Need some DIY input to replace a headgasket on my 93' Civic DX

Discussion in 'Civic' started by Hendersauce, Sep 21, 2006.

  1. Hendersauce

    Hendersauce Guest

    Recently I have had an issue with my 93' Civic all stock, (227,000
    miles, still runs good, but I know it's a ton of miles). White smoke
    from my tail pipe, coolant in my exhaust can be smelled, with the car
    lurching/stuttering in idle. Driving, my temp meter shot up to high, I
    turned on the heater to get it down, which helped but it would still
    rise and fall like a roller coaster. It happened yesterday, got it home

    and I haven't driven it since, I do not want to warp or damage the

    Through some online research and input from dad, I discovered that I
    either have a blown head gasket or a cracked head. I know that I need
    to replace a head Gasket, but I'm not sure where to start? (e.g
    compression test, watching radiator or bubbles)
    It seems like it's not going to JUST be the Gasket either that needs
    replacing, reading various blogs it sounds like there's a bit more
    involved in the process (People have been posting about torque and
    flexible header bolts, losing me in this jargon). I don't know too much

    about cars, it's a learning experience for me. Pops knows a bit, but
    some DIY input would be great.

    What I do know is that as a full time college student, I don't have the

    12- 1400 Grand to pay a shop to do it. I just had Midas replace my
    master Cylinder (no pressure, pedal to the floor) and do all my brakes
    2 weeks ago, a $400 job my parents helped me cover. So I am not willing

    to just give up on this car after putting that kind of money into it.
    Please, I'd appreciate it if responses like, "If you don't know what
    you're doing forget it", they are annoying and quite unhelpful. This is

    why I am posting for some input. We (pops and I) are doing it at home,
    and I simply want maybe a walkthrough, or some things to look out for,
    strategies to avoid problems, etc. Thanks in advance for stopping to
    read my blog...

    Also, Car is in good condition. I had it fully serviced last month, all

    fluids checked, Filters replaced, etc. 2 months ago had to replace the
    radiator with a new one (Texas summer! 0_o). In other words, I have not

    had any issues with this vehicle...

    - Chris H.
    Hendersauce, Sep 21, 2006
  2. The symptoms sure sound like a head gasket, and possibly a warped head.
    Cracked heads are rarer. The shadetree test for head gasket trouble is to
    remove the radiator cap (engine cold!) and start the engine. Pinch off the
    hose to the reservoir and place the palm of your hand over the radiator
    opening for a few seconds. If you feel steadily rising pressure or (worse)
    pulsations the head needs to come off for repair.

    Replacing a head gasket is a fairly advanced DIY job, but it is more work
    than skill that makes it a challenge. Some important points:
    *Don't rush. Expect the car to be down a week or two as you sort out snags,
    in expertise or tool availability. Before the new head gasket goes on be
    sure the surfaces are really ready (flat and clean). Check for guidance
    *Ask around to find a friend of a friend who has replaced a head gasket
    before. Having a local source of expertise is both emotional and technical
    *Rent the special tools you need, which will certainly include a torque
    wrench. Some parts chains offer what amounts to free rentals for up to three
    days - it amounts to buying the tool and returning it for a refund, but they
    expect you to do that.
    *A good manual is a good friend. You can get a Haynes manual for under $20
    US the last I saw, but the Helm manual at $62 (
    will serve you much better. DIY repairs can make up the difference in price
    very quickly.

    Michael Pardee, Sep 22, 2006
  3. Hendersauce

    Hendersauce Guest

    Hey Mike, Thanks for the response. Turns out pops knows a bit more
    about head gaskets than I thought. He has all the tools, and we have a
    mechanic who's gonna come over and remove the head, and take it to an
    auto shop to get it milled. I guess from then on it's a matter of a new
    gasket and putting everything back together? Should have the Haynes
    manual in the house somewhere...I really think I'll be able to get
    through this, but I'm keeping your response to look back on if need be.
    Thanks Loads...

    Hendersauce, Sep 22, 2006
  4. Hendersauce

    jim beam Guest

    do NOT get the head milled unless it is warped. i've seen many an alloy
    head screwed up this way. and they get slapped back on the block
    regardless so the owner has to go back again in 6 months and gets soaked
    for a new motor.

    1. remove head.
    2. do a rough check for flatness.
    3. if ok, clean it up /carefully/.
    4. check for flatness again.
    5. finish cleaning.
    6. re-use.

    google this group for recent talk-through of this procedure on an accord.

    oh, and the reason milling is such a gamble is because if the cutting
    piece picks up a piece of crud, it drags it all the way across the head
    gouging a deeper and deeper furrow in the surface as it goes. in old
    cast iron heads, this doesn't happen, so in the old days, it was ok to
    do this as a routine service procedure. old habits die hard, and in
    this case, can be very destructive. the head needs to be finished to
    near mirror finish to give a long term seal. if you really /must/ skim
    the head, make sure you inspect the work of the shop on other heads
    before you let them touch yours. if they produce near mirror, go ahead
    and use them. if they produce stuff with milling marks and ridges on
    it, move right along. and don't believe any story about the head
    needing milling marks to "grip" the gasket - that's bunk.
    jim beam, Sep 23, 2006
  5. Some shop that fouled up a milling must have come up with that and described
    it as a "feature."

    Yeah, feature, that's the ticket... it needs those scratches. Hate to have
    the head slip plumb off the gasket because it's so smooth, right?

    Michael Pardee, Sep 23, 2006
  6. I defer to the group experience on this. I've had the luxury of stumbling
    across a first-rate cylinder head shop (Arizona Cylinder Head for those in
    the Phoenix area) and never had to worry about unnecessary work or bad work.
    I agree, if a shop falls short in either of those areas it could make a
    slightly bad situation much worse. A slightly gouged mating surface is the
    path to perdition.

    Michael Pardee, Sep 23, 2006
  7. Hendersauce

    Ricky Wang Guest

    People have been resurfacing head or aluminum alloys for years
    and only the inexperience would drag the crud all the way across the head.
    A near mirror finishes are too expensive for the average car owner
    could afford. Unless the car manufacturer requires a near mirror
    finish, don't bother with it.
    Ricky Wang, Sep 27, 2006
  8. My retired ex-partner has done some milling for me in his garage, and the
    output of the milling machine can be described as "near mirror finish." If a
    milling machine isn't producing that sort of output, it's because the head
    hasn't been dressed lately. That's the sort of neglect that can weaken the
    head gasket seal as combustion gasses insinuate their way through the gaps.

    Actually, I don't think debris produces the milling marks. The cutter head
    is an abrasive disk spun at high speed that is scanned across the surface in
    the plane of the disk The edge of the disk cuts a flat groove at a preset
    thickness, then is moved laterally to cut an identical groove beside that,
    and so on. Milling marks appear if the wheel edge is not true.

    Michael Pardee, Sep 27, 2006
  9. Hendersauce

    jim beam Guest

    the point for both of you is that a /lot/ of head shops out there simply
    use the same cutter on an alloy head that they use for cast iron. the
    best case result is a grooved head that is a /long/ way from smooth.
    and worst case is the gouging i'm warning you about - i've seen it many
    times guys, so beware.

    and the biggest point in all this is that for most repair shops that use
    these kinds of milling services, they never get to see the consequences
    so they never learn any different. most cars are high mileage when the
    head goes the first time. if it goes a second, the car gets sold or
    junked. for my personal vehicle, i want the repair to last at least as
    long as the original - that's 140,141 miles. that's never going to
    happen on a grooved head because gas channels along the groove base.
    it's slow at first due to gasket sealant, but that sealant erodes, and
    then you get leakage again.

    unless you have access to a shop that can produce a bona-fide high
    quality near-mirror finish, milling a head that is not warped is simply
    "monkey see, monkey do".
    jim beam, Sep 27, 2006
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