Should my Subaru's head gaskets be repaired?

I am the second owner of a 2001 Subaru Forester 4L with 130,000 miles.

I just spent over $1100 at the dealership, fixing the gas filler neck (was causing a leak in the EVAP system), both leaking front wheel bearings and replaced the right wheel bearing. The head gaskets are leaking oil and it was recommended to me by the dealer to fix them, to the tune of $2300. I am but a lowly graduate student and this price tag is quite high. A quick glean of the internet has informed me that the older Subarus have head gasket leakage problems.

Other things that need attention: crack in the front windshield, behind the rearview mirror (barely noticeable), new battery and positive terminal, which apparently has been corroded, broken under engine shield (which has been removed). I do not have much money to put towards a new car, and I don?t know what kind of problems a different used car will give me. And I do not think this car will be worth very much money on trade in, seeing as it needs lots of repairs. KBB says it is around $5,000.

Should I just drive it as is? Leaking oil and all? Or should I fix my head gaskets? Is it worth it? Is there another option that I haven?t considered?

First, find a good independent mechanic and let him do the diagnosis. Most likely, he will be cheaper on the head gasket issue. Other choice here is that the engine can be ruined if you don’t replace the head gasket and continue to drive it.

Crack in windshield is not an issue unless it is a state inspection item. I would defer it until the crack gets larger.
Battery and cable: under $150 if you have an independent mechanic do it. Around $100 if you do it yourself.

Under engine shield, I would defer or not replace at all. Depends on where and how you drive, but I suspect you are doing mostly highway and very little off road driving.

The work you have done so far, while more than many Subarus experience, appear to be generally one time fixes, and not recurring problems.

Based on this, I would repair and keep the car – the alternative is worse and you may end up with a used car that has even more problems.

How much oil is the head gasket leaking? A stream, or two drops where you park it overnight? How much oil can you buy for $2300?

Are we sure it’s the head gasket leaking, or might it be the camshaft cover gasket?

Now if the head gasket were leaking coolant into the oil or oil into the cooling system that would be another matter.

You definitely need a second opinion from an independent shop.

Subaru head gaskets usually leak coolant, not oil. This is quite common.

Driving it as is could result in a bigger repair bill. Fix it or trade it, the choice is yours.

The cracked windscreen sounds like it is repairable and should be cheap. If you wait it may become a large crack and require a new windscreen. You insurance may or may not cover the cost of the replacement.

According to the dealer, “copious” amounts of oil is leaking. At home maybe only a couple of drops, after long distance drives (up to 2 hours).

At first the problem was “seepage” according to an independent and the dealer and now the problem has grown to “leaking” according to the dealer, but I have not yet brought it to the independent. The dealer warned of hot oil dripping on other components of the engine and ruining it. A scare tactic?

The drips look like oil, not coolant.

Repair or sell is the BIG question!

I’m not too worried about the windshield, I only mention it because it’s another deduction if I decide to trade it in…

Based on the symptoms, I think that it is more likely that the oil seepage is coming from the valve cover gaskets, not from the head gaskets. However, none of us can examine the car from a distance.

While Subaru head gaskets on some models do tend to leak after 100k, they leak coolant into the cylinders and may cause dilution of your motor oil with coolant–which is very injurious to the engine.
But, if the problem is strictly an external oil leak, that really sounds more like bad valve cover gaskets, which is a much cheaper fix.

Thank you so much for these suggestions. I will have my independent mechanic look at the gasket and the valve cover caskets, as well as to check for any kind of coolant/motor oil trouble.

The car has had regular oil changes, so hopefully any kind of permanent damage has been kept to a minimum.

Thanks for the advice, I think I’m definitely going to bring it in for a second opinion about the head gaskets.

Someone abused that car before you got it. I have 3 Subarus at the moment with 120,000 miles on the least travelled and have never had a major repair.