Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Forester Head Gasket Issues

Even tho’ Subaru says they ‘fixed’ their head gasket failures after the 2002 Forester model year, I was just told my 2003 with 119,000 miles needs new head gasket for $1,400! My question: if I get this fixed, what’s keeping the same thing from happening again down the road? I thought Subarus were reliable.

Well, I don’t know how honest Subaru is but they MAY have installed a set of the ‘old’ gaskets to use them up.

There is no guarantee you won’t have a gasket problem down the road.

Even hastily factory line production can install a gasket (perhaps with a tiny imperfection) that may or may not fail ‘down the road’.

As far as Subarus being reliable, my neighbor has a 2003 Sport Outback model and loves it. No serious problems he says.

Define “reliable.”

You’ve driven this vehicle more than 100K miles. Now something goes wrong and all of a sudden it’s not reliable. What about the last six years and 119 thousand miles?

If you have new head gaskets installed, you should expect to drive AT LEAST another 100K miles before they become a problem again. And maybe they never will. There will be other problems way before you ever have to worry about head gaskets again.

Look at it this way; you spend $1,400 to fix the car, then you drive it for another five or six years. Can you buy another car for $1,400?

I also suggest you get another estimate on the repair. The price you quoted sounds like a dealer price. An independent mechanic may be able to replace the head gaskets (there are two) for less.

Just make sure your independent mechanic is Subaru-savvy.

I have a 2002 forester with 145 K miles that for over a year now will sometimes chug chug chug when letting up on gas and more recently feels like it wants to sputter out when stopped. replacing plugs and wires made no difference - would tiny leak on head gasket have anything to do with these symptoms?

If this is the first major repair you’ve had in more than 100,000 miles, I’d say your car has been reliable.

If you get it fixed it won’t happen again for at least another 100K miles.

If you don’t get it fixed the car will be junk in a few weeks. $1,440 is not a lot of money to spend on a car. It’s not even a decent down payment on a new one.

Subaru’s been claiming to have “fixed” the head gasket problem since the late 90s, so there’s nothing new there.

Disclosure: I’m a Subaru owner, but my 2.2L engine has never had a head gasket problem. Yet.

I believe the issue was contained by 2004 not 2002 which definitely fall into that category.

If you have used Subaru dealer as your servicing place maybe contact Subaru and see if they will contribute anything towards cost. There is an 8yr/100,000 mile warranty against this type of failure. You are quite a bit over but never hurts to ask SOA.