Head Gasket Replacement for Dummies Procedure - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums

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post #1 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 04:59 PM Thread Starter
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Head Gasket Replacement for Dummies Procedure

Hello All,

From another post I have received several requests for the pictures I took during my head gasket replacement last winter (2009) I did on my S4 1991 Spider.

I did a search, and could not find a step by step procedure

I think that it will also be very similiar for the S3 model, less the power steering pump.

Firstly, I would like to thank SpiderFrek from this BB who pointed me to a Swiss Forum that showed a thread on head gasket replacement but on another engine, but similiar enough. That thread was written by Giomartello.

Next, while I did take a lot of pictures during the change, there were a few steps that I did miss, however, I have been able to find other pictures that demonstrate what is being done. So if you see the same picture, once to take bolts out and later the same picture to put the bolts back in, you are seeing the same picture.

If I have missed something, please let me know and I will correct it.

I am not a mechanic, but like most of us that have Alfa's, am learning and hopefully, this will help someone take the job on.

Motor Mounts and Head Gasket Change, a must if your are an Alfista.

Let's start!

1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 12-10-2011 at 01:10 PM.
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post #2 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 05:10 PM Thread Starter
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As pointed out by another BB member, the must have tools before you begin are:

1. Camera. Take as many pictures as you need so you can always reference how your engine started.
2. Sharpie, black felt pen.
3. Box of vinyl or your choice of gloves.
4. Lots of sandwich bags for all those parts so you can label them with the sharpie and remember where they go!

Using a 10mm wrench and 5mm Hex key, remove the oil dip stick tube. Remove the air filter box, accordian and hard air tubes that go across the top of the engine.
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Using 13mm wrench, remove the exhaust manifold nuts.
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Using 22mm socket, remove this nut that will drain the head of antifreeze fluid. I used a breaker bar to help reach.
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Remove all vaccum hoses and other hoses on the air intake side.
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Remove all the electrical connectors, fuel injector etc. Before I removed the fuel injector connectors, I labeled them so that when I re connected them, I would put them back in the right order.
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 12-10-2011 at 01:13 PM.
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post #3 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 05:18 PM Thread Starter
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Using 13mm wrench, remove 2 bolts holding thermostat housing.
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Loosen radiator hose that is connected to the bottom of the thermostat housing. Remove Thermostat housing.
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Using 10mm socket, remove bolts (8) holding fuel injectors.
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Using 10mm socket, remove bolt (1) connected to head. I think these are grounds.
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Remove the distributor cover, and remove the wires. Get them out of the way, give yourself room to work.
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 11-15-2010 at 05:21 PM.
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post #4 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 05:35 PM Thread Starter
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Using 13mm wrench, from underneath, remove bolt that holds the plenum support to the air intake manifold.
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Loosen the air intake manifold hose clamps closest to the engine. Only this side. If you are going to replace the hoses, this is a great time to do it, but lossen the other side later. You will see why.
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Being careful of the fuel injectors, I pulled the fuel rail support back, away from the engine. This pulled the fuel injectors out and the lower air intake hoses away from the air intake manifold. I sent my fuel injectors out for cleaning to Cruzin Performance. While they are out, it's a good time to do this if you are interested.
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Using 5mm Hex key, remove (3) VVT bolts and remove VVT.
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 04-15-2013 at 06:06 PM.
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post #5 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 05:49 PM Thread Starter
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Using T40 Hex (not sure if this is the same for everyone) remove the 6 bolts holding the Cam Cover. Note, 2 metal washers in the back, 4 paper washers up front.
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Using 10mm wrench and 5mm Hex key, remove 2 bolts at front of Cam cover. Be careful, the nuts underneath are hard to hold so they can be dropped easily. Wanna guess how I know?
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Remove cam cover and spark plugs. Tip from Tifosi :"At times the VVT pluger that goes through the cam cover can be real easy to drop out/misplace/lose/forget during removal storage and reinstall.

If leaving it actually in place in the cover, a small slip of vacuum hose over the protruding exterior end pre-cover removal will prevent it going anywhere until you are done done"
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Rotate engine until master link in chain is in the centre. I used the power steering pump.
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Master link is shown in centre position. Note the orientation of the clip. The closed end goes toward the exhaust and open end toward the intake as the travel of the chain goes in that direction. The idea is that if anything manages to catch/brush/rub the clip, it won't just pop off. Thanks to Tifosi for this tip.

You "should" also be at TDC. See picture (look hard) that the cam marks are lined up and the front cams are pointing away from each other.
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 02-15-2011 at 03:53 PM.
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post #6 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 05:59 PM Thread Starter
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Using 14mm wrench, turn bolt, 1/4 turn (loosen), and no more. Using something strong, I am using crow bar, push the chain tensioner in and tighten the bolt. This should loosen the chain.
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Put a rag under the chain to catch any small parts that might fall in. No fun if that happens. Use pliers to push off the master link.
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Here is the master link removed.
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Tie the ends of the chain with something, wire or hanger wire, so that if the chain falls in, you can get it out easily.
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Using a 13mm wrench, remove 2 bolts found at the front and under the head. Here is the driver side.
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 02-04-2011 at 09:01 AM.
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post #7 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 06:07 PM Thread Starter
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Using 13mm wrench, remove passenger side.
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Using 19mm wrench, remove 2 bolts holding power steering pump to the head.
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Using 19mm socket, remove nuts holding head.
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Using 27mm socket, remove the overheat warning sensor found on monopod's only (Thanks to Tifosi for figuring it out) . At the time I didn't have the socket so I used an adjustable wrench.
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Remove oil from under cam shaft using wife's best baster.
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 04-15-2013 at 06:16 PM.
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post #8 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 06:31 PM Thread Starter
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Using 13mm socket, remove nuts holding cam shaft journals. Did you know that these nuts have an up and a down side? Take a look at them. The down side have a built in washer. Now who would know that? Ummm.....I don't know.......maybe.......Papajam!
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Carefully remove the journals. Note in which order they are and which way the face. ESPECIALLY the front journals. They have the cam timing marks on them. Driver and passenger are distinct with the timing marks facing the rear of the engine. Not my picture.
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Remove the follower buckets, keeping them organized so that they go back in the same position they came from.
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Ensure that the shims go with the buckets. Be careful, because you have mess up the position of the buckets or the shims, you will have a noisy engine and will have to learn how to shim cam shaft valves.
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Ready to remove the head. Mine was stuck. See the rust on the studs that the head nuts go on. I used PB blaster and a rubber mallet to gently tap on the studs until I could see they weren't stuck anymore. I used the intake manifold to help lift and LIFT!
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 04-15-2013 at 06:18 PM.
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post #9 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 06:44 PM Thread Starter
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And here is the Head!!!
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You do not want the sleeves to move in case the engine moves at this point, so place something to prevent the sleeves from rising. I used progressively larger washers, tubes and the head nuts.
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Prepare the head for machining. Since they stick up above the machining plane, you need to remove the lower exhaust manifold studs. Using 2 of the nuts removed earlier, double nut and using 13mm wrenchs, remove the lower studs.
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Now we need to remove the chain tensioner as it also sticks up above the maching plane. Using something strong, put some pressure on the chain tensioner, be careful, because there is a strong spring behind there. Using 14mm wrench, loosen the bolt, and gently allow the tensioner to come out. Not my picture.
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Here are all the parts.
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 04-15-2013 at 06:22 PM.
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post #10 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 06:51 PM Thread Starter
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Machine the head. Mine was dipped in a cleaning bath first. I took 8 thousandths off to get it right. Make sure the machine shop has experience with aluminum heads.
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After maching, replace the chain tensioner. Grease spring.
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Grease the nut.
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Push the tensioner back into place. It's not easy with the spring pushing back on you. Patience. Place the bolt in when you feel it. Patience. Not my picture.
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Tighten the bolt, 14mm. Not my picture.
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 04-15-2013 at 06:24 PM.
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post #11 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 06:59 PM Thread Starter
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Here is the tensioner back in its place, all the way in.
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Damage shown if your chain is not tight.
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Beautiful, clean, machined head!
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Install intake manifold gasket and intake manifold. 13mm nuts.
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Replace lower exhaust manifold studs using double nut method. 13mm nuts.
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 04-15-2013 at 06:26 PM.
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post #12 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 07:01 PM
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Excellent! Now put it back together! This is SOoooo much nicer to watch than DIY! Thanks!


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post #13 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 07:06 PM Thread Starter
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Install exhaust manifold gaskets. Use elastic bands to hold them in place. You will see why later.
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Install new Head Gasket.
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Ensure roller pins are present or replace (6). These keep the O-rings in place during assembly.
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Install (6) new O rings. A MUST to prevent leaks. Mine was leaking due to a bad O ring. I used the square cut kind.
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Replace head. See the exhaust manifold gaskets. The elastics hold them in place while the manifold is not in place. Without the bands, they would fall off.
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 04-15-2013 at 06:28 PM.
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post #14 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 07:12 PM Thread Starter
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Replace and tighten 22mm nut that keeps the anti freeze in the head.
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Updated proceudure, April 2015:

Using this order, you tighten the back 2 nuts last. This is the typical leak area so having them last is best. Thanks to Papajam for the order and procedure

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1. Cold, wet torque on initial installation. Torqued the head wet in 3 stages in order:

45ft lbs
55ft lbs
70ft lbs

2. Hot retorqe on the first time car reaches running temperature. Do not remove nuts, just tighten them in order.

3. Very next morning, cold, wet retorque.

4. 1,000 mile mark, cold, wet retorque.

Oil the head studs and washers according to the procedure.
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Install the washers and head nuts, torque according to the procedure.
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Install 13mm bolt under the head, passenger side.
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 04-22-2015 at 05:01 PM.
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post #15 of 113 (permalink) Old 11-15-2010, 07:27 PM Thread Starter
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Install 13mm bolt under the head, driver side.
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I used a jack to help lift the exhaust manifold in place.
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Exhaust manifold in place. See the elastic bands? They hold the gaskets in place until the manifold hold them up. CUT OFF THE BANDS!
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Install 13mm nuts.
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Install the shims back into their original positions.
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1991 Spider Veloce - Red on Tan - Rosa Bionda
1987 Spider Quadrifoglio - Red on Grey - Rosa - Sold
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Honey, this is the last thing I have to do, then I'm finished. It'll just be a minute.

Last edited by Vintre; 04-15-2013 at 06:33 PM.
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