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Subaru legacy head gasket leak

I have a head gasket issue with my 96 legacy. I noticed that it was burning/leaking oil, took it in to a reputable Subaru mechanic (not the dealership), and they found that it was leaking oil. They said they needed to reseal the engine from the head gaskets out and that oil is leaking into the coolant bottle.



They estimated the repair cost at $2200 saying that they would replace exhaust valves if they bothered to go in as well. About $1400 of that would be labor.



2 questions:

1. Is that a fair price?

2. My sub’s got 155,000 miles on it. It has always run great and I have never done anything other than basic maintenance and routine repairs. If it’s gonna cost that much to fix, is it worth it, or should I just keep topping off the oil?



Appreciate any advice.

Don’t know about the fair price issue,but if oil getting in the coolant,I fear coolant in the oil could be next,so topping off is a risk.

Topping off the oil will not be sufficient because you are going to have antifreeze/coolant contaminating/diluting your motor oil as a result of the blown head gasket(s)–in fact, this may contamination/diluation may have already taken place. Antifreeze/coolant is not a lubricant, and as a result the engine will have a VERY short life span if the head gaskets (this car has two) are not replaced pronto.

So, if you have any plans of keeping this car, you need to spend the $$ necesary to repair it. If you defer the repair, the engine’s bearings will be severely damaged, and if you decide to sell the car, it will have little resale value.

For that much money, call one of those shops which specialize in engine changes. It may not be much more to get a re-manufactured engine installed.

At that mileage a complete valve job and head resurfacing should be done and I agree that finding another engine might be a better option if it is suspected that the engine is also burning oil, not just leaking it.

Any piston ring condition could be verified with a compression or leak-down test.
As mentioned, if the engine oil is being diluted by coolant then the entire engine is suffering some damage.

If the oil consumption is not very bad I’d be tempted to just say drive it until it dies and not worry about it until it becomes a real aggravation.

Called a buddy of mine who had the same problem on his 01 at 49k. He did research and found it common problem. Got Subaru to fix it. They said its OK now but they keep putting some kind of additive in his anti freeze so it doesn’t happen again. You might research it and go to Subaru with a complaint.

Thanks for the thoughts. As far as what the mechanic told me, the oil is leaking into the coolant, but not the other way around. He also told me, and I have since read, that this is a common problem for the 2.5L from around that year. Other people have gotten Subaru to take care of it for cars with much less mileage. Mine has long passed any kind of warranty.

I have also read many people reporting that the leak causes their engine to overheat. I have had no temperature issues.

A leak will only cause overheating if the coolant level drops too low.
The mechanic is incorrect by stating that oil can leak into the coolant and not do this in reverse. Certainly coolant can mix with the engine oil depending on where the leak is because the cooling system is under pressure when the engine is hot and pressure can force coolant into mixing with engine oil.

If the car has an automatic transaxle then the possibility of this oil diluted coolant being caused by transmission fluid through a leaking trans fluid cooler should be considered and any oil consumption (assuming it’s not visible externally) could be the result of piston rings and/or valve seals.

I owned a 1998 Subaru Outback that I bought in 2006. A year after I bought it, it started overheating and the mechanics couldn’t find anything wrong with it. As quick as the problem started, it suddenly stopped. Last January, over a year later, it started overheating again but not consistenly. I took it to a couple of mechanics that specialize in Subaru repair and they all told me without even looking at it that it was a blown head gasket and a huge problem with the 2.5L engines. They also told me to get rid of the car asap! I have owned five Subarus and never had any problem with any of them until I bought the Outback. My dream car turned into my worst nightmare and I traded it in a year ago for a Toyota 4Runner. Although I miss my Suby, I don’t think I have the confidence to ever buy one again! Research on the internet and you will be shocked at what you find!