Subaru repairs worth it?

Asked by Jun 24, 2017 at 09:42 PM about the 2003 Subaru Outback H6-3.0 VDC Wagon

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Car-minded friends: my 2003 Subaru
Outback has 120,000 miles on it, and when
I took it in for the 120,000 service, I found
out that my timing belt needs to be
replaced, and my head gaskets are leaking
oil. They quoted around $2,300. Im looking
at leasing cars, but everything is expensive
and I'm wondering if it's worth it to fix it.

6 Answers


I would probably fix it. If the rest of the car is clean and in good shape, go for it.

1 people found this helpful.

I'd trade it in. The vehicle is 14 years old and other repairs, possibly major ones, are right around the corner. I'd use the $2300 towards something new(er). Just my opinion. HTH. -Jim

1 people found this helpful.

My reasoning is this - The car in its current condition is not worth much at all so for $2,300 you are getting a car that should make it to 200,000 miles with few other problems (properly maintained). If you have the budget get a better car but this is economical transportation.


Please confirm that you have the 3.0 H6. Is the t-belt original and therefore actually cracked, or is its replacement "suggested" by time? At what level is the oil seepage? What viscosity is in use? IF the t-belt is actually physically ok, AND the oil seepage is slow, AND possibly worsened by 0 or 5w skinny oil (esp synth), then I'd recommend returning to 10w40 (or even 20w50 in summer or warmer climes) to possibly squelch oil seepage. Adding a bottle of oil stop-leak ($4) will NOT hurt, and might swell- tighten rubber seals and gaskets if seepage is around plug gaskets or rear main seal too. If, after thickening up the oil, and/or your t-belt is actually cracked, you're still dripping oil onto the cat and therefore smoking upyour environment, look for a lower price (c. $1.5-1.8k) for this now common HG job. A good wrench will know which idler or tensioner pulleys are still ok...and probably the water pump don't overcook the old goose here, as structural or unibody corrosion may preclude even investing that modest amount. The very great majority of classic 2000-2004 OBs I inspect for clients here in the Boston area are too ravaged by northern winters to be worth resurrecting, and prudent annual "limping" carefully and wisely along the "death curve" is in order. Knowing when to pull the plug and donating your chariot requires expert counsel and some luck, too. So check that t-belt CAREFULLY (it's not hard), thicken up the oil, and maybe see if you're ok to continue safely as your replacement options form up affordably. Way too many old Subies are getting $2k HG jobs when structurally they're only good for another winter or so. I suggest to my clients that they factor any needed investment into their current chariot against the $1.5-2k depreciation/yr curve of investing in a much younger preowned one. In cases where unibody rust is significant, I might even suggest that if just tires ($500) and brakes ($800) are needed that this may not be prudent as one might as well jump onto the subsequent curve. But if the body's sound, and those HGs are dry, continuing on a year-to-year evaluation can be prudent and economical. But it's tricky, complicated by the fact that there are NO new compact SUV/Wagons that are both great-handling and ultrareliable. That's why (disclaimer) I only sell 2013-2014 OBs to my clients when we donate to charity their 2000-2006 iterations after careful individual evaluation. If your options only include NEW vehicles, I am only willing to recommend the CX-5 for medium-sized use, the new Impreza for smaller volume, and the Legacy Sedan. The venerable Audi Q5, newest VW Allroad and Jetta Wagon opts just still scare me wrt reliability and service costs. All the Hondas/Toyotas/Hyuindais have compromised handling. Who knows, maybe the German- designed "so cute" Buick will prove decent?! Good luck.

1 people found this helpful.

So both FOR and Jim are right.... I reread "took it in for the 120k service" I was reminded of the way too common routine of almost ALL old Subies are recommended for $2-4k services when presented at Dealerships for routine service. Squeezing the lemon this way supports new car sales, of course. A wrench dedicated to HG jobs can easily squeeze out one per day, costing the dealership 8hrs labor and $200 in parts (usually eschewing the $150 outside machine shop work that's recommended), so even at $1800 they're making solid profit. At $2.3k it's ridiculously "juicy". Don't fall for it! Get a couple of outside expert opinions and reread my suggestion above.


Apologies for the goofy syntax above. CG should allow editing!

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