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head gasket blues
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duderanchero
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 2:05 am    Post subject: head gasket blues Reply with quote

so, let's say i've got this head gasket what's blown, and in now-undeniable need of replacing. i have innumberable (not-six, not-seven, but i'll try) questions, and i would be grateful for any helpful guidance. (i've read instructions by ben, bentley, bentley commentaries, etc.--i'm not in need of general information right now.)

first, what components must i replace? i have limited garage space, limited financial resources, limited tools, and as yet not fully developed mechanical abilities. i like doing the work (when it goes smoothly, of course), and i want to learn how to do these things right. however, someone will destroy me if i don't get the van moving very soon. at the moment, i'm trying to wrench off an exhaust system that appears to have lived a much longer, rustier life than the rest of the vehicle. i have the head gasket kit from van cafe, complete with famous amoses. i know i need to install the cookies and the rubber jacket itself, but do i really need to replace the piston rings? this engine is still full of vigor, but i think it will require major resuscitation in not-distant future. i'd be satisfied to get a good 10k on this repair. the timing is simply more crucial than usual for me. i guess i'll have to get used to that.

so, although i'd like to invest the time into doing my engine right and changing her growl into a purr, i need to know what i can likely get away with for a while. i should note that i'm only doing the passenger side gasket. so that saves some time already. though not in the ben franklin sense.

for instance, what happens if i run with no exhaust system at all? these bolts are so rusted, it would be easiest just to saw the whole thing off. the cat and muffler are well rusted, and i suspect i could crush each with a good wallop.

it's just a thought. and don't worry--i'll funnel the co emissions back into the van.

thanks for reading/writing,
james
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duderanchero
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 3:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

a la v, do i even have to take off the exhaust to remove the passenger-side head?
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IdahoDoug
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 8:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, the entire exhaust must come off. Hope you bought the kit for the gaskets that does both sides, cause it makes sense. Your head mating surface and the case mating surface will likely need some cleaning up as to filling pits and sanding PERFECTLY flat.

You might as well get the Bus Depot kit for the exhaust nuts and bolts and gaskets. At a min, you'll need those and perhaps you'll need a part of the exhaust itself as well. That's the sucky part of this job - exhaust.

As to piston rings - at a minimum you'll replace the upper cylinder pressure rings but not have to do piston rings which are a different item and you don't have them in your kit.

DougM
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windnsea
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When you separate the head from the engine case you've got to be sure that you don't pull the cylinder liners out completely or else you will have to compress the rings - a PITA for a newbie.

In the gasket set you will find two different size thin O-rings which go around the cylinder liners. The little guy goes all the way down the liner to seal the liner to the engine case near the crankshaft. If you forget these you will have leaks of water into the crankcase a few minutes after starting up when the water builds pressure from heating up! This, to me, is the most critical obstacle to overcome the first time you pull a head.

Also, setting the valves after the head is put back on.

Good Luck!
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duderanchero
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 4:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i know it makes sense to replace both gaskets, but i already bought the single kit, and i've got to try to do this with the minimum expenditure of money/time.

so, i definitely can't do the passenger side only without removing the whole exhaust? 'cause it looks like i could.

thanks for the advice and luck! i need plenty of each.
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funagon
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When you say "head gasket" do you really mean "water jacket"? The water jacket is the rubber seal you can see between the head and the engine case. The head gasket is a flat metal ring that goes between the top of each cylinder and the head. When you pull the head off the engine, those metal head gasket rings may be stuck in the head.

Your kit probably came with both water jacket and head gaskets, so you should replace them both anyhow.

If you want to go fast and cheap you can pull one head and just replace the head gasket, green gasket at the top of the cylinder, and the water jacket. Chances are the other head will start leaking soon so it's best to do both heads at the same time. What's the diagnosis anyhow? Are you leakng coolant from the water jacket? If a leak isn't too bad you can dump a couple of bottles of subaru coolant conditioner into your pressurized coolant bottle and run the engine. See if that stops the leak.

If you're going to pull the head be sure you don't pull the cylinders off of the pistons as the head comes off. This way you don't have to mess with the piston rings. Sometimes the cylinders get really stuck to the head. You need a big crowbar or prybar with a flat end, to fit under the tab on the cylinder so you can pry it from the head, instead of letting the cylinder come out with the head.

When you reassemble be sure to use the black rtv/victor reinz stuff on BOTH sides of the rubber water jacket. Use the little tube of yellow goo on the underside of the head nuts where they contact the head. As you bring the head back together with the engine keep the pushrods centered in the lifters by manipulating the rocker arms. Follow the torque procedure in the Bently.

Yeah you need to use the whole exhaust.
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xoo00oox
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To answer your question......

Yes it can be done without removing any exhaust, I have done it many times with the engine still in the van.
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duderanchero
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

funagon, thanks for all the relevant information--it was exactly everything i need to know right now.

when i say head gasket, i sometimes mean the water jacket (through which i leak coolant) and sometimes the entire gasket set. but no, i never use the term in its proper sense.

the backstory is that i have had a less and less slight coolant weep from the passenger-side gasket, probably since i purchased the van in late '08. on the 600-mile drive from austin, on a 100-degree day in may, it began running a little hot (not blinking). i let the engine cool as completely as i could (in some scant west texas shade). back here in el paso, i drained out the coolant, and it was down to one ball of propylene glycol by that point. i'd added little amounts of water here and there, and the mixture was probably less than 50% pg when i made it. i refilled the system with 50/50 sierra and distilled, burped the bubbles, and headed towards wally's chinese takeout for a spare tire. the drive is about 3 miles, with only a couple of potential stops. less than a mile from wally's (and shortly before tire shop closing time), the temp gauge began rising more rapidly than i would have liked it to. i foolishly soldiered on, and 2 minutes later, i parked in the lot, turned off the engine, and heard the gurgle and gush from the bay. coolant was geysering in a small but strong stream from the passenger-side gasket. i tore at my clothes and smeared grease all over my pitiful self, ululating obscenities into the desert sky.

i'm fairly certain air bubbles were the issue, and i already knew better than to ignore the warning light. but it has forced me to confront the gasket problem.

bummer on the exhaust--it's a real ruster#@}{. thanks again for breaking down the essentials for me, as i was feeling very lost.
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duderanchero
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dear xo,

how???

thanks,
james
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ftp2leta
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is it hot down there??? It's July for god sake...

It's like 90 up here in Canada with 90$ humidity.

Get a camera, built a web page or use The Samba for posting picture, come on, we are in 2011....

The head gasket job is a stupid one for me, I would be glad to help you with this one. DON'T be scared!!! But get a water pump, ha ha ha.

I will follow this thread bro. Come on!!!! DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You WILL be proud!!!

Ben
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duderanchero
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

yes, it's hotter than a fish fry in hades down here. which is to say, it's cooler than june was.

i agree--pics are nice, especially as my storytelling tends to be circuitous. but i'm not allowed to use the camera where grease is involved. maybe i can talk the photographer into taking a few of the gasket replacement...

i'll do the gasket, but only for you, ben. thanks for the support!

so far, it's not too tough, but i'm doing it the easiest way i can. i'm pretty sure i can get it all apart; it's the back-together that i'm more worried about. when i can get el paso in the rearview, i will feel proud.
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xoo00oox
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 3:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

duderanchero wrote:
dear xo,

how???

thanks,
james


On the right side you only need to remove the intake runner, coolant hoses, rocker assembly, and un-bolt the two exhaust pipes. Then you take off all the head nuts and pry the exhaust pipes over the studs if you have any and the head can be slid off. Its nice if there are bolts instead of exhaust studs, then you don't need to pry. You can shorten the exhaust studs so they do not stick out any further than the nuts to make it easier to pry the pipe past the stud. Also if you are going to be replacing the head, you can take off the exhaust nuts and cut the stud flush to make it easier to slide the head off.
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IdahoDoug
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

XO,

Ah, I was waiting for you to explain that. Above you say without removing "any exhaust". But you actually have to completely disconnect and remove the entire exhaust from the engine - you're just not removing it from the engine bay. I suspect most here would agree that by far the hardest part of dealing with the exhaust is getting it loose from the engine heads. After that, dropping it out of the engine bay is pretty quick, but I can still see a time savings. I've done the same thing on 3 non VW engines - pull exhaust out of the way to pull heads rather than do what the book says and disassemble the exhaust.

DougM
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funagon
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's some pictures and a description I wrote a few years ago:

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2295110&highlight=tab+prybar+piston#2295110
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duderanchero
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xo, i got there, thanks. i pulled the remaining studs out, and wondered myself why there aren't bolts there instead. if i were doing both sides of the engine, i'd probably drop the exhaust, but it seems much simpler to do it this way for the passenger side.

thanks, everyone, for the tips. i'm going to pull the head today, once i pick up a 1/2" socket. i can get the head nuts moving, but they don't keep moving.

i'm going to be as careful as i can not to disturb the cylinders. couldn't i just rotate the pulley around to free a stuck one? i hope i'll understand these things a little better once i have everything open.
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funagon
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 3:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

duderanchero wrote:

i'm going to be as careful as i can not to disturb the cylinders. couldn't i just rotate the pulley around to free a stuck one?


Rotating the pulley will make the pistons move. But the pistons aren't stuck in their cylinders. It's the cylinder that sometimes gets stuck to the head. So if you just yank off the head you might pull the head/stuck cylinder combo off of the piston. That would allow the piston rings to expand and make it harder to get everything back together. So just to clarify: the cylinder will move on the piston, but as long as you don't pull it off the piston far enough to let the piston rings expand, then you're ok. You can just push the cylinder back into place in the engine case.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

IdahoDoug wrote:
XO,

Ah, I was waiting for you to explain that. Above you say without removing "any exhaust". But you actually have to completely disconnect and remove the entire exhaust from the engine - you're just not removing it from the engine bay. I suspect most here would agree that by far the hardest part of dealing with the exhaust is getting it loose from the engine heads. After that, dropping it out of the engine bay is pretty quick, but I can still see a time savings. I've done the same thing on 3 non VW engines - pull exhaust out of the way to pull heads rather than do what the book says and disassemble the exhaust.

DougM


Doug, I did mean no exhaust needs to be removed, engine still in the car, complete exhaust still in the car, only the head removed. The only hard part is getting the exhaust away from the studs and bumping your head on everything.
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duderanchero
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks for the clarification, funagon. i'm hoping for a smooth and easy delivery.
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ftp2leta
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a nice polite thread... nice to see that, pure Samba spirit.

Pull this frigging head out... just make sure the sleeve stays in place (see my vid)

Good luck!
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duderanchero
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2011 3:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wow, the cylinders are really stuck. neither repeated whacking with a mallet (per ben) nor prying (per funagon) can separate them.

they look kind of rusty. i doubt that's good.
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