How Do I Know If My Subaru's Head Gasket is Failing?

If you own a Subaru, you may already be familiar with the dreaded head gasket failure that seems to be common with certain Subaru models. It’s true - there is a large amount of Subaru owners that will deal with head gasket failure in their vehicle’s lifetime, more often than other vehicles.

The head gasket problems are an issue that affects the EJ25 engines in Subaru models. Some of the affected models include:

  • Forester - 1999 through 2010
  • Impreza - 1999 through 2011
  • Outback - 2000 through 2009
  • Legacy - 2000 through 2009
  • Baja - 2003 through 2005

What exactly is a head gasket? The head gasket is a component that is placed between the block and cylinder heads in the engine. Its job is to ensure that engine oil and coolant don’t cross paths, and that combustion pressures are properly sealed to not affect the cooling system.

Due to the way that engine’s are designed in these models, often referred to as boxer-style engines, they sit lower in the vehicle which can cause fluid to pool next to the head gaskets rather than draining. The acids in the fluid can start to breakdown the head gasket, which can lead to failure. This typically occurs between the 80,000 and 100,000-mile mark.

When the head gasket fails, the combustion process isn’t sealed properly which can cause combustion pressures and exhaust vapors to get into the cooling system. These exhaust vapors can turn into steam which can disrupt the cooling system process, quickly leading to engine overheating.

If our head gasket is failing, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • White exhaust smoke coming from the tailpipe
  • Water leaking from the tailpipe
  • Milky white oil in the reservoir
  • Overheating engine
  • Exhaust bubbles in your coolant reservoir
  • Pungent smell coming from coolant reservoir

As soon as you begin experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it’s vital to get your vehicle inspected. The sooner you take care of a leaky head gasket, the less damage it will end up causing. The longer you wait, the more engine damage you’ll have. Damage from a blown head gasket can be expensive to repair, so it’s always in your best interest to have any potential problems looked at as soon as possible.

Here are some tips on how you can decrease the chance of head gasket failure:

  • Always change your engine oil on time
  • Keep the battery terminals clean and free from corrosion/acid build-up
  • Have coolant flushes regularly or as recommended
  • Ensure that your vehicle is always receiving the best parts when being repaired
  • Only bring your vehicle to the Subaru experts for service, such as the mechanics here at Oceanworks II

At Oceanworks II, we are the Subaru specialists in Berkeley, CA, and are very familiar with the Subaru head gasket problem. Whether you suspect that you have a failing head gasket or want to do what you can to prevent it from happening, we invite you into our Berkeley Subaru repair shop today. Give us a call or schedule your next appointment using our online form!

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