Subaru head gasket

I own a 2002 Subaru Outback with 132,000 miles, 4cyl. I’ve heard that Subaru has, or used to have problems with the head gasket going out sometime over the 100,000 mile mark. Which model years are the most problematic when it comes to the head gasket?

I recently had a scare with this. I had an antifreeze leak somewhere in the engine compartment and took it in to my local mechanic to find out what was leaking. He did a pressure test and said the head gasket was leaking and this was going to cost $3000 to fix. Luckily my girlfriends uncle owns a shop about an hour from where I live and he was willing to do the job for about half of what the first garage wanted to charge me. He did the same pressure test and observed that it was the hoses that were leaking, which actually were spraying the antifreeze onto the intake and making it look as though the head gasket was leaking, when in fact it wasn’t. So, essentially the $3000 fix became $150 after he replaced the in and out flow hoses and ran other tests to determine that nothing else was leaking. He said it’s a common mistake by mechanics, especially with Subaru’s since they have the history of the head gasket going out.

After all this, I’m still wondering about the head gasket and if it’s not a question of if the gasket fails, but when the gasket fails. Is my model year one of the years that has this issue? Is this gasket practically guaranteed to fail? Would it be wise to have it fixed, preemptively?

Here’s the comments I provided ruthieann in her question. My head gasket has held up well past my expectations. Your 2002 model was supposed to be at the tail end of the head gasket issue, but it seems to continue on later model cars, perhaps with less frequency.

My post to ruthieann:
Subaru has had some level of head gasket issues for some time, especially with the 2.5L 4 cyl engine. However, not every Subaru has the issue at this early a mileage.

Read your owner’s manual carefully about the cooling system and a recommendation to add a Subaru Coolant Conditioner ($4 or less at Subaru dealer) to the radiator when the coolant is changed. As I understand it, the factory coolant comes with it in also.

This has worked for us (2003 Legacy, 135K miles, no head gasket issues) but am not sure if it would have changed your outcome. That is all I can offer.

We really like our Subaru, but two sticking points with us are the general requirement to replace four tires at a time and the possibility of head gasket issues that haven’t surfaced with us, yet.

The gasket problem was more common in the models before 2000. I wouldn’t say you are bound to have a problem with the gaskets but it may happen as it can with about any car with that amount of mileage. Hopefully the car has served you well so far with little problem. They are a great car in my opinion.

Subaru has an additive for the coolant that is supposed to help prevent a gasket problem. Another thing you can do that can help is be sure to change out the coolant when it is time.