2011 Subaru Outback Broken Timing Belt - Worth Fixing?

Hi there,

My 2011 Subaru Outback’s timing belt broke while driving a while back.

We have not had the car looked at to assess further damage. I am wondering if it is worth getting it looked at? Is there a way we can assess the damage from home?

I am presuming it needs a new engine. Would it be worth replacing an engine in this vehicle?

It currently has about 168,000 miles.

Thank you!

I imagine you’ll get advice here, you might want to also ask around an Outback forum, maybe someone there has had this exact problem. Here’s one:
Search results for query: broken timing belt | Subaru Outback Forums


A shop versed in Subaru can tell you just how much damage is done . There will be fee for that but at least you will have a real answer . As for fixing or replacing the engine only you can decide if it is worth the cost . Look at vehicle ads online to get an idea of what you would have to spend to replace this vehicle .


Part of the decision of whether it will be cost-effective to fix/overhaul the engine is the question of the vehicle’s overall condition. For instance, if it has an automatic transmission, the fluid should have been changed at least 5 times so far, based on the odometer mileage. If that has not been done, then a trans overhaul is likely to be in your very near future, to the tune of as much as $3k.


Out of curiosity, how many miles and years were on this timing belt?


Timing belt breakage when engine is running can cause serious & expensive to fix engine damage. But it’s possible a timing belt can break and cause no engine damage at all. So don’t entirely discount the possibility all that’s needed is a new timing belt. If I had that problem and no obvious visual problems I’d install a replacement belt, then hand rotate the engine while watching the valve train. If that looked ok, hand rotating seemed ok, I’d fire it up, hope for the best.


this is interference engine, so chances it will not damage any valves are next to none

if owner walks on water, maybe… borescope cam may allow inspecting valves and pistons for damage before spending money on timing belt, but I would not hold my breath


I’ve only seen one interference engine break a timing belt while the vehicle was traveling at 70 MPH with no damage to the engine.

I told the owner to go buy just one lotto ticket.



If you have the 2.5L 4-cyl it has a timing belt. If you have the 3.6L 6-cyl it has a timing chain. At this mileage I’d put a used engine in if you must replace the damaged engine. Probably best to move on if you can afford it.

I am going to go way, way, way against the grain here. As long as the rest of the car is in decent condition, i.e. no rust/body damage, I would have the motor disassembled and if necessary have the cylinder heads rebuilt. As long as none of the pistons are cracked or punctured, this engine should be repairable, and for not much more than the cost to replace the head gaskets, which commonly fail due to normal wear-and-tear.

I would NOT install a used motor, as the probability that its head gaskets will fail is too much of a risk, and if you’re going to put new head gaskets on a junkyard engine, then you might as well put them on the one you have (as well as replacing any bent valves, valve seat re-grind, clean up any minor nicks in the pistons, etc).


I’ve replaced a number of broken timing belts and have never seen a trashed engine because of it.
However, I have seen the piston tops get nicked up from contact with the valve heads.

I would strongly suggest that you us something like a Dremel tool with a small grinding bit and smooth off any sharp edges on those nicks.
What can and has happened is that sharp edges on those nicks can glow red once the engine is warmed up and when that happens it’s the Mother of All Detonation. The engine can knock like crazy and eventually cause even worse damage.

Also; clean the head surfaces thoroughly and check flatness with a feeler gauge. Logic might dictate that short heads like those would not be prone to warping over the limit but they are. If they under .002 then they can be reused as is. Over .002 they need to be resurfaced.

A tip to prevent future head gasket problems. Torque the head bolts, Wait a few hours and repeat the process. Allow them to sit overnight and do this a third time. That should end head gasket issues permanently as it resolves the gasket crush/relax problem which causes loosening.

This is what I find when an interference engine jumps/breaks a timing belt.

Except for once.


@ok4450 - you’re talking about Subarus with the flat 4 in particular, right? Not general comments on interference engines. So it sounds like the OP could get their engine repaired at reasonable cost. I would definitely not put a used engine in.

lol … reminds me of an episode on Hogan’s Heroes. Colonel Klink thinks he’s become great painter. One painting looks like the bent valves. When asked what the painting meant, Klink said “The Wind” … lol …

The valve stems in the 16-valve engine are thinner, they sometimes break from contact with the piston.


So pull the heads to see how much damage was done?

Borescope inspection, the engine must be removed from the vehicle before the cylinder heads can be removed.

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The first step is to asses the value of your vehicle in terms of remaining service life and repairs that will be needed soon in addition to the engine.

Is the body in good shape, no visible damage other than a minor door ding or two?

How about the interior, no tears or holes in the seat covers, carpets, vinyl around dash doors etc?

Paint in good shape?

Tires, tread depth, tread wear pattern normal?

Brakes, when was the last brake job?

If all the above are like new or close to it, then get some quotes on your various options.

Option 1: Head restore, new valves, new head gaskets and new timing belt

Option 2: Reman long block.

Option 3: Used engine. I don’t recommend this one but it should be quoted anyway. Find out how many miles on the engine, why it is available and what kind of warranty you will get for both the engine and labor.

You should be able to get 250-300k out of the vehicle. A new Outback would cost $30k+ so if you got a new one and kept it for 300k miles, that would be about $0.10/mile amortized purchase price.

You have maybe 100k left in yours so in theory, you could sink $10k into it and break even on cost/mile with a new vehicle. If a reman cost you $5k, you would break even at 50k miles.

Do you want to keep it that long? Since you broke a timing belt, I’m a little concerned about the rest of the maintenance on the vehicle.

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I’m just relating my personal experience with broken timing belts and involves multiple makes other than Subarus. Bent valves get replaced, all other valves and seats get serviced, and nicks are filed
or get the Dremel treatment to eliminate hot spots due to sharp edges.

It’s never been a problem nor have I ever had a comeback. Matter of fact, I have my own valve grinding machine and valve seat tools so in slower times I did my own head work. If backed up then I would just farm it out but I gave that up when the reputable machine shop I used ground a crank .010/.010 and it would lock up due to the main and rod bearings both. Dragging out the mikes I found they had ground the journals .007/.007. They felt I was lying until they drug out their mikes and then it became “Well, why in the hxxx would we do that?”.
Beats me but if you can give me a set of .007 bearings it will work…

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Agree with keith’s assessment

Kelly “Good” valuation on a Base Model 2011 Outlook Private Sale is about $5,000 while one with a non-working engine is probably worth only about $1,000. Assuming no other problems, that gives you up to $4,000 in repair costs to play with.

On the other hand if maintenance has been neglected and/or you’re just plain tired of the car, it may be time to bite the bullet and unload it.

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