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98 Forester L
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, I'm new here but I've been lurking these forums for a couple of weeks. I recently purchased a used '98 Subaru Forester L (150k miles) from a non-Subaru dealer earlier this month. I don't believe it's under a warranty as my bill of sales from the (non-Subaru) dealer says it was sold AS IS.

The car is beautiful and I love it to death, but I suspect that I've fallen victim to the notorious HG failure that I've come to understand that Subarus are infamous for. Tomorrow I am gonna bring it in for a test to confirm or deny a HG failure, but I figured maybe I would run this by you guys first so you can give me some ideas what may be wrong with it. I've had it for about a month and I definitely don't beat the crap out of it. I drive it to work and around town.

1. Upon starting the car up after the engine has cooled completely, the exhaust lets out a lot of white smoke. Once the engine heats up the exhaust smoke kind of ceases but continues if I stop at a red light and accelerate beyond forty five-ish miles an hour.

2. The engine has an obnoxious knocking noise when you first start up the car after it has been allowed to cool completely (over night, over the course of a work shift). Once it heats up the knocking becomes much quieter.

3. The car overheats...constantly. I don't go anywhere without a bottle of coolant on me anymore. However, it has not been allowed to fully go beyond the red line. Everytime I see the temp level rise even a little bit I slow down and pull over and shut the car off. It's really embarassing to have to throw on your hazards and pull over to put in some coolant. This seems to happen every twenty or so miles.

4. On the subject of coolant, the little tank reservoir which has the LOW and FULL lines on it is not only full, but almost overfilling. I don't see any leaks on the ground though so I suspect that it's being burned off in the exhaust (number one on this list). I replaced the radiator cap just as a quick fix to see if that was the problem...still over heats. For some reason the coolant in the reservoir is not being sent back into the radiator. (FYI: I have no clue about cars and I don't even know if that's what its supposed to do!)


I did change the oil recently, but it did not resemble a milkshake one bit, nor was it bubbly. I replaced the oil filter and drained the oil...it was coffee black.

I have my own theories on what's wrong with it (HG failure or something along those lines) but I just wanted to run this by some other people with more experience with Subarus than me. Like I said, tomorrow it will be going in for a test to confirm or deny the HG failure.

Sorry for the long length, I just wanna get to the bottom of this.
 

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Premium Member
2019 Crosstrek 2018 XT
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14,487 Posts
Overheating, white smoke, over-filling of overflow bottle ....sounds like HG territory.


Knocking is probably piston slap which may or may not be a problem. Welcome to the forum.
 

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98 Forester L
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3 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Overheating, white smoke, over-filling of overflow bottle ....sounds like HG territory.


Knocking is probably piston slap which may or may not be a problem. Welcome to the forum.
This only helps confirm my worst fears. =/

Thanks for the opinion though, always appreciated!

edit: Does anyone know what specifically can cause problems with the HG? If I go and replace it (and by me, I mean a mechanic) how can I stop this from happening again?
 

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2003 Forester X Auto
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947 Posts
X2 what adc stated. Sounds like an internal HG failure. Not uncommon on many other brands of cars today. Unfortunately, on the EJ25 motor, you have two heads to deal with. If you continue to drive it even pulling over like you do to fill it you run the risk of warping the heads and adding to the repair bill. I've experienced this type of HG failure before on other cars I've owned and the symptoms you describe fit to a tee. On the intake stroke your piston draws in coolant from the water jacket which causes the level to drop. Then on the compression stroke it forces air into the water jacket, which causes pressure in your cooling system and overfill your expansion bottle and may even look like it's boiling(excessive pressure buildup). On the power stroke it burns the coolant mixed with fuel/air and that's the white smoke you see.
Many people have fixed the HG and had many more miles of no repeat HG failures. It won't be cheap and you should get someone who knows Subarus to do the job or it may bite you in the rear. Also if the timing belt and all related parts on the front of the engine have not been changed yet, this could be a good opportunity to save a bit of money by doing it as they have to disassemble the front of the engine anyway.
 

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2001 Forester S, auto
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444 Posts
Get it fixed, and then from then on out use the coolant additive from Subaru, it's only a few bucks at your local dealer.
 

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06 Forester
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115 Posts
Get it fixed, and then from then on out use the coolant additive from Subaru, it's only a few bucks at your local dealer.
... that way you can ensure that you kill the possibly working heater core on your 12 year old Subaru :)

Subaru coolant additive is an half donkey answer to the engine design flaw
 

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02 Forester L (sold) Manual
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1,220 Posts
The HG sealing surface on the 2.5 is very, very narrow in spots and this is what fails. The original style gaskets simply can't cope. Replacements seem to do better. This is a $1500-$2000 job, unfortunately. Try to find an independent shop that specializes in Subarus vs the dealer as the labor rate will usually be substantially lower. Pulling the engine is the easier way to do it, and thus you can also replace the clutch if necessary and the rear engine seals to avoid future problems/duplicate teardowns.
 

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98 Forester L
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3 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
I just got back from the test, and it was confirmed...HG failure. Gonna run me about 1100 dollars to fix, which I don't think is THAT bad especially when compared to the usual 1500-3000 I see quoted all the time.

I'm gonna get more estimates though.

Would you guys suggest replacing the HGs or looking into replacing the entire engine?
 

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06 Forester
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115 Posts
engine replacement won't help unless you use the STi semi closed or closed deck. Your options here are EJ255 or 257 but it will require an engine build which with added cost of labor is rather expensive.
 

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That price should include rebuilding the cylinder heads (new valve stem seals, valves reseated, heads leak/crack checked, and shaved for flatness. If price does not include this work, make sure shop will stand behind the repair, as the chance of a post-repair problem (leaking HG again!) increases substantially.


good luck
 
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