Pre-emptive gasket replacement in 98 Subaru Outback?

I bought a 1998 Subaru at trade-in cost. Body is great-no rust. Interior is great. Runs really well except it probably needs new rear shocks. This year/make/model is known to have gasket problems that could lead to many more expensive repairs. Do you think I should buy all new gaskets/timing belt/ tensioner pulleys/seals and a water pump & have it all done at once? It is 10 years old w/ 145000 miles on it. (I have no maintenance records.) How much would/should I pay in labor only (I can get the parts cheap online). ??

anyone? Advice? Opinions?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure IMO. Labor at $40-50 an hour. Not sure how long it would take.

First if you have a shop perform the job let them get the parts so they will warranty the repair. Otherwise you get no warranty on work unless the shop is crazy. The parts for this job are very little, its pure labor and in my locale its $60(very low) - $100/hour. Try going to for a cost estimate.

I personally would not touch the head gasket and watch for signs of failure. Given you have no records who is to say it was not replaced at 100k miles. There is a high rate of failure in 96-99’s however it does not mean your will ever fail. My family has two 150k-200k range Subaru’s with the 2.5L in the 96-99 range on original head gaskets and very little problems.

Put the money in a high interest account(hard these days) and earn interest for the repair that may never come.

The first thing that I would focus on is the timing belt. If it has never been replaced (and in the absence of maintenance records, you have to assume this), then you are courting disaster in the event that it snaps. Replace the timing belt and the water pump first, and then consider how much further you may need to go with maintenance, preventive or otherwise.

And, if you do have the head gaskets replaced, be sure that they are the newer, revised design that is less likely to fail. The dealership is the best source for the correct parts.

Thank you for that advice on the parts. Not something I would have thought of with the warranty. I’ll discuss with them. I think they would warranty the work still though? But now I’ll remember to inquire and compare prices. … I wouldn’t touch the gasket if I weren’t already going to do the timing belt. But I’ve heard that if we are going to open up the engine anyway–the additional work won’t be much. I’ll discuss with the mechanic. Thanks again. :slight_smile:

Thank you. Exactly–I’m assuming I need to replace the timing belt. So I guess I’ll find out how much I would pay to do anything beyond that and the water pump. I am thinking–not much. Once they open it up–adding the gaskets is not so much–or at least that’s what I think and what I was essentially asking here. :slight_smile:

I’d leave well enough alone. The head gasket on the horizontal engine is not a trivial replacement.
If you do the timing belt, I’d do the waterpump,and all new idler and tension pullies.
Keep checking your oil and your coolant levels as you drive.
AND Subaru has a special additive for the coolant to seal tiny head gasket leaks. My 2001 was subject to a recall and they just added this stuff to the coolant.

Be sure the scheduled maintenance is up to date, including that timing belt. Beyond that, and doing any necessary repairs, do nothing. Gaskets are not designed to be routine maintenance replacements. Replacing the major one, the headgasket, is expensive and like all major surgery carries risks. A simple improper torquing of the headgasket bolts could turn an unnecessary but well-intentioned headgasket replacement into major engine damage. You could unintentionally destroy what otherwise would have been a lifeling engine.

I’m not familiar with that engine, but if the water pump is driven by the timing belt, consider its replacement at this mileage as part of the timing belt relpacement.

To answer your question HG add a significant amount of labor vs doing tbelt.

I can’t speak for the head gasket replacement, but definitely the timing belt and tensioner. I’m in a similar boat in that my wife and I bought a used 98 Outback from a dealer last fall. The car was very clean inside and out, 115K mi, but no service history. I requested they replace the timing belt as a precaution. I posted a detailed description yesterday. In short, they didn’t replace the tensioner when they replaced the belt (Dec. 2007). The tensioner failed recently, timing belt skipped, valves bent, now we’re looking at a head job on both heads, don’t know yet how many valves. End result is we’ll get resurfaced heads and new gaskets, new valves as needed. My intention of having the belt replaced was to avoid exactly what has happened.