hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
80,688 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 #11

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 #10

Dec 152008


  • 179,000 miles
Overheating, water leaking, head gasket problem.

- Lower Lake, CA, USA

problem #9

Mar 152008


  • 110,000 miles
Multiple problems with engine 1. seal leak at approximately 48,000 miles, burning oil smell, corrected at replacement of timing belt at scheduled 105K--not detected by dealer while under warranty (60K warranty). 2. failure of head gasket at 110K 3. failure of 2 cam seals at 158K 4. failure of additional (remaining) 2 cam seals at 165K (mechanic initially indicated this was rare and unfortunately, dure to cost, did not recommend replacing all 4 cam seals--bad choice--$600 parts and labor each occurrence #3 and #4.

- Donora, PA, USA

problem #8

Apr 292008


  • 89,000 miles


Complaint is for Subaru of America. I own a 98 Subaru legacy Outback and the cooling system malfunctioned and the head gaskets blew. I looked online and there are hundreds of owners on a multitude of sites who are experiencing or have experienced this exact problem. Clearly the problem is with the vehicle and not any owner's operation of the vehicle, and therefore the corporation who has caused its customers expense should bear the burden financially for fixing this problem.

- Toledo, OH, USA

problem #7

Sep 012005

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 123,600 miles
Late on the night of 09/01/05 my wife, her son, daughter and two (2) grand children were traveling to omaha, ne for the long labor day weekend in a 1998 Subaru legacy Outback wagon with 123,000 miles. They got as far as the outskirts of kearney, ne when they noticed a loss of power and saw heavy smoke/steam coming from the tail pipe of the car. They immediately pulled over and were assisted by a ne state trooper. $600 later the car, which apparently suffered from head gasket failure, was finally towed to the duteau Subaru dealership in Lincoln, ne. They verified the head gasket failure and that the engine seized. Subaru usa was notified and asked if they would cover any of the damage, which as it turns out includes a new/rebuilt engine. The response was it's not under warranty, you didn't purchase an extended warranty and "we are sorry for any inconvenience that this has caused your family." I contacted the dealership from which the car was purchased, namely burt Subaru. I was told that head gasket failure was a frequent problem with 1998, 1999 and 2000 Subaru legacy Outback wagons. If this was such a problem, why did Subaru fail to issue a recall to fix the defective gasket? my wife an I are now faced with having to sell the car to duteau Subaru for $500 to $1,000, rent a car to return to denver, then rush to try to find a used vehicle so she can get to and from work. I responded to Subaru usa's condolences but your space limitation prohibits me from including such response here.

- Highlands Ranch, CO, USA

problem #6

Jan 192005

Outback 4WD

  • miles
While driving vehicle overheated. This happened three times. When taken to get serviced the third time it was determined that it was due to the head gasket.

- Hopatcong, NJ, USA

problem #5

Sep 222004

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles


Complaint received via E-mail. The temperature gauge was in the hot range while driving. The cooling system checked out okay, but was told that the car was low on coolant. The consumer refilled coolant, went out of country, and 2 weeks later encountered the same problem. A month later, while driving, coolant leaked out again, and the head gasket was bad. This was a common problem with these vehicles.

- Columbia, MD, USA

problem #4

Nov 202003

Outback 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 72,000 miles
1998 Subaru Outback showed signs of overheating as temperature gauge rose up past the usual midline and cold air inside car from air conditioner suddenly got warmer. I pulled over and coolant was over flowing from overflow reservoir through the cap. I drove with the heater on full power and made it to a repair facility and remove the thermostat which had seized. Replaced the thermostat and radiator cap ($30) and everything was fine until four months later (March 2004) when car showed signs of over heating again (rise in inside air conditioned air temperature from cold to warm). Took car to rallysport engineering in costa mesa, ca and mechanic could not find symptoms of head gasket failure although this is what he thought it was. He added stop leak, new thermostat, and new coolant ($150 parts/labor) and the problem was resolved although the temperature gauge reading was a little higher than it was when using original equipment (prior to November). Now, July 2004, car has almost overheated again. I took the car to South coast Subaru in costa mesa, ca and they stated that it was a head gasket failure and that they could smell the exhaust fumes through the overflow reservoir. The estimate to fix the repair will be $1500 parts and labor.

- Costa Mesa, CA, USA

problem #3

Oct 152001


  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,269 miles
The headgasket burned through. Replaced headgasket, had heads milled. Now exactly 1 1/2 years later in April 2003 the car is overheating, everyone says the car should not be doing that, but it is. It is alot of money for a car that is only 5 yrs. Old and having major engine problems.

- Camas, WA, USA

problem #2

May 152003


  • miles
While driving at 70 mph, and with no warning vehicle stalled, causing the driver to lose control. Owner had contacted dealership on four separate occasions, but problem still occurring.

- Santa Fe, NM, USA

problem #1

Jan 172003

Outback 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 94,700 miles
Head gasket on my '98 Outback failed. Dealer said not uncommon. He has 3 more waiting for head gaskets. Seems a number of head gasket failures on the Subaru discussion group on edmunds.com townhall. Fortunately, mine was discovered with no engine damage. The cost of repair was $2500. Quite a financial drain for me. Some talk on discussion group wondering if a design problem with the 2.5 liter engine. Subaru emailed me that there is no problem with head gaskets and that all mechanical things fail with time, some sooner and some later. On the Subaru discussion group, a number of the head gaskets were at low mileage. Mine was at 94,000 miles

- Keyport, WA, USA

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