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Thread: "What could possibly go wrong?" Let's Play: GM 3100 Head Gasket Job [blind]

  1. #1
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Cool "What could possibly go wrong?" Let's Play: GM 3100 Head Gasket Job [blind]




    Howdy, A-body.net! I'm Daniel, aka Duke George V, and this is my Let's Play of GM 3100 Head Gasket Job! This is going to be a blind playthrough, so it'll be just as exciting for me as it is for you!

    GM 3100? Why that version?
    Well, that's what the car came with! This is a 1996 Buick Century, and your choices were a 110 hp 2.2L four, or a 160 hp 3100. Naturally, one should choose the version that's more powerful, and that's what I did.

    Blind playthrough? You've never done this before!?
    That's correct! I'm more of a technician. I've done spark plugs, brakes, oil changes, even a fuel pump once or twice, but I felt that this would be more challenging if I didn't use a walkthrough. I will admit that I'm gonna cheat a bit in the second half by printing out a torque specification for various bolts, but you can hardly blame me for that!

    I've heard this has a really frustrating post-game. What's the big deal?
    I dunno. I guess I could torque down the last bolt and it won't start. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it!

    ... Yeah right.

    Anyway, here's the story. I bought a 1996 Buick Century wagon from a guy in Ontario, CA, via craigslist. I could end it right there and you could intuit the rest and probably be mostly right. I'm gonna tell this story though, dammit, and there ain't nothin' you can do about it.

    Here's the rental car I used to get there:


    2012 Chevrolet Impala. If there's one thing GM still knows how to make, it's a comfortable highway cruiser. Under the hood of this relic from the late 80's:



    A sea of plastic! Underneath it all is GM's hot direct injection 3.6L DOHC V6, sending 300 hp and 262 ft-lbs to the front wheels via a 6T75 six speed automatic transmission. Not to put too fine a point on it, this land barge can move.

    Um... yeah, that's the only pictures I took of the entire trip. I didn't even take a pic of my new car until several days later, when I picked up some new dressers. Doin' what wagons are supposed to do: haulin' shit.



    As I said above, it's powered by GM's infamous 3.1L "3100 SFI" V6, making 160 hp and 185 ft-lbs, and notorious for a few gasket problems, most notably the lower intake manifold. I was told by the PO that that job had been done. The residual milkshake under the radiator cap did not back him up very well, and neither did the water (yes, H2O) in the radiator. However, it made the 250 mile return trip to Las Vegas without issue, and even got 26 miles per gallon! A bit down from the EPA estimated 29 mpg, but it had been sitting for a while, so I didn't think anything of it.

    Then, this happened one night after less than six days of ownership:



    Popped the factory upper radiator hose. I didn't notice it until the engine stalled, with the temp gauge pegged and steam pouring out from the hood. Mother fucker wouldn't restart either. Luckily, home was only two blocks away.

    I nearly died pushing it that far. I know, people tend to go straight for the hyperbole when talking about this sort of stuff. I am not. Tunnel vision, tingling in the extremities, difficulty breathing, slurred speech. I terribly overexerted myself pushing what I thought to be a relatively light car (curb weight is around 3100 lbs).

    Next day I threw on both upper and lower hoses, filled the radiator with coolant, tried unsuccessfully to burp it, noted that the heater was blowing cold, gave up and took it to a shop to have them do it. They put the flush machine on it. I don't think they should have. I was given a diagnosis of blown head gasket, with exhaust gas leaking into the cooling system. They'll be happy to put a new engine in for me for the low low price of $3500-4500! (yeah, nah, yer a ****, gimme back my car)

    The temp gauge pegged within two miles of the shop, the heater was still blowing cold, and I had four more miles to go. Not wanting to risk blowing the whole damn thing, the car made it home on the back of a flat bed. The next day, it wouldn't start at all. I sought a second opinion from a mobile mechanic. After determining it had good spark and sufficient fuel pressure, he noticed that coolant was bubbling into the overflow bottle, despite the engine being stone cold. "That worries me" is not what you want to hear from the mechanic.

    Out came the compression tester, and came up with readings of 80, 90, and 110 psi on the front bank. Second opinion: blown head gasket at least on the front head, with exhaust gas leaking into the cooling system.

    Fuck it, I'll do it myself.


    Gotta love the axe handle hood prop.

    It died so young too. Only 131k miles.


    All right, chums, let's do this. Hood off.


    Battery removal reveals some nice rust. I don't plan to repair this. Cars don't generally rust in the high desert.


    Cut the red wire. No, the black one!



    Throttle body off. Other stuff was removed before this (alternator, MAP sensor, ignition coils, ICM, ICM bracket, some other vacuum manifold thing I don't know the name of), but that's boring, and I took terrible pictures. Interesting note ("interesting"), the throttle body and MAF are integrated on this particular version of the 3100. A wonderful idea, I'm sure.


    The EGR valve came next, but I didn't take a pic of that. Then the upper intake, which I did.


    This is where I stood after about three hours of work. I later pulled the fuel rail and didn't take a pic.
    Daniel
    Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 214-SFI. 201k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
    Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 120k miles. Will be mom's car soon.
    Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for an LR4.



  2. #2
    Senior Member occupant's Avatar
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    I will highly recommend four things as you go into this.

    1) buy new cylinder head bolts (Fel-Pro ES72892 on RockAuto, $24/set)
    1a) don't even think about re-using the old head bolts
    1b) not even if they look like they already got replaced when the PO did it
    1c) not even if you can't afford it, save up, get new head bolts

    2) Fel-Pro Severe Duty Permatorque gasket set (HST9957PT2) is $153.79 on RockAuto
    2a) you can cheap out and go PermaDry, but why?
    2b) complete kit includes everything but bolts that you need

    3) send the heads and lower intake to a machine shop and get a valve job done while you're at it.

    4) before you put it all back together, take a length of wire rope (speedo or throttle cable sized) and put it in the end of a power drill and clean out the EGR passageways like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpB6CELWYhQ
    Alan Moore - TOAD Towing - Worthington, OH

    2017 Toyota Corolla LE, bought new 7-7-17 at 5 miles, now 70K miles
    2010 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT, bought used 11-25-16 at 70K now 126K miles

  3. #3
    Senior Member SilentWing's Avatar
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    HST9957PT2 that Alan mentioned is the set with the metal manifold gaskets, make sure you get those since that essentially eliminates the LIM gasket problems.

    The head bolts are Torque To Yield so, like Alan said.... those can't go without being replaced.

  4. #4
    Senior Member 93centsp's Avatar
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    Arrow

    Great pictures and peppering with four letter words

    Take your time as you proceed with your project. If you feel frustrated or mentally drained, stop and take a break!

    Great comments by occupant. One comment I have: a valve job at 13x,xxx miles could cause increased oil consumption through the piston rings. Perhaps a local auto machine shop could comment on this topic after inspection of the heads.

    Are you further along than shown in your first post?

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    Senior Member SilentWing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 93centsp View Post

    Great comments by occupant. One comment I have: a valve job at 13x,xxx miles could cause increased oil consumption through the piston rings. Perhaps a local auto machine shop could comment on this topic after inspection of the heads.
    The reason you do a valve job is not because the valve is leaking and losing compression, or, if it is, the valve is either burnt or severely distorted to the point where the valve and the seat need to be replaced not ground. The reason for lapping the valves is 1) to increase the contact area between the face of the valve where it sits against the seat and the valve seat itself since this area is where the heat dissipates out of the valve into the cylinder head. Without this thermal conduction the valve would overheat very rapidly and get burn/melt spots in it. 2) If you're going to have a valve job done and would like to have a multi-angle valve job done the multiple angles on the valve itself act as a rounded corner instead of a sharp edge reducing turbulence and allowing a smoother airflow into the cylinder. 99.9% of stock applications don't require a mutli-angle valve job.

    Essentially lapping the valves if the faces aren't burnt and the seats are in good shape is all you need to do along with milling it and valve stem seals given the margin on your valve is still in specification and is not receded too far into the seat from wear. NONE of this is going to cause an increase in oil consumption. If your engine was worn to the point where doing a decent lapped valve job, new stem seals, and head gaskets was going to restore enough compression to affect or wear out the oil control rings or the bottom end of the engine, the thing needed a full rebuild in the first place. As Daniel said the wagon ran essentially perfectly before it blew the head gasket, therefore he won't have a problem.

    Case in point: My Ciera had 170+ thousand miles on it when we did the top swap to my motor Including a valve job. After putting approximately 2,000+ miles on it since it has had absolutely no ill effects.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    I have already purchased a new head bolt set, as well as a lower intake manifold bolt set, which, according to everything I've read, are also TTY.

    Quote Originally Posted by 93centsp View Post
    Great pictures and peppering with four letter words
    I aim to please.
    Quote Originally Posted by 93centsp View Post
    Are you further along than shown in your first post?
    Indeed. I just wanted to get a post up and didn't want to overload everyone with information. New post shortly.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Power steering pump off. Three mounting bolts, accessed through the holes in the pump pulley. Holy shit GM actually made something easy to remove.



    Valve covers came off next, forgot to take pictures. (Noticing a trend here?)

    Lower intake off, eight bolts there, along with a water inlet that was a bear to break loose.


    Starting to see some guts now. Pushrods and rocker arms gone.


    The AC compressor has to go now, since it's mounted to the engine-side torque strut bracket. It's held on by five bolts, with three in front and two behind. Had to lever it off the bracket with a pry bar.



    Also, it appears that the lower intake manifold gasket is the original piece, or it's an old-style GM replacement, because it's fully plastic and it has a GM part number and logo on it. Fuckin' liar PO. You can bet your ass I'll be putting the updated MLS gasket in there so I don't have to do this shit again.


    NEXT TIME: Something goes wrong.
    Daniel
    Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 214-SFI. 201k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
    Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 120k miles. Will be mom's car soon.
    Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for an LR4.

  8. #8
    Senior Member babyivan's Avatar
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    PO is full of shit, never did the LIM for sure!

    looks like a fun job

    You take good pics! This thread is informative, I will be following it.

    Please keep updating us whenever possible!

    '87 Olds Cutlass Ciera 3.8 SFI V6, 63K miles
    '85 Chevy Celebrity wagon 2.8 V6
    '84 Chevy Celebrity 2.8 V6 (my very first car!)

  9. #9
    Senior Member SilentWing's Avatar
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    Nice, nothing like an honest seller huh? Makes you wonder if he even knew what a lower intake manifold gasket was.

    Uh oh about something goes wrong....

    Looking forward to seeing more.... don't worry about overloading, I think we're all pretty interested in your project. If you can, snag a picture of your cylinder walls when you pull the heads.

    Edit: Although you probably already know this, the intake and exhaust pushrods are different lengths.... the exhaust are longer than the intakes. If you lay them out side to side you'll notice they're different lengths. Make sure you get the right pushrod in the right place or it'll bend the pushrods and possibly the valves.
    Last edited by SilentWing; 04-23-2013 at 12:14 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilentWing View Post
    Although you probably already know this, the intake and exhaust pushrods are different lengths.... the exhaust are longer than the intakes. If you lay them out side to side you'll notice they're different lengths. Make sure you get the right pushrod in the right place or it'll bend the pushrods and possibly the valves.
    No worries there.


    Breakin' flange studs (like a bawss).



    Get bent.


    This confirms that the PO did not have the lower intake manifold gasket replaced at any time. I hope you get mouth herpes, you dirty fucking cocksucker.

  11. #11
    Senior Member occupant's Avatar
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    Pushrod organization does not need to be neat or clean, just functional. I used Dr Pepper 12 Pack boxes to organize the pushrods and cylinder head bolts when I did a 3.3L Dodge Intrepid engine six years ago:



    I didn't re-use the bolts, I just had them in a certain order so I knew which ones went where when the new ones were ready to go on. Some are longer than others.

    I had a lot of fun over two weeks doing this repair on the street in front of my house.



    Paid $800 for the car knowing it had a blown motor (but had cold AC and was clean and decent in and out and average miles 138K at ten years old), spent $700 on parts, tools, and taxes/title/tags, sold it for that $1500 to a friend who drove it for 4 years (with no issues) then she moved to DC and sold it before she left. AFAIK it's running around Houston somewhere. I'm proud to say I did it right the first time so any time in the future I undertake a V6 head gasket job (or a V8, or probably a pushrod four) I'll know what I'm doing.
    Alan Moore - TOAD Towing - Worthington, OH

    2017 Toyota Corolla LE, bought new 7-7-17 at 5 miles, now 70K miles
    2010 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT, bought used 11-25-16 at 70K now 126K miles

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    Senior Member SilentWing's Avatar
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    Sucks about the exhaust manifold bolts.... Luke had the same thing happen to the Cutlass Supreme he had. Behind the stud that you busted off there are hexes on the stud going into the manifold for removal purposes.... if you get a torch and get the manifold nice and toasty right by the hex it should crack loose and come out. Luke replaced his with another bolt.... M8 x 125 if he's not mistaken. Aluminum or copper anti seize will help it go back together easier and ensure it'll come loose nice and easy in the future if you ever have to get it apart again.

    Also make sure you put the dummy distributor o-ring in while you're there since it requires LIM removal to take it out... just so you don't kick yourself later since it's a common leak point.

    On another note I'm glad to see we're not the only ones who come up with off the wall ways to remember where things go

  13. #13
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Technically, that stud was in the manifold, but it's on the flange to the crossover. I broke it twice, so it will have to be drilled out. Not really looking forward to that.

  14. #14
    Senior Member turbokinetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post
    ...
    It died so young too. Only 131k miles.
    ....
    Not dead yet! Just a little bit "under the weather" as we say!

    Lookin forward to seeing it run again!

    David

  15. #15
    Senior Member babyivan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post

    Get bent.


    Not to laugh at your struggles, but that is a very funny pic and line!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post

    This confirms that the PO did not have the lower intake manifold gasket replaced at any time. I hope you get mouth herpes, you dirty fucking cocksucker.
    Mouth herpes are too good for him! I say genital herpes are more befitting!

    '87 Olds Cutlass Ciera 3.8 SFI V6, 63K miles
    '85 Chevy Celebrity wagon 2.8 V6
    '84 Chevy Celebrity 2.8 V6 (my very first car!)

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