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My head gasket experience

 
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Old 02-07-2013, 02:47 PM
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My head gasket experience

So a few weeks ago I started getting the feeling that my head gasket was going. Rough starts, white coolant-smelling steam from the tailpipe, ect. Being the indpendent sort that I am (and having built a few B-series motors in my day) I decided to try my hand at an H22 and fix it myself.

Day 1: Got the hoses and vaccum lines pulled out and labeled, removed power steering pump, alternator and timing belt cover, removed header. Got crank pulley and balance belt pulley off, crank bolt loosened and valve cover removed. (Total time, 1 hr 45 minutes) Started kinda late so it was off to bed.

Day 2: Got everything to TDC, removed the crank bolt and took off the motor mount so I could take off the timing belt and camshafts. I decided to remove the intake manifold so I could port match it to my S2 throttle body before the reinstall. Pulled the rail and fuel line. Removed the cam covers and camshafts, pulled the head bolts. The head just popped off and sure enough the gasket was gone betwen 3-4. The cylinder was full of coolant. Ugh. I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the block mating surface and dropped the head off to be pressure tested and milled. (Total time, 5 hours 15 minutes)

Day 3: Picked up the cleaned, milled, and tested head, only $50. Also bought an OEM gasket and o-ring set at $100 for the head and intake manifold and installed those. Basically took the rest of the day to install everything in reverse order of above, all to torque specs from Helms. Felt pretty good when it started up first time, no issues. (Total time, 7 hours 20 minutes)

Here's where my experience gets a little crazy. I drove the car lightly for a week (just to work and back about 5 miles) and had no problems. Car ran perfectly. On day 9, I came out from work to head home and car started acting as if the gasket had blown again. White smelly smoke, hard time starting, pressure in radiator when cold.

I got it started and made it home... then proceeded to punch walls and scream at the ceiling for a bit. After I calmed down I narrowed it down to two possibilities: 1.) Block warped or 2.) Head bolts stretched or not torqued correctly.

After drinking bit I decided to tear back into it and do the gasket install all over again. I basically repeated the above procedure except I left the intake mani on for the removal and pulled the head with it attached. Worked out fine. Sure enough, the gasket had blown but this time it was all cylinders with coolant in them so I figured that the torque had been wrong. 72ft-lbs according to Helms. I ran down to the shop and picked up some ARP studs ($105), might as well do it right. After reinstalling with the studs I torqued to ARPs reccommended 90ft-lbs and used their super moly lube (good stuff) for the threads and caps. The torque procedure for the head studs went MUCH smoother and more predictably than with the original head bolts.

After putting the whole thing back together for the second time I'm happy to say that I've been driving it relatively hard for a month now and no problems to report. Moral of the long story is: When replacing the head gasket, do yourself a favor and either replace the head bolts or upgrade to studs. Even though the manual says the originals are fine. Oh, and that ARP grey goop moly lube is amazing. Just sayin.
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Old 02-07-2013, 02:58 PM
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Re: My head gasket experience

Yes you're supposed to replace the head bolts if you remove them. As you install, and over time, they stretch. Did you torque it down in sequence in 3 steps? I forget the torque specs, but it's something like 36 lbs, then 54 lbs, then 72 lbs. Or something along those lines. You're not supposed to torque each bolt to spec right away. This can cause warpage of the head and/or head gasket.
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Old 02-07-2013, 03:01 PM
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Re: My head gasket experience

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Originally Posted by jaxprelude View Post
Yes you're supposed to replace the head bolts if you remove them.
my head was off 2 times and we used the same bolts without any problems

and and you should get your head machined every time you take it off
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Old 02-07-2013, 03:10 PM
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Re: My head gasket experience

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Originally Posted by TypeT View Post
my head was off 2 times and we used the same bolts without any problems
sounds like it would just be preventative maintenance that would save having to do all the work to take it apart and fix the gasket a second time due to improper torque from stretched bolts.

kind of like replacing the auto tensioner when the timing belt is done. its may work fine for now, but they could fail in the future.
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Old 02-07-2013, 03:12 PM
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Re: My head gasket experience

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Originally Posted by jaxprelude View Post
Yes you're supposed to replace the head bolts if you remove them. As you install, and over time, they stretch. Did you torque it down in sequence in 3 steps? I forget the torque specs, but it's something like 36 lbs, then 54 lbs, then 72 lbs. Or something along those lines. You're not supposed to torque each bolt to spec right away. This can cause warpage of the head and/or head gasket.
Yeah all bolts were torqued to spec from Helms-- it does have the three step torque values. According to the Honda and Helms manual new bolts are not required.
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Old 02-07-2013, 03:13 PM
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Re: My head gasket experience

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Originally Posted by TypeT View Post
my head was off 2 times and we used the same bolts without any problems

and and you should get your head machined every time you take it off
Yeah always gotta resurface the head. I pressure tested it for good measure.
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Old 02-07-2013, 04:52 PM
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Re: My head gasket experience

manual doesnt advice to new the bolts every time, but I could imagine that after few times its wise to new them. I new'd my bolts year ago, but now when we're doing this built right now Im not going to buy new ones
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Old 02-07-2013, 05:08 PM
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Re: My head gasket experience

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Originally Posted by TypeT View Post
manual doesnt advice to new the bolts every time, but I could imagine that after few times its wise to new them. I new'd my bolts year ago, but now when we're doing this built right now Im not going to buy new ones
Yeah its definitely a good idea. Can't recommend ARP highly enough.
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Old 02-07-2013, 09:01 PM
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Re: My head gasket experience

Nice story. I learned arp good stuff and won't reuse my old bolts.
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Old 02-08-2013, 11:50 AM
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Re: My head gasket experience

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Nice story. I learned arp good stuff and won't reuse my old bolts.
It's definitely not something to skip.
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