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Old 07-31-2005, 10:55 PM   #1
Scooby Specialist
Member#: 65823
Join Date: Jul 2004
Chapter/Region: NWIC
Location: Hillsboro, OR
1996 Impreza L

Default all you guys with blown head gaskets

what was your first clues? I searched till 3am last night and got so many differnt answers. heres my questions -

#1 is there a full proof way to tell if your headgasket is blown?

#2 does a bad thermostat give the same symptoms as a blown HG?

my symptoms are like this.

I was driving down I-5 to eugene going between 80-95 the whole way. it was hot outside like 90deg. we stop in Euegen and my temp guage shoots to the top, i pop the hood and see my overflow tank is filled with coolant. just coolant, no oil or crap, but itwas frothy at the top and had bubles coming from the bottom. I let the car cool down and watched the coolant get sucked back into the system, topped it off with water and got back on the freeway, at freeway speeds the temp guage stays below the halfway mark, but when i stop it gets pretty high. I still have as much power as i ever had in my car so i dont notice any loss there, my oil is clean and doesnt have water in it. I'm worried and broke, so anyhelp would be awesome.

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Old 07-31-2005, 11:46 PM   #2
Scooby Specialist
Member#: 40484
Join Date: Jul 2003
Chapter/Region: NWIC
Location: Salem, OR
'02 Murdered WRX
'02 Silver Legacy


Without tearing into the block i don't know of a surefire way to tell without trouble shooting through some basic problems, With a blown headgasket look for oil leaks, blue exhaust gas, loss of power, over heating.

Your problem sounds more like a bad thermostat, you don't show enough signs of a blown headgasket

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Old 08-01-2005, 12:23 AM   #3
Patrick Olsen
NASIOC Supporter
Member#: 120
Join Date: Jul 1999
Chapter/Region: AKIC
Location: Where the Navy sends me...
1997 Legacy 2.5GT
1996 Impreza coupe


As posted repeatedly, these cars/engines seem to very rarely show the "typical" signs of a blown head gasket. I blew mine twice in a year, and neither time did I see white smoke in the exhaust (not blue - blue is oil, white is water vapor = coolant), I didn't have "milkshake" oil, I didn't smell any coolant smell in my exhaust, no loss of power (the second time they started to go at a track event, never saw any indication of a problem on the track), no oil leak, etc etc. The only 2 indicators I had were (1) the car would overheat when pushed, and (2) the overflow bottle would fill up and puke coolant.

Of course, in actuality (2) was causing (1), since the coolant was being pushed out of the coolant passages into the overflow bottle, which would then cause the car to overheat. But the first indicator I had was the temp gauge climbing high - as a matter of fact, the first time I noticed it the temp gauge was pegged, and I had no idea how long it had been there. The second time they went, at the track, was similar to what you're describing - the car was fine on track, but when I returned to the paddock to drop off my instructor and the car came to rest, the temp gauge began to climb. As soon as I got rolling, and got some airflow over the radiator, the temp came back to normal. When I parked the car the overflow bottle was full.

The only "foolproof" way I know to see if it's a head gasket is to have compression and leak down tests performed. A compression test is pretty easy, I've done that myself on my Mustang. You just need a decent compression tester, which you should be able to get at any auto parts store - some places even rent them out. I honestly don't know what it takes to perform a leak down test, both times it was done by the dealer.

With all that said, if you have the time and mechanical ability, it'll only cost you a few bucks to replace the thermostat. That's what I did the first time. As soon as I pushed the car again, it overheated again, though, so I knew it was something more serious.

Good luck!
Pat Olsen
'97 Legacy 2.5GT sedan

PS - FWIW, I haven't blown the gaskets in almost 70k miles since the last time they were replaced. The "new" (now 3 years old) gasket design really seems to have fixed the problem.
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Old 08-01-2005, 01:49 AM   #4
Scooby Specialist
Member#: 65823
Join Date: Jul 2004
Chapter/Region: NWIC
Location: Hillsboro, OR
1996 Impreza L


Thanks patrick, its nice to know someone had my symptoms, did you replace them yourself? did you pull the motor or do it still in the car?
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Old 08-01-2005, 05:23 AM   #5
Scooby Newbie
Member#: 57876
Join Date: Mar 2004
Chapter/Region: SCIC
Location: S. Bay
1997 GT Wagoon


I think He hit it on the nose.

1. Compression test will show signs of a blown gasket.
2. White gas coming out of the overflow tank through the liquid. We opened the reservoir tank and didnt see bubbles like we expected but rather, gas escaping.

These were tests done to my car as a second opinion. My regular mechanic told me I had a blown gasket from just hearing my car and the temp gage symptoms.

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Old 08-01-2005, 05:25 AM   #6
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Member#: 12588
Join Date: Nov 2001
Chapter/Region: SCIC
Location: Down by the sea
Four Count 'em


1st clue I had was I smelled coolant (antifreeze) a couple times through the vents, but there was no other indication, e.g., elevated temperature gauge, gurgling, puking overflow container, fluids on the ground, engine, etc.. This was a month or two before the HGs actually went.

I was driving back to my office on a hot day and looked down to see my temperature gauge climbing into the hot range. Since I was within a block of my office parking, I slowed down, threw the heater to full heat and turned the fan on high to get some extra coolant circulating and the HVAC fan helping out.

I immediately parked the car, lifted the hood and the found the coolant to be spitting and popping in the overflow bottle. There was a hint of exhaust smell to it so I called a tow truck and had the car towed to the dealer where they told me that the right bank was blown and the left bank was starting to go (reduced compression).

I asked them to perform a sniff test to make sure before we tore it down and they did and it came back positive for exhaust so I had them replace both sides.

So, other than the smell of coolant, probably from the blowback through the overflow bottle and then the temp guage shooting up, I had not other indication.

As Patrick mentioned, do a leak down test and/or an exhaust sniff test to see if you have combustion gases in your coolant. That would be the fastest way to tell if they're compromised or blown. And to answer your question, stuck thermostats can act like blown headgaskests inasmuch as they will cause your car to overheat.

BTW - two leading causes of blown HGs - unresolved misfires in the cylinders and improper maintenance on your cooling system, namely not bleeding the system correctly when replacing the coolant. Also, not using Subaru approved coolant can accelerate corrosion in your cooling system and that's definitely not a good thing for our engines. Check out this link... http://www.scoobymods.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5316


Br, Dale
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Old 08-01-2005, 12:14 PM   #7
Scooby Newbie
Member#: 9689
Join Date: Aug 2001
Chapter/Region: MAIC
1998 Legacy GT


Hesitation from stops.

Signs of oil in radiator overflow tank.

Compression check determined blown head gasket.

I did not have any major temp guage swings. Just very barely above normal.

Get it checked immediately before you need a new block. My block was machined.

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