A head gasket is a gasket that sits between the engine block and cylinder head(s) in an internal combustion engine. Its purpose is to seal the cylinders to ensure maximum compression and avoid leakage of coolant or engine oil into the cylinders; as such, it is the most critical sealing application in any engine...We recently took in our 1999 Subaru Forester for service. It's been a real road warrior for our family, accumulating 180,000 miles without major problems. We had been advised last year that it should be good for 200K, and had hoped it would carry us through 2013.
The car received routine 30K servicing of fluids and lubricants and filters, but we were advised that there were a couple other discoveries: a fog light was broken (no big deal), tire tread was thinning, the transmission pan was I think leaking ($277), but most significantly the head gasket was leaking, and that would be a $1,850 repair.
IIRC, he said there was evidence of dripping of both coolant and engine oil, but that the two were not mixed together (which was "good.") We have not noticed significant leakage on the garage floor, which he attributed to the fluids hitting warm engine parts and evaporating.
We are reluctant to plow $1,850 into a car with a blue book resale value of only about $4,000. At the least we'd like to stretch this out several more months, especially since the advice came from a dealership service department that previously recommended "cleaning of the caliper slides" on our other Forester.
But we don't want to risk any safety issues. This car is only used for local errands, not for long-distance trips. I presume we can monitor the status of the two fluids on our own to foresee any developing problems. Is there any danger of engine fire from the dripping fluids? Any risk of major damage to the engine block? We'd appreciate any advice from someone knowledgeable about automobiles (and some other readers may benefit from the advice as well).
Thanks in advance.