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2003 2.5 XS AT
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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 2003 Subaru Forester 2.5 XS AT with about 68,000 miles. Our dealer is saying our left head gasket is leaking and should be replaced. We confirmed that with another independent shop. The dealer also suggested, as long as they`re "in there", they should replace the water pump, timing belt, and timing belt tensioners. Now I`ve heard that leaking head gaskets can be a problem on these vehicles, and that the timing belt should be replaced at 105,000 miles. My quetions are 1) should we replace BOTH head gaskets because of the tendency for them to leak; 2) should we replace the timing belt even though we`re 30,000 miles away from the recommended change-out time; and 3) are the timing belt tensioners routinely replaced along with the timing belt? A couple of othe mechanics we talked to said they could recollect changing tensioners only once in their careers. Thanks very much for in advance for anyone's advice.
 

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2005 Impreza RS Wagon Auto
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3,658 Posts
1-3.) All yes, preventative maintenance can save you thousands down the road.
 

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You generally want to replace both headgaskets at the same time, as its just as likely the other one will fail, and then you're paying all the labor all over again. Same story with the timing belt, replace anything in there that could go bad before the next time you change it so you don't have to go back in. Also if something in the timing belt system fails or seizes, it can break the timing belt, which basically ruins the engine. I'd at least replace the idlers, and tensioner. Probably the water pump as well, as it could fail before the next timing belt change even though its probably perfectly fine now.
 

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03X MT
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So, you have 2 opinions that the left HG is leaking. As the owner what symptoms were you noticing? water in the oil? exhaust entering the coolant=overheating? etc etc. Compression loss?
 

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2003 2.5 XS AT
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Discussion Starter #5
Reply to rsay777

I don't know about water in the oil, the dealer or the other place that checked it didn't mention it. Would that be something I could check myself? I have not noticed any of the other symptoms you mentioned.

So, you have 2 opinions that the left HG is leaking. As the owner what symptoms were you noticing? water in the oil? exhaust entering the coolant=overheating? etc etc. Compression loss?
 

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2005 Impreza RS Wagon Auto
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I don't know about water in the oil, the dealer or the other place that checked it didn't mention it. Would that be something I could check myself? I have not noticed any of the other symptoms you mentioned.
If there is water in your oil you can check this by looking at the oil dipstick. When there is water in your oil it starts to look like chocolate milk with white streaks, this is pretty much a guarantee that your hg are leaking. It is also very evident during an oil change when you can see all the contents.
 

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So, you have 2 opinions that the left HG is leaking. As the owner what symptoms were you noticing? water in the oil? exhaust entering the coolant=overheating? etc etc. Compression loss?
On the 03 sohc 2.5, the most common mode of failure seems to be an external coolant or oil leak, rather than an internal waterjacket to combustion chamber leak or oil to waterjacket leak. I'd guess its just wet in the area of the headgasket on the lower side of the motor.
 

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03X MT
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I was wondering as the owner if you saw no overheating etc then I would check and make sure the coolant had the conditioner "Subaru recommended" added to the radiator during the past years.

Adding the CC 3 years ago fixed my HG leak in the 03X. At your mileage I would want to make sure that the you have no other options b4 you spend big $

Maybe you can make it to 100k and then open up the wallet.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I like the idea of addressing the leak with coolant conditioner! I googled "Subaru coolant conditioner" and apparently there's a Subaru-issued service memo that addresses using the stuff on 1999s to 2002s (but not 2003s!) to "fix" the leaks. I'll check with the dealer to see if they've been adding that during coolant changes. It sure would be nice to put off this job till the recommended timing belt replacement time.

Thanks for your advice on this!
 
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