Navigating the Subaru Head Gasket Minefield

Navigating the Subaru Head Gasket Minefield

Subaru vehicles have long been celebrated for their durability, all-wheel drive capabilities, and commitment to safety. However, a notable concern has been a recurring issue with head gaskets, particularly in specific earlier models and years. At Independent Vehicle Service, we're committed to helping Subaru owners understand and navigate this issue with ease and confidence so you can continue to enjoy your Subi for years to come. Don’t let a faulty head gasket leave you stranded, call us today to give your car the care it deserves.

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engine block with a new head gasket

What are Head Gaskets and What Do They Do?

Head gaskets are a critical component of any vehicle’s engine. They provide a seal between the engine block and cylinder head, preventing oil, coolant, and combustion gases from mixing together. A well-functioning head gasket is crucial for maintaining the engine's temperature and ensuring optimal performance and longevity. A well-made head gasket in any car should ideally last for around 200,000 miles before needing to be replaced.

broken head gasket

What Made Certain Subaru Head Gaskets Fail?

Subaru's infamous head gasket issue stems from the use of single-layer graphite-coated gaskets in certain models. These gaskets were prone to chipping, stripping, and peeling around the 100,000-mile mark. The graphite coating, though initially intended to enhance sealing, turned out to be the Achilles' heel, leading to improper sealing, overheating, and leaks. This flaw not only affected the vehicle's performance but also posed a significant inconvenience and expense to owners.

Second Generation Subaru Impreza WRX

What Generations, Years, and Models Were Affected?

  • First Generation (1996-1999): The 1st generation 2.5L engine found in models like Outback, Legacy G.T., Forester (up to mid-year 1998), and Subaru Impreza R.S. experienced head gasket issues because this thin layer wasn't robust enough to withstand the high temperatures and pressures it was subjected to. Over time, this would lead to the layer degrading, resulting in leaks that could cause significant engine damage if not addressed promptly.

  • Second Generation (from mid-year 1998): The 2nd generation Subaru 2.2L and 2.5L engines in models like the Forester and Impreza faced problems with leaks happening on the outside part of the head gasket. Essentially, the seal provided by the head gasket started to fail, allowing oil or coolant to leak out of the engine and, if not tended to, could lead to overheating and oil starvation.

Close up of an EJ25 engine

What Is The Best Fix?

Our experience has shown that the most effective solution to Subaru's head gasket woes is the replacement of the problematic single-layer graphite-coated gaskets with multi-layer steel (MLS) head gaskets. Unlike their predecessors, MLS gaskets are designed without a coating that could potentially lead to leaks.

They provide a robust seal that significantly reduces the risk of future head gasket issues. When addressing this problem, we recommend using genuine MLS head gaskets or ensuring that an MLS gasket is used during the repair to provide Subaru owners with peace of mind and a lasting solution.

Subaru owners adore their vehicles for the freedom, safety, and reliability they offer. The head gasket issue, though intimidating, doesn't diminish the overall value and performance of these beloved cars. With the right knowledge and a proactive approach to car maintenance, Subaru owners can navigate this minefield with ease and make their rides last for generations.

At Independent Vehicle Service, we're dedicated to providing top-notch automotive repair services in Albuquerque, NM, ensuring that your Subaru remains a reliable companion on all your adventures. If you suspect your Subaru may be affected by this issue or if you're seeking preventative maintenance, call us today to schedule a service!

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