racer_ace New Reader
1/25/10 8:38 p.m.

A good friend of mine has an '03 WRX (he is the original owner) with 124,000 miles that has been hitting his wallet pretty hard lately. He is absolutely maticulous about having his car maintained and uses genuine Subie parts. At 100,000 miles he had the T-belt replaced for the second time (had it done around 60k the first time), new water pump, radiator hoses, and spark plugs. About 15,000 miles later he notices oil dripping on the exhaust just below the timing cover. He originally thought it was an oil cooler line but further inspection noted that it was coming from some where insie the timing cover. He took the car back to his mechanic. When they pulled off the timing cover there was oil all over the place. Supposedly the oil pump was failing. They replaced the oil pump and installed a third T-belt and new tensioners. Now, for the last month he has been getting a faint smell of coolant. He has confirmed that he has lost about 12oz of coolant. It appears to be slowly dripping from around the passenger side of the timing cover and is landing on the subframe. He can't tell exactly where it is coming from. Immediate thoughts are that it may be leaking from the water pump or hose behind the T-cover. Do either of these sound plausible? Any chance that it could be a blown head gasket? The oil and coolant seem fine (no milky cocktail). He is dreading the though of having the timing cover pulled off for the 3rd time in 24k miles. Dreading a blown head gasket even more. Any chance that it is something else? Is this a typical WRXs "occurence"?



Woody SuperDork
1/25/10 9:45 p.m.

Here are two observations:

Every winter, my 04 WRX gives off a faint smell of coolant in the garage. It never puddles and I haven't really noticed much of a coolant loss. Two years ago, I suspected that the water pump seals were leaking and did a preemptive water pump and timing belt job. The car still gives off a faint odor every now and then, but it runs cool and doesn't really concern me.

I have a friend who is the original owner of an '02 wagon with about 130k miles on it. Last winter he called me in a panic. He was driving up a hill and suddenly had a huge cloud of white smoke out the back. We both suspected a failed head gasket and began shopping for a new engine. I got an e-mail from a Subaru engine remanufacturer out west (I forget the name) who we were getting a shipping estimate from. They suggested that we check one of the coolant lines that runs to the turbo.

It was impossible to see or feel, but, sure enough, the $7 hose had failed, dumping coolant onto the passenger side head and exhaust.

I'd look there first.

Streetwiseguy New Reader
1/25/10 10:08 p.m.

HUGE possibility of head gasket problems, but more often at the rear of the heads. In my climate, I don't think I've ever seen a Subie NOT leak either oil or coolant at the heads.

racer_ace New Reader
1/25/10 11:33 p.m.

In reply to Woody:

Thanks. I'll tell my friend to check the Turbo coolant lines.

1/3/12 9:15 p.m.

I am having the exact same issue this week with my 2002 WRX. I had a crack in the top of my radiator, so I replaced the radiator and the larger hoses. The new radiator leaked like a sieve (defective), so I bought another one and put it in. Now my car has a leak that appears on the subframe and the on the exhaust that runs under the timing belt cover. I have seen coolant on the bottom of the timing belt cover where the two halves come together.

(my car has the radiator cap on top of the upper coolant reservoir (metal) that above and a bit in front of the turbo (there is no radiator cap on radiator as later versions had).

My thoughts are this: 1) maybe it's the old "little" hoses that connect the upper coolant reservoir to the radiator 2) it's the water pump (it was replaced at 115,000miles with the timing belt and the car now has 208,000miles) 3) blown head gasket (I am not seeing white clouds of smoke, so I don't think this is the issue...I HOPE)

Please Help!!!

peter Reader
1/3/12 9:33 p.m.

In reply to rockhound:

The water pump is on the driver's side of the engine, behind that timing cover. There are some annoying little hoses that go into/out of it, but those are outside of the timing cover. I forget where one goes/comes from, but another comes forward, connects to a hard pipe for a while, which then goes to another small soft hose that connects to the oil cooler (under/on top of the oil filter).

Those are the coolant hoses that I remember from the front/low area of the engine.

Can you pull the timing cover? Shouldn't be too terribly difficult, if the coolant is coming from inside the timing area, you'll probably be good with just a pump and new gaskets...

peter Reader
1/3/12 9:36 p.m.

oh yeah, one more thing.

I got my money's worth out of this when I was buttoning up my WRX's cooling system.


Pair this with the coolant system pressure tester they'll loan you at AutoZone/wherever, and leak finding will be much, much easier.

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