Subaru retierment

We have a 2004 V6 Subaru Outback with 147k miles on it. It has just started to leak oil from a head gasket (drips on exhaust header and stinks). Our mechanic says it’s minor and if you can live with the smell don’t worry-I question this. My question is do we fix it or get rid of it as is and buy something else?

Are you sure the leak is from a head gasket and not from a valve cover gasket?

according to my mechanic.

$3,000 repair bill

Ouch. I’m not a Subaru expert, but if I were you I’d ask if simply retorquing the head bolts might be a possible solution. Certainly less expensive than pulling the head(s).

I’d get another opinion on this and in the event that the problem is a weeping head gasket instead of a leaking valve cover, etc. then I’d have the head bolts retorqued and see what happens. A 3 grand repair on a car with 147k miles, no way.

The reason head bolt retorque is not mentioned is that many, including mechanics, think it’s not necessary or can’t be done. That would be incorrect.

I have to assume that the OP has an Outback with the H-6 engine as Subaru does not make an engine in a V configuration. That being said, while some H-4 Subarus have a tendency toward head gasket leaks, the H-6 design is not prone to that problem.

As was said, it is much more likely that the valve cover gaskets are leaking oil, rather than the head gaskets. In fact, I had to tighten the bolts for the valve covers on my '02 H-6 Outback because there was oil leaking onto the exhaust manifolds on both sides. Does that sound familiar? Incidentally, simply retorqueing those bolts resolved the oil leak.

I would suggest consulting a mechanic who is more familiar with Subarus (particularly the 6-cylinder models), as the OP’s current mechanic might lack experience with this model. Because relatively few 6-cylinder Subarus were sold in the '01-'07 period it is very possible that few independent mechanics are familiar with them and, as a result, I think that the Subaru dealer may be preferable to a local mechanic for this issue.

Incidentally, if the OP’s current mechanic is the one who stated that the car has a V-6 engine, the OP should definitely seek a new mechanic!

Ok, back again.

second opinion (subaru dealer) confirms a head gasket. engine is a H6 and current 147k. Dealer will not re-torque head bolts “too late…active leak”. should i go some place that will?

do I spend the $3k and hope I get another couple of years out of it or try and trade it in?

the car has been maintained very well and repairs have been minor, i.e AC compressor (not so minor), CV joints and brakes. that’s about it.


I think you would be wise and money ahead to repair the vehicle. While you won’t have a new car by doing that it should be able to go a number of years before more major work is needed again though that isn’t guaranteed.

By averaging the repair costs over time compared to making new car payments you will spend a lot less money. You have to expect repairs on any car after some time. Along with replacing the gaskets I would also recommend changing the water pump, the timing chain, and radiator possibly. By doing those things you should have a good reliable vehicle. Other minor issues may pop up later but it still should be cheaper for you to go that route.