by Chris Barrington

Installment 16 - Head Job

The 2011 season ended with a 1st place in my auto-x class, but when checking my oil during the last event I noticed a bit of water in the oil. Not much, but enough to catch my attention. The coolant reservoir confirmed this, as it was low by a cup or two. No leaks to be found meant it could only be one of two things: oil cooler seals or head gasket.

I replaced the oil cooler seals back in installment 7, and with only a few years on them I didn't think they were the issue. Never having pulled the head and not knowing the age of the head gasket I figured it was time to bite the bullet.

Back in installment 11 I eluded to an engine build that never materialized. It turns out the cylinder bores were scored and the block has been a paper weight in my garage, occassionally allowing me to trip over from time to time. The head and cam tower were good though, and allowed me to send the spare head out to the machine shop before the tear down even began.

Not wanting to do this again any time soon I had the machine shop deck the head, ensure the valves weren't bent, and replace the valve guides and seals.


With everything I needed to do the job in hand, the tear down began. Fluids drained and airbox removed.


To make my life a little easier I left the fuel rail attached.


Cam tower removed. Everything looked pretty good, thankfully.


I think we found the problem...


At this point, all the tedious work began. Using a scotchbright pad and B12 Chemtool, my brother and I went to town on the piston tops and block mating surface. It took forever, but the end result was worth it.


Next up, transferring the exhaust manifolds to the new head.


New head gasket ready to go.

Head mounted up! Much improved. Then cam tower mated back up.


Timing belt reinstalled and timing marks triple checked. I feel like I was just in here...

Intake going back on. I forgot how many vacuum lines and hoses there are!

Everything back together and running perfectly I'm happy to say. I'm not sure if it's the spark plug change or the fact that the valves are sealing perfectly (probably both) but the car idles better, revs smoother and sounds very clean. Back to the track this month!

All photos: