All Wheel Drive Auto: Independent Seattle Subaru Service


A Better Subaru 2.5l Head Gasket in Seattle

We have been using an improved gasket in the Subaru for a while now.  There are supplied to us by North East imported parts and are sold under their “Six Star” brand. At the end of this article I have included a video from North East Imported Parts.

In noticing that there seems to be a few more 03 and 04 showing signs of failure which would mean the latest gasket for the 2nd generation 2.5l may really not be as good as the updated gasket for the 1st generation 2.5l was.

The updated gasket supplied by Subaru for the 1st generation 2.5l really is a fix, the deficiency in the gasket was resolved with the new design. This is the DOHC (Dual Over Head Cam) engine we are talking about now.  We have always felt that installing the updated gaskets and educating on maintenance would always yield great results.

The second generation 2.5l is a SOHC (Single Over Head Cam) uses an entirely different gasket, it has been superseded by Subaru a few times through the years but the replacement gasket does look somewhat similar to the O.E. Gasket.  We have still never seen a Subaru vehicle that we have repaired in the Seattle area develop a second head gasket leak but in the last few months the number of posts to my article about head gaskets leaks found here and the number of emails I have received  indicating that there are still some issues out there.

I feel that part of the reason the Subaru’s we repair in the Seattle area don’t develop the problem a second time  is we really focus on trying to educate our customers on the importance of maintaining the vehicle based on how they drive the car.  When faced with a expensive repair we have almost always found our Seattle area Subaru owners receptive to ways to avoid expensive repairs in the future.  Part of the reason I spend all this time writing articles is I want Subaru owners regardless of demographics to have the same information that our Seattle area Subaru owners have.

We test ran a set of these head gaskets on a 1997 Subaru Legacy GT belonging to a good friend of mine who is very hard on his cars and after many miles decided to try them out on a second generation 2.5l in a  2000 Subaru Outback belonging to a delivery driver in a rural part of Washington State.    We have since used these gaskets many times with great results and consider them to be a real fix for the problems with the second generation 2.5l head gasket leaks.  Now installation of these gaskets doesn’t mean that a good maintenance schedule shouldn’t be followed, it is always going to be very important in a Subaru and a  Horizontally opposed engine that the fluids are not allowed to become contaminated or corrosive.

For our local customers you have the option of either gasket, for our readers every where else we do sell these gaskets in a kit and can ship them to you just about anywhere you reside.

Here are a couple of pictures of the gaskets we use, I will be doing a follow up article that will focus on the technical side of things such as composition and installation methods.

New Subaru Head Gasket A Real Fix New Subaru Head Gasket Subaru 2.5l Improved Head Gasket Subaru 2.5l Head Gasket Suabru Head Gasket Repair


46 Responses

  1. My 2006 Subaru Outback Sport (2.5 liter SOHC) started to leak dark fluid into the coolant.
    I asked the Subaru dealer if the replacement OEM head gaskets (both of them) were going to have the same problem as the original ones. They were noncommittal saying that ‘they have been improved over the years so maybe.’ Are the OEM gaskets for the SOHC still suspect for early failure?

    Thanks for the informative blog!

    1. Hello Eric,

      The replacement gaskets is the same as the one coming out of your Car, and the Dealer knows it, the last update was years before the 2006 came out.


  2. Hey Justin,

    Got a 99 Legacy 2.5………..yep , needs head gaskets

    Questions: With the 6 Star gaskets…is the torque sequence the same as factory or is it a torque n forget deal ?

    1. You should use the Updated Gasket From Subaru for the DOHC Which is what is in a 99 Legacy GT.

      We sell a HG kit on our site and it comes with a Repair guide which includes the Torque procedure.


  3. Hi Justin. I recently moved to rural NW Nebraska, where there are no import car shops and no dealers(only chevy and ford and closest is 50miles away). I do a lot of my research on the internet, and came across your website, as I’m preparing to replace HGs and timing belt/water pump on my friend’s 2002 Forester w/auto trans, 183k miles. According to her, it never had a timing belt or HG repl, but shes only had the car for 4 yrs/80k miles; its always consumed some oil but suddenly, its been consuming oil at about 1 qt a wk and there was some blue smoke from underhood, and when i took a look underneath, there was oil all over the undersides of the engine. After a thorough wash with foam and powerwasher, it seems to be leaking mostly from the rear of the driver side head gasket. I just wanted to be sure this was it and not something else around there. Its hard to get a real good visual from the top and bottom, and am just concerned that its something else, like a rear main seal or that oil separator plate. BTW, theres no oil on the flywheel ring gear. Since they really need the car to be reliable, I’m looking to do the best repair possible (weekly we drive hundreds of miles thru the indian reservation to provide voluntary community services, where there is little cell phone reception, and weather can be extreme). Any suggestions to make a more definite diagnosis? And what kind of repair manuals do you offer with the HG kit? Prices? Shipping time? Thanks for the excellent website. Su

    1. Hi Su,

      Head gasket leaks don’t typically get to the point where they spray oil out unless it’s the most extreme cases of ignoring the leaks when they were smaller?

      Rear main seals can leak, PVC hose could be split open above the pipe in the block above the oil separator.

      Since its a forester the oil cooler o ring could be leaking, the oil could be leaking from the front and blowing back, another words there are a few things to investigate and one possibility is also the heads gaskets.

      Prices for kits can be found on the website, the repair guide is just that a guide It will help a novice to experienced tech get through the repair. We provide tech support with parts purchase and have helped hundreds do it, but it’s all about what you can do! All we can do is help.


  4. . . Hello Justin, , Maybe you can help. . I’ve replaced several 2.5 head gaskets and am pretty good at what I do. . Recently bought a 1999 Outback with a supposedly leaking head gaskets. . They already spent a bunch of money on thermostat, cap and water pump, flush and so on. .
    . . I swapped engines with one that has new head gaskets and milled heads. . Still has the original heating problem. . Will idle for ever and never get out. . Can drive gently and does fine. . Drive at high speed or climb a hill and temp suddenly and quickly shoots up to max. .
    . . Getting another engine ready now. . Any other ideas ? ? Thanks

    1. Could be a aftermarket T-stat, cracked head, clogged radiator, air pocket, incorrect temp reading from temp sensor, fans not coming on. Plus lots more, I wouldn’t replace the engine unless there is combustion present in the cooling system. And even then I would want to know why.


  5. Justin,
    I would love to pick your brain on my 98′ forester issue. My car has 242k with a cracked engine head. I am pretty sure I will be replacing the engine with a used one from Japan (the millage is around 50k). Im thinking about having my mechanic replace the HG’s while the engine is out.
    1. Should I have the HG’s replaced?
    2. I cant seem to find any information on whether I need to replace all the engine gaskets with the kit like the one you sell on your site OR if I would just need to replace the 2 cylinder head gaskets.
    3. If the engine is out of the car, is it quick and simple to replace the gaskets? What about just the cylinder HG’s?
    Thank You!

    1. You are welcome to pick my brain, as long as you promise not to pick it all.

      We always suggest taking the low mileage Japanese exchange engine apart and replacing all of the gaskets and seals, keep in mind the engine you are buying has been sitting around sine the 90’s in some container and is a leak waiting to happen.


  6. Having recently replaced the HGs on my 2001 OB useing the products that you have supplied..all is good..I wanted to know why the old gasket material disintegrated around the coolant passages and ended up making my coolant turn a dark color..the black material around the cylinder holes and oil passages where still good and sealing well..the car has never over heated and the coolant drained and replaced from the rad on a yearly schedule …from a lay persons view I would consider the old style HGs to be of a poor quality..

  7. It is nice to definitely discover a website in which the blogger is clever. Thanks for creating your website.

  8. I have a 2004 Subaru Outback and it was just diagnosed with head gasket leak. Subaru is willing to work with me since big services were done at Subaru dealer. Luckily I wasn’t the owner at the time, I stear clear of dealers typically. Anyway, they want to use only Subaru parts. How are the redesigned 2nd gen. gaskets compared to the one you use. Can I trust it?



    1. Hi Erik,

      The updated gasket from Subaru is the exact same thing that is coming out of your 2004 Outback. Its why we don’t use it and sought out a better option.


  9. Great post! I am wondering if I will have enough clearance to remove the head bolts and heads when doing a head gasket job on a 98′ Legacy gt 2.5l or if I actually have to remove the engine in order to complete the job. Wanna know before getting into it, any info on this would be great!

    1. Hi Matt,

      You can, but it is a terrible idea. By the time you have everything removed that you need to remove the heads, you are almost ready to remove the engine, the time spent taking it out will be more than made up for in speed with the engine on a stand, the repair will last longer. You will be able to clean the surface of the block and check for warp properly, not fight fluids draining, establish clamping force evenly and in a quick manner so the head doesn’t warp on torque. Local to us the tool rental yards get $60.00 for a engine hoist and stand for the weekend. We sell a kit and it comes with a repair guide.

      Hope that helps


  10. Hello,
    I just wanted to let you guys know that i just finished replacing my head gasket with the kit awd auto supplied me and I am glad i did since the part they supplied me with was a much better gasket than the o.e. subaru gasket. I however didnt take the advice of awd auto and did the gaskets with the engine in the car. If i ever have to do another set I will definatly be pulling the engine since your almost to that point when you get ready to pull the heads. I would highly recommend using the parts and advice awd auto gives you. they know there stuff.

  11. I have an ’03 Subaru Forester and have been informed that I have a possible head gasket leak based on a visual. I haven’t had any noticeable oil or coolant leaks. Is there any diagnostic tests that can be run to confirm this before biting the bullet?

  12. Over 4,000 miles on my head gasket replacements on my 1999 Legacy Outback DOHC. So glad I stumbled across this website and Justin and his crew. Justin is very helpful and his instructions and advice were spot on. Using his gaskets and advice on what to use on the gaskets and how to properly bleed the cooling system proved to be the perfect solution.
    I just bought a 1996 Outback from my sister and guess what? Yep, bubbles in the coolant recovery tank so it looks like I’ll be placing another order soon Justin.
    Thanks very much.

  13. My 1999 Forester is on it’s THIRD (3) HG job, it has 203K and still going. I change the oil faithfully every 3,000 miles like clockwork. I wish that I had seen this article or for that matter ran across your website before I did my head gasket job. I would had bought your HG kit. For the price you just can’t beat it. Keep up the good work!

  14. I have a 97 legacy Brighton wagon with 134,000 on it, do I really need to worry too much about the headgaskets since I do properly maintaine the car, every 3,000(or less) fresh fram filter, Castrol Syntec Bend, every 6 months new fuel filter,and air filter, Lucas oil injector cleaner every 6.000 miles, coolant flush every year, yeah I baby it a bit to much. My back up lights also went out, I replaced the bulbs but nothing, is it the sensor? and if so, where the hell is it? its also a 5spd, and where can I find a lift kit for it! I really want to extra clearance?

  15. I have replaced many Mercedes diesel, Volvo, and Mazda Miata head gaskets,timing belts and or timing chains but not a Subaru. Now have occasion to replace headgaskets,timing belt and other mileage related items while down. vehicle is a Subaru 2004 Outback 2.5L automatic, mileage 88,000.
    Headgasket leak is internal. My request is for the 1st gen. updated gasket for this vehicle. Repair is for a two Subaru family so doing it right the first time is essential. Any references to the mentioned 1st gen. updated gasket
    greatly appreciated.

  16. Justin has helped me numerous times, I used his gaskets and his recommendations for installing them, and have not had any issues. Thanks Justin, and yes, use the head gaskets he sells and nothing else, or the problem will resurface again. Thanks Justin for all your help. Subbie guy from MN…

  17. Hi,
    Im writing to see if you have access to rebuilt heads for a 97 Outback ? Both of mine have burned valves in them. Its better to replace than rebuild them ? Your gaskets sound great for the 2.5 which mine is. If you do have some, how much for them , the gaskets and head bolts ? Anything else essential ?

  18. Paul, as a fellow Subaru enthusiast, I’ll tell you… the jump from a 2.2 to a 2.5 isn’t going to be worth the money. You’d be better off swapping in a 2.0t or 2.5t. To get a 2.5 NA to run turbo reliably just isn’t cost effective when compared to the stock turbo engines.

    But I bet you could talk Justin into swapping in one of those turbo engines for you 🙂

  19. Hey Justin,

    Don’t know how to ask a question so I’m going to add to this one…..
    I’m selling my Mustang 5.0 so I’ll be looking for a little more power from my 97 Outback Sport 2.2,5sp.,150K miles.
    I’m looking into building a 2.5 for it. I have access to a junkyard core from a 99 DOHC from an SUS(wrecked car means it was running at 193K. I also have a line on a 00 SOHC running engine.
    A pullout from a 2.0T swap. I should have access to the wiring harnesses on either car. Are there advantages or disadvantages to the DOHC engine. Would the SOHC be a better engine to use? Either engine will recieve new rings, bearings and gaskets and head and block surfacing. There may be a turbo kit in the future.
    The only other option I’m looking at is selling the Mustang and the Outback and buying an 02-04 Outback Sport. Any good info you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  20. Great site, great information and insight. I too, suffered the head gasket failure in my 98 Forester. In retrospect and after reading your HG discusions I now know better (or think I do). I still love the Forester but am gun shy now. I am considering a 2003 with only 30K miles versus a 2007 with 50K. Thoughts? Would later model Foresters be more reliable in the long haul?

  21. Just wondering if you can help me , I just recently had the head gasket and the timing belt changed on my 1996 subaru legacy. After the work was done there was noice coming from the exhaust, I took it to a local muffler place and they told me the gasket to the manifold was left loose and burned subsequently creating a leak and the noise I am hearing can the damage to the manifold gasket a part of the work related to the change of the timing belt and head gasket? Do you have any idea?

  22. Hi Justin,

    Thanks for the quick response. I have never replaced the head gaskets out of any cars before. I want to start since I was quoted high prices and want to keep my car. I only owned the car for a month and a half and love how the car drives and handles. Do you have any literature for me to read in order to do this replacement? Any tips? How-to guides? what tools are needed? if mechanically sound, how long would it take?

    Thanks in advance,

  23. I have a 1998 subaru legacy GT 2.5L and experiencing symptoms that point to blown head gaskets. Coolant is violently returning to the reserve tank and foaming from boiling. Water pump/timing belt/cam seals and thermostat have been replaced. The temperature gauge stays at a nominal state (just below halfway point). I am planning on replacing my HGs and would like to know where to purchase the HG your shop uses instead of getting them from the Subaru dealer

  24. Hi Justin,

    I’m new to your site but have seen references to the particular head gasket your shop uses versus the replacement one offered by Subaru. A number of people have asked how to purchase them through you or a supplier. Could you provide all the details involved in purchasing them in a quick response to this email? Thanks in advance.

  25. Upon returning from Iraq (her fourth tour)my wife’s 2003 Subaru Baja with only 77,000 miles developed a head gasket failure on the driver’s side head. Thank goodness the anti-freeze was leaking to the outside and not into the engine block. However, not wanting to work on the engine myself I decided to take the vehicle to a supposed ASE certified shop. After totally messing up the vehicle and reconnecting the windshield wiper resevoir to a vacuum port (thus pulling washer fluid into the head) not to mention the anti-freeze recovery bottle being connected to dump into the engine block, I took the vehicle from them, towed it home, and decided to fix it myself. After several phone calls to Subaru “dealerships” and getting little or no help, I finally found Justin and All Wheel Drive on the internet. With Justin’s patient guidance (numerous phone calls). I removed the engine in my garage and began to dissamble it down to the block. After a thorough inspection I took the heads to a machine shop and had both of them checked and resurfaced exactly how Justin told me to. In the meantime Justin explained to me the importance of using his new head gaskets and gasket kit (it’s important that “ALL” of the gaskets get replaced). Anyway, thanks to Justin and All Wheel Drive my wife is driving her Baja again and is happy to be home.
    P.S. If you’re reading this and wondering what to do about your head gasket problem I would strongly suggest you listen to Justin and do as he tells you! You’ll be glad you did!!!

  26. Justin,

    Thanks for a great site. I own a 98 Forester with the DOHC motor and now I have the dreaded blown head gaskets at 155,000 miles which I think is good compared to others. I was about to buy some new OEM head gaskets, but I noticed that the head gaskets you guys use are not OEM ones. What brand are the head gaskets you guys are using? I am tackling the head gasket job myself and I just want to do it one time. Thanks in advance.

  27. Justin,
    Hats off on an excellent blog very informative and detailed. I just sent my 97 subaru legacy Brighton to get the clutch replaced which is totally gone. What other things do you recommend be replaced at this time? The car has 192 K miles and I have no clue about the history of the car since I bought it two days ago at a car lot. Since the car is a 2.2L do you still recommend replacing the headgaskets? I bought the car for $600 and it has some front end damage no grill and hood tied down with rope etc.,

  28. 00 2.5 head gaskets at 44000 in 04. 98000 in head gaskets .both times subaru dealer replaced them.first time free. in 08 subaru gaskets suck or what?same mech did it both times said subaru reps still say no problems with gaskets. he also said gaskets look the same in 08 improvement.subaru told me in 04 they would fix it for as long as i own it.guess i will see them in2012 with 200.00.

  29. 00 2.5 head gaskets at 44000 in 04. 98000 in head gaskets .both times subaru dealer replaced them.first time free. in 08 subaru gaskets suck or what?same mach did it both times said subaru reps still say no problems with gaskets. he also said gaskets look the same in 08 improvement.subaru told me in 04 they would fix it for as long as i own it.guess i will see them in2012 with 200.00.

  30. Hello Bob,

    I cant comment on what another shop may charge you but if you want to keep the car out of the shop and your overall costs down then yes replace the gaskets.


  31. Hi. My 03 Outback (170,000 mi) just threw a rod. I am planning on replacing the engine w/ a longblock from an 04 with about 50,000 mi. on it. I am planning to use a place that specializes in replacing engines to do this work. Would you recommend replacing the head gasket, prior to installation in my car, on this “new” replacement engine? If so, do you recommend using your new gasket or the traditional one? If the engine is not yet installed, how much extra is replacing the gasket likely to cost (ballpark)? Thanks is advance for any help you can give. Bob

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