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.

  • I would recommend being VERY careful with cars that have been modified IN ANY WAY. Like you said, a lot of us hooligans are of the DIY type, some of us are pretty cheap about it too, especially when they plan on selling the car in the not too distant future. I have a coworker to bought a modified '02 WRX (complete with obnoxious straight pipe exhaust), only to find out the previous owner had installed an ebay turbo that disintegrated 3000 miles after the sale, taking the engine down with it. Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 16:18
  • I have a 02 outback with almost 200k on it. Love the car. Has had head gasket issues and horrible wind noise but other than that has been a great car. Keep up on the scheduled maintenance when its due and treat it right and it will run forever. Best car I have ever had.
    – dmcnutt
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 4:10

8 Answers 8


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.

  • 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
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 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.

  • 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
    Commented Apr 11, 2013 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.

  • 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. :-) Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 20:17
  • Is there a replacement gasket that fixes the issue, or is it some motor design issue that causes the leak?
    – theUg
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 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 Commented Jul 2, 2013 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.


  • 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
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 22:58

I am new to Subaru, but have worked in the family car sales business and for Ford and Gulf Oil. I follow car stuff closely and have friends in the business. I can confidently say that just about any engine will go 200,000 miles without difficulty, as long as you warm it up properly and change the oil. I keep cars for 15-18 years and it is always the body that goes first. Subarus are as close to bulletproof as you can get. So just have car checked out, read and do all maintenence in the manual, and you will be good for years. My WRX is 2004 and has needed just normal maintenance. Enjoy, and with used cars, it is CONDITION CONDITION CONDITION! It is worth paying more for a better car, and buy one under 60,000 miles. Good luck!


I own a 2005 subaru 2.5rs with 330k on it. I have abused the car since i bought it. I maintained it myself throughout its life, the only engine issues I've had are the following: oil pressure switch was replaced twice and a spark plug was shot out of the cylinder head. The spark plug issue was due to the spark plug wire at the head not being properly sealed on the head. This caused water to accumulate and cause galvanic corrosion and eventual failure between the steel helicoil and the aluminum head. The engine is incredibly durable, I drive it hard daily through back country mountainous dirt roads and it has been a truly incredible engine. Other than that, the timing belt is an annoyance but its worth the extra expense. At 330k the engine knocks when cold due to piston slap, it burns a little oil and the valves are noisy. It sounds tired but still runs great and puts down power when I need it.

The chassis is also very tough. The roads I drive on are not easy on a car. It has required significant maintenance on the chassis components at around 250k including: struts, strut mounts, outer toe rods, lower ball joints. On normal roads I doubt any of those components would have required any maintenance at all.

Hands down the toughest car I have ever owed and i've driven many cars into the ground. I have more fun driving my subaru in the winter than my 300hp summer car. The fun to cost ratio is very high in my opinion.


I own a 2006 Forester with 100 thousand miles on it. The motor had the bearing go out so I had to replace the motor at a cost of $7000 thousand dollars. Drove it less than a week and now the differential is going out to which Subaru told me it's very expensive to fix. I am not at all happy with the Subaru.


I have an 04 legacy 2.5 gt 220,000 miles bought it with 30,000 I have driven this car hard never had any engine issues at all didn't replace original clutch until 175,000 just regular maintenance as close as possible to time supposed to be done I love the car I'm absolutely sure it's got another 80,000 in it no leaks at all burns little oil and only problem I've had is burns through breaks front hubs n bearings have had to replace both sides struts n mounts and an issue with cruise control replaced same sensor or something 3 times but I love my suby

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