How Can Apple Automotive Charge Only $1,500 for a Head Gasket Replacement?


This is a question I get asked all the time by prospective new customers after they have been quoted twice that much,

the highest quote I have heard was $4,200!

Here are 4 answers:


Low Overhead.

I am a mobile technician, all my tools and equipment are paid for,

I have no employees to deal with so I do not pay workers comp, insurance, benefits, etc.


I do not do unnecessary work or replace parts that are not needed.

Most other shops will do two other procedures that I do not do and may suggest that I am cutting corners.

To read about these two things, see below.


Lower Shop Labor Rate

Most shops and dealers are in the neighborhood of $120+ per hour.

The labor estimating guide states that most Subaru (non-turbo) head gaskets require

10 hours of labor. This puts the labor charge at or near $1,200. My labor rate is $75.00 per hour.


I Care

Facing a $2,000 repair bill for an older car in this economy usually makes the owner question if they should even keep their car.

I would like to see every Subaru owner keep their car, and of course keep them as customers,

so I take less profit now on this common repair to have you as a lifelong customer.



Most other shops will do two other procedures that I do not automatically do and may claim that I am cutting corners.


#1. Replacing Head Bolts This adds about $200 to the bill.


About head bolts: There has been a lot of confusion over head bolts over the years with the manufactures using “stretch,”  “plastic region,” or “torque-to-yield” bolts.

Shops may claim you absolutely have to use new bolts for them to warranty the job. I would agree if the head bolts on Subaru were torque-to-yield (TTY) bolts.

I have sat in on a class of head gasket facts and the subject of bolts came up. Identification of a TTY bolt is not so cut and dry. There are two main ways of knowing. #1. If the manufacture says they are and requires their dealers to replace them and #2. By the look of them. The shank of the bolt is usually thinner than the threaded part. Subaru does not use a TTY bolt.


My further research found that the Subaru engineers say it is ok to torque head bolts 4 times. They are torqued twice from the factory, leaving two more times to re-use the same bolts.

I do replace them if there is surface rust or fatigued threads. I also chase all threaded head-bolt holes with a long reach tap.

In addition, head bolts will routinely alter the pitch of the aluminum threads in the block. The bolts should thread all the way in easily by hand!

I also have a qualified opinion on the head bolt procedure and torque values that Subaru uses which is a main factor in their on-going gasket failure. I will not put this into print as I do a fair amount of gasket do-overs from other shops and do not want to give them the advantage of my hard-sought knowledge.


Experience: While working at Toyota in the late ‘90’s I was involved in their 3.0 liter head gasket recall. I did two trucks a day (4 hours each) for over a year.

This was over 300 head gasket jobs for one man in one dealer. Toyota never required or insisted on replacing their head bolts and we never saw a failure from head bolts.

These were the same type of  bolts as Subaru engines—normal, non—TTY bolts. I also have been doing Subarus only for years and have had no gasket failures.



#2. Machining The Heads. This will add $250-350 to the bill. Back in the day it was left up to the technician to decide if a head needed surfacing. Again, during the Toyota recall I personally never surfaced heads and neither did any other technicians unless there was just cause.

I have worked in several shops since the ‘80s and have always measured and inspected the sealing surface to see if a head needs surfacing.

It has only been in the last few years that most shops surface every head, every time; just in case. They say it is to “cover their butts,” translation, “cover my rent.”  


My current price is $1,500. This includes all new gaskets, seals, water pump, timing belt and components, resealing the oil pump, new oil, and new coolant.

Surfacing, if needed is $150 for the set.