2008 outback WAGON


Asked by Jan 08, 2016 at 12:07 PM about the 2008 Subaru Outback 2.5 i Limited

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

66.700 MILES on it. Told by trusted mechanic that head gasket is
going/gone but dealership needs to do repair.Going tomorrow to dealership
Also needs axle replacement and might as well get timing belt while they're
in there! Now trying to decide at what price point of repair should I bother,
ie  more than 3K for all repairs. With my low mileage, I am hoping to get it
fixed, but don't want to throw good money after bad! Appreciate all advice
and suggestions!

20 Answers


Subaru has lots of issues with head gaskets. You likely will be doing it again before it gets to 150,000 miles. I think the dealership is the best place to repair these "quirkey" engines. I would consider another vehicle and it wouldn't be a Subaru, but that is just one man's opinion. Some people get them to last longer and some don't. Certainly Subaru could have done a better job designing these cars and their engines. Keep us posted on what you decide and best of luck with it.

3 of 3 people found this helpful.

Subaru's are good cars but the head gasket issue is real problem. If the repairs are done right there is no reason why the new head gaskets won't last more than a 100,000 miles. My 2003 went 200,000 on the originals and was still running strong when I sold it. I would NOT take it to a dealer but to a good independent shop that specializes in Subaru. Have them install multi-layer head gaskets, new head bolts and do it with the engine out of the car. Use Subaru anti-leak in the radiator like they recommend. The timing belt, idler wheels and water pump should be replaced while you are at it.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

thanks, I'll see what they say!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Here are a few tips that may help to extend the life of head gaskets in Subaru's. If the car pings use a higher octane gas. Keep the battery terminals clean and the car tuned up. Use the Subaru anti- leak and keep an eye on coolant water levels.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Judy - as a recent Subaru owner in the last 18 months, I can tell you that these cars reportedly have the capacity to go 300,000 miles with proper care. See some of the links and articles below. Preventative maintenance is the key to keeping any car. My last car was a 1995 Honda Accord EX and had the car for 20 years. Yes, they did have some problems with the head gaskets, and starting in 2010 they developed a new multi layered head gasket which greatly reduced and minimized this problem. I'm always amazed by non Subaru owners who troll these questions and trash cars they've never owned. So, if I were you, I'd pay attention to those of us who actually have these cars. It's hard to explain to a non Subaru owner what it's like to own and drive a Subaru. I would definitely agree that there are different years out there that are better than others, but, I think the 2008 is one of the "awesome" years and it's worth fixing the car with such low mileage. 66,000 miles on a 2008 is really low mileage. My 2010 Subaru Outback has just over 74,000 miles and drives like a new car. Once you get the head gaskets fixed, I think you'll be fine for another 100,000 miles. I've had zero problems with my car. My question is where do you live and what precipitated your axle replacement? Was your car in an accident or did you drive it somewhere really dicey? How long have you owned this car? Did you purchase it new? Did it overheat on you? Be very careful to only use original equipment for the radiator, water pump and thermostat. Regardless of your decision, good luck. I would definitely advise you to take the car to a recommended independent Subaru mechanic. They're going to be fairer on the price of repairs. ---Mark http://www.carcomplaints.com/Subaru/Outback/2008/ https://allwheeldriveauto.com/subaru-head-gasket-problems- explained/ https://allwheeldriveauto.com/how-many-miles-can-i-get-out-of-my- subaru/


Judy, read this interesting article from 2012 as a reference. http://fortune.com/2012/11/19/are-subarus-the-best-cars-money- can-buy/


Judy, one more thing, who is this "trusted mechanic". who told you that the head gaskets were " going/gone". They are either failing or not, do you really trust that person? And, why on earth would they tell you that you "must" take it to the dealership. Something sounds suspect to me. Is this the same person who told you that you need your axles and timing belt replaced?


Mark, I do trust them as they have done 95% the repairs on this car for 8 years and would do this one if they could. I went to them because the brake light kept going on. When they looked at the car, it was full of oil and fluids. I am going to have the dealership look at it. I went to an independent guy who supposedly was an expert in Subarus for a muffler job and was not happy with the job and they also said the axle was on the way out. I'll go to the dealership and see what they say. I do appreciate your help


Judy,, good luck. I was pretty surprised when you said your car needed axle replacement. And, you've had this car 8 years, so, you're the original owner. Again, maybe it's the region of the country that you live and if its in the rust belt, maybe road salt and deterioration is destroying your car?

Best Answer Mark helpful

I do live in MA and we had an awful winter last year. 2 people have told me about the axle, so we'll see what the dealership says.


Judy, Yes, use a trusted indie wrench to replace the HGs (with t-belt but NOT water pump) WHEN NEEDED ONLY. But NO, if you never overheated the motor then there has been NOTHING that you could have done to prevent HG weeping, so no guilt here, ok? Contrary to some "advice" above, if the newer HG is used you will probably NOT have failure recur, so go ahead and replace the HGs WHEN NEEDED ONLY. You see my all-caps highlights? Well, again contrary to poor advice above, the original HGs are almost always NOT binary good-or-bad in function, and can be coasted along with for months and even years before usually becoming too "inconvenient" to live with. Here's what happens, in laymen's terms: As the "butterflied" horizontally-opposed motor cools each night the outer "heads" cool first, "wiggling" against the HG and inner block "sandwich". Since the HGs are vertical, all components sit in coolant. As TIME ensues (it's NOT about mileage...in your case 8 winters is the culprit, not the 70k), seepage starts at the left rear corner first (#4 cyl, under the driver's side windshield). Attendant owners learn to keep up with this seepage as needed...just keep an eye on the outer coolant reservoir. You might add a cup per month or per day once it gets worse. Eventually you'll see spotting on the driveway directly under this #4 corner, and see wetness on the underbody structure. But use your coolant loss/replenish rate to guide your decision. Secondly...and perhaps more annoying...is when the RIGHT side HG starts to allow seepage of OIL in a slightly different manner, allowing wetting of the hot exhaust system on the passenger side. This seepage can be mitigated somewhat by only using thicker motor oil (one of the reasons I suggest only 10w oils for my clients...and even 20w in the summer). But the resultant accompanying smoky fumes quickly overwhelm any pleasant smells in your environment, so HG-related oil seepage is harder to tolerate. In many cases a fractured rubber DOJ (inner axle boot) on the left (driver's) side spins out so much grease that it can be difficult to differentiate this mess from added lost coolant from the HG corner above it. Your pocketbook may reward you by taking the remedy here sequentially: Go back to your wrench and have him/her replace the axle ($200 total cost), and spray clean the environment. THEN keep an eye on coolant loss, checking the outer plastic expansion tank (preferably when cold) as necessary to not have it fall below the lower hash. Then add enough 50/50 coolant mix (ANY normal coolant is fine, guys!) to nearly fill the reservoir (ignore the upper "fill hash" or you'll be doubling your labor frequency). See how life goes...you may NOT have to throw the towel in (to clean the ground?!) for quite a while. If the axle needing replacement is on the passenger side, then the issues are geometrically discrete, so prognosis is ony a bit simpler in that it's easier to the coolant seepage sooner. If the HG leak is OIL, AND the bleeding axle is on the same side, then, again, you should replace the axle first, spray-clean the environment, and watch oil consumption. (Note that you'll perhaps have to endure some smelly mornings until the cleanup bakes off.) In my experience up north most motors start staining the #4 with coolant seepage much earlier than oil leakage, but sudden oil- leak HG fractures are not uncommon, and can be more sudden. But whether oil or coolant (or both), indeed have the motor removed, SEND BOTH HEADS TO A TRUSTED MACHINE SHOP for pressure-testing and flatness verification ($250 total), use the newer HGs (of course), which are part of the "kit" available. Decent wrenches will need about 8 hours labor...first timers 10-12. Add the parts ($250) and machine-shop and you're at $1300-1700. Again, contrary some "advice" above, replacing axles is EXTREMELY common on all Subarus after the 5th year. I used to think that the left side's inner boot would "fracture" first because of getting dried out from the hot cat conv below it, but similar fracture of the right side iften occurs within a year also, so it seems to be generalized rubber fatigue. Interestingly, the OUTER (CV) boots last much longer, which is the opposite of other makes. If you see my Craigslist posting you'll note that I'm (otherwise!) a great fan of the '06-'09 OBs, as they're far better handling than the '10+ replacement, and have far better corrosion-resistance (except the hood) too, although it's still a bit early on the latter's generilization. So chin up! Get that axle replaced and clean up the diaper so that the HG situation can be addressed objectively. Learn to periodically add coolant or oil as necessary until you reach YOUR annoyance limit. THEN bit the bullet for $1.5k and get the gaskets done. This is the correct, "new normal" for most clients (unfortunately). But it's better than throwing away great handling by getting a newer one.... On a smaller note: Subaru used a poorly-designed center/rear "Y" pipe to split exhaust to twin mufflers on the OB (fortunately NOT on the Imp nor Lag Sedan). The "crotch" of the Ys are now all leaking, resulting in three types of remedies: 1. most cheapies will try welding, which works for several months at best 2. many wrenches will weld/splice in a $100 rear section (+ labor). 3. best is to replace the entire Y pipe with the aftermarket Walker version, which is double-gusseted at the crotch...far better than OE design. It's about $300 with all gaskets + an hour labor: $400. Note that some wrenches don't want to clean up and possibly double-gasket the vestigial rear muffler(s), preferring the ease (and extra profit) of replacing the $100 mufflers too. But our experience here is that the mufflers may have another few years service left, so salvaging them (if their flanges are reasonably good) is possible. Nonetheless, a lot of shops will just "cat-back" you, replacing the entire Y pipe and twin mufflers, as labor now drops to less than hour, but you may be charged much more than a reasonable $500 for parts. (SIC, cat-back on an OB is still "juicy" at $600, Midas!) Sorry to be so long-winded. I hope this response can be enshrined as a FAQ response, as it affects many thousands of owners. Time for second cuppa joe. Ern

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

Mark, how the hell can salt affect a rubber axle boot?! PLEASE stop with the errant non-technical gibberish! YOUR '10 OB will likely need axles within 2 years too.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Ernie, are you talking about axle boots? I distinctly got the impression she was referring to the actual axles, those are the words she used. Actually, salt is extremely corrosive! And, may I remind you that I live in Los Angeles, California!! There is no salt or snow, no corrosion at all. Apparently, you don't understand that cars here aside from those near the beach, can last for 25 or more years with no decay of any kind. I highly doubt that my car's axles will be deteriorated unless you are talking about a worn rubber boots?


Replacing axle BOOTS is a lost industry because the 2 hours labor to do so swamps the replacement cost of cheap Chinese axles for about 10 years now. So when a boot bursts open it's cheaper to replace the entire built axle. Hence the industry refers to the job as "replacing (whole) half-shafts (axles)". You'll find out in about a year or two when you need 'em. Nothing to do with rust or corrosion...just heat and cheap-silicate rubber outgassing.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Hmm, a year or two---- you don't know that! Besides, they do fail between 100,000 to 150,000 miles. When your car lives in a temperate climate everything ages faster. See these replies from owners comments on this website. https://allwheeldriveauto.com/seattle-subaru-cv-boots-and-axle- problems-explained/


Mark, my little grasshopper, take it as a VERY educated guess. The 6th year is the peak one for DOJ boot failure. You'll see. And forget about just replacing the boot: I doubt that even Seattle wrenches work cheaply enough to spend all that time when a proper new one slides in in 1/2 hour. Their explanation is simply quite dated.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

OK Ernie, I'll keep you posted. Right now, were having way MORE PROBLEMS with our 2009 Toyota Prius, and even I'm surprised by this. Sorry to go off topic here, but, my local mechanic told me that the suspension on the Prius is not too substantial and because the struts are leaking, it caused you tires to become cupped and the car doesn't handle well, secret, it never did. And, just recently had to get the right front wheel bearing replaced, partially covered under our extended warranty. Still, the Outback despite its size and substandard design according to you, can out handle and feel more stable on the road through normal driving than the Prius. I'm beginning to think that the Prius despite the good engine and transmission is NOT up to the longevity of the Subaru? What do you think?


By the way, the Prius has 64,250 miles and the Subaru Outback has 10,000 more.


Sorry for the typo in my last post. ". It caused MY tires become cupped. All of this really sucks because, the fix for this is all new shocks/struts, wheel alignment and brand new tires. Cost- $1,500.


Off topic indeed. But "apples and oranges" applies here.

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