Subaru Forester


Wiffleball Batter
The CEL was always on for various reasons, it required a $1,000 head gasket job, and the oil wouldn't stay out of the coolant, and vice versa. Even after the head gasket job. There was always something wrong with it.
The 2.5 motor from about 1995 - 2002 or so is notorious for blowing head gaskets. Unfortunately I don't believe the Forester was ever available with any other motor until the 3rd gen, when I think some of the turbo foresters got the turbo 2.0 from the WRX.

AFAIK most head gasket issues on the 2.5 were cured by ~2003 or so.

As far as longevity goes, Subaru 1.8, 2.0 and 2.2 motors have a pretty good reputation for lasting a long time. If you can stay away from the 2.5 you're in good shape.

I had a 99 OBW with the trouble-prone 2.5 and I was lucky. No problems in 80k miles of ownership. But I could see the writing on the wall so I got rid of it in 2007.


Expedition Leader
That is one X (at least for me) I'm bummed, I want to see a Forester wheeling, I always loved going ut with the Scooby guys in OZ. One dude took his 22B STi out in the dunes at Yepoon (the "orange bowl" for any of our Aussie mates here on the board if you know that area of the QLD aka my 2nd home)... that was one FUN ride for sure. The center diff-adjuster on the gear shifter was just too cool. Throw all the power to the back, power slide in, switch it to the front and pull the front end around the corner... I'm just rambling about Scooby's now eh. OT again, but the Orange Bowl was the place I actually saw a Suzuki Sami JUMP an FJ55. The stupid Hoon in the Suzuki was hitting this nice big wind lip that was above the FJ (the orange bowl is a large progressively steeper sand "bowl" mostly used for MX riding and what not but...)and luckily the FJ wasn't going too fast or else he'd have gotten landed on. It wasn't like he jumped him on level ground, he just came off a wind lip that was several feet higher then the track the FJ was on and was going fast enough that he cleared the FJ and stuffed the Sami nose first into the sand although he was landing on a nice bit of natural transition so it wasn't too bad... BUT he did get chased down by all of us and read the riot act till I think he got the squirts... What a bloody Larrican he was eh...

As for the HG issues, I belive that is correct, by 2003 they had adressed it fully. Was it just an Aluminum head/iron block issue??? If so them put a huge radiator on it and maybe even add an external Trans cooler as additional capacity just to be safe??? I dunno that much about all of the motors in these cars i just remember a friends mom (who wasn't very savvy at worrying when a CEL light came on- she should NEVER have had a DL IMO) kept plowing HG's in her 2000 Imp.




From what I understand the engine issue to be here goes.

the 2.5l engine from 98 to 02 was good so long as you were going to do the head gaskets yourself - the issue was an open deck so you had oil/coolant/combustion gas mixing.

Mine I didn't notice until the car over heated on the highway - sure enough it was the rad was bone dry.

There were some improvements to the 03+ however it was still an open deck and the leaking tends to be oil or coolant seepage to the outside of the engine.

I agree that the older engines were bomber but they weren't available in the forester in North America with one exception - the XT - the Turbo Engine is a closed deck and is supposed to be very well built. I've driven one and it's loads of smiles per gallon.

some of the folks around here will drop in JDM motors (my assumption is they are closed deck or don't suffer from the same HG issues.

I was in to the Subaru dealership this week and the new boxer engines have a timing chain now as of 2011 - they seems to have some chain slap issues at cold start (and that's cold below freezing start) so it'll be neat to see if these versions are more reliable.

Even given the head problems, I'd get another but it'd be an 03+ and if I could find one for a reasonable price, an XT - this is of course with the assumption that I still do all my own maintenance


[ame=""]YouTube - Subaru Forester Off Road[/ame]

Never had a forester, but I have had several Scoobies. I used to wheel an '81 GL hatchback 4wd with jeeps, what a tough little car. It wasn't without it's problems nothing ever is, but I still think back to what I put that car through and it's amazing, especially since it had 280k!
'02 Forester with almost 180k. Not a momments trouble, bought it brand new. The negative comments are new to me. As far as I'm concerend they are well built and quite durable. We used to pull a pop up and a utlity trailer with it. It has seen many miles of gravel and a fair amount of snow. The quality is heads and shoulders above my Frontier.


New member
New member here, first post. Had to add my $.02 about Foresters.

I'm in the mountains of eastern West Virginia, where everyplace is uphill. I have a stock 2009 X with the auto. While it is not fancy and not perfect, it is the best snow vehicle I've ever driven,and I've been driving for 42 years, while living in Michigan, western PA or WV for most of that time.

Lots of information at, including off road section. The head gasket problem I think has been resolved, and there doesn't seem to be any issue with wheel bearings. Snow traction is tire sensitive, especially when ABS activates. The 2011 2.5 engine is an entirely new engine: bore, stroke, timing chain, etc.

I haven't gone off road yet (though my driveway is .6 miles of gravel that resembles some of the poorer national forest roads in springtime) except into my high pasture that is pretty steep, and a little rocky. It does as well as my 4wd pickup and my 4wd tractor up there, and is way more maneuverable than either of those. I will be adding skidplate, trailer hitch and probably trans cooler for some big time vacation adventures after I retire this year.

For lots more on capability, Google "subaru forester offroad" videos. There are some that are unbelievable.
We have an '03 Forester XS. Nice car, looks identical to the one in the OP's picture. Zippy, comfortable, quiet, and economical. It's a great little rig.

Personally though, I miss the '02 Forester L that I owned a few years ago. It achieved a bit better fuel economy than the '03, had a less cluttered interior, and I liked the body shape a bit better.


New member
I have been driving my 2004 Subaru Forester for a little over 4 years now and have definitely fallen for the Subaru Brand. I did have to do the 105,000 mile maintenance including the head gaskets and timing belt for around $600 with the help of a friend that use to work on Subaru's.

I do agree that the sound level inside the car is loud compared to other cars and the ride is a bit rough with the stiff springs but with the 23mpg AWD reliable car I believe it is worth it. I have taken the car through a lot more than most people would put it and I have been very satisfied.

If anyone is interested in checking out the about a Forster that is currently traveling around the world check out a great resource if I ever have any questions about anything on my forester is There are a bunch of very helpful people on that forum.


Wow! I've just read this entire thread and can't believe all the misinformation it contains. Poor fuel economy? Wheel bearing problems? 24k timing belt intervals?
Balderdash! I have, for the last ten years, driven nothing but Subarus and Toyotas. The only problems I have had with the Subies were radiator caps and my 2006 Impreza needed a computer reflash to correct an abnormally high idle with the clutch depressed.
I worked for a Subaru dealer as a salesman and was a mechanic for 22 years before that. I firmly believe that most automotive problems are caused by poor maintenance and/ or abuse.
Rant over.
All of this being said, I will stick with my Landcruiser for an Expo vehicle.
Here is a thread from

Subaru's(foresters) are quite capable!

I have a Forester and XJ. The forester is no XJ with awkward gearing and lack of low range.. But foresters are great!

2 EPISODES: Subaru Rock Crawling

I have pulled the other, shorter video I made, and in it's place, I now have two, 15-minute episodes of the rock crawling action. I found a TON more footage on another SD card and added it to the new film. I also felt that the other video just seemed to rush through what was an epic climb, so it's now split up as a two-part series to tell more of a story. lol.

The video was filmed at a location just outside of Los Alamos, NM. We decided to do a little off-roading on our way back from an awesome 1300-mile Colorado Snow/Road Trip. This was the MOST extreme terrain the car has been through thus far. The video doesn't even show the scale of how steep the hill was, nor how large the rocks truly were. This video was taken a couple hours before the car needed to be driven another 380 miles home. Even then, I still was a little rough with it, but it managed, and nothing broke (kind of). Enjoy:

[ame=""]YouTube - Rock Crawling Subaru (Part 1)[/ame]


[ame=""]YouTube - Rock Crawling Subaru (Part 2)[/ame]

Elliot Press

I think those two videos actually show the major downfall of the Forester.
No power. No Torque. No traction. Terrible offroad gearing.

...and yes, I own one...and yes I've done a terrible amount of hard offroading around Australia in it.

Don't get me wrong, they're great for what they are. But when you get to rock crawling you just end up shredding tires, burning clutches and in the heat of the West Australia sun...overheat engines. If there was a locker system available for the Subaru it would be epic.
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Exactly what I was talking about in the other Subaru thread.

They lack 1 thing that is pretty well required for decent off-road usage.


But what do you expect, the modern day Subaru has roots in rally car racing. NOT rock crawling.