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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys, I just posted an introduction post a few days ago. I had planned on starting a thread this week on my new (to me) car and posting some pictures of its current state and my plan of action to clean it up a bit. I bought a 1[974 Silver Alfa Spider that I found here on the BB classifieds, just got my tag on my car this past Thursday.

All had been going well with my new spider. I clocked about 140 miles on the odometer in the last few days, nearly trouble free except for a couple of electrical gremlins playing with my blinkers. The car drove well and had plenty of get up and go, so I wasn't terribly worried about it. Most of the work that needs to be done on it is cosmetic anyway.

So I thought....

Today I decided to take the spider to work to show it to my coworkers, cause after all I had told them about the car and showed them pictures. Today was the day! Well, I got a bit sidetracked on my way to the office when I was surprised by a puff of white smoke, then a whole cloud of white smoke. I knew what that disaster meant, so I got my tail off the road just in time for the engine to stall out.
Upon stalling outside on the roadside, I inspected the usual suspects-dipstick, oil cap, coolant bottle, tail pipe. All looked clean and smelled normal. After seeing this I thought I would give one more shot at starting, it gave a little spin and some more white smoke out the back but that was it.
Fast forward to the car being pulled up onto the flatbed, coolant dumped out of the tailpipe onto the asphalt. Id guesstimate about 1/4-1/2 cup of frog juice poured out (I have photos to prove).

Upon getting the car back home and into the nice and quiet garage, I removed all 4 spark plugs. Spark 1 (closest to the front) smelled a bit like coolant, MAYBE a little damp. Sparks 2-3 looked and smelled normal, spark 4 (closest to the back of the engine/driver) was drenched in green coolant. Bingo, cylinder 4 is the one that tried to ruin my day! With all the sparks out and the coil unplugged I cranked the car, I caught on video a cloud shooting out of the 4th hole (and only the 4th). And this is now where I sit. A 74 Spider, weber carbs, and blown head gasket taking up my garage. Did not overheat, it maxed at 185F. Outside temp was 75-78F. This was the hottest I had driven the car in though.

I plan on doing all the work myself. This is not my first wrestle with a blown head gasket on a car (actually this will probably be my easiest car to date), so the work doesn't scare me. I am ready to start planning out and disassembly maybe later in the week, I am not in a rush to get the whole thing flipped and running again (sooner is appreciated but not so soon that I screw something up! One time and one time only do I want to be taking the head off lol).

The last car I did a head gasket on had a timing belt, so I didnt have to worry about cam positioning so much. With this car having a chain I know things are a little bit different to make sure the car is in correct time. I thought before I get excited and start ordering parts and taking things apart I need to consult with the experts who have gone before me.

I have been doing some searching on here already, but wanted to start a thread of my own to document.

The concerns that other people have voiced to me are A. warped head, I should almost expect it and B. Why did coolant make it all the way out of the tail pipe? C. Why did it blow? My theory is my temp gauge is faulty and that the car reached a lot more than 185 degrees.

This is my first Alfa Romeo and my first Alfa Romeo cylinder head job, any and all help is appreciated!

The PO had the head gaskets done last year (red flag??) and also had the valves adjusted, so adjusting the valves is one thing I shouldn't have to worry about. I checked the belts, none slipped or broke, though I will probably replace them along with the thermostat, water temp sensor and anything else that may come into question.
 

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2015 Chevy (Holden) SS, 1989 Milano (Shankle Sport), 1991 164S
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Sorry to hear that, real bummer. However, my wife and I could change the head gasket in our Alfetta sedans in an afternoon. Not a lot of fun but not that hard.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Now see that is the encouragement I like to hear LOL! When I replaced both head gaskets in my Maserati 430, life got difficult.
I dont see it as a difficult job. Im just searching for any bits of info before I begin pulling parts.

When I did the Maserati I took a picture of EVERYTHING. Every bolt that came off had a labeled bag and a photo to go with it, no piece went anywhere without documentation.
 

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Blown headgasket is typical for 105/115 cars that sit too long.
Coolant in exhaust is not necessarily a guarantee that you have a warped head, but you'll find out. The near consensus is that Reinz is the preferred brand (better than both the less expensive and the more expensive "racing" alternatives).
Might as well start with a dry/wet compression test and checking all ancillaries (thermostat, oil pump, hoses, heater core, etc) to confirm cause and that bottom end is ok... You don't want to drive the car then beat yourself up for not having worked on the cylinder block while the head was out. Finding and shipping and replacing a cracked crankshaft is so much less fun than replaing bearings and piston rings. Here's how I know Engine Engineering Auto part Factory Metal


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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Tonight was more eventful than planned, I actually had the time to mess around with the engine.
I stopped by the auto parts shop and picked up a compression tester, I tested all 4 cylinders dry and all 4 measured 0 compression. I am partly concerned, but I have a more likely thought that the compression tester is faulty. I tried testing a few ways, gas pedal to the floor, just cranking the engine, etc, all still returned 0 (needle didnt move). I took the compression gauge off the hose and held the hose end while cranking the car, and I did not feel any air coming out of the end of the hose. So I suspect that the compression gauge I rented may be faulty.
With the #4 spark plug out, the piston water gunned coolant into the air no trouble, so I know the pistons are moving. What are the chances of 0 compression on all 4 cylinders?

Anyway, I decided to instead go ahead and begin disassembly. In just under 3 hours or so I have everything off and out of the way. Only thing left is to lift the head off the block itself. Tomorrow I am going to track down some rope and use that method to pop the head off (i hope).
I have to say. That was too easy. I didn't even struggle with the exhaust manifold like I usually end up suffering with. Everything was still new enough that all I had to do was turn the wrench and apply some force, no rust, not grit, no torture. I think I may have even escaped this without and marks on me! Never done that before. It all still seems too easy, so I know that means the cylinder head is going to be a pain LOL.

The PO said he had the head and gasket done last year, judging by how easy and clean it was to do the job, I believe the man.
Question, at what point do the heads need to be retorqued after the gaskets are replaced? After 500 mi? 1000?
 

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1984 GTV6, 1973 Berlina, 1987 Milano
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Given that the PO supposedly just replaced the head gasket and adjusted the valves, I would go ahead and measure the valve clearances. Hopefully they are close. But given the results of the head gasket I would check their work.

Your situation reminds me of the last project car I bought. I was able to track down a PO who gushes about all the work he did on the car. Everything he touched was half-assed. I made it a point to go through and check and fix everything he mentioned.

Good luck with the head gasket, it's not that hard.

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Before you go too far I urge you to buy the book Alfa Owner's Bible, by the late great Pat Braden. It is very important you be aware of some things about the Alfa engine before learning the hard way (like, disassembly all over again).

https://www.amazon.com/Alfa-Romeo-Owners-Bible-Braden/dp/0837607078

Maybe you've already done some research, and if so fine. But just a suggestion...
 

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2015 Chevy (Holden) SS, 1989 Milano (Shankle Sport), 1991 164S
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"I tested all 4 cylinders dry "

I never do that, but squirt some oil in each cylinder and rotate the crank a few times before checking, the usual condition of the cylinder walls when running. Usually get reasonable numbers that way, and the engines run just fine.

Still, I can't imagine seeing zero in all cylinders when even doing it dry.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks guys!
I was looking at ordering the shop manual for the 115 cars from Centerline on rebuilding the engine, when I put in my order for the gasket sets and other parts I am replacing.

Yes, checking the motor mounts is on my to do list.
I will probably replace the water pump, thermostat, all the top side gaskets, the accessory belt, some radiator hoses, and the water temp sensor.
Good news, i got the head off yesterday afternoon! It was not hard at all, I started Tuesday night then yesterday I had a friend come and help me lift it off. Took 3.5 hours or so from opening the hood to cleaning the head on the bench, was not bad at all.
I have every little bit and piece bagged up and labelled so as to not lose anything. Plus a ton of iPhone pictures.

I took the cylinder head to the shop today to have the surface of the head checked and milled if need be, as well as tested for cracks.
When I get the engine back together I will plan on checking valve clearances.

The gasket blew on the two outermost edges, on cylinder 1 and cylinder 4 (4 being worst). The breaks were not severe at all however, it wasn't a full out break in the fire ring. If the heads were not retorqued correctly, would the two outermost edges of the gasket (with the gasket sitting long ways, the furthest left and furthest right points)be the weakest points on the gasket?
On both ends, the gasket gave out on the bottom side facing the coolant, not the head. And at both breaks it looks as if the gasket was chipped or scratched. When I can post pictures I will show what I mean.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
As far as replacing the head gasket itself, is the regular 1750/2000 head gasket from Centerline a good replacement or would a different on be better?
 

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Make sure the mating surface on the block is fairly close to perfectly flat and smooth, with no gouges or scrapes from the PO as those would cause the head gasket to fail sooner.

Cheers,
 

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Hi mate replacing head gasket is strait forward but some things you need to be aware of. First off do some research and get the best quality head gasket. If the head gasket is marked or scratched it will fail. Look on here for( howto ) drill and set rollpins into head and block if it is not already done. I was taught by a very smart German mechanic and he told me the best method for tightening an Alfa nord head is do initial torque down to 80psi start engine warm up thoroughly till it is at normal operating temp let cool overnite and then retorque when cold to 90 psi.You will find lots of advice on here about torque settings but I believe the values need to be upped from what the manual says. Hope this helps.....regards John
 

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Did you clamp the liners down with big washers and nuts to prevent the lower o-ring seal from being disturbed? During the block cleaning process it's easy to bump the edges of those liners, and those o-rings are what keeps the coolant out of the sump down there.
 
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Yes sir, last thing I want to do is knock a liner loose and have to take the thing apart bottom to top LOL

I just picked up the head from the machine shop, no cracks, the valve seat are great, and no leaks past the valves. They did mill the head just a bit to level it though, which I partly expected.

Next on the agenda is to place an order to Centerline.
looking at ordering-
Reinz head gasket, head gasket set for the top end of the engine (will this have the head seal gaskets?), new thermostat and water pump, L/R engine mounts, master chain link, and new fan belt and oil filter. Did I miss anything?
 
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Check your valve clearance so if they are off you can order the shims you need from Centerline. Also its easier and quicker to adjust them on the bench then on the car.
 
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I always go about 5 lb-ft above the factory spec for the head nuts. Oil the washers and threads, too, like it says.
 
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