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2001 Subaru Forester
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My 2001 Forester recently overheated and had to be towed home. I'm no mechanic but I may attempt to replace the radiator which is leaking badly. My only question has to do with a thick mud-like sludge that blew presumably from the radiator all over the engine when it overheated (see pictures). What is that? Is oil mixed with coolant, indicating a head gasket failure? I removed the bottom hose and the coolant that came out of the block is a dark green and doesn't appear to have oil in it. Also, no white smoke from the tailpipe. I bought the car from a friend who had the head gasket repair done about 5 years ago at a local dealership so I'm hoping it's still good.
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2007 Forester Sports XT 4EAT
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@wolfy63 welcome to the forum from Oregon!

Please complete your "Public Profile"! Not completing your Public Profile could result in your thread(s) being closed... locked or your thread post(s) being deleted!
Bobby...

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2003 EJ20K Forester
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348 Posts
Wow, that does not look good, I haven't seen a cooling failure that spectacular. I agree that sludge looks like oil/coolant mix due to head gasket failure, which also explains the overheat event. I do not think replacing the radiator will fix your issue, if it is a headgasket it will just happen again in very short order. If you aren't so much of a mechanic, I would take it to one.

If you want to try your hand at it, I would want to know what the engine oil looks like, and perform a compression test before buying any parts.
 

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2001 Subaru Forester
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Yeah I'm thinking head gasket failure as well, in which case she's a goner. Thanks for the input!
 

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2001 Forester
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2,605 Posts
Being that it's a 2001, and the Head Gasket was done by the dealer some 5 years ago. I believe the dealer would have used a non-MLS head gasket, and therefore the combination of that "mud" and dealer head gasket are pointing at signs of head gasket failure again. I personally have a 2001, and around 2008, HG were replaced around 120,000 miles by the dealer. Come 2012, around 160,000 miles, HG are leaking again with oil and coolant out the bottom of the engine. I would not trust what the dealer tech did the first time.
 

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2001 Forester
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You're in Flagstaff, so finding a "Subaru Specialist", may prove to be difficult. You maybe better off towing the vehicle down to Mesa area as I believe there is a Subaru Specialist there. But if you want to stay in Flagstaff, you need to find out how many Subaru Head Gasket jobs they have done to show proof they know what they are doing. My 2001, I kept on driving it with leaking HG from the 160,000 miles until about 210,000 miles. I found a local shop that do a lot of Subaru HG, they basically do at least 1 HG job per day and they always used the Subaru Turbo HG and never use the Subaru revised Non-Turbo HG.
 

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2001 Subaru Forester
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13 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Actually I'm in Texas working and this car stays here year-round. Anybody know of a good Subaru shop in the Dallas area?
 

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2001 Subaru Forester
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13 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Oh cool, I'll check them out for sure! Small world, I'm staying in Plano while I'm here.
 

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2008 LL Bean (4EAT)
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@wolfy63,
After the new car warranty expires, most owners went to independent shops. As the years passed, hardly any HG jobs went to dealerships.
For the past many years, a job like yours may have been the first HG job for many dealer techs, because the old guys who used to do them on the EJ25 engines have graduated to service managers, glad to no longer be breaking their backs leaning down into the engine compartment. Back breaking because dealer book rates don't pay for extra time to remove the engine for ease of proper surface prep and torquing.
Dealers are also required to use the proper Subaru parts for that car, if they are to warrant the job. To be warranted, the HGs must be the original OE composite, which were not up to the job of sealing the EJ25 open deck in the first place. And then the dealer warranty is only 12 months. So a dealer head gasket job was bound to fail in your time frame.
 

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2001 Subaru Forester
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13 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Yeah I had no idea the head gasket failure rate is so bad for these models. I'd hoped to get a lot more miles out of her but I don't wanna put good money into bad. I'll run a for-sale ad with full disclosure, see what I can get. Thanks!
 

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Yeah I'm thinking head gasket failure as well, in which case she's a goner. Thanks for the input!
I'm late to this party but I thought I would offer an idea. I just bought a 2010 Forester for my daughter with 91k miles on it, clean CarFax, no accidents, really nice little car. As soon as I got it home I smelled a burning smell. Long story short, both Head Gaskets are leaking and in need of repair. $2700 quote from the local Subaru Dealership to do the job. I called Subaru of America yesterday afternoon and explained my pain and disappointment. They just called me back and offered to pay for $1000 of the repair. It might be worth a shot to place a call.
 

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2004 FXT 4EAT
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944 Posts
Also late to the party...

Did you pull the Oil dipstick?

Usually when you have oil in the coolant, you also have coolant in the oil. If the oil looks similar to what's all over your engine, it would indeed be something bad. Could be a failed headgasket, but could also be a cracked block or cylinder head.
 

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2001 Subaru Forester
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13 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
LOL, I live in TX. The place that did the 2nd round of HG for me is Auto Science, 750 Valley Ridge Cir, Lewisville, TX 75057 , Lewisville Auto Repair Experts | Auto Science | Top Mechanics in Lewisville.

PS. I live and work in Plano if you want to get together!.
Also late to the party...

Did you pull the Oil dipstick?

Usually when you have oil in the coolant, you also have coolant in the oil. If the oil looks similar to what's all over your engine, it would indeed be something bad. Could be a failed headgasket, but could also be a cracked block or cylinder head.
Oil seems normal.
 

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2001 Subaru Forester
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Also late to the party...

Did you pull the Oil dipstick?

Usually when you have oil in the coolant, you also have coolant in the oil. If the oil looks similar to what's all over your engine, it would indeed be something bad. Could be a failed headgasket, but could also be a cracked block or cylinder head.
Checked the dipstick and the underside of the oil filler cap, both seem normal.
 

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It's possible it is some kind of "stop leak" if the fluid out of the bottom of the rad is clear... May be an idea to do a pressure test on the coolant system.
 

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2001 Subaru Forester
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
So in my original post I mentioned that I'd pulled the bottom hose and the fluid that came out of the block was dark green, no oil that I could detect. If it's a blown head gasket shouldn't there be a similar sludge from the block as well as the radiator?
 
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