Last post on Jul 23, 2013 at 1:03 PM
You are in the Subaru Legacy & Outback
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Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Wagon
#8623 of 8657 Head problem
Apr 25, 2013 (3:06 pm)
I am looking to buy a 2003 Legacy L with standard trans. The car only has 68000 miles on it and the price seemed to be right, around $6500 from a reliable private party. But when we took it in to the dealer for inspection it turned out that there is a problem with the head. Not sure if there was also a leak or if that is related to the head. Estimated cost for repair, including the timing belt (which the owner says he just recently replaced, so I expect the part can be reuse) is $2500. Dealer said that he was figuring conservatively, that was probably at the high end of possibilities. Present owner said he would cover cost of repair from the dealer. Since I am not familiar with Subarus I am seeking advice. Do you think the problem with the head is symptomatic of the car going into a decline, the period when a car begins to have problems, sometimes big and sometimes small; but about to become a nuisance. Or is the head a one time deal; once that is fixed the car is good to go and since everything else checked out and it appears to have been cared for, we should have few, if any problems. Can I get some opinions?
#8624 of 8657 Re: Head problem [msmb]
Apr 26, 2013 (5:36 am)
A problem with the head seems a bit open. A 2003 will most likely have head gasket issues at some point. Why has the timing belt been replaced already before 68K miles? It wasn't due until 100K.
To me a 10+ year old car for $6500 seems a bit high if it needs work.
#8625 of 8657 Re: Head problem [jd_24]
Apr 26, 2013 (6:31 am)
Price does seem high.
For the gasket, if the problem just started, and they change the gaskets, you should be OK.
If it's been overheating and they neglected it, though, you get warping and the heads won't mate properly, so it could happen again.
If you know/trust the seller, find out how long it's been leaking, and pass if it didn't just start happening recently.
#8626 of 8657 Re: Head problem [msmb]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Apr 26, 2013 (8:01 am)
You can't expect any kind of guarantee of future success with a used car--all you can do is improve your odds of success by going over the car with a fine tooth comb at the time of purchase.
The head gasket issue is typical Subaru, although it occurred a bit earlier than expected. Most 2.5L Subies of that vintage will blow the gaskets at 110K to 130K.
As long as the engine never overheated (you should be able to spot signs of that), and as long as no coolant ever got into the oil, you should be okay.
I don't think I'd buy the car until it was all fixed up and road-tested, however.
These cars are a dime a dozen--I don't see why you have to jump on this one.
#8627 of 8657 Re: Head problem [Mr_Shiftright]
Apr 26, 2013 (9:42 am)
From everything I could see the previous owner did not have any idea about the headgasket problem. The dealer who has serviced the car did the last major service at 53500, about 15000 miles ago. But since the car has only been driven under 7,000 per year that was a few years ago. At that service the drive belts were changed, in addition to whatever else the normal service is. Seller used an oil change shop for regular oil changes. I called them and with the VIN they were able to give me the record. They say that the car has been brought to them since 30,000, every 3000 miles or less. They claim--who knows?-- that if coolent was leaking into oil they would have noticed this and reported it. The last oil change was about 2500 miles ago and it was not noticed, so presumably the problem is recent. They changed oil, cleaned battery, and cleaned the injectors. I find no sludge at all inside the engine when i stick my finger into where you pour oil, and the engine looks clean inside. The service rep at the dealership that has taken car of the car did an inspection for us. That is when the gasket problem was noticed. The dealer thinks that there is a very slight possibility that the engine block could be warped, but he doubted it. He thought the car drove too well to have any additional problem. Why this car? It is within the price range I had in mind and with such low mileage I am hoping for many years of use --headache free once the dealer replaces the head-- in a car I feel good about my child driving. How does the price seem to you: $6750? I have agreed to pay $4,000 up front to the owner and the ramainder was allotted for repair of the vehicle. The dealer said a conservative estimate on the repairs was $2500 (he said more realistically between $1900 and $2200) and I said that if I had anything left over after allotting $2500 and paying the dealer for the repair that, up to our agreed price of $6750, would go to the owner.
#8628 of 8657 Re: Head problem [msmb]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Apr 26, 2013 (9:53 am)
I wouldn't buy the car until the repairs were completed, using the owner's money. What if the engine is no good?
The only way to buy this car is to presume the engine is toast, and in that case $4000 is too much for it.
$6750 is retail dealer pricing and no bargain, so again, it's not a car you have to jump on.
#8629 of 8657 Re: Head problem [msmb]
Apr 26, 2013 (9:54 am)
I think your approach is good. The car is young in terms of mileage, but not in terms of age. So, there could be other problems, such as split CV boots, ball joints, etc., over time, but that's the way of any car. Maintenance & repairs required!
There are several types of leaks that can occur with the head gaskets: External oil, external coolant, internal coolant (into oil / combustion chamber), internal combustion into coolant....
In my opinion, external oil is the best type, if it just has to leak(!), to have. I say that because generally this type of leak does not lead to engine overheating, yet it is noticeable enough to warrant action prior to any other, more serious, leaks occurring.
If you continue to pursue the purchase, you are hedging your bets well that you'll be satisfied with it in the long run.
#8630 of 8657 Re: Head problem [Mr_Shiftright]
Apr 26, 2013 (9:57 am)
I wouldn't buy the car until the repairs were completed, using the owner's money.
I agree. I re-read the prior post and didn't interpret the wording that way, but my approach would be: Owner fixes, then I buy.
The fact that the owner is even willing to do this (versus trying to foist the car off on an unsuspecting buyer) speaks volumes about the individual's integrity.
#8631 of 8657 Re: Head problem [xwesx]
by MrShift@Edmunds HOST
Apr 26, 2013 (1:32 pm)
It IS true that the head gasket failures on Subarus are external leaks for the vast majority of the failures, but still, coolant loss is coolant loss and if the owner didn't pick up on it, it's pretty easy to bend the heads on an overheat.
#8632 of 8657 Re: Head problem [jd_24]
Apr 26, 2013 (7:29 pm)
I made a mistake. Or, previous seller did. The drive belts were changed with the lat major service. The young man who sold the car thought they were the timing belts. But the dealer reviewed the history of service with us and it was never done. Thanks for your response.