Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Leaky Old Forester

2003 Forester with 165k miles
Leaking oil, not noticeable on driveway, but leaking enough that its a problem.

1st shop said it was rear main seal and oil pan

2nd shop said not rear main seal, same issue he’s seen with these cars for years. Cylinder Head Gaskets, and all the seals are old and hard so not doing their jobs. He would need to take out engine, re seal everything, do timing belt while he’s in there. $1900. Says after that you’ll be golden for 100k or more.

Both shops say I can live with it, just refill fluids every week. But who know what could happen in the future.
Before we even entertain the motion of selling a kidney to pay for this repair. Is this a good quote? Is it worth it?

really starting to wish I spent all this money and time on car problems, On inventing teleportation!

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a formula you could apply that told you whether to fix or give up? There isn’t. While it may be true that spending $2,000 on this car will be cheaper than any other alternative, in the short run, we just don’t know the condition of the rest of the car. The entire drive train is equally old and used, the suspension we know nothing about and the other systems like steering and brakes? Rusty body? Electrical components?

Live with it while you do your homework on the whole package, and then try to get a grip on the choices you have for replacement. The used car market is full of 3 or 4 year old cars off leases that have moderate miles on them, have lots of safety features your car does not have, and can be financed at low rates through lots of sources.

Your other posts say you have two of these things and you are planning on a vehicle purchase . Pick the worst one and trade it now while there are year end closeouts and drive the other one until it dies. As I said in your other post getting to work with your long commute is the main factor.

When I had one employee who was constantly late or missed work because his car kept breaking down I told him he had two choices : get a reliable vehicle or find someone to ride with because his job depended on attendance.

The quote is reasonable, but if you are not losing coolant, then head gaskets are not needed. I also doubt that the rear main seal is bad.

Now, are you due or maybe overdue for the timing belt? If you are, that is about an $1100 job, maybe less. While they are doing the timing belt, there are one or more oil seals that can be replaced for about an additional $10 each. Most notably would be the front crankshaft seal. That one may cost $20 or $30 as the front timing gear has to be removed first.

You also may be leaking from the cover rail gaskets (valve cover gaskets), normally these are included in a timing belt job but if you are not due for a timing belt, then this job might run upwards of $200.

If you are not losing much oil, i.e qt/1000 miles or so, it would be cheaper to just add oil until the timing belt service is needed, but be sure to check your oil much more frequently, like at every gas fill up so your engine doesn’t run out of oil.

It’s very hard to tell where an oil leak is coming from b/c of all the wind that blows under there when you’re going down the freeway at 70 mph, any leaking oil goes everywhere. Shops can thoroughly clean the engine, then add some UV dye to the oil to help find where the actual leak is. Absent that procedure, before I’d replace either the rear main seal or the head gasket I’d first try the valve cover gasket. I’ve had to replace that on my Corolla a couple of times over the years for oil leaks, and each time the dripping oil on the driveway was totally eliminated. I’m seeing 1.5 hours labor and $15 each for the gasket. It appears you may need 4 separate valve cover gaskets for that engine so figure 1.5 hours + $60 parts.