Discard or repair my 97 Subaru Outback

My Outback, used by my kid blew out a head gasket(radiator fluid had emission gases, high pressure, etc). This happened at daughters college 3 hrs away. After engine pulled by reliable mechanic, found one piston had been installed 180 degrees wrong, much scoring. Initial cost to redo head gasket, water pump, timing belt, and clutch was $3700 (original clutch and belt, 115,000 miles). Now they want to redo pistons for additional $2100. My options are: 1) pay $5800 and do it. 2) transport car here & try find new used engine 3)Only do original job 4) Sell car for scrap! I’m $700 into this already. Subaru of America says they will not deal with the bad piston as car is not at subaru dealer, and car is 14yrs old. Any suggestions?

I would scrap it. It is too old to put $5800 into.

If you fix the head gasket and clutch you will have a running car that you can sell and recoup some of your money.

Salvage value is next to nothing.

I’d look into how much a different used/rebuilt engine would cost. Perhaps somebody near where the car is can do this.

I would also consider a used engine. It’s not wise to put $5800 into this vehicle considering it’s age.

The 3700 dollars sounds awfully high for the work you were quoted and I have a question.

I’m assuming they have removed this 180 off piston from the block. If they have not done this then how have they determined this to be the case?

A piston being 180 off will NOT score the cylinders. Any piston/cylinder scoring was caused by overheating and/or engine oil that is diluted by coolant.

“Redoing the pistons” as they put it means the entire engine must be disassembled and the engine block bored due to the scoring. This will also mean regrinding the crankshaft, etc. and the car is simply not worth 3700 dollars, much less 5800.

My suggestion would be to bring the car home and try to find a good used engine for it. Any used engine should get a new timing belt set before installation.

The issue I would have is that this shop is willing to give you a quote of 3700 dollars to reassemble it with a scored piston/cylinder problem. Really, an engine in this condition should not be put back together as is and it’s just begging for trouble. There is no way I would want my fingerprints on a job like this.

Thank you all for your suggestions. I will look at a used engine, see how much to transport and install.

Just another opinion here. By the time you add in all the extra costs of repairing what you have the money may be better spent on a newer car. If it was my car I would consider moving on to a newer vehicle. If you spend around 6,000 dollars on a newer vehicle you should be able to find a decent replacement from what you have currently. Another Subaru will cost more than some others makes do.

If you do keep the car you may want to consider getting a rebuilt engine so you will have a warranty on it in case something happens in the future. You don’t want to have another engine problem leave you in the same boat again. The 2.2 liter engines have a better track record than the 2.5 liter engines do. The '97 Subarus were one of the worst years for them I think. Improvements were made in 2000 along with the design change.

You can get a rebuilt or used engine for under 2K… Used engines are usually around 1000-1200. Rebuilt would be 2000. I think it worth it as the used or rebuilt will get you another 100K miles if your body is in good condition. Engine swap in this vehicle take less than 4 hours if you go slow…I have done them under 2hours…very ez engine swap vehicle.

I wouldnt spend more than 2500 to get this back on the road…and you can EASILY do it for under 2500 …but I always forget I do my own work…I have no idea what some places want for an engine swap…my guess is under 500 to swap an engine in…forget anything above $2500 TOTAL to save the vehicle…I PROMMISE YOU…if you are even somewhat handy an engine swap is NOT hard to do in this car…I’d go so far to say that this is the easiest engine swap job to do on a modern car on the road today

Used motors also have a high chance of failing head gaskets

Move on, this Subaru is done. This car is junk and lived beyond the average car life.

If you have the time, money, and know how, I would source a good used engine, buy and install new head gaskets, water pump, plus timing belts and pulleys/tensioners, and install that into the car. This should easily cost less than $3000.