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Basically, I've been a Subaru enthusiast for a few years but never been able to purchase one because I'm still a student. However, this summer I will be able to.

The issue is that I need a reliable car and most-likely wouldn't be able to replace a blown engine. Subaru engines seem to blow up quite often but is it due to irresponsible owners or the engines are generally weak?

I'm definitely going to get the car inspected and will get an engine compression test done to make sure cylinders are doing ok.

Have you guys had personal experience with Subarus or knowledge that would be worth sharing?


PS: I definitely would DIY some repairs but let's say that I don't have the resource to work on stuff like cylinders.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Subaru engines have long been touted and praised for their reliability and longevity. The engines that seem to be blowing up all the time are almost certainly driven by enthusiasts trying to race as fast as they can up onramps and push their cars to the limit. ( Perhaps that's where the misconception is, if you're going to push your engine to the limit you need to be prepared to rebuild it. )

If you have it inspected and can manage to drive your Subaru somewhat normally, it should last as long as you need it to.

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I guess I should judge the owner's attitude and ask a few questions about his driving habits to figure out how well the car has been driven? Thanks for your input, the link is quite interesting and it certainly encourages me to purchase the car I've wanted for a while! –  Simon Apr 10 '13 at 17:20

Subaru engines very rarely blow up. As someone who has owned many and raced a few, and been a member of various Subaru owner forums, I know of some that had problems, but it was almost never the engine.

Early Subarus had clutches that were a bit under-engineered, so typically they would be replaced at 75,000 miles, and you could kill brakes with a particularly energetic race day - but then you would replace them and all would be well.

I have also seen a couple of turbos die - generally because they were badly treated. Not thrashed, but not allowed to cool properly after racing.

The only engines I have heard of breaking were highly tuned ones (over 500bhp) and to be honest, that is pushing the construction of the engine far beyond its design parameters.

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+1 For the subie love! ;-) –  Bob Cross Apr 10 '13 at 18:48
I have never heard of anyone with serious engine issues but quite a few rear wheel bearing issues and corrosion due to the salt treated roads of NewEngland USA. –  mikes Apr 11 '13 at 1:18

A common problem with the 2.5L engines in the 2.5RS are head gaskets starting to leak around 100,000 miles. This is why Subaru normally warranties the head gaskets until 100,000 miles. It isn't an urgent issue and will not cause any catastrophic failure, but It will leak oil. Unlike other cars that urge you to stop driving immediately when the head gasket leaks, the nature of the leak in the Subaru engine allows you to drive for quite some time before fixing it.

My 02 2.5RS had a leaky passenger head gasket. I drove on it for 4000 miles before repairing it myself(required a weekend to do and pulling the engine out of the car. Experienced mechanics can do it in under 6 hours). I have had quotes from $1500-$2000 for 3rd party shops to repair.

If you are looking at a car, be sure to ask about service history, especially head gasket replacement. If they have been replaced, you're good for at least another 100,000 miles. If you are looking at a car you found on craigslist, you can see the gasket seam about 6 inches in from the left and right edges of the motor. Typically if you see oil stains around/ontop of the seam, it could be the head gasket. Any Subaru mechanic would be able to point it out in 2 minutes.

A compression test will help see if the head gasket is ok, but it can be difficult to do on your own, since you usually need to remove the spark plugs and thread the tester in their place. The spark plugs are on the side of the engine and therefore clearance can be an issue.

You won't need to worry about turbos or anything as the 2.5RS is normally aspirated and doesn't have a turbo. The engines are very strong and quite durable, aside from the head gasket issue. The 5 speed manual transmission also runs very well but will not handle the shock of a tuned motor pushing 300+ hp. The automatic transmission is equally durable.

Bottom line, if you plan on keeping everything stock, you will have a fun to drive car that is very dependable. Even a head gasket leaking issue will not put a damper on your day, and will be worst you will probably ever see, if you even do.

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2.5RS seems to be very durable. I Road Rally with a bunch of guys that run those and they don't have any issues (other than a lack of power on the steeper hill climbs). In contrast the local WRX/STI guys like to push the limit on tweaking the boost and blow up engines and transmissions with some regularity. :-) –  Brian Knoblauch Jul 1 '13 at 20:17
Is there a replacement gasket that fixes the issue, or is it some motor design issue that causes the leak? –  theUg Jul 2 '13 at 6:00
Yes, Subaru has an updated head gasket. You can also go with 3rd party head gaskets like Fel-Pro. Here is a very in-depth description of the head gasket issue. link –  Michael Dornisch Jul 2 '13 at 16:37

Since you asked for personal experience, here it is :).

I have a 2004 Impreza WRX and I absolutely love it. I bought it new and tried my best to maintain it well. Oil changes, regular maintenance etc. were done on schedule or about as close to it as I can. I had some problems with it during warranty period: had to replace gearbox, driver window seal and main brake cylinder(?). Since then it was running perfectly fine and I never had any issues with engine or turbo. And as far as the gearbox problem - no, I didn't run it into the ground :), something simply broke and needed fixing (that last sentence will tell you how mechanically inclined I am :)).

I'm closing on 90,000 miles on it and it looks like I'll be able to drive another 90 or more without too much trouble. In my opinion, it runs almost as well as it did in the beginning.


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Think I got to 150k in my first, 120k in my second and am on 80 in my third. Each change has been to get a faster one, not because of mechanicals :-) –  Rory Alsop Apr 16 '13 at 22:58

Bought a used 01 outback wagon with 200 k on it. After 3 years 1 major collision, hitting a deer at 60 and replacing the alternator starter and a set of tires, she finally gave out at 270000 miles. Heard a bad clunking sound coming from top end off my drive shaft just under the shifter. Figured the rear end in my tranny was going to go. I had made a pledge to run her into the ground and not put anymore money into it. Yesterday i got to about 60 and wouldnt yoy know it.. it seamed like a bomb went off in my car. The impact to my shifter caused all the plastic and shifter to blow out. The drive shaft wasnt hanging but you could underneath that the electronic linkage was hanging(i presume). Funny thing is the motor still hums. Wondering if i take out fuse for rear wheel drive if itll run fronts only.. I will never drive anything but outback wagons for as long as i can drive or afford one!

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