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Worth the investment to repair 02 Subaru Ouback or look at investing in new car?

My car: 2002 Subaru Outback, 125,000 mi

I recently had invested almost $2700 into my Outback: big overhaul at 120K - standard tuneup + 2 new axle boots & new brakes.
6 weeks later noticed squeaking noise which turns out to be a bad bushing. However, on inspecting squeak source, fluid leakage (multi fluids, hard to know exactly which one and source without steam cleaning engine and adding a dye to the fluids to identify real source. Was quoted $2200-$3600 for repair work. Higher end is in case head gaskets need replacing. None of this includes needing new tires… all 4.

So, do I invest in this car, in hopes all is taken care of (knowing it’s a 10 year old car, possibilities of other breakdowns high), or invest the money into another car?

A ten year old car could have some leaks and seepage. You have to clarify what and how much the leak is. If it is a head gasket, then needs fixing ASAP and the car should not be driven. Others, like the valve cover gasket, oil pan gasket, etc could just be dealt with on a as needed basis with topping oil. Is there any coolant leak.

If you are not car savvy, might be better to get a 2nd opinion.

Sounds to me like its shot-Kevin

Spark plugs, new brakes, and CV boots isn’t a major overhaul. It just replaced stuff that wears out on a 10 year old car. It seems you are taking the car to an expensive shop, perhaps even a Subaru dealer?

I sense that you really don’t want to spend money on this car. I’m not sure why the fluid leak is causing a squeak? I think you need to find an independent shop that has reasonable prices and get them to look over the car. So far, you haven’t mentioned anything that looks like a real major issue, so what are they quoting $2,200 - 3,600 to repair?

A 10 year old car will need more $$$ budgeted for repairs and replacement of worn parts. You should budget something like $2,000 a year for repairs on top of oil changes and routine maintenance. That seems like a lot, but it is about 4 monthly car payments if you opted for a new car. Cars don’t last forever, and 10 years means this one has given someone good service to this point. Perhaps it is time for you to replace it with something new and drive worry free and with a warranty for a few years.

It sounds like the engine needs to be resealed along with the other standard things that are changed out when the engine is pulled. There is a pretty good list of things in the timing belt area though they should have been done by now according to your mileage. If the body is in excellent shape and you don’t mind keeping the car for at least another 5 years I think you would be money ahead to keep the car. By fixing those things you should be able to get well over another 100k miles on the car without spending much more money on it. If you don’t want to keep the car for a reasonable amount of time then I would suggest you spend the money on another car you want to keep for a long time and get what you can for the current car.

2nd opinion is coming from an independent shop… with good reputation. Not going back to dealership’s shop since that’s where this could have been brought to my attention at the time I did all the recent repair work. Yes, it was only $2700, but had I known then what I know now (the potential of additional $2200-$3600 + new tires), I would most likely decided trade-in instead of feeling stuck with investment made and sticking with the car or moving on. It’s more the integrity of the dealership shop in not bringing this up to my attention when it should have been. There’s evidence that someone tried cleaning up the excess oil/grease under the car, not to mention over-filling the oil by a quarter fill.

Based on 2nd opinion: report says oil was all over underside of vehicle that’s getting onto exhaust pipes and filter (creating burning fumes). Leaks seeping from head gasket on right side and coolant leaks around head gasket. Signs of cv joint grease slung all over.

From my understanding, what would be involved is steam cleaning the engine and putting dies into fluids to see where leakage source is. Head gaskets would need to get removed to do this, and sent out to test for integrity. If ok, they won’t need repair work but it so, hence the high end of the range.

Car shows 10 years of wear… but I’m fine with that. Suits the non-glitz kind of gal I am. And I do love the no car payment aspect… but I also do love having peace of mind and value of my time when it comes to cars. I’m not car savvy and have to rely on good faith, hard working people to help me take care of my car.

With Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I just want to say a heart-felt “THANK YOU” to all for your feedback. It’s helping me to think about all my options, and how to proceed, whether it’s keeping or trading in.

It doesn’t sound to me like steam cleaning would get you anything. It sounds like the sources of the leaks are already known.

The head gasket comment is a misunderstanding. Headgaskets do not get reused. The head gets removed and IT gets inspected. If it’s not flat, more cost piles up…it needs to be disassembled and “milled”. If it’s in good shape, it can be reinstalled on the existing block with a new headgasket. A good inspection will also test the spring strength, and if they’ve grown weak they’ll be replaced, and if the valves show signs of problems (carbon buildup, leakage, etc.) those will need to be corrected.

It sounds like you need some major work. Perhaps not a full rebuild (although I would not go into the project without oding a compression test first), but definitely in the 4-figure range.

One thing you haven’t told us is how it’s running. Or if you’re having operating problems. Honestly, if it were me and I wasn;t having problems, I’d keep on monitoring the fluids and driving it. I wouldn;t put a ton more money into it. When it begins to develop overheating problems, be prepared to get rid of it and replace it.

A squeak here and there and some fluid leaking isn’t a reason to discard a car w/120K , esp if it has beenn properly maintained, if you like the car otherwise. If you want a new car anyway, sure,that’s a no-brainer, sell it. If you want to consider to keep it, an inde mechanic can tell you without much expense-- they’ll probably do a compression and/or leakdown test – if you need a new headgasket.

Having coolant and oil leaks from the head gaskets is a pretty common issue with those engines. It kind of sounds like yours needs to have that done. If the heads are ok the repair bill shouldn’t be too high, under 2,000 dollars hopefully. I suggest you at least get the engine steam cleaned so things stay clean. The smell of oil burning on the exhaust system is terrible.

Car is driving ok, no overheating as of yet. One bad bushing is making the drive a bit annoying, easily fixable.

Maybe it’s because of where I live, but the quotes are coming back pretty high. Still looking around.

Thanks all! I appreciate your feedback!

I don’t think you need head gaskets at all. What you need are valve cover gaskets which done at an independent mechanic would be about $100. When you get a quote, what are you asking? Are you asking for head gaskets? If so, don’t, ask the mechanic to check for the source of the squeaking sound, let them figure out what needs to be done and offer you a quote based on that.

If you are loosing a significant amount of oil, like a quart every week or two, then ask them to find the leak, but if you are not loosing very much oil, say a quart every month ot two, just keep checking the oil level and add when needed. The additional oil will be less than the cost of the repair.

As for the bushing, there are a lot of bushings on a car, and not a single one of them has anything to do with the head gasket. And that $2700 bill form the dealer for the work already done sounds way way too high. If I were you, I would never darken their door again, and don’t even buy a new car from them, find another dealer. even if it means buying a different brand of vehicle.

I agree with @keith about the head gaskets. The leaking problem may just be with the valve cover gaskets and that would be a lot less expensive to fix. If the coolant level is going down though after time that very well could mean the heads need to be fixed. Having the coolant checked for exhaust gases would be a good thing to do if you decide to fix the car and before any more work is done to the engine.

I think he mentioned that they couldn’t identify the fluid that’s leaking. If it is coolant and oil, the head gasket would be my first suspect. I do agree that if it is leaking just oil and it doesn’t leak much, just keep your eye on the level. Oil is cheap.

Before you do anything, you need to identify what’s leaking/seeping. Clean the bottom of the engine with some aerosol degreaser and a water hose and see where it is coming from.
If it is coolant and oil, it may very well be the headgasket. They can be replaced with the engine in the car, saving time and thus money, but you’d have to find a shop that knows subies.

Do I invest in this car, in hopes all is taken care of or invest the money into another car?

You don’t invest in a car, unless you are driving a commercial vehicle for money. Owning a car is an expense.

Can’t identify what’s leaking, seriously. What is getting low, that’s what’s leaking. I don’t mean to be so sarcastic but come on, this poster needs to find a good mechanic and stick with him.

+1 Totally agree.
And don’t go to the dealer. They’ll sell you stuff you don’t need.