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Subaru Forester, Auto Repair, Oil
#1 of 29 2003 Forester head gasket
Jun 01, 2010 (2:18 pm)
Hi. My wife has a 2003 Forester XS with about 71k miles. At the last oil change they told me there's a small oil leak and I should get it checked out. When I got home I noticed some drops in the driveway.
I brought it to my mechanic and he checked it out and said it's clearly the head gasket. He said that since it's a small leak, the easiest thing would be do leave it alone and check the oil level frequently and add a little as needed. He said he generally doesn't do head gasket replacements, even though they're labor-intensive and therefore profitable, because they're very difficult to do perfectly and you often end up with a small leak, which in our case would make it pointless.
I'm looking for information and guidance. Is my mechanic's recommendation of doing nothing reasonable? If not, how much should I expect to pay for this? Are there other options? What questions should I be asking?
Perhaps complicating things is the fact that we just bought a new Outback for my wife with the intention of selling her Forester to her parents. Obviously, we don't want to give them something with a problem. Also, they live out in the boonies where it's an hour or more to the nearest dealer if they have a problem. (I don't know about local mechanics where they are, but they really are in the middle of nowhere, so it might be 45 minutes to one.)
p.s., sorry if this is a dupe. I tried posting it several hours ago but that one hasn't shown up yet.
#2 of 29 Re: 2003 Forester head gasket [cabriggs]
Jun 02, 2010 (7:39 am)
I'd change the gaskets now. What you don't want is for the block to overheat and warp - then it'll never be the same again.
You caught the problem early and it can be fixed early. That's what I'd do.
#3 of 29 Re: 2003 Forester head gasket [ateixeira]
Jun 02, 2010 (8:47 am)
I think I would do the same. However, your situation is somewhat different than most Subaru head gasket problems in that you have an oil leak rather than a coolant leak. As such, it may be that the oil leak will not create the same sort of issues the coolant leak so often does (namely, the overheating issue cited by ateixeira).
The first thing to do may be to gauge the severity of the leak by tracking how much oil is lost over a given interval (such as one thousand miles). Then you can consider what to do next. You can be certain that it will get worse although how quickly that will happen is less certain.
The cost to replace both head gaskets will likely run $1,800 to $2,500. The good news is that you can piggyback other maintenance work, such as replacement of the timing belt and water pump, with no additional labor cost. The timing belt is due at 105,000 miles. Strictly in terms of parts, the cost is around $300 for the head gaskets (with timing belt replacement).
#4 of 29 Re: 2003 Forester head gasket [xwesx]
Jun 03, 2010 (7:02 am)
Thanks for the advice, both of you.
Since we're selling it to family, and based on your suggestions, I'm inclined to just get the head gaskets replaced. My in-laws might even split the repair cost with us. I emailed a few local dealers for quotes. Two wrote back, one said $1400 and the other $1600. More affordable than I expected; before I saw your post I was assuming around $2000. I'll ask about the timing belt and water pump too.
#5 of 29 Re: 2003 Forester head gasket [cabriggs]
Jun 03, 2010 (9:29 am)
I should have noted that the range I estimated was for both head gaskets. I suspect the quotes you received was for just the one. Since the majority of the labor is tearing everything down to access the head, the amount of labor involved in the second gasket is fairly minimal (perhaps 2-3 hours of additional time).
At least, that was my experience; I replaced the head gaskets on my '96 Outback myself.
#6 of 29 Re: 2003 Forester head gasket [xwesx]
Jun 03, 2010 (9:42 am)
The $1400 quote was not specific. The other said, "We can replace the passanger side and drivers side headgaskets for 1595.00. (turbo is more)." I'll ask the other guys to clarify.
Thanks for pointing that out.
#7 of 29 Re: 2003 Forester head gasket [cabriggs]
Jun 03, 2010 (9:44 am)
Speaking of clarifying, I meant I'll ask the guys with the $1400 quote to clarify. The $1595 quote seemed clear to me, in that it includes both head gaskets.
#8 of 29 Re: 2003 Forester head gasket [cabriggs]
Jun 03, 2010 (1:00 pm)
Yep. Let us know what they say.
#9 of 29 Re: 2003 Forester head gasket [ateixeira]
Jun 04, 2010 (10:16 am)
They said both:
"That is for both head gaskets and all related seals and gaskets, coolant and oil and filter. extra would be a timing belt depending on mileage and drive belts depending on condition. There is no additional labor charge on the belts as they must be removed during the head gasket replacement."
Sounds good to me. Am I missing anything? Now I'll ask about the water pump.
#10 of 29 Re: 2003 Forester head gasket [cabriggs]
Jun 04, 2010 (10:55 am)
No; that sounds like a great price.