I have a 1997 Subaru Legacy Outback Limited, ~180,000 miles. It has been a good car but we’ve run into some problems the last few months and I’m looking for general advice on whether to sink more money into it.
About a month ago we were driving back from vacation and experienced a loud belt squeal from the engine. Had a nearby mechanic look at it – turned out it was a timing belt pulley which we had to have replaced.
Now, a couple weeks ago, the day after getting my fluids changed, I was driving over the mountain on another, shorter, trip and experienced sudden overheating - steam coming out from the radiator - lots of discouraging gurgling and clunking sounds as liquid moved around. Had to have it towed 40 miles back home.
First thought being a Subaru person – head gasket. A couple of mechanics nearby when I was broken down on the side of the road gave that as a preliminary diagnosis as well.
Unfortunately, we were leaving for a week on another trip, so I had to wait to have my car looked at until we got back – about 2 weeks. Now my regular mechanic takes a look – he says it isn’t the head gaskets, but a hold corroded in the bottom of the radiator that the coolant is just pouring out of. Also the fans aren’t working. Fix is about $350.
So. I am in a conundrum. I have heard that most people get their radiators replaced before it becomes clear that it is a head gasket issue. So I am very nervous that this issue is actually a head gasket and that for whatever reason my normal mechanic can’t find the signs for because it was sitting for two weeks, or for some other reason. He’s not a Subaru specialist. I asked specifically that he check the head gaskets and he says no oil in coolant, coolant in oil or sweet smell from tailpipe.
This car has been a good one, pretty reliable. But I’ve put alot of $$ into it this year in particular. For that reason I’m kind of loathe to sell it for probably less than $500 bucks when I’ve put at least a $1000 or more into it over the past year. Alot of those parts are new. But I can’t afford to spend another $1000 on a head gasket fix.
So… should I trade it in for a newer car that will let me go on long trips in peace, or fix it and pray? How likely is it after this diagnosis, that a head gasket issue will pop up?