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2.3L ('83-'97) Reman. Cylinder Head Saga


CAJones

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I have been watching YouTube videos on how to take a head off, it doesn't look hard at all. How to properly mark the timing belt/gears isn't clear yet, but I need to do more research. That seems like the only thing that requires precision, other than torquing the head back down onto the gasket.

I wonder if this will also explain the coolant level dropping and the 0420 code for the catalytic converter.

What is next for me is:
Talk to the wife
Research more on how to disassemble everything so that I don't run into problems during the assembly process
Label, picture, and write down the order in which I take everything off
Remove the head to see what the gasket looks like
Take the head to a machine shop to check for cracks and if it is flat enough. Also have them look at each valve to see if it is seating properly and if it is loose. I am hoping this will be under $500 to fix.
Reinstall in reverse with a new gasket set, head bolts, timing belt.

Remaining questions:
Everything to do with the timing belt
Anything I should replace while I am taking the everything apart? Thermostat?
What about the engine block? Anything to check with that?
Should I replace the oil pan gasket too? It is leaking oil, but I don't know where it is coming from.
Will taking the oil pan off show me anything?
 


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CAJones

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After about 10 hours of work over two days I got the block off. There wasn't much fluid in the radiator and seeing what cylinder 1 looks like...was cylinder 1 burning coolant? Is that why it is so shiny as compared to the other 3 cylinders?
45612
45613
 

RonD

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Yup, #1 was being "steam cleaned" by coolant leaking in

Take head to a Machine shop to be cleaned and pressure tested, then surfaced
If you buy a "head gasket kit" it will come with Valve Guide seals, drop those off with the head and shop will install them, unless you have a valve spring compressor that works for this head, then you can do that

Clean off the block surfaces while you wait to get the head back
 

Shran

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Good work! Looks like you're well on your way to having it fixed up, 2.3s are quite easy to work on.

Probably goes without saying but now is a great time to put a thermostat and water pump in as well since you've got everything exposed right now.
 

CAJones

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Machine shop already called back. Cleaned it and found two cracks, one about an inch long, I'm going to pick it back up tomorrow morning. So time to find a reconditioned one online and then bring it to the mechanic to be pressure tested. This project keeps getting more and more complicated! Due to the damage on the head and the 300k on the bottom end, I am wondering if the bottom end is actually in that great of shape to be doing all this work for?

Also found that the thermostat was put on with RTV, I figured there would be a gasket for this.
@RonD The engine bay, clutch, transmission are all caked into oil/dust.

@Shran I pulled the thermostat and it seemed like it was crooked and had a thick layer of rusty sediment...surprise, surprise. I was wondering about pulling the water pump as well.
 

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Looks like you can get new complete heads for under $500... how long do you plan on keeping the truck? How do the cylinder walls look?

Might take a quick peek through car-part.com and see if you can just find a complete low/lowish/lower mile engine instead.
 

CAJones

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I am not planning on keeping for more than another 10k miles. I would like to get another small truck, just one with air conditioning and 4 wheel drive in the next year. Goal is to get it working, use it for a bit, sell it for a few grand.

I am not sure how the cylinder walls look or what to look for, use a ratchet to rotate the pistons and look for grooves?

Replacing the whole engine is too much work for me. At that point it isn't worth it to me. Was hoping to stay under $500 to fix it, but if it is closer to $750 for all of the other parts, I would be overjoyed with a working truck again.
 
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RonD

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Its called crosshatching on cylinder walls, and yes turn the crank until piston is down all the way and use a light to see the crosshatching

You want to see those kind of "scratches" they hold oil on the cylinder walls

Looks like this: https://forum.e-bodies.org/dlattach/topic=522.0;attach=3875;image
And this: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-pRylbDV04rE/T8vm_kBxP_I/AAAAAAAADbA/ne2BzoF4w3Q/s720/IMG_9026.JPG

A bad scratch is a straight up and down line, it means a ring on the piston is stuck in its channel, if you can feel it with your finger nail its a bad scratch
 

CAJones

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Finally able to make it to the hardware store to get a 7/8 socket to rotate the engine. It rotates very easily with a just a tiny bit of noise from the cylinders, no idea if that means anything. I checked for scratches by eye and with fingertip/nail on all the cylinders and didn't find anything.

The only thing I noticed was that cylinder 1 looked worse than the rest right at the top where the blown head gasket was, which you can see in picture 2. It is rough to the touch like a fine metal file. It almost looks like the cylinder is closer to that side of the bore than the radiator side.
 

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The blackish color between #1 and #2 is sometimes a sign that the head gasket was allowing the two cylinders to trade gases back and forth. That would make it run very poorly. If you look at the exhaust valves on 3&4, they are 'brownish', while those in #1&#2 are black. Black is not getting hot, while tan/brown and dry looking indicates they are getting hot, which is to be expected.
Cracks can be repaired, in some cases. You may find a complete used head at a boneyard or check c-list/facebookMarketplace.
I would expect a head to be in the $100-200 range, or a complete engine for ~$300-500 depending on condition.
If you have a U-pull type lot within a reasonable distance, complete engines are even less.
You can likely get by with re-using the head bolts. The older ones were just torqued, the newer might be torque-to-yield, but if you want to take a chance... I have re-used head bolts in other 4 cylinders with success, but it's your dime.
tom
 

CAJones

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Are you talking about the head or the block?

It isn't worth it to repair the cracks, would cost the same as reconditioned head. So you find a head for $200 from a junkyard, but you have no idea if it is cracked or if the valves are burnt? So why risk $200, when you can spend $450 for a brand new head?

Edit: Changed the title of this thread to describe my problem. Before I put all of this back together, I am trying to figure out if the marks on the #1 cylinder wall are an issue.
 

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RonD

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If you can't feel them with finger nail they are not an issue
 

CAJones

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It is more rough than score marks, like 220 sandpaper.
 

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Honestly a elsinger stoker kit and head /cam will be your best bet. Have a wicked 2.3.
 

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Are you talking about the head or the block?

It isn't worth it to repair the cracks, would cost the same as reconditioned head. So you find a head for $200 from a junkyard, but you have no idea if it is cracked or if the valves are burnt? So why risk $200, when you can spend $450 for a brand new head?

Edit: Changed the title of this thread to describe my problem. Before I put all of this back together, I am trying to figure out if the marks on the #1 cylinder wall are an issue.
I would be concerned with the #1 cyl. Judging from those pictures that block needs machined! Anything short of that is a half assed repair.. Any machinist is gonna tell u, that u need to refinish that cylinder.
 


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