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Confirming the head gasket is blown
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AZ Landshaper Premium Member
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 6:46 pm    Post subject: Confirming the head gasket is blown Reply with quote

Ive been experiencing some seriously high temps in a 93 ej22 subaru engine. This is apparently fairly common for folks with transplanted engines that didnt get headgaskets replaced before they were installed.

Im looking for any possible tests that could confirm my suspicions before I pull the motor and begin the head gasket procedure.

So far I have witnessed a slow but steady increase in engine temps over the course of the last two months. Currently the engine temp climbs to 225 if I take the highway for any period of time. I dont let it climb much higher in fear of doing any serious warping. At idle the engine will maintain 195 or so but the minute you add a load to the motor it begins to heat up. I know the thermostat opens and the water pump is pushing water. Ive bled the coolant system thoroughly and I have tried two different radiators in hopes of a solution. At this point Im seeing a pretty constant flow of bubbles into my expansion tank. When I bleed the system from the radiator i get a constant supply of what looks like carbonation bubbles every three to five seconds. The system holds pressure at 15 psi for 30 minutes without dropping.

Ive already located a cherry picker and engine stand but figured there may be one last test that confirms or negates my suspicion. Is there a test other than the coolant gas analysis test using the plunger and indicator solution? That test doesnt confirm my suspicions but Ive been told that test can be unreliable at times. Is it a good idea to pressurize the system and remove the plugs looking for coolant in the cylinders? Would this require a scope or just a covid length q-tip to swab up some coolant?

Any thoughts or advice before I pull the motor?

Thanks
Jay
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 7:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Confirming the head gasket is blown Reply with quote

Since you have a pressure tester, you can put the engine under a load while the gauge is hooked up , watching for an abnormal rise in system pressure due to combustion gases getting into the coolant system.
I think the biggest issue with the chemical combustion gas tester kits is making sure the fluid is fresh and still blue in the kit/bottle.
We regularly have to toss our fluid and get a new bottle if it sits on the parts shelf too long between uses.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 9:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Confirming the head gasket is blown Reply with quote

Chemical test and a leakdown.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 9:22 pm    Post subject: Re: Confirming the head gasket is blown Reply with quote

Iíve never had any luck w a chemical test but that may actually be luck. The test never turns yellow. Will try fresh fluid manana. Will also try applying pressure and running it to see if it climbs. Will also try the leak down. Guess that would result in bubbles to the coolant telling me the gasket is shot as well as which gasket is shot. Roger that.


Jay
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 4:54 am    Post subject: Re: Confirming the head gasket is blown Reply with quote

if you've got bubbles in your expansion tank, you've got some type of gas in your coolant system. i've been thru three Subaru head gasket failures in my Subarus. make sure when you replace the gaskets that the heads aren't warped and you replace the head bolts.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 8:34 am    Post subject: Re: Confirming the head gasket is blown Reply with quote

Chemical tests for exhaust in coolant are well known to be reliable purveyors of bad news, but not of good news.

False positives for presence of exhaust gases are rare, false negatives for absence of exhaust gases are common.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 10:30 am    Post subject: Re: Confirming the head gasket is blown Reply with quote

https://intrepidoverland.com/bad-coolant-pressure-cap-or-bad-head-gasket/
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 12:52 pm    Post subject: Re: Confirming the head gasket is blown Reply with quote

I have not used the chemical test for hydrocarbons in the cooling jacket for decades. I routinely smell the coolant recovery bottle or expansion tank if there is none. The odor of exhaust gas is detectable by any well functioning nose. The recovery bottles do an especially good job of trapping the escaped exhaust gases. If there is leakage there are usually oily deposits in the bottle.

I have serviced quite a few Subaru engines through the years (installed in Subarus). The EJ 22 motors rarely have an issue. The EJ 25 engine is the problem child. They leak coolant and oil externally at least as frequently as exhaust into the coolant jacket.

Subarus have constant circulation through the heater core. That circulation is necessary to open the thermostat. The water pump is driven by friction by the back of the timing belt. As I recall most Subaru thermostats should start to open at 82 C.

The South African Behr branded radiators are currently available. The Behr family has sold out. It is currently owned by the Mahle group. The Mahle rep told me that they use whichever brand name that enhaces sales in any particular market. The last South African Vanagon radiator I bought came in a box labeled Mahle. It looked and worked the same as always.

Your problem is probably due to the thermostat not being tickled enough or radiator or airflow deficiencies.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 1:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Confirming the head gasket is blown Reply with quote

Quote:
When I bleed the system from the radiator i get a constant supply of what looks like carbonation bubbles every three to five seconds.


This is all you need to know to diagnose a fire ring leak in a Vanagon, it doesn't matter what engine is in it, it's an unintended benefit of the unusual radiator loop layout, and will be more apparent if the heater valve is closed. In a conventional layout, those gases will collect at the radiator top, too, but they'll be released by the radiator cap so you'll never detect them except by the chemical test, or, it's true, an experienced nose. It is also typical to see black oily residue accumulating below the pressure cap, whether it's on a separate pressure tank or the radiator itself.

Unless the engine has just seen an extreme head-warping overheating event, fire ring leaks typically start very gradually where they only allow gas to escape under high engine load, so at the early stage a compression, leakdown, or cooling system pressure test will reveal nothing. And of course there won't be coolant being pushed backward into the cylinders, either; by the time it does that, the engine has already become unusable because it will overheat within a few minutes of start-up every time.

Gas bubbles rising in the pressure tank are also associated with combustion leakage, but they can also be seen when the p-cap is releasing at too low a pressure, so if that's all that's seen the p-cap needs to be tested, but if gases are also collecting in the radiator, it's a fire ring leak.
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Hmmm, provincial much?:
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2020 7:39 am    Post subject: Re: Confirming the head gasket is blown Reply with quote

Gasses leaking into the radiator was my indication of an issue. Seeing bubbles constantly entering the pressure tank made up my mind. Ive now replaced the engine and my over heating has disappeared.

So when your coolant looks like a carbonated drink with tiny bubbles appearing in 4 second pulses the head gasket is likely in the early stages of leaking.

FYI I never got a positive chemical test result and the engine never went above 225 degrees but it was impossible to keep cool (below 200 degrees) and no amount of bleeding helped the issue. Compression was consistent and the leakdown didnt provide any insight.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2020 8:48 am    Post subject: Re: Confirming the head gasket is blown Reply with quote

do you have headlight relay kit?

on my van when that fuse blown the headlight went out...

not sure it's same circuit as yours...
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 21, 2020 8:02 am    Post subject: Re: Confirming the head gasket is blown Reply with quote

You replaced the engine or just the headgaskets?
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