91 3.8 n/a - Started the Head Gasket Teardown - Couple of Issues - TCCoA Forums
 
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-09-2015, 01:30 PM Thread Starter
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91 3.8 n/a - Started the Head Gasket Teardown - Couple of Issues

I started a thread in the newbie forum, basically I got a free 91 n/a 3.8 t-bird with 77k on it, it's in good condition but needs headgaskets (kept trying to overheat the last time it was driven about a month ago). The oil is clean, coolant is clean, and the engine is still free, everything looks good so far. Going to take the heads off and either replace them or have them rebuilt.

I pulled the plugs and it appears the passenger side headgasket went, already have the airbox off, spark plug wires out, serpentine belt off, the coolant drained, and the upper intake off.

I'm currently at the lower intake manifold, haven't touched anything on it yet. Here's where I'm concerned a bit though:

-Exhaust Passenger Side- I've been soaking the exhaust manifold bolts and y-pipe with PB Blaster for the past few days but I don't see an easy way to get the passenger side exhaust manifold from the y-pipe. It's rusted on there pretty good and I can't tell where the bolt heads are on the downpipe, it's that bad. What should I be prepared to do or can I drill it out from the top? The manual doesn't really explain enough about removing the manifolds from the downpipe.

-Exhaust Driver's Side - I couldn't tell if I need to disconnect something for the driver's side exhaust manifold from the downpipe? Can I simply disconnect the manifold from the driver's side head and be ok?

-Jacking the car up - I have no idea where I can jack this car up and safely to put jackstands under it, I'm used to working on Jeeps so it's been awhile with jacking up cars. Owner's manual says to use the rocker panels but I think that might be a death sentence on a 24 year old PA car lol. I have to do it to drain the oil and I'm not sure if I need to do it to remove the exhaust. The car is parked on the street (rarely any traffic though) and the driver's side is against the curb, leaving really on the passenger side for access or directly in front of the vehicle. I can't really move the car at the moment as this is the only place I can store it for now.

-AC - Can I unbolt the compressor and move it and the AC lines out of the way without damaging the lines or having to evacuate the AC system? I read on another thread that you can move it out of the way but I don't know if it was after the system was evacuated or not? If there is no way other than to disconnect the system, how can this be done without taking it to a shop?

-Fuel lines - I noticed some of the rubber on the fuel lines is pretty old, is this something easy to replace or is it better suited for being on a lift to do it? I'm buying the fuel line disconnect tool and I have to relieve the fuel system pressure still as well.

-Cylinder Heads - I'm leaning towards junking the heads and buying new ones, there was water in a cylinder before, I think the valve seals are shot, and I don't know the full service history of the car. Where do I find the identification numbers for the cylinder heads?

Thanks for your help and your time.
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-09-2015, 02:54 PM
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Howdy neighbor. I'm just down the road in Blue Bell. I can't really help you with most of your questions but what I can tell you is that jacking the car up is pretty easy. Obviously start with the front end since it sounds like you can't do side to side. You can lift from the K-member. I usually jack stand the frame rails in the front, just be careful of the fuel filter and lines on the passenger side. From the rear you could lift from the pumpkin but I would put something between the lift like a piece of 2x. By the rear suspension components you will see a circular piece that i use to put my stands under. Best of luck with your repairs.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-09-2015, 03:17 PM
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If the studs are that rusted, I would just break or cut them loose, then while the manifolds are out of the car, it will be much easier to replace the studs and get new nuts, or just replace the manifolds. I'll have to double check my garage, but I think I have a pair of 96/97 3.8 tbird exhaust manifolds that you could have for just the cost of shipping.

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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-10-2015, 12:45 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the help so far, it looks like it won't be too bad jacking it up and it was definitely easier to see the jacking points with the accessories removed.

MadMikeyL -PM sent, I'm interested in the exhaust manifolds as they might be good spares just in case.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-13-2015, 03:08 PM Thread Starter
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Well I'm totally stuck, I have a bolt stuck in the passenger side head. Is there any way to get this out without using shop tools (it's parked on the street)?

2nd bolt in head, tried drilling with a 1/4 inch bit, didn't work, craftsman bolt extractors did not work either.


Car in question I'm trying to save from the scrapyard at this point (cost to repair labor only as of now with the bolt stuck in the head and put it back together was $900)

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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-13-2015, 07:24 PM
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I had a similar problem on the passenger side lower head bolt. The bolt head was rounded. I had to have a buddy come over with a welder and weld a socket onto the bolt head in order to get it out. If you know someone with welding equipment you could give that a try.

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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-14-2015, 09:05 AM
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Did you use a 6Pt or 12pt socket? 6pt sockets would be less likely to round off the heads which for some uses is pretty valuable.


Did you hit it with PB Blaster? Other folks recommend a mix of ATF+acetone (50/50) as a penetrating fluid to try.

you might also try the blowtorch method but you want to be very careful b/c of the aluminum head.

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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-14-2015, 11:06 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by S4gunn View Post
Did you use a 6Pt or 12pt socket? 6pt sockets would be less likely to round off the heads which for some uses is pretty valuable.


Did you hit it with PB Blaster? Other folks recommend a mix of ATF+acetone (50/50) as a penetrating fluid to try.

you might also try the blowtorch method but you want to be very careful b/c of the aluminum head.

-g
I made the mistake of using a Stanley 12 point socket, it rounded off the head. The craftsman "bolt outs" made it worse, they worked on two short bolts fine though. I only drilled slightly into it but the 1/4 inch drill bit must not have been strong enough as it broke pretty quickly. Gave up quickly after that, I was a bit frustrated and did not want to risk making it any worse.

I did only use a sparing amount of PB Blaster, I'll have to try it again with some more, maybe letting it sit in longer will help. Destroying the head isn't a problem to get the bolt out, I have a pair of professionally rebuilt heads that I was able to get for cheap. I did get a set of the bolt extractors from Pepboys, haven't tried them yet. I don't have any friends with welders though, I'm the only one who knows how to work on older cars for the most part.

I heard conflicting information about using heat, some people I talked to said the bolt will expand in the head making it worse. Others say it's the only option to get it out and it'll work fine. I'm a bit concerned as the amount of oil, pb blaster and spilled gasoline probably still near it might be a fire-hazard. I heard use wet carboard around the area but it's still risky I think.

Also, for the driver's side head, can I simply un-bolt the manifold from the head, push the manifold back slightly, and take it off or do I have to un-bolt the manifold completely from the downpipe? I wasn't able to get to the downpipe bolts on the driver's side even with it jacked up as the driver's side is parked against the curb on the street, which doesn't give enough clearance to get to the bolts (I jacked up the front by the K-member to get to the passenger side). I'll keep trying to get to those bolts if there is no other way.

Last edited by 06jeep; 03-14-2015 at 11:16 AM.
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 12:25 PM
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At this point I would cut the head off the bolt and pull the cylinder head off of it. Then you can use vise grips on the shank and get it out. It will probably trash the head, but you have new heads. As for the drivers exhaust manifold, I suppose you could unbolt it from the head and pull the head off if you can get to everything and the manifold isn't in the way. Maybe you can unbolt the manifold from the head and drop the front half of the exhaust system from the car. Make sure to vacuum all of the shavings up. Those lower holes in the heads dump the oil back to the pan.

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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-17-2015, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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I got the bolt head off and got the head off. I cleaned up the shavings but some dust did get down in the pistons, tried to get as much as I could out but some is still stuck in there. Not sure what I can do about that.

It's just the passenger side cylinder head that blew on cylinder 3, which after taking off the head you could hardly tell until you looked close on the headgasket. I tried to loosen the driver's side short head bolt (#8 as that would be the first to loosen in reverse-sequence) and of course, that stripped almost instantly. It didn't strip as bad as the passenger head bolt but it's going to be a bear to get out. I have the right tools (6pt socket, a long breaker bar, etc), used PB Blaster, and took my time but still no luck.

This brings to the question, do I really need to replace both gaskets? I know it's not the right thing to do but the more I get into it, I feel like I'll be lucky if this car ever runs again. I know the driver's side is ok and I'm not sure if it's worth the hassle trying to take off that head too. For all I know, the instant I start it, it can throw a rod anyway, and with the luck I'm having with it, I don't have much faith in it at all.
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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-17-2015, 03:59 PM
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You don't HAVE to, but if you put it all back together, and the other side blows next month, you are going to be very pissed off that you didn't do both.

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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-17-2015, 05:06 PM Thread Starter
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You don't HAVE to, but if you put it all back together, and the other side blows next month, you are going to be very pissed off that you didn't do both.
You were right! The driver's side head was completely blown, possibly cracked (gasket looked ok but the cylinders were full of coolant). Good call, I was just frustrated with working on this vehicle, then again the last 3.8 I worked on, I had help and a garage, probably more patience as it wasn't my car, and of course better tools. I'm good now that both heads are off so I can start getting this back together.

Here's what I found after taking off the driver's side head:


Couple of things, the egr tube cracked when taking off the passenger manifold, can this be soldered? Metal looks to thin to weld.

Also, quick tip to anyone replacing the headgaskets, jack up the car and put the front-end on jack stands when removing the headbolts. The leverage I got from doing this made it 1000x easier to get the headbolts out, probably more so because I'm tall.

Last edited by 06jeep; 03-18-2015 at 12:22 PM.
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-26-2015, 09:32 PM Thread Starter
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Well, it's back together, I can see why a garage and air tools are a wonderful thing. It was quite the PITA to do but it's nice seeing it back in one piece under the hood.

Couple of problems still, the timing is off considerably, as expected since the heads are not the originals and the engine was cranked over by hand. It runs but runs rough, no major noises though so thats good.

The accelerator cable broke as well, it looks intact and is hooked up correctly but press the gas and nothing happens. I did notice the sheathing cracked in a few places.

I'm taking it to a local shop to finish it up and look it over, hopefully it'll be on the road by next week.

Last edited by 06jeep; 03-26-2015 at 09:39 PM.
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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-27-2015, 03:54 PM
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Well, it's back together, I can see why a garage and air tools are a wonderful thing. It was quite the PITA to do but it's nice seeing it back in one piece under the hood.

Couple of problems still, the timing is off considerably, as expected since the heads are not the originals and the engine was cranked over by hand. It runs but runs rough, no major noises though so thats good.

The accelerator cable broke as well, it looks intact and is hooked up correctly but press the gas and nothing happens. I did notice the sheathing cracked in a few places.

I'm taking it to a local shop to finish it up and look it over, hopefully it'll be on the road by next week.
Awesome man. Good luck getting it buttoned up. Glad to hear its staying on the road.

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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 03-31-2015, 03:44 PM Thread Starter
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Awesome man. Good luck getting it buttoned up. Glad to hear its staying on the road.
Yep, I got it back today. It runs pretty good, only thing I noticed is it idles a bit bumpy when it's warmed up but hopefully that smooths out over time.

It has a bit of electrical oddness as well. For some reason the gas gauge reads too high then goes to where it should be, the turn signals don't always work II think maybe the MFS needs to be cleaned?), and I think the rear lights aren't working right (only the corner tails work but the middle panels on the trunk lid do not light up).

Then I have a lot of interior/exterior restoration to do, on a budget lol. Still need to buy some tires too.

Overall though, I like it, I'm not sure why the performance is frowned upon, for a 24 year old car with a small v6, it has pretty good pick up. It rides nice and smooth, seats are still comfortable and it handles good too even with bad tires. Look forward to cleaning it up for a decent commutter car.
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post #16 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-01-2015, 06:34 PM Thread Starter
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Got it to idle normal, the #1 plug wire was loose and it was only firing on 5 cylinders sometimes. Runs smooth and has good power now. The turn signal switch works fine now, my guess is from sitting it was just gummed up a bit. I'll tackle the headlight switch later, works ok now.

Found out the tires are done, they are dry-rotted. Hopefully I can find a deal on tires, they have to be cheaper than truck tires that I'm used to buying.

I'm working on cleaning up the exterior now, I plasti-dipped the stock wheels, blacked out the door/bumper moldings, and re-painted the mirrors. It's starting to look better now which is good and the next course of action is to claybar the paint and clean the headlights. Eventually I might paint it and fix the dents but for now I'm trying to keep costs low.

Here's a pic after some work today, the car itself is dirty/greasy at the moment (note: that is a reflection on the hood):

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post #17 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-02-2015, 04:29 PM
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Got it to idle normal, the #1 plug wire was loose and it was only firing on 5 cylinders sometimes. Runs smooth and has good power now. The turn signal switch works fine now, my guess is from sitting it was just gummed up a bit. I'll tackle the headlight switch later, works ok now.

Found out the tires are done, they are dry-rotted. Hopefully I can find a deal on tires, they have to be cheaper than truck tires that I'm used to buying.

I'm working on cleaning up the exterior now, I plasti-dipped the stock wheels, blacked out the door/bumper moldings, and re-painted the mirrors. It's starting to look better now which is good and the next course of action is to claybar the paint and clean the headlights. Eventually I might paint it and fix the dents but for now I'm trying to keep costs low.

Here's a pic after some work today, the car itself is dirty/greasy at the moment (note: that is a reflection on the hood):
Hey man looks great. I have those same wheels on my car and I got Yokohama 215/70R15s for $67/ea. Though I do wish sometimes I'd gotten a softer tread compound.

http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tires....omCompare1=yes

Those are decent and only $71/ea.

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post #18 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-10-2015, 09:52 PM Thread Starter
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Hey man looks great. I have those same wheels on my car and I got Yokohama 215/70R15s for $67/ea. Though I do wish sometimes I'd gotten a softer tread compound.

http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tires....omCompare1=yes

Those are decent and only $71/ea.
Thanks! I ended up getting Firestone Precision Touring tires for around $85/each, they are pretty nice. Glad I did as the two rear tires were completely dry-rotted and the alignment in the front was so bad that the wheels were both point outwards opposite to eachother.

Had a scare though the other day, the tv cable came loose on the throttle body, luckily I only drove a mile before realizing something is wrong. It seems to shift fine now though but I think it needs to be adjusted properly, seems like the TV pressure is set too high.
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post #19 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-10-2015, 11:35 PM
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Thanks! I ended up getting Firestone Precision Touring tires for around $85/each, they are pretty nice. Glad I did as the two rear tires were completely dry-rotted and the alignment in the front was so bad that the wheels were both point outwards opposite to eachother.

Had a scare though the other day, the tv cable came loose on the throttle body, luckily I only drove a mile before realizing something is wrong. It seems to shift fine now though but I think it needs to be adjusted properly, seems like the TV pressure is set too high.
I had that happen one time. Its scary because at least on my car the TV cable helps push the throttle plate closed. My car didn't wanna stop.

Even now with my 5 speed swap I still have the useless TV cable attached.

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post #20 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-22-2015, 11:23 AM
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Lightbulb Cylinder Head R&R - what I learned

Manifold to downpipe bolts - soak heat riser to egr with blaster and remove before getting to pass side manifold bolts, then pull O2 sensors both sides. Alternate between 15mm socket sometimes with u-joint and various length extensions then 15mm open end to get bolts off.

Use 6 point 1/2" drive socket on head bolts with 1/2" extension and long 18-24" breaker bar, be prepared for a strong pull to loosen head bolts.

After machine work and before installing heads chase head bolt holes with a tap, I had to special order an 11mm tap - take a head bolt to the supply house to match up the tap. Weird diameter bolts, not 10mm nor 12mm. Blow out the holes thoroughly and install the head bolts DRY - I got this tip from an old timer.

Use this procedure http://www.autozone.com/repairinfo/r...00c1528006b68b
for tightening the bolts, pay extra attention to paragraphs 21 & 22. Ignore the sentence about oiling the bolts.

I always chase all bolt holes with an appropriate tap, and all bolts with an appropriate die, everywhere on the engine block and heads. Intake manifold and valve covers will torque properly when chased. This engine is all metric and a set of metric taps and dies at Harbor Freight is about $15. A little blue loctite on the valve cover bolts will keep the seals from leaking. Chasing manifold bolts holes on the head and the bolts with a die will make getting the bolts on easier as well. Blow out the holes and keep chips from falling into the cylinders; wipe down the bolts too.

A new fan clutch and a new or rebuilt radiator will save you from having to do this again, as I learned the hard way.

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