Car Problem Reports

Subaru Forester Cooling System Problems Cause Head Gasket Failure

Subaru Forester Problem
54 Reports
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Model Years Affected: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010

Engines Affected: 2.5L 4 Cylinder, 2.5L 4 Cylinder Turbo

Average Mileage: 106,915 mi (35,000 mi - 249,000 mi)


The head gasket has a high failure rate due to cooling system problems. Subaru is aware of the problem and has extended the warranty to 8 years/100k miles on many vehicles.

  • Visitor, , 2.5L 4 Cylinder, 103,400 mi

    Blown head gasket, quoted $1800 plus $130 for timing belt at Webster Grove Subaru. I have not fixed yet but plan to post with the results.

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  • Visitor, , 2.5L 4 Cylinder, 110,000 mi

    head gasket leaking coolant from both sides, used the 'Subaru additive' at all coolant changes, they want to charge me $2,600 to 'fix' their crappy part.

    I'm probably going to sell it instead.

    It wasn't right to begin with. Subaru thieves, instead of selling that crappy $1.50 additive that extended the life of a sub-standard seal that extends the life of it 'juuuust' beyond the warranty, they SHOULD have fixed the problem with a proper seal instead

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  • Visitor, , 2.5L 4 Cylinder, 189,000 mi

    Driving 30 miles from home, sweet smell in the car and no heat, temp gauge in the red. Subaru dealership diagnosed that the radiator was cracked and charged me $90 for that tidbit. I had it towed to my mechanic who replaced the radiator and thermostat at half of the cost that the dealership quoted. He determined it was the head gasket and quoted me $3,000. He isn't charging for any labor from putting in the radiator and thermostat because he is just a fantastic mechanic. I see quotes for 600-$1,000 for this issue but understand there are a lot of other costs associated with this repair that are not included in these estimates. My mechanic suggested not fixing it because of the high milage. Someone commented that their subaru died four months after they had the head gasket replaced, and I am thinking if it happened to him, it will probably happen to me. I am selling it for what I can get for it.

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  • Visitor, , 2.5L 4 Cylinder, 70,000 mi

    Head gasket fail.

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  • Visitor, , 2.5L 4 Cylinder, 110,000 mi

    Last summer my car began overheating. I took it to my local mechanic who replaced the radiator as he apparently found a leak. That did not solve the problem so I took it back to the mechanic who stated that these engines have frequent problems with the head gasket. So, he took the engine apart and put in a new head gasket. He reported that he did not find evidence of a leak in the head gasket. That failed to fix the problem so last September I took it to the nearest subaru dealer where they again removed the head and replaced the head gasket. He too reported that he found no evidence of a leak in the head gasket. Now, several months later after noticing heating problems, when I had the car in for a recall I asked if they could check coolant level. They did that and ran a pressure test finding a leak in the radiator that was replaced last summer. So, today the car is in getting the radiator replaced.

    Question: Is it possible that the car could run, particularly in cold weather, with very little coolant in the system and yet give no indication of overheating? That seems to be the problem I've had since the radiator was replaced last summer. I don't believe the idiot light has come on since that time despite three occasions on which the coolant was found to be very low and "sludgy."

    I just talked to the guy at the dealership who assures me that there is no leak with the new radiator and that they should be finished shortly.

    So far this thing has cost me over

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  • Visitor, , 2.5L 4 Cylinder, 75,000 mi

    blown Forester head gasket at 75k miles - quoted repair for $2,100. Here goes my love for Subaru!

    The story: sudden oil leak dripping from under the oil filter, low on coolant -> dealship diagnosed as "oil filter leak". Two weeks later oil continues to leak - dealership admits it's the head gasket now, an issue making Subaru to keep their head in sand! They seem to be ignoring the issue, making only minor design tweaks after their 2003 models HG issues that makes the car last just past their warranty, but not much longer!

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  • Visitor, , 2.5L 4 Cylinder, 126,000 mi

    I was driving home from a trip when my car overheated started smoking. My engine stalled out and wouldn't turn on. I got the radiator replaced, and the next day drove it to work and 20-30 minutes into driving it overheated again. I got it towed back to the shop and they said upon inspection they said the head gasket cylinder(s) needed to be replaced ($1800-1900) and I also would need the timing belt replaced ($400). They said that since it was driven while overheated the engine seams may have been warped. I'm going to have to sell it and find a new car.

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  • Visitor, , 2.5L 4 Cylinder, 68,800 mi

    Both head gaskets leaking oil as per dealer

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  • Visitor, , 2.5L 4 Cylinder, 73,000 mi

    Leaking head gasket. Called SOA customer service. Repair completely covered

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  • Visitor, , 2.5L 4 Cylinder, 215,000 mi

    This has been a great little car but I had a failure about a year and a half ago, with the same symptoms everyone else here has described. I replaced the radiator and had a heavy duty Bar's Leak treatment put in. The mechanics had a hard time diagnosing the real problem as it did not display a classic head gasket failure when pressure tested. They told me it was probably a bad head gasket and would eventually fail again. They advised me to get rid of the car since it would be an expensive fix.

    It has lasted since then but started overheating again last week. No clear evidence of coolant in the tail pipe, oil or on the ground though. The coolant is likely leaking under pressure outside the block and bleeding away on my daily 90 mile commute. I assume it does not leak once the engine is shut off, thus no leaks on the ground.

    Going in for one more Bar's treatment to get me through another few months until I locate a replacement vehicle.

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