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Old 04-26-2018, 10:26 PM   #1  
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Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

Hello all,

I am the new owner of a 1997 Z28, LT1, T56 Camaro, 148k miles. It's in pretty rough shape but I bought it for $700 and it has what I'm pretty sure is a blown head gasket. My plan is to try and end up with a running, driving Z28 for a total of $1000ish. Apparently the 2nd to last owner overheated on the freeway and then got it towed home, sold it to the guy I bought it from for $2000 who thought he could just replace the water pump and be good, who sold it to me. The oil has coolant in it but it's not full vanilla milkshake yet.

To be truthful, if it wasn't a 6-speed car I probably wouldn't have bothered. My first ever car was a 2001 V6 Camaro with a T5 and ever since selling it I've always wanted another 4th gen f-body with a stick. Something that ain't pretty but functions mechanically and is fun to drive, and passes CA smog is what I'm after. If this doesn't work out I will try and sell it for what I have into it. Anyways here's what I've planned based on reading other threads (excluding tools, rtv, ect):

Materials Needed:

2x Fel-Pro 1074 Head Gaskets
1x intake manifold gasket (can someone suggest a part number?)
1x ARP 134-3701 Head Bolts
1x Timing Cover Gasket Set
2x O2 Sensors (original ones are messed up from coolant?)
4x rear coolant crossover pipe seals

Steps:
Disconnect Y-Pipe from exhaust manifolds
Remove exhaust manifolds
Remove front accesroies
Remove valve covers
Remove intake and all associated lines and cables
Remove heads
Get heads checked and milled if needed

Install head gaskets dry
Install removed components in reverse order
Replace 02 sensors
Fill with coolant and bleed system (I don't know the specific procedure)
Run then let cool completely before re-torquing head bolts
Perform leak down and/or compression test to verify engine health
Drive the **** outta it!

I am pretty mechanically comfortable but I've never done a head gasket before. Done engine and trans swaps, suspension work and basic bolt on mods to other cars so I'm not intimidated and I've got some time to go slowly and do it right. I'm just hoping the bearings are ok.

Am I on the right track?
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Old 04-26-2018, 11:41 PM   #2  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

These might help:

Download 1996 factory service manual (1997 is identical).

https://www.mediafire.com/?40mfgeoe4ctti

The LT1 master reference site:

4th Gen LT1 F-Body Tech Aids

Examples, coolant drain/fill/bleed procedure:

4th Gen LT1 F-body Tech Articles

Steam pipe seals:

http://shbox.com/1/steam_pipe_seal.jpg

Before you remove the intake, pull fuel rails. Replace injector O-rings.

When installing intake, you need sealer (Ultra Black RTV) for the front and rear block walls-to-intake. Critical part of install, if it isn’t done perfectly right, you can end up with an oil leak, usually at the back of the block.

When you reinstall the timing cover, you also need a set of seals for the water pump drive shaft, Optispark (distributor) drive, and crank. Water pump seal install is “demanding”. Need water pump gaskets.

Check the weep hole on bottom of water pump. If any signs of leakage, needs to be replaced, so it doesn’t dump coolant on the Opti. Since it’s apparently fairly new, might not be a problem.

Probably a lot more hints, and hopefully others will chime in.
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Old 04-27-2018, 12:36 AM   #3  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

Quote:
Originally Posted by Injuneer View Post
These might help:

Download 1996 factory service manual (1997 is identical).

https://www.mediafire.com/?40mfgeoe4ctti

The LT1 master reference site:

4th Gen LT1 F-Body Tech Aids

Examples, coolant drain/fill/bleed procedure:

4th Gen LT1 F-body Tech Articles

Steam pipe seals:

http://shbox.com/1/steam_pipe_seal.jpg

Before you remove the intake, pull fuel rails. Replace injector O-rings.

When installing intake, you need sealer (Ultra Black RTV) for the front and rear block walls-to-intake. Critical part of install, if it isn’t done perfectly right, you can end up with an oil leak, usually at the back of the block.

When you reinstall the timing cover, you also need a set of seals for the water pump drive shaft, Optispark (distributor) drive, and crank. Water pump seal install is “demanding”. Need water pump gaskets.

Check the weep hole on bottom of water pump. If any signs of leakage, needs to be replaced, so it doesn’t dump coolant on the Opti. Since it’s apparently fairly new, might not be a problem.

Probably a lot more hints, and hopefully others will chime in.
Awesome, thanks so much for all the info! That master reference site is a great find. Definitely enough to get me started. Step one is to charge the damn battery so I can get it in the driveway and off of the street. Step 2 is disassembly, I will try and label/tag everything and take a bunch of pictures.

Is there any trick to removing the exhaust manifold bolts? Was planning to hose em down with Gibbs or PB Blaster and let em soak for a day. Usually for these types of bolts I heat them up with a torch and give the head a few bangs with a hammer, but I don't think there's space for any of that.

Any tricks?
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Old 04-27-2018, 07:51 AM   #4  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

Quote:
Originally Posted by patwhac View Post
Step one is to charge the damn battery so I can get it in the driveway and off of the street. Step 2 is disassembly, I will try and label/tag everything and take a bunch of pictures.
Is there any trick to removing the exhaust manifold bolts? Was planning to hose em down with Gibbs or PB Blaster and let em soak for a day. Usually for these types of bolts I heat them up with a torch and give the head a few bangs with a hammer, but I don't think there's space for any of that. Any tricks?
Patwhac,

Personally, I would not start any engine with coolant in the oil, especially if the coolant was antifreeze. It will strip the oil from the cylinder walls, and score the walls. That may have happened already. You can get a USB borescope (boroscope) from Amazon for maybe US$35.00 with LEDs in the head. Bring your own laptop, phone, or tablet to display what the USB borescope sees. Tape the head to stiff iron wire (baling wire) to guide the head. Then you can look inside the cylinders through the spark plug holes, before you start. Best wishes.

You may be able to get a propane torch in where an acetylene torch will not go. Takes more time, not as hot, but it's 'way better than nothing. The blue tip of the propane flame is the hottest part.

You may be able to apply a hammer to the manifold bolts using a long drive punch on the bolt heads. Rebar will improvise a drive punch, if it is straight and you cut or grind the ends flat first. Rebar comes in all diameters.
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Old 04-27-2018, 01:20 PM   #5  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

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Patwhac,

Personally, I would not start any engine with coolant in the oil, especially if the coolant was antifreeze. It will strip the oil from the cylinder walls, and score the walls. That may have happened already. You can get a USB borescope (boroscope) from Amazon for maybe US$35.00 with LEDs in the head. Bring your own laptop, phone, or tablet to display what the USB borescope sees. Tape the head to stiff iron wire (baling wire) to guide the head. Then you can look inside the cylinders through the spark plug holes, before you start. Best wishes.

You may be able to get a propane torch in where an acetylene torch will not go. Takes more time, not as hot, but it's 'way better than nothing. The blue tip of the propane flame is the hottest part.

You may be able to apply a hammer to the manifold bolts using a long drive punch on the bolt heads. Rebar will improvise a drive punch, if it is straight and you cut or grind the ends flat first. Rebar comes in all diameters.
Thanks for the tip with the boroscope, I will buy one tonight. But I kinda have to run the engine to get it off the street or else it will end up with a bunch of tickets or towed. Plus I know the last owner has started it a few times to move it so I think whatever damage is already done is done. Will running it for another 15 seconds be that much worse?

If the bores are shot then I will probably sell this thing before it even gets going, unfortunately I don’t have the time or $$ for a rebuild.

Edit: Borescope was $36 and same day delivery was only $10, couldn’t help myself. Thank you corporate America!


Last edited by patwhac; 04-27-2018 at 02:08 PM. Reason: Adding Borescope purchase info
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Old 04-27-2018, 04:19 PM   #6  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

I guess depending on what you are looking for the car would impact how you proceed. You already picked up the car for a song. I see the goal is running for under $1,000, is that $300 for parts less the $700 you bought the car for? Is this your only car, and is the purpose to be a daily driver?

You can get rebuild kits for these cars for less than $500. For a fully forged lower end I think I paid around $1,600 (crank/pistons/rods), but there are definitely more expensive sets out there.

If there is possible coolant in the cylinders, I wouldn't risk any running either. Get a friend or 5 to push it where it needs to be.
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Old 04-27-2018, 05:14 PM   #7  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

since the car has been run with this blown head gasket multiple times already...I don't think moving it from the street to driveway/garage will do any further damage

Bore scope should reveal any cyl scuffing...but not dead bearings if coolant was in oil for any extended period of time.

PO drove the car until it overheated to the point (WTF gage had to been pegged for awhile) causing a blown head gasket. If it's worth $300 in gaskets, seals, misc. oil, sealant and machining heads straight (read likely more than $300) than go for it and see how it runs. Current owner will get $1000 easily, and more for the car if it turns out dead motor. The T56 alone is worth at least (more) than $1000 alone

Last edited by Chimera96; 04-28-2018 at 09:37 AM.
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Old 04-27-2018, 07:09 PM   #8  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

Patwhac,

Assuming the worst for that engine for a minute, this would be a good time to have friendly relations with a loose and local salvage yard. Depending on the local dudes there (and they will know some, at the yard), it may be possible to get a decent engine swapped into your Z28 for much less money than a rebuild. To sweeten that deal, and maybe not associated with the engine-swap dudes, try to find some local hot-rod engine rebuilders who will buy your LT-1 engine at a good price (for you). The LT-1 engine block is one of the strongest made by GM, so there will be a market, even "as is." The LT-1 engine that you need can be found in a wide variety of GM vehicles, not just the Corvettes, Camaros and Firebirds. LT1 history:

http://www.hpsalvage.com/lt1.htm

Happy hunting . . .

Last edited by ray42; 04-27-2018 at 07:25 PM. Reason: Add history link
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Old 04-30-2018, 12:11 AM   #9  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

Well I ended up driving it up the driveway. It was painful but it had to be done. Cranked it for a long time to get it started in the first place, which was also painful. Ran like crap.

Had time today to mess around with the borescope. I removed plugs from and scoped out cylinders 1, 3, 5, and 7. Pics of the bores are bellow, along with general pics of the car (because why not?).

To answer a couple of questions in the above posts, this is not my only car, I have a VW daily driver and 2 other old cars (one running, one not). I bought this car with hopes that it could become my daily driver/beater if I was able to fix it cheaply enough. The VW was a hand me down, and it's just not me. I think a V8 F-Body with a T56 would make a fun and decently efficient/reliable daily in stock form. Then I could sell the VW (though it's not worth much).
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Old 04-30-2018, 12:15 AM   #10  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

Pictures of the bore of cylinder #1. The only one on this bank of cylinders that is dry! Since 3, 5, and 7 are wet, that means the head gasket went super boom (for lack of better term) completely? Never looked inside bores before, but is that crosshatching I see?
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Old 04-30-2018, 12:17 AM   #11  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

Pictures of #3. It's wet, but not as wet as #5! To my untrained eye it still looks ok, but what do you guys think?
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Old 04-30-2018, 12:22 AM   #12  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

Pictures of #5. This one was the wettest and looks to me to be scored, but I'll leave that judgement up to you since this is my first time going scoping . . .
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Old 04-30-2018, 12:25 AM   #13  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

And finally #7. Looks to me similar to #3. I plan to inspect 2, 4, 6, and 8 if you guys say that these bores are ok. But if not I may as well stop while I'm ahead
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Old 04-30-2018, 12:32 AM   #14  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

Aaaaaaaand some pictures of the car. Complete with Black Ice fragrance (and there was even 3 more unopened ones in the center console ). I know she's not pretty . . . I'm guessing someone hopped a curb to cause that missing chunk in the fender Where I live, it's hard to not find a 4th gen F-Body without 26" barf ugly rims, a rattling trunk full of subs, or a Go Raiders paint job (or all 3). Unless you have more than $700 that is haha . . .
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Old 04-30-2018, 12:02 PM   #15  
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Re: Low Buck Head Gasket Fix

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And finally #7. Looks to me similar to #3. I plan to inspect 2, 4, 6, and 8 if you guys say that these bores are ok. But if not I may as well stop while I'm ahead
Patwac,

Those pix are pretty good, for a new borescope ace.

From here, I'd say that you have dodged a bullet. I'm guessing that you believe only one cylinder bank has a problem, which is usually correct. You have "scratches" and cross-hatching going around the cylinder walls, which is very good news at 148k miles. That engine probably spent a good portion of it's life running with full-synthetic oils, also good news. Gouges going up and down the cylinder walls would be bad news, and I don't see much of that (so far). Obviously, once you have seen all around inside each odd-numbered cylinder with a borescope, you would want to pull that head first, and let in some daylight for a better look there. At that point, I'd want some local experts to give it a second look, in person. Buy dinner, for their expert advice. You can get a lot of valuable tips, over a good meal.

So far, it all looks encouraging. The condition of rod bearings, end bearings, and main bearings would be guesswork from here, and you would need to look at them physically to be sure. The oil pressure gauge would give you a clue (if it runs healthy and steady), but that is not much to go on. If the coolant you have in the engine is mostly water, not antifreeze, you may dodge another bullet there, also. It's your call, on the bearings. Local experts may be helpful, there.

If new head gaskets and fresh oil does not get your Z running smoothly, you may have a problem in the Optispark. The LT1 Optispark does NOT like antifreeze (or even water). If coolant got in there, that could explain the hard starting and rough running, or maybe it was just the water in the cylinders, earlier. The Optispark is the Achilles heel of the LT1s, IMO. They are expensive to replace, and there is junk being sold new, so if needed, purchase by reputation, not by prices. Check for traces of coolant in or around that thing. You have a newer version there, with better sealing against coolant damage, so it may be okay anyway. Checking the Optispark's electrical operation needs gear that you and I do not have, but you can probably drive it to a good shop for that check.

Best wishes.
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