'98 2.5 Turbo Legacy Outback Wagon Overheating Problem

D

David Yarns

I have an overheating problem with my Outback. I replaced the thermostat
and it still overheats. It has about 180k miles on it. Within the last six
months I have replaced the Cat, O-2 sensor, clutch, manual transmission.
So, I've put a little bit of cash into it lately. Is it worth it to
possibly have to have the engine replaced? I've read that it could be a
head gasket problem or warped head or even a cracked block. Or should I
just count my losses and move on?

Thanks,

David
 
Are you losing fluid in the radiator or have oil in the fluid?
If not, the head gasket thing and engine stuff is likely ok and you likely
have a clogged radiator.

It's easy to check if a thermostat is working properly. From a cold start
watch the temp gage. It will go up gradually and approach the red zone and
then drop back down to normal operating temp. The drop down is when it
opens, so it would indicate a good thermostat.
It should still do a similar thing even with an overheating problem caused
by something else, as this happens first as the engine warms up.
 
Hi David!

I have an overheating problem with my Outback. I replaced the thermostat
and it still overheats. It has about 180k miles on it. Within the last six
months I have replaced the Cat, O-2 sensor, clutch, manual transmission.
So, I've put a little bit of cash into it lately. Is it worth it to
possibly have to have the engine replaced? I've read that it could be a
head gasket problem or warped head or even a cracked block. Or should I
just count my losses and move on?

One thing to try is to be sure all of the air is out of the coolant
system. Park the car (engine cold) with the nose higher than the back.
On the left side of the radiator, you'll find a small plug with a
screwdriver slot. Remove this plug, and the radiator cap. Turn the
heater on max warm. Start the engine, and allow it to come up to
normal operating temperature. Keep adding coolant until it comes out
of the small opening, and you stop getting bubbles. Put the plug and
radiator cap back, and see what happens.

As Bob suggests, a bad head gasket will inevitably result in coolant
loss, either thru engine aspiration (white exhaust smoke, sweet
smell), externally (coolant puddles beneath car), or thru
over-pressurization of the radiator cap (overflow reservoir
overflows). It is a significant chore to replace the head gaskets,
especially on a turbo motor, and there is always the potential for a
warped cylinder head to add to your woes.

My personal preference would be to swap in a good used motor. I don't
know if there are significant differences between the turbo 2.5l and
the non-turbo version, but it would be worth looking into. For that
matter you could probably do away with the turbo all together w/o too
much trouble; you'll want to find a "donor" car at a salvage yard that
is willing to work with you on this project. For that matter, a swap
to the SOHC 2.5l motor would be preferable, as it has proven to be a
more robust power plant.

This all adds up to a fair bit of money if you are paying someone to
do it; $2000 anyway, probably more if you want to eliminate the turbo.
Note that the ~200K mile mark is well into the normal failure bell
curve, and you can expect to have to deal with other systems (struts,
steering, wheel bearings, HVAC, etc) causing problems one by one as
the car ages. (You seem to have already started down this road.)

If the car is otherwise in good shape, and you have backup
transportation, $500 or $1000 once or twice a year is _still_ way less
than the payments on a new one. If you are capable of doing the work
yourself, and you like the car, it becomes sort of a hobby project,
and the costs go way down.

If you _do_ decide to cut your losses, do not let anyone low-ball you
on your OB. Assuming everything else is nice, the car is worth
$2000-$2500 even with a bad motor; people look for deals like that
with the goal of fixing/selling them. (Certainly I do . . .) Try your
local craigslist. "98 Subaru OB Turbo, runs but overheats, $2500 OBO"

Good luck!

ByeBye! S.

Steve Jernigan KG0MB
Laboratory Manager
Microelectronics Research
University of Colorado
(719) 262-3101
 

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