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Head Gasket Problems


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I have been battling this for months and tried to read every single thread on here. If I missed a thread that answers my question, please let me know. 

 

1974 02 with the e12 head. About a year ago the wife was following me and noticed a lot of white smoke. The engine is original and I know had been sitting since the 90s, I got it in 2017 when the owner passed and his goddaughter (my HS girlfriend) reached out to me to make an offer. I always wanted to put in a hotter cam and figured freshening up the top end wouldn't hurt. Also note, this is my first head gasket job.

 

I got the head off and took it to M45 in Auburn, CA to be rebuilt. They specialize in Subarus so I figured no one around here would have more experience with blown heads.

 

I got it back with a clean bill of health, installed it, and immediately had oil in my radiator. After a lot of searches, I realized I basically torqued it down with brake cleaner so it must be dry torqued and that's the issue.

 

Bought a new head gasket (Victor Reinz) and did it all over again, but this time lightly oiled the bolts before torquing them down. I did the 33 44 59 method (or whatever it's called) that I found in a couple of threads.

 

Engine starts up and everything seems fine, but I have constant milkshake. I have changed the oil 4 times (around 14 quarts in total) and still have water in the engine. Everything idles fine, but when I go about a half mile the engine starts overheating. I got one of those chemical tests and it's reading exhaust fumes in my coolant. 

 

I know the list of possibilities include a cracked block from some install/transport mishap or uneven mating surfaces.

 

My question is, before I go down the road of learning how to pull an engine and having the bottom end rebuilt, should I try a thicker gasket to see if it compensates for an uneven mating service? 

 

Any advice, regardless of tone or sarcasm is appreciated because at this point I am just sad and confused so nothing you say can make it worse. 

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I’d examine the block for cracks, surface finnish & trueness. I don’t think thicker h/gasket (or more torque) is gonna fix it. May wanna look the condition of the water pump while you’re at it.

2002 -73 M2, 2002 -71 forced induction. bnr32 -91

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24 minutes ago, Son of Marty said:

Did you clean and dry the head bolt holes?

Yes, I couldn't find an affordable thread chaser so I used a spiral brush. That's why the first time it was basically torqued with brake cleaner. I used new head bolts and they went in smoothly by hand

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12 minutes ago, tzei said:

I’d examine the block for cracks, surface finnish & trueness. I don’t think thicker h/gasket (or more torque) is gonna fix it. May wanna look the condition of the water pump while you’re at it.

Changed the water pump because I broke the chain guide so I replaced the chain, guide, water pump, gaskets. 

 

If I'm examining the block, I should just take the engine out right? The piston tops were really really hard to clean and I couldn't get the mating surface perfect. That's why I'm thinking I have to take out the whole thing and get the bottom end cleaned up at a machine shop.. 

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Another possible coolant leak path to the oil --

The water pump discharge into the block passes thru the lower timing cover.  The gasket needs to be installed carefully or coolant will leak to the oil.  The groove in the timing cover side to block connection has to be clean so if the gasket is leaking, coolant will pass out to the ground.

A radiator shop is a good place to take a leak.

 

I have no idea what I'm doing but I know I'm really good at it.

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When I was chasing an issue with water in my oil, I rented a radiator pressure tester and hooked it up to the cooling system. I knew water was getting in my oil somehow -- and this showed me where. There was a corroded spot in the head right behind the cam pulley that was porous to water, and with the radiator pressurized, I could easily see it dripping out! Since it wasn't in a typical spot, the machine shop missed this during their testing. I ended up getting a new head.

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1 minute ago, jimk said:

Another possible coolant leak path to the oil --

The water pump discharge into the block passes thru the lower timing cover.  The gasket needs to be installed carefully or coolant will leak to the oil.  The groove in the timing cover side to block connection has to be clean so if the gasket is leaking, coolant will pass out to the ground.

This is interesting. So I didn't want to waste Smurf juice and filled it up with water. I ran the engine for 10 mins before each oil change. I kept the chemical test on the radiator this entire time checking for exhaust fumes but the fluid never turned yellow/green. Also, since it was water so I figured it would be easier to see if it was dirty. The water in the radiator was always clear. I probably ran the engine for a total of 45 mins with only water in the coolant system. 

 

However, the dipstick ALWAYS showed no oil. Even after dumping 4 quarts, I would pull the dip stick and water would drip off, but you couldn't see any oil on it. 

 

Are these symptoms of a leaky water pump?

 

After I drained the water and added smurf juice, the chemical test immediately turned yellow green. Car still idles smooth and drives fine until the temp guage shoots up. 

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3 minutes ago, eviction_party said:

When I was chasing an issue with water in my oil, I rented a radiator pressure tester and hooked it up to the cooling system. I knew water was getting in my oil somehow -- and this showed me where. There was a corroded spot in the head right behind the cam pulley that was porous to water, and with the radiator pressurized, I could easily see it dripping out! Since it wasn't in a typical spot, the machine shop missed this during their testing. I ended up getting a new head.

Yessir, I rented one of these and pressure seemed to hold fine. How long did you leave it on there? I'll go rent it again because maybe I didn't do it right. Originally it showed a loose clamp, but then I tightened it and everything seemed fine. 

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26 minutes ago, Reza Taheri said:

Yessir, I rented one of these and pressure seemed to hold fine. How long did you leave it on there?

 

When I had a hole in the head it lost pressure immediately... since water was dripping out. After getting a new (well, used but better condition) head, it held pressure overnight, after tightening a few hoses of course. 

 

If you have a route for coolant into the oil -- which you do -- then it seems to me like the radiator shouldn't hold any pressure, as the coolant system will be dripping or leaking somewhere. Something must be happening only when the engine heats up?

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1 minute ago, eviction_party said:

 

When I had a hole in the head it lost pressure immediately... since water was dripping out. After getting a new (well, used but better condition) head, it held pressure overnight, after tightening a few hoses of course. 

 

If you have a route for coolant into the oil -- which you do -- then it seems to me like the radiator shouldn't hold any pressure, as the coolant system will be dripping or leaking somewhere. Something must be happening only when the engine heats up?

Will the pressure tester eliminate a leaking water pump gasket? If it holds pressure over night, then maybe it's a water pump gasket? 

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You can try this to maybe finding out if it is coming from a particular cyl..     Remove the plugs, turn the engine over until you are TDC # 1  Valve cover off     You really have to look at the rockers and cam lobes on it's sister cyl    ( #4  znd 2 and 3 are sisters )    There is a sweet spot where the cam will sit at TDC #1 where you can rig up some way to push compressed air into that cyl.    With both valves closed, the piston at TDC, this is just like doing a leakdown test without any leakdown tester        You also have to fill the rad/overflow right to the top edge of the rad/container so if there is a crack in the cylinder head or gasket, the water in the coolant system will push out, sometimes quite quickly and more than a little, be prepared     When potting the air in< I use a rubber air line so I can compress the airline and slowly let all the air into the cyl ( most compressors blow off at 150=155 psi )  this is more than enough to see what is happening

 

Be careful the first time putting air into the cyl, if you don't have the cam set just right at TDC, the engine will rotate over to the next cyl by the air pressure. You may have to reset the cam agin chaging position just a little.        Once done with #1, move onto #3 next in firing order.

 

I have a Snap On cylinder gauge that disconnects for different spark plug threads so, I just the appropriate one and remove the check valve so it can blow starlight thru     You could make something up from an old compression tester hose

 

Thanks, Rick

.

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Very odd problem. My experience is that cracked heads tend to present as white sweet-smelling exhaust smoke, whereas blown headgaskets tend to present as milkshakes in the coolant (yeah obviously it depends where they're blown).

 

I'd be very surprised if your installing the head bolts dry had anything to do with it.

 

To be clear, you say that there's clear water (or antifreeze) in the radiator, but you have "constant milkshakes" in the oil?


Jimk's idea of the water pump gasket being dislodged is a good one, but that wouldn't explain the exhaust gas in the coolant.


Are you SURE "the dipstick ALWAYS showed no oil?" I've certainly made the mistake of not being able to see clean oil on the stick. And how does that jive with having "constant milkshakes?" I must be misunderstanding something.

 

If it was my car, I'd do both a compression and a leakdown test as stephers recommends before I did anything else. But even if both of those don't show any compression loss, it's certainly possible that corrosion on the head between the coolant and oil passages is causing the mixing. 

Again, if it was my car, I'd want to assure myself that the head is perfect (and that Jimk's water pump gasket theory isn't the cause) before pulling the engine to deal with the block.

 

--Rob

 

 

 

WWW.HAGERTY.COM

Working on a 1965 Corvair Monza, Rob Siegel shows how to use a leakdown tester.

 

The new book The Best Of The Hack Mechanic available at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0998950742, inscribed copies of all books available at www.robsiegel.com

1972 tii (Louie), 1973 2002 (Hampton), 1975 ti tribute (Bertha), 1972 Bavaria, 1973 3.0CSi, 1979 Euro 635CSi, 1999 Z3, 1999 M Coupe, 2003 530i sport, 1974 Lotus Europa Twin Cam Special (I know, I know...)

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