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What all should be done - water in the oil.

(1990 Subaru Legacy)
in San Antonio, TX on April 10, 2009
Head gasket blew, and water mixed with the oil.I am told that I should have all gaskets & seals replaced, and the heads milled. I have a 2.2 engine. Est received Labor & Materials -$1,175.00. Thank you for your help.
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on February 11, 2012
Answer #1 is typical shop owner nonsense.
Since all SUbaru engines will need a headgasket replacement eventually.
Regardless what the factory says this is a fact with all Subaru engines.
it just isnt as serious as shop owners say. Of all engines ever made, doing a head gasket job
on a Subaru is simple and cheap. Just make sure that the heads are "machined". This is to flatten
the mating surface where the head mates up with the block. Now to address the 2 lies that answer #1
put forth: first, Subaru heads do not crack, it is not a worry. second: addressing the "problem" that caused the head gasket to fail in the 1st place is complete nonsense, it is "shop-talk" at it's best. Subaru head gaskets do not fail because of overheating, over heating is caused by a head gasket in its 1st stages of failing...(no they do not fail all at once). Yes a new raditor is a good idea at about 150k, but then a wise owner should replace a fuel pump at 150 as well... but I do not see any auto advice column ever advising this either.. and yet... there is not a single modern fuel pump that ever lasted more than 180 and most fail between 150 and 175k mi.
Anyway, all Subarus will need a head gasket so either buy a used one with the h-g job already done, or be ready for the inevitable head hasket replacement. And know its just not a big deal. Just call the nearest Subaru wrecking yard for advice on a reliable Subi shop. Buy youself an OBD2 reader, change the fuel pump at 150k, and the rotors whenever they vibrate during braking, and smile. You own the most cost effective awd all purpose car made. And double smile: because the Legacy ans Outbacks are made in america with 85% american made parts... while the Ford and Chevy pickups are down to 56% american content, and the Dodge pickup is entierly made in Mexice.
Hey, smile, Subarus are good. Even when some (many-most) shops are just flat out out to say anything to seperate you from your money.
P.S. only buy my Subarus from people who have had a h-g failure...and their "trusted shop" scared them into believing it is a huge and risky repair. I have a college age daughter and have no problem or concern with her driving across the desert to LA or Phx or Salt Lake City in one of our 4 Subarus. I espetially like the 95 and 96 noninterference Impreza 2.2's and legacy Outback's of the same years. Even though I love our 2000 Outback and our 2004 Forester. Bad head gaskets? No problem...
Post PS: After submitting this answer I noticed my posting is marked as "rookie"... amusing as I do work for the motor companies and have an office at a large midwest University in the Detroit area doing automotice research for the last 20+ years. I live in Northern California and work for a Univ here that has the most Nobel Prize winners of any Univ in the world. I commute to the midswest 6-7 times a year for my automotice related work. I've been doing this for the last 23 years. If this site wants to mark me as "rookie" fine, but my answers regarding Subaru issues are above reproach. My only pet peeve is people getting ripped by shops, it riles me to no end. Giving money saving advice is my one solace, it makes me happy to see shop owners checked when they give "misleading" advice.
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on February 13, 2012
Well I have a 1990 Subi Legacy Wagon with about 300,000 miles on it, & it's been overheating in about 10-15 minutes of city driving. I'm afraid its a blown head gasket, you're the first person who Ive heard say that its not a big deal. Everything I've read on the issue says that it requires major disassembly of the engine & is very costly. About how much should this repair cost? (if this is indeed my issue?) Maybe I can get your advice on this then...last winter I was noticing the same problem & it turned out I had a leaky lower radiator hose, cheap fix & back on the road no problem. Had the timing belt break this summer & got it replaced. I noticed that 1 of the 2 radiator fans is not running, but I drove it about 800 miles without it overheating, it just ran slightly above halfway on the temp gauge & this was when I was idling or in city traffic. Now it is really overheating, & we have noticed coolant puddles underneath after it's been parked for awhile. I do have a significant oil leak from the area right behind the oil pan which sometimes has some traces of green (seperate drips, not mixed together with oil) in the same area, & also around the driver's side valve cover gasket (I replaced the passenger side valve cover gasket myself a year or 2 ago, but the driver's side is a tighter squeeze & I didn't want to tear the car apart to get to it at the time.) I have not noticed the "milky" oil color inside of the oil cap, occasionally I notice some blue smoke out the back end while driving but usually when there is water on the road.

Also (probably a seperate issue) my heater/defogger doesn't blow any air, hot or cold. I can notice hot air being forced thru the system when Im driving on the highway. It used to work intermittently, it would randomly come on when I would hit a bump in the road which led me to think it was a loose wiring connection, but now it doesnt work at all.

Considering its a 20+ year old car with almost 300,000 miles its still in decent shape & runs OK, but if I have a blown head gasket I may have to look for a new ride. :(
I have seen this a lot on the Subaru engines both 2.2 and 2.5. Have the cylinder heads pressure checked as the cylinder heads often crack due to the heat/blow head gasket. The price you are quoted is about average but get the heads pressure tested when they are off and checked for cracks. Repair at this time what causaed the head gasket to blow in the first place ie a leaking or plugged radiator, stuck thermostat ect....
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