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Northstar Engines and System Technical Discussion Discussion, 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today... in Cadillac Engine Technical Discussion; I agree with Richard. I suspect some residual coolant leaked into those cylinders when the head was loosened for removal. ...
  1. #61
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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    I agree with Richard. I suspect some residual coolant leaked into those cylinders when the head was loosened for removal. That is a LOT of coolant to try and crank the engine with and I would guess enough to hydrolock it.

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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    Ranger, To break loose the harmonic balancer bolt, I tried to do what you suggested... filling a cylinder with oil and replacing the plug to hydrolock it. However, the engine still turned and pushed the oil out the exhaust... Is that a trick you have used with success? Did I do something wrong?

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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    You did it wrong. You had that cylinder on the exhaust stroke (exhaust valves open). You needed to be on the compression stroke (all valves closed). Then it would have worked like a charm.

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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    After writing my last post I started thinking about that and you confirmed it. Guess I'm showing the world that I am not a mechanic.

    ----------

    Still don't see how that water got into the cylinders without me noticing it. When I pulled the heads off the water was in there, sitting still, and in only one cylinder on the left side. Wouldn't the cylinders be able to push the water back into the water jackets through the leaky head gasket while cranking, preventing hydrolock?

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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    You will be after this job.

    How long did the engine sit before you opened it up? Maybe what you are seeing is the result of very slow seepage as opposed to overnight.
    poobah318 and poobah318 like this.

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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    I could believe that... In fact that's what I figured. It was last run about 2 weeks before I actually opened it. I agree, I don't see how it would crank at all if it was that full of water every morning. What was interesting is that it would start without much trouble if it was on level ground, but if it was parked on an incline it was much, much worse, not starting at all until given a boost. Could the coolant have been seeping worse when parked on an incline? If so, maybe that back bank filled up when I raised the car to disconnect the exhaust.

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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    I would not think being parked on an incline would make any difference as the heads (and HG's) are above the cylinder even on level ground so seepage would be the same.

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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    Apropos of nothing... I highly recommend you listen to smooth Jazz while removing the water crossover. And hats off to everyone who has done that job with the engine in the car!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger View Post
    I would not think being parked on an incline would make any difference as the heads (and HG's) are above the cylinder even on level ground so seepage would be the same.
    Then I don't know. I guess it doesn't matter. I do remember reading a couple other HG threads that included a picture of a lot of water in the cylinders like that, so whatever it is, it seems to be common.

    If you disassemble an engine without a blown head gasket would it normally fill with water like that?

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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    If you disassemble an engine without a blown head gasket would it normally fill with water like that?
    Last time I did one (long time ago) I recall coolant in the cylinder after I pulled the heads. Probably residual coolant left in the heads, but I don't think it was that much. Plus I pulled the head right after draining the coolant. With the hole you had in the gasket I'd bet it leaking into the cylinder during the 2 week sit time.

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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    Sounds right. I've yet to do a HG on a N* but I do vaguely recall sponging antifreeze out of the cylinders on the cars I did. Sometimes no matter how well you drain the car (or maybe if you drain it on an incline might make it worse) AF can pool up in some spots. Actually if I remember correctly it was a Ford Probe that did it to me. Can't recall the 54 though I think it did (had to do the HG 2 times- turned out the head was warped 1st time was on the side of the road- 200 miles from home). Man that 54 had a lot of AF in the oil- probably like a gallon or 2. Pretty sure it was in the cylinders as well. Thankfully it had a floating oil pick up or else it would have been toast. Come to think of it if you don't find much AF in the oil pan odds are it happened when you pulled the head somehow. I suppose it would be good news if there is none in the pan. Also I'd recommend checking the head with a flat edge- I hear its rare for them to warp on a N* but why not now that you got it off and wondering why the HG went bad with presumably sound threads.

    Also FYI someone mentioned that you can file a crack to stop it from spreading. Yes machinists usually drill a round hole at the end of the cracks to keep it from spreading but if the spot is that serious on an N* block I doubt it will prevent it. Not saying to drill a hole just not so sure that if the block is thick enough to stop an existing crack that way. On the 60s/ 70s BB Buicks the guys recommend cleaning up all the poor casting spots in the intake valley with a dremel so they don't fall off and do something nasty. Suppose it can't hurt the N* so long as you don't file it too much and make sure to clean it all up- Really make sure. Metal particles, even hair, etc really shouldn't be where they can contaminate the oil and get in the bearing area/ cylinders. I wouldn't really recommend a large dremel/ die grinder as its easy to take off a lot without noticing (that and it wings it every where) maybe a hand file or something or cover everything up and use a real small dremel with a diamond bit (harbor freight has them cheap) and use it vertical. Cover everything though and clean, clean clean. Also use lint free cloths for the final cleaning. Personally I find brake cleaner is handy to clean up with if used right- watch out its nasty stuff (especially for your eyes). Don't get it on any bearings and maybe wipe the cylinders, cams, etc with a light film of oil before reassembling- doesn't hurt.

    If you really want to make sure the block isn't cracked send it out to be pressure tested (though I'm not sure if that would be recommended with the N* being a split case). I know all the engines we've ever gone through the heads and blocks are sent out. If there is a crack no matter how small it is they will find it. You can have engines and blocks pressure tested outside the car- no doubts about that. Just make sure the N* half seal won't blow out when doing it. I'm not sure if there are any coolant passages through there or not. Not sure if you'd want to send it with the crank assembly or not as some engine shops could care less about getting crude where it shouldn't be.

    That whatever you do keep Scotch Brite a million miles away from an engine- its really nasty stuff. Not saying you'll do it or not but a lot of people have used it that weren't aware and it will kill your engine. Had an engine shop use it on us- took me half the day to clean the engine though they were paid to do it.

    I'm sure you know but just in case at the risk of sounding stupid I'll say it. Change your oil and filter when you're done. That and get rid of the orange kool aid. Jake says the same. In our cars we always replace it as well. The green works fine in our 2004 Pontiac and we've never flushed it since replacing the intake gasket (common on those).

    ----------

    Then again the intake vallay on an N* shouldn't be so critical since its not like a normal engine on 2nd thought. Just wipe it down good and make sure not to wing it everywhere. Still applies to anything where oil normally travels though. Sorry about that- forgot. It is a cool but quirky design.

  11. #71
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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    Thanks for the response John... Sounds like you are old school by the looks of your cars.

    Quote Originally Posted by John.Westlock View Post
    :...Come to think of it if you don't find much AF in the oil pan odds are it happened when you pulled the head somehow. I suppose it would be good news if there is none in the pan.
    Actually one unique thing about a Northstar is that when a head gasket blows it will not leak antifreeze into the oil. It will burn it out the tailpipe which is the biggest reason a blown head gasket is so difficult to diagnose on a Northstar.

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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger View Post
    Looking at the pictures of those HG's makes me wonder if the problem might not be shitty HG's. That is a damned shame and should not happen.
    The more I look at those HG pics and think about it, I think the problem is that damned open deck design.

  13. #73
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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger View Post
    The more I look at those HG pics and think about it, I think the problem is that damned open deck design.
    It would seem to me that if the head gaskets are inherently weak that the open deck design only makes the problem worse. I doubt there would be that much water encroachment with a closed deck. But other open deck engines, like on Hondas, don't seem to have the notorious head gasket problems which could still point to the head gaskets themselves on Northstars. But I am certainly no expert...

    It does seem to be asking a lot more of a head gasket to seal an open deck... And the head gasket on my engine is deteriorating much worse over the open water jackets. In fact, in one or two pics you can see where part of the gasket material remained in the water jacket... And I simply lifted it off, there was no prying necessary.

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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    All good points. Another conundrum.

  15. #75
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    Re: 98 ETC Head Gasket project started today...

    Here is a picture of the timing chain... Is it just me? Or does the tensioner look pretty far extended? Just wondering if I should replace the chain while I'm in there.


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