Last post on Aug 30, 2011 at 5:04 PM
You are in the Subaru Forester Maintenance & Repair
What is this discussion about?
Subaru Forester, Auto Repair, Oil
#20 of 29 Another 2003 Forester head gasket
Nov 22, 2010 (10:29 am)
I seem to have the same problem as another message poster. After a recent oil change I was told that I had a small head gasket leak, but as of this morning it is no longer small. I called Subaru and there is no recall. They did say they could "offer a little assistance" if I were to take it to a Subaru dealer to have it repaired. However, they would not quote an amount.
Over the phone, the local Subaru dealer told me that it would cost $1,800 to $2,500 to repair. The car is sittling at a local mechanic's shop and I'm waiting for them to give me a price.
These engines seem to be have a known head gasket issue and it appears that the 2002 model was recalled. Is the 2003 engine different from the 2002? Are there fewer issues with the 2003?
Based on a comment that I read about this being a difficult repair to do without continuing leakage, is it better to go to the dealer than to the local non-Subaru mechanic?
I bought this car thinking that it would be trouble-free and last me a long time. A problem like this at only 75,000 miles is a major disappointment and has changed my previously high opinion of the Subaru line of vehicles.
Any advice would be sincerly appreciated.
#21 of 29 Re: Another 2003 Forester head gasket [hikerpa]
Nov 22, 2010 (11:21 am)
The engine is not different. They changed the gasket material in an attempt to make it more durable, along with requiring a different coolant formulation, but the open block EJ25 engine is prone to head gasket failures. Some do it young, most do not.
I have replaced the gaskets myself on an EJ25 (I did mine at 192,000, so not that young!) and did not have any leak issues afterward, so I think that as long as the mechanic does a detail-oriented job, it shouldn't matter if it is a "Subaru mechanic" or independent. Before you commit one way or the other, I would ask for a commitment from Subaru through the dealer. Sometimes they will cover the cost of parts associated with the job (which will probably save you $400 or so of the total cost, since it is mostly labor).
For a car as old as yours, that is still good faith.
#22 of 29 Re: Another 2003 Forester head gasket [xwesx]
Nov 22, 2010 (3:47 pm)
Consumer Reports Buying Guide for 2011 shows that for both the Legacy and Outback MY2004 the 4 cyl motor is "much worse than average". The Forester and Impreza (both non-turbo) motors are average. Same motor, should show same ratings, so CR is clearly not 100% reliable either... However with no design changes, one should expect the head gasket issues to continue, perhaps at a smaller rate, due to various patches employed (special coolant, special head gasket material).
#23 of 29 Re: Another 2003 Forester head gasket [daniell]
Nov 22, 2010 (6:41 pm)
Consumer Reports Buying Guide for 2011 shows that for both the Legacy and Outback MY2004 the 4 cyl motor is "much worse than average". The Forester and Impreza (both non-turbo) motors are average. Same motor, should show same ratings, so CR is clearly not 100% reliable either
Oddly, the average motors are in models assembled in Japan. The "much worse than average" models are assembled in Indiana. I wonder if the cylinder heads are put on the blocks in Indiana? If so, there is another side to the story.
#24 of 29 Re: Another 2003 Forester head gasket [saedave]
Nov 22, 2010 (7:20 pm)
Could be country of origin... but also small sample size, self-selected sample (non-random) etc.
The CR 2010 Buying Guide (last year's) shows for MY2004 the NA Forester motor as better than average, while the NA Impreza is much worse than average. The 4cyl Legacy is average. No consistent pattern...
So far, MY2005 has been holding quite well, according to what I could see here and on other Subaru websites. We'll see if it holds up for the next few years.
My 2002 Forester needed new head gaskets at about 65k miles. I had all the known problems (head gaskets, rotors warped, brake pads needed 2-3 times at each end already, inner CV boot ripped, overhead clock stopped working, a wheel bearing failing now at 77k miles etc.). Also had a few other "bonus" ones (some front differential seal failed twice). Car has been meticulously maintained, never abused. Might consider another Forester is the new motor solves the head gaskets issue and it gets a more modern transmission.
#25 of 29 Re: Another 2003 Forester head gasket [daniell]
Nov 23, 2010 (6:46 am)
Might consider another Forester is the new motor solves the head gaskets issue and it gets a more modern transmission
The transmission at this time is still the 4EAT, but in its favor is minimal problems AFAIK. When (if) the CVT replaces it, performance and mpg should be better with perhaps a price penalty.
Replacing my 2005 Outback VDC, I chose an XT in 2010 to get the semi-closed deck block as well as the performance enhancement. The new chain drive cams on the 2011 normally aspirated engine are another nice enhancement.
#26 of 29 2003 Forester X 125,000 head gasket failure
Nov 28, 2010 (11:25 pm)
I was driving around on the road the other day and the temp guage shot up toward the red. I pulled over turned off the engine (but left the fan going) to try to cool. Added some water - for some reason was low! Took to mechanic - bad head gasket. Subaru specialist mentioned that these engines are notorious for hg failure. Did a hc test to confirm exhaust in coolant which was displacing coolant with air/ exh gas.
Do a quick web search and you will see the quality problems specifically with the HG on these motors. This despite using subaru "coolant conditioner" - though perhaps getting to 125k was because of this?
Overall, the car is good quality, but the expense and failure rate (bad enough on earlier models to force subaru to change warranty policy) of HG is horrendous. We are talking about a repair bill that is 40-50% the value of the car - so is it even worth doing? How many have had the HG repaired and gone 150k? When do you just throw in the towel and move on (interestingly, my Ford Taurus has 150k with NO issues - just good luck or is J quality declining?)?
Hopefully the heads can be shaved and saved....
#27 of 29 Re: 2003 Forester X 125,000 head gasket failure [krc2]
Nov 29, 2010 (9:31 am)
Newer models have been better, but you're right, it was common. 125k miles is a lot, though, it usually happens sooner.
#28 of 29 Blown head gaskets 2003 Sub. Forester UGH!!!!
Aug 30, 2011 (3:57 pm)
Well my head gaskets did blow. My nephew put some stop leak in in and it seems to have fixed it for the time being.I realize this is a temporary fix. I am now looking to get it fixed before it blows AGAIN!!! The mechanic I am using said it would be best to put a new/rebuilt motor in it than rebuild the one in the car at this time. I am driving the car daily and sometimes it smells hot but seems to be doing ok.I just feel very anxious to get this fixed.I have Multiple Sclerosis and live on disability I am trying to get help from my church to help with the cost.My question is : is it better to buy a rebuilt one or repair the motor in the car???Repair or replace???
#29 of 29 Re: Blown head gaskets 2003 Sub. Forester UGH!!!! [happykat52]
Aug 30, 2011 (5:04 pm)
It depends.... When the motor overheats, there is a possibility that the heads will warp. If that happens, then replacement of the gaskets will result in continued leaking (or the leaks resuming not long after replacement). If they're not warped, your engine is probably fine.
I had issues with mine, as well as intermittent overheating prior to the gasket replacement, and finally took the time to tear it all down and replace at 192,000 miles. I had the car another 28,000 miles and had no further problems with them. When I had it tore down, I put a straight edge across the heads and could not perceive any warpage, so I simply assumed they were fine and plowed ahead.