Association of British Drivers Association of British Drivers

Head Gasket Problems April 2002

My journey down to the European Kit Car show at Detling confirmed for me that I definately had a problem with the car.  Below about 4000rpm the engine was very sluggish and would only develope decent power higher up the rev band.  The day before I had cleaned a small amount of 'mayonaise' from the inside of the oil filler cap, and when I arrived at the show another look confirmed that water was getting into the oil, but only slightly.

My initial thought was to take advantage of this and fit the 2.0 Zetec bottom end I've been promising myself since I first completed the car, however I soon discounted this idea due to lack of funds to make a proper job.  Not being completely broke I decided to fit a new head, including cam and valves as those on the car have most likely completed 82,000 miles, so after a chat with Specialised Engines I decided on a stage 3 head fitted with a Piper T2 cam. That just left me the job of removing the head in 4 evenings.

Now 4 evenings may sound a lot of time, but when you don't arrive home until nearly 7pm and the daylight starts fading from 8pm it's not very long at all.  Add to this that most jobs I do always take longer than expected.

The first job was to drain the water from the cooling system by removing the bottom hose, which sounds easy if you say it quick enough, but could I pursade the bottom hose to come off?  Of course not!  However after removing the drivers side headlamp, fog/driving lamp and air box I was finally able to free a hose that had only been in place for 8 months!

Next the cam belt needs to be removed, with also means the alternator belt, crank shaft pulley and starter motor must be removed.  As the cam belt is off the car it will be replaced, as I don't want to damage my new head.  This was enough to take up my first evening, so the car was pushed back into my garage at this stage.

The second evening had me removing the turbo and exhaust manifold as a single unit and removing all the hoses and wires connected to the head before lossening the head bolts in the correct order.  Disaster struck on the 5th bolt as I heard a snap and the bolt went loose.  As you can see in the picture below the bolt snapped leaving some 3.5-4cm left in the block, but luckily there is enough sticking out that I might be able to weld a nut on and extract it that way.


The head is completely removed and does not look too bad, which hopefully is good news, meaning that the bottom end is in good order.  The pictures below show the head removed from the car and the block still in the car.







When I collected my new head from Specialized Engines I mentioned the snapped head bolt as was told this was quite common and that I shouldn't have too many problems extracting the rest of the bolt. The advise was to clean out the rust from the sunken part of the hole around the edge of the bolt and then spray it with WD40 and let it soak. After a while soaking then tap it in all directions with a chisle, making sure you don't hit it too hard and crack the block!

I went through this process and then welded a nut onto the exposed stud and attached it with an impact driver. After several attempts a welding the nut on I started to think that this method was not going to work so I clamped the stud with some Mole Grips and to my surprise the stud was very loose and came out without any force. The previous methods must have done the hard work already!

 Bottom of my new head   Top of my new head

New head exhaust ports  Close up of exhaust ports

New head inlet ports  Close up of inlet ports

Fitment of the new head didn't pose any new problems and I fitted a new timing belt and vernier pulley to the car so the timing could be accurately adjusted. Before putting the rocker cover back it was essential to lubricate the cam lobes with cam lube as without this you can completely ruin a new cam. I also put fresh engine oil on the head as upon initial startup the oil would take a while to get fully circulated. New cams must be run in properly to bed the surfaces of the ccam and tappets in together. This means that the engine must be run at ~3,000rpm for the first 20 minutes of running the new cam.

With the engine back together and the cam properly run in I was able to use my car again. With the current spec being a stage 3 head, Piper 285T2, K&N panel filter, Magnex exhaust and otherwise standard engine, the car didn't feel particually quick - it fact it felt rather sluggish compared to before the head gasket went.

To extract the most out of my new head and cam I needed to get the car properly set up. I had previously been recommended Rally Tec as a company to do a complete rolling road set up. After speaking to Mike at Rally Tec I was convinced he would be able to properly chip and set up my car, so I left it with him for the last Thursday and Friday in April. The work undertaken was the fitment of a Superchips 165 chip, setting the correct fuel pressure, timing the cam and adjusting the boost to ~13psi. The car was put on the rolling road to set up the fueling and once the correct fuel pressure was achieved throughout the rev range and the cam was properly timed my car was producing 120bhp@wheels at 5950rpm on 8psi of boost. Due to previous bad experiances with race cars Mike no longer sets the boost up on the rolling road preferring to do it on the road, so I don't have a power graph for the final figure.

Before paying for the work Mike wanted me to take him for a quick drive to check that I was happy with the work. His workshop is down country lanes, so I wasn't immediately able to open the car up fully, but I did notice that the power take up appeared smoother and sharper and the previous sluggish feeling had gone. This is another less talked about advantage of chipping you car. Yes, Ford have spent millions on designing the engine management, but since then billions of miles have be covered and a few minor faults found which companies like Superchips are able to correct. When I finally reached the main road and opened up the car I had a huge grin on my face as the car pulled a lot stronger right through the 3,000-6,000 rev range. I was happy!