About to take the head off

Discussion in '1st Gen 1981-1990 CVH' started by Zane, Feb 12, 2017.

  1. Zane

    Zane New Member

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    Hello feoa, I'm pretty new to the DIY mechanical scene and I bought my 88 escort back in October of 2016 and never got around to fixing all of the problems until just recently. The biggest problem right now is I suspect a blown head gasket so I'm about to take the head off. I'm planning on replacing the head and valve cover gasket along with the timing belt and thermostat. What else should I check/replace?
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  2. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    I have fixed up eight 2nd gen Escorts, for myself and family members. For three of them I had the machine shop mill .006" off the top of the block, to clean up areas that had black rust. I wanted a shiny surface that was truly flat, for the replacement head. I also use a thread tap to clean out all the holes in the blocks, and the same for the threaded holes in the heads. I have a 14mm thread tap that I use to clean up the spark plug holes, but that probably would not be needed with a rebuilt head.
    I am glad hat you are fixing up a first generation Escort. They are a worthy car. I just started with the 2nd gen Escorts (my first one was given to me), and decided to stick with them.
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  3. Zane

    Zane New Member

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    Thanks for such a fast reply desnisond3! I love how the escort looks and drives and I want to make this a possible 300k+ mile contender. It's at 127k right now. Is it hard to take the head off? It doesn't look too challenging because there isn't much in the way. Do you have any tips for popping it off easier?
  4. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    I like to take pictures with a digital camera, shooting lots of pix, and taking more of them as I have parts off and out of the way.
    Mine are all 2nd gens, but my preference is to remove both the intake and exhaust manifolds, since that takes off enough weight that the head itself is an easy one man lift. When you have the head bolts out and the timing belt removed, you will likely still have to pry the head up slightly. This breaks the bond between the dowels that line up the head with the block. Dont lose them, they arent easy to find replacements for. I always have a couple of boards ready to set the head on. This is because a couple of the valves will be sticking down below the plane of the head, until the rockers arms are undone anyway.
    Depending on how far apart you have the car, I would recommend you replace the freeze plugs in the block if you possibly can. With the 2nd gen blocks there are five freze plugs. Two of them on the front side of the block, two on the backside, and a larger one on the end that you can only reach once the engine is separated from the transmission and the flywheel is removed. I havent had leaks from the freeze plugs yet, though a couple of them were beginning to seep. With engines as old as ours, I figure the freeze plugs dont have much longer before they will leak.

    I use new head bolts when I reassemble. I take two of the old head bolts and grind down the hex head and the flange to be the same diameter as the shaft. Then I thread the two bolts into the block a couple of turns. This gives me a pair of guides for lowering the head down onto the new head gasket and the locating dowels, so I dont get any gouges on the gasket. Then its easy to unscrew the 'modified' head bolts.
  5. Joey_Twowagons

    Joey_Twowagons FEOA Member

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    "About to take the head off"

    Oh, thank God. I was afraid this was going to be some awful ISIS beheading video.
  6. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    And welcome to the forums Zane!
  7. robynhoods

    robynhoods FEOA Member

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    have you started the car?
    have you done a compression test? if not do it be for you take the head off.
    are you losing antifreeze?
    the head is not awful but its a big job to do just starting out. pick up a manual it will help out a lot.
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  8. Zane

    Zane New Member

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    The car starts but runs terribly with coolant in the rad. I left the rad cap off and it bubbled out within a few seconds of starting and white smoke was pouring out of the exhaust. I'm pretty sure it's head gasket. Right now I have the intake and exhaust manifolds off, with detailed notes so I remember how to do it lol all I have to do is take the belts off and then dive into the engine. It's going pretty well. I've had to take a few trips to the hardware store for a deep socket 1/2 and some other goodies. I can't seem to figure out how to release the tensioner? There isn't a bolt head on it.
  9. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    Cant help with how to release tensioner. Have never worked on a first gen Escort.
  10. JOEG5982

    JOEG5982 FEOA Member

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    The Tensioner? Loosen the two bolts (one is not easily accessible when blocked by a motor mount) and wedge a pry bar on one end to slide it over and while doing that, retighten one of the bolts so it holds position.
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  11. Zane

    Zane New Member

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    Thanks guys! I got the head off and damn! The gasket was not in good shape valves.jpg pistons.jpg head gasket.jpg
  12. denisond3

    denisond3 Moderator Staff Member

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    In your photos, the darkened areas on the head seem to be mostly around that front-driver's-side corner, as well as that area of the gasket. I have found that particular head bolt is the one that had rusty threads (or snapped on removal) on several of my rebuilds. And on 3 of my rebuilds so far, I got the block milled down a few thousandths, just because I didnt like some much darkening on one region. Nor did the machinist. Afterward, the entire top of the block was shiny and light colored. Of course it means the block has to come out of the car – but I felt it was worth it. He milled off about .006” or .007”.

    It might be the kind of procedure that needs to be done to the engine once every 20 to 30 years; which means few mechanics are likely to be expecting it.

    The darkened portion of the fire ring of that cylinder #4 also indicates there had been a looseness there for a while. The color of the fire ring at the 10:00 is what they should look like.

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