[OT] What would be a fair price to charge for this Subaru?


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Oakland, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 8, 2013 - 05:33pm PT
We're looking to sell our Ď97 Subaru Legacy wagon. Canít decide on a price to put it up on Craigslist. We want to ensure a transparent and fair sale. Any price suggestions appreciated on this damn ^&$@!!@ car.

Itís a forest green, all wheel drive Ď97 Subaru Legacy GT Wagon, 4-cylinder, 2.5L engine, automatic. Itís got about 75k miles on it. It's in fair to good condition in terms of appearance and interior.

The engine is the sticking point. The son of a gun has begun to overheat sporadically. Mechanic says he's 99% it's a shot thermostat, but my hunch is that it's the head gasket issue that plagues this vintage Subaru engine. We've got his notes on the records saying it's most likely the thermostat.

If it's the thermostat, it'll be about $300 to fix (we didnít go ahead with this fix) and the thing should run another 150k+. If the head gasket (something like this: http://goo.gl/yHq5b); - thatís a $3k+ fix.

Kelley Blue Book gives a Fair condition value of $5,469 ($6,494 Excellent) for this thing, I think mainly b/c of the low mileage and the general reliability of a Subaru. Once it's fixed, it'll have a good long life. We're thinking of putting it up on Craigslist for about $1200, disclosing everything of course.

If you were selling, how would you price this car? Thanks for any input!

If you're still reading (!!??):

Here are a ton of pics: http://goo.gl/RyGzo

Itís also got all of this stuff:

Antilock Brakes
Power steering
Dual air bags
Air conditioning, cruise control
Two-way power moonroof with sunshade
AM/FM/Six CD changer/premium sound package, though one speaker is out
Power windows, doors and locks
Alarm system, but we don't have the keyless control anymore, not sure how easy to replace. Alarm def works fine, there's a way to turn it off manually.
Alloy wheels
Roof rack
Projector fog lamps
Roof spoiler
Hood vent
Leather steering wheel

We're the second owners of this car; original owner was a family member here in Berkeley who had only put 30k miles on it in 7 yrs of ownership. We've had it since then, and have put on about 47k miles in the 8 yrs since. It's never seen more than 6,000 miles in a year.

Weíve got full maintenance records.


The Granite State.
Mar 8, 2013 - 05:38pm PT
Just replace the thermostat yourself. It's fairly simple (I've done it on a '95 Legacy) and the part is maybe thirty bucks.

A couple of hours and minimal investment will tell you if it's the thermostat.

What's your oil look like? Any green?

Diagnose the problem before you think about selling it.

Gym climber
its nice here in the spring
Mar 8, 2013 - 05:42pm PT
I had the same year car, the head gasget went bad but there were no overheating issues prior. I would never buy another everything on that car seemed to be designed to take maximum labor to work on. Good luck!

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Mar 8, 2013 - 06:03pm PT
It aint the damn thermostat, it's leaking head gaskets and (depending on how hot you have gotten the thing) possibly the heads as well. I had the same car, same issue, was told the same thing: thermostat. Got the work done. Still overheated sporadically. Next time was told it was the radiator. Had that done, still overheated sporadically. Had the water pump done too, nope still overheated. Then finally it overheated so bad that it blew the gaskets completely, at which point I had the gaskets done and the heads checked - supposedly the heads were still good. At this point I had put thousands of dollars into the car. Guess what? It still overheated.

It overheated so often that I took to carrying 5 gallons of water with me everywhere I went. When the car would overheat, I would simply open the radiator cap (with a long stick) relieving the gas pressure that would have built up in the radiator. Then I would refill with water and off I would go, no problem!

Well night I went up to the hot springs in Mammoth on a night when it was probably ten degrees. Of course the water froze :) I drove home anyway with a frozen radiator and a glowing hot red engine block and f*#k me if the thing didn't keep putting along all the way into the driveway.

I sold it to a buddy for $100 and a case of beer. He got a new engine from Japan and put that into the car. It has run fine ever since.

I think you would be lucky to get $1000 for that car.

What a nightmare, worst car I have ever owned by far.

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
Mar 8, 2013 - 06:08pm PT
$4000 OBO

See what happens........
patrick compton

Trad climber
Mar 8, 2013 - 06:40pm PT
Look online for people with similar symptoms and their solutions. I would try some oil additives. I have had great luck with using the better quality products to seal master seals and other gaskets.
patrick compton

Trad climber
Mar 8, 2013 - 06:49pm PT
75k is really low miles for a 97... and REALLY low miles to have a head gasket issue.

As for the price, you won't find a similar car and similar miles for the price you are asking.

Do you sue synthetic oil? it is all around better for your engine and is more stable under heat so if you do overheat, you do less potential damage.

In my experiences, when thermostats go out, the engine stays hot. It doesn't go out sporadically.

Try high-quality oil goo.

Boulder, CO
Mar 8, 2013 - 06:54pm PT
I second the thermostat suggestion.

it's usually two bolts and some sealant. Undo bolts, remove old gasket, replace $20 thermostat, apply sealant and $5 gasket, bolt back on.

And if'n it ain't it well... it would probably need it sooner than later anyway.

Oakland, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 8, 2013 - 08:01pm PT
Pyrosis, sounds exactly like our deal. Grrrr.

Thanks for the input from all sides. Think I will try the thermostat and, if not improvement, sell 'as is' and w/ full disclosure ask for a thousand. Even if it is the head gasket and they have to drop $3k into it, somebody will be getting it for well under KBB price.

Truckee, CA
Mar 8, 2013 - 08:40pm PT
Do the thermostat first, its easy. You will need to replace the coolant too as a result. Its 2 bolts, no sealant. Id feel like an ass if i didnt try that first. The dohc 2.5l had head gasket issues for sure, but its not a given. do a compression check. If it is the headgasket, she wont be worth much, worth more to keep and repair.

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
Mar 8, 2013 - 09:27pm PT
Have you checked for a very slow leak (pin hole in a hose)? They are hard to detect but will cause an occasional over heating. Check fluid daily/each use.

Are you adding fluid frequently? If it's a head gasket your likely to have water in your oil.

Trad climber
New England
Mar 9, 2013 - 01:30pm PT
If it is the head gasket, keep it. Each day, you can take a bat to it as part of your workout routine!

Ice climber
canyon country,CA
Mar 9, 2013 - 02:33pm PT
Look on youtube for the thermostat replacement "how to"
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Mar 9, 2013 - 04:21pm PT
You need to get a multimeter.


Social climber
So Cal
Mar 9, 2013 - 04:23pm PT
The fair price is,

what someone's willing to pay for it.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Mar 9, 2013 - 05:15pm PT
Another way to see if it is a head gasket is to fill the radiator, leave the radiator cap off and start the car. Put your hand over the radiator cap hole and plug the overflow hose, if you feel any pulsating at all it is a head gasket. Let the car start to warm up and see if you get bubbling visible in the radiator water, that is blown head gasket too.

Personally I think you would be lucky to get 1000 for it with a blown head gasket. Parts car, or get 200 or so from the salvage guys.

I have seen Bars Leak and other leak sealing products work temporarily, but not usually on head gaskets, too much pressure there.

Mar 9, 2013 - 07:09pm PT
Take the thermostat out but don't replace it.

If it doesn't over heat anymore then replace the thermostat.

Check your oil cap. Is there a milky white substance there?

If so you're toast, blown head gasket.

Turn your heater on.

Does it smell funny like sweet smell? (blown head gasket)

Hold a piece of cardboard near the exhaust with the engine warm.

Is water appearing? (blown head gasket)

Is the exhaust smoking white? (blown head gasket)

Sh!t just do some basic simple tests and take the thermostat out to begin with.

The thermostat will come out easy (2 bolts)

C'mon wanker .... you easily do that?

If not you're a worthless American ...... :-)

The Granite State.
Mar 9, 2013 - 07:43pm PT
Werner, the thermostat on this car is at the bottom of the water jacket. You've got to drain the system to remove the part.

Better to just replace it.


Mar 9, 2013 - 08:22pm PT
Just put a bucket there at the thermostat connection.

All the fluid will fall into the bucket.

Remove thermostat.

Put hose back.

Pour fluid back into radiator.

This way if it's not the thermostat you don't waste money on it or the fluid.

So simple .....
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Mar 10, 2013 - 12:04am PT
Is water appearing? (blown head gasket)

Is the exhaust smoking white? (blown head gasket)

Werner is correct except you have to let the condensed moisture steam out of the exhaust before you declare it a blown head gasket. A perfectly healthy car can literally drip water for several minutes. Condensed moisture is the reason mufflers rot out so quickly.

Truckee, CA
Mar 10, 2013 - 12:43am PT
The way the thermostat in engineered in a suby EJ engine wont allow the neck to seal without the tstat in place, its a circumferential rubber gasket around the tstat itself. Its $30 for an OEM part even from the dealer, plus a gallon of coolant. Besides, when you drain the coolant, you have to run the engine when you fill it to get all the air bubbles out, filling it bit by bit as you go to replace the displaced air.

Check your oil, does it still look like oil? does your coolant still look like coolant, or does it have traces of oil on the surface? If your oil looks like brown snot or if youve some some signs of oil in your coolant, the headgasket it suspect, if not, youre probably fine.

Get under there and change the tstat and replace the coolant. Coolant gets old and wears out, loses its properties. Bleed all the air out get it full of coolant, run your heater while you do so, until your cooling fans come on. Drive it normally to see if it fixed the issue.

My moneys on the tstat.

Trad climber
north island
Mar 10, 2013 - 12:47am PT
Scrap it. No one with half a brain wants a suby with a headgasket waiting to blow.

Mar 10, 2013 - 01:11am PT
I'll take it if you scrap it.

I want the suby with a head gasket ready to blow.

Me and Majid will rebuild it and sell it back to you for 2 times the amount it's worth .... :-)

Truckee, CA
Mar 10, 2013 - 01:38am PT
The old EJ25 DOHC 97-98 will take a headgasket fine. I had one that was repaired early on that was just fine. A friend had one also that was repaired and its was fine for many years, still is. Totally worth the repair if the rest of the car is intact.....but change that thermostat, you could have been done by now.

Most likely is that your thermostat is stuck shut and needs replacing, thats all. If you havent replaced your coolant in 30k miles, then that needs it too.

Youd have bigger issues if the headgasket was gone.
Ken M

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Mar 10, 2013 - 01:55am PT
The son of a gun has begun to overheat sporadically.

I think this is the key descriptor:

If a head gasket is blown, it is blown. It doesn't function intermittently.
Same for problems like a hole in a hose, among many others.

However, a thermostat certainly can "stick" intermittently.

I'd think there. Don't let it overheat, or you will need a head gasket.

Trad climber
47N 122W
Mar 10, 2013 - 01:59am PT
I would give you about 10 bucks for the headache ... but I am not in the market for that!

Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Mar 10, 2013 - 03:13am PT
"It aint the damn thermostat, it's leaking head gaskets and (depending on how hot you have gotten the thing) possibly the heads as well."

Yep. That's a Subaru.

Not a criticism...just a reality.

They're as finicky as V-dubs...ya gotta love 'em to appreciate 'em.

(I do.)
John M

Mar 10, 2013 - 03:32am PT
Subarus have a funny rep. Some of them run with no problems. Even some of the ones with known issues. Others just seem to be cranky.

I would totally check the thermostat first if no other signs are showing up. Especially on a low milage vehicle.

I know a guy that was given an old subbie with high milage.. The owner thought it was toast because of an overheating issue, so just gave it away. The guy he gave it to put a 10 dollar can of stop leak in it and drove it for 4 more years.

Here in the mountains there are lots of people who drive cars until they are dead dead. Not just.. I think its dead. I followed one guy out of the park whose car was on fire. It leaked oil so bad it would catch on fire. I blinked my lights at him and honked my horn and got him to pull over. He got out with a fire extinguisher and sprayed it, then said.. yeah.. it does that. Then got back in his car and kept going. I just shook my head.

I drove on old mazda GLC for 3 years that I paid 50 dollars for. I put new tires on it for 120 dollars and that was it. When it finally died, I sold it to a guy for 50 dollars for a parts car.

Trad climber
greater Boss Angeles area
Mar 10, 2013 - 03:46am PT
Ask the max Blue Book, and negotiate down from there if you have to.

You now have an idea of what may be wrong with the car, but you don't have to tell your potential buyers what you know.

If it runs fine for a test drive, you're in.

Just don't sell it to anyone you know, or you think you may ever see again.

And don't put any more money into it before it sells.

Truckee, CA
Mar 10, 2013 - 10:47am PT
Honestly, fix the damn thermostat. You will have a solid car again. Sorry to sound like a dick, but all this silly speculation is wrong. As a former mechanic who has done all his own work for 20 years, on my sixth subaru and having just replaced my own thermostat on my 2006 WRX with 155k miles on it, just swap the thermostat and fill it with fresh coolant. Based on your description, the head gasket is not the culprit.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Mar 10, 2013 - 11:11am PT
ex-girlfriend had a suby like that and it turned out to be the head gasket.

Still, I'd give you $1100 for it but will be out of the country till Late April



Mar 10, 2013 - 01:08pm PT
The thing is you don't even have to spend any money to "test" if it's the thermostat at all.

You drain the coolant and save it.

You take the thermostat out and boil water to see if it opens.

Then whether it opens or not rip the spring and valve out of it so it's permanently open.

Put it back in and pour the old coolant back in.

Drive it and test to see if it overheats.

If not drain coolant again replace brand new Thermostat and new coolant.

Before putting in thermostat test the new part in hot water to make sure it's working correctly.

I always test a new thermostat in a pot before replacing it in the vehicle.

Sometimes the new thermostat is defective too.

It happened to me once already .....

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Mar 10, 2013 - 09:59pm PT
It's true replacing the thermostat is easy, that's probably the thing to try first, even if it's likely not the problem.

The gaskets in the 96-01 Subies had problems long before blowing out completely, they leaked gas intermittently into the cooling system. The gas pushes the coolant out, the engine gets hotter pusing more gas through, and bingo, it overheats. Hence the 'sporadically'.

When the gaskets in mine were blown completely, it was obvious. The car didn't run properly.

But the damn thing overheated sporadically, as you say, for a long time before it overheated so bad that it blew the gaskets and (I think) warped the heads.

It overheated sporadically despite replacing the thermostat, water pump, and radiator.


My problems started at ~90K miles

In fact the only thing that fixed that car was putting a whole new engine in it, which my buddy did at a cost to him of ~$1K plus a lot of his own labor. Now it's a good car.

Trad climber
Mar 11, 2013 - 01:54am PT
My '98 head gasket went at 60k. My '03 smells bad, really bad...The jury's still out on my '08.
Missing my Ford truck. Who won the war again? Those melted down zero planes are on the attack again.

Oakland, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 11, 2013 - 05:56pm PT
Hot damn, leave town for a day and come back to all of this useful input. Thanks one and all.

The odd thing about the overheating in this car: Before driving it, I made sure that the coolant was right at the full line in the recovery bottle and where it needed to be under the radiator cap.

So when it overheated the last two or three times, I've pulled over and let idle until the temp came down, then turned her off.

Invariably, within 10 to 15 minutes there is not coolant left - empty recovery bottle, none under the cap in the neck. If I pop the hood right after overheat, I can see and hear it boiling in the recovery bottle, and this boil causes a fair amount of it to bubble out of the air hole at the top of the recovery bottle and drip to the ground. A puddle of it accumulates there on the ground under the bottle, but it just doesn't seem like the total volume of the coolant. So where in the hell did the rest of the coolant go? Compression is perfect, according to the mechanic. So no clue.

I'll check back in after replacing the thermostat. At this point our expectations are very very low for this car. If we do end up letting it go for scrap, I'll give pref to anyone who has expressed interest.

Wanderlust, if the thing does get running consider yourself in God's pocket this summer. You can sleep like a king in the back of that pos.

For my money, this right here from the link in my OP is what I've got on my hands:

When the gaskets are starting to fail, some of the combustion gasses (exhaust usually) are forced past the thin metal head gasket into the cooling system. Little by little these gasses accumulate in the cooling system and begin to create an ďair pocketĒ if you will, inside of the engine cooling system. Depending on where this air pocket circulates to, or how large it is, it can create numerous issues. If it becomes trapped around the water pump or thermostat it can prevent coolant from flowing through the engine, which results in almost immediate overheating.

But! The local Suby mechanic used a gas analyzer at the recovery bottle's mouth to sniff for hydrocarbons and found 0 ppm. He also did a compression check and found the system to be airtight. He also commuted in my pos car for a week from dt Oakland to Walnut Creek and had no issues. All good signs. So I'll try the damn thermostat.
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