Repaired gaskets on SUBARU and now the engine is RUINED. Help!

I don’t know anything about cars - so I really need some advice from those of you who do.

In June of this year I had to have my head gaskets on my 06 Subaru Outback repaired. I get have the Subaru dealership do all my maintenance even though I didn’t buy the car from them. I was told to follow-up in 500 miles. I did - and Subaru said everything looked good. Then on August 17 of this year my car starts to chug. I pullover - the oil is empty. I get synthetic and wasn’t due for another 2500 miles. I was shocked because my car holds oil pretty well between oil changes. But this time it didn’t. Does this have something to do with the head gasket repair?

How many miles since the ‘follow-up’ check? How many miles since you checked the oil?

The first thing we need to know is when you last checked your oil before August 17 and what the level was at that time.

Have you brought it back to the dealer? I would have it towed to them and inspected, it sounds as if they did something wrong.


When a head gasket is breached, normally it causes one (or possibly both) of the following to take place:
Motor oil migrates into the coolant supply
Coolant migrates into the motor oil

Both of those situations are bad, but the first one is survivable for an engine as long as the level of the oil is monitored closely enough to prevent oil starvation.

If there is a heavy black line in the coolant overflow reservoir, that is an indication that the oil was migrating into the coolant supply–but unless the coolant overflow reservoir was thoroughly cleaned at the time of the head gasket replacement, it is almost impossible to tell when the oil migrated into the cooling system.

While I am trying to be not be judgmental, I do have to point out that checking the dipstick for your motor oil on a regular basis could likely have prevented all of the oil from being consumed and thus wiping out the engine. The owner/driver who checks his oil weekly is not very likely to be in a situation of running the engine with no oil, and–based on the information that you have provided so far–it sounds like you didn’t check the dipstick for about 2 months.

On any car, 2 months is too long to go between checks of the dipstick, and with a car that is 8 years old, that is WAY too long to go between checks of the dipstick. This is just something to consider with this car and with your next one.

All of this being said, because the head gasket repair was done only about 3 months ago, there is a decent chance that the dealership will honor a warranty on their workmanship.

Good luck!

Last checked oil end of July/first part of August. It was a a little below half way mark so I added 2 quarts. Follow-up check was 2500 miles ago. The dealer towed it up for me - I was 2 hours away. They said the engine was out of oil. I had originally taken it to them because I smelled burned oil - that’s when they told me to fix the head gaskets ( and did timing belt). Car is now at 106k miles. Hope this info helps?

If you never check your oil, just drive it until the red oil light comes on and stays on, you won’t get much sympathy from the dealer…If you “don’t know anything about cars” then perhaps you should not own one…

We cannot answer that question yet. The oil went somwhere, and that needs to be determined. Either it leaked out through a bad seal or got burned up in the engine. Did you add any oil yet? The dipstick could read empty when you are 2 quarts low. If the oil pressure light did not go on, you may have escaped serious engine damage. Buy a few quarts of oil and see what it takes to get to full.

check oil light never went on. i guess only car experts should own cars then? no need for mechanics.

Thank you VDCdriver for explaining this to me. It was very helpful and now I know to check more often. My husband used to do it but suffered a stroke so I am starting to learn things I didn’t bother with before. Thanks!

If you have let the oil level get low in the past, you likely have worn the piston rings in the engine, which causes the engine to burn more oil, which causes the oil level to drop faster…which leads to the engine burning up all the oil before you check it again.

Forgive me if I’m wrong in the assumption that you have allowed the oil to get low in the past, but if that is in fact the case, you have only yourself to blame for this recent disaster.

When you get a new car, check the oil level once a week, and save yourself the cost of a new engine.

So perhaps you are premature in your assessment that you have “Ruined” your engine…Now we must determine why it stopped running…

Caddyman may have been just a little curt. But more times than you can count posts show up where someone finds the vehicle really low on oil because they did not check it. And when there is a problem it is always someone else’s fault. We do not drive much so I check the oil level on both vehicles on the first and fifteenth of the month and at every fill-up when traveling.

The dealer told me that the engine will need to be re-built and that Subaru of America has suggested buying a new car (of course). They have offered to pitch in $2k. I make sure to get all my maintenance work done on time and rely on their expertise on what to fix. So this threw me for quite a loop. I appreciate everyone’s feedback and now know that checking oil should be done weekly.

“Last checked oil end of July/first part of August. It was a a little below half way mark so I added 2 quarts.”

Being 2 quarts low at that point should have been a red flag, and should have resulted in at least one (if not both) of the following actions on your part:

You should have begun checking the dipstick weekly, as the oil level should never be allowed to fall more than 1 qt below the full mark.
You should have taken the car back to the people who did the work, in order to determine why the engine was consuming so much oil.

Finding that your engine consumed so much oil in a relatively short period of time is sort of like severing an artery and putting a Band-Aid on it instead of getting immediate expert medical attention. Like with medical treatment, mechanical repairs that are deferred are invariably more expensive.

Please do yourself a huge favor and learn to check the fluids much more often. If this is something that you can’t do yourself, perhaps a neighbor or relative would be willing to help you with this task every week or two.

thank you for all your feedback. its been most helpful and educational.

No crime was committed, lets take it easy on the owner of the car. It always amazes me on this forum how so many people make excuses for speeders and people who drink and drive, but someone who is reaching out here for help with a serious problem gets jumped on.

Thankyou @VDCdriver‌ for the nice, educational response. I agree with you 100% on this.

Lets be honest, not many people check their oil every week, or every month, or ever. I have been guilty of this and I am sure many others here are as well. I work with a guy who has a 270k mile honda civic and has rarely pulls the dipstick. It uses no measurable amount of oil between changes so its never been an issue. But it could be. But its not. yet.

Most of the time not checking your oil it is not an issue, sometimes it is. If the car owner would have checked the oil every week the problem would have been caught in time most likely, I am not arguing that. You should check your oil, I check the oil in my work truck every day as part of my pre trip inspection, I should do the same in my car but I don’t.

Subaru06 might be the best driver on the road out there and since they bring the car in for service regularly I doubt that they are driving around on bald tires, bad brakes, and a tie rod end ready to fall off, the owner doesn’t sound like one to grossly neglect the car, neglect to check the oil frequently enough? Yes. But I doubt the car was dangerous to drive due to braking or tire issues. To say they should not be driving is crazy.

I honestly have not checked the oil in my car since july, I am guilty. Granted it has never used a drop of oil in the past, but I am still guilty as well, my cars engine might be 3 quarts low right now and I have no idea. Now if my car had a history of using oil I would check it frequently, and I should check it frequently now, but Im guilty of not doing so.

Did the dealer state if the oil leaked out or the engine burned it? Surely if it leaked out you would have seen it because that would have been a big oil puddle in your normal parking spot.


Let us know what happens, please don’t be too put off by some of comments here, some of us here get jumpy and shoot from the hip (including me) at times.

I am going out right now to check my engine oil since I have also neglected to do so recently. I admit it!

I have a saying, “money wasted, tears tasted”

Story of my life! Lol…

We all make mistakes, we all neglect something, You didn’t bother anybody, you may be looking at an expensive engine or another car, but you sure as hell didn’t hurt anybody but your checkbook, but that’s life.

If I’m understanding this correctly, you checked the oil a month ago and it was at the halfway mark. Presumably meaning halfway between the max and min marks. If so, you didn’t absolutely need to add oil at that time. Adding two quarts then would have made it overfilled by 1.5 quarts. What was the dipstick reading after adding those 2 quarts?

“It was a little below the half way mark so I added 2 quarts.”

Anybody see a problem with that?


To answer your original question, Yes there are things that could have been botched during the head gasket repair to cause a large loss of oil.

It seems odd that the car never used much oil before and after the head gasket repair it did.

Its could be that

A. Normally when a head is reworked and new seals are installed the oil consumption goes down not up. There may be a bad valve seal or not installed correctly and causing oil to be drawn into the cylinder.

B. The oil consumption is caused from oil starvation, steam, and even hydro lock in extreme cases that occurred with the head gasket failure. It can even be cause from a sloppy mechanic that lets abrasive debris get into the cylinder during the replacement operation. Most mechanics give the proper preparation needed to prevent this. But there are many who don’t, dealerships included.

From article

I want to stress that just because you have not yet seen fluid in your driveway does not mean you do not have a fluid leak from a head gasket. Subaru models have a splash pan with a fibrous pad (that I call a diaper), this must be removed to inspect for leaks. The pad also does an incredible job of soaking up oil and coolant.

The third and final type of a head gasket leak on a phase two 2.5l is an internal failure of the gasket resulting in a breach between the combustion chamber and the cooling system which will ultimately cause the vehicle to overheat and is often misdiagnosed by many at the early stages which can increase the likelihood of future problems such as high oil consumption after repairs.

Its a good article