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Abandon subaru or fix it?

Our 1997 Outback wagon (150k miles) sits about 650 miles away, where it broke down on a road trip east: overheating, blowing out and blackening coolant (overflow container was full; radiator, near empty; oil level seemed the same, and there did not seem to be coolant in the oil). 1st mechanic, in Harrisonville, PA, said: bad thermostat, not opening; $175 later and 60 miles down the road, it happened again, on the turnpike. Now we’re told it’s a head gasket, with exhaust gas leaking into the cooling system, building up pressure, blowing out the coolant.

The car starts and runs well, still (after I refill the radiator). But there’s always been a lot of valve noise, esp. on start-up, and oil leaking (a quart per 1-1.5 k miles).

Should we have the car fixed? Can we trust a mechanic who has told us that not even any of the local junkyards want the car? could it still be the thermostat? (I don’t really know if the first mechanic did anything, we left the car there, on a Saturday night, and returned on Tues.)

Or should we just ditch the car? (Body is good, except for both bumbers damaged.)

I would get an estimate on a used engine install and go from there. Compare that value to its used car value and see if the repair would be worth it to you.

If the car is otherwise in good shape, then the car is probably retaining, especially if you are limited on funds or have no other immediate alternatives. You could also run it until it just flat-out dies, too, since you say it is still running. 1 qt per 1K miles is not totally unacceptable in oil consumption.

650 miles a way! Yikes. I would say sell in on Craigs list but that would be a pain. Not sure why a junk yard wouldn’t want it. Should be lots of good parts. Are you sure it hasn’t been towed off yet? If it doesn’t owe you anything then leave it since it’s that far away. Do what makes more financial sense.

Your description of the trouble sounds like the classic symtoms of head gasket failure. It would most likely cost at least two or three thousand dollars to fix the trouble. You should be able to sell the car to someone for some salvage value but that may be a hassle considering the location of it.

Sure sounds like head gasket failure to me. This is not a cheap thing to fix, and if the engine overheated there may be more damage.

No, you can’t trust a mechanic who says junk yards don’t want your car. It sounds to me like the mechanic is hoping you’ll give him the car, then he’ll fix it and sell it to someone. I’ve never heard of a junk yard that won’t take a car.

I have a '96 Subaru with 125K miles, and I drive it across the state of PA on a regular basis. If this happened to me while I was far from home I’d give up on the car, take whatever I could get for it, and move on.

The risks of dealing with unknown mechanics are high, and the cost of transporting the car to your own mechanic are probably even higher. You could spend a lot of money and still have nothing.

Based on the symptoms and the mileage on a 13 year old car I would say it’s time to dump it.
Considering the history of the car, paying for an expensive head gasket replacement may leave you with a shaky engine anyway as many times other engine problems crop up after a head gasket(s) failure.

The mechanic is probably right about yards not wanting the car. With a good body and all of the glass intact the most they would likely offer is 50 bucks, which is about the going rate around here, even if they wanted it.

Thanks so much for all the responses. It’s reassuring, in a perverse way, to hear that you all agree it’s the head gasket. We did look for used engines, but the price for one without a ton of miles was around 2k; add the labor, and you’re probably at or over the value of the car. And I’d be far away from the mechanic if there were issues that arose after the engine went in, which I would think is pretty common–bum components or just something that needs adjusting/tightening.

I put new tires and brakes on the car within the past year; seems like the tires alone ought to be worth something… electric / heated windows… all fenders and doors in good shape. I don’t get it that a junkyard would say no thanks!

I think I’ll offer the guy 50% of whatever he can get for it. If he has a shade of honesty, he’ll feel good about getting some $ out of the car without ripping me off, and he certainly deserves compensation if he handles the junking…

Wish I had a truck–I’d go get it.

response below–thanks!

respnse below–thanks!