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1 hour ago, Croc said:

 

 

 

There are two types of head gasket leak.  Coolant galley breaches and Exhaust rings.   Test again another two times on the exhaust gasses - a day apart.  You are right to be suspicious of a false positive.

 

Coolant strips should still react - they are supposed to react with the presence of oil.

 

That gunk in the coolant is key to the diagnosis as it keeps coming back when it should not.  There are only two things it can be but you need to prove which one. 

 

Also, please don't look to others and assume you have what they had.  Leverage their decision process to diagnosis your problem but don't jump to the end step without going through the intervening steps.    You may both have head gaskets fail but the reasons for failure are radically different and so the cure will have some subtle but still critical differences in the rebuild approach.  For example a coolant galley breach means I always test for a block that may have gone porous before the rebuild commences.  

 

Fair 

 

I did two tests back to back. The third strip on right is control untouched. 

 

Only pH seemed to have changed to green. Making it high pH

 

 

IMG_20210617_113851242_HDR.jpg

IMG_20210617_113904053_HDR.jpg

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18 minutes ago, yellowss7 said:

Vlad,  it was painful to watch you go through the process and as much as I wanted to comment as I went through a somewhat similar learning experience.  I held off commenting for the reason Croc stated.    I had a pressurization issue that would only happen on track.  Car ran fine but would puke thru the cap eventually durning an on track session.  My engine is a duratec so not apples to apples and mine would idle lol Day and not get hot. 
 

But I tested at least twenty times with that coolant gas test and NEVER got a change in color.  
 

I replaced everything, water pump, radiator, thermostat, pulley bearings, and moved the coolant expansion tank to the highest possible point.  
I still would get.  After all that. No change.  I would notice after being out on track that if I winched my car backwards up the ramp of my trailer to get the expansion tank at the highest point that air bubbles would start rising into the tank and the coolant level would return to normal and I could run the next session and not have it over heat.   

 

I finally figured out that it had to be the head gasket after I ran successive sessions on track starting at 3000 rpm and not going over 3000 rpm for the whole session. Then bumping it up by 500 rpm in the next session.  And so on.   Results were that I got NO pressurization until I reached the 5500 rpm level.  That clinched it for me that the gasket must not be able to hold at that pressure.      
 

it was a mental relief to finally admit I had the problem that I danced around for so long.    I’m glad you have apparently reached that point now.  
 

Get R  done and come on down to NJMP to give it a good test run.  Tom

 


 

 

 


 

 

 

Tom thank you for sharing your experiences. I did keep in mind your situation as you either posted about it earlier in thread or I came upon it from the past when I searched the forum for "head gasket" key words. 

 

Im going to do another block test and play with thermal gun and likely put in the see through coolant filter over the next week before committing to the tear down.

 

I believe one of the only tests I have left is a leak down at this point. 

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So lets roll through the symptoms and results of the various tests observed:

 

  1. No white smoke  - that would be indicator of coolant leak into cylinder
  2. No blue smoke - that would be indicator of oil leak into cylinder
  3. Spark plugs are all similar color to my eye - if one was clean then that is an indicator of coolant leak into a cylinder
  4. No visual leaks of oil or coolant between head and block
  5. Oil cap on cam cover was not showing, foam, sludge or mayonnaise inside - that would be indicator of coolant in oil
  6. Expansion tank overflow - clear evidence of bubbles & over-pressurization.  Repeatedly happens after re-bleedng.  Could be tank cap faulty or form of head gasket failure?
  7. Variety of tank caps tried - no alteration of end result - over-pressurizing
  8. Expansion tank - No sign of mayonnaise or foam - that would be an indicator of oil in the coolant
  9. Expansion tank - no oil slick or scum on the surface - that would be an indicator of oil in the coolant
  10. Expansion tank - Lots of sludge that settles - will be either rust or soot particles. Rust particles come from a poorly maintained cooling system or one that sat for a while.   Big flush will clean a cooling system.  Stayed clean for a bit.  
  11. Expansion tank - Particles coming back.  If flush was good then coolant/water should have stayed clean. You used a cooling system cleaner which should have removed all cooling system sludge/rust/etc if performed correctly and it would have stayed clear after that.   Seems to point towards exhaust ring leak into coolant.  Suspect particles are soot from combustion process.
  12. Expansion tank - Test strip for exhaust gasses in coolant.  Positive high PH.  But you are using tap water with no coolant currently.  Distilled water/coolant mix should have a PH of around 8 from memory.  What is PH of tap water in your area straight from the tap?
  13. Coolant system seems to lose retained pressure - leak somewhere.  Nothing visual on radiator or hoses?  Nothing showing.  Leak could be hidden.
  14. Expansion tank - test strip for oil in coolant is negative.  Safe to say that oil galley breach of head gasket is not likely given this and other factors like #5, #6, and #7.

 

There may be other pieces of evidence but this is what is sticking in my head.

 

So lets narrow this down - I think you are possibly looking at an exhaust breach of the head gasket into a coolant galley.  Its one way pressurizing when engine runs but will reverse when static not running.  

 

Apart from checking PH of your tap water, I would run a leak down test on the engine - 2 or 3 times.  Do it once then move the cylinder positions by cranking a bit.  You want to shift valve positions to ensure a validation.   This may or may not work because of how the gasket breach is positioned but its the obvious next step to try.  That should point to the cylinder bore which is problematic.  Don't worry about the absolute value of the pressure on the leak down, its the consistency thats important.    

 

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To the managers of this site.  Croc's post should be placed in a set aside section for a good starting point for troubleshooting engines. I'm sure there are many more that are excellent guidelines for various problems.  I'm afraid it will get buried here and years from now it will be difficult to find.

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It's a great topic for the article section.  I'll work with @Croc to get something up in the near future and collectively we can update over time.  

 

-John

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@seschm1234  But its not my list thats important, its the process of methodically thinking through the problem that is key. 

 

Besides, I am not convinced its solely the head gasket.  I suspect the head is doing something to contribute to the problem but I don't have enough to pin-point it.  It may be that we only discover when Vlad takes the head off to fix the gasket.  

 

Vlad deserves a beer for persevering with this :cheers2:

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Vlad,

I also had issues (more similar to Tom’s than yours) with spitting and overflow of coolant from the overflow tank. While we both started with a Superlight R with a Zetec, yours has been more modified than mine particularly with ITB’s while I still have fuel injection. I still have the stock Ford ECU as well.  
 

 Mine always had a faint smell of antifreeze when I’d drive it but would only overflow primarily on track. Tried to make sure all the air out etc... new overflow cap and none really seemed to help. Then- started to see residue in the overflow.  Black and coated the inside of the tank. Slightly oily but much more consistent with exhaust. Nothing in the oil. No white smoke. Figured it was head gasket and before I warped the head from overheating took it to George Alderman. Did head gasket, put a on a new non VCT head with machine work, new cams, timing gears and seemed to be running fine.  For a while.  Then on track one day- same thing all over again-spitting and pressurizing of overflow tank. Took it back to George. Neither he nor his son Paul could really figure it out.  No exhaust in coolant, nothing really other than the pressurizing of the overflow with revs.  They thought maybe had something to do with the way it was plumbed and looked into how Ford had it plumbed in the Contour. They changed around some hoses, and wired the rad fan so it’s always on.  Oh- and changed the overflow cap. And told me to run it with minimal rad fluid in the overflow tank (not to normal marked level) Not sure what pressure the cap was. I actually just replaced it with one from a Mini.  It’s been fine since but I honestly think it was just the freaking overflow cap and lower fluid level and had nothing to do with how it was plumbed. ??

 

I give you a lot of credit for trying to figure it out yourself. You’ll certainly learn a lot in the process (if you don’t drive yourself bat_____ first).  Can’t really give you more info than that. Crocs post above gives excellent info on diagnosis of possible head gasket leaks and should be helpful. 
 

Let me know if you need more info and I’ll see what else I can remember.

 

Jim

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Posted (edited)


 @all Its you guys that deserve a beer at the end of all this for chiming in and helping me out in this adventure

 

Updates: The good, the bad and the status quo. 

 

Got my new fuel pressure gauge in. 

 

IMG_20210618_175716307.jpg

 

Was going to take the car to the shop today, got all strapped in go to start it and it cranks, and cranks and cranks. Turn it off, turn the key and I hear the fuel pump. Sounds good. Go to start and more cranking and cranking and cranking. Think back to driving it back yesterday for total of 60 miles and starting it late at night to pull it into garage, all was well. Frustrated took another car to the shop (had other business there). Thought to myself maybe the head gasket actually went completely and won't compress on Cyl1 or along those lines. 

 

Went back home and retraced my steps. Last thing I did was unplug the wideband from the spare fuse to troubleshoot erratic jumping rev counter. Lo and behold, blown fuse. Put a new fuse in, go to crank and I see sparks in the engine bay. Peculiar. Take a look to find that my ignition coil wire was rubbing up against my slave cylinder remote bleeder braided hose and making contact/shorting. Separated the two, wrapped new electrical tape and hopefully problem will be fixed (it's raining can't go out for a spin right now). Car starts fine! Small win, I'll take it. It was very frustrating to drive with and until figured out could have been a symptom of a bigger issue. 

 

IMG_20210618_140331947.jpg

 

Erratic RPM's shown below

 

 

Also my coolant filter came in. Interesting unit. Looking forward to testing it. Bled the coolant again to install. Some minor browning visible. I know I still have a source with my coolant rail inside being rusty, possibly flaky. I don't have any good replacement sources right now, but I'm sure I could source something if needed.

 

IMG_20210618_183700081_HDR.thumb.jpg.6addfa9a892100cb6c6212f88b58c0f7.jpg

 

IMG_20210618_195242341.jpg

 

 

Installed the unit and did another round of pressure testing. Everything good.

 

Pending going on another drive tomorrow if the rain holds out. 

 

@FE07 thank you for chiming in! You're right, similar but different. Sounds like that was quite an adventure as well. I believe the plumbing is fine. I'm sure I run too much fluid most of the time during this testing but it still shouldn't vacate and increase in volume in the way that it does when it does it. I'll get another Mini cap in the future, I'm curious what the OEM pressure on them is. 

 

Reason for doing this myself is multiple fold. 1) It's certainly quicker and 2) I shoot the S with my shop friends anyway and they don't have any direct ideas as to what it is either. If they are  just going to be doing basic checks and guess work, I might as well do it myself and learn a thing or two in the process. I've certainly learned quite a bit so far. (especially about YouTube..)

 

@Croc as always sincere thank you for taking your time and chiming in with constructive and concise plan. 

 

The water was part from the shop and part from the house. I don't like having multiple variables so what I'm going to do on next spill is fill it with real coolant and do another test. I'll do leak down tests when I'm at the shop next week. 

 

I also appeared to have shot myself in the foot by using soapy water to help get the hoses back on. A very little bit appears to have been enough to have lasting issues at the moment.

 

On the plus side it may have also caused this even to happen. It's pretty damning but who knows. It was the first start after filling.

 

 

EB3CEA6C-1686-4509-8E4A-E2F37B648777.jpeg

 

315E8364-5CA0-4193-8FA3-924D988B318B.jpeg

 

Peculiar

 

 

Edited by Vovchandr
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Oh and by the way, for those tuning in. 

 

Once this season of cooling/throttle issues ends, I already have next season material lined up.

 

Teaser: Occasional "falling flat on its face/hesitation" for a brief period of time at low RPM. 

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10 hours ago, Vovchandr said:

I know I still have a source with my coolant rail inside being rusty, possibly flaky. I don't have any good replacement sources right now, but I'm sure I could source something if needed.

 

@VovchandrI don't think you have ever told us how you know your coolant rail is rusty?  Coolant rails normally don't go rusty or flaky on 20 year old cars.   I have cars of all makes up to 55 years old, some truly basket cases, and have never experienced a rusty coolant rail.  Is this somehow simulating a head gasket fail from a blockage?

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Croc said:

 

@VovchandrI don't think you have ever told us how you know your coolant rail is rusty?  Coolant rails normally don't go rusty or flaky on 20 year old cars.   I have cars of all makes up to 55 years old, some truly basket cases, and have never experienced a rusty coolant rail.  Is this somehow simulating a head gasket fail from a blockage?

 

 

 

 

 

Found these pictures I took in 2018 when I first bought the car

 

Coolant rail 

 

IMG_20180727_182507.thumb.jpg.e13e5b23eac0868499d3647a2068791e.jpg

 

IMG_20180727_102803.thumb.jpg.00fe8f30ba75ddecd62a5a2b5707787e.jpg

 

IMG_20180727_102808.thumb.jpg.6b8aad0a8582ce9deb36b573ebe857d1.jpg

 

 

Edited by Vovchandr
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Croc & yellowss7 have good advice. We all wish we could pin point the problem exactly, but no one knows for sure. Unfortunately it is a long and frustrating journey. If you do pull the head, and unfortunately I think you are close, make very sure all the water passages are open. There are small passages around the cylinders and if one is clogged you could be getting localized boiling and that would cause the overheating. Here is my thought process. You passed a pressure test on the cooling system. I don't trust the test strips for exhaust gas in the coolant. The engine boils over when the cooling system seems to be full. Coolant levels jumping up and down in the big funnel are either trapped air or local boiling. What I would expect to see in the big funnel is the coolant level rise slowly as the temperature goes up. When the thermostat opens you will get a jump and maybe a decrease and a air bubble but then it should go back to a slow rise in level. The system has lots of dirt in it. On the negative side I would expect the engine to overheat when you were driving not sitting still.   

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3 hours ago, Vovchandr said:

Coolant rail 

 

IMG_20180727_182507.thumb.jpg.e13e5b23eac0868499d3647a2068791e.jpg

 

 

 

That should be thrown away immediately.   What type of metal is that to get such corrosion in a 2001 Caterham?    

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1 minute ago, Croc said:

 

 

That should be thrown away immediately.   What type of metal is that to get such corrosion in a 2001 Caterham?    

 

I feel like I've just been caught with my pants down and getting a stern talking to

 

It's ferrous, so steel?

 

Warning Jeff Goldblum GIF by MOODMAN

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On 6/18/2021 at 9:27 PM, Vovchandr said:

Went back home and retraced my steps. Last thing I did was unplug the wideband from the spare fuse to troubleshoot erratic jumping rev counter. Lo and behold, blown fuse. Put a new fuse in, go to crank and I see sparks in the engine bay. Peculiar. Take a look to find that my ignition coil wire was rubbing up against my slave cylinder remote bleeder braided hose and making contact/shorting. Separated the two, wrapped new electrical tape and hopefully problem will be fixed (it's raining can't go out for a spin right now). Car starts fine! Small win, I'll take it. It was very frustrating to drive with and until figured out could have been a symptom of a bigger issue. 


 

After you replace your sparking coil wire- take some rubber brake or fuel line, slit it down the middle, wrap it around the wire and hold it in place with some small tie wraps.  That stainless line is like a file and it’ll protect it where it rubs.  
 

Jim

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Posted (edited)
On 6/19/2021 at 10:34 PM, FE07 said:


 

After you replace your sparking coil wire- take some rubber brake or fuel line, slit it down the middle, wrap it around the wire and hold it in place with some small tie wraps.  That stainless line is like a file and it’ll protect it where it rubs.  
 

Jim

 

I moved the line further away for now but might do that too. 

 

I'm starting to feel like I need to either go Hail Mary or throw in the towel.

 

I tried to follow @Croc advice so far but due to new variables and limitations of access to a compressor without driving 30 miles to a shop are making my heads spin.

 

 

Haven't been driving much over the last week, just a few circular highway stints to let Prestone radiator flush do it's business. 

 

The "falling flat on it's face" periods have become more apparent and consistent. Typically happens right after I really get on it hard, rev high through a gear or two and then let it coast down to lower RPM's. Then when I get back on the throttle it stumbles/likely misfires.

 

Running theory from the last outing is that if I do have a bad head gasket, then while on the throttle it pushes gasses out. However on no throttle/vacuum condition I could be sucking coolant in through the hole and obviously stumbling on that for next few seconds when on throttle again. Alternate theory is that the chafed ignition coil wire is acting up on decel somehow.

 

So I ripped out the plugs and inspected cylinders today. Saw nothing out of ordinary. 

 

Put everything back together to do a double chamber coolant/head test that I just got, to eliminate the false positive. Ran it hot, revved it, pumped the tester, pumped it, pumped it, while getting on the throttle and getting upto temp. No change in color. Coolant started rising and I sucked in coolant into tester. Still didn't change. 

 

While doing all this car didn't want to maintain idle and was wanting to stall. I shut the car off and let it cool down. Notably the cat area started to be burning off and giving a weird smell.

 

I grabbed the infrared gun and discovered that it appears cylinder #4 is cold? Started the car and it was really stumbling. Pulled it back into garage, pulled cylinder 4 plug and it looked fine. 

 

Hot cat. Could be normal but still strange that it smelled

 

image.png.022d0901487b8ad5d1dceac1330e6466.png

 

Cylinder #4 is dark. I highly doubt I did a drastically better job on that one cylinder when I wrapped it

 

image.png.e7d0e6156379021c97e347a8c2e459ce.png

 

Radiator shot with oil cooler in front. Top cap always seems to stay cool. 

 

image.png.777b206addaa840c077fac584f36084f.png

 

Heater core bypass

 

image.png.a4157c8e97a6b9b85d88c12dd75916f5.png

 

Taking a break for a few days. :(

 

Started looking up headgaskets to make sure I have my motor right (as ZX2/Contour/Mercury Cougar/Mercury Mystique?) and trying to find ARP studs. Most places seem to have those on back order at this time. 

 

I'm leaving 20psi on cooling system overnight. I'll pull the plugs and drop the camera into them tomorrow to see if I can find water. 

Edited by Vovchandr
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@Vovchandr Vlad - I guess trailering to the compressor is not an option?   If you cannot do that then yes, you are at roll the dice point on a gasket change.  

 

Cold cylinder could be numerous things, e.g. lack of spark, lack of fuel, lack of air to fire combustion, etc.  It could be Number 4 is not retaining compression and will not produce combustion thanks to the gasket fail (but plug on that cylinder should show richness in that case).   Smell on cat will be contaminant leaking in - sweet smell is coolant (but you do not have that) and burning smell is unburnt fuel from the pistons being combusted in the cat.  Neither are healthy for it.   

 

However, gasket fix takes priority as you have good odds for identifying/fixing this new problem as you dismantle and reassemble.  

 

 

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Compressor is an option but will take some organizing. 

 

All spark plugs still look like they did before;

 

 

At this point getting ready for a head gasket but that's at least a few weeks away so I can keep testing and stuff in meantime.

 

Also earmarking to see if I can score a SVT head in the meantime...

 

 

Losing about 5psi of pressure over 24 hours. From 20psi to ~15psi or so.

 

Took a camera to the cylinders. 2 look mint (1+4), 2 middle look worse for the wear.

 

#4

image.png.fbf80d40a69a0caafd9dbccb5b50a585.png\\\

 

#3. Can't tell what the liquid/discoloration is in the center or whether it's a gash by the cutouts or just discoloration

image.png.f642f9840dd26561041d5edd3ffa8729.png

 

image.png.24ed374c77088047394c44c9f5757dd8.png

 

#2

image.png.18dfd135b915b8877a7856112446e9d4.png

 

#1

image.png.d256d3b23230df9e9162af15fe197724.png

 

 

 

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Start psyching yourself up for a full tear down and rebuild.  The etching is a tell tale of the engine running really lean at some point.  If your piston tops look like that then its likely there is damage elsewhere.  

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