Subaru Outbak Head Gasket Leaks

I have a 2002 Legacy Outback Limited Wagon 2.5L engine 78,000 miles. Serviced by dealership at regular intervals. No significant problems to date. At last service (4/15/08)the Tech wrote " found head gaskets are leaking. The repair starts at $1,800 to replace both head gaskets. The price will go up if there is further damage" I didn’t proceed w/repair because I didn’t think a head gasket should go at this mileage because I wanted to do some research. I have found several internet sites that identify this as a problem w/ the 2002 Subaru outback. Just finished reading quite a few references to it on this site. Several have said that if pressed Dealership might offer a “good will” deal since this shouldn’t happen. Also, some have said there was a recall on this which I can find no record of on the various internet sights. So my questions; how real is this “good will” deal under my circumstances? Was there an official recall?

Subaru has had a long history of head gasket problems dating back about 30 years. The dealership itself will not provide a good-will anything. That is up to Subaru of America, the distributor.
Your best bet is to contact the regional office of SOA and ask them if they will do anything about this. If they say yes then go to the dealer for the repair. Keep the conversation with SOA polite and professional but express concern about the premature failure.

There has never been an official recall on Subaru head gaskets but sometimes a bulletin may be floating around discussing this issue. I still have a copy of a bulletin from back in the late 70s discussing head gasket problems (which were very common then even at far lower mileage) and while denying a problem to the hilt, they state they will cover the head gasket repair if (paraphrased here) “the customer squawks loud enough”.

One would think head gasket problems would not occur on a cylinder head that is so short in length but it’s a common problem. I have a theory as to why this occurs but it’s only my own personal opinion.
It’s because cylinder head retorques were done away with quite a few years back. At one point in the late 70s-mid 80s Subaru recommended a 1000 miles head bolt retorque and head gasket problems diminished. Subaru did away with this procedure as a cost cutting move and said it was not necessary due to the use of TTY (torque to yield) head bolts and gasket problems started surfacing again.

Back in the 80s head gasket problems also occurred when Nissan did away with the head bolt retorque. After the retorque was eliminated head gasket failures became an everyday occurrence.
In theory torque to yield head bolts should not be a problem and should not require a retorque, but in practice things can vary a bit at times.
Hope some of that helps you out.

Call Subaru of America. Most of 2002 is the last year covered by an extended 8yr/100,000 mile warranty for external coolant leaks if you use Subaru coolant conditioner(dealers know this and should have since you serviced there).

Brought it back to the original dealership referenced in my original post. Referred to the internet research on this problem and asked about the “good will” deal. Dealership contacted their SOA rep. SOA covered all but $250.00. My conclusion about why it was so smooth. 1. The problem has been well documented 2. I was polite, professional but assertive and I had the research to back me up.3) I have been a good customer for a period of time. I believe the maintenance history with them did make a difference. I’m not sure what they would have done if I just came in off the street with this problem. I had a better than expected experience because I think I have a better than average dealership (Chaplin’s Subaru, Bellevue Washington). But, that will always only go so far. Their motivation for cooperation was still completely one sided; If SOA pays for, sure they’ll take care of it and they have made money on me with the original purchase and subsequent maint. activity. Fair enough. With cars and dealerships that’s the best you can hope for. By the way on the recall. The dealer rep said there was a recall, but the fix was made at the factory on this unit so I never got a notice. The fix was an additive that was supposed to seal it up. Thanks for your response.