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Head Gasket Coolant Leak


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As I was preparing my '76 02 for the trip to the Vintage, I noticed coolant had, from all indications, just begun to leak between the head and the block about 2" back of the timing cover on the exhaust side.  FWIW, the motor has <60,000 miles on it since it was rebuilt.  The head gasket is not totally compromised as the is no sign of coolant in the oil and compression is very good and even across all four cylinders.  So far as I know the motor has never been overheated and was running strong prior to the leak occuring which is why it seemed so unusual.  My assumption is this was a failure of the head gasket in that particular area but am unsure why it may have occured.  I did re-torque the head bolts but this did not help the situation.  In any event the head will come off for inspection but I'm curious if anyone else ever experienced a leak of this type without totally blowing out the head gasket?  I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts and any advice you may have to offer will be appreciated.



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........sure it's happened before.


might be a crack in the combustion chamber which will leak coolent into that

area - SEE STEAM at tail pipe ?


remove spark plugs and also see deposits and or steamed cleaned

plug tips


are you - have you been,  adding coolent ?

and how much over how many miles ??

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c.d. to answer your questions-


-no steam from tailpipe

-no steam cleaned plug tips

-no I have not had to add coolant


Leak was first observed a week and a half ago during a routine pre-trip inspection.  Prior to that, no leak nor the need to add coolant.  After the leak was detected  I did a compressoin check.  Lowest- 162.5, highest 170 which seemed pretty good to me. I'm guessing your right in that I'm not the first person to experience such a failure but in almost 30 years of 2002 ownership, neither I nor any of the other local 2002 owners I know have ever seen one like this. Thanks for your thoughts. 

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i had that problem it was cracked head,hope not in your case.I had no steam but sweet exh smell at first...............untill the point i took this photo..

very little coolant consumption for months but the exh did have a faint sweet smell,i think the hairline crack would seal up after the engine was warmed up, have u tried to pressure check the coolant loop?

Edited by ndog
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I had a problem with coolant loss on my '69 but it wasn't leaking externally.  Good compression no oil in water or water in oil.  Finally found some coolant on #1 spark plug after the millionth compression test...


Pulled the head and found one of the coolant passages in the head over #1 exhaust port had eroded until it met the edge of the combustion chamber, allow a miniscule amount of coolant to be sucked into the cylinder on the intake and power strokes.  Kinda like water injection.  Hadn't blown the head gasket, just leaked.  Other three cylinders had similar erosion but it hadn't made it to the combustion chambers yet. 


Local machine shop welded up the passages using the head gasket as a template, resurfaced the head and I was back in business--that was 25+ years ago and the head is still doing fine.




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Yeah, I had that happen once, with an aftermarket head gasket from the 80's (no idea which brand).


When I pulled it off, it crumbled in a number of places, almost all of them exposed to air on the

outside edge of the gasket.  Nothing else happened, I, like you, had a trickle of coolant that dripped

down behind the starter motor.  No mixing, and when the head came off, no warping nor any

cross- contamination of fluid, and no evidence that it had been blowing compression gasses anywhere.


At the time I didn't think that much of it, replaced it, used it as an excuse for a healthier cam, and off I went.

In retrospect, it's kind of odd.  Never ran across it again, in all the parts engines I've stripped.  Everything

else had had a stong, 'supple' gasket when it came apart.





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easy diagnosis from the Bararia days of cracked heads:

after a drive - engine fully heated up

park, remove spark plugs

leave rad cap on to hold building

heat soak cooling system pressure

Return 1.5 hour later and crank motor over

watch spark plug holes for coolent pumping out of

plug holes.

I hope Bob ISN't yer Uncle.

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