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Putting the head back on

Discussion in '"Stock" Alpine' started by Alpine 1789, Aug 11, 2011.

  1. RootesRacer

    RootesRacer Platinum Level Sponsor

    I once saw a near brand new Chrysler purchased cylinder head which had a crack in a cooling passage and leaked into an intake port.

    The PO of that one fought all sorts of what he thought were HG problems before he figured out it was a bad head.
  2. Ken Ellis

    Ken Ellis Donation Time

    Well, here's a longshot: block drain pipe could be leaking, and squirting out with just enough pressure/just the right angle to hit the headers and instantly vaporize. Doesn't squirt until coolant temp/pressure rises, and header heat is always greater than 212 when coolant pressure is high enough to leak. Like I said, a real longshot.

    I think I'd make an appointment at a shop that can analyze exhaust gasses...
  3. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    Interesting, and certainly a possibility. I doubt Lee formally tested the head, but I will ask him. I know he flow tested it; would that show a crack?

    This brings up a key question: could that much coolant be entering the engine and not show any symptoms? The exhaust looks perfectly fine.

    I actually pulled the block drain pipe out while the head was off, intending to rebuild it so that it properly exited through the engine mount. (It was just hanging out and I was afraid that bending it would crack the pipe.) I never got around to it and just plugged the hole with a brass plug.

    Let's talk about exhaust gas analysis tonight. I will post more when I get home from work.
  4. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    Just thinking about this. Wouldn't the pressure test indicate a cracked head?
  5. RootesRacer

    RootesRacer Platinum Level Sponsor

    Not always.

    Quite often such problems only manifest at higher temperatures where thermal expansion allows a hairline crack to open enough for some flow.

    In the case of the near new head the problem was in a port which could only be uncovered with something like zyglo. Pressure testing the combustion chamber would have turned up nill.

    I am unsure that normal exhaust analyzers can pick up glycol in the exhaust but if it can, thats a good way to proceed.

    If you smell coolant, I would proceed also down the path of finding that leak.
    Burning coolant results in toxic vapors but they dont smell like coolant.

    Ethylene glycol glows with a UV lamp, start there.
  6. Tom H

    Tom H Platinum Level Sponsor

    Have you considered that maybe you had a 2 qt air bubble in the system and now it is gone?

    Each time you have added 1 qt. Note that the system capacity is 7.5 qts (with heater).

    Interesting that while hot it seems about right, but then as it cooled it dropped a quart. Sounds like an air bubble. But maybe that bubble was caused by a HG leak! UGH. Or maybe it was air trapped in the heater core. Did you bleed the heater core when you refilled the cooling system? Open the heater valve and let water flow? if your heater valve has been closed all the time since you refilled the cooling system, air is/was almost surely trapped.

  7. Eleven

    Eleven Platinum Level Sponsor

    Just to add a useless thought. I crewed on a Corvette a number of years ago with exactly this problem. Nothing we did worked, cap, overflow and on and on. At a Regional race, we were on very dry dirt paddock timing the engine and noticed coolant on the dirt. Still no joy in finding it until the owner went back to timing, revved the engine up and bingo. A tiny pinhole in the Radiator started spraying...stopped at lower rpms. Waterpump preassure?
  8. todd reid

    todd reid Gold Level Sponsor

    Jim, I know you are a long time Alpine owner, so these suggestions are probably "beneath you", but lets try anyway.

    When you add the quart to the cooled off radiator, how high are you filling it? If you fill it right up to the neck, you will push coolant out when you drive due to thermal expansion. Instead of filling it, let it cool, measure the coolant level, then drive it again. Measure it again after cooling - did it go down more or hold steady?

    I second Tom's comments on the heater. Valve needs to be open when filling - probable should be left open permanently until we solve this riddle.

    Flow testing a head involves measuring the air flow through the head, and isn't likely to detect a crack in the cooling passages.

    Look for leaks. The radiator, the heater core, the hoses, the thermostat housing and all the connections between them are possible candidates. When you drive, the coolant pressure rises with the temperature - we are most likely looking for something that is leaking under pressure but not while sitting. Get her up to operating temperature and check everything out.

    Best of luck - hope you find something!
  9. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    Thanks guys. A few specific comments:

    Jarrid: as always, thanks. I actually bought a black light bulb in the spring when I was first dealing with this issue, but it was so dim that I couldn't see anything. I don't remember if I tried it in the dark, which I will do tonight. As for an exhaust analyzer (I know I told Ken I would ask about this tonight, but I am taking a break right now), there is a place across the street that I can call and ask. I'll do that tomorrow if necessary.

    Tom: I am hoping you have hit the nail on the head. While my drive to work is only 10 minutes, I just checked the coolant level and it wasn't bad. It was a little lower than when I left the house this morning, but I had accidentally over-filled it, so I expected some loss. I have a couple of errands to run on the way home, so I will be doing some highway and some stop and go driving. That will be a better test and (Todd) I made a careful note of the coolant level when I just checked it.

    Tracy: I have checked it while revving the engine before and still cannot find any evidence of leaks. That is one of the many baffling parts of this mystery. And, while I haven't parked on a dirt road, we are doing some construction at my house and the driveway is covered with dirt right now. I have yet to notice anything unusual under the car.

    And finally, Todd: Yes, I am a longtime owner, but NOTHING is beneath me, especially at this point. Almost everything I know about Alpines comes from reading this forum and asking LOTS of questions, so please never worry about insulting my automotive intelligence. Oh, and as for the heater core, I had the heater on for most of my drive to work this morning and there was no evidence of any fluid in the jug I had set up. I did shut off the heater before I arrived, so I will try leaving it on this afternoon, just in case that makes a difference.

    As always, thanks everyone! I will be bringing the car to the Invasion, even if I have to tow it!
  10. hillmanhuskyguy

    hillmanhuskyguy Silver Level Sponsor

    Jim, I know next to nothing about these cars ( so I've got nothing to add) but I'm wishing you nothing but the best luck in getting this figured out/dialed in.

    Get 'em big guy.!

  11. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    Thanks Chris. I all else fails, I am currently thinking about trying one of the products designed to seal cracked blocks and/or head gasket leaks. Does anyone here have any experience with them? Any recommended brands?
  12. alpine_64

    alpine_64 Donation Time


    Sorry you are having so much frustration, I was thinking back when Jim E had a cracked block in his S3 (the thing that led to the weekend v6 conversion) maybe get under the car and look around the area where the starter mounts and see if there is any weeping.. woul dbe a hard area to check... did they pressure test the head before working on it? hopefully it was just a coolant overfill.. as you said the acceration is smoother and stronger again.. which wasnt the case before.. so hopefully it was a HG failure and now its just a littel teething trouble and cautionsness on your behalf.
  13. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    I have thought about Jim's block a lot and even longingly looked at the V6 engine sitting in my garage and thinking about a similar weekend conversion. But, I really want to stay the course and keep this car stock. And, I am hoping your hopeful diagnosis turns out to be the correct one!

    I don't know for sure if the head was pressure tested. I am planning on calling Lee tomorrow and will find out.

    I did crawl under the running car before pulling the head and never saw anything. Right now the car is sitting in the driveway with the engine still at operating temperature and 11 lbs of pressure on my gauge. It has been sitting there for 10 minutes with no change. More to follow.
  14. Ken Ellis

    Ken Ellis Donation Time

    I thought max was 7 psi before heater core bulging/leaks?
  15. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    It is, but I earlier pumped it up higher than that to test it, so I figured 11 lbs would be fine. Plus, it is difficult to do less with my pressure tester. At the moment, the heater valve is closed, so the core should be ok. Assuming all is ok when I go check it, I will open the valve and try to put less in.
  16. RootesRacer

    RootesRacer Platinum Level Sponsor

    Having the valve closed does not keep the heater core from seeing the full cooling system pressure.
    Having the valve closed just stops flow to the core and prevents it from passing coolant heat to the cockpit.

    Try to keep the pressure lower, the cores are well know to stuff themselves into the box where they reside.

    I am running a 13psi cap right now but I disconnected the heater lines to prevent the inevitable.
  17. Alpine 1789

    Alpine 1789 SAOCA President Platinum Level Sponsor

    Good news maybe: I think my radiator is leaking! I spent some time in the dark shining a flashlight everywhere where there could be a leak and noticed coolant lining the lower lip of the radiator. I had seen it there before but thought it was the result of having splashed coolant when I was filling it up. This time I did the best I could to dry it and then waited. Sure enough, it became wet again, so I used compressed air to completely dry it. Within a few minutes there were new traces of moisture forming in the lower right (as seen from the engine compartment) corner. I'll take a new look at it in the morning, but I expect to see a new puddle of coolant lining that lip. Not the best news ever, since radiators aren't cheap to fix, but certainly better than a cracked block.

    There is a radiator shop not far from here that I will call tomorrow morning to see how long it would take them to re-core it. Unfortunately, I am leaving for the Invasion on Friday, as my wife and I are going to be visiting family in Wisconsin on the way. We are planning on towing the car to Wisconsin, driving to the Invasion, then towing it home. If the shop can do it that quickly I will take a spare in tomorrow morning, bring the repaired one with me to Wisconsin and replace it there. If not, I can deal with the leak. Knowing it isn't the head or the block makes it not too bad to pull over from time to time and top off the coolant.

    Two additional thoughts/observations before I leave this for the night. 1) Wouldn't even a small leak show up over two hours of pressure testing? That still puzzles me. And 2) just to keep anyone else from wasting the $6 or so the 'party bulb' cost me, save your money. It isn't a real black light. There were several drops on the cross member (I think that was from a real spill) that I could clearly see with the flashlight but failed to show up at all with my supposed black light. I don't think it is anything more than a purple light bulb and was totally worthless.
  18. RootesRacer

    RootesRacer Platinum Level Sponsor

    For one the pressure testers allow you to test for massive leakage, a small radiator leaks would have taken a very long time and a huge loss of coolant before you could correlate the pressure drop was due to fluid loss.
    You would have loose half your coolant (or have leaked the equivilent volume of air instead of coolant) to drop from 10psi to 5psi.

    I dont think an incandescent lamp of any type is going to push much UV radiation off it. Ive seen UV LED lamps and florescent lamps that output plenty of UV but never the aforementioned.
  19. Bill Blue

    Bill Blue Platinum Level Sponsor

    Not if there was zero headspace when you started.

  20. RootesRacer

    RootesRacer Platinum Level Sponsor

    I didnt think that one through.

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