Subaru Forester Owners Forum banner

1 - 11 of 11 Posts

·
Registered
2003 Forester 4EAT
Joined
·
47 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I just bought a 2003 XS with 223K on the clock, Headgaskets, timing belt done by a Subaru dealer at 180K. Everything seems solid with no leaks. The car is rust free and the underneath and is clean (even though it spent a few years in southern PA). This is my 8th Subaru, but my first Forester.

It came with many receipts, including one showing the coolant was last changed 3 years ago. It appears to be ordinary green coolant so it's due to be replaced after 3 years. While I'm at it, I ordered two new heater hoses as these appear to be original. I've also noticed that the temp gauge generally reads just above the first mark and well below the halfway mark. This is a little lower than my older Legacy's read so I decided to order an OEM thermostat to install (thinking the existing one is stuck open or maybe not there at all).

Cooling system questions-

For 2003 vintage is there any problem using the standard green coolant (since I would change it out eery 3 years anyway) or is the Subaru Long Life coolant really needed for this engine?

I know this generation engine (EJ251) was the version most prone to external coolant leaks, which prompted Subaru to start recommend adding conditioner to the coolant- is this still a
recommended action for this engine?

Also when driving it today I got the dreaded combination of Brake and Battery lights, so i checked it out with the voltmeter. Battery voltage when not running = 12.08 volts and when running is 11.74 volts, so I ordered a Denso remanufactured alternator from Rock Auto, which should be here by Saturday. Had the same thing happen to my '98 Legacy wagon six months ago so I know the drill.

I love this vehicle but the only other drawback is that when it's been closed up for a while it smells a bit like sour milk inside. Nothing is wet and I cleaned the carpers well. The passengers floorboard mostly had the smells so I scrubbed with cleaning solution and water, rinsed, and sucked out the water with my shop vac, but the smell eventually returns. I also replaced a really nasty looking cabin air filter. I stuck and air freshener in there which should last a few days. Hoping it goes away eventually.

Only other issue was to replace the outside liftgate handle because it was rusted up and the actuator wasn't unlocking so replaced that too.
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
16,408 Posts
G'day & Welcome!

I've always used Subaru Coolant and I don't add any conditioner, which I believe is Bars Stop Leak, as I don't want that junk in my engine!
 

·
Registered
2010 Forester 2.5 XPremium 4EAT
Joined
·
863 Posts
Welcome, I'm also in VA!

Your model year has the green coolant, so stick with that.

I would absolutely not add the conditioner to your coolant. It was a desperate short sighted attempt by Subaru to try and address the pre multi layer steel head gasket problem. The conditioner is basically Rad Weld and gunks up other parts of the cooling system.

Edit / add - Even though the conditioner was a way of trying to retard the pre MLS gasket degradation, Subaru were still recommending its use even after the MLS gaskets become a standard fit. The Foresters didn't get the MLS gaskets until around 2011 with the advent of the FB (timing chain) engines. Some Legacys and Outbacks had the MLS gaskets starting in 2010.
 

·
Registered
2005 Forester Automatic
Joined
·
495 Posts
My comments thus far to you questions / observations would be:

-- Green is fine, peak global is also well thought of.
-- If you are planning frequent (every three = frequent compared to most) then a radiator funnel kit is really a good investment. Each time I use my mine, I am pleased.
-- My 2005 X temp gauge runs on the low side as well. I'd have spared the cost of a thermostat personally.

-- Might want to make sure the grounds are all still in place. People disconnect them through the years and figure they are not needed, but strange currents in subarus can = damage via electrolysis and also damage electronics (thinking about your alternator)......

-- finally, the HG that the dealership did -- did they put in MLS or turbo HG? I can report with certainly that not all HG jobs are done right. And the dealerships are just as likely to screw it up. Sorry to have to make this last comment. If all is well, then cross fingers and hope. If it starts to use coolant and you cannot find the leak, or starts to bubble in the coolant overflow, even when its not overheated, then you are likely screwed.....
 

·
Registered
2003 Forester 4EAT
Joined
·
47 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Thank you. I've been running the standard green Prestone coolant in my '98 Legacy for the past 5 1/2 years without issue. I imagine at some later year, the darker colored Subaru long life coolant became standard.

Regarding the headgaskets, I checked the part # used, and they installed single layer gaskets again (PN # 11044AA633)- ugghhh- so I guess they'll fail again at some point. I saw no signs of recent coolant leakage when under the car, although the paperwork indicates it had an external leak, leaking onto the steering rack boots when the work was originally done. Also, I assume these engines generally leaked externally vs. the DOHC engines which leaked internally (hence the bubbling in the coolant tank, but I'll check for that any when i get the new alternator installed tomorrow).
 

·
Registered
2003 Forester 4EAT
Joined
·
47 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
I was driving around town the other day and I did notice the temp gauge go up a bit (just under halfway- which where my legacy's tend to be on the temp gauge). It fluctuated a bit between the normal just above the first line to this point. At this point, I was glad I had already received the OEM thermostat and gasket. Last night after I got home from work, I went ahead drained the coolant, replaced the thermostat (definitely wasn't OEM). Since they were original, I also replaced the two heater hoses. I then ran distilled water through it two more times, then put just under a gallon of Subaru Long Life Coolant in and topped it off. I held off on putting in the cooling system conditioner due to multiple comments I've seen here and elsewhere about it gunking up the engine and heater core.

I though I would have issues withe having to get big air pockets out of the cooling system, but there wasn't much air in there at all. I droive it on a 90 mile round trip today in about 50 degree weather and the temp gauge stayed solid just above the first mark.

The new alternator is doing well and I decided to replace both drive belts while I was at it.

Also, regarding the rancid milk smell, I actually ended up cutting out the passenger's floor section of carpet, let it soak in water for a few hours, and it's much better now.
 

·
Super Moderator
2001 Forester
Joined
·
2,317 Posts
My comments thus far to you questions / observations would be:


-- finally, the HG that the dealership did -- did they put in MLS or turbo HG? I can report with certainly that not all HG jobs are done right. And the dealerships are just as likely to screw it up. Sorry to have to make this last comment. If all is well, then cross fingers and hope. If it starts to use coolant and you cannot find the leak, or starts to bubble in the coolant overflow, even when its not overheated, then you are likely screwed.....

I have to agree with cdherman on this one. I have a 2001, and the HG was done by the dealer around 130632 miles, 12/31/2008. Here we are with 212,200 miles and getting weeping in the HG. Oil sample sent to Blackstone Labs show coolant in the oil, and coolant level drops and needs refilling twice per year.

The weeping probably started around 180,000 miles, November 2014.
 

·
Casper reincarnated
Joined
·
2,245 Posts
I was driving around town the other day and I did notice the temp gauge go up a bit (just under halfway- which where my legacy's tend to be on the temp gauge). It fluctuated a bit between the normal just above the first line to this point. At this point, I was glad I had already received the OEM thermostat and gasket. Last night after I got home from work, I went ahead drained the coolant, replaced the thermostat (definitely wasn't OEM). Since they were original, I also replaced the two heater hoses. I then ran distilled water through it two more times, then put just under a gallon of Subaru Long Life Coolant in and topped it off. I held off on putting in the cooling system conditioner due to multiple comments I've seen here and elsewhere about it gunking up the engine and heater core.

I though I would have issues withe having to get big air pockets out of the cooling system, but there wasn't much air in there at all. I droive it on a 90 mile round trip today in about 50 degree weather and the temp gauge stayed solid just above the first mark.

The new alternator is doing well and I decided to replace both drive belts while I was at it.

Also, regarding the rancid milk smell, I actually ended up cutting out the passenger's floor section of carpet, let it soak in water for a few hours, and it's much better now.
For spilt milk:

dampen the carpet - wash/lightly scrub it with a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid - rinse with clean water and dry as best as possible, then cover it with baking soda and leave it overnight.
Next day spray the baking soda with white vinegar and let it foam up, when it stops foaming mop it up and rinse with clean water. Then suck it dry with your shop vac, use an old towel to press down on the carpet and dry it even more if possible, leave the windows down for it to dry and air out.

If the smell remains mix a couple of drops of Nilodor in spray bottle and use that on the carpet - WARNING! do not use it neat, it will melt the backing on the carpet.
 

·
Registered
2010 Forester 2.5 XPremium 4EAT
Joined
·
863 Posts
I imagine at some later year, the darker colored Subaru long life coolant became standard.
The long life coolant aka the blue coolant became standard across the model range around late MY 2008 onwards.

The SOHC suffer from internal (across the head gasket) coolant issues, too.

Your timing belt is nearly half way through its replacement cycle, so if you had to redo the head gaskts at some point in the future, you might be able to coincide the tweo tasks. Head gasket repalcement is definitely within the ability of most home mecahics, it just sounds a scary job. The key to it, the be all and end all really, apart from MLS gaskets ;), is getting the heads machined to be true; so having a good shop to take them to is a major plus. The head gaskets can be replaced engine in just fine.

Good to hear you have your cooling sysyem sorted. I was wondering if the original coolant leak may have been from the water pump when they did the timing belt?
 

·
Registered
2005 Forester Automatic
Joined
·
495 Posts
The key to it, the be all and end all really, apart from MLS gaskets ;), is getting the heads machined to be true; so having a good shop to take them to is a major plus. The head gaskets can be replaced engine in just fine.
I beg to differ. The heads can be done "just fine" because they are removed. The problem can be the block itself. And Subaru's STUPID recommendation to wizwheel the block. Its an aluminum block. My block was rounded off, had several spots over .003" reduced over the cylinder walls. The Fel-Pro MLS gaskets failed in less than 20k miles.

Any head gasket replacement on an older Subaru should include a careful measurement of the BLOCK. I used a good straight edge, accurate to .001". My feeler gauges revealed all the damage to the block. All rounded off in many places, including where the 3 year old Fel-pro MLS failed. And you will never get accurate measurements of the block surface with the engine in the car.....
 

·
Registered
2010 Forester 2.5 XPremium 4EAT
Joined
·
863 Posts
Out of choice, I would always do a HG with engine out. Although you might be surprised at the amount of dealers who repair HGs engine in; I don't have the stats but I found many who do, outnumbering those I've met who do engine out.

The context of my post was moire an encouragement for home mechanics to not be afriad to tackle this job. The scariest aspect for most people is the thought of engine removal.

The block can be checked for true engine in. Most blocks are fine and don't need any shop work bar basic cleaning and prep for the new gasket. Saying that, if the damage was so bad, so much over heating that it warped the block then I would advocate engine out.
 
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
Top