Subaru Head Gaskets

I admit that I haven’t searched yet for other postings on this topic, but I have little doubt there are more than a few. We have a 2003 Forester and last year with less than 100,000 miles, the head gaskets blew. Final cost to fix: $2700.

I wrote a letter to Subaru America in December, 2012 with a copy of the invoice, asking if Subaru might not acknowledge that this is a long-standing defect in their engineering and offer any kind of reimbursement. After all, a cursory search on the internet reveals thousands of people who have also experienced premature head gasket failures. Given that we’ve by-and-large perfected the internal combustion engine after more than a century of practice, one would think that Subaru would fully acknowledge the problem and fix it once and for all.

But no. I received a reply from Subaru America that qualifies as classic spin. After stewing over this for several months, I finally decided to respond, and I’d like to share that with the community.


August 7, 2013

Subaru of America, Inc.
Subaru Plaza
P.O. Box 6000
Cherry Hill, NJ 08034-6000

Attn: Amber Anglin, Customer/Dealer Services

RE: Service Request Number 1-2896985085

Dear Ms. Anglin:

After receiving your response to my letter I sent in December, 2012 (enclosed), I debated whether or not I should bother continuing this correspondence. However, I did pin your letter to the bulletin board in my office, and I couldn’t get one particular line out of my head: “We are very sorry if this is not the answer that you had anticipated.”

Then, this morning I had an exchange with a friend and fellow Subaru owner who is currently shopping for a new car, but not a new Subaru. In her own words: “As you may know, I’ve had two Subaru Outbacks…and changed mechanics when I move. I always ask them to keep an eye on the head gasket and they always say ‘Such a good car except for that chronic problem. Why doesn’t Subaru fix it?’”

In your reply, you mentioned that in “2004 Subaru issued a campaign called WP-99” for models built between 1999 and 2002. Since this information does not apply to my vehicle, I will assume this was an attempt at obfuscation.

Then apparently Subaru did acknowledge the problem because you go on to say that most 2002 and all later models received an “updated head gasket design.” Clearly, this fix was a failure. Head gaskets do not fail before 100,000 miles on any quality car designed by competent engineers operated under normal conditions.

No, you are correct. Your letter did not contain the answer I sought. I had hoped the answer would fall along the lines of Honda’s when Accord fenders rotted away prematurely: Replace them. No charge. Or when the tires on Ford Explorers exploded: Replace them. No charge. Or when my Jetta’s door windows collapsed inside the doors: Fix it. No charge.

In an industry that has existed more than a century, most companies have largely figured out how to build a reliable internal combustion engine. One as well-regarded as Subaru should have finally figured out how to make head gaskets last at least the average life-span of any given car — which is today pushing 200,000 miles — long before 1999. This is not a new technology.

A company that places a high value upon the integrity of its brand and customer loyalty backs the quality of its engineering, and when presented with a letter such as mine, provides a much different answer. Perhaps a little corporate pride would compel you to admit you sold a defective product and to bend over backwards to keep a customer happy. Your commitment to customer loyalty is as much a failure as your head gasket design.

No company ever went out of business for being too fair to their customers.

I will be forwarding copies of these correspondences to the relevant state and federal agencies.

Randy Garbin