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'99 Subaru Outback, 200K, 4th blown head-gasket was a killer!

Daughter’s Outback (now at Grand Rapids MI dealer’s lot) suffering 4th blown head gasket; diagnosed as having a “warped block”. Me thinks the warped block was there from the get-go!. Corporate says "Three head-gaskets? Unheard of! Well, two were replaced by Dealers, one by Independent and now the 4th seems to be fatal.

$600.00 to diagnose this 4-Act tragedy. What to do? What was probably a $2200.00 auto to transport to work to pay for 6-figure student loan is now a negative $500.00 and bicycle.
What would you do?

In my opinion the car should be sold for salvage value. It is too old to continue pouring big money into it. Subaru did have more gasket issues with the pre 2000 models but four sets of gaskets is really unheard of. If you can find a newer model Subaru after 2002 I think that would be a better way to go. Hopefully this won’t leave you with a bad impression of Subarus as they are good cars. Something was missed or not done right on the repair of the one you have. Whatever it is, I wouldn’t try to fix it now. Move on to something newer, even if it isn’t another Soob.

In addition to agreeing with Cougar’s post, I am also in agreement with the OP’s opinion that the block (or more likely, the cylinder heads) was warped as a result of the first overheating incident. Putting new head gaskets onto warped cylinder heads is an exercise in futility and this type of screw-up by a mechanic will prove to be very costly for the hapless car owner.

Corporate stated that there were “issues” w/ '99 models but the VIN # of this vehicle wasn’t in the “group impacted” and . . . those affected received letters and a four-year period to respond. FMI . . . is the VIN # the most reliable way to cull problem production?

I’ve heard of “oval” cylinders in F-150’s years back and Ford, in the end, rescued owner’s as not every piston was “oval” . . . Oh, Well, answer me this:

Is it unreasonable given the seemingly high incidence of head gasket issues, to pursue with Corporate, a voucher (on a certified used Subaru) in an amount relecting the the worth of the car plus diagnosis fee and tow charges?

And what might that be? $3500.00?

The car was worth XXX until the instant it blew. Never have I heard of an engine replacement in a car serviced so faithfully. At times, I think her net worth was in Subaru Bucks (a currency I had not heard of) less Student Loans.

A Subaru will not take overheating kindly. As to repeated failures there is not enough known about this problem to determine where to place the blame.

If the temp gauge is heading north towards HOT and she does not stop then that’s her fault.
If the cylinder heads and engine block are not checked for warpage while replacing a head gasket then that’s on the shop who failed to do so.

There are a number of other things that should be done during a head gasket job on a Subaru which I will not go into at this point. However, if the job is done properly (key word) and the engine is not pushed to overheating then a head gasket job should last the duration.

I would add that even many dealer mechanics apparently fail to do this job properly.
If the mechanic who replaced the head gaskets said he did it by the book then for starters ask to see the precision straight edge he used to check cylinder head and block flatness.

Don’t put much faith into what corporate Subaru says. They lie; a lot. I say that as an ex-Subaru dealer mechanic and shop foreman. They would lie through their teeth to me as a shop foreman sticking up for a customer who honestly deserved some consideration so why would one expect them to do otherwise with anyone else.
Also note that when it comes to VIN spreads Subaru (like all car makers) like to keep that spread as narrow as possible. Cars outside the spread frequently suffer the same problems and causes of those problems as the vehicles mentioned in the spread.

I’ll be really surprised if you get anything from Subaru for a '99 with 200K miles. Think about it.

Subarus do not take kindly to overheating, and I think the damage was done the first time it overheated, whenever that was. The subsequent head gasket failures were probably caused by not correcting whatever was warped (head or block) during the first overheating incident.

Sad to say, but Subarus of this vintage are famous for head gasket problems. You’re just one more in a long line of Subaru owners with an expensive head gasket repair bill on your hands.

I have to ask, didn’t you think it was odd the SECOND time the head gaskets failed? What about the third time? Why is it such a major issue now, when the head gaskets have failed for the forth time?

You should have figured out what was going on a long time ago.

$600 to diagnose a failed head gasket? You’ve been robbed.

Just out of curiosity, is it the left or the right head gasket that fails? Is it the same one each time?

I own a '96 Subaru Outback with the 2.5L engine. These engines are all prone to headgasket failure. Take a look a the Subaru Outback owner forum and find the link to headgasket issues. You will see that there is a report form there, and even just the first couple of pages makes it very clear that repeated failures are not unusual.

I echo the sentiment about not putting more $$ into this. I don’t think it is worth it - the catalytic converter and the transmission are other issues that may be waiting for you as well - not because these have chronic issues, but because the car is getting a little long in the tooth, so to speak. Just my two cents - sorry this happened to you.