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Linkages and Vacuum lines
Exhaust Manifold Bolts
The Valve Train
Attached Items
Head Bolts
The Heads
Gasket Comparison
Shared Gaskets
Gasket Sealants
Belts and Hoses
Engine Coolant
Thermostat Vent Holes
Cooling System Air Bleeds
Select a part to view solution for common problems associated with the item.
Advice: There will be several linkages and vacuum lines that will have to be disconnected or removed during the average cylinder head job. Plastic wiring harness clips and vacuum hose connections can become brittle and easy to break, use caution, some of the biggest headaches in a job are self imposed. Before dismantling, it's a good idea to mark key components and the place that they belong with colored or numbered pieces of masking tape. A Polaroid or digital camera is a good tool to refresh your memory with, take a few shots from different angles and use them to refer to later. Recommendations: Masking Tape
Operation: Exhaust manifold bolts hold the exhaust manifold(s) to the cylinder head. Advice: Exhaust manifold bolt damage in the way of head stripping and/or breakage is a common problem. To help avoid this headache, spray a good penetrating oil generously over all of the exhaust manifold bolts and allow to soak in for ten or fifteen minutes. Repeat this process a couple of times while you work on other areas. Always use a six point socket or six point box end wrench to loosen exhaust system bolts. A twelve point wrench, socket or an open end wrench could easily strip the head of a corroded bolt. Recommendations: Penetrating oil Six point socket set Six point box end wrench set
Operation: The term valve train refers to the group of moving parts responsible for opening and closing the intake and exhaust valves. Advice: Before sending the head to the machine shop, most of the valve train will have to be removed. If you are reusing the valve train components, it is important to reassemble the components in the same location that they were originally installed so that you maintain the existing wear patterns. It helps to place the components in marked bags until it is time for cleaning and reassembly. Leave the valves and valve spring assemblies installed, the machine shop will need them installed to pressure test the heads prior to any work that is to be done.
Operation: Manufacturers often use the exterior surface of the cylinder heads to mount accessories, sensors, brackets and wiring harness tie-downs. Advice: Before removing the head bolts, check the work area carefully and make sure that nothing is still attached to the heads such as a hidden wiring harness or bracket that will hinder your efforts to remove the heads. Fragile items such as sensors should be removed prior to removing the head bolts.
Operation: The head bolts are responsible for maintaining the pressure necessary to seal one of the most important gaskets in the engine. Advice: Head bolts are not always the same length, take notes as to where the longer and shorter bolts were originally installed for later referral. Head bolts are designed to be tightened and loosened slowly and systematically in a specified pattern that maintains equal pressure on the sealing area at all times. Unequal pressure can lead to head damage and broken cylinder head bolts. Some head bolts are designed to be used only once. They are called torque to yield bolts. This style of head bolt is designed to stretch once the proper torque has been reached. This stretching maintains the intense pressure needed to seal the cylinder head to the block. Once removed, the bolt can not stretch properly a second time and should be replaced. Recommendations: Head bolts
Operation: The cylinder heads are responsible for sealing the combustion chamber of each cylinder in the cylinder block. In most cases the cylinder head houses many if not all of the valve train components. Advice: In most cases the work that needs to be done to the cylinder heads should be left to a qualified machine shop. There they can pressure test each head and check for minute imperfections that could later develop into a "side of the road" type experience. The cost of the pressure test and a good valve job is money well spent. Recommendations: Machine shop services
Advice: Before installing the new head gaskets it is very important to compare the new gaskets with the old ones. All engine oil and coolant passages must align correctly with the gasket for proper sealing of the cylinder head to the engine block.
Operation: Some intake and exhaust manifold combinations use a shared or joined gasket. Advice: When the intake and exhaust manifolds are located on the same side of the head, they often share a gasket, or their gaskets are joined together to ease the assembly process. This style of intake/exhaust manifold setup will usually have several bolts that pull down on both manifolds at the same time. These bolts will often have a large flat or convex washer to distribute the load evenly across both manifolds. Ensure that these washers are properly in place and not cocked to one side before tightening the bolts. Always tighten the bolts to specifications in small increments following the correct tightening sequence found in the repair guides.
Operation: Gasket sealant is used to fill in the small imperfections in the gasket material and the sealing surfaces to be joined. Advice: Before deciding on which type gasket sealant that you need, take a good look at the gaskets that you are replacing. Many gaskets now come with a bead of sealant already applied. If the engine you are working on is computer controlled, make sure that any sealant you buy is safe for oxygen sensors. For paper and fibrous gaskets, a thin coat of sealant on both sides of the gasket is sufficient. Unless otherwise noted, there is no need to use gasket sealant on rubber gaskets. Recommendations: Gasket sealant
Advice: Most head gasket jobs require the removal of some belts and hoses. While you have them off is an excellent time to evaluate the condition of the belts and hoses and replace as needed. For more information select the "Job Info" tab under belt or hose lookup. Recommendations: Belts Hoses
Operation: Engine coolant is a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water. Besides protecting against freezing, antifreeze also has lubricant and anticorrosive additives that help to prolong the life of the cooling system components. Advice: Any muddiness or brown coloration is an indication of dirt or rust in the system. As antifreeze ages the lubricants and anticorrosive properties wear out, leaving the system susceptible to corrosion. Modern antifreezes have varying life span expectancies. If you are unsure how long your antifreeze is good for, a general rule of thumb is to flush the system and refill with fresh coolant every two years. Some manufacturers recommend a specific type of antifreeze, such as GM's Dex-cool. Check the repair guides for the vehicle that you are working on. Recommendations: Repair guides Antifreeze
Advice: Some engine designs require that the thermostat be installed with the vent or bypass hole in a certain position. Failure to position the thermostat properly can cause engine overheating. Check the repair guides for the vehicle you are working on. Recommendations: Repair guides
Operation: Air pockets trapped in the cooling system can cause the engine to overheat. Some cooling systems have air bleed valves built into the system to aid in the removal of air pockets. Advice: For many cooling systems, the method of removing air pockets is to start the engine and allow it to run with the radiator cap off or loose until all the air escapes from the neck of the radiator. For some systems this method is not sufficient, and the manufacturer has installed air bleed valves usually near or on the thermostat housing. Consult the repair guides for the vehicle you are working on. Recommendations: Repair guides
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