Common Subaru Oil Leaks

Where does my Subaru Leak oil?

Most likely you know about the 2.5L SOHC head gasket leaks. They’re an external oil and/or coolant leak. This article is to target the other common oil leaks that your Subaru will eventually come up with. There are a few other areas that these vehicles like to leak, but after these are taken care of these vehicles are pretty bullet proof in my opinion. I’m going to list these areas and then explain a bit about each one.

The common Subaru oil leak problem areas are:

  1. Rear of engine, PCV baffle plate
  2. Front of engine, crank seal and piston access plugs
  3. Valve cover/spark plug tube seals

Well, of course there are other areas that leak oil but, as of my years of experience working on Subaru’s I would have to say these are the most common oil leak areas. Also need to point out that the spark plug tube seals are only a problem on the 2.5 SOHC and the 2.2L SOHC second generation engines.

Subaru 2.5L SOHC Spark Plug Tube Seals

Subaru 2.5L SOHC valve cover spark plug tube seals are very common to leak. They will cause problems and you won’t even be aware of the leak. The reason for this is because they leak into the spark plug tube and take a long time before the oil works it’s way out to an external leak that you will notice. The problem with this is the oil will contaminate your ignition wires and spark plugs and cause cylinder misfires. Subaru misfires are not a good thing as those catalytic converters are very expensive. If you don’t know why I referred to the catalytic converters, this is because cylinder misfires are the number one cause of pre-mature catalytic converter failure. With that being said, just pop out your ignition wires on all four cylinders and check the tubes for oil. You really don’t even need to look into the spark plug tube; if they’re leaking it will be all over the ignition wire that you just removed. It’s pretty obvious and I’m sure if you were not a mechanic you would pick up on this pretty quick. The driver’s side is harder to get to so check the passenger side first. If you find those leaking you’ll be replacing them as a set, so no need to check the other side.

Subaru Baffle Plate

The baffle plate or PCV baffle plate is common to leak and on the older engines they have used a plastic cover. This is a common problem area so Subaru has updated the plate to steel with Allen head bolts instead of Phillips screws. Only use the updated part if your plate is plastic. Some of the early and late MY 2000 Subaru’s have used an aluminum one from the factory and in my opinion these are the best one, except they still use the Phillips screws. Just use an impact hammer for removing and tightening the screws and you should be fine. The Subaru Fuji bond is also outdated so don’t use it, instead get there new pink tri-metal RTV sealant. This is about the best sealant I have ever used and use it on all other vehicle types. The only other sealant that I could say is better is the Toyota FIPG black sealant, but they don’t sell it in a caulking gun tube like Subaru does. When replacing the baffle plate I always recommend to replace the rear main seal also, it just doesn’t make since not too. Your right there already and the part is fairly inexpensive.

Subaru 2.5L SOHC Piston Access Plugs

I have been seeing these piston access plugs on the 2.5L SOHC engines leaking. I’m not sure fully why, but it’s as simple as removing it and applying sealant to the threads. The reason I’m pointing this out is because during timing belt replacement at around 105K, you may replace the cam and crank seals and overlook this area. Compared to the DOHC engines the cam and crank seals practically don’t even leak. I still replace the seals due to mileage with OEM seals, but have got burned with not re-sealing these access plugs. So, if your replacing your own timing belt or having a shop do it, let them know you want these sealed again. There are two plugs; one above the water pump and the other one is to the left of the oil pump if you’re facing the engine.

Subaru Repair Portland Oregon

If you live in the Milwaukie or Portland Oregon area give us a call or contact us for a free vehicle inspection on your Subaru. I have over 13 years experience in Subaru repair and am offering repair services at $40.00 hour labor rate. You will not find a more experienced Subaru Mechanic for that price in the Portland Metro Area or most likely anywhere near here.

This post was written by: Martin Hand

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Martin Hand

About Martin Hand

ASE Certified L1 Advanced Mastertech. Martin Hand has over 15 years experience in Asian and European Import Auto Repair. Specializing in electrical diagnosis, engine performance, AT/MT transmission repair/rebuild. Martin is also pursuing a degree in Computers Science & Information Systems starting at Portland Community College while he plans to transfer to OIT. Certified in Java application level programming, experienced with other languages such as PHP, Ruby, JavaScript and Swift. Martin has future plans of automotive diagnostic software development.

160 Comments

  • Peter Cardona says:

    Good Day,
    I have an 09 Tribeca , 105k and I just added three quarts of oil last Wednesday due to the oil light coming on. The engine sounded much better and I checked today and there is again no oil left. Took off the plastic ahield underneath and there are my three quarts of oil. I took pics of the leak and it is coming from the driver side almost behind the fan blades. Any thoughts on how to proceed or what the issue may be?

    Much appreciated.

  • Jay says:

    Hi Martin, just searching the Web for answers on my oil leak and found your site. Maybe I’ll stop by when in Portland! Anyway I have a 95 2.2 sohc that i overhauled at 100k, seals, timing, oil pump, water, heads, etc. After this it had a small oil leak, about a drop a day for around 1500 miles coming from the middle front of the timing cover. While on a road trip, my crank seal failed and we had it fixed along with a new timing belt. Initially no oil leak for around 300 miles, but now a small leak, around a quarter overnight, from same area. Any ideas what is causing damage to the crank seals? -J

    • Martin Hand Martin Hand says:

      Check the crankshaft journal where the seal rides. I see people scratch them when removing old crank seal and will damage new seal. Also only use genuine OEM Subaru seals otherwise they will leak.

  • Trevor says:

    Hi there,
    I have a 2000 Subaru Forester. I have an oil leak that has been slowly dripping from the oil plug. The oil pan shows a considerable oil coating as well as some drips coming from the oil filter. Some other features under the motor seem to be coated lightly with oil as well, I’m not sure if it is being sprayed from a worn gasket or what.

    Thanks,
    Trevor

    • Martin Hand Martin Hand says:

      Oil cooler is probably leaking. The oil pan’s don’t usually have problems with leaking. Have the headgaskets ever been done? If not they are probably leaking oil externally also.

  • rich says:

    I have 2011 legacy oil is leaking front of motor under neath motor help

  • dale says:

    Have 2007 subaru legacy changed plugs found on the inside not outside the plugs. What might be the problem

  • Max says:

    Hello,
    I have an 2000 Subaru outback. I have an oil leak on the passenger. Seem to be coming from backside of the block and higher up. When I drive up large hills, I can smell oil burning and looks like oil is dripping on to the exhaust at the Y joint. I change the oil this week and found bit of gasket material in the used oil. As well I am using coolant. Any thoughts ?

    Thanks.

  • Colleen says:

    Hi,
    I have a 2007 Subaru impresa leaking oil onto the timing belt and into the pan. I have had the oil pump and gasket replaced but it’s still leaking. ( Think they changed the water pump as well.)
    Any thoughts on what it could be? I smell burning oil when I drive and the car is starting to sound bad, I assume from the stress of the oil on the timing belt. Which was replaced when they replaced the oil pump and gasket. Any help would be really appreciated.

    Colleen

  • Alan potash says:

    Has subaru corrected these problems

    Considering buying a 16 or 17 outback

    • Martin Hand Martin Hand says:

      The new Subaru 2.5L are timing chain engines. They have been completely redesigned so I don’t know if they’ll have headgasket and/or oil leaking/consumption problems or not.

  • Jim Scherer says:

    I have a 2007 Subaru Outback that is leaking oil. It only had 2 quarts left in the pan during my last oil change (500 miles). I have no oil on my garage floor, and it does not smell like burning oil at all. The head gaskets had been changed out at 65000 miles, it now has 169000 miles. I just got back from a trip and I am due for the next oil change (5000 miles). There was no oil on the dipstick, so I have added a quart until I get to the mechanic. What are the possible causes? Jim

    • Martin Hand Martin Hand says:

      Oil consumption is common on Subaru engines, especially if they’re over 100K. I would recommend to keep extra oil in the vehicle and check it/top off if needed every 1,000 miles. The headgaskets could be leaking again also, have it checked out by a trusted mechanic.

  • Jeff says:

    I have a 2008 Impreza and there seems to be a very slight oil leak on the underside, on the side of the driver’s seat. There are traces of black oil, but it doesn’t seem to be a high leak rate as my oil level isn’t going down very fast. Any ideas?

  • matty matt says:

    I have a 2000 forester while its runnng, its smoking from the passenger side . I noticed tits leaking oil from the end of the headers to the catalitic converter what do you think

  • John Hefford says:

    hi I have an oil leak on a 2007 Subaru Impreza sportI checked to see if it was coming from the oil filter it was not I noticed it all over the housing and near the oil pan and it’s running down the muffler lots of smoke and smells terriblecould you tell me what might it be I would appreciate that love your site

  • Michael Rutherford says:

    I have a 2014 Forester with 26,000 miles. It appears I have an oil leak in the area above the drain plug going up to the edge of oil pan gasket area. It appears the leak is from the oil sending unit which is just above the oil pan attachment. What has to be removed to get to the sending unit?
    Sincerely,
    Michael Rutherford

    • Martin Hand Martin Hand says:

      I’m not sure what sending unit your referring to, the late model engines have changed a lot (timing chain engines now). There are no special tools required to change the oil level or pressure sender that I’m aware of.

  • Billy says:

    Hey Marty wass happnen , i was on the web and found ur website, looks great !!!!

  • Steve says:

    Hi! My 2009 impreza leak oil on the right side of the motor. Just noticed it 3days ago by the smell of it while i was stop at a red light… It started right after a went to the garage for a basic inspection… What it is?

    Thanks

    • Martin Hand Martin Hand says:

      I wouldn’t know for sure without seeing the vehicle for myself but most commonly I would suspect an external oil leak from the cylinder head gasket (left, right or both sides).

  • Martin Hand Martin Hand says:

    Are you sure its not the oil filter?

  • Jeremy says:

    I have a 99 outback and the oil is streaming from the front drivers side just in front of the tire. And some oil is leaking on the passenger side. Any ideas? Thanks for your help.

    • Martin Hand Martin Hand says:

      Check our Subaru common oil leaks. Cam seals, valve cover gaskets, could be anything. You’ll have to clean it up then re-check for leaks. Try adding UV dye to the oil.

  • Thom says:

    08 Impreza Sport. Oil leak on the driver’s side. Replaced valve cover gasket and spark plug seals. Everything is dry inside timing belt cover.

    Oil is running down the exhaust pipe and bolts directly out of the engine…

    It stinks… help!

  • Craig says:

    just changed my oil on my 97 legacy. it’s now leaking badly when running. just bought this two days ago and showed no signs of leaks. not sure where it is coming from. main leak is by oil pan, but looks as if it is coming from higher up.

  • Beda Levira says:

    Hello Jamie,
    I have a 2000 subaru forester that its power light on the dashboard continuously blinks….
    I tried to send the car to the mechanics to check the gearbox with no solution.
    Can you help me with this…
    Beda

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