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Old 07-31-2010, 09:16 PM   #1
wrx0001
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Default Another Bad Head Gasket. What choices do i have?

A little background on this Vehicle. I have had this car for about a month now. It is a 1997 subaru outback with 173000 miles on it. I bought the car with some known problems because I got a pretty good deal on it. I fixed all the known problems and a few that weren't known at the time of purchase. So far I have installed new plugs, new oem wires, new knock sensor, new air filter, new fuel filter, new pcv valve, cleaned the iacv, changed the oil, flushed and replaced at fluid with mobil 1 synthetic, replaced left axle due to a bad cv joint, and replaced the ac condenser. Having done that the car runs tremendously better than when I bought it. When replacing the ac condenser I noticed that the coolant was darker than it should be. I watched the coolant overflow tank for a bit and saw a little bubble come up. It is not bad but one small bubble about every 7 seconds. The car runs just a little rough around 1800 rpm, but other than that no problems. It does not overheat or stall out or anything else.

What should I do? How long can I can keep driving the car until something blows or warps? Should I just drive it as is and replace the motor with a used one when it goes? Can I try some stop leak? and then drive til it blows? Or should I just have the head gaskets replaced? I don't have the cash for it now but I would probably perform the work myself. I have done the head gaskets on a couple other older vehicles (real old, flat top motors) but never on a subaru. Even after all repair and parts I only have about $1700 in the car.

Any other ideas or opinions would be appreciated. Thanks
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Old 07-31-2010, 11:02 PM   #2
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well it depends on what you want to do. The block has to come out anyways to do head gaskets.

I would try to find a lover mileage long block or short block so that way the internals are newer. Might save you money down the road to go this route.

in the short term it would be cheaper to just replace the head gasket .
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Old 08-01-2010, 01:10 AM   #3
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I spun a rod Bearing and bought a 2001 70K motor for $1,200.00
much cheaper than a rebuild and it is alot faster than the old one.
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Old 08-01-2010, 10:19 AM   #4
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Definately cheaper to do the head gaskets and really not all that bad.

I'd also do the timing set and water pump along with the cam and crank seals and rear main while I was at it as well as the oil pan gasket. In other words...give it a brief once-over.

When buying a used engine, I never trust what has or hasn't been done to that engine and usually end up doing all of the above listed work (minus head gaskets) anyways.
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Old 08-01-2010, 01:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrx0001 View Post
So far I have installed new plugs, new oem wires, new knock sensor, new air filter, new fuel filter, new pcv valve, cleaned the iacv, changed the oil, flushed and replaced at fluid with mobil 1 synthetic, replaced left axle due to a bad cv joint, and replaced the ac condenser.
Not good. Although NASIOCers always love getting into catfights about which motor oil to use, they all seem to agree that Mobil1 synth is NOT a good choice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilSine View Post

I'd also do the timing set and water pump along with the cam and crank seals and rear main while I was at it as well as the oil pan gasket. In other words...give it a brief once-over.
^ I second that. The timing belt / pulleys / tensioner / (water pump, though not as necessary IMHO) is crucial as far as preventive maintenance goes. From the few posts I've searched, the pulley and tensionner combo tends to fail in between the 1st and 2nd timing belt change - so anywhere in between 100 and 200k miles. Given that the engine goes kaboom when they do, getting them changed is a fairly safe move.

About HGs. Engine swap is a (more costly) option, but IMHO it might make more sense when a) the owner has some extra k$ on the floor, and b) the car has a newer frame. Yours is a 97; after all the maintenance it will be an excellent and reliable daily driver. Depends also if you want it just to be a car, or a home fun built. My vote would be to do the HGs...
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Old 08-01-2010, 06:39 PM   #6
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Pretty much concur with everything Philsine and Bluefuton said about the various preventive maintenance items to do if/when you do pull the engine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wrx0001 View Post
I watched the coolant overflow tank for a bit and saw a little bubble come up. It is not bad but one small bubble about every 7 seconds. The car runs just a little rough around 1800 rpm, but other than that no problems. It does not overheat or stall out or anything else.

What should I do? How long can I can keep driving the car until something blows or warps? Should I just drive it as is and replace the motor with a used one when it goes? Can I try some stop leak? and then drive til it blows? Or should I just have the head gaskets replaced?
Honestly, I wouldn't be too worried about the indication you're seeing at this point - that seems very minor to me. If you haven't flushed and refilled the coolant system, it would probably be worthwhile to do that.

As you'll find if you read up about the EJ25 HG issues, the Phase I engines like yours (and mine) almost always blow the HGs internally. I don't consider them "blown" until I start to see that the exhaust is pushing the coolant out of the engine and filling up the coolant reservoir. (And if you push the car hard enough/long enough, it'll overflow the reservoir and overheat since you've blown a bunch of coolant out of the engine.) Even after getting the initial indications of the a bad HG (overflowing the bottle at an open track event) on two occasions I've continued to drive the car for a weeks/months until I finally got around to getting it fixed.

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Originally Posted by Bluefoton View Post
Not good. Although NASIOCers always love getting into catfights about which motor oil to use, they all seem to agree that Mobil1 synth is NOT a good choice.
I don't think I've read of any issues with M1 ATF, which is what he said he used.

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Old 08-01-2010, 08:08 PM   #7
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Thanks for the responses guys. I did do a coolant flush yesterday and used prestone coolant system cleaner. If I do replace the head gaskets on this motor then it will be done with the engine in the chassis so I wont be able to do some of the pm mentioned earlier like the rear main seal which is not leaking at this point anyway. I would do the timing belt and pulleys while I was in there though. Can I get another 50,000 miles out of this engine without doing the head gaskets? If so I am inclined to do nothing. I will then swap in a motor with less miles down the road and do all of the a fore mentioned maintenance on the used block before I drop it in. Can you swap in one of the newer SOHC 2.5l engines and run it off the stock ecu? I plan on keeping this car until the wheels fall off(and then putting on some new ones) but i need it to be reliable.
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Old 08-01-2010, 11:29 PM   #8
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Engines can be cheap to buy, so I wouldn't worry all that much if something did go catastrophically. I don't know if this is your only car or not. You may want a spare engine ready to go to simply drop in.

From what Subaru seems to officially indicate with the head gasket issues is that it occurs from less than stellar build tolerances. Subaru's solution was just the addition of their "conditioner" (stop leak). I would venture to guess the block and heads could be resurfaced flat, and the issue wouldn't appear again. There are apparently also some better head gaskets out there too.
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Old 08-02-2010, 12:03 AM   #9
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It is not my only car. I actually bought it for my fiance but it is the only car she can use. If it breaks down we could probably manage for a week or so with only one car. I have read about the one piece head gaskets and i will use those if i do replace them. Anyone know about swapping in a SOHC 2.5l in for a 2.5l DOHC?
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Old 08-02-2010, 12:07 AM   #10
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^^^^Why would you do that?
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Old 08-02-2010, 02:08 AM   #11
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The newer 2.5l are SOHC and are supposed to have better head gaskets. Since they are newer they should have lower mileage as well. If it is possible to swap the SOHC straight in that would be the way i go.
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Old 08-02-2010, 07:21 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrx0001 View Post
Can I get another 50,000 miles out of this engine without doing the head gaskets? If so I am inclined to do nothing.
Impossible to say.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wrx0001 View Post
Can you swap in one of the newer SOHC 2.5l engines and run it off the stock ecu?
Not quite. There are some sensor differences, most of which can be overcome, but the IAC is a completely different style that can't be easily worked around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Back Road Runner View Post
From what Subaru seems to officially indicate with the head gasket issues is that it occurs from less than stellar build tolerances. Subaru's solution was just the addition of their "conditioner" (stop leak).
That was only for the early Phase II engines, which had external coolant leaks. AFAIK they never recommended that "fix" for the Phase I engines.

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Old 08-02-2010, 01:33 PM   #13
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Ah. I just recall a service bulletin stating that and has been the only "official" explanation I've seen about the issue from Subaru outside of the slew of guesses from our lovely Subaru community. I still figure one could get the block and heads machined and toss on a new head gasket and probably never see the problem again.

Stepping to a SOHC is an improvement. While the top end is a hair less, there is considerably more midrange torque. Modded DOHC doesn't really offer anything over a modded SOHC either with the SOHC heads being superior and you being able to get both the flow rates and cams to get power up top if you want it.

Then again, if you want to swap engines, you're open to other things, like a 2.0L turbo or 2.5L turbo WRX motor or perhaps the 3.0L or 3.6L flat 6 engines. It kind of depends on what you feel like doing and how much you want to spend to do it.
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Old 08-02-2010, 03:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrx0001 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by dstan View Post
^^^^Why would you do that?
The newer 2.5l are SOHC and are supposed to have better head gaskets. Since they are newer they should have lower mileage as well.
That and there are a helluva lot more of them available. The DOHC was only used from '96-99, while the SOHC has been used for the 10 years since. Not only has the SOHC engine been used longer, but Subaru's sales have gone up drastically during that time period, so that adds up to a larger potential source.

And the fatter torque band is nice. Costs 1/2 as much for performance cams, too.
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Old 08-02-2010, 05:49 PM   #15
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I am rebuilding my DOHC EJ25 and it has been quite the adventure. All of the little nickel an dime bs will make you want to punch babies! My pistons needed to be re-coated due to contact with the cylinder walls , a lot of cleaning of parts. this engine had been spitting oil for a year, misc. sockets and other tools to do the job, rings cost 150$. Those are just some cons. I would say see if you can find a low mile replacement before tackling a rebuild. Plan on 2 weeks down time for rebuild.
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Old 08-02-2010, 07:27 PM   #16
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I spun a rod Bearing and bought a 2001 70K motor for $1,200.00
much cheaper than a rebuild and it is alot faster than the old one.
dstan, How hard was it to swap in the SOHC motor in? Did you use your stock ecu or did you get one for the SOHC motor. What modifications did you have to make? This is the route I would like to go if it is not to difficult and not too costly. Thanks
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Old 08-02-2010, 10:28 PM   #17
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The info below dstan's name shows he's got a 2000 2.5RS, which had a SOHC engine from the factory, thus no DOHC -> SOHC conversion in his case.
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:02 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick Olsen View Post
That and there are a helluva lot more of them available. The DOHC was only used from '96-99, while the SOHC has been used for the 10 years since. Not only has the SOHC engine been used longer, but Subaru's sales have gone up drastically during that time period, so that adds up to a larger potential source.

And the fatter torque band is nice. Costs 1/2 as much for performance cams, too.
Pat I just thought it would require wiring and ECU change is why I would shy away from changing a DOHC to SOHC.
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:06 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrx0001 View Post
dstan, How hard was it to swap in the SOHC motor in? Did you use your stock ecu or did you get one for the SOHC motor. What modifications did you have to make? This is the route I would like to go if it is not to difficult and not too costly. Thanks
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick Olsen View Post
The info below dstan's name shows he's got a 2000 2.5RS, which had a SOHC engine from the factory, thus no DOHC -> SOHC conversion in his case.
The motor swap took 6 hours but as Pat said it was a SOHC for a SOHC swap. It was my first motor swap and it cranked first time.
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Old 08-03-2010, 11:15 PM   #20
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So it happened today. The head gasket blew and I hope that's all. I was sitting at a red light and the car stalled. I restarted the car and it drove fine for another .5 miles then it began losing power and running rough. I pulled over and it stalled. I got out and checked under the hood and there was coolant steaming from under the driver's side head as well as the coolant tank bubbling over. The car never overheated. Is there any chance the head or block is cracked? It looks like swapping in a SOHC engine is more work than I want to do. So I am either replacing the head gaskets on this one or swapping in a JDM DOHC with about 60,000 on it. Anyone know if a JDM DOHC swaps straight in for a USDM DOHC? Thanks again guys.
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Old 08-03-2010, 11:22 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by wrx0001 View Post
So it happened today. The head gasket blew and I hope that's all. I was sitting at a red light and the car stalled. I restarted the car and it drove fine for another .5 miles then it began losing power and running rough. I pulled over and it stalled. I got out and checked under the hood and there was coolant steaming from under the driver's side head as well as the coolant tank bubbling over. The car never overheated. Is there any chance the head or block is cracked? It looks like swapping in a SOHC engine is more work than I want to do. So I am either replacing the head gaskets on this one or swapping in a JDM DOHC with about 60,000 on it. Anyone know if a JDM DOHC swaps straight in for a USDM DOHC? Thanks again guys.
I think JDM motors are different but not 100% sure
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Old 08-04-2010, 03:04 PM   #22
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Wow, that's unusual that it would fail so catastrophically like that!

There are a number of threads about installing JDM engines (for instance, here, here, and here). For the most part they're a direct swap, but there are a couple of variations that you might run into.
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Old 08-04-2010, 07:23 PM   #23
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Quote:
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The newer 2.5l are SOHC and are supposed to have better head gaskets. Since they are newer they should have lower mileage as well. If it is possible to swap the SOHC straight in that would be the way i go.
Um... NO. I HATE the phase II 2.5's. Especially the early ones. I've experience with two of them, and that experience is bad for both of them.

Our 2003 Outback has 70k on it and just required a headgasket job. It had an external leak from the day it was brand new, even.

Avoid the early 2.5's. Get an EJ253 (AVCS) if you want a SOHC 2.5. Otherwise, it's really, relaly not worth it to swap wiring harnesses, ECU, and merge wiring harnesses.

I had a 1998 Legacy GT with a DOHC 2.5 and it had 166k on it. I got that car with 80k on it. Never once did I have to put headgaskets in it. Previous owner did, obviously, but I never did. I suspect we'll be doing another headgasket job on the 2003 outback again soon.
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Old 08-04-2010, 07:50 PM   #24
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^145 000 km on OEM gaskets on my 03 OBS, and still good....
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Old 08-04-2010, 07:57 PM   #25
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Which coolent is this?

Keith
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