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Old 04-05-2010, 07:40 AM
 
Location: Pacific Beach in San Diego, California
267 posts, read 1,141,046 times
Reputation: 128

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I have an '87 Mustang that what a mechanic once told me has a small leak in the head gasket area. He told me that on a scale of 1 to 10 it was a 1 (a minor issue) and that I could continue to drive it without incurring any damage. He basically said 'At this point I wouldn't worry about it. It's a small leak so go ahead and drive the thing.' Yep, a mechanic actually turned me away as we stood standing in front of my car with the hood open while staring at the problem area thereby declining the oppurtunity to make a few bucks for himself.
Later this one person comes along (we'll call him 'Jim') and Jim says and I quote 'A head gasket is a huge deal. That is a motor rebuild!!' Can I trust Jim? Talk about two opinions that differ like night and day.
A motor rebuild? My mechanic never said nothing about a complete engine rebuild.
Now it's time to rate what Jim said. Rank what Jim said on a scale from 1 to 10 with #1 being an over the top moronic statement and #10 being an on-the-money mechanical genius-like statement. I need to find out what's what so no matter what you're opinion is on this subject don't hesitate to chime in. This not so mechanically-adroit person says thanks in advance










Last edited by hotornot; 04-05-2010 at 07:48 AM..
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Old 04-05-2010, 08:43 AM
 
3,743 posts, read 10,926,198 times
Reputation: 2738
The head gasket is the seal that sits between the head (top)and block (bottom) of the engine - it keeps two hard metal surfaces air-tight. Not to oversimplify too much, but if you need to replace it, you basically just have to take off the top and put a new gasket in. You don't need to touch the rest of the engine.

The first mechanic sounds like the honest one - not to say the gasket shouldn't be replaced or there isn't more damage to the engine that would cause a gasket to blow out/go bad in the first place, which may be where the second mechanic is coming from.

First of all, what is leaking? Oil? Coolant? Is there oil in the coolant? Coolant in the oil? If the liquids are mixing, you have an issue. If not, you are better off. Its a 23-year old engine, so is it worth a rebuild? Without asking the two mechanics to explain their reasoning, its hard to say which one is correct.
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Old 04-05-2010, 09:26 AM
 
10,696 posts, read 20,119,835 times
Reputation: 9849
Mechanics tend to oversimplify for the mechanically uninclined. A bad headgasket leaking coolant into the the oil and vice versa will eventually damage the engine beyond repair. It will also contaminate your cooling system. Basically if you don't expect to keep the car very long or it doesn't mean much to you (basically a throw away car) just keep the coolant topped off and change the oil regularly.
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Old 04-05-2010, 10:14 AM
 
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
12,899 posts, read 18,446,350 times
Reputation: 13734
You don't NEED a rebuild, but if the engine is gonna be torn apart to do a new head gasket you might as well go all the way and rebuild the engine too, in my opinion.
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Old 04-05-2010, 10:22 AM
 
Location: Londonderry, NH
41,505 posts, read 49,547,847 times
Reputation: 24548
If the engine is also using oil and the compression has just about disappeared and the rest of the car in in good shape I would replace the engine with a similar 'crate' engine and have the tranny rebuilt.
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Old 04-05-2010, 10:26 AM
 
3,219 posts, read 5,653,021 times
Reputation: 1839
Quote:
Originally Posted by hotornot View Post
I have an '87 Mustang that what a mechanic once told me has a small leak in the head gasket area. He told me that on a scale of 1 to 10 it was a 1 (a minor issue) and that I could continue to drive it without incurring any damage. He basically said 'At this point I wouldn't worry about it. It's a small leak so go ahead and drive the thing.' Yep, a mechanic actually turned me away as we stood standing in front of my car with the hood open while staring at the problem area thereby declining the oppurtunity to make a few bucks for himself.
Later this one person comes along (we'll call him 'Jim') and Jim says and I quote 'A head gasket is a huge deal. That is a motor rebuild!!' Can I trust Jim? Talk about two opinions that differ like night and day.
A motor rebuild? My mechanic never said nothing about a complete engine rebuild.
Now it's time to rate what Jim said. Rank what Jim said on a scale from 1 to 10 with #1 being an over the top moronic statement and #10 being an on-the-money mechanical genius-like statement. I need to find out what's what so no matter what you're opinion is on this subject don't hesitate to chime in. This not so mechanically-adroit person says thanks in advance









Let me guess, it's the 3.8 V6 engine right?
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Old 04-05-2010, 01:03 PM
 
Location: Eastern Washington
13,388 posts, read 42,713,043 times
Reputation: 11465
I'm in the middle of replacing the head gasket on the 82 Scirocco - I'm guessing, OP, that you have an oil or coolant leak to the outside of the engine - this is what your mechanic saw - there *may* be other leaks.

What you have to look out for is getting coolant into the oil, which can wipe out your main bearings, big-end rod bearings, and maybe cam bearings.

Head gaskets do not last as long as the engine *can* last if well cared for.

On a V-6, you have to take the FI, intake, and both heads off to get at the head gaskets.

What you want to do with the heads and other parts while they are off the motor is somewhat up to you. A "valve grind" gasket set will include valve stem seals, me, I would at least give the heads to a good machine shop where I'd get them checked for flatness, and put the new stem seals on anyway. While doing the stem seals I'd ask them to take a hard look at the valves.

There is a school of thought that if the heads come off, the exhaust valves get replaced. These people have usually had a used exhaust valve fail on them in the past. Old school Detroit Iron engines come with pretty cheap exhaust valves, me, I'd replace them with the best damn aftermarket valves I could get if they looked the least bit dodgy.

I am no expert on Ford 4.6 or 3.8 valves. I'll defer to someone who is. I will say that new valves are easy to do while the heads are off. VW valves are made of some stern German stuff, work fine and last a long time, mine look good so I will probably leave them alone.

I have always had good luck with Fel-Pro gaskets. IMHO they are generally better than what Detroit uses.

But what Jim said - no you don't necessarily need to do anything to the "bottom end" ie the block with the crank and pistons, etc. If it needs rebuilding, that's almost a separate issue.

Now if you manage to let the leak fester to the point that you heavily contaminate the oil with coolant and keep driving, yeah, you can end up needing to at a minimum not only do the head gasket job as above but bare bones minimum have to take the pan off and replace the main and big-end rod bearings, and you can only get away with this if the crank is not scored, which you won't know till you get the bearing caps off. All this can essentially end up being a full rebuild with the block in the car, at this point you have to ask the question why not go on and pull the engine and do it right? If you are careful you can do what is essentially a full rebuild without actually *boring* the block without pulling the block out of the car, but depending on the car it may be considerably less work to go on and pull it depending on what's in the way.

So Jim's statement is not correct as of right now, but if you don't keep an eye on the possible signs of coolant in the oil, you could quickly get to an unfortunate place where he would be 100% right.

It all boils down to how much longer you want to keep this car, what your expectations are for performance, if you need to pass smog, and 100 other things I can't think of right now.
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Old 03-26-2014, 05:27 PM
 
1 posts, read 14,795 times
Reputation: 10
What about those liquid products that you put in the coolant to seal the gasket? Some require a little extra work (remove thermostat, drain coolant, add liquid, run engine, let sit, drain, put back thermostat, add coolant). Some only need to be added to existing coolant. Is any brand good? I was told that they are just a temporary fix. $30 for the most expensive I have seen is not bad even if I have to do the work required. But I would like to sell the vehicle and do not want to trick anyone like a dealer might do.
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Old 03-26-2014, 05:43 PM
 
4,230 posts, read 5,736,055 times
Reputation: 10032
I've seen a number of "oh it's just a minor head gasket leak" turn into full blown engine replacements just because someone thought it was ok to keep on driving it.

Summer is coming and headgasket leaks don't age like wine.
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Old 03-26-2014, 05:48 PM
 
195 posts, read 217,957 times
Reputation: 154
Stuff like this is why I refuse to pay more than $1000 for a car. If I can't fix it, with a friend's help and maybe (at most $200 spent on parts and machining, and $100 on my friend's labor, I sell it for $100 or so to the scrap yard and go buy another. I'd rather have a pair of $800 cars (that I've been driving and up-keeping) than any ONE $80,000 car. :-) ONE of of my 2 cheapies is far more likely to start, run, stop, or be NOT stolen or wrecked, guaranteed.
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