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144,000 miles, stock, oil changed regularly. I took the utmost care of this car and one day the radiator blew out, so I thought... Took it to my local subaru dealership to have it replaced and checked out, as it got fairly hot and I wanted it thoroughly checked out before I drove it again. I get the car back with only a radiator replacement and the word that everything was ok. A month later same thing happens, or at least it looked/seemed like it, but it never got hot. On this day I was late for work and put regular old tap water in it (I know this is frowned upon). Drove for a little bit, checked it, no problems, sounds fine, then went the rest of the way to work, no over heating. After work I had to put a little more water in it to get it to the dealership that had serviced it before. On the way over, everything seemes fine, until I get about 500 yards from the shop when my oil light comes on and the power steering seems to get weak. I park it ASAP, it's smoking, just beginning to show a rise in temp at the guage. At this point I'm the one steaming over this dealership's mechanic who told me everything was fine, so I leave without opening the hood as I see it as being their problem now and I won't have to pay a thing out of pocket. Nope. When they get back to me they tell me that the head gasket is blown and that it's not thier fault because they say I told them not to do a diagnostic on it the first time, as I "knew" it was the radiator and that's all that I wanted changed. I guess the explaination as to why I brought it there in the first place (these being the only "certified" subaru mechanics in my area), was not enough for them to pressure test the system. Anyway, they are trying to tell me that it needs a new motor due to this blown gasket. They priced a used one with 130,000 mi for $3,500, but that's not an option. So, my question is, if all that is wrong with this is the head gasket, do you guys think it can be changed by this shade tree mechanic (me) that will do the research, properly install it and probably have it tuned by someone with a real knowledge? P.S. I won't be doing it under a tree... Thanks to any reply's in advance! I need the help.
 

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If you're fairly adept and follow instructions closely, I see no reason why you couldn't replace the head gasket yourself. If would probably be a good idea to send it to a machine shop to see if it needs to be decked or anything and prep the surface.


And for $3,500 you could get a brand new engine from Subaru, so I don't know what that place is talking about. I'm selling my used 02 motor with 90,000 miles on it for $1,000.
 

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Yeah, I've had my car for two years and have never taken it to this place because I hear bad things, but this being on the more serious side, I thought I had better. Poor choice. I kinda thought you had to be sent to a machine shop after you've broken the seals... See, I'm still trying to find clear and consice instruction on how to do this, if any exist. I've been looking around here, but just may have not come across any yet. Can you, or anyone point me in any direction as to the best way to teach myself how this is done??
 

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Register on nasioc and do lots of reading.. you'll need to sort through all the BS and figure out which members actually know what they're talking about, but there's tons of info over there.
 

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Try Impreza Manuals | ken-gilbert.com and/or Owner's Manuals. My son's '02 WRX head gasket also went south without warning. In his case the outer seal remained tight, so no leaks, but the inner seal failed, allowing coolant into the engine with resultant vapor lock. We had a used engine with 56,000 installed (NOT by a Subaru dealer), along with an aftermarket radiator (long story) for $3,200 IIRC. Lots of cooling problems for awhile until I was able to track them down and fix them. Make sure that the radiator the dealer installed is the revised '02 radiator. Early '02 WRXs came with a radiator that had only one pressure cap, which was located on the expansion tank at the right (passenger side) rear of the engine bay, near the turbo. In the middle of '02 Subaru changed that radiator and sent out a Service Bulletin to all dealers that the new '02 radiator should be used in all radiator replacement procedures. The new one has a cap on the radiator itself, and some new pipes and hoses from the cap on the expansion tank to the radiator and to the overflow tank. Good luck with your project.
 

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sounds like you got an air pocket and toasted the heads. you dont have to pull the engine to remove the heads but it sure as hell makes things easier. try not to score up the surface of the heads or the block when cleaning the gasket residue. good luck
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the link!
Do you guys think that due to the mileage of the car (144k), that I should take the heads off, replace the rings, bearings and hone the cylinders and have a valve job done on the heads? I'll say that I feel that the engine was in pretty good condition up to this point. It seemed to run really good, and if it wasn't for something else causing this head gasket problem, I think it would've lasted for many more miles. If I'm going this far with it, do I need to just go ahead and do this to get more life out of the engine?
 

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If the temp gauge started rising, it's likely you cooked the motor. I had an oil leak that resulted in driving my old STi with no oil and the temp gauge never moved a bit.
 

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Personally, if I were going to remove the heads, I would go ahead and freshen everything up.
I think it'd be tempting to remove the motor at this point, and either throw money and time at it or find a used one to "simply" drop back in. I wonder what the total costs would look like to freshen the old motor up vs. a used working motor vs. a new short block and passable heads.
 

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I think it'd be tempting to remove the motor at this point, and either throw money and time at it or find a used one to "simply" drop back in. I wonder what the total costs would look like to freshen the old motor up vs. a used working motor vs. a new short block and passable heads.
These are most definitely the options that I am currently weighing. My decisions are still up in the air at this point. I have replaced a head gasket in a vehicle much easier to work on in the past, but I'm wondering if I should even try to do this myself, or if I should just try to find a used motor with relatively low miles on it to put in it. If I was looking for a used engine, what are some of the things that I would want to know about the engine before purchasing one? I've read about needing to know about the amount of combustion in each chamber, which I think should be around 150 psi, but even that I'm not 100% sure about. Any reply's are much appreciated.
 

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As for the revised radiator, I'm wondering if maybe they didn't put the recalled style of radiator in it causing the head gasket to go? The car is still at the shop, so before I tow it out of there I guess I need to make sure they put the right radiator in it. Other than being able to identify the right radiator by the pressure cap on the radiator, is there a part number for the new radiator that I can check to make sure they installed the right one, or anything else that may have been on the reciept?
 

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Since your temp was fine after having the radiator replaced, that's not going to be the source of the issue. It could only be the source if your temp gauge was reading high, and you said it was reading normally.
 

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Surely they would've put the right radiator in it anyway. When I first talked to the mechanic, he said putting the new radiator in it was what caused the gasket to blow. I'm not really sure what he meant by this, maybe that there was damage to the haed gasket that we didn't know about initially and by putting a new radiator in it, it finally made the gasket fail. I don't know, yet. I'm going to talk to them tomorrow, so I'll have more information as to exactly what caused this to happen.
 

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Yeah you need more information. It doesn't make any sense that a new radiator would cause the head gasket to blow, unless something was somehow installed incorrectly. But I'm struggling to think of what they could do as part of a radiator install that would cause a head gasket to blow...
 

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Since the problem here is the head gasket and most likely something else that caused the gasket to go, I'm really leaning towards trying to find a good used motor to put in it and replacing all the cooling system parts with new ones. Since the car has such high miles, just replacing the gasket seems like it could be a waist of time. I feel that more should be updated than just the gasket and I don't know if I should do this myself and risk having something go wrong. I'll be finding more out tomorrow as to what all went wrong here and hopefully that will lead me more towards my decision. Can somebody tell me what you would want to know about a used engine before buying one?
 

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@ mainframe. U wouldn't happen to still have that motor would u? I'm in desperate need of 1. My number is 432-209-1772 text,or call anytime
 

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So listen to this...After letting my car set in my shop for about three months trying to decide what I was going to do with it, since Reliable Imports/Subaru in Springfield, MO diagnosed it with a blown head gasket, it is back on the road and I didn't really do a damn thing to it. After putting in a new radiator when the old one went, I blew a hose and it got a little hot. I immediately took it back to Reliable Subaru, they charged me for a diagnostic to tell me the HG was blown and said 7 grand to put a used engine in it. They wouldn't let me talk to the mechanic and the rep told me that misfire codes were the only thing they based the diagnosis on, which he assumed must have been from all cylinders. I had a existing cylinder 3 mis and occasionally 1, common, so I was skeptical about this $95 diagnostic being based on returned misfire codes. But, I took they're word for it as it did get pretty hot once and started mentally prepping to pull the engine and repair it myself. When it came time to pull the trigger on the project, I thought I should just first put a new radiator outlet hose on it and change the coolant just to be sure that wasn't the only problem. Did that, drove it a bit, appeared to be pushing coolant still. Smoking a lot from burning off coolant that was leaking onto the exhaust, but it was holding normal operating temp. I let it set for a few more weeks thinking that it indeed had a blown head gasket. Went back to give it another test drive and no smoke or overheating even under boost. Still wasn't convinced that it was fine, let it set for a few more weeks. Nearly three months passed with this thing setting in the shop and me not wanting to pull the engine. One day I thought, maybe the radiator hose was all that was wrong with it and all that smoking was just from excess coolant that got onto the exhaust and took a long time to burn off. So I went and took it on an extensive drive and no problems. Now I'm back driving it everyday and life is good once again. 8)
I know not all mechanics or shops have your best interest in mind 100% of the time, but for them to tell me that I'm screwed and need a new engine just makes them look like dumb asses. So, the lesson to be learned here is strictly on Reliable Imports and RV in Springfield, MO which is pretty self explanatory....GET A SECOND OPINION if you ever end up having to deal with them, or just pull the cars error codes and base all possible terminal problems on that alone.....BBBBSHHHHHTTTT. F'n bush leaguers.
I couldn't be happier now, I missed my scoob. Now just to replace the back hatch glass that some jealous prick thought should be shattered. He already made me put in a new windshield and drivers side window....There are some amazing people in this world aren't there!!
 
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