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97 Subaru Legacy Coolant

I have a 97 Subaru Legacy. I went to get the the oil changed last week, and the guy told me I needed my power steering fluid and coolant flushed. He said the power steering was “a little low” and said the coolant seemed low and diluted. When I made it clear I wasn’t going to just go for the works right then he pretty much backed off the power steering fluid issue, but said that the coolant really was pressing because cold weather is approaching.

I have checked the coolant several times (before and after the oil change) and the level hasn’t changed (and is not actually that low) but it does look sort of murky on visual inspection. My questions are 1) I know how to check fluids and can change the oil myself, but I have never changed coolant… can I do it myself or is that a mistake? Are there any catches or risks to diy coolant changes? 2) How urgent is a coolant change? I’m not planning any driving other than about town, but do I need to change the coolant pronto or is it okay if I get to it in a week or two? 3) The car makes a low percolating noise somewhat often (usually when accelerating, and regardless of whether the engine is hot/cold), is this related to coolant issues or is it something else? What might be causing the noise?

Thank you for any thoughts/input!

The perculating noise on acceleration isn’t a good sign. This may mean you may have bad headgaskets. I suggest you have a block check done to see if that is so. The coolant should be changed out every few years to help prevent HG leaks. Before you change the coolant though have the engine checked. The 2.5 liter engines were more prone to leaks than the 2.2 liter engines.

Subaru’s recommendation is to change coolant every 30K miles, so if you are past that, you need to get that done, after checking for head gasket leaks. Also, when you do get the coolant changed out, go to Subaru parts and get the Subaru coolant conditioner, $1.37, which is basically a stop leak Subaru uses to help stop head gasket issues, particularly if you have the 2.5 L engine.

As to urgency of coolant change, you need to test the antifreeze to determine its freeze point. You can do it yourself with a $1-5 tester. That is also one of the first things the mechanic should have done during his coolant check/inspection. If you aren’t at -25 degrees F for the winter in most places, you need a coolant change ASAP. The results tell you how urgent your coolant change is.