Subaru Head Gasket Problem

I have a 2000 Subaru Impreza RS 2.5 with a little over 118,000. And I have been having some problems with the car over-heating, and the coolant seems to be disappearing somewhere, though I have yet to see a puddle of coolant. The auto shop quoted me at roughly $1800 just to have the head gasket fixed. Is this roughly the correct cost for the service - and since the head gaskets needs to be replaced, should I replace anything else while they are already doing the job?

Yes, that does sound like it could be a head gasket failure. If you are having it replaced then the other job is to have the timing belt replaced as 90% of the work is done (if you had this done very recently don’t worry about it). Along with a timing belt you would have the water pump replaced.

I am working on the same problem with a close friend of mine’s Tiburon. The head gasket blew and as the car was running it was forcing air into the cooling system. Her car was down 1/2 gallons of coolant with no visible leak anywhere.

A competent shop should be able to test the coolant for hydrocarbons, if they are there you definitely have a bad head gasket.

Diagnosis and price sound about right, as is jsutter’s advice on the timing belt and waterpump. One of the reasons the price is so high is that this is a horizontally-opposed engine so there are two cylinder banks, and BOTH headgaskets should be replaced.

One caution: If there is significant mixing of coolant and oil in the crankcase (it doesn’t take much coolant), the bottom end of the engine may be damaged. In that case, replacing the headgaskets is a waste of time. A rebuilt engine is the way to go.

Thank you for your responses!

I was wondering what the approx. cost would be to rebuilt the engine if this problem did occur?

Also bear in mind that, particularly with the Subie’s aluminum engine, if the engine overheats too many times or too severely, it can result in warped heads and the need for a new engine. Overheating and disappearing coolant isn’t a good sign since that usually means you’ve got an internal, as opposed to external, leak.

If you’re so unfortunate as to need a new engine, check out these guys:

I’ve heard nothing but good stuff about them.

I had the same problem and had my water pump and timing belt changed to the tune of about $450.00. After that, I had the head gastket replaced to the tune of about $1,700.00. Problem solved. However, here it is about a year later and this past weekend the a/c acted up and I once again smelled the sweet smell of antifreeze and noticed a few drops on the engine so now we are back to the shop as it has been a couple days less than a year since the head gasket was changed. I will try to let you know how things turn out. Best wishes!

FYI: Your owner’s manual suggests that you have the timing belt changed around 100,000 miles!
Check out this link:

I am having the exact same problem at 122k miles. I have a friend who has been a mechanic for many years and he’s told me “…the engine is great until it overheats. I’ve known a couple of people who had their subaru engine overheat and they had the head gasket, water pump, and so on replaced and it never ran right again…” When I look at the cost of the head gasket job being about 50% of the cost of a rebuilt engine, what my mechanic pal told me, and the post from DarisR somewhat reinforcing what my friend says, I think I will drive it until it won’t go then get an engine. In my case the body is in great shape, I just put a new clutch in and had 5th gear replaced too so it has a lot of life left in it mechanically (with the exception of the engine obviously). Has anybody else had problems after replacing the headgaskets?

I continue to have overheating, in spite of new head gaskets less than 10K miles ago. The overheating is directly related to outside temperature. I live in AZ and the temp gauge climbs to 3/4+ on the long uphills when the outside temp is 105+. In the winter, it’s fine. Does anyone else have this problem?

Check your radiator. I was having similar overheating issues and it turned out to be a partially blocked radiator. I had the Radiator cleaned out and no more over heating up going up hills.

My '01 Legacy Outback Sedan was just diagnosed with leaking head gaskets when I had the oil changed. The car has 87k miles and is almost 9 yrs old. So I took it to my Subaru dealer in San Rafael, CA. They confirmed the head gasket problem, they called Subaru headquarters, who agreed to covering 100% parts and labor to install new head gaskets!! While they had the engine out they installed a timing belt ($84) and 2 drive belts ($35), which I paid for. I am ecstatic that they would warranty my 9-year old Subaru. Way to go! And it only took 3-1/2 days to fix.