hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
67,193 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

1998 Subaru Outback engine problems

engine problem

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1998 Subaru Outback Owner Comments

problem #18

May 152010


  • 81,000 miles


Engine overheating every half mile with engine reservoir overflowing. After $1300 of replacing thermostat, timing belt, belt tensioner, water pump, flushing the cooling system, and compression tests, I was told I had a blown head gasket. I was told the replacement would cost an additional $2,200 at least.

- Royal Oak, MI, USA

problem #17

Dec 302008


  • 161,461 miles
Engine began to overheat only when being driven, does not overheat when idling. I have replaced the thermostat, water pump, and timing belt but it still overheats. While doing research on the internet, I found the carsurvey.org site with many references to this being a known issue, a head gasket problem. Based on the number of similar complaints, Subaru has a design problem that should have been recalled or at least a warning of some type send out. What can be done about this issue?

- Knoxville, TN, USA

problem #16

Apr 082003


  • miles
Blown head gasket on 1998 Subaru legacy Outback at ~70K, just out of warranty, . this problem occurred in 2003, but given the continuation of complaints from current Subaru owners experiencing this problem, it seems highly negligent of Subaru to deny responsibility for addressing this problem. This is a major problem on Subaru's dating from 1997 forward. Repair cost in excess of $2,500. This problem continues to arise on Subaru engines, yet the company has done nothing to reimburse owners for cost.

- Annapolis, MD, USA

problem #15

Feb 212007

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles


We bought a 1998 Subaru Outback in 2004. At approximately 110,000 miles, we experienced a catastrophic overheating of the engine due to a faulty head gasket. The overheating caused approximately $3,000 worth of damage to the car. The head gasket, radiator, thermostat, water pump, oxygen sensors and (2) catalytic converters all had to be replaced. We have since learned that this is a common problem for Subaru of this vintage. There are hundreds of anecdotal reports of people having this exact problem on the internet, and our mechanic tells us he fixes at least one of these problems per week at his shop. Clearly, this is a defective product.

- Portland, OR, USA

problem #14

Jun 062006

Outback 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 91,056 miles
Driving a 1998 Subaru AWD legacy Outback. On June 6, 2006 while on a short trip in vehicle, returned home to see smoke (not steam) coming from engine block. The vehicle had overheated, and had been suffering occasional loss of power while driving prior to this time (approx 1 week). Drove approx.5 mi to dealer next day to get checked out along with 90,000 mile service (mileage on vehicle was 91,058). Dealer called to inform that he had found leaking head gaskets with leaks at the valve covers and hydrocarbons in the cooling system. Informed that head gasket would need to be replaced and the head resurfaced (potential replacement of block but this was not needed nor was a valve job) and that we should also replace water pump, timing belt, and engine shield as long as the engine is out. My research on the web indicates that this problem is epidemic, local mechanics I've spoken with say that this is a very common issue and that Subaru America will not step up to the plate. I called Subaru, with my complaint and while admitting no responsibility offered $500 credit toward repairs which eventually came to more than $3000. Replaced parts include head gasket, head resurfacing, seals, water pump, hoses, thermostat, timing belt and tensioner, separator plate. When I called again to ask them to step up on this issue they failed to offer additional help. As I understand it a blown head gasket can lead to a cracked engine block which could indeed lead to a very serious problem. A simple web search on this issue found dozens of similar complaints of this very serious and expensive problem.

- Oakland, CA, USA

problem #13

Apr 152005

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,352 miles
Cylinder #4 exhaust vale failure in July of 2004. Subaru dealer prestige imports pulled head and replaced valve. They insisted the cause was "bad gasoline." April 2005 car is found to have high level of CO2 in cooling system. Subaru dealer prestige imports refuses to do a leak down test to determine which head gasket has failed. Pulls both heads at a cost of close to $3,000. Refused to acknowledge that they removed the head in July 2004 to replace the valve and refuse to acknowledge that this may have been the cause of the July 2005 failure. Told me "we've seen this before." Refused to call Subaru usa because "they would just laugh at us." In a meeting with prestige imports GM jim borreli he indicated that this is a common problem and promised to contact Subaru usa he never did and would not return my phone calls. Subaru usa has been extremely unhelpful and claims that they have nothing to do with authorized dealer repairs or issues with head gaskets on 2.5 L type 1 engines. This is an very common problem apparently. Almost every auto mechanic in America is familiar with it. On the NHTSA complain site I counted at least 18 head gasket related complaints. A search of the web brings up hundreds if not thousands more., why has the NHTSA ignored these problems and not acted in the best interest of costumers?

- Croton On Hudson, NY, USA

problem #12

Dec 202004

Outback 4-cyl

  • miles


Head gasket failure in Subaru legacy Outback 1998. Engine overheated which lead to lead to smoke coming out under the hood and subsequent warping of engine heads. I hard to replace gasket heads but I am told there is no guarantee this would not happen again since there is an apparent design flaw in the 2.5L engines.

- Blacksburg, VA, USA

problem #11

Dec 142004

Outback 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 145,000 miles
Legacy Outback with 2.5 L engine began to overheat with coolant boiling over into resevoir. The car was taken to repair shop. They replaced thermostat, tested for hydrocarbons in system, pressured tested cap and system and flushed radiator. Car still overheated and was returned to repair shop and tested for hydrocarbons in the antifreeze with negative results. No problem was identified. Engine continued to overheat and was taken into repair shop while the pointer was off the top of the temperature gauge. This time hydrocarbons were identified in the coolant and problem was identified as a blown gasket. Manager reported that the week before another Subaru owner had the same problem with same difficulty in identifying the cause. Repairs cost $1,400. Had a similiar report for another Subaru owner but work was done with pressure on dealer after initial refusal.

- East Arlington, VT, USA

problem #10

Oct 302004

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,640 miles
Took my Subaru to dealer for 60,000 mile check. He advised me that my head gasket was about to fail and needed replacement. He also informed me that failure of the head gasket in 1998 Outbacks was common. This repair is very costly (about $1500), and failing to make it could cause catastrophic damage to the engine.

- Highlands Ranch, CO, USA

problem #9

Aug 102003

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles
Catastrophic failure of a major engine component which is considerably outside the expected statistical failure rate(based on my research of complaints by other purchasers of this model Subaru automobile), resulting in significant costs to repair. At approximately 56000 miles the head gaskets on my 1998 Subaru Outback with the 2.5L engine failed.the cost to repair was $ $1880. I contacted Subaru in an effort to get them to absorb at least part of the cost since the car was well within the mileage warranty period, but was slightly outside the time warranty.their response was sorry tough luck. I indicated to Subaru that a component of this nature with such a high failure rate, was obviously due to a significant design or manufacturing defect.their response was, again, they were not goint to do anything about it. Someone needs to put pressure on Subaru to make this a recall item.

- Greenwood Village, CO, USA

problem #8

Oct 272003

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 89,500 miles


Car overheated. Towed to garage. They replaced thermostat and tested. Ran ok for about 20 miles. Overheated again. Towed to garage. Now the diagnosis is that I need a new head gasket. This car has less than 90,000 miles and has been maintained flawlessly.

- Shelton, CT, USA

problem #7

Aug 292003

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles
Blown head gasket at 105,000 miles. My research indicates that this is a very common failure for this engine/model year. It cost me $3400 for a new short block/labor to effect repairs.

- Beaverton, OR, USA

problem #6

Jul 092003


  • miles
Consumer states that while driving and with no warning vehicle will stall, and it will be hard for the consumer to control the vehicle. Dealer notified.

- New Haven, CT, USA

problem #5

Apr 192002

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 129,000 miles
1998 Subaru Outback - blown head gasket, resulted in over heating. My mechanic estimates $2500 (assuming there is no other damage to the engine). We are also checking prices for used engines to possibly replace the existing engine. Mileage was approximately 129000 miles.

- Canon City, CO, USA

problem #4

Nov 012002


  • 75,462 miles
The engine over heated, and the dealer replaced the thermostat and water pump, however the problem continued, and the entire engine had to be replaced. Also the brake light and marker lights were replaced.

- Woodstock Valley, CT, USA

problem #3

Sep 012002

Outback 4WD

  • miles
The head gasket blew, which resulted in coolant leaking into the cylinder walls. While parked and turned off. The engine, which is a 2.5 liter, must be replaced. The 2.5 liter engine has a history of enigine failure. Has anyone made a claim" has there been research or a recall of any kind"

- Keene, VA, USA

problem #2

Feb 252002

(reported on)

Outback 4WD

  • miles
Blown head gasket. Seems to be a manufacturing problem, considering the number of blown head gaskets on Subaru 2.5L engines. Contact Subaru mechanics to obtain unusual high numbers.

- Ft. Collins, CO, USA

problem #1

Jun 202000


  • miles
Timing belt failed.

- Applegate, OR, USA

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