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Subaru head access thru wheelwell port?

I have a headgasket on my Outback that needs replacing but balk at the $1,500 estimate to replace it (mostly labor costs). The problem, of course, is that the configuration of this engine precludes a normal, in-place removal of either head and that you must hoist the car up off of the supported engine ($!$!$!$). My brainstorm is to take the wheel off and then cut a generous access port in the wheelwell, giving a straight shot to the head, its removal and reattachment. The port metal would afterwards be welded or riveted back into place and well-coated with tar or equivalent.

Is this a viable idea or harebrained?


Seriously harebrained!

Are you positive the heads can’t be removed with the engine in place? I had a head replaced on my Legacy and the engine didn’t have to come out.

If the engine has to come out it has to come out. Cutting the car in pieces won’t help.

I desperately want to tell you that you are completely out of your mind, but since I am not allowed to do so…I wont. PLEASE DO NOT dare cut into that high tensile strength steel to do this. Your Subaru engine is BY FAR one of the easiest engines to remove in all Car-dom… Engine removal in a Subaru takes no special tools and can be done in under 2 hours…and thats taking your time. Please discard your previous idea…promptly

Removing a Subaru engine is a simple affair.

Lots of the labor is you need to take the engine apart twice since the head is on two sides of the engine.

I’m getting the impression that what I’ve been told about the head being inaccessible, the engine not able to come out thru the top, the car having to be lifted off the engine, etc., may just be wrong. But still, $1,500-$2,000 estimate from garages for a $100 gasket…

Yeah - time to stop going by what you’ve been told. If you’re determined to do the, just invest is a repair manual. I’d go with a factory manual though there are other options. You may be able to just get a start at the local library. Many provide access to Alldata which would likely have the step by step procedure. Find a source like this and then decide what you want to mess with or not.

What year Outback & what engine?

Rent a cherry picker. Can’t be that expensive. These engines only take a few hours to R&R. And with the engine on a stand it’s MUCH easier to work on.

Pull the motor and there’s a few other things to keep in mind if you want the job to last.
Do BOTH head gaskets. You never change just one on a Subaru unless you’re really grasping.
Check the head for flatness. Many are warped beyond the .002 maximum.
Coat the new gaskets with aerosol Copper Coat.
While not recommended I always torque head bolts 3 times. The original torquing, wait 4 or 5 hours and retorque them again. After 1000 miles recheck them and tighten as necessary.

On the other hand, if your reason for replacing this gasket is simply because of weepage rather than it being blown you can try retorquing the head bolts only and that may cure it.

Actually if you go to Auto Zones Website they have free online repair manuals for almost every vehicle. The engine removal procedure will be outlined there for you for free…Check it out.

The engine comes out the top…remove your hood for a really nice access to all areas…its easy to remove the hood and it provides a much nicer work environment for you. The rest of the job is CAKE…hell if you dont have the cherry picker you can buy one at harbor freight for like 99 bucks…an engine stand too…round 30 bucks…

On the old 4 cyl. pushrod Subies, two guys could just LIFT the engine out, one on each side…Clutch jobs were a ticket on the gravy train…Now it’s head gaskets…

I have heard of mechanics cutting the radiator core support out of Astro vans for engine removal,it is either that or out the side doors. I have seen the side door job and it did not look very friendly.