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Old 08-28-2010, 09:16 PM   #1
merkur
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Head gasket replacement

Hi all

i'm new to forums. Have owned 2002 ford focus zx5 16 valve ztec for 3 years now, 133k. Well, i've had a misifire for several weeks now. I had initially sprayed the plug wires and saw they were arcing and figured i would get around to changing them. Well, today, i blew the head gasket. White smoke out the exhaust and coolant bubbling up from spark plug holes. Could a misfire from plug wires have caused this?? Do these engines have trouble with headgaskets??

Most importantly, how difficult is this job, i have intermediate mechanical skills. Any special tools needed. Can you guys give me step by step instructions on how to replace this head gasket

would greatly appeciate all the help., this really sucks!!

Jeff

PS: ANYBODY NEAR THE CHAPLE HILL NORTH CAROLINA AREA??



Last edited by merkur; 08-28-2010 at 09:16 PM. Reason: QUESTION
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Old 08-28-2010, 10:25 PM   #2
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Hold off homey, there's no reason to assume you've blown the head gasket just yet. Water in the spark plug tubes is nothing unusual. Water does typically get in there from rain and washing. It will bubble out as the engine heats up and turns it to steam. Now if one of your spark plugs is loose, and just a little water gets in the cylinder- that will cause white smoke from carbon released by the steam. I used to use water to steam clean engines- much like Seafoam Total Engine cleaners- it will cause white smoke.

First off, you should determine if that is smoke or if it is steam. Smell the exhaust- does it smell like anti-freeze? If so, that's bad, and yeah- you might need a head gasket. If the "smoke" dissipates before it rises over the level of the roof of the car- then it's steam. Put your hand near the exhaust pipe and you'll feel the moisture. As long as that doesn't smell like anti-freeze, we'll not worry about it. Smoke will continue to rise up in the air, travel down the road, and if it's really bad can get very thick. It doesn't take a lot of oil or a lot of carbon to cause smoke. If this more likely fits what is happening- then it very well might not be a head gasket.

The most telling sign of a bad head gasket is coolant mixing in the oil. It tends to make a peanut butter colored substance on the bottom of the dipstick. Check your oil and see if you have something like that.

Finally, bad head gaskets nearly always cause compression problems in at least one cylinder. This makes the car run like total crap. If it's running good but smoking- that's a completely different critter.

I'm not saying it's not a head gasket, I'm just trying to help you be thorough in your analysis. Also, misfires do not cause bad head gaskets. Age and serious overheating cause bad head gaskets- not the only causes, but the most common.
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Old 08-28-2010, 10:33 PM   #3
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Hi

thanks for the reply. well, i was driving and suddenly I smelled antifreeze inside the passenger compartment. there was a large white smoke behind me and smoke coming out from underhood. Again, i saw coolant bubbling out of spark plug holes where wires go into plugs. The car was runny crappy for weeks as I had arcing wires but figure I could wait to replace them, maybe this was the cause of what I think is a head gasket

BTW, I pulled the oil dipstick, there is no coolant in oil. nothing looking like chocolate milk at all. what do you think???? I never had a problem with this car until it started misfiring and running like crap. I am assuming the worst. If so, how hard is it to replace the gasket and can somebody please give me step by step directions of how to proceed in replacing the head gasket

thanks to all

Jeff
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Old 08-29-2010, 09:05 AM   #4
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Hi

I posted some more info about my issue. would be great if you could help me out

thx
Jeff
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Old 08-29-2010, 12:09 PM   #5
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Replacing the head gasket would require removing the timing cover, intake manifold, exhaust manifold, removing all the accessories- yeah, it's not something you jump right into.

Your crappy running was likely due to the usual suspects- old plugs, old fuel filter, bad PCV vacuum line, old PCV valve, plug wires, maybe a bad coil- etc.

Now you have a coolant leak from somewhere, and if the car is overheating that will eventually cause a bad head gasket. You should locate and repair the leak first before jumping into a head gasket job.

Once again- was it smoke or was it steam? You smelled coolant, so I'm going to assume it was steam and not smoke. I'd also assume that your car is low on coolant. First off, you should go ahead and change those plug wires/plugs if you have them. If you don't have plugs- no big deal, remove the plugs anyway and inspect the plug deposits. We need to know color and consistency (dry, flaky, wet) of the deposits on the old plugs to verify some of your running problems. You can find plug deposit charts online, or in any auto service manual. Identify and record the deposits, and also note if one cylinder has different deposits than the other, as that is important. Check gap, and install the cleaned plugs. You only have to scrape deposits off the sparking surfaces of the plugs with a knife, but a wire brush is the easiest tool to use for this.

If there is any coolant or water in the spark plug tubes, use a rag or a shop-vac to remove as much as possible. Don't worry if a little gets in the cylinder when you remove the plug.

Before starting the engine, fill the coolant reservoir up with water. You will want to massage the hose going to the radiator, and give enough time for the water to settle. Try to make sure it is as filled as possible. Be careful not to spill any water if you can because more than likely something will start dripping as you fill. Try to find the hole that is causing the drip. The thermostat housing on these engines is known to crack and cause coolant leaks. If you think you've filled the system as much as you can, and still haven't found a leak- put the cap on it and start it. This will circulate the coolant in the engine, and force any air out of the leak. If I'm right, you'll find a leak somewhere- if I had to make a guess, it would be one of the radiator hoses or the thermostat housing itself.

If you find that's it, then I highly suggest replacing both hoses because your car is approaching 10 years of age, and rubber typically lasts about 10 years unless it's coated in grease and dirt. If you find that the thermostat housing is the cause of the leak, then you should replace the thermostat when you do that repair.

Once you get the leak repaired, you should double check to be sure that the engine cooling fans are working properly. These cars have 2 speed fans, and as it ages the resistor which operates the low speed fan can go out. The fan only kicks on at high speed when the coolant temps are close to 220F. This is very close to the temperature that will damage hose integrity. It very well might be that the hose is damaged due to age, and high heat- and this busted hose prevented you from damaging the head gasket. If you have trouble verifying the operation of the fans, then we can work with that after you find the coolant leak.

I'm fairly certain that's what you're going to find from what you described. The reason you had steam/smoke coming out of your exhaust is because the air intake was sucking up steam from under the hood. Steam, as I pointed out earlier, will clean the inside of your combustion chambers like nothing else resulting in thick white smoke as the engine burns up all the carbon in the chambers and exhaust manifold. When a head gasket goes out, you typically don't have steam or smoke on the inside of the engine compartment. Usually the engine will not start, will run horribly if it does start, smoke and steam from the exhaust, and oil will mix with coolant. Another side effect other than oil/coolant mix is loss of compression- the starter will spin the engine freely, very fast, and it will not start, or might merely sputter some.

Check very carefully to see if you merely have a coolant leak as I have guessed, and repair that. Hopefully that is all it is, and we can get to work on your running problems after you have repaired the leak. Oh, and once you do repair the leak, you'll want to fill your car with the proper coolant mix, and while you don't have any coolant in the vehicle (while you're repairing hoses) you should flush the coolant system. When you've checked and located a leak- or not located a leak (cross your fingers that you do) stop back in and we'll make more suggestions. Hopefully those will just be how to flush your engine cooling systems, or how to tell if you need a new thermostat housing.
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Old 08-29-2010, 12:47 PM   #6
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Anyone familiar with the coolant hosing or plugs on the firewall side of the engine? Very tight in there and i can't see where my coolant leak is from.
Yesterday pm while driving, the dash warning came on & engine temp gauge maxed out. i pulled over and found light steam from under the hood while stopped. Expansion tank was empty, so i added some to try and make it home, but the coolant came out the back almost as quick as it went in. This is a 2002 wagon/auto trans, 2.0L engine.
The area around the T-stat housing appears dry and the coolant was coming from the firewall side.
Any ideas?
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Old 08-29-2010, 12:59 PM   #7
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Ok, we prefer if you start your own thread for your problem even though yours might be similar to someone else's problem.

It's likely to be the heater core hoses. These go from the engine block to the the center of the firewall. I'd search for articles on the heater hoses. I haven't done those myself so I can't tell you exactly where they are. You should be able to reach the firewall side of the connection from under the car, but you might not be able to reach the block side from underneath. My only recommendation would be to replace both hoses.
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Old 08-29-2010, 03:36 PM   #8
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Hi

thanks for your response. tomorrow I am going to have car towed to where i work and pull the plugs. Car starts and runs fine and no coolant in oil. oil looks fine when I pull the dipstick. I will look at that thermostat housing as you mention. AS I said when I was driviing i saw white smokeout of the exhaust. I also saw smoke from under hood. when I opened up the hood, there was coolant everywhere and nothing in the reservoir. What I still don't understand is when I restarted engine WHY WOULD COOLANT BE BUBBLING UP FROM THE SPARK PLUG HOLES IF IT WERE NOT A HEAD GASKET?? PLEASE LET ME KNOW

THANK YOU FOR ALL

JEFF
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Old 08-29-2010, 03:48 PM   #9
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Because it was spraying from somewhere under the hood that sprayed it on top of the valve cover, and gravity pulled it down into the spark plug tubes. Coolant does not bubble up from the spark plugs even if you blow a head gasket. It is well known that liquid gets trapped in those holes from rain, washing the car, and coolant leaks under the hood.

If you did have a head gasket leak, then coolant would be getting into the combustion chamber. There it would be turned into steam very quickly because temps are around 1500F. You'd also definitely smell coolant from the exhaust. If my theory is correct, you might still smell coolant at the exhaust- but it would likely not be as strong.
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Old 08-29-2010, 03:55 PM   #10
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WELL THANK YOU VERY VERY MUCH --feeling better about this -i'm going to go over to car tonight and maybe see if i see any broken hoses or thermostat housing cracking --might start it and also see if i smell coolant at exhaust. i'll look at oil again as well.

thankfully I still have my running LINColn LS 5 speed manual to get me around.

thank you for all the help, i will report back

Jeff
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