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Re: Dealer says we need new head gasket on 2001 Subaru...
Evidence of a leaking head gasket would be coolant in the oil, oil in the coolant, or a rough starting, rough running motor. The head gasket is the "weak link" between the cylinder head and the engine block. Not that it's ineffective, it seals the connection, but also provides a sort of safety valve to protect the head and block from worse damage. The head has cooling channels as well as oil channels to provide oiling to the valve valvetrain parts in the head and to keep it from overheating. So I would pull the oil dipstick and check for foaminess in the oil (water or coolant can cause this. I would also check in the coolant reservoir to see if there's any oily build up. If it starts hard, it could have coolant in one of the cylinders (fuel compresses, but water/coolant won't compress) So if when you're starting, if it doesn't turn over smoothly, that could be water in the cylinder... If it's just leaking coolant it's possibly the head gasket too. But it could be a freeze plug on the side of the engine block. Freeze plugs are round metal friction-fit and there's a few in the engine block of most engines. These can leak as well.
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If you are losing coolant then you have either an external or internal leak. If you can find no indication of an external leak from the radiator, the radiator overflow tank, any of the hoses on the system or around the water pump fitting then you may well have an internal leak. Check the radiator overflow tank carefully and the hoses to it for any signs of external leakage.
An internal leak of coolant can be via a failed cylinder head gasket or a crack in the cylinder head or both. Coolant can then leak under pressure into the cylinders or into the engine's lubrication system and will then mix with the oil. Check the condition and colour of your oil for evidence of coolant contamination. Check your exhaust for a constant flow of white exhaust emissions which is evidence of coolant entering the combustion chamber.
If you have run the vehicle with the engine overheating this will generally cause failure of the cylinder head gasket and possibly a crack in the cylinder head.
Is it in a puddle on the floor? Can you see where it is dripping from? You don't want to look for smoke, you want to look for steam. A head gasket wouldn't leak coolant outside the engine without you hearing it or seeing it. It would get sucked into the cylinder and burnt off as steam. A radiator shop can run a compression check and tell exactly what is wrong. Keep an eye on the temp gauge just in case. We had a subaru here with a blown head gasket and it ran fine, then it would overheat, then be fine again,then over heat, then it finally blew, some 1500 miles later. We found it easier and cheaper to replace the engine that the heads. Hope this helps.
Some things to look at: Is the coolant circulating through the block? Is the thermostat stuck closed? is the heater core blocked? Is it losing antifreeze?
Run the car to temperature and check the hoses to see if coolant is circulating. The top and bottom should be firm and hot. If the bottom is not firm then the coolant is not going through the block. Is there any evidence of coolant in the oil? If there is evidence of coolant in the oil (a milky appearance) then you know the heads/gasket were not done properly and are still leaking coolant. Does the heater work? If the heater does not work then you're getting a blockage or failure of the heater core.
Is there any evidence that the coolant tanks are leaking while under pressure? Have you checked the radiator to see if it's blocked or if the outside is obstructed in any way? Report back and we'll see where we are.
There is a leak. the coolant is going somewhare. where does it smoke from? thats where to start looking. if it smokes out the tail pipe, it could be coolant and may need a head gasket or head? A shop can tell you if theres a head gasket problem.
usually the valve cover gaskets are not the cause,the headgsket most of the time are either leaking coolant,oil or both! A Subaru dealer may possibly will be able to identify it properly considering this is a very common problem,usually the drivers side headgasket is the first the first to leak,if this is the case a call to subaru wouldn't hurt they may assist you in the repair, good luck!
Your mechanic is ok with saying that...however you should replace both head gaskets. This can get costly if you take it to have it done somewhere, but if you use a manual from your local library or buy one from your local auto parts store, its a much more cost effective way of fixing it. You are ok to drive it, be sure to check your fluid before you do. I would look into getting these changed within the next few weeks.