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I bought my 97 in the spring, 106000 miles, very reliable and very well running car. Only mod I have done is the air silencer delete. I will admit that I probably stomp on the gas a little more than I should. Anyways, one day last week the engine immediately started idling poorly, not enough to shut off, but almost. Going home, it did cut off as I turned a corner. Got home, I check under the hood for vacuum lines, see a couple of culprits and replace them.

Immediately, the car idled stronger in park but not drive or reverse, and there was a loud vacuum sound coming from the middle of the intake, (or so I thought). Since it was the old all-plastic intake, I changed out the intake with the aftermarket one I had bought. Seemed like a good time. I thought it was the throttle body, the spacer, or whatever. Under the car, I noticed coolant on the passenger side, front of engine, pooling on the accessories, explaining the lowering levels of coolant, and explaining the stains on the top of the engine in the valley. Oil on the pressure sender, but not a lot. Just telling all the symptoms seen here.

But, after replacing the intake, replacing the gaskets on the throttle body and spacer, the vacuum sound got louder, (no leaks from the intake, though) and when you cut the car off, there is a definite, loud and rapid "shoosh-shoosh-shoosh" sound, which made me suspect a leak in the head gasket. Driving the car around the block, definite change in power and torque. Parked it immediately.

1) Do you agree that it's likely a head gasket? I'll do a compression check, but am I on the right track?

2) I am facing replacing the head gasket, but I am hesitant to simply check the heads for warpage and use them without rebuilding the valvetrain and replacing the camshafts. For a 106,000 mile engine, am I right that the heads should be rebuilt? I am not worried about the bottom end, but will inspect it.

3) Would rebuilding the heads cost the same, less, or more, than buying PI heads for around $800 for the pair from somewhere like Summit, or a good parts supplier on this board?;) The reason I ask is that inspecting, cleaning, magnafluxing, valve seats, and valves, springs, camshafts, lifters will cost quite a bit, but would it still be cheaper than PI heads, PI intake, new timing cover?

Got an angry wife wondering what I am going to do here, and I am debating rebuilding the heads versus PI head swap, and honestly, I can't figure out which one would be better. Any feedback would be appreciated.
 

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It might be worth a look on www.car-part.com to see if you could find a whole pi engine for a few more $$. I'm not sure how much they're going for now, but you can come across a deal every now and then.

-Rob
 

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Discussion Starter #3
It might be worth a look on www.car-part.com to see if you could find a whole pi engine for a few more $$. I'm not sure how much they're going for now, but you can come across a deal every now and then.

-Rob
Thanks, Rob. I actually thought about that and did a little research, so that is another option, maybe a little bit more work than the other two options, though.
 

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Thanks, Rob. I actually thought about that and did a little research, so that is another option, maybe a little bit more work than the other two options, though.
I would think it depends on what tools you have available. Personally, I think it'd be almost just as easy to swap the whole engine as change the heads, especially doing the later in the car. I have an engine hoist in the garage, so it's not a problem for me to pull the engine.

-Rob
 

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if you indeed go for heads, for $800 you can get a much better set of heads that a set of stock PI heads from summit or wherever.....that kind of dough will get you a set of ported PI heads from Nick McKinney that will be gone through completely, and will make more power than a stock PI head, with new seals, bronze guides, crower springs as well
 

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if you indeed go for heads, for $800 you can get a much better set of heads that a set of stock PI heads from summit or wherever.....that kind of dough will get you a set of ported PI heads from Nick McKinney that will be gone through completely, and will make more power than a stock PI head, with new seals, bronze guides, crower springs as well
Also a very good point. That might even be the most cost effective option if you were looking at getting heads and having them reconditioned to go on the car.

-Rob
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the replies, Rob and guitarmaestro.

Am I right in thinking, then, that rebuilding the heads is 1) required here (at least reconditioned valve seats and faces, new cams and springs)?

and 2) rebuilding or reconditioning my heads is as expensive as buying new or reconditioned heads from someone else?

Thanks for the input. I think I might be on track to making some high-flowing, high-compression lemonade out of this lemon of a head gasket problem I have now.
 
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