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EvanB
EvanB GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/23/18 6:35 p.m.

Well at least it isn't leaking oil yet...I hope. 

wae
wae Dork
3/23/18 7:12 p.m.

Things are kinda bad but probably not horrible.

I couldn't go any further - I had something of an emergency and some disgusting redneck befouled the port-a-let so I had to rush back home.

Apparently a bolt did fall into the area under the valve cover.  It wasn't in the valve train but it did fall into the timing gears.  The timing belt is perforated and needs to be replaced.  Not too big of a deal, honestly.

The first time I ran it tonight, before I heard that clattering, it was running very smoothly with nothing visible coming from the tailpipe.  Now, however, it is not running smoothly and there's some smoke from the rear end.  It smells like fuel so I think timing may have jumped.  Again, not a huge deal.  I was in a very big hurry so I couldn't check the marks on the cam gears, but I'm as close to positive as I can get on that one.

Here's where it does sort of get good though: last time, I had oil leaking right away.  This time it is totally dry.  There is a little wisp of oil smoke coming from under the exhaust manifold but that is probably left over stuff burning off.

I'm on my way to get a new belt and we'll see...

wae
wae Dork
3/23/18 10:37 p.m.

New timing belt installed and it starts up and runs smooth.

But it still blows oil.  I guess the whole lump is going to have to come out.  I guess the upside is that if the bearings got washed, this'll fix that...

AngryCorvair
AngryCorvair GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/24/18 4:20 a.m.
wae said:

New timing belt installed and it starts up and runs smooth.

But it still blows oil.  I guess the whole lump is going to have to come out.  I guess the upside is that if the bearings got washed, this'll fix that...

Blows oil (i.e. A pressurized leak) or leaks oil (i.e. A gasket or seal)?  If it's not a fire hazard and if you can park it outdoors so it doesn't stink up the garage and attached house, I'd drive it as-is for a while and let it fix itself.

wae
wae Dork
3/24/18 6:59 a.m.

It doesn't seem to be a pressurized leak from the gasket, but there is a ton of smoke out the back and it gets worse as it warms up.  

XenaFordPrincess
XenaFordPrincess None
3/24/18 7:43 a.m.

In reply to wae :

Maybe there's a bunch of oil/coolant in the exhaust that needs to burn off.  It takes a while. 

wae
wae Dork
3/24/18 9:05 a.m.
XenaFordPrincess said:

In reply to wae :

Maybe there's a bunch of oil/coolant in the exhaust that needs to burn off.  It takes a while. 

If I wasn't seeing fresh oil dripping from between the block and head I'd be very willing to make some assumptions about burning off old stuff.

If y'all can indulge me thinking out loud for a bit, the possibilities that I've come up with:

  1. I didn't clean the block up enough and there's some remnants of the old gasket preventing a good seal.
  2. I scratched up the block in my efforts to clean it which is preventing a good seal.
  3. I put the head gasket on incorrectly, maybe upside down or it got munged when I was putting the head on.
  4. Block is warped.
  5. Machine shop didn't properly mill head
  6. Head is cracked
  7. Block is cracked

I highly doubt that the machine shop effed up.  This is an outfit that has been around for a very long time and is well-respected and frankly milling a BP head isn't exactly the most difficult or complex job that's going to come through the doors.  Let's relegate that to the absolute bottom of the list.

When they had the head, I didn't ask them to magnaflux it (yeah, I know it's aluminum and everything, but let's just go with it as the verb for checking engine parts for cracks), so I suppose that's a possibility.  Same thing on the block -- a crack isn't outside the realm of possibility.  A warm compression test is good, though - 145-150 across all four.

Items 1-3 are all operator error and I'll be the first to admit that if ignorance is bliss, I am the world's happiest man.  Any of those things are possible.  I do know that the head bolt holes are cleaned out and the bolts are torqued to the correct measurements.  As for the rest -- is there a wrong position for the head gasket that looks correct at first glance?  I laid it on the block a couple different ways before deciding that I thought it was right.  Here's one though:  When I was looking for whatever was clanging around, I looked down the oil passages from the top of the head down and noticed that in a couple places, the pathway was more of a half-moon than a full circle due to protrusion of the gasket. Did I gouge the surface when cleaning it?  It passed the "drag-a-fingernail-across-the-surface" test.  Was the surface not clean enough?  Even after scraping and using some fine sandpaper (1500), there were some dark spots that just didn't clean up.  I've put heads on 283s out of boats before and the surfaces looked about the same as this one did.

Back to the block for a second, I know it's really hard to warp those and fairly hard to crack them, but like Lloyd says, "so you're telling me there's a chance!".

After sleeping on it and pulling down some coffee I'm forced to admit that I'm the weakest link in this chain.  Items 1, 2, & 3 carry a fairly high probability, however, I really don't know anything about the history of this car other than it came to me with cylinders full of goo and a crankcase that had to drain a lot of water before any oil came out.  If the only problem is that the gasket is munged in some way, then it's a fairly straightforward process of dumping the fluids, pulling the belts, water, electric, and fuel, undoing the timing belt, disconnecting the exhaust pipe, popping off the valve cover, and lifting the head off.  Once that's done, I could also try to more completely clean the block surface.  Assembly is reverse of removal after a new head gasket and I could drop in fresh fluids and see what happens.  If that's the solution, then I'm running for the cost of a head gasket and some antifreeze.  Since they're not TTY bolts, I should be able to reuse the new head bolts and if I use the crane, I can leave all the manifolds and stuff on the head so I don't have to do those gaskets as well.  The exhaust pipe gasket is a new metal one, so I shouldn't need to replace that either.

Alternately, if the block is warped or cracked, or if I've scratched it up, then it's going to have to be machine shop time.  So the question that I need to work out is do I just jump to rebuilding the bottom end or do I try to put the top end back together again and see what happens?  Fresh bearings, seals, and rings with a new oil pump wouldn't be the worst thing I've ever done to a car.  But I hate to just throw parts at it if it doesn't need it.  I also hate to go through a bunch of work to pop the head off and back on just to have to do it again and have to buy a third head gasket.  Snowmaggedon is supposed to start about five minutes ago, so I think I'll take today to consider my options and see what direction I want to choose.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
3/24/18 9:40 a.m.

Did the block sit full of water over a winter? It was cold enough in SE Texas this winter to freeze things solid, so I would imagine that it got that cold by you.

Edit: just reread everything and it looks like all the goo was up high and that it was coolant not water. That shouldn't freeze. Back to the thinking board.

wae
wae Dork
3/25/18 3:34 p.m.

Well, regardless of what I have to do, the head has to come off the engine.  So I've ordered up another FelPro head gasket and I'll go ahead and pull the head again and see what it looks like in there.

wheelsmithy
wheelsmithy GRM+ Memberand Dork
3/25/18 4:21 p.m.

I have some thoughts on all this, hopefully helpful. 

First, it isn't necessarily wrong for the head gasket to partially block/line up perfectly with every passage.

Second, IMHO, 1500 grit is too fine to go on the block surface. The guy who taught me to wrench told me to use 40 grit "to give it something to bite to." Doing your straight edge/feeler gauge thing once the head is off sounds like a good plan.

I'd consider getting an extra set of hands to lower the head back on, especially if you leave the manifolds on. Head gaskets are extremely susceptible to mechanical damage, as well as contamination. Hopefully, you just fudged the first attempt, and once it got oil on it, that's all she wrote. 

You've got the right attitude. If something isn't right, do it over til it is. Good luck, and I hope my tone is helpful, rather than condescending. We've all been there.

wae
wae Dork
3/25/18 5:29 p.m.

In reply to wheelsmithy :

Thank you!  That's very helpful.  I'm going to try a diamond stone and some cutting oil to clean up the block.  I also think that I'll use the crane to drop the head down this time as well as another pair of hands.

wae
wae Dork
3/28/18 5:50 a.m.

Got the head off again last night.  Oil remains a chocolate milk color, so it's more than just a little leak.  I was hoping to see a giant "well, there's yer problem!" when I got the head separated, but it's being a little more subtle.  It appears that the gasket is right side up and right way around.  I tried it the other three ways and there's no way any of those would be correct.  One of the alignment dowels is completely missing.  I checked in the head and didn't see it there, but it's possible that it came out at the machine shop and went unnoticed.  The gasket "looks okay", however there is a little bit of a scrape mark on it where I assume the head moved around a bit when I was installing it.  

A new gasket should be in on Thursday some time and I should have a diamond stone coming tonight.  I'll clean up the block some more, check it with my sortastraightedge, and if it seems okayish, I'll get a new dowel and attempt a re-install using the crane to lower the head this time.

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
3/28/18 2:08 p.m.

Damn.  I thought it might be a missing alignment dowel.  Are they solid pins or are they hollow tubes?

wae
wae Dork
3/29/18 7:33 p.m.

They're hollow tubes.  Which reminds me - I need to swing over to Mazda and see if they have any of those hanging about.

I really hope that something as simple as a missing dowel can cause a head gasket to fail to seal.

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
3/29/18 7:50 p.m.

Fluid flows through those tubes in many applications.    A missing piece would cause a serious problem.  That could be your issue right there.

wae
wae Dork
3/29/18 8:03 p.m.

Looking at the pictures, that dowel would have been in a bolt hole, so no fluid.  And I think I might see the tell-tale sign of a dowel jammed up in the head.  I'll have to take a closer look tomorrow when I'm over at the shop.  There are definitely scrape marks on the gasket and even with the bolts in, there's a lot of room for the gasket to move around, so I'm really hoping that this gets it up and running.

The local Mazda dealer has ordered up a new dowel for me for the princely sum of $3.23 before Frankfort gets theirs and it should be in tomorrow.  The new Fel-Pro gasket is sitting over in the workshop according to FedEx, and Amazon has promised me that I should get my diamond stone today, but we'll see about that.  Assuming the stone comes today, I plan to spend tomorrow cleaning up the block with the stone and some cutting oil, getting the alignment dowel pin in place, then putting the head back on and trying again.  It doesn't look like there's any convertible weather in the near future, but I would like to roll the Neon into the shop and get that wheel bearing squared away.

wae
wae SuperDork
3/31/18 4:14 p.m.

The stone came today and I picked up the new alignment dowel pin.  I did find the old one: it was crammed way up into the head so I extracted it destructively and tossed it.

The head is currently properly torqued to the block.  Again.  Lowering it with the engine crane worked really well.  I did have to take a Mazdeuce "think twice" break though.  The crane couldn't go back far enough so after pondering it for a minute, I lowered the head to about a centimeter from the block and then pushed it into place and dropped the bolts in.  They acted just like studs and let me slowly drop the head right in to its place.

So now I'm going to see if my brother left any beer here in the workshop and start putting the stuff back on the things.

wae
wae SuperDork
3/31/18 7:50 p.m.

Okay.  Putting oil and coolant in now.  Let's see what happens.

 

Oh, and yes.  My brother did have some beer stashed away here!

wae
wae SuperDork
3/31/18 8:29 p.m.

Well.

 

Maybe?

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
3/31/18 8:41 p.m.

This is my current favorite mystery story. 

wae
wae SuperDork
3/31/18 8:41 p.m.

Okay there was copious smoke on the first test drive around the parking lot.  I've let it idle for a while with some occasional revving and the smoke only appears in smaller quantities when I rev.  I'm calling that crud in the exhaust that has to burn off.  

Oil looks good.  Plugs are dry.  I think this might almost be a success.

There is a ton of coolant dripping and I can't find where it is coming from.  Also it is making a sort of howling noise somewhere in the vicinity of the air box.  Not sure if that's normal.

wae
wae SuperDork
3/31/18 11:00 p.m.

I just put about 20 miles on it!  

The valve cover gasket is leaking, but that should be easy to track down.

I broke the wire to the temp sender so I need to fix that.

That coolant just have been all pooled up somewhere from the taking apart because there's no more coolant dripping, I can't see any place it might have been coming from, and according to my scan tool, it's starting right around 200 +/- 6 degrees.

The interior light is burned out, there's a drip from the left corner of the windshield frame or hardtop, and the under tray needs to go back on.  

I'm giddy like a kid on Christmas morning.

Scott Hatfield
Scott Hatfield Dork
4/1/18 6:32 a.m.

Conga rats! Hope to be reporting similar results with my DSM today. 

wae
wae SuperDork
4/3/18 8:48 a.m.

In the last couple days I've put a little more than 100 miles on the car and it's doing really well.  There is a little bit of burning oil from the valve cover,  but it is holding temperature right where it should and it isn't making any funny noises from under the hood.  The speedometer cable is making a little bit of noise when cold, so that needs to be addressed.  I bought a new valve cover bolt yesterday and will pick it up today along with a new inch-pound torque wrench so I can get that right.

Last night I decided to try to work on some of the appearance issues, so I rolled it in to the garage at home and went topless for easy access.

 

Being fully honest, this picture makes it look a lot better than it really is.  There's a lot of crud in the paint and some faded plastic bits.  But first, the interior.

After a little vacuum and some vinyl cleaner and protectant:

I need to pull the seats out to clean under and around them, plus I need to get the carpet cleaner out there still.  But it is a much nicer place to spend some time now.

Until now, I was unable to inspect the top.  It looks pretty nice :

But I found this on the passenger side

That is a very small area that has worn through and there's another spot that is starting in exactly the same place on the driver side.  I'm going to attempt to patch that - it seems silly to replace the whole top just because of that, but when I do, I think I'm going for tan instead of black.

The front fascia didn't look so great:

So I hit it with a little bit of rubbing compound.

It took almost no effort and I didn't even use the power tool.  So...

But now the hood didn't look as nice.

That's much better.  By the way, when the Meguiars Rubbing Compound says don't let it dry, do yourself a favor and don't let it dry.  Gah, that was a painful error.  I also grabbed ahold of the headlight doors and pulled them up so they sit a little more level.  

Next up, I went around to the trunk spolier:

A quick wipe down with the rubbing compound and...

It still needs plenty of work, but I need new pads for my rotary buffer and I ran out of arm power.  This was more of a proof of concept to see how bad the paint was and actually it's not bad at all, so that's very encouraging.  I am growing a list of things that need to be addressed still, but they're all fairly mundane 21 year old car things.  The interior light is burned out, coolant gauge sender connector needs to be replaced, speedo cable needs attention, seats need some upholstery work, the brake boot is awful, and it has these terrible boy-racer pedal covers that need to be launched into the sun and replaced.  For the most part, though, it is just a solid driver.

I checked my numbers and if you count all the fluids and chemicals and the two timing belts and two head gaskets, I've got a pretty decent Miata for $1,938.11.  There are still some things to do that will raise that cost a bit - especially the rust repair - but I still think I got a bargain.

Jerry
Jerry UberDork
4/4/18 7:01 a.m.

In reply to wae :

If I could find a decent NA at $2k I would probably buy it.  Even if I only keep it a year or two.  Looks like a good purchase to me.

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