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Old 03-04-2001, 11:36 AM   #1
Patrick Olsen
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QuickSilver Metallic

Post Help me diagnose overheating/possible blown head gasket

On Wednesday night my car overheated badly. I'm not sure how long it was running hot, as I don't normally look at the temperature gauge, but when I did look at it the needle was riding on 'H'. I had been doing a bit of "spirited" driving on the back roads, and had not noticed any abnormal performance - not faltering, pulling as smooth as ever, no unusual noises. Anyway, I was pretty much in the middle of nowhere on rural roads, so I limped the car home, coasting as much as possible but trying to keep speed up to maximize airflow through the radiator. I turned the heat on max to try and help cool the system off and I wasn't getting anything but tepic air. Not good.

I got home and let the car idle for a little bit to try and circulate fluid through the radiator. Both fans were working just fine. The car wasn't cooling off, so I shut it off, but put the key to 'ON' so the fans would stay on. The coolant reservoir was full and clearly had blown coolant out the vent, as the driver's side of the engine compartment had coolant all over the place.

When things finally cooled off, I refilled the system (probably took almost 4 quarts or coolant/water). I started the car to heat it up (as part of the coolant fill procedure) and it came up to temperature just fine and help there - thermostat seemed OK.

My first guess was that the t-stat had stuck shut, so I went to the dealer Thursday and picked up a new t-stat and radiator cap. The car ran just fine on Thursday and again Friday, but I didn't have a chance to push the car to try and recreate the initial conditions.

Friday evening I drained most of the coolant (did not open the block drains as I didn't have the big hex wrench required for that) and replaced the t-stat and cap, then refilled the car with a 50/50 mix. The car drove just fine Friday night, again I didn't have a chance to really push it to see if it would overheat again. I checked everything Saturday afternoon and the coolant levels were still fine, the reservoir appeared to be as full as I had filled it Friday evening.

Last night, though, things went bad again. I drove the car hard, keeping a close eye on the temperature gauge - no problems. As I parked in my driveway and stepped out, though, I could see a tell-tale trail of wetness on the street leading into my driveway (the trail followed the driver's side of the car) and I could hear boiling/bubbling in the overflow reservoir. Sure enough, I popped the hood and the reservoir was full and had puked coolant over the driver's side of the engine compartment.

I let the car sit for a bit and as the coolant contracted it sucked the full reservoir dry, so I had lost a couple quarts of coolant I'm thinkin'.

I just changed the oil last weekend and it is still fine - no chocolate milk effect as often happens with a blown head gasket. The coolant in the reservoir on both Wednesday night and Saturday night was clean coolant - no oil contamination. I didn't see any white smoke from the exhaust on either occasion, but it was dark, so that's not saying much. There is no sweet coolant smell in the exhaust.

There has been a bit of discussion about this in two posts on the NESIC Forum - first http://www.i-club.com/ubb-files/Foru...ML/002782.html (after the initial overheating), then http://www.i-club.com/ubb-files/Foru...ML/002804.html (after the second overflow). I would appreciate any additional comments people have.

Pat Olsen
'97 Legacy 2.5GT sedan
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Old 03-04-2001, 03:02 PM   #2
Force[FED]
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Hey Pat...hate to be the bearer of bad news, but bite the bullet and admit it's the head gasket(s). My brother (SteveS) had overheating problems for a LONG time, very random, and also thought it was a stuck thermo, etc.

Eventually, RalliSpec had to drop the motor because it started overheating all the time, even just babying the car to work. My brother also had the head ringed to hopefully prevent the head gasket from going again.

Good luck with it all.

Kevin
www.lagging.com
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Old 03-04-2001, 03:20 PM   #3
Patrick Olsen
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Don't worry, Colin, I don't intend to wait around on this. I'm going to talk to the dealership first thing tomorrow to see when I can get the car in. Strangely enough, I was just there to pick up some parts the other day and made an appointment for the last week in March to bring the car in for its 60k checkup. Looks like that's gonna get moved up a bit!

I am also worried about the fact I may have warped a head, particularly when it first overheated Wednesday night. I think I baked the engine pretty good that night, and I know aluminum doesn't like that.

Pat
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Old 03-04-2001, 06:32 PM   #4
Tensecgn
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If the car is less than 5 years old and under 60k miles then it`s covered under warranty.
Tell them to do a leak down test to verify.They do that and it will tell ya what is wrong.
But it does sound like a head gasket.
Tony
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Old 03-04-2001, 07:20 PM   #5
mcgyver
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Absolutely-Posiively the Head gasket, Sorry.

Mines sitting on a trailer behind my Bronco right now, because I'm taking it in tomorrow for Head Gaskets.

I had the exact same symptoms. When you push it hard, the combustion pushes-out the coolant out of the engine. I was able to make it drivable by removing the Thermostat, that was just temporary. Now everything is back to stock and is going to the dealer.

The easiest and most confirming test you can do is take it to a mechanic or gas station where they do Smog tests. All they have to do is open the radiator cap and put their [sniffer] inside. If the Head gasket is Bad the [sniffer] will pick up the combustible gases. I could smell mine and the coolant was turning black. I was getting black paint in the coolant, which my mechanic friend told me was the gasoline eating the paint inside the radiator.

Well, Good thing is that it's covered under the 5yr/60k warranty.

These MY98's or (phase 1 w/ DOHC) with bad Head Gaskets is becoming more & more common.

Adam
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Old 03-04-2001, 09:25 PM   #6
Patrick Olsen
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The car has something like 59,700 miles on it. How lucky is that?! Does it matter if I'm not the original owner? Even if Subaru won't cover it, the guy who owned the car before me bought an extended warranty and we transferred that over to my name, so I'll be covered by that.

Pat
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Old 03-04-2001, 10:05 PM   #7
MattC
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Pat,
Just out of curiousity do you have any engine modifications?
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Old 03-05-2001, 01:05 AM   #8
ColinL
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Looking in your other threads, I believe the comments from SteveS, Pilot and the Subaru dealer (sorry, don't recall his userid) tell you everything you need to know.

The only thing additional that needs to be said is that if you don't already have a warped or cracked cylinder head(s) or block, overheating it a few more times like this will do it. This engine (like nearly any all-aluminum engine) does not take overheating very well at all.
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