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I'm new to the Subaru world.......just bought a '15 Crosstrek. I have read that Subarus are known for sometimes blowing head gaskets and was wondering if there was anything I could proactively do to try to prevent this
 

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The best proactive thing you can do is what you just did... not buying an EJ series engine as they were the ones known for the issue. The current FB series have had no known head gasket issues since it was introduced 6 years ago.

BTW> Welcome to the forum!
 

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In my book the head gasket problem is just a myth.Along with my '16 Crosstrek,I still have my '02 Impreza OBS.It has 204k miles and has never had head gasket issues.Besides rusty control arms which were replaced under recall and a rusted subframe which was replaced with the control arms for the cost of the part,it has had no issues at all.If it were real then they would all have issues,which they clearly don't.A head gasket can fail on any engine,at any time,no matter the make,model or year.It's the luck of the draw.
 

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A boxer has larger surface area-to-volume ratio. Unlike an in-line four, where the "hot" area (upper cylinder & head) is compact and nicely grouped, in a boxer you have two "hot" extremes separated by a "cool" block. This makes the design much more complicated in terms of keeping tight tolerances in light of differential thermal expansion. In a boxer it is nearly impossible to keep uniform temperatures across the cylinder / head area. Because the cylinder block is more compact in an in-line 4, it's easier to design a cooling system them will keep the entire block's temperature more uniform. The result is that in-line engines can operate within tighter tolerances.

An in-line block is much more rigid (for same material usage / weight). A boxer configuration make is inherently more "flexible", which in is bad to keep tight tolerances. Under high torque, the block / cylinders deform more than in an in-line 4 of equivalent displacement / performance. Engineers can address this by either "beefing up" the engine making it heavier (and more expensive), or have to relax tolerances to prevent seizing under high stress. This issue with a boxer engine can be addressed to certain extent with careful engineering, but things like exterior temperature variations make it nearly impossible to match the level of thermal expansion control that can be achieved with a more compact, geometrically simple block of 4 in-line cylinders. The issues that have traditionally plagued Subaru boxer engines (head gasket failures, oil consumption) are direct consequence of the boxer configuration. They have been corrected to certain degree, but there is only as much as engineers can do without making the engine prohibitively heavy and expensive.



Additionally, a boxer engine of equivalent displacement / performance is inherently heavier and more expensive than an in-line four. This is because you have two heads and valve trains, so you need twice as many camshafts and VVT controllers, and in general, you have more exterior area to deal with in relation to engine displacement. So designers have to chose between making a good but expensive engine (like Porsche), and price themselves out of competition, or keep the engine cost similar to an in-line 4 and cut corners somewhere else (use cheaper materials or relax tolerances). You simply can not make a boxer engine "as good as" an in-line 4 with same materials and level of manufacturing precision for the same price - it either has to be more expensive, or you have to compromise on quality.
The main reasons why Subaru uses a boxer are:

It fits nicely with tthe Subaru hallmark "symmetric AWD" configuration. Departing from the symmetrical AWD configuration would leave them without one of their strongest marketing claims (although there are no good engineering reasons why a different configuration wouldn't be as good or better).

Subaru is a relatively small company that has invested years of engineering effort into perfecting their family of boxer engines. They simply don't have the resources to invest in development of a newer alternative. Engine development is very expensive and even much larger companies frequently join forces to spread development costs (for example GEM alliance between Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Chrysler, join engine development between Nissan and Renault, cooperation between Toyota and BMW, etc.). Subaru couldn't afford to develop an entirely new engine family on their own - they would have to partner with somebody else, and this would most likely mean that they would have to abandon the "symmetric AWD" mantra - and this would mean end to Subaru's unique personality

THIS IS WHY BOXER ENGINE HEAD GASKETS FAIL AND THEY USE OIL

The Quality Question: Why Has Subaru's Reliability Gone Downhill? - The Drive
 

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That’s a great read and the technical info seems legit but you lost me when talking about Subaru having to partner with somebody else. Well, they have, since 2005; Toyota. Having had many joint programs, supplier chains and production agreements (Camry and 86, to name two) and with the science behind an in-line 4 hardly being a mystery, if Subaru wanted an in-line, they’d have one.

+1 to rlouie. That’s an old issue. The 251 was well marked with gasket problems, we’re taking 99-05 here. Apparently they reused the EJ25D gasket (96-99) and it just didn’t do the job. With a lot of failures between 03-11,the linked article shows that really well.
 

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The head gasket issue was the most prevelent in the 2.5 DOHC engine of the late 90's eary 2000's.

My 98 leggy GT suffered from it around 120k, then again shortly after but that was because I bought felpro gaskets and not the updated Subaru ones.

The 2.5 SOHC suffered from this as well, but you had to beat the engine a little harder for it to pop the gaskets.
 

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I have never owned a Subaru (other than our still new MY18 Crosstrek) that didn't leak a bit of oil (some oil spots on your garage floor), but not enough to affect oil consumption and warrant an expensive repair job. All went to high mileage without any major repairs.

The first two were pre-98, so don't think it was related to HG.

The 3rd was a 2006 Impreza wagon with DOHC 2.5, supposedly the most vulnerable HG failure engine. It was no worse than the first two, but our local Subaru dealer tried hard to get me to replace the HG. I decided to wait and see if it got worse, and it never did (or at least not much). Also, when I changed plugs, I noticed it seemed to be coming more from a valve cover gasket (left side), so I was not convinced it was HG. Anyway, that car ran to 360K kms, with never a major repair, and just had to put up with a few drops of oil on your garage floor (piece of cardboard took care of that).

Then my son recently bought an 09 Forester (SOHC 2.5), and it too, leaks a few drops, just like all the others. Again, dealer thinks HG should be replaced, but we are just going to drive and monitor it.

So I think this HG replacement thing was a bit of a maintenance money grab by dealers. In all our previous vehicles, coolant was never affected, so as far as I was concerned, I could put up with a few leaks. For that matter, all other brands I have owned in the past also leaked a bit of oil once they got to higher mileage. My son's previous MDX was getting pretty bad actually (worse than the Subarus), once it got to high mileage.

Anyway, that is my experience, and opinion, for what it's worth...
 

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On the 2005-2009 Outback’s, there is quite a lot of reports of leaky head gaskets. Head over to the Outback forum for those years and you get an idea that this may not be “uncommon”. Having owned a 2008, and my sister having owned a 2007, that both started leaking pretty heavily at the 130k mark, I would say it is more of an issue with that model engine. This is the the SOHC 2.5 engine.

When we had the HGs replaced, we were “told”, that the design of them has been changed by Subaru, and that there shouldn’t be any issues with the newer designed head gaskets. The 2007 has 210k, the 2008 has 200k. So far, knock on wood, no leaks.

Comparatively speaking, at 130k, I don’t consider it a big problem, considering that outside of the heat induced CV boot failure, and the wonky blower relay failure, those are the only non-maintenance issues that either car had (and they both had those issues). At 130k with my 2000 Impala, it had two transmissions, a BCU replacement and an upper intake manifold replaced. I was not “unhappy” to see that car towed away.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Comparatively speaking, at 130k, I don’t consider it a big problem, considering that outside of the heat induced CV boot failure, and the wonky blower relay failure, those are the only non-maintenance issues that either car had (and they both had those issues). At 130k with my 2000 Impala, it had two transmissions, a BCU replacement and an upper intake manifold replaced. I was not “unhappy” to see that car towed away.


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The fact that it was towed away speaks volumes...
 

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^^^^ Great reads! Now fast forward to the new redesigned MY18 Crosstrek engine. This talk above about heat zones, not as much block material, flexing etc kinda gives me a queezy feeling about the new design. Are we in for problems down the road? Most of the above is technically out of my wheelhouse, but I understand it enough to be a little leary and watchful. But I'm not as worried about the Trek engine as I was about my MY14 Mustang 5.0. Wanna read some horror stories? Go to the Mustang website and read some of the issues owners had to deal with! As a result, I was fearful at times of cranking the engine wondering if <whatever> was gonna raise its ugly head. Although I personally had no issues with mine after 50K miles, that's one of the reasons I traded it. New car ownership should be worry-free.
 

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Well, we won't know for a quite a while, unless we have an ultra high miler in our midst. But most cars have their Achilles heals.

My last truck (GM product) had a lot of electrical problems (had all the latest technology in it) and of course it waited until after warranty was up. Sold it long it at only 88K kms, very low mileage, but I just didn't trust it anymore, repairs were always very expensive (and not the kind you can fix yourself).

So far, have always had the best luck with my Soobies.
 

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^^^^ Great reads! Now fast forward to the new redesigned MY18 Crosstrek engine. This talk above about heat zones, not as much block material, flexing etc kinda gives me a queezy feeling about the new design. Are we in for problems down the road? Most of the above is technically out of my wheelhouse, but I understand it enough to be a little leary and watchful. But I'm not as worried about the Trek engine as I was about my MY14 Mustang 5.0. Wanna read some horror stories? Go to the Mustang website and read some of the issues owners had to deal with! As a result, I was fearful at times of cranking the engine wondering if <whatever> was gonna raise its ugly head. Although I personally had no issues with mine after 50K miles, that's one of the reasons I traded it. New car ownership should be worry-free.
Try not to read into the science of the design. With the FBxx they did address the head coolant design, its to be seen down the road if there is an improvement. Things do get fixed.......hahahaaa it took subaru 30 years to finally silence the exhaust heat shields. <or> did they?

Just an FYI the EJ25 SOHC in my 2004 Forester (GM/Subaru) started leaking oil at 180K miles, it would spray under pressure onto the exhaust and there would be a puff of smoke now and then. The car wen't 209K before the VC for the AWD went. Origional clutch and just general maintenance for 10 years but it did use oil between changes 1-2 qts. I would call that a good car... My 2014 Cross-Wreck troubles at 50K well lets just say no more Toyota-ru Boxer/CVT's for me.
 

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.......hahahaaa it took subaru 30 years to finally silence the exhaust heat shields. <or> did they?
Off the Crosstrek trail here, but would our 2014 Outback be included in those heat shield noisy years? Our MY14 engine has been noisy since day 1....not mechanical noise, just loud operation.

EDIT: I've brought this up on the Outback forum and have received no firm answer. That particular forum is the exact opposite of this one. Apparently Outback owners aren't enthused about their cars. Post a question....check back next month. It may or may not be answered. I joined September 2017 and have 12 posts.
 

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That’s a great read and the technical info seems legit but you lost me when talking about Subaru having to partner with somebody else. Well, they have, since 2005; Toyota. Having had many joint programs, supplier chains and production agreements (Camry and 86, to name two) and with the science behind an in-line 4 hardly being a mystery, if Subaru wanted an in-line, they’d have one.

+1 to rlouie. That’s an old issue. The 251 was well marked with gasket problems, we’re taking 99-05 here. Apparently they reused the EJ25D gasket (96-99) and it just didn’t do the job. With a lot of failures between 03-11,the linked article shows that really well.
Thanks... I didn't write that just found it some time ago thought it would make a good post here. For the amount of boxers that were out there compared to in-lines there sure were a lot of head gasket failures and the science behind the design makes sense as to why.
I also was thinking about the FB in comparison to the EJ... the FB because of the exhaust manifold/cat it just kills the approach angle, (the nose on these newer Subarus is longer then Penocchos) making the high ground clearance useless when pulling out of my driveway into a small mound of snow left by the citys snow plow. (its another thing that I look for now). My EJ 25 powered 2004 Forester never had that issue, with the stock plastic skid plate it protected everything. Try the same with the Crosstrek it would be in the bodyshop for a new bumper and grill. If Subaru went in-line/transverse front axle (never happen) they would just be another AWD car and except for a few die hard fans they wouldn't sell much. Oh well
 

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Off the Crosstrek trail here, but would our 2014 Outback be included in those heat shield noisy years? Our MY14 engine has been noisy since day 1....not mechanical noise, just loud operation.

EDIT: I've brought this up on the Outback forum and have received no firm answer. That particular forum is the exact opposite of this one. Apparently Outback owners aren't enthused about their cars. Post a question....check back next month. It may or may not be answered. I joined September 2017 and have 12 posts.
I don't think the 2014 Outback (FB25 engine) had the noisy heat shields.
I was following the Outback steering/shaking issues on that board that never was resolved, posters seemed OK, just pee'd that Subaru couldn't find a fix after changing every steering component possible.
 

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Thanks... I didn't write that just found it some time ago thought it would make a good post here. For the amount of boxers that were out there compared to in-lines there sure were a lot of head gasket failures and the science behind the design makes sense as to why.
I also was thinking about the FB in comparison to the EJ... the FB because of the exhaust manifold/cat it just kills the approach angle, (the nose on these newer Subarus is longer then Penocchos) making the high ground clearance useless when pulling out of my driveway into a small mound of snow left by the citys snow plow. (its another thing that I look for now). My EJ 25 powered 2004 Forester never had that issue, with the stock plastic skid plate it protected everything. Try the same with the Crosstrek it would be in the bodyshop for a new bumper and grill. If Subaru went in-line/transverse front axle (never happen) they would just be another AWD car and except for a few die hard fans they wouldn't sell much. Oh well
Wasn’t sure if you wrote it or not so I tried to keep it neutral. I agree, the boxer is the hallmark of Subaru. To abandon it would be like taking the bars off old glory because it’s historic instead of current.

I really haven’t looked at approach angles but I understand what your saying. At risk of hijacking from gaskets, I’d like to get a good skid plate installed just in case I misjudge something someday. Going from a Rabbit (Golf) to 8.7” of clearance, I’m afraid I might get cocky or lazy. Probably lazy.
 

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I would never put up with a vehicle that leaked oil from a head gasket or anywhere else, I my family has owned 4 camrys and two four runners and 2 Chevrolet Equinox, none have ever leaked or used 1 drop of oil, if they did they would be sold or repaired because of that issue, it’s an issue that should
Not be ignored, it would be the equivlant in my humble opinion of leaking a few drops of blood in your stool or urine, it’s an issue that should be corrected,best of luck to all
Tigerpawn
 

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My '93 Ford Ranger 4x4 has over the past few years developed an oil leak I suspect from the engine's rear main seal. But it's not that serious and after 25 years of its hard work I'm not worried about it. Currently neither of my Subies use or leak oil. But as soon as I start seeing drops of oil under them, they are as good as gone. With today's materials and technology, leaks should never be an issue.
 

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In my book the head gasket problem is just a myth.Along with my '16 Crosstrek,I still have my '02 Impreza OBS.It has 204k miles and has never had head gasket issues.Besides rusty control arms which were replaced under recall and a rusted subframe which was replaced with the control arms for the cost of the part,it has had no issues at all.If it were real then they would all have issues,which they clearly don't.A head gasket can fail on any engine,at any time,no matter the make,model or year.It's the luck of the draw.
...then you’re lucky. Our ‘11 Outback lost a head gasket just under 60,000 miles...it’s not a myth...

https://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/88-head-gasket-issues/18583-hg-failure-log-no-discussion-log-only.html
 
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