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This generation of Outback carried the same model codes as the Legacy Wagon: BP9 for the 2.5 liter and BPE for the 3.0-liter model.

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I see and smell smoke when the car has been running for short periods

So I have had a 2008 Subaru outback for about a month. I started to notice this issue after driving up in the mountains, I had the car loaded with five people and a trunk full of camping gear so the car was struggling a bit up a hill, I went real slow and turned off the ac. when we got to the top there was a bit of smoke (or steam, not quite sure) coming from under the hood, popped the hood, and saw it was coming from the very front of the engine (i don’t know much about cars but fairly certain it was coming from the radiator). ok, fairs fair, I was pushing it pretty hard, it wasn’t registering to be hot on the dash though. I have been noticing this every time I drive though even short distances, just a tiny bit of steam (which I can only see if I open the hood right after turning the engine off), and that hot radiator smell occasionally comes through the vents when I turn the fan on. I toped off the coolant when I first got it and it’s still full. Is this an ‘i need to fix a leak’ issue or a ‘prepare to replace something major’ issue?

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I was originally going to assume it's a head gasket issue but you mentioned the coolant was fine...

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Hi,

Some basic checks:

Check for any coolant stains near or on the radiator hose(s) connections, radiator cap, radiator core, engine block etc just to verify that there isn't a small leak somewhere.

You said that the temp gauge was registering normal but check if the thermostat is opening etc just to make sure that the coolant is flowing through the engine and radiator.

Be safety aware when doing this as the engine is running.

With a cold engine, ensure that the parking brake is firmly applied and that the transmission is in Park (AT) or Neutral (MT).

Remove the radiator cap and then start the engine. Observe the coolant in the neck of the radiator. When the engine reaches the set temperature, the thermostat will open and you should see the coolant begin to swirl (or flow) in the radiator neck. If it does then the thermostat has opened and the coolant is flowing through the engine etc. Switch off the engine once the coolant starts to flow as it expands as it gets hot and will overflow out of the radiator otherwise. If it doesn’t start to flow at all then there may be a problem with the thermostat.

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TEAschtuff さん、ありがとうございました!
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