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novice attempts head gasket replacement

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#21
RadioRon

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Started with a scraper and WD-40.  When that went as far as it could go, I switched to trying Permatex gasket cleaner, a scraper and a rag.  Then i switched to a razor blade backed up by spot cleaning with a scotchbrite pad (the household one with the green scotchbrite backed with a yellow sponge) using a variety of different solvents.  Then I switched to spot cleaning using 600 grit wet/dry paper and WD-40.  The piston tops were done using WD-40 and a tooth brush. 

 

I've been taking it slow, usually a one hour session of cleaning followed up with two to three hours of online reading to see how other people do it.  One fact of life seems to be that when doing this cleaning in-vehicle, there is no ideal method, they all have some degree of risk of contamination.  So, my main theme is to avoid using rotating power tools and stick with doing it all by hand.  I think that the 600 grit wet/dry paper well lubed with WD40  is most effective at getting the final stains out and that is what I'm doing now.

 

After taking a break and posting those photos, I'm not entirely satisfied and will give it another hour of work before calling it done.


GTL NA 1.6 Miata #181

 


#22
RadioRon

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OK, I'm done.  I can't get any more of this staining off without resorting to some pretty harsh abrasives or machinery.  It doesn't quite pass my fingernail test as my nail still catches slightly at the red arrow on the photo.   Gonna break for the day and put the head back on tomorrow morning.

 

0BQeW59.jpg


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#23
dstevens

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You can also use a block of wood as a sander.  I use Scotch Brite maroon hand pads (#7447) and a stronger solvent in similar situations.  A 600 grit is probably not aggressive enough but better to err on the safe side.  For this kind of work WD40 is pretty tame, it's more of a lube than a caustic solvent.  Other than Seafoam I've used MEK or acetone.  

 

With a quality head gasket and most all of that gone you should be OK.  Sometimes unless you hot tank the block and/or have it decked you may not be able to get the ghost of gaskets past completely off.  You are going to have a bit of tolerance in your gasket crush so it's likely you're good to go.



#24
RadioRon

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As you suggested, I tried a Maroon scotch brite with acetone and it didn't budge the black material at all.


GTL NA 1.6 Miata #181

 


#25
Steve Scheifler

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Wow, way overkill from my experience over the years. Anything I can’t get with a straight edge razor blade laid nearly flat, then brake clean on a rag, doesn’t matter. No need for it to look like you just had it decked, just get old gasket and glue off followed by a bit of solvent for what’s left and any oil. On an assembled block I wouldn't use anything like scotch brite that sheds grit that can end up between piston and bore or other places, but maybe that’s just me being too cautious in my own way. But again, I’ve never felt the need for those anyway, it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to do a good job, less at the track between sessions!

I’ve never had an egine I assembled lose a head gasket unless it got hot enough to warp the head significantly, so I’m pretty confident that my methods are sound.
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#26
RadioRon

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Steve, my wife agrees with you, but that's because she knows that I overkill/overthink everything.   All of the videos and discussions I've found online teach to achieve bright polished metal, or a 100% pass on the fingernail/smoothness test.  Since I've never done a head gasket before, that's all the data I had.  Nice to hear that reality is a bit more relaxed.  I have tried to be very cautious with the scotchbrite and the wet/dry paper, including sometimes having the oil ports taped, very frequent vacuuming of cylinders and oil ports, cleaning out oil ports, always having WD40 wetting the paper and surface to help catch particles, making them easier to collect and wipe off, keeping rags in the cylinders most of the time and frequent wipings of all surfaces with clean rags.  I've been at the cleaning on and off for about four days, and doubt that I'll ever be down to 15 minutes, and I can't imagine doing this at the track.

Thanks for the comments.


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#27
chris haldeman

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Mls gasket in the 1.8 cars are far more sensitive to surface finish. For the composite 1.6 gasket I totally agree with Steve. Close is good enough. I once swapped a headgasket during an endurance race. It was a 22 min lap. I used the 3 uggas of the impact as the trq spec lol
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#28
dstevens

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As you suggested, I tried a Maroon scotch brite with acetone and it didn't budge the black material at all.

It's cooked into the metal.  You'll be good with what you have now.  Make sure you get the gasket on the right orientation and follow the tightening sequence and torque specs in either the FSM or Grainger book and it will be golden.  You're asking the right questions, taking your time and are willing to learn.



#29
RadioRon

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Do you recall that I mentioned I also had an oil leak at the front of the head?  Here are two photos of the front cam seals as found.  They don't look correctly installed to me.

 

nahRM8B.jpg

 

dnPbfmr.jpg


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#30
dstevens

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Your Bitbucket pics aren't showing on the thread.



#31
RadioRon

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Your Bitbucket pics aren't showing on the thread.

Thanks, fixed.


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#32
RadioRon

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Minor update:  I got held up because the O-ring that's supposed to go between the thermostat body and the head (Mazda PN B61P15106A, a 36mm x 2mm O ring) was toast and I couldn't find a replacement at any dealers in my area.  Also couldn't find one close enough at local parts suppliers.  Finally got one from a SM racer friend.  Next, I also ran into trouble when I checked my small torque wrench and found it way way out of wack.  So it took some time this afternoon to learn how to calibrate it, but finally just got that done.  Only 3 1/2 days left before race day!


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#33
RadioRon

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Another minor hang-up.  The sensor for my aftermarket water temperature gauge did not screw cleanly into the back of the head in place of the stock sensor.  I learned that the stock thread is a 1/8" BSP(tapered) or BSPT while my sensor has an 1/8" NPT thread.  After doing some reading, it seems that the quickest fix is to simply drive the new sensor in with modest torque just far enough to hold itself in there safely, and use some thread locker to keep it there and seal the threads (Locktite blue).  This problem cost me yet another hour or so.


GTL NA 1.6 Miata #181

 


#34
Steve Scheifler

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I’ve lost track, this is not an SM build? Because if it is you can’t substitute that sensor. BTW, the oil pressure sender is also BSP in case you plan to replace that, but there are adapters available (no room for one in back of course).

I personally would not force it in, better to locate elsewhere though that too isn’t ideal.
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#35
RadioRon

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Hi Steve

No, its not an SM build.  This car was formerly SM, then three owners ago it was converted for endurance racing in Portland which made it illegal in SM.  Since then it has been a beginner's car entered in whatever class it could fit in and currently is campaigned in GTL at the local track.  It isn't all that different than SM, but notably there is some cage mods, a duplicate fuel storage setup and some other things that keep it from being SM legal.  I bought it with a race motor that was not SM legal, but it blew up earlier this year and the motor in there now is pretty much stock except for some shaving of the head. 

The oil pressure sender was not touched during this repair so I don't know what thread it is because it was installed by a mechanic who swapped the engine for me.

 

I feel part of the SM community because the car is "almost SM" and my pals at the track are all the SM guys.  I race in GTL because at our local track GTL is put in the same run group as the SM cars, and so I get to race against them which is fun.  I'm not very competitive yet so its all kind of academic for now as my skills improve.


GTL NA 1.6 Miata #181

 


#36
dstevens

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I wouldn't force the water sender either but it will work if you are in a pinch.  There is a chance of damaging the threads on the block, or at least needing to chase them clean when you get the right part.  The block is harder than the sender.  More than likely you'll distort the threads on the sender.  As long as you don't go too hard on tightening it the block should be OK.  In addition to the thread locker you should run a bead of red RTV around the base where the sender enters the block.  That should help with leaks.

 

Something some of my customers have done is get a personal mailbox just across the border at UPS Store, Mailboxes Etc or the like.  I've shipped to them in Blaine, Bellingham (for Vanc/Victoria), Sault Ste. Marie, Buffalo and Plattsburgh. (not an auto or racing business...)  I've also had European/Brit and South American clients do this in FL or NYC.  You can link a Paypal to that address and items will ship to you as if you are in the US.  You'll need to drive down to Blaine and get them.  That makes it easier (and faster if you need it in a hurry) to buy from the likes of Pegasus (those BPT to NPT adaptors and plumbing), Miata Meca, Jim Ellis Mazda, Rock Auto, East Street and Speedway to name a few.



#37
RadioRon

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I wouldn't force the water sender either but it will work if you are in a pinch.  There is a chance of damaging the threads on the block, or at least needing to chase them clean when you get the right part.  The block is harder than the sender.  More than likely you'll distort the threads on the sender.  As long as you don't go too hard on tightening it the block should be OK.  In addition to the thread locker you should run a bead of red RTV around the base where the sender enters the block.  That should help with leaks.

 

Something some of my customers have done is get a personal mailbox just across the border at UPS Store, Mailboxes Etc or the like.  I've shipped to them in Blaine, Bellingham (for Vanc/Victoria), Sault Ste. Marie, Buffalo and Plattsburgh. (not an auto or racing business...)  I've also had European/Brit and South American clients do this in FL or NYC.  You can link a Paypal to that address and items will ship to you as if you are in the US.  You'll need to drive down to Blaine and get them.  That makes it easier (and faster if you need it in a hurry) to buy from the likes of Pegasus (those BPT to NPT adaptors and plumbing), Miata Meca, Jim Ellis Mazda, Rock Auto, East Street and Speedway to name a few.

If this were in the winter with lots of time, I would have done something a little less risky, but for now I've installed the sender with a generous amount of threadlocker and torquing about wrist tight with a  quarter inch drive socket handle (about 5 inches long).  So, I'm guessing I put about 4 or 5 lbs of torque on there.  It felt good enough and we'll hope for the best. 

 

I'm an old hand at buying from the US as you describe.  Been doing it for years.  Its also a reason that I signed up with Amazon Prime for the two day shipping.  You might be surprised at how difficult the border makes things for us Canucks when it comes to selection and price.  Then again, you probably have a better feel for the differences because you talk to your Canadian customers. 

 

There are several problems that we overcome by buying online from the US.  Price is one obvious one, but selection is often the biggest, and don't forget the cost of shipping.  Manufacturers and distributors often carry much smaller lines in Canada because it is a smaller market.   This smaller market makes the barriers seem bigger and the opportunities less attractive.  Barriers includes things like regulatory approvals (CSA/UL, FCC, chemicals etc.), language and labeling requirements, the paperwork necessary for importation.  It all costs money, so the payback has to be good enough and often it just isn't. 

 

A good example is televisions.  If you look in Consumer Reports at their recent television reviews, they rate 110 different models.  The issue that I get has an attachment called the Canada Extra where they provide pricing and availability data for Canada, and in that section they had only 60 models from the list of 110.  And this is a common consumer item.  I'm interested in buying an LG OLED65B7P television.  The "on sale" price in my town is $3999.  In the USA, Abe's of Maine is selling for $2149 with free shipping! 

 

When we look at technical stuff like tools, car parts, plumbing and heating parts and so on, it gets much worse.  For example, this last weekend I found a broken part in my furnace and went to look for a replacement.  I could buy it online from a US distributor using their web store, and have it delivered in three days (and pay $8 shipping to my US post box in Blaine).  Total time for me to buy is about 5 minutes and total driving is about 30 minutes (I live a mile from the border crossing).  Or I could buy it from a local distributor.  Canadian distributors operate like it was 1965.  They don't have web stores, they don't stock a lot and they often don't have good information.  I chose to buy locally for my furnace part and it took two days for the distributor to figure out how to get the part from the manufacturer (yes, they are an authorized distributor of that manufacturer), and how much to charge me.  Then I have to drive over to them to give them money, and either drive to the manufacturer's plant about an hour away to pick up the part or pay $25 for cross town shipping.  Oh, and don't forget they will charge me 12% tax on the part and the shipping.  When I buy parts in the US, I pay much less shipping, and I pay no taxes.  Why no taxes?  I don't smuggle anything.  When a Canadian brings stuff back across from the US, the border agent asks what we have to declare.   If the items I'm bringing in don't cost more than $200, they say "have a nice day" and wave me through.  If my wife is in the car, the $200 becomes $400.  That covers a lot of parts, so that is 12% that I don't have to pay. 

 

Yeah, I'm a big fan of buying US.  A couple of months ago I needed a part for my Miata.  The local dealer said he could bring it in in about five days, and it would cost me $89.  I looked it up on Rock Auto and I got eight different choices of aftermarket or OEM ranging from $19 to $32.  Shipping was $7 and no sales tax to be paid.  Even the drive to the dealer would cost me more gas than the drive to Blaine WA to pick up my part.  I might even receive the US part in three days rather than five. 

 

This sort of thing is well known to most car enthusiasts here in the Vancouver area and many do as I do.  I pity the poor folks in other Canadian cities who are a long ways from a US border crossing, like in Toronto. 

 

Then there is, what I call, the Canadian disease in retail stores.  If I go into a US retail store it is all "yes sir, no sir, can I help you sir?" and the clerk knows what he/she is doing.  In a similar Canadian store they just don't have to compete all that much, so there is no "yes sir, right away sir" mentality.  If you go into the store assuming it is all self-serve, then its not so bad.  There are exceptions.  Costco is a shining light.  The prices locally only differ from those in the US by the dollar exchange rate. That's fair.  And the lineups at checkout are just as long as in the US stores.

 

I could go on, but I just realized that I'm ranting. 

 

Ron


GTL NA 1.6 Miata #181

 


#38
RadioRon

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Today I installed the coolant connections on the rear of the head, the sensor, the heater bypass hose, the cursed water plug, and the exhaust header.   Also included a trip to the parts store for a gasket and to borrow a crank tool from a friend.   This evening I put on the timing belt.  They say it is tricky.  Yes indeed, it took three tries till I got it right.  Also torqued down the crank bolt.  Tomorrow the goal is to finish it, including intake manifold, CAS, valve cover, pulleys and alternator belt, electrical connections, radiator, coolant and vacuum hoses, oil and coolant flushes, setting timing etc.  Its going to be a long day I think.


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#39
callumhay

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Hey Ron, glad to hear you are progressing getting it back together. A tip you might find helpful is to not fully torque the cam sensor housing bolts on the rear as well as the single nut that is used for adjustment. This will help you with rotating the housing when you do the timing. It's such a small space back there it can be difficult to rotate the whole assembly. Also as you probably know the cam sensor only goes one way in the camshaft. The cutouts on the sensor and the camshaft are pretty obvious which goes where. Some people leave the lower nut on the coil pack off because it is so hard to get to. I'm not sure if that increases risk of damage due to vibration but I have left it off before.
Cal

#40
RadioRon

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Hey Ron, glad to hear you are progressing getting it back together. A tip you might find helpful is to not fully torque the cam sensor housing bolts on the rear as well as the single nut that is used for adjustment. This will help you with rotating the housing when you do the timing. It's such a small space back there it can be difficult to rotate the whole assembly. Also as you probably know the cam sensor only goes one way in the camshaft. The cutouts on the sensor and the camshaft are pretty obvious which goes where. Some people leave the lower nut on the coil pack off because it is so hard to get to. I'm not sure if that increases risk of damage due to vibration but I have left it off before.
Cal

Great tips!  Thanks


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