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Great weekend on Bullards Bar! Now the real work begins...Head Gasket!


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I got back from Bullards Bar yesterday after a great weekend of camping with the family. Unfortunately the lake claimed my sunglasses, but other than that the weather was perfect, not much wind, and the water was nice and warm. The Bu ran like a dream and it was a great feeling to get it on the water after putting so much TLC into it over the last few weeks. (Buff/wax, new rub rail, had some fiberglass repair done, new carpet, new upholstery, new t-stat, and new alternator.) So of course after i finished all of this work, i thought the only thing left to do this summer was to go out and enjoy the boat. Last week i took the boat out for a quick run just to make sure it was good to go for the camping trip to Bullards. As i had the boat in the water idling, i opened the engine compartment to make sure i had hooked all the hoses up securely after winterizing it last year. I found a few drips of water on top of the intake hose near the impeller pump. Thinking i just had a loose hose clamp, i started searching for the leak. Unfortunately it turned out to be much worse than a loose hose clamp. The water is leaking out of the head gasket towards the front of the engine. It's a slow drip at this point (approx 1 every 30 sec at idle) and (1 drip every 10 seconds under load). I called my local mechanic to find out if it would be a bad choice for me to take the boat camping this last weekend and if i would possibly do more damage. He said that if anything did happen it would probably be 1 of these 2 things... Either the head gasket could get worse while under load and then of course i would have a steady stream of water coming into the bilge or, worst case scenario, if the gasket failed near the cylinders i would get water in a cylinder and hydro lock the engine. Yikes!!!

After this last weekend running the boat, the leak did not get worse and like i said earlier, the boat ran like a charm. As much as i would like to just pretend that there is no issue and run the boat the rest of summer so i can deal with this in the winter, that just wouldn't be smart. I am taking the boat over to my dads tonight after work and am going to start tearing it apart. (He has a much better assortment of tools than i do and is more knowledgeable with engines) I still need to call the my mechanic back to see if i can bring the head into him to have him adjust the valves or if it is something that has to be done while mounted to the block. I also don't know if i will need to get the head machined or not. Does anyone have experience with this and does anyone know where i can find a good manual.

My engine is the Chevy 350 Mercruiser. Any advice/comments to help me get through this project would be greatly appreciated... Oh yeah and wish me luck!

Thanks, James

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My thoughts: 1) Diagnosing the problem can sometimes be the hardest part of fixing something so you're looking good already 2) Replacing the head gasket on a pushrod, hydraulic lifter, cast iron v8 is relatively easy, especially since you have a direct drive. .3) If you have access to an air angle grinder, get a 3M bristle disk (about $12 at Grainger) because it will cut your time and effort cleaning off the old gaskets in a major way.

http://www.3m.com/product/information/Roloc-Bristle-Disc.html

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Would a stiff bristle wheel attached to a drill give the same effect as that 3m bristle disk. I don't have an air angle grinder.

Does anyone know if I can take the head into a shop to have the valves adjusted?

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You can use a 3M disk in a drill to. I wouldn't ise a wire wheel on the head mounting surfaces. It is too aggressive and puts deeper scratches in the sealing surface. You are trying to remove the gasket material with out damaging the steel sealing surfaces. A medium or light 3M disk in a drill will also do the trick, it is just a little awkward to hold compared to the air grinder.

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James11- was that you with the motorhome towing the sunsetter at the Schoolhouse campground? If so, we were right next to you in site #42 with the blue 23 lsv.... hope you get your problem solved!

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David- No that wasn't me, but I was at the Schoolhouse campground, Site #19 D. We had a fifth wheel parked in front and i have a grey 04 silverado towing the boat. My Sunsetter is mostly white with the classic teal stripe going down the sides and then, of course, the pink and grey accents. I saw a few other malibus pass our site, but it looks like you were on the other side of the campground...either way, small world.

Could anyone tell me where to find a good manual for my engine? Chevy Mercruiser 350 265 hp

Edited by james11music
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Would a stiff bristle wheel attached to a drill give the same effect as that 3m bristle disk. I don't have an air angle grinder.

Does anyone know if I can take the head into a shop to have the valves adjusted?

Checkout Roseville Engine Machine. Sorry to hear of the problems, at least your vacation plans went off smoothly! Now get it running so you can make it to WOW!

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Checkout Roseville Engine Machine. Sorry to hear of the problems, at least your vacation plans went off smoothly! Now get it running so you can make it to WOW!

Would a stiff bristle wheel attached to a drill give the same effect as that 3m bristle disk. I don't have an air angle grinder.

Does anyone know if I can take the head into a shop to have the valves adjusted?

Yes you can use the bristle disc in a drill, but they really work best at higher RPMs like 15-20k, and like someone already said, the size and angle of and electric drill makes the task a bit cumbersome.

As for having the valves adjusted, I'm pretty sure you need to do that while the head is installed along with the pushrods and rockers too. I'm also pretty sure you have hydraulic lifters, so no valve adjustment is necessary.

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Here's a .pdf of the engine Mercruiser engine manual http://goo.gl/Nc5C1

If you cant see it, I can just email it to you

Thanks for the link. I actually just found out that Bakes Marine has them on their website also for free download.

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Checkout Roseville Engine Machine. Sorry to hear of the problems, at least your vacation plans went off smoothly! Now get it running so you can make it to WOW!

Thanks, I'm glad everything went smooth for the trip also. Honestly, I don't even know if this leak just started or if its' been there for a while and i just didn't notice it until now. It's in a pretty tough spot to see and is a slow drip.

I really hope i can get it together by WOW. Hopefully sooner than that, but being as i have never done this i'm sure it will be a slow learning process.

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Just throwing this out there, but have you ever thought about upgrading to Vortec heads while you have everything apart? The head swap alone is good for at least additional 35 hp, even a 50 hp increase isn't unheard of. It will put you back about $1000 but i think it's money well spent. It's such a popular upgrade, evident by the fact that kits like this exist: http://www.summitracing.com/parts/CMB-08-0034/

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Just throwing this out there, but have you ever thought about upgrading to Vortec heads while you have everything apart? The head swap alone is good for at least additional 35 hp, even a 50 hp increase isn't unheard of. It will put you back about $1000 but i think it's money well spent. It's such a popular upgrade, evident by the fact that kits like this exist: http://www.summitrac...ts/CMB-08-0034/

I like your thinking, but unfortunately it's not in the cards...or the wallet. My wife would probably "blow a gasket" herself if i even mentioned the thought of a $1000 upgrade. We have already spent a couple grand this year on cosmetics (upholstery, carpet, rub rail, buff) and a new alternator so at this point we thought we were done spending money and ready to enjoy it for the summer. Looks like that will be put on hold for a couple of weeks. :(

My first instinct when i noticed the blown head gasket was to take to the shop and let a pro take care of it. When i told the wife she said "no way are we spending another $1200 on the boat this year!" So pretty much if i want to use the boat this summer (and not worry about hydro-locking the engine) I am going to have to tackle the job myself with a little help from pops. I'm okay with it because i really do love tinkering around with the boat and it will be a good learning experience for me.

Last night i started tearing into it. I drained the block, removed the thermostat housing and all of the hoses, and removed one exhaust manifold. Tonight my plan is to remove the other exhaust manifold, disconnect fuel lines and throttle cable to carburetor, remove distributor, and remove the intake manifold. Got the new gaskets on their way. If all goes well i should have the heads in the machine shop by friday.

Thanks again for all the help. That's why I love the Crew. Paul at Bakes Marine has also been very helpful with all of my naive questions.

James

Edited by james11music
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Well I'm moving right along with this project. Yesterday i got the intake manifold and heads off! I took the heads into a local machine shop here and they should be finished today . Colinp it turns out my dad does have an air grinder so I will taking your advise and picking up one of those 3m wheels to clean off the cylinder. Hopefully by the end of next weekend ill have this project wrapped up and be ready to hit the water again!

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I got bad news from the machine shop today. It turns out both of the heads are cracked! :( The machinist said that the previous owner must have known about it because he had tried to seal it up with epoxy or something. Obviously this is what happens when not winterized properly. I'm pretty bummed out at the moment and i haven't even told my wife yet. That should be a fun conversation.

The machinist told me to inspect the block which i am going to do tonight after work. How can i be sure there are no cracks in the block. Is it sufficient to just inspect with the naked eye or does something else need to be done? Does anyone have any insight on whether the head will crack first before the block? Is my block most likely cracked too? Any help is appreciated.

The machine shop has a couple of rebuilt heads in stock and they are being sold for $325.00 each. Does this sound like a fair price? If my block is not damaged then i am thinking of buying these two rebuilt heads from shop. What do you guys think i should do?

James

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Most of the time when blocks freeze you will see the damage by the drain plugs (same drain plugs you take out for winterizing on either side of the short block). The show signs of cracking below the exhaust manifold usualy close to the frost plugs. In my experience the frost plugs are a great idea in theory, but almost never pop out as they are designed to.

You should be able to see the cracking with your naked eye. If the cracks have been there awhile you will see the reddy/brown rust lines of the cracked metal showing.

Hope this helps and good luck on keeping your costs down.

$325/head is good, not great. But if they are ready to go, you can be back on the water in a day or two's time!

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Most of the time when blocks freeze you will see the damage by the drain plugs (same drain plugs you take out for winterizing on either side of the short block). The show signs of cracking below the exhaust manifold usualy close to the frost plugs. In my experience the frost plugs are a great idea in theory, but almost never pop out as they are designed to.

You should be able to see the cracking with your naked eye. If the cracks have been there awhile you will see the reddy/brown rust lines of the cracked metal showing.

Hope this helps and good luck on keeping your costs down.

$325/head is good, not great. But if they are ready to go, you can be back on the water in a day or two's time!

Thanks for the input, that does help. Fortunately I don't think there is any cracking near the drain plugs as i remove those a couple of times a year. I have been told by Paul at Bakes to also check near the hydraulic lifters so with this information, i have some inspecting to do tonight.

The machine shop has one of the heads assembled and will finish with the other head tomorrow or Wednesday. I told the guy that i would buy them as long as i don't find any cracks in the block tonight.

At this point i will feel lucky if i just have to replace the heads. Especially since with the heads were as bad as they were, i could have easily hydrolocked the engine!

Thanks again for the suggestions

James

Edited by james11music
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That price for rebuilt heads is so-so when you consider you can get brand new GM Vortec heads from Summit for $335 each, plus a new intake manifold for about $150. Did I mention they are brand new? You can get the Summit brand Vortec heads brand new for $310 each.

Edited by ColinP
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Now I'm beyond bummed out. I found about a four inch long crack in my engine block last night. It is towards the front of the block. Starboard side, right on the corner. \

I guess i should have titled this thread differently... "Cracked Block!" Wow, did this project take a turn for the worst or what?

Apparently i have been driving this boat around for the last four years with a cracked block and two cracked heads. At this point i almost wish i never noticed the leak because the boat was running great before i tore apart the engine. At some point the block would have failed, i would have gotten towed in, and then would need a new engine. Right now i need a new engine, but i don't have a boat to use because it's torn apart! I seem to be striking out. Anyways i'll stop whining. Any suggestions at this point for new or rebuilt engines?

Thanks, James

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check out promarengines.com, I bought a 454 off them a few years ago, great deal and it's still running in a friend's boat.

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Is the crack in the engine on the front flange? Or is it between cylinders, behind pushrods?

You're taking it well either way. If you wanted to really cheap it all out, you could go find a old running small block chevy with a billion miles and just swap the external parts-manifolds, alt, starter, water pump, etc.

Steve B.

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Aww that really sucks! The upside is you don't really have to spend a lot of money to get a good running motor back in that boat. Small block Chevys are very common as I'm sure you know. If it was my call, I would find a used 96+ Vortec for less than $1000 and drop that baby in there.

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Is the crack in the engine on the front flange? Or is it between cylinders, behind pushrods?

You're taking it well either way. If you wanted to really cheap it all out, you could go find a old running small block chevy with a billion miles and just swap the external parts-manifolds, alt, starter, water pump, etc.

Steve B.

The crack is on the front port-side corner. About four inches tall...Definitely no bueno.

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Check out marineenginedepot.com

I bought a new marine longblock from them in February did the swap myself (with the help of a few friends that have a hoist) and have had no issues as of now. Just a little over 20 hours on it now. Cost me $2800 shipped. Talk to Lee, he was very knowledgable and answered all of my questions, they may have a longblock for yours as well.

Robert

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