Edmunds Answers



  • MrShift@Edmunds 11/04/10 12:31 pm PST

    I would, yes, because this engine tends to use oil anyway and probably contaminates it a little faster than most cars of this era. But I'm not saying it is mandatory. If money is tight and you need to go to 5,000---well, by all means do so. I just like people to keep a closer eye on the Subaru engines of this type, as you can more easily monitor oil consumption and possible head gasket leakage.

  • Stever@Edmunds 11/04/10 1:51 pm PST

    I check my oil in my '97 Outback every time I buy gas. But I just change it at 5,000 mile intervals, like my owner's manual recommends.

  • MrShift@Edmunds 11/04/10 7:39 pm PST

    That's good, to check the oil and coolant frequently on the 2.2L engine.

  • morin2 11/04/10 8:02 pm PST

    There were 2 engine choices in Subaru Outbacks in 2003. The 3.0 liter H6 was used in more expensive trim VDC and LLBean lines and the horizonatally opposed 2.5 liter 4 cylinder was used in the lower trim lines (most of the cars). The 2.5 has had higher than normal rates of head gasket failure (although Subaru has claimed that it was fixed around 2003) and for this reason, you should check your oil frequently. I check every of our 5 vehicles' fluids every weekend.

    As to frequency of oil changes - everyone will offer somewhat different guidance. But how those 3000 miles were put on the car is important. If its "severe service" (towing or lots of cold starts or short trips, stop & go, idling, etc) then yes, I would change it more often. If you only drive 3000 miles in a year, then that is also a reason to change it at 3000. I have a 2009 Outback with the 2.5 but I drive 110 miles per day commuting to work at fairly easy 50-60 mph with almost no stop & go. I change my oil at 7500 mile intervals. But that happens every 13-14 weeks for me and I use high quality synthetic oil (Castrol Edge 5w30) and the older better quality black subaru oil filters made by Roki in Japan. I have about 50 of them left for our subarus. When I run out, I will use K&N oil filters. I do not recommend the new blue subaru oil filters made by Honeywell. That is the same company that makes Fram filters and the construction and poor quality components inside the new blue filters appears to be the same as the Fram.

    Use good quality oil, a good filter, and select a change interval based on how the car is driven and in accordance with the owner's manual.

  • morin2 11/04/10 8:09 pm PST

    Mr. Shiftright, If Steve's 97 Outback is a US-spec car, then I believe all Outbacks came with the 2.5 that year - and that is one with the higher frequency of head gasket leaks. In 97, the lower trim level Brighton wagon and L trim level wagon and sedan came with the 2.2 liter engine, which, while lower HP, does not have the head gasket issue of the 2.5 and is a wonderful engine.

  • MrShift@Edmunds 11/04/10 8:10 pm PST

    OOPS! 2.FIVE engine, that's right. 2.2 was way earlier. DUH, you'd think I'd know since I had the 2.5L pulled out of my own Subaru to do the head gaskets.

    Thanks for the correction.

    I don't see many 3.0s so I didn't mention it.

    Yep, you have to *really* keep an eye on the 2.5L, although I think by 2003 Subaru pretty much had this squared away. But I have heard of even 03s going belly up---but not until fairly high miles, over 100K.

    I always try to advise people to keep a closer eye on engines with a 'reputation". Not to worry, or fret, just to be vigilant. I figure if you're under there every 3K miles, you might spot something, like a slight coolant leak out of the valve cover area. That could save an engine.

  • morin2 11/04/10 8:18 pm PST

    Yes, very good advice, Mr. Shiftright. I have convinced my supervisor this week to replace the leaking head gaskets on her daughter's Chevy Malibu tomorrow rather than wait until it gets worse.

    BTW, those 2.2 liter engines continued thru 1999 in the lower trim level Legacies and thru 2001 in the L trim level Imprezas. Since both were strictly AWD by then, I recommend that people look for the lighter Impreza with the 2.2 as a used car "sleeper" that is also ridiculously easy to work on, or to teach a new driver to do his/her own auto maintenance. Unfortunately, the L has pretty cheap upholstery & trim.

    I test drove a gorgeous used 3.0 LLBean Outback 2 years ago and hit a deer with it on the test drive. Oops!

  • Stever@Edmunds 11/04/10 9:39 pm PST

    If Fram's performed as badly as people try to say they do, there'd be dead cars littering the shoulders and class action suits out the ying-yang. Yep, Honeywell makes Fram filters. I think they have the research capability to design a satisfactory filter at a good price point. What's on sale works for me; that's often SuperTech from Walmart, but I won't shy away from an orange one.

    All that said, I never really have trusted my Outback quite like I do my Nissan, but I think blown head gaskets are more of a design and/or overheating issue, not something related to your oil and filter.

  • MrShift@Edmunds 11/04/10 10:26 pm PST

    Quite right. It's not directly related to your oil and filter. I guess I was thinking of the benefit of spotting the problem early on, by being under there more often, and thus intervening before coolant mixes with engine oil, thereby destroying the engine's bearings. Very often these head gasket leaks start off as EXternal leaks.

    I think the 2.2L soldiered on into 2001 and that was it, but the Outback didn't have that engine unless you ordered (in the late 1990s) the Outback "Sport".

  • morin2 11/05/10 8:24 pm PST

    Hahaha. Mr. Shiftright just can't catch a break on this thread. I cannot remember ever correcting him on any of his thousands of wonderfully helpful posts and now to do it to him twice in a single thread...Has the earth suddenly begun to rotate in the opposite direction? Has gravity ceased to work?

    The Outback is based upon the Legacy. The incredibly obtuse and unimaginatively named "Outback Sport" is a higher trim level of the Impreza wagon - a smaller vehicle than the Legacy-derived "real" Outback.

    Mr. Shiftright sets the gold standard for posts here at Edmunds, along with Karjunkie and Zaken. This is like lightning hitting the same place twice. I will not blame him if he fails to post in this thread again - it is cursed for him. Let's all hope that his luck changed and he hit the Lottery today.

  • morin2 11/05/10 8:42 pm PST

    The oil and filter quality are not related to head gasket failures. However, many of us choose to use higher quality items when their cost is only slightly higher than the cost of the poorly constructed item. There are many sites on the internet and even here in some Edmunds forums that show cut-away photos of oil filters. The Honeywell - Fram and the blue Honeywell built subaru filters are built of poor quality materials inside such as cardboard endcaps, less filter media rated to pass larger particles, and plastic anti-drainback valves. The older black subaru filters were of substantially better internal construction and because I bought the last 67 in the dealer's stock, I paid substantially less for a much higher quality filter.

    With the slightest attention to sales, you can also get the K&N "wrench-off" filters for free with the Castrol Edge synthetic oil at 1/2 price. These are also very nicely constructed with synthetic media, silicone, and steel rather than cheap cardboard inside. Locally, Advance Auto Parts and Pep Boys (no I don't work for them) have these sales fairly often. Right now they have Chevron Techron at "Buy one, get one free" - so its time to stock up on those too.

    Once you buy and own a car, its entirely up to you how you wish to treat it. You never know when saving a few pennies by buying the very cheapest junk is false economy. I choose to err on the side of buying something of possible overkill high quality than just barely adequate. Steve and I just have an honest difference of opinion. I do hope that he doesn't buy the cheapest beer out there :)

  • MrShift@Edmunds 11/05/10 8:46 pm PST

    Hey, technical foul! All I said was the car's name "Outback Sport", and it does have a 2.2L. Blame Subaru for calling an Impreza an Outback.

    But I know what you mean---I can picture that car in my mind and it doesn't resemble the Outback---it's just CALLED an Outback???

    I did screw up on the other one, though ;)

    Shiftright's Blunders, which are probably more numerous than you think, fall into four categories:

    1. Outright (outback?) Blunders

    Subcategory A: I didn't know as much as I thought I did about something
    B: I was too lazy to look it up and guessed wrong

    2. I was led astray by wrong info in a database (THANK YOU Gates Rubber Company!!!)

    3. Typo

    4. I didn't read the question correctly

  • Stever@Edmunds 11/06/10 9:09 am PST

    Haaa, I've been led astray by Gates a few times too. They still think my minivan has an interference engine but it doesn't.

    I've read a lot of stories about filter cutting parties but in real life, you just don't hear about many oil filters failing. It's not something most people lose sleep over you know? And as Morin2 alludes to, the filter media that comes from the paper mills is likely the same stuff for many brands.

    Sdeej, if I were you I'd change my Outback oil every 5,000 miles (or once a year, whichever comes first) and I wouldn't worry too much about the brands. The better practice would be to change it yourself if you have time, energy, a sheltered place to do it, and an easy way to recycle the waste oil. That way you'd avoid double gasket issues that sometimes happen and you'd be under there to notice any oil leaks. It's a bit messy but some nitrile gloves, Visqueen and kitty litter can help control any spashes.

    Want a Schlitz? :-)

  • MrShift@Edmunds 11/06/10 1:20 pm PST

    I just think older cars need more LOVE :)

  • utellme 11/28/10 1:00 am PST

    RE: oil change, I use AMSOIL the top quality synthetic oil & filters which allow me to extend my change to either 15,000km or 40,000km guaranted. Saves me time/money & saves my engine, have a 1993 Impreza 1.8L engine with over 400,000km, still running.

  • MrShift@Edmunds 11/28/10 11:02 am PST

    Don't hold your breath waiting for AMSOIL to pay off on your claim, however. Good luck "proving" that engine oil is "defective".

  • techboy1 12/01/10 12:32 pm PST

    I would suggest 3,000 miles or three months on regular or 5,000 on synthetic.and use what the vehicle recommends so that your fuel mileage dosent change.Also if it has over 75,000 miles it has had regular oil dont use synthetic it may cause leaks due to the high amount of detergent in the synthetic oil.

  • Stever@Edmunds 12/01/10 1:26 pm PST

    Sounds like a waste of good oil to me.

    And changing to synthetic won't cause leaks. Might even reduce them if you use a "high mileage" synthetic. If you don't believe me, ask the tribologists at ExxonMobile.

    Source: http://www.mobiloil.com/USA-English/Mot

  • MrShift@Edmunds 12/01/10 2:09 pm PST

    My two cents remains two cents I guess---since we are dealing specifically with a 2.5L Subaru engine, which is notorious for blowing head gaskets and quite prone to oil burning, I'm still thinking that 3K oil changes, while perhaps wasteful in one regard, is cheap insurance in another regard. I'd be okay with a plan which requires under-side inspection every 3K to look for head gasket leaks, and checking and topping off the oil level every 1500 miles, and changing it every 5K.


Top Engine Engine oil Experts View More

Rank Leader Points
1. MrShift@Edmunds 1330
2. karjunkie 710
3. zaken1 570
4. Stever@Edmunds 535
5. texases 315
6. morin2 235
7. 0patience 165