Head gasket blown in all directions...engine swap or scrap

27 posts in this topic

Hi all,

So the starlet I bought a few months ago has turned out to be more of a banger than I had expected. I hadn't realised the head gasket was leaking when I'd bought it, learning how these things work all the time, but now the signs were clear... the coolant in the overflow tank was boiling over! I made a few "fixes", which appeared to improve the situation somewhat, but perhaps I was imagining things. Well one night I lent the car to a friend who ignored the temperature gauge and pushed it into the red until it eventually broke down a kilometer from my house. After this happened I could barely start the engine, and now there is coolant in the oil where there wasn't before and there are plumes of white smoke bellowing out of the exhaust. All sure signs that the head gasket has had it in all ways. 

I don't want to go through the hassle of stripping the engine down, machining the block and head etc, as the labour will be well in excess of how much the car cost in the first place, and even then there may still be issues that can be solved. So my last thought on the matter before sending her off to the scrap yard is whether an engine swap is a good idea or not. She's a 1991 Starlet XL, I think that's an EP81(?). Other than replacing it like for like, is there another engine I could put in that would make it a better ride? Any thoughts?

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Why don't you just fix the current engine?


Whip the head off and assess the damage. I doubt the block will be warped, you'd probably just get away with a head skim which isn't that expensive and away you go.

 

It is going to be more work to engine swap it, with no guarantees that the engine you buy doesn't have its own problems.

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Well I could, I've just been watching horror story videos on youtube that say if the vehicle has overheated and was driven until it breaksdown, there are very high chances that many more problems have been caused, and consequently would be easier and cheaper to engine swap rather than bother to fix the engine. Not sure what the best course of action is to be honest

Edited by scarletstarlet

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Recently did an engine swap on my EP91, original engine with 235K was billowing smoke so picked up a clean and dry replacement engine with 95K on the clock.  All in all it took approx 12 hours work outdoors, no pit, with a mate helping me when it got to the stage of lifting out the old engine and dropping in the new one.  Not an overly complicated job, I have done some work with a 4EFE before so was familiar with the connections and such, just takes some patience.

Edited by SplitfireIV

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Meh, The Internet can just be a scaremonger to be fair.

 

You don't know the extent of the problem until you at least strip the head. If you're going to scrap the car/engine, then taking  the engine apart wouldn't hurt to just flesh out your options. Ultimately, the head is designed to warp. It's designed to warp as to not damage the block. My friend drove his Mitsubushi Evolution like this and he needed a new head, since I'm told they cannot be skimmed, but the block was fine. 

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It's true, and after watching a few more, it all looks doable, despite quite a challenge. I'll try to post progress on the job. Thanks all for the tips. It's a 2e carb by the way.

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Well it's easier said than done to just take a look at the damage and then make your mind up. I'm about half way down to get the head off now but stumped at how to get the exhaust manifold and the intake manifold off. Broken one wrench on the exhaust manifold and rounded a bolt off on the intake. Been spraying penetrating oil like a mad man, but to no avail. Feeling a bit hopeless, any ideas?

Edited by scarletstarlet

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Managed to get the mofo exhaust manifold off at last, bought a specific 14mm wrench, used more penetrating oil and finally the bastard came off, including some skin from my arm. 

Now I've got to get the air intake manifold off but it looks very inaccessible. Is it worth removing the head with air intake on and removing when it''s out of the car? 

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Ok, I got down to the block at last. This was a serious lesson in bolt removal, quite a few techniques employed, thankfully no welding. So the head is off now and the block exposed, see the photos attached. You can see the coolant in the chambers clearly, lots of gunk all over the show, but what other things can I read from this? Need to put a straight edge on the block and if that's ok, I guess I can crack on with grinding down the surface of the head, clean everything up, new gasket, and put it all back together? What about the pistons, do they need to come off for anything? Can I grind with them in? What would you do now?

block1.jpg

block3.jpg

head1.jpg

head2.jpg

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Cool, well it's bound to have coolant in it, you've just removed the head.

 

be sure to smear oil in the bores to stop rust from forming.

 

What do you mean by grind? It's a specialist job to have the head skimmed.

 

I doubt the block is warped, but a straight edge will help with that.

 

You'll want to remove all of the valves and be prepared to lap them back in. Collets should go with the collets they came with. Same with buckets and shims. The cam caps also need to be reseated where they came from.

 

If you're unsure, then I'm sure an engine firm will sort this all out, at an added charge.

Get the head skimmed, clean up the block and fit a new head gasket.

 

Nothing looks too out of the ordinary, just old and crusty, but not broken beyond repair.

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Nice one, good that nothing's too bad, thanks for checking it out. I'll start giving it all a clean then. By grind, I meant I was going to do what this guy does:

I live on an island where the market is small,  there's not much choice, and the experiences I have had with garages here has not filled me with much confidence, hence going down the DIY route for a lot of this. Tell me this is a stupid idea?

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The tell tail sign is the piston and head have been steam cleaned on that one cylinder.  

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19 hours ago, scarletstarlet said:

Nice one, good that nothing's too bad, thanks for checking it out. I'll start giving it all a clean then. By grind, I meant I was going to do what this guy does:

I live on an island where the market is small,  there's not much choice, and the experiences I have had with garages here has not filled me with much confidence, hence going down the DIY route for a lot of this. Tell me this is a stupid idea?

Hey dude, DIY is not stupid at all, its clever and  your saving money. Just keep practicing and remain persistent.

From pictures, it looks like one of the cylinders has been steam cleaned like LukEP says... is there any fracturing or any tell signs of hydrolock?

From the original story, I would try to recover some costs from your 'friend' who borrowed the car, especially if you made it clear to him that the head gaskets on its way out and to keep eye on temperature. I would have probably gone with a new engine to begin with but everything you've done so far is good practice so keep your head up. 

If engines are cheap and readily available, just put another in. It's relatively easy. Take off drifve shafts, disconnect all connectors and unbolt engine from mount. You have a easy car to work on so it's a good place to start. Just make sure you can trust the seller on condition of engine if you go down this route.

Edited by Shyam

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I cant see why that diy method wouldnt work just going to take some time. Give it a good clean down afterwards and a blast with an airline to get all the dust and grit out too. 

Also make sure you torque the head up in the correct order and to spec. Oh and the headgaskets on 4efe's can be fitted upside down at which point they leak so you will want to double and triple check orientation before final fitting.

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8 hours ago, morgey said:

I cant see why that diy method wouldnt work just going to take some time. Give it a good clean down afterwards and a blast with an airline to get all the dust and grit out too. 

Also make sure you torque the head up in the correct order and to spec. Oh and the headgaskets on 4efe's can be fitted upside down at which point they leak so you will want to double and triple check orientation before final fitting.

Think he's running a 2e engine bud.

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Thanks all for your comments and encouragement, I shall proceed then. Yes, it's a 2e. I'll take the old gasket to the shop so I definitely get the right one. Will update later with more...

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Yeah but id imagine they will be similar so was a heads up that the gasket may be able to go on a few ways and you need to get the correct orientation :)

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Thanks Morgey, hope I get it the right way. 

I've cleaned up the block, see the pic below. Looks like between cylinder 2 and 3, where the 16th cm is on the ruler, it's lower there than anywhere else and so there's a gap. Does this mean the block is warped and I can't do anything about it? Or will the head gasket expand to fill that space? Also, does that look clean enough, or do I need to go further?

20171216_125221.jpg

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Bought a feeler gauge at last, helpful tool! The block seems fine after all, I couldn't get a 0.05mm feeler under a straight edge, so I guess that's ok. However, I've now gone to clean up the head and take a look there. I've checked with a straight edge there and it's about 0.10mm between cylinders, so likely this will need to be ground down. Whilst cleaning though, I've noticed a pretty gaping flaw in the head which can't possibly be from the factory like this. If you see the attached photos, one without the gasket, one with the gasket over it so you can see how the gasket warped, and then a wide shot to see the whole head. Looks like some of the head melted in that top left coolant hole. This can't be a good thing, it looks horrendous. Or maybe this is ok? What do you reckon? Time to give in and admit defeat?

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1MWTK3j5A0TuP6X0ygyhdiz4ZT23ktLcs

https://drive.google.com/open?id=18dZzBJgnRFzC2BWgK7LHHUiM0K3at1YX

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1bEccsdihPlG3x3kVC71GJA6j-65u04Mr

 

 

 

Edited by scarletstarlet

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I've had similar flaws in my 4e head and have had that running absolutely fine. So long as there is a clear gap between the water jacket, the head and the gasket, it should be fine.

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