What's your mileage? Timing belt replacement is due at 105k miles, and most of us opt to replace the water pump and other stuff in there at the same time. It's a lot cheaper than opening things up for each separate item, and failure of most anything in there can break the timing belt, which in turn can break the engine.
I think your best option would be to open things up and replace the whole works. There's a link to a suggested list at this sticky in the New Member Introductions Forum. Even if you're not quite up to 105k miles, this will do wonders for the longevity of your Forester, and put the next timing belt job way off in the future.
I am only slightly over 60K (and of course just outside the warranty period) so between the water pump and AC work that needs to be done it's pretty hefty bill for a car that's not that old Thanks for the info. I'll consider the whole package of repairs if that saves a few bucks down the road.
After trips I can smell a pretty strong coolant odor so I dropped it to the local dealer (who has done all my basic scheduled work) and he told me that it's starting to leak. I believe he mentioned a 'weep hole'? The cost to replace it just struck me as high but I have no point of reference on this car. That combined with the air conditioner repair was nearly 25% of the vehicles worth. So I am thinking some things through right now.
25%? Wow! Either you got a real bargain when you bought the Forester, or your AC was messed up really bad. I paid about $1100 for timing belt, water pump, etc. in one job. The most expensive piece IIRC was the timing belt tensioner.
In a perhaps related observation, the occasional whiff of coolant odor is not an uncommon phenom. Most of us simply write it off unless it's extremely strong and persistent.
The 25% figure comes from the total estimate for both the water pump and AC repairs, with tax, relative to what the probable wholesale of a 2004 Forester is worth. I am just not sure it's worth that to me, maybe better to move on.
Well, to close the loop on this one I went ahead and OK'ed the water pump repair and also had the timing belt done a the same time because it was very reasonable to do so. They agreed to waive the diagnostic fees on both jobs so I can't complain. Thanks to all who responded so quickly with great info. It really helped me make a clear and informed decision.
Glad to hear it worked out so well for you, and thanks for the feedback. You're good for 105k more miles now! Be sure to keep the records in the event that you should decide to sell and buyers question the timing belt situation.