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Cost to Pull engine and do seals


I have a 1996 Subaru Impreza LX with 179,000 miles on it. Bought it at 125K. It is a reconstruct vehicle. The body is in great shape. In January I had to put new struts on to pass PA inspection. While under the car, the mechanic found a great deal of built up oil, not sure just where leaking from.

He carefully power washed the underside to get rid of the built up oil. He changed the oil and put a dye in all the fluids that shows up under a black light. Today we went over the results. The two valve cover seals are leaking, the front and rear seals are showing leaks. We thought the power steering pump was leaking, but that is not showing up under the scope.

He said that it would be cheaper to pull the engine and fix all three than to do each one separately. I put a new timing belt in at 125K, but if there is oil on the belt that will have to be replaced.

Price, around $1200.

I am wondering if this is a fair price and given the cars age, worth the fix. I did spend $1100 for the new struts and that was a stretch on my cash. Not able to buy a new used car, and even if I did, I would probably not be able to get anything decent for the money I could spend.

The engine has not been burning oil. It gets changed every 3-4K. I check levels frequently and haven’t to add oil, just barely any when I have. It runs great, handles well and everything works; except for the passenger electric window which is a little slow on the up and down.

Any thoughts on this? Any questions I should be asking? Anything else I should consider before doing this?


First off I am not a fan of letting things like this keep on dripping because of various reasons…That said.

On a budget, if it passes inspections leave it along and save up for the next vehicle. A good cleaning before the next inspection may be in order but either way it is a lot cheaper… You just put 1100 into a reconstructed vehicle (wrecked/rebuilt/salvage title type vehicle I assume from this statement) and the vehicle is not worth putting the extra money into. It is basically worth half of any book value you can find on it as a trade in… Save up for the next ride and get rid of it…

With a vehicle with that many miles I wouldn’t spend that much on it.

Instead I would just replace the valve cover gaskets and start using a high mileage oil such as Valvoline Max Life. These high mileage oils have additives that cause oil seals to slightly swell thereby stopping oil seal leaks.


Just check the oil every few days. Just takes 60 seconds.
Valve cover gaskets are a much cheaper repair, and might be a compromise.

If you ever get the oil light, pull over IMMED. and get towed, b/c maybe the seal ruptures entirely and loses all the oil ?

You’d have to consider how much life that car has left. I’ve had Subarus since 1984 and they’ve all lasted way over 200K. If that car lasts another year after the repair, it will have cost you $100/month. That’s cheaper than buying a new car - so that repair could be worth it. Of course, you’re still not assured that the car is going to last over 200K. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
But, since you have not had to add oil or very little, clearly those leaks aren’t massive. That build up of oil under the car could have been over years of you driving it.

I’d check the oil frequently and add as needed. Oil is cheap - way cheaper than $1200, anyway.

I like the idea of doing the valve cover gaskets, then using ‘high-mileage’ oil to see if it helps stop the front timing seal and rear main seal. The ‘high-mileage’ oil has seal conditioners that will soften and swell old seals to help stop the leaks. But, the valve covers should be fairly simple to do and shouldn’t require an engine pull.

If the timing belt is polluted, the front timing seal and cam seals should be replaced when the belt is changed. I did this on my car, '88 Supra with 270K miles. The hardest part is removing the cam sprockets, but on my car, these needed to be removed to time the dual-overhead cams to the new belt. The engine doesn’t need to be pulled for this, either.