 Forester on a 2011 Forester Premium Package. They even came down 600 dollars from the invoice price. So instead of worrying about the issues stated previously I have opted to trade up. I’m very impressed with how quickly I was able to get help using this site… Thanks again your the greatest

Too late for me to comment as I wanted so good luck with your new Subaru when it gets old. I would not have thought for a second about another one with problems and expenses like that.