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Discussion Starter #1
I own one of the dreaded Subaru Foresters and have experienced the issue of cooland loss through the head gasket first hand. More than once my temperatuie guage redlined and I hurriedly replenished the coolant in the radiator. On advice from a Subaru dealer, I bought and added Subaru's
coolant conditioner twice. After the first application, I got maybe 30,000 miles before the problem showed itself again. Another 20,000 after the second application, but was told that I shouldn't add anymore because it wouldn't help. (Supposedly the conditioner softens the gasket so leaks are more easily trapped. But after two applications, your gasket turns to mush and you'll need a new one.) Having had enough of this, about 5 years ago I had the gasket replaced at my expense. Now, last week I find out during an oil change that my coolant is very low. Visiting the same mechanic who repaced the head gasket, he tells me the (newest) gasket is leaking again. His solution? Keep putting coolant in the radiator on a weekly basis or junk the car. Well, I have 138,000 plus miles on this car and was hoping to drive it longer at least till I can get it replaced without being under the gun.

So, I'm wondering if I should try the conditioner again with this replacement head gasket and whether I could expect a decent amount of miles before I do resign the car to the junk yard.

Any advice is appreciated.
 

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2009 Legacy
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I'd try the conditioner. I've used it too when I replaced the coolant on that vintage of Subie (two foresters, one impreza). Here's the scoop on that stuff. It isn't snakeoil.
Your car is a near 20 year old car so it doesn't really owe you any money. At some point, doing expensive repairs just isn't worth it. It could run another 50K without issue or it could blow up on the turnpike in the middle of a snow storm. Your guess is as good as mine. A 10 buck investment on Holts stuff isn't a bad idea.

This stuff may help.
 

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1999 "L" - 231,000 mi. AT
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575 Posts
(Supposedly ... after two applications, your gasket turns to mush and you'll need a new one.)
I'm glad I didn't know of the mush warning 🤣 who gave it to you, and did it cost you ?
My HG repaced at 60,000 and I've added the goop every radiqator flush since. Now at 230k miles the oil change places say the HG is leaking again. Oh well ... car runs well
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm glad I didn't know of the mush warning 🤣 who gave it to you, and did it cost you ?
My HG repaced at 60,000 and I've added the goop every radiqator flush since. Now at 230k miles the oil change places say the HG is leaking again. Oh well ... car runs well
So I'm more confused now than before. I paid a visit to the dealer who sold me the Forester 20 years ago and the service clerk didn't even know anything about the problem or the coolant conditioner. Meanwhile, the parts guy seemed to know a lot about a head gasket but he told me the conditioner wouldn't even work. He said it was no better than "Stop Leak", a product that is supposed to stop leaks in the radiator. He also told me these gaskets were all metal anyway. And the engine-block and cylinders were all aluminum in affected cars and that the problem was in the gaskets, not the engine. This is not what I heard when I first realized the problem. So what does the conditioner do? Well, another service clerk told me it changes the PH (acid/alkali) level of the coolant. Presumably so it won't affect the gasket. Also that the Forester should use green coolant, not blue. Do these guys know anything or are they just blowing smoke. The parts guy sent back into his inventory and fished me out a bottle of conditioner--the last one he stocked--and just gave it to me.
Can anyone out there tell me what's going on with the failing head gaskets of Subarus 1997-2004? It will at least give me a clue as what I should do, long term.
 

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Discussion Starter #8

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1998 forester
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Welcome to the Org!
I have a '98 with 356k miles. At 209k miles I replaced the head gaskets with Fel-Pro aftermarket parts and NEW HEAD BOLTS. As a mechanic I have done maybe 30 sets of 2.5 head gaskets. The only ones to fail again were done without new bolts. The gaskets are multi-layer metal and the 'conditioner' is stop leak. If you look in your coolant reservoir (they are easy to remove and clean) there is probably most of a bottle of 'conditioner in it if you have ever added it to the radiator (the reservoir makes a nice coolant debris trap). It cannot cure a leaking head gasket.
I would guess that an average head gasket replacement with the basics runs $1500-!700. If you think you could replace the car for that, sell it as is. If you don't want to spend that much on that old car, keep driving it while adding a 'head gasket in a bottle' product and review it (them) for us. By the way, my experience with the early 2.5s is that they blow combustion gasses into the cooling system around the cylinder liner (internal head gasket failure). This blows into the overflow tank and displaces coolant out it's vent. Later 2.5s had outside coolant and oil leaks that are visible where the heads meet the engine cases (external head gasket failure), and don't cause overheating if the correct coolant level is maintained.
Avoid that dealer and look for a Subaru savvy independent mechanic.
I thought I'd add my experience. For what it's worth.
 

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1998 Forester S
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Steve N. how many miles do you have on your forester? 138k? i replaced my head gasket with new head bolts but also used head gasket spray. its like a gold gasket paint. when ever you do head gasket you need to replace the head bolts. if i were you i would do your head gaskets. when was the last time you did your timing belt and water pump?
 

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1998 Forester S Stock automatic
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@Steve N. If the head gasket was done correctly,(resurfacing mating surfaces) using a Multi Layered Steel gasket, you should not be having a head gasket issue again. The whole head gasket issue is due to a poorly designed composite head gasket that fails because the material comes apart. MLS gaskets don't fall apart.
 

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After the first FelPro failure I said never again. For the minimal amount higher p[rice of the newer designed steel gaskets from Subaru, that's what I now use. New head bolts too. Always. One thing most often overlooked I've seen is that heads are resurfaced to remove warpage but nobody touches the block unless the split the case usually. What I do is take a large 6' x 6' 1/4" thick piece of flat stock steel and using 220 grit sandpaper run it in an X pattern across the deck surface. This usually is .03 to .05 or .06 out and a half hr per side will even things out. Never any leaks since nor even a whisper of leaks. And always always replace every one of those little o rings etc down to the last one. Simply don't understand the mentality of a mechanic shortchanging these steps on such a large operation both physically and financially. Coolant sealer? Yes - one bottle can be used to put one's mind at ease. Some use it others don't as it essentially is a radiator clogger.
 
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