Subaru Repair

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2001 Subaru Outback – Head Gasket Educational Blog

It wasn’t until about the end of the entire process when I had realized I hadn’t taken a picture of the actual car we were working on. We’ve been hard at work this tax season, and I guess I had mixed up a few of the pictures of other jobs into this post! I really wanted to talk about this job because I feel like the mass majority looking for information on this job could use it. The pictures are just too descriptive!

This car came into the shop the other day needing head gasket work. Not only that, but the car was reportedly spewing all of its oil out from the bottom side of the motor. A peek on the bottom side of the engine shows a few different signs of head gasket wear.

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See the grey matter between the block and cylinder head? That is a mixture of wet coolant and exhaust fumes escaping from the exhaust headers. When looking for a head gasket leak, the most obvious thing you can track down is coolant on the bottom side of the right and left cylinder heads. In the last picture, the white milky droplets are formed when the oil (spewing out from the bottom side of the motor) mixed with coolant escaping from the head gaskets.


It looks like we found the culprit for the massive oil leak. Looks like maybe the guys at Jiffy Lube might have mis-installed an oil filter and caused the gasket to slip! Good thing it wasn’t coming out of the crank case!


So the tear down begins! Here is our motor completely out of the car. Heads are out to the machine shop to get resurfaced and tested.


Back from the shop like straight from the Subaru factory. Now we will prime the cylinder heads and adjust the valve timing.


Theres a great deal of cleaning and scraping when preparing the block for a new set of head gaskets. The old head gasket will be scraped off, and the sides of the block need to be polished.


If I ever suggest buying a new radiator with your head gasket job, and you find it a little excessive, this is the reason why. Not saying everyone does it, but majority of people cross their fingers and dump in head gasket sealer into the cooling system before having the professionals solve their problem. A $35 dollar bottle of “blue devil” will not solve your head gasket problems. It will in fact, create more damage and create more work for the mechanic who in the long run will have to clean it out. The problem is this stuff rarely ever comes complete out of your radiator because of all the bends and turns. Over time, this copper sediment will clog your radiator- hence, new radiator.


Fresh head gaskets in! Love that Fel-Pro Blue.


Torquing the head gaskets. All of the bolts need to be tightened in a specific order, and then tightened back down to factory inch pound specs.




And after!

Keep in mind this is maybe half of the job! Here at Columbia Autoworks, we do things complete (we may fudge on the picture taking). On this job, we installed a timing kit including water pump, tensioner, idler pulleys, both cam seals, front crank seal, rear main seal, valve cover gaskets, intake manifold gaskets, exhaust manifold gaskets, radiator, upper and lower radiator hoses, thermostat, and radiator cap. Im sure theres more that went into it as well, but- its 7:20 pm. Im signing out.


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2000 Subaru Legacy Outback – Dealership Sob Stories

It is ALWAYS a good idea to take a car you are interested in buying to a local mechanic for inspection. Here at Columbia Autoworks, we get the used car sob story almost every day. This particular customer spent close to $5,000 for the car, and bought her self a money pit.



It is common practice among dealers to sell aesthetically pleasing cars with a whole host of problems. As a dealer, the way you profit is buy getting the cars sold with as little expense as possible. Head gasket problem? They won’t fix it. They’ll dump in more coolant and let you discover the problem later down the road. Brake problems? Forget about replacing the rotors. They’ll put the cheapest $10 dollar pads on the car and sail it away.

This particular car had been diagnosed with a leaking head gasket. To add to the already expensive problem, the car had a pending check engine code (previously erased), leaky radiator, bad brakes and rotors, and leaking brake lines. We snapped a picture of the head gasket leak from the bottom of the car:



This car was also way behind on basic maintenance. The timing belt, idlers, pulleys, and water pump needed to be replaced as well. Its a good thing the customer had a budget to fix the car. Without it, this car maybe would have last another 3 months tops!



Radiator is out, and the heads are on its way out.



Heads are out! Now its time to bring it to the machine shop to get it milled and checked for leaks. Machining the heads gives us a flatter surface and insures a proper install of the head gaskets.


Our heads are back from the shop! New as the day they came off the lot! Now onto the timing belt assembly.

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Water pump, pulleys and idler installed. Fresh intake manifold gasket! Cams at top dead center ๐Ÿ™‚



This car is finished! Sorry we didn’t take pictures of the rest of the service. There were literally too many pictures to post!




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97 Subaru Legacy Outback – A Mechanic’s Stroll in Nightmareville


Every once in a while as a mechanic, you get into a car that you wished you hadn’t. I’ve definitely had worse, but this car was a bit of a mind boggler. This car came in for an engine swap, so we thought “Hey, why not? Not like we haven’t worked on about 100 of these cars anyways”.

The customer had paid us in full when they stopped by the shop, and said they would tow the car in later on in the week. When the car was towed in, this is what we found:


The customer had torn the engine apart in a attempt to help us with the deconstruction!! Now let me note: This picture was taken about 40% of the process into assembling the new motor. When our team opened up the hood and back gate for the first time, our first thought was “This is going to be way more work than an engine swap”. Everything from the power steering assembly, all the way to the AC condenser and intake manifold had been taken apart.

A repair job like this often comprises of a few hundred bolts to say the least. Different sizes and lengths. Clips and clamps of all dimensions and shapes. All mixed up into a few bags that literally sent shivers down our technician’s spine. Its a good thing we know these cars like the back of our hands. A REALLY GOOD THING.

We skipped a few steps with documenting the process, but we caught back up at about the 50% mark. Here, you’ll see the heads off the new (used) block we bought. Just finished polishing it, and its ready to go back together!


We’re going the full 9 yards with this install. We’re replacing the head gaskets, valve cover gaskets, timing belt, water pump, belt tensioner, pulleys, rear main seal,ย and re-seating the valves. Re-seating the valves will get rid of the annoying lifter tick commonly associated with Subaru’s.

Heads are back from the machine shop!


These heads look goregous! Central Cylinder and Head is one of Portland’s longest standing and most trusted machine shops. They did a great job! Now, lets put it together…


This is Fernando. Our resident motor expert. The ridiculously long wrench he is using is called a Torque Wrench. This wrench makes sure the bolts are tightened in order, and at the factory specified tightness. Its a process called torque spec-ing the bolts. Important to do when putting together any head gasket job.

Things are starting to come together! Both Heads are in and we’re dropping the motor in.


Intake manifold assembly, CHECK.


At this point, we’re in the home stretch. We have the power steering pump assembly, air conditioning condenser and pump, alternator, air intake, radiator and a few more things.


New Motor is now installed!! Looks and sounds great. We love finishing a job the right way. John the customer went the whole 9 yards and the motor swap went swimmingly. No lifter ticks, no burning oil, no head gasket leaks, no belt squeaks!

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98 Subaru Legacy – Saving Gas and Swapping Cats!


Incase you didn’t know, the word “Cat” is short for Catalytic Converter. We at Columbia Autoworks do love cats, but we not trade cats in the black market.

This is a relatively short story, so I’ll keep it simple. Our friend Barbra rolled into the shop the other day complaining about bad fuel economy. One of the biggest culprits to bad fuel economy is the exhaust system. Between the oxygen sensors, and the catalytic converter, the two components can easily account for 20% of your fuel economy. In Barbra’s case, the catalytic converter was out, so the fuel in the exhaust system was not being recycled and re-burned correctly. This leads to putrid smells of your Subaru Legacy smelling like un-burnt gas.

The solution? Replace the cat. Here it is dropped out of the bottom of the car.


Beautiful. Not much else but putting it back together here. Wouldn’t want to bore you with the details- we’ll keep that story with the mechanics.

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88 Subaru Loyale DL – Oil Gusher!


There comes a time when you have to admit to yourself, your car needs some expert help. In this case, it took the customer dumping close to two quarts a week of oil to notice the red flags! Oil leaks are not a big deal, but they can turn into one if you let it persist.

How you ask? Well, let me show you…


See the prehistoric layer of oil that engulfs the entire under body of the car? This is a big sign that the engine had not only been gushing oil, but had been doing it for quite some time. The problem isn’t the mess-


The problem comes when there is so much fresh oil all over the motor, spotting the oil leak is like finding a needle in a hay stack!


But, its a good thing we’re experienced with these things. Our mechanic Tim spotted the driver side cam seal leaking… amongst other things..CAM00146

In the end, we did both cam seals, and a front crank seal. The oil damaged the timing belts on this car, so we replaced those as well.


Back together again. No leaks. Happy car, happy customer!


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96 Subaru Legacy Outback – Timing Belt and Rear Main Seal Repair


Did I ever express to you how much we love this model of the Subaru Legacy? 2.5 liter motor, great suspension, and a responsive all wheel drive makes this one of my favorite cars to work on.

Our customer Ed brought this car in for a timing belt and water pump replacement. The water pump and cam seals were leaking, causing the car to lose coolant. Here is a picture after we had taken the radiator assembly out of the car.

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Upon inspection, we also found a real main seal leak that had been gushing oil for quite some time.

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The shortest path to replacing the rear main seal was plucking out the motor. We figured since we were doing the work of removing the front side assembly of the motor, disassembling everything else was much more work to do. More pictures to come. For now, stay tuned!



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East Coast Subaru – Buffet of Maintenance!

If anyone ever tells you the car you are looking to purchase is an East Coast car, LOOK UNDER THE CAR. This customer rolled into the shop a few days ago, dumping is 97 Subaru Legacy off a flat bed. He said the car’s brakes didn’t work. The master and slave cylinders weren’t leaking, and the brake pads looked full. Upon further inspection we found this:


and this:


and this:


Then entire underside of the car had been rusted to almost beyond recognition. The brown worm looking things you are staring at is the brake line. The brake lines had rusted so badly, they broke off when trying to unhook them from the frame. The gas lines were just as bad. Its a good thing are Subaru mechanics here are f*ckin wizards.

Anyways. Enough with the drama. Here’s a picture of us replacing the timing belt, water pump, and idlers.



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99 Subaru Transmission Project Done!

Its been a while since we’ve reached out to the internet, but here we are with a few more pictures of whats been going on in the shop. In July, we brought in a 99 Subaru Forester needing a new transmission. We went ahead and ordered a rebuilt transmission.

Our new technician Tim dropped the old transmission within 2 hours. Tim’s an old ASE Master Tech, specializing in Subaru’s. We’re glad to have him on our team.



The rebuilt transmission is finally delivered to the shop. Did I mention we’re also doing ball joints, tie rod ends, clutch, rear main seal, and inspection plate? THAT, is what you call thorough. We won’t be seeing any problems with this car for a while.


Rear main seal is in! I had a picture of the inspection plate going in as well. We’ll post that later. When I find it….


Clutch kit, pressure plate, and transmission are all assembled. Everything is in, and its starting to look like a car again!


These are the output shafts for the center drive shaft. The last step of of the transmission assembly is going in!


The end. Wish I had finished pictures, but I’m not the best at keeping up with the web stuff. I think our pride lies more in fixing our cars than showing them off. ๐Ÿ™‚


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99 Subaru Forester Project

I’ve had my eyes set on this car for quite some time! Never could afford one until I picked this one up today. She’s got a broken transmission, and a few other little problems but we’re making a commitment with her. Best thing of all, there’s no ring involved!

Did I tell you we have new staff at Junkyard Revival? Things are changing here. Stay tuned.



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2000 Subaru Legacy L – Fresh Head Gaskets Out the Door!

Our Subaru specialist Bill has been hard at work here at Junkyard Revival! We found this car out in a junkyard in NASTY condition. One of the head gaskets were blown, creating a putrid goop that burned with a pungent odor within the exhaust header pipe. The engine was visibly smoking when we found this car. And the brakes? The picture below is actually the BEST looking one out of the four.


Needless to say, we replaced all four of the brakes. After all when we were loading this car up to the tow truck, we were having trouble controlling it because some of the brakes were so worn the brake pads didn’t even exist! It was metal on metal! How this person drove this car was beyond my imagination.

After replacing the brakes, we started the tear down of the head gasket. Lots of pictures!

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Then we sent the head out to get polished to close up any last possible compression gaps. I love the look of a new head!


I like to call this out “operation” table. Is this what a doctors table would look like in the middle of a triple bypass? I hope not.


Aaaaaaand finished product. As you might have noticed earlier, this car didn’t come with a bumper. Gotta love it when you find your bumper in the cars original paint! YeaH!


The damage? One head gasket, an exhaust header, intake manifold gasket, 4 brakes, 1 bumper, and 2 hours of detailing, but this transformation was worth seeing…


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