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Leak around timing cover

Good morning.

I am considering buying a 2011 Subaru Forester with about 80,000 miles.

The pre-purchase inspection at a Subaru dealer revealed a minor “seep” at the right of the timing cover. We were told that this is a common problem, does not require repair and should not inhibit us from purchasing the vehicle.

However, research and calls to Subaru mechanics revealed that a seep/leak could require replacement of the timing cover, resealing of the camshaft carriers or repair of the valve cover gasket - all expensive repairs.

Other mechanics told us that it may simply require repairing the silicone seal around the timing belt cover and should not require further maintenance.

Please share your insights and experience.

Thanks you!

Simple, tell them to fix it and call you when its repaired and you will make a decision then. There are used vehicles all over the place, why not walk away if you have doubts?

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If this seep in minor…meaning there is no large puddle where it’s parked, I would let it be and just keep an eye on the oil level as you should any car.

This engine has a timing belt and this should be changed at about 100K miles. Meaning that next year it will need to be done.

If I were buying this from a dealership, I would insist that they do the timing belt job early before I’d buy the vehicle.
I would even be willing to pay the cost of the parts, if they throw in the labor. Then you would know it’s good for another 100K.


Which engine is in this car?

2.5 L - 4 cylinder

That is true, but if the timing belt has been contaminated with motor oil, it could snap…tomorrow.
I think that this is just one more case where I would suggest continuing to look for unflawed used cars, rather than becoming fixated on one with an obvious problem.

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It’s not the tming case cover that is leaking

it’s what’s BEHIND the timing case cover, that’s where the leak is

Probably the camshaft seal(s) or the crankshaft seal.

The best thing is to walk away from this one. I’d advise you to buy a car that has verified proof . . . printed invoice . . . of a recent timing belt job, including those seals, tensioner, idler and the water pump, if it’s driven by the timing belt, which I’m guessing it is.

Or if you’re really interested in this one, either tell them you’ll pay x amount of dollars less for the car . . . whatever it costs to do the job. But the dealer probably won’t want to go for your offer

Better yet, do as Volvo said . . . tell them to call you when it’s fixed, and have written proof of a repair. They won’t go for this, either, though. They may say okay, but they’ll never call you

Either way, don’t sit by the phone, waiting for it to ring. Keep looking.

I hate to be like a broken record, but people who seem to be fixated on buying clearly-flawed used cars are not very different from somebody who goes to a House of Ill Repute, while seeking a faithful and virginal wife.


The 2011 Subaru Foresters have timing chains instead of timing belts. Does this change your recommendations in any way? Should I expect absolutely no seepage coming from a timing belt cover? Thank you.

One of my relatives did something not quite at that level, but nonetheless made an ill-advised decision

he hooked up with a sot that he encountered at his local dive bar. That should say something about him, as well :smirk:

Anyways, he married that woman, and it was the worst mistake he ever made. He was never more miserable, the marriage lasted only a few short years. She wound up leaving him. Thankfully, she didn’t try to get any of his money, pension, etc. They did NOT part amicably, and he breathed a huge sigh of relief, when it was legally over :relieved:

Ah, 2011, for some reason I saw 2001. Anyway, that engine has a timing chain, not a belt, so ignore all the above talk about timing belts and cam seals.

I’d need a picture of the leak to determine if it is anything to be concerned about. Remember, dealer mechanics are trained to keep your car, regardless of age, in showroom condition. That’s their job. Perhaps an evaluation by a local reputable independent garage would give you some advice. If it’s what I’m thinking, it’s nothing worth worrying about and it will probably be another 80,000 miles before it needs attention. But impossible to say over the web.

Thank you. We were told that the seepage from the right side of the timing cover was very minor. The mechanic said that he might not have mentioned it if he was not doing a pre-purchase inspection. He did not recommend a repair, but we have since received mixed advice about this.

It was inspected by a private Subaru dealership that we paid to do a pre-purchase inspection.

Does the very minor seep needs to be evaluated for damage occurring under the timing cover?

Also, do the camshaft seals or other engine parts under the timing cover need to be replaced as part of regular maintenance in a 2011 Subaru Forester?

Thanks so much for your time!

Timing chains have engine oil lubricating them, so the leak is probably just the oil normally in the timing cover area.

Camshaft seals are not routing maintenance, and only need to be replaced when leaking. But there is supposed to be oil in that area, so it’s kind of a moot point, I guess. The professional wrenches here may be able to offer better advice on this When some other repair exposes them for easy replacement, it might make sense to replace them.

Thank you NYBo.

Trying to figure out how to advise my son who is considering buying this vehicle from out of state, but we are getting lots of different opinions.

Would that information discourage you from buying this vehicle?

Is the son old enough to make his own decisions and except the results of those decisions? Does he really need all wheel drive ?

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Dear Volvo_V70,

Excellent questions. Thank you!

Yes, he is old enough to decide, but is consulting my husband and I he has only purchased one other used car and has been given conflicting information about the inspection on this one. Accepting the results of our decisions can be a challenge - especially when spending a fair amount of money - but I agree that addressing our ability to accept the results of our decisions is so valuable. He wants all wheel drive since he is a traveler and adventurer and is often off road or in the mountains etc.

It would be wonderful if we could figure out whether “very minor seepage around the timing cover” is expected in the 2011 Subaru Foresters or a sign of something under the timing cover leaking and potentially a large expense.

It is a pretty good deal for the car as long as he is not looking at a huge repair that requires removal of the engine.

Thanks for your insights. I appreciate it.


Can you please explain that?

Are you saying the asking price is far lower, versus other 2011 Subaru Foresters, being offered for sale at dealers?

Perhaps the car has been sitting on the lot for a time, hence the apparently low price?

Unless I missed it, what are they asking for this thing?

Maybe a negotiation of the price should include a discount for repairing the problem first.

I would also want to know if someone checked for signs of oil sludging.

Yes. The car is for sale for $11,000 from a private party. It has about 80,000 miles and one owner. It is a limited edition with leather, sun roof etc. and has checked out well except for this minimal seeping around the timing cover and sticking of the rear slide pins (recommended repair).

The price seems fair enough but if it were me I’d try to negotiate the repair costs out of the sale price; or at least part of it.

The problem with a minimal leak is that it can easily become a not so minimal leak (probably 3 weeks after you drive it home…) or that oil consumption may get away from you and lead to a trashed engine.

If you buy the car as is I would strongly suggest checking the oil level every week or so but that’s something that should be done with any car even with no minimal oil leaks at all.