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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everyone,

I am sorry to say this is my first post, and it has to be such a heavy issue. I recently purchased an 03 WRX wagon with 128K. We have had it for a little over a week and its been driving great. On our way back from a 400 mile trip this weekend we pull off the highway and noticed the idle was pretty bad. I pulled over and noticed that the exhaust smelled terrible and then the CEL went on - Misfire on all cylinders. I then limped home a mile or so and found then took the plugs out to examine. They looked okay but the driver side plugs looked a little different than the passenger side. I put them all back in and found that I still had white smoke and bad idle. The CEL is now flashing with misfire on cyl 2 and 4.

I found that I was noticing an air bubble rise out of the radiator every 10 seconds or so at idle.

What would have caused this issue? We didn't drive it under heavy load and were very easy on it. Was it just time for the head gasket to go? I have done head gaskets on inline 4 and V8 engines. Would the boxer engine be a huge challenge? I really don't have a whole lot of money to shell out right now considering the new car purchase.

Thanks for all of your help in advance. Merry Christmas.

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What exactly does the exhaust smell like? Is it more thick and acrid/burnt smelling or sweet smelling? Does the smoke have a bluish tinge or is it just plain white?

Initial guess would be a head gasket but I'd like to hear answers to the above before casting a firm vote.
 

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It smells bad, not sweet in any sense but it is most likely coolant due to it being white. I noticed that the radiator doesn't bubble anymore though.

Any suggestions?

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I'd go with coolant too since you say it's white, but normally there's a kind of sickly sweet acrid smell that goes along with that too.

With that many miles on it, I wouldn't be surprised at all if it's the head gasket. The other symptoms point that way too. Is there anything dripping on the ground, or is it only coming out of the exhaust? Normally with a leaking head gasket you'll get some coming out of the block/headers too, but not all the time.
 

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There is a small amount of water coming from the block... guess its the Head Gasket. I am towing to a shop today and we'll see if our diagnosis was correct. Thanks for the help.

Also, any idea why a head gasket would just die like that?

Thanks,
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Well, the story gets worse...

I talked with my mechanic and it looks like Subaru has a flaw in the design of the head and there is a very narrow casting which tends to crack and cause this issue. So not only is it a head gasket, its also going to be either a head repair or a new head. GREAT! I love this car...

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I'm well known at my wife's work for diagnosing her coworkers car problems over the phone. :)

On the bright side of things, the gasket lasted 120k+ miles. Not too shabby. And you have no idea how the car was really treated before.
 

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car has 130k on it...stuff like this is bound to happen on any car with that kind of milage.

good luck
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Looks like the heads are the issue, not the gasket. And the heads have been replaced before but luckily they have never been overheated. Now we have to replace the heads with new castings so I hope these will last at least 100K... that would be nice. It sounds like these engines are fairly weak when it comes to mileage. Has anyone else had a problem with these engines, the heads, or any other integral part at only 130K?

Thanks,
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