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Have you been told your Subaru Head Gaskets are leaking or is your Subaru overheating ?

If you’re a Subaru owner and you’ve been told your head gaskets are leaking and you're not sure what to do, here’s plenty of information for you from Bud’s Auto Repair and Transmission. Read on to find out more about this car issue.


Buds can repair it correctly and help you understand the different ways Subaru head gaskets fail. We’ll also tell you what Subaru models are affected, what to watch out for when getting tested, and how to ensure they’re repaired properly. This saves you money by understanding how to get it tested. Nobody wants to spend extra cash to find that out the hard way. That’s why we offer a 6 year unlimited mileage warranty on all our 2.0 & 2.5 liter Subaru head gasket repairs. Yes, we’re that confident and will show you why!

Why they fail

Many theories and beliefs as to why Subaru head gaskets fail get thrown around. Some people will claim the gasket material has a lot to do with it. Others say not replacing water pumps and coolant during a timing belt replacement can be the culprit. We’ve heard thousands of them and actually agree with most. Whatever the reason for failure, Buds is here to focus on long term Subaru solutions, customer awareness, and how to keep your Subaru strong and dependable for a very long time.

Repeated failure

Many things cause failure.

  • Using head gaskets that are of poor quality. Gaskets that we have very little confidence in.
  • Poorly and not thoroughly cleaning them gives rise to many failing gaskets as well. Bad inspection standards in the past.
  • Reusing warped heads.
  • Going to a machine shop to have the head gaskets resurfaced can get them to reusable quality, but ONLY if the shop has the proper equipment.

We have all the right equipment for resurfacing, reusing, and servicing everything involved in head gasket repair and replacement.

The biggest culprit of repeated Subaru head gasket failure we see is the use of a whizzy wheel to prep the mating surfaces. This is a common practice, during which a tech uses a scotch-brite disc pad on a die grinder to accomplish the following: Clean and prep the head and block surfaces which speeds up cleaning the mating surfaces. This also removes the old gasket material that is stuck on there. Instead of helping, this practice destroys the mating surface and will never achieve the 50 Ra surface value needed for a perfect seal. In some cases, this will cause high and low spots that will never properly seal. ( More on that later )

What Can You Do?

First things first, Test and Prove

Pinpointing the problem with state of the art equipment and knowledge will allow proper testing. This testing ensures that the head gaskets are, in fact, the issue. Diagnosing with 100 % accuracy is job one.

Watch out for the “Swing and a Miss” diagnoses or false testing methods. If you’ve been told your head gaskets are leaking or you need a thermostat, radiator or any other component for the following Subaru makes, please take note.

Legacy, Outback, Impresa, Forester, WRX, XV, Crosstrek, or BRZ

Be careful!

Many times Subaru head gasket leaks or overheating problems are misdiagnosed as a bad thermostat, water pump, or radiator. Then, after one or all of these parts get replaced, surprise, surprise... You discover you’re still losing coolant and or your car is still overheating. Understandably, you get very frustrated about wasted time and money…

We’re here to help you avoid that pain

We do have a magic wand!

Testing is crucial! It consists of waving a $2500 wand over an open radiator cap that is super sensitive to combustion gases. This magic wand can pick up trace amounts of combustion gasses for any suspected head gasket leak where a pressure test or chemical test will not show any results. Pressure testing and chemical testing are combined, along with other tactics to be 100% accurate. You never want to rely on just one method, in our experience . The whole process can verify large leaks fast! But what’s even more impressive is the accuracy with which it detects the super small, hard-to-detect leaks. These early, onset leaks are caught before more costly damage can happen as a result of being overlooked through improper testing.

Know your stuff

Knowing which Subaru models are affected and how they leak is second nature for our Subaru repair techs. They do a phenomenal job informing our customers.

Not all Subaru head gaskets leak in the same fashion or the same liquid.

1996 to 1999 Subaru Outbacks and Legacys with the 2.5 dual overhead cam engines are the ones that have the overheating issues. They’ll also have a leaking head gasket. This happens when the gasket separates or fails, allowing combustion gasses to get pushed into the cooling system. This all increases the pressure, causing the gasket to fail. This can also cause coolant leaks, push coolant into the cylinder, cause engine overheating, and many other leaks and problems for radiators, hoses, and other engine components. This also results in a rough running engine, engine damage, damage to the exhaust catalytic converters, and burned valves.

For the 2000 to 2012 and some newer Subaru’s, oil or coolant leaks typically happen between the mating surfaces of the head gasket. Vehicles from this time frame usually leak at a slower rate, so it goes undetected. This leaves you wondering where the oil or coolant is going, as it leaves no trace on the ground or garage floor.

The reason you don’t see anything is that the leaking fluid gets blown back under the vehicle by wind when you’re driving. This is why we’re always on the lookout for both oil and coolant weepage in all the right places during your routine maintenance. Our thorough visual inspection during your regularly scheduled servicing and oil change is your best defense for early detection before any damage to your engine can occur.

In the event we find a suspected leak or you’re losing oil or coolant, we can perform a coolant pressure test to locate a coolant leak. We’ll also perform a dye test to pinpoint and verify where it’s coming from.

These later model Subaru’s typically do not fail and push combustion gases into the cooling systems like its older models do. That means the issues go undetected more often and can sneak up on you. when the get missed Easily during oil changes. Running your engine as these problems go undetected long enough causes severe damage to your engine. If left unchecked or unrepaired, this can cost you thousands of dollars.

With any Subaru the key is keeping a close eye on points of failure every time your vehicle is in our shop.

Preventive measures at no cost Bud’s Auto Repair and Transmission always performs a complimentary, 60-point inspection every time we see your Subaru for any reason.

Inspect and check and prep! After dissembling the ones needing repair, inspecting the heads and the block properly is vital in making sure the vehicle is safe. Heads and the block must be flat and no more than .002 deflection for the block to seal properly. We only see 1 out of about 300 that are cased from getting the engine super overheated or waiting too long to repair.

Some techs who find the engine deck mating surface out of the norm condemn the block immediately and want to replace it. Either that or they’ll want to disassemble the machine. and want to replace , or dissemble to machine back within spec . Our method is invert the engine block on a special machine to avoid the contamination from the machining process. This method is a fraction of the cost of a new short block solution or labor to disassemble and reassemble.

The right gasket

There are many brands of gaskets. We only use one brand. We’ve trusted this brand as it’s been one of our key ingredients in making our customers happy. This brand is also why why can offer our long-life warranty program. This gasket even requires a different method to torque & secure the head to the block. Combine that with proper diagnoses, inspection, prep work, a very high tech torque wrench, and top notch systems and process, we’ve got a formula that can’t be beat!


Our team has a complete understanding of Subaru owners passion for their vehicles because we share that same passion. It’s what fuels us to train, research, and know how to prevent costly repairs. By performing preventive maintenance with professional experienced inspections buy techs that know every bolt and nut in your Subaru, you’ll have it on the road for years to come. Our mission is to keep your vehicle safe, reliable, and dependable at the lowest long-term cost.