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2004 Forester XS 4AT
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68 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hello everyone...

First I have searched and read (and read), but just want some opinions before I give up and go to the dealership.

Monday I noticed a very slight burning oil smell when I got home (40 min commute), I didn't think much of it, as it could have been something I ran over in a puddle, etc.

Tuesday when I got to work I noticed the smell again, same thing that night, etc. Fast forward to yesterday (Thursday) I went to lunch, a 10 min drive down the freeway, and by the time I got back the smell was VERY strong. I work accross the street from a quick lube place (which btw is better than most) and they had changed my oil last time since I didn't have time. I assumed the drainplug or filter were leaking and I wanted them to just tighten it up or whatever. Before I went over I checked the oil level when the car was cold. The level was halfway between the dots. (BTW, how much is that down? 1Qt?) BTW the car has 135K miles on it and had 4,000 miles on the most recent oil change. It has never used oil any of the times that I have changed it myself (most of the time). I run 5,000 miles on synthetic blend Valvoline between oil changes.

They called me downstairs to look at the bottom of the engine (I told you they were better than most) and showed me that there was a leak coming from the engine on the driver's side rear of the engine and it was running down the engine block and dripping onto the steering rack and then down right on top of the exhaust. That explains why there never was an oil spot on the garage floor in the morning. The whole CV boot was wet with oil. I also checked the power steering fluid to make sure that isn't what it is. That was fine.

So the question is (finally), is it most likely an external Head Gasket leak or a valve cover leak? I can't see up in the engine bay real clearly to see exactly where it is dripping from. Opinions?

Thanks in advance!
Mike

PS as a side note, there has very occasionally been the SLIGHTEST antifreeze smell from under the hood after long trips (2+ hours non-stop), but I have never seen a leak and the level has not noticably changed between coolent changes.
 

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Registered
2004 Forester XS 4AT
Joined
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68 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
OH yeah, follow up question. I am scheduled to take this car on a cross country trip (Green Bay WI to Austin TX to Flagstaff, AZ then home) in early April. Do you think it will make it if I don't fix whatever is leaking? Or will the leak expand into a fountain at some point leaving me on the side of the road? At this point, I plan on taking a case of oil along and checking the level multiple times during the trip.
 

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04 Forester X, MT
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1,051 Posts
Halfway between the dots is 1/2 qt low, I believe.

My '04s going in the shop next week with 86kmi for headgaskets due to external oil leak and likely get other stuff (timing components, water pump, oil pump reseal, clutch?!).

I have exactly the same symptoms you do with oil leaking from driver's side head toward rear bottom corner area. My guess is that the smell will probably be really bad before the leak is bad enough to fail suddenly or lose so much oil you have to add excessive amounts, but I don't really know. Just remember the oil pressure light is when there is NO oil left basically, so you have to keep a close eye on oil level yourself.

The only way to tell for sure it's not related to valve cover or even cam seals is to clean everything off good and see where it's leaking. You have to take off the plastic splash shield on bottom to get to things and it's tight. I used brake cleaner and rags and it was very evident mine was not leaking from valve cover gasket.

Good design info:
http://www.subaruforester.org/vbulletin/f88/2006-head-gaskets-problem-64464/index3.html#post716946


My pix
http://www.subaruforester.org/vbulletin/f88/2006-head-gaskets-problem-64464/index16.html#post763465

There has been some talk lately about Multi-Layer Shim headgaskets (MLS). The independent shop I'm going to did a Forester a couple weeks ago and said that was the Subaru gasket construction they got. Some people are reporting that there are places using a gasket like the original design and both are genuine Subaru parts. May want to check into that some before you get yours fixed. I plan on going to the shop while they've got mine torn apart so I can see what everything looks like myself.

If you don't have the $$$ to do the necessary repairs now I would advise borrowing or renting another reliable car if this is the only long distance trip you plan on making for some time.

If mine didn't have a warranty from the dealership i bought it from to pay for some of the cost, i might delay it a little myself but not too long.


I used to use Valvoline blend in previous cars, but once I read up on oil and realized it didn't have that much synthetic (maybe 10-15% +/-) I made my own blend. I ran Mobil Drive Clean + and Mobil 1 Synthetic for awhile 50-50. Then, went to Mobil 1 10W30 High Mileage all the way in last Subaru when they came out with that. The '04s noisier than the '00 I had, so that got me reading up on oil again and I'm going to try 0W30 next oil change. This is probably the best oil info I have seen (at least since I can remember :icon_redface: :biggrin: ).
FerrariChat.com - FAQ: Motor Oil Articles by Dr. Ali E. Haas (AEHaas)
 
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