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Subaru with possible HG failure - what else to fix?

I own a 96 Subaru Outback with an automatic transmission which means it has one of the 2.5 DOHC engines that are prone to internal head gasket failures (not that Subaru admits any of this). I have 93 K miles on it. I suspect that the car is in the early stages of HG failure - grungy oily coolant in the reservoir, but no overheating - at least not yet. I’ll find out Wednesday if I’m right when I get the coolant tested for hydrocarbons.

My question: what else should I have fixed while I’m at it? I’m already thinking timing belt and tensioners, cam seals, rear engine seal, separator plate (still has the original crummy plastic one that is probably starting to leak), and water pump. Other suggestions?

Any idea what this might cost? I live in the DC metro area.


With the engine out the front pump seal (generally called a torque converter seal) on the transmission should always be replaced.

The grungy coolant could always just be aged coolant if it has not been flushed from time to time and this can also be caused by a leaking automatic trans fluid cooler. That cooler is inside the radiator so you should inspect the auto trans fluid level.

If this does turn out to be a head gasket weepage problem (as opposed to being outright blown) you might consider having the head bolts retorqued. In theory this is not supposed to be needed; in practice it often is and it may stop any HG weepage.

No idea on cost as that can vary widely but all of those things you mention along with head gaskets is going to be expensive; probably in the 2-3 grand range for your part of the country.
Hope that helps.

Thank you very much - this is extremely helpful. I don’t think it is aged coolant…but I hadn’t considered the AT fluid cooler…

In DC that sounds about $2000+ of work with HG and the timing belt/water pump and other stuff mentioned.

OMG - I guess I should change my sign-on to Chicken Little. It was not the head gasket or the ATF cooler. Apparently it was just old coolant…although that surprises me since it was changed only 2 years ago. Oh well - I’ll take it! Thanks everyone for your help.