Bad Head Gasket, Bad Engine

Greetings, all.
For the longest time I thought I was alone... suffering through the overheating, the AC problems, the gurgling sound under the hood... yet
late in life I come to find that I am indeed not alone... that other (previously) happy Subaru owners have been converted to (VERY) unhappy Subaru skeptics...
I'd appreciate any advice. Here's my situation:
97 Outback. Check Engine light starts coming on a few weeks ago. Temp guage creeps upwards, then goes back down just as quickly. Mechanic tells me the head gasket is blown. Says rather than replacing, he'll put some sort of sealer on there that might do the trick.
Engine light goes off for a while, then comes back on. This was winter time, and the heater would get cold while the car was idling. I go back to the mechanic.
He tells me the engine needs to be replaced, that there's no point in putting a HG on a bad engine, and when the temp guage goes up to turn the AC on, even if it's cold and I need to blow hot air through it, as running the compressor will help cool the engine.
Now that outside temps are warming up, I discover that the AC only stays cool intermittently. It usually blows chilly air, but sometimes will start blowing non-chilled air. At this time, the temp guage goes back up until, mysteriously, the AC cools down again.
The upper radiator hose sprung a leak today, thankfully I was only a few blocks from an auto parts place. I depend on my car, and on driving it LONG distances sometimes, for my work.
I'm thinking about replacing the entire engine. Questions:
1) How do I know I'll not get ANOTHER bad engine in there?
2) I've read that the HG problems are less likely with the 2.2 engines. Is it possible to put one of these in the 97 Outback?
3) Any advice at all would be much appreciated.
Thank you.
--
Charles "Stretch" Ledford
STRETCH PHOTOGRAPHY
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http://www.ccrengines.com/ ????
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How many miles on the vehicle? I presume that the car is worth about 3,000 dollars? If your at high miles(140,000+) then it may not be worth even a wrecking yard engine. People do HG replacements and to toss a good engine because of a HG is nonsense unless the engine is very tired. I think I would check around to get prices on a HG replacement (both heads of course).
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130k on the engine... sorry to have left that out
--
Charles "Stretch" Ledford
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Get the car fixed. If you want to sell it take it to any ski resort. You'll get at least $6k for a 97 Outback.
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K... I tend to agree with you, but... please define "fixed". Does that mean:
1) Replacing the HGs?
2) Replacing the engine?
3) And what about the A/C's intermittent cooling? Does it need a new compressor?
Thanks for your thoughts.
--
Charles "Stretch" Ledford
STRETCH PHOTOGRAPHY
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I might want to add, that your mechanic sounds to be a chucklehead. The only thing wrong with your engine is a leaking head gasket. Of course the engine has to be pulled to fix it, but it isn't really as bad as it sounds. Once the head gasket is replaced, you engine should do you for another 100K miles. As for the A/C I would wait until the car is fixed to determine that one, because the A/C lines will be cracked open during the HG job, and the system will be vacuumed and re-filled afterward, your A/C most likely will be fine after the engine is put back in. But most importantly NEVER call the 'new engine' mechanic back again. He is out to steal your money.
Jerry
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jerryeveretts wrote:

Jerry, you've got it right. A 97 model and is likely a 2.5 dohc engine. HG failure is typ internally and stop leak isn't going to help anything.
My indie mechanic says these engines are good for about 300k miles if taken care of. My BIL bought a 98 (140k miles) with this engine and new HG's. Swapped in for a newer model recently and had 200k on the car at the time, all still working good. Any mechanic that tells you to turn on the AC to help with cooling issues with the engine needs to be taken out and shot.
Agree with you about AC problem may be no more than low coolant level that can be addressed with the HG replacement.
As for the CEL, no info given as to what the code was or if it was in any way related to the HG. Could be related to HG leak if it was internal to the combustion chamber, CEL could be related to cat system problem due to antifreeze in the exhaust gases.
The shop I used for my HG problem typ charges about $1800 depending upon what is done. Job includes pulling engine, resurface heads, new HG's, ALL engine seals, new timing belt, new water pump and new coolant. I had recently replaced the timing belt and WP and my bill came to $1350.
Mickey
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The question in my head is "what is wrong with the engine?" I believe the head gasket failure - common enough and the symptoms fit - but I don't see symptoms of something seriously wrong besides the HG.
Dunno about the A/C. Sure doesn't sound like the compressor though... they usually don't do the intermittent cooling thing. I'm not a Subaru expert by any means. The experts may be able to tell you if the A/C symptoms figure into the head gasket problem.
Mik
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I just went through this this hg nightmare on our '99 Outback. Headgasket blown at 110K. Subaru dealer said "sell it to some shmuck." Of course, this is a headgasket problem Subaru knew about YEARS before they stopped building this engine & they should have repaired it for free, but didn't. Maybe we should generate a BIG class action suit out of this ng.
Anyway, a good Subaru only shop in Seattle went through all the scenarios with me & we decided to have the HG replaced. The job cost $2100. which included replacing seals & water pump & a few other things recommended while the engine was out. Two months into the HG repair, a crack developed (or opened wider) in the block & the engine boiled away it's water, DOA on the freeway. We decided to put in a short block. New ones are no longer made by Subaru, but this came with a 3 year warranty. Our mechanics felt bad & didn't charge us for any of the new install & gave us what they claim is a good price for new block. We are now into the engine/hg nightmare for a little less than $4k. It was a real toss up whether to gamble & trust that this rebuilt motor would be a cost effective risk or a bust. So far, so good 6 months after the short block install. Our other option was the junk yard.

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After having great luck with these, I bought a 2003, 28K miles.
Could smell coolant. Dealer fixed it under warranty, one side.
Stupid me... should have insisted on both sides... at 45K I'm smelling anitfreeze again... other side.
Don't know why this would be. They don't tend to overheat.
Bill Hale Loveland Co
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It's bum o.e.m. head gaskets. The aftermarket jobs used to fix our mighty Fartster the last time out are holding tight as a tick, and they were about half the price of the Suby parts.
My independent wrench tells me that the majority of Subies he's fixed with orig. parts have failed again, while he has yet to have a failure with the aftermarket gaskets.
Not long ago I met a chap who owns a car parts store socially and I brought up the topic of these new, modern and very expensive head gaskets. He started laughing immediately and admitted they were a major source of income for the aftermarket shops.
A couple of weeks ago I heard a news item reporting a huge recall by G.M. to address a problem they've been having for years with their head gaskets. Apparently a pending huge class action suit is threatening to be the largest hit to the company in many years. Internal documents indicate the company has been aware that their gaskets were unreliable for years and that they have failed to respond appropriately. Sound familiar?
KH

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Surely your mechanic meant to turn on the heater when the engine starts to overheat, not the AC. Opening the heater valve allows the coolant to circulate through the heater rad and to dump heat inside the cabin, thereby increasing the effective cooling capacity of the system enough to help the overheating motor. It's an old trick, commonly used by old Brit car enthusiasts. MGs, Minis etc. were notorious for heating up in weather warmer than their native land, so if one started to heat up when stuck in traffic we'd just pop the heater on for a few minutes, let the coolant circulate and watch the temp drop. Of course the driver and passenger get to their destination sweating like pigs, but they generally do get there.
Turning on the AC is just dumb. The last thing you want to do when you're overheating is add any sort of load to the running engine.
Your wrench sounds like a knothead. Yes, some Subies have head gasket troubles but they need not be fatal.
KH
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