Question for the Subaru knowledgeable:
What is the consensus on the "problem years" for the 2.5l engine's head gaskets?
I know the early (1995-99) Outbacks were known for blowing HGs in the 2.5 motors. I owned a 1999 OBW from 2003 - 2007 (42k miles to 120k) and never had any problems, although after I found out about the HG issue I would get nervous at every little sound or feel from the engine.
(Actually, here's a funny story about head gaskets: In early 2005, at about 90k, I took the car to a local Subaru dealer to have some work done. I had them do the 90k service and they called me and said "we have bad news, looks like you have a small head gasket leak. We recommend a full head gasket job" (at ~$3000. ) I told them I'd think about it and otherwise to just finish what they were doing. Drove it for 20,000 more miles completely incident free. At 110k I had the timing belt done along with the water pump and a few pulleys. This was at an independent Subie shop. They never said a word about the HG. When I traded the car for my Taco in 2007, the engine and HG were fine.)
Anyway, I know that on the internet things like this tend to get magnified (because those who have problems will post messges, but those who don't have problems won't.) But I'm trying to get a "feel" for which years were more prone to HG problems and which were less.
My impression is that the HG problem was pretty much resolved by about 2000, maybe 2001. This is significant to me because I am casually shopping for another DD, and I really want a wagon (my little Mazda Protege is nice but it's getting a little old and I don't like the sedan setup.) I've noticed there are lots of Legacy Wagons and Foresters in my price range ($2k to $6k) but I'm leery of getting something too old because of possible HG problems.
So my question is for those who own or have owned ~2001 - 2003 Subies (Legacy, Impreza, Forester) with the 2.5: Have any of you had any HG issues? Known of any (outside of the norm - of course you're always going to get some problems on any older vehicle.)
One big plus for Subaru is that they seem to be one of the last companies selling cars in the US to offer a lot of manual trannys. I like the roominess of the Forester, and even though I think the 1st gen Forester (98 - 02) is a little bit awkward looking, it seems like it would be a pretty capable DD that could also give me 25+ MPG (I'm getting 35+ with my Mazda but I'm willing to give up some MPG in exchange for AWD and a wagon.)
Anyway, I'd appreciate hearing real world experience on these older 2.5's and their head gaskets. My previous experience with my '99 OBW was positive but I also feel like I kind of dodged a bullet.