Where Do Subaru Head Gaskets Leak Oil? A Detailed Guide to Identifying and Fixing Head Gasket Leaks

If you own a Subaru, you may be familiar with head gasket issues that can cause engine oil leaks. While head gasket leaks are not unique to Subaru models, they are a common problem with certain Subaru engines. In this article, we will provide a detailed guide on where Subaru head gaskets leak oil, how to identify the issue, why it happens, and ways to fix and prevent leaks in the future.

Understanding Head Gaskets

Before we dive into the specifics of head gaskets leaks in Subaru engines, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of what a head gasket is and why it is critical for your vehicle’s engine. A head gasket is a component that sits between the engine block and cylinder head. It provides a seal for the combustion chamber, prevents oil or coolant leaks, and maintains the pressure in the engine. If a head gasket fails, it can allow oil and coolant to mix, causing overheating and engine damage.

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How to Identify a Head Gasket Leak

The first sign of a head gasket leak is a drop in engine coolant level or bubbles in the radiator or coolant reservoir. Other signs of a head gasket leak include low oil pressure, engine misfire, white smoke coming from the exhaust, overheating engine, and a rough idle. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to have your vehicle checked by a mechanic to identify the source of the leak.

Common Areas Where Head Gasket Leaks Occur in Subaru Cars

Subaru head gasket leaks typically occur in the following areas:

1. Between Cylinders

The area between cylinders is a common area for head gasket leaks among Subaru engines. Under high pressure and heat, the head gasket can become compromised, resulting in oil or coolant leaks between cylinders.

2. Oil Cooler

The oil cooler is another area where head gasket leaks can occur in Subaru engines. The oil cooler is responsible for controlling the engine’s oil temperature, and a compromised head gasket can cause oil to leak into the engine coolant, resulting in engine damage.

3. Timing Belt Side

In some Subaru engines, head gasket leaks can occur on the timing belt side, leading to oil and coolant leaks. These leaks can damage the timing belt, leading to more extensive engine damage if not addressed promptly.

Why Do Head Gaskets Leak in Subaru Cars?

Several factors contribute to head gasket leaks in Subaru cars, including:

1. Material Composition

The head gaskets in some Subaru engines were made of a multi-layered steel construction. The materials used can create a chemical reaction that leads to corrosion and head gasket failure.

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2. Engine Design

Subaru engines are designed with a horizontally opposed engine block, which places additional stress on the head gaskets. The combination of heat and pressure in these engines can cause the head gasket to fail over time.

3. Age and Mileage

As with all vehicles, age and mileage can contribute to head gasket leaks in Subaru cars. Over time, the gasket will begin to wear and may become compromised, leading to leaks.

How to Prevent Head Gasket Leaks in the Future

Preventing head gasket leaks in a Subaru car involves proper maintenance and keeping an eye out for warning signs of a potential problem. It’s essential to keep your vehicle’s coolant and oil levels topped up and to have regular maintenance checks performed. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned earlier, have your vehicle checked promptly by a mechanic to avoid more extensive engine damage.

Steps to Fix a Leaking Head Gasket in a Subaru Car

Several methods can be used to fix a leaking head gasket in a Subaru car, including:

1. Replacement

Replacing the head gasket is the most effective way to fix head gasket leak issues in a Subaru car. This process involves removing the engine’s cylinder head, cleaning the surfaces, and replacing the old gasket with a new one.

2. Sealer

Sealers can be used as a temporary fix for head gasket leaks in Subaru cars. They create a seal around the damaged area to prevent leaks temporarily. However, this method is typically only a short-term solution.

3. Engine Swap

In severe cases, an engine swap may be necessary to fix head gasket issues in a Subaru car. This involves removing the damaged engine and replacing it with another one.

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Cost to Repair or Replace a Subaru Head Gasket

The cost to repair or replace a Subaru head gasket can vary greatly, depending on the model year, the severity of the problem, and the mechanic’s labor costs. On average, a head gasket replacement on a Subaru car can cost between $1,500 and $3,000.


1. Can a Subaru head gasket leak be prevented?

Preventing head gasket leaks involves maintaining your vehicle’s coolant and oil levels and having regular maintenance performed. However, some head gasket failures can be caused by design flaws or manufacturing defects.

2. How long does a Subaru head gasket last?

Subaru head gaskets can last between 100,000 to 150,000 miles. However, factors such as engine usage, mileage, and maintenance can affect the lifespan of the head gasket.

3. Can I drive with a leaking head gasket?

It’s not advisable to drive with a leaking head gasket as it can cause significant engine damage and lead to costly repairs. If you suspect a head gasket leak, have your vehicle checked immediately by a qualified mechanic.

In conclusion, head gasket leaks are a common issue among Subaru owners. Understanding where these leaks occur, why they happen, ways to prevent them, and methods to fix them can save you time and money in the long run. Remember to have your vehicle regularly checked and properly maintained and to address head gasket leaks promptly to avoid more extensive engine damage.

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Billy Covington

With a passion for all things automotive, Billy is our go-to expert on Subaru performance upgrades and modifications. He's been featured in several car magazines and blogs, and his extensive knowledge and expertise make him a valuable member of our team. When he's not working on cars, he enjoys playing guitar and writing music.

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