DIY Guide: How to Replace Head Gasket on 2002 Subaru Forrester and Save on Repairs

Are you experiencing engine overheating, loss of power, or white smoke coming from your exhaust? These could all be signs of a blown head gasket on your 2002 Subaru Forrester. Instead of taking your car to a mechanic and spending a fortune on repairs, why not consider tackling the job yourself? In this DIY guide, we will go over the steps needed to replace your head gasket and save you money in the process.

Symptoms of a Blown Head Gasket

Before we dive into the replacement process, let’s first identify the symptoms of a blown head gasket. These symptoms could include:

  • Overheating engine
  • Loss of power
  • White smoke coming from the exhaust
  • Bubbles in the radiator
  • Milky white substance on the oil cap

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s likely that your head gasket is blown, and it’s time to make the repair.

Tools Needed for the Job

Before starting, gather the tools needed for the job. These tools may include:

  • Socket Set
  • Torque Wrench
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Gasket Scraper
  • Engine Cleaner
  • New Head Gasket
  • RTV Silicone

You should also have access to a service manual for your specific make and model to ensure that you have the correct procedures and torque specifications.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Replacing the Head Gasket

  1. Remove the Battery and Intake: Firstly, disconnect the battery and remove the air intake.
  2. Drain the Coolant: Drain the coolant from the engine by loosening the radiator plug.
  3. Remove the Timing Belt: Follow the service manual instructions to take off the timing belt.
  4. Remove the Head Bolts: Remove the bolts located on the cylinder head to release it from the engine block.
  5. Clean and Inspect: Clean the engine block thoroughly and inspect the surface for any cracks or damage.
  6. Install New Head Gasket: Apply the new head gasket to the engine block’s surface and torque the new head bolts to the proper specifications.
  7. Replace Timing Belt: Following the service manual, install a new timing belt.
  8. Reassemble: Reinstall the air intake and reconnect the battery.
  9. Refill the Coolant: Refill the coolant system and start the engine.
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Tips and Tricks to Make it Easier

  • Ensure the engine is cold before starting the replacement process.
  • Take pictures or label wires and hoses for easy reassembly.
  • Use a gasket scraper and engine cleaner for a clean surface.
  • Torque the head bolts to the precise specifications to avoid damage or future leaks.
  • Check for cracks on the block or cylinder head before reassembly.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Forgetting to empty the coolant before starting the process.
  • Incorrectly installing the head gasket, which can cause severe damage to the engine.
  • Failing to torque the head bolts to the correct specifications, which will cause future leaks.


Q: Can I replace the head gasket without a service manual?
A: It is not recommended. The service manual has all the necessary instructions and torque specifications to ensure a successful replacement.

Q: How long does it take to replace a head gasket?

A: The replacement process can take anywhere from 6-12 hours, depending on the level of expertise.

Q: What is the cost savings of replacing the head gasket myself?

A: A head gasket replacement from a mechanic can cost anywhere from $1000 to $3000. By replacing it yourself, you can save the cost of labor and the expense of unnecessary parts markup.

By following these steps, you can replace the head gasket on your 2002 Subaru Forrester and save money on costly repairs. Remember to have the proper tools and follow the service manual instructions. With a little patience and attention to detail, you’ll soon have your car running as good as new.

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Joseph Weaver

With a background in engineering and a passion for cars, Joseph brings a unique perspective to our blog. He's particularly interested in the technology and innovation behind Subaru's advanced safety features, and his articles on this topic are always insightful and informative. When he's not writing, he enjoys playing video games and spending time with his family.

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