Oil on the radiator cap - How long can I go before replacing the Headgasket ? - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums


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Old 06-09-2012, 01:33 PM
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Oil on the radiator cap - How long can I go before replacing the Headgasket ?

Hi all,

I purchased my 88 Graduate 6 months ago, and I've been working on her every chance I get.

When I purchased the car I took the radiator cap off and the coolant was a nice dark green.

Today I took the radiator cap off and it was covered in brown oil. I took some paper towels and dipped out quite a bit of oil and refilled with antifreeze.

I have looked and the engine oil and it appears to be clean.

I know that I'm looking at a headgasket replacement down the road, but I would really like to wait until the fall before tackling that job.

My question is, how long can I limp along like this w/o doing any damage ? This isn't a daily driver, just nice days, usually on the weekends.

Thanks for any advice !!
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Old 06-09-2012, 01:59 PM
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oil in the water is at least "slightly" better news than water in the oil! If you had water in the oil I would say do not drive her any more, period........for fear of ruining the internals of the engine.

Having said that have you tried a cold retorque on the head? If not, try it....it won't harm anything and might just cure the symptons you describe.....

Do you know the correct way of doing a cold retorque?
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Old 06-09-2012, 02:02 PM
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Dom,

Yes, i have already done a cold retorque, I suppose I could do another.

So do you think that oil in the coolant can be tolerated until the fall ?

-Steve
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Old 06-09-2012, 02:03 PM
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How much oil? A little on the surface of the radiator doesn't indicate impending doom. I've had oil on the cap for two years, drive the car everyday.
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Old 06-09-2012, 02:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duke58 View Post
How much oil? A little on the surface of the radiator doesn't indicate impending doom. I've had oil on the cap for two years, drive the car everyday.
Duke,

Well that is certainly interesting.

"How Much" is tough to quantify. The cap was pretty goopy, and there was oil in the filler neck. That's all I really know.

-Steve
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Old 06-09-2012, 02:23 PM
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can I ask how you did the retorque? Did you remove one bolt and the washer completely (one at a time, following the sequence) and oil the threads and washer before putting that bolt back and torquing it to 65 ft/lbs.........then go on to bolt #2 in sequence....etc, etc?
It is important to remove then clean the washers and stud threads, then oil them, to get a smooth pull on the torque wrench and a correct reading.

Also when you did the retorque, did you change the coolant? maybe the sludge is still present from before the retorque?

Also, are you losing coolant?
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Last edited by spiderserie4; 06-09-2012 at 02:26 PM.
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Old 06-09-2012, 02:29 PM
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Dom,

I did the retorque as you describe except that I did not remove the washer, other than that exactly as you describe.

There was no sludge before I did the retorque. I did the retorque because I was leaking small amounts of coolant to the outside the engine. That has stopped since I did the retorque.

I do not seem to be loosing any coolant at all right now. The level in the overflow bottle hasn't changed.
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Old 06-09-2012, 02:42 PM
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if you are not losing coolant (that is a good sign at least, though you might not notice, if it is only a really small amount getting into the oil) then maybe just change the coolant and see from there if the sludge comes back........??
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Old 06-09-2012, 02:46 PM
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Yeah, I'd flush the coolant and keep an eye on it. Maybe you'll get lucky re: needing new head gasket. Probably not, but it sounds like you can drive it for a while as-is.
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Old 06-09-2012, 06:49 PM
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above advice is v good. Just another idea- wash down the whole engine (if its dirty), and observe it often periodically. This can give clues-in the absence of other clues/observations. Head gasket failure usually shows oozing of oil/coolant at the gasket area of course........somtimes severely!!
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Old 06-10-2012, 08:33 PM
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My experience with this was back in the early 80's when I operated my '72 Spider for at least a couple of years under the same condition. What I found was that you can periodically remove the oil as it builds up in the cooling system to some effect but the radiator hoses will go soft and begin to swell - eventually they will fail. The efficiency of the cooling system will be degraded as well so trying to get by like this through the summer might not be such a great idea. I eventually rebuilt my engine and installed the oil passage roll pins and viton seal kit after which I never had such problems again. I still own that Spider which is close to passing the 400,000 mile mark now.
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Old 06-13-2012, 06:38 PM
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Well, try as I might to pretend that nothing is wrong, I have finally come to grips with the fact that I need to replace my headgasket ASAP

It just isn't any fun to drive the car knowing that something is wrong inside.

Here are some pictures of the antifreeze:

[IMG][/IMG]

[IMG][/IMG]

[IMG][/IMG]

So, I've read many many posts here and I think I know enough to do the job, but I do have two questions.

Since I'm going to be doing semi major surgery, I'm thinking that I might as well address some performance issues while I'm at it.

1) Has anybody tried the IAP camshafts for injected cars ? Is there much to be gained by installing them ?

2) I would like to get rid if the stock 1988 4 into 1 manifold and install some earlier 2 into 1 manifolds. Will any year 2 piece manifolds fit my 1988 Grad ? I see many used 2 piece manifolds for sale on e-bay, but the listings often don't specify what year they are.

Thanks, I'll probably have more questions before this is over !!
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Old 06-14-2012, 06:53 AM
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The gasket job isn't that bad to do. There are excellent threads here with lots of pictures. Take pics of where all of the wires go as you do the job. I have a head lifting tool you can borrow if you want to, I can take pics to show how it's made.

You don't mention the miles but you might want to freshen the valves. While the head is off, and i goes without saying that you need to measure the valve clearances before you take it off and then adjust them when the head is off.



The manifolds will fit. Just the exhaust system will have to be modified to work with it.

No idea what the cams are all about. Doubtful much improvement but I don't know.
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Old 06-14-2012, 07:01 AM
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Thanks Jon.

I don't know how many miles are on the car. The odometer shows 50K, but the title states the mileage is innacurate. The PO told me that he had the Speedo fixed and estimated that he drove "about 10K miles" while it was broken.

If the PO said it, it must be true...

The engine seems to run fine other than the leaks, so I would assume that the valves are OK, but I may check them out while I'm there.

Thanks for your offer of lending me the head pullling tool, I'll keep that in mind.

Just to be clear, am I correct interpreting your answer that any 2 piece manifold set will fit on my engine, I only need to worry about fitting up the piping from the manifold back ?
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Old 06-14-2012, 07:11 AM
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Yes, they will bolt right on. A common upgrade.

So you will measure and adjust the valves....right??

You can check the sealing of the valves/seats when the head is off, by setting it upside down with the spark plugs installed and filling each combustion camber with gasoline. If the seats are in good shape you will get no leakage.

Make sure to do this on a pan to catch any leaking gas...
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