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Discussion Starter #1
I'm looking into the engine failure of my sisters 177k mile '01 SOHC Escort. After pulling the head and finding the carnage wrought on the pistons and cyl head I was dumbfounded as to the cause. The valves seemed to operate properly and pistons were still securely attached to the rods and crank. I began wondering who sabotaged her car by putting aluminum nuts through the intake. Well, after removing a few of the valves it became apparent. Now after some research I find this is a common malady of these heads.

Now, my real reason for posting...

The vehicle owner has no funds whatsoever. I'm curious if anyone here has ever slapped a new head over top of pistons in this condition (or worse) and had a happy story to tell?

The cylinders show no scoring. Since these pictures were taken I've cleaned up the pistons and they have no cracks on the outer lands (that I can see). The #4 piston does have a chunk taken out of the dome at one of the valve reliefs. My hope is I can get away with just lightly deburing the piston top to remove all sharp edges. The trickier thing to do I believe will be satisfying myself that no foreign pieces of aluminum get trapped down in the ring lands causing problems down the road. I'm also assuming no rod damage (i.e. bending) as all pistons look to measure the same TDC.

While we're on the subject...
1. Are these head bolts TTY and not reusable or can we torque them back down after inspection?
2. Do any of the head bolts require sealant?
3. And out of curiosity, how much meat is there from the top of the piston down to the first ring land?

Btw, NO, I never would have contemplated continued use of pistons in this condition when I teched at a dealership (unless express written consent was provided by the customer in addition to no guarantee provided). Unfortunately this is family and an exceptional case at the moment.



Additional images:
Piston #4 - http://home.comcast.net/~golem/temp/cly_4_a.JPG
Cylinder #2 - http://home.comcast.net/~golem/temp/cyl_2.JPG
Head #4 - http://home.comcast.net/~golem/temp/head_cyl_4.JPG
Intake Valve #4 - http://home.comcast.net/~golem/temp/int_valve_cyl_4.JPG

Any opinions or real life experiences appreciated.

Cheers!
 

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I bought a 94 Escort that had swallowed its #4 inlet valve seat. The chunks of the valve seat had been blown back into the manifold and got sucked into cyl #2. Both the #2 and #4 pistons were hammered about like your picture, and were no longer a proper fit on the wrist pin -- being tight and NOT free to turn. I could turn the piston on the con rod with my fingers, but I didnt want to take the chance that it would sieze-up if I reused them as they were. Furthermore, on both pistons the top compression ring was now clamped tight in the groove below where the piston top was 'pebbled', and not expanding. The cylinder walls were all undamaged.
I dont know anyway to tell if the pistons are damaged, without taking them out of the block.
There wasnt any visible damage to the crankshaft, though i didnt bother to measure it with a micrometer. I got a junkyard engine for $200, and sort-of-rebuilt that one;new rings, bearings, crankshaft main seals, and new valve stem seals on the head.
On the 2nd generation Escorts (1.9l engine) the head bolts are not supposed to be reused, because the torquing will actually twist them a little at the threads. I would not jeopardize my efforts by re-using a set.

I dont know about the 3rd gen. but on the 2nd gen, none of the head bolts require sealant.

Im guessing the distance from the crown to the first ring groove on a 2nd gen. piston is about 3/16".

Im the guy in the family who gets to fix all the cars, and I understand about repairing a car for someone who isnt going to be able to repay me for the parts needed.
 

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thats pretty gnarly however if there is no wall scaring and clean it up with an angle grinder and roll with it :D



I did on my car and 25k later the cyl wall looks beautiful... I know cause I just had the head off
 

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I posted this on another thread but it pertains to your situation(the damage to my 97 was about like yours).

The head bolts aren't reusable.

I didn't usa any sealant. Some of the bolts go into a water jacket I believe. Can't remember which.



Be careful. I have a 97 that dropped a valve seat and had much more damage than yours. I slapped a head on it and it has been fine for almost 2 years. One month ago I picked up a 98 Sport with a dropped valve seat, (for 200 bucks). I tore it apart and the piston had only minor damage. I rotated the engine, checked the cylinder walls, and everything seemed fine. Well to make a long story short it ran for about 1 minute then started knocking, lightly at first then it got real bad so I shut it off. I thought maybe I had a stray piece of valve seat that I had left in the intake manifold. I was picking at a loose fragment on piston 4 and it fell down into the cylinder.I dropped the pan and was greeted by a bent connecting rod, a scored cylinder wall, and tons of pieces of piston 4. Goes to show that you never can tell. Make sure you take the time to inspect the piston very carefully before you put it back together.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Now that's funny, three replies and we're split down the middle thanks to rs70chgrrt having dual experiences. Much appreciate the practical insight relayed along with the answers to my questions.

I'm one of those that hate to do a half bumm job therefore my indecision. Some of the comments though have reinforced my fears. I was hoping for a bit more meat at the top of the piston to reduce the chance of fracture or ring binding from crush. On the positive side though after cleaning the mess left by the pulverized guide I can easily rock the piston fore and aft resulting in a solid but light skirt slap, 100% similar to the other pistons. It is also possible to shimmy the piston in every direction a few thousandths leading me to believe the rings are truly free. I'll also put a height/depth gauge to it after I clean the remaining gasket material in effort to convince myself that no rods are bent (hopefully the domes are uniform height).

I was able to get my hands on a used head that looks to have been a factory rebuild recently installed on the junker it had been pulled from. It was $250 whereas a complete used motor in my area is pushing $950 (unknown internal condition). I know I really, really should bite the bullet, pull the pan, check the rod and replace the piston. This means more money (piston, ring set, "maybe" rod bearings and additional gaskets) and even more back time. If someone is willing to convince me the pan is an easy pull I just may be tempted. :wink: The other option is just slap the head on and hope that if there is any piston failure it doesn't damage the head or even cylinder. Going back in to replace just the piston at a later date would mean only being out the price of the head gasket and bolts. Yeah, I know what you're thinking we never get that lucky.

Thanks again guys for your quick replies!

Cheers!
 

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It's not difficult to pull the pan as long as you can get the exhaust out of the way. The bolts are probably rusted solid if you live anywhere that salt is used on the roads in the winter. Get the exhaust out of the way and the pan comes right down.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
That's it, my conscience will not allow me to short-cut it (whew, I'll be able to sleep tonight now that I've said that).

Out comes the rod/piston tomorrow for closer inspection and replacement. As long as I see no damage beyond the topside of the piston I'll probably not replace the rod bearing. Should be able to limit the "additional" cash damage to a piston, rings and pan gasket.

Thanks once again for everyone's input! I'll let you know how it turns out. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #11
You guys have just earned another internet help award!

Earlier today based on your real life experiences coupled with my conscience I pulled the pistons. First out was #4 (the most mangled). Sure enough ALL 3 RINGS were pinched solid in the grooves just below the point most peppered. Next came #2, this one was much less impacted by the debris but sure enough both compression rings were seized on one side of the piston. The remaining two pistons along with all cylinders bores and rods checked out fine. I really am glad you guys provided me with enough good and bad experiences to push me off the right side of the fence. :wink:

Couple things of note...
She bought this used and it was likely a program car as it was less than 2 years old with nearly 30k miles. I'm thinking this is not the original motor (or at least a rebuild) because the rods were stamped with cylinder numbers. Funny thing is #2 & #3 were in the wrong cylinders!

As for pan removal, well, the exhaust bolts just before the flex pipe are rusty, seized, and corroded. Instead of fighting with them I just dropped the x-member and the exhaust easily swung out of the way courtesy of the flex pipe.

Thanks again for everything. I'll be sure to check in with a thumbs-up as soon as I get her back to life.

P.S. -- celery952, much appreciate the offer. I'll let you know if it comes down to parts hunting.

Cheers!
 

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Good move taking the pistons out for inspection, the motor definitely would have failed in short time if left alone.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

I always expect to be frustrated by stubborn bolts or busted knuckles but not by my current devil...inability to acquire stock pistons for the engine!

I can locate upper gasket set, head bolts and rings, but NO pistons! Anyone know a retailer selling pistons? I'm just about ready to entertain used replacements.

Cheers!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for the replies!

@97DragScort
This vehicle hopefully will get no more than it needs. Upgrade pistons are for sure out of its league. Do appreciate the link though.

@celery952
If I can't work something locally are you parting any good pistons from that shortblock? No need for rods.

@therieldeal
Unfortunately I've already confirmed the pistons have deformed enough to seize the rings. Piston replacement is unavoidable for two of them.

Cheers!
 

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I think you can also get them from a NAPA outlet. www.napaonlne.com is their website, has a store locator, and shows pistons for an '01 Escort for about $38/each. If you have an automotive machine shop near you, see what they charge for them. (I prefer dealing with locally when I can, and its nice to be able to walk back in later if the parts isnt right).
Since I re-used all of the pistons in the two engines I rebuilt, (one of them with 200k miles on it), I would agree the pistons from a junkyard could be useable. The problem I find is that most junkyards will sell an engine entire, but wont sell internal parts from it. Your local machine shop might have a block with a couple of good ones they would sell, even complete with con rods.
I checked at www.rockauto.com, and they didnt list pistons for an 01, but they do list them for the 2nd gen. cars, 91-96. They may not list them for the 3rd. gen. Escorts yet, because they havent had much demand. Too new?

Boost: I dont know if the valve seats fail 'only from overheating', having bought mine -after- it sucked that part. I hope I never learn from a personal experience.
 
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