Replace the head gaskets or let 'em leak?



My mechanic, who I trust, tells me that my 2000 Subaru Legacy wagon, with about 80,000 miles on it, has leaking head gaskets. Oil has been leaking from them for a few years now – not a lot, just enough to leave spots on the garage floor. Now, antifreeze has started leaking, too. My mechanic says it will cost at least $1700 to pull the engine and fix the head gaskets. My question: Is it worth doing?


Is it worth doing?

The problem is that it will start to leak internally. Coolant in the oil will ruin the oil’s lubricating properties and destroy the engine. And, it doesn’t take a lot. Also, the combustion gasses getting into the coolant will cause constant overheating problems. So the decision really is, “Do I repair the head gaskets or destroy the engine?” If you want to keep the car, repairing the head gasket will be done, just how much damage the engine will suffer before you repair it is the question.


Yes it is worth it, fix it now or drive it till it blows up and then junk it.
If you sell it do the right thing and disclose trouble in sale.


This a problem that has a pretty high frequency on the Subaru 2.5L from 1996-2003 and some 2004. However once you get over this very expensive item the engines run trouble free and cars themselves have relatively few problems and run well into the 200k-300k range.


In addition to the problems described by Bustedknuckles if you don’t fix the leak, the leak itself will also cause (over time) channels to erode at the leak paths. Once that happens, the price of fixing the problem skyrockets, because then you need to add machining to the cost of the headgasket replacement.

There is no “upside” to not fixing this. The problem just gets worse and more expensive to repair over time.


This is sort of the automotive equivalent of a nurse asking a doctor, “Should we stop this arterial bleeding, or just let it go?”.

As surely as the patient would die from arterial bleeding, your engine will have a very fast death once internal leaks from the head gaskets begin. Unfortunately, by the time that you know about the internal leaks, the engine will probably have been trashed by coolant dilution of the motor oil.

Either fix it now, or accept the reality that the engine has a very limited life span left.


Have the engine fixed now. The problem will only get worse as time goes on.