2001 Forester S 2.5L head gasket problem


Asked by Oct 28, 2015 at 06:09 PM about the 2001 Subaru Forester S

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

I've got a 2001 Forester S Premium AWD (SOHC 4-cylinder.4 speed
automatic). It's got 103,000 miles on it. The driver's side head gasket was
replaced a few years ago when it failed during the extended warranty period
created by the coolant additive recall. In that case the gasket failure was
spotted when I took it in for an oil change and they saw coolant in the oil.
Recently I noticed that whenever I drove it it would smell like something
burning when I got out of the car after stopping. I also noticed very faint white
smoke coming from under the hood when sitting at a light.  I took it in and
they found that the passenger side head gasket is now leaking oil and that
leak is burning off and causing the smell and smoke. I had them add a bottle
of the coolant sealer additive that was called for in the recall (just because)
and left with the intention of calling around for quotes on getting that head
gasket replaced.  Well, ever since then the symptoms have disappeared. I've
driven it a couple hundred miles or more since then. So, I've got a couple of
questions. Is a Forester of this age and mileage worth the investment? That
is, how many more miles should I expect out of this car? Any ideas on why
there are no longer signs of a leak? Since it was leaking oil but not coolant is
there anything that can be said about the urgency of the situation? Aside from
the head gasket problems this car has been pretty trouble free.  What would
you do/recommend?  Thanks in advance for your feedback!

9 Answers


Your car has low miles and should not need another head gasket replacement if the first one was done right. Your car has low miles for a Subaru and in my opinion is worth fixing if the rest of the car is in good shape. Coolant in the oil is bad news though and it could ruin the engine. The sealant can stop a coolant leak but won't stop oil leaks. You are on borrowed time at this point. If you like the car I would find a reputable independent shop to do the job. Have multi-layer head gaskets installed like the Five Star brand and maybe new head bolts while they are at it as well as new timing belt, water pump and timing belt idler wheels. To do the job right the engine should be pulled out. There should be no extra labor for the timing belt change as that is part of doing head gaskets.


I have 200k on my 2003 Forester and it runs great. It will eventually need head gaskets done though. There is no reason why your car cannot run 250,000+ miles as long as you take good care of it.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Thanks Full_of_Regrets! I might have clouded the issue by giving details I anticipated might be important and perhaps aren't. The two failures I've had are on different gaskets. The driver's side gasket failed with clear indicators of coolant leakage and was fixed and is now fine. The passenger side gasket is (or was?) "only" leaking oil. I'm confused by the seemingly disappearing leak or at least disappearing symptoms. Thanks so much for the input on mileage expectations and the timing belt!


If you can live with a minor oil leak then you might be able to go quite a while as things are. Maybe the leak plugged up on its own! What ever you do don't over fill the engine oil as this can lead to all kinds of problems! Always run the Subaru anti-leak in your radiator as a preventative. BTW - my screen name is due to owning a 2015 Forester!

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.

FoR has been an excellent resource here on CG (and maybe on the forester forums?). I also take it you haven't done the timing belt on your 09? (After writing all of the below>> afterthought>> If all of the below had been done I would say try to live with the oil leak for a while.) See if you can find a shop that will do the work and let you buy your parts from RockAuto. Run a list of parts by them (imo) and see what they think. Get the complete timing belt kit with new gears (I've always read Gates is best) and replace the water pump while you're in there. Also check the oil pump screws and replace the o-ring behind it and then reseal the oil pump for install. Might as well replace the crank seal as well but the rear main seals are ultra quality (that I know anyway) and don't usually need to be messed with. http://www.subaruforester.org/vbulletin/f88/o-ring-replacement- between-oil-pump-block-79511/ The back side of the engine has a oil separator plate that is plastic that needs to be replaced with the steel stamped plate (dorman 917034 - $16.41 from RA - listed in "oil cooler line") because the plastic ones leak. I think mine leaks on my 04. I know replacing the right side HG is going to happen but would it be necessary to go ahead and do the drivers? Probably not.. But if you buy the gates kit (115), a gasket seal kit (85-125 as idk which is better?), water pump (Gates 47) and that steel plate (16) you'll probably be set. Any thoughts FoR?

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

walth - if 2001Forester pulls the engine to do the heads it would be a good idea to replace the parts you mentioned. I buy my parts through Amazon and it has worked out well.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Wow! Thanks so much for all the thoughtful detailed and helpful input, both of you! And FoR, sorry to hear about your 2015 Forester...good to know. ;-)

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Just a word of warning from someone who recently had the oil separator plate that walth mentioned replaced - be wary of the dorman part he mentioned (917034). I had that exact one put on my 98 forester and it leaked like a mofo. Seriously, I lost a quart of oil in 50 miles. The OEM part and hardware are $30 more but seems to be worth it in this case. This can all be taken with a grain of salt because my 98 is a DOHC 5-speed manual, but I doubt that'll make a difference in this case, the part number is the same for both vehicles.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Some came plastic and some came metal.. so going "oem" could be either way. The hardware is specific to each type. Did you use new RTV to seal it? Ultra grey? Other? Here's word of the "nok" rear main seal good to 300k miles or so and talk about the oil separator plate: http://www.subaruforester.org/vbulletin/f66/oil-separator-plate- reseal-not-reseal-119024/

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