View Full Version : Head gasket starting to go??

10-27-2013, 08:56 PM
I think I know what my problem is already but I wanted some input.

I'm losing coolant somewhere and there is no visible external leak or dripping under the car.

As some of you are aware, I had a stuck thermostat and overheating issue back in June or so. The car got pretty hot before I realized it. I got the thermostat changed and everything seemed OK. I even ran the car for a hard 300+ mile through the Hill Country before I moved back from Texas. I took it out for a quick run up the road and after we got back to WV and the temp gauge started going above where it should. It took a while for the gauge to start working in the first place so at first I thought it was bad sender. After the car cooled off, I checked the radiator on a whim and there was no coolant visible. I put about a half gallon in it and let it idle for a while to get good and hot. Coolant stayed right where it should. I drove the car to work one day last week, about 40 miles round trip and no heating issue. Everything seemed fine.

I was out just a few minutes ago looking at something for Grimmy and checked the radiator. The coolant is not visible again. I didn' fill it back up to see who low it is but normally the radiator is always full. I've never had any problem with it running low.

I'm thinking I've got a head gasket starting to go with a slow leak. It's a JDM import engine with about 130K or so on it. (I've got the paperwork from the importer showing the engine had 16K when it was sold, the engine was put in at about 161K and the car current has 276K on it). What do you guys think? I don't know where else the water could be going. The oil looks OK, not milky or anything. I'm thinking that it's a slow leak but is only going to get worse.

10-27-2013, 09:05 PM
hose from hell? or a coolent line close to the block behind the turbo?

10-27-2013, 09:23 PM
what about your overflow tank, does it maintain a level? If its dry you could be blowing coolant into it and then its slowly leaking out when you drive. If its overfull it could be losing it under expansion. Slim chances, but I had to ask to be sure.

Mostly likely your assessment is correct and you have a failing headgasket. Since it sounds like is just a wee bity leak at this point a pour in fix may in fact save you a complete teardown, at least for a while. Ive had good luck for short terms (6mo+) with Bar's leak. The trick to getting it to work well is to follow the instructions exactly. It requires running a good flush before, and from what Ive heard, if you can avoid using anti-freeze after it will last longer.

Ive also heard good things about Blue Devil.

Conventional thinking is that these products clog your cooling system but thats really just not the case if used correctly. Also, you can either remove the core of your T-stat or put in the coldest one you can find to try to minimize the chance of overheating and over stressing the system.

Otherwise you are looking at a top end tear down at minimum.

10-27-2013, 10:57 PM
The coolant hoses behind the turbo are good. I checked them and the HFH isn't that old. I'm not getting any antifreeze smell.

I'm thinking I'm going to see about having it replaced. It doesn't seem too bad at this point but I know it will get worse and since I'm back east now I'm planning on making some trips this coming spring/summer and don't want to take a chance on have a full blow meltdown. Given i don't have any visible leaks and coolant smell while driving, I'm really leaning toward the head gasket.

10-28-2013, 01:53 AM
Check the throttle body.

10-28-2013, 02:11 AM
On the throttle body, I know that there are some coolant lines there, but what exactly should I be looking for? Would it leak externally or would it be pulling coolant into the intake path?

10-28-2013, 02:58 AM
The coolant passages in the throttle body couldnt leak into the intake without some serious and obvious corrosion. The coolant passage just isnt that close to the air passage.

seriously, to slow the progress and buy you some time, a pour in treatment might be a good idea so long as you realize its not a "fix", and is just a bandaide.

10-28-2013, 03:11 AM
A band-aid that will leave crap in your radiator and heater core forever. Emergency use only.

It would be an external leak Nitro, but you can just bypass the TB coolant lines and see if that does anything.

10-28-2013, 03:23 AM
I'm going to double check all of the external lines again. I don't really thing I'll get lucky and have it be that though. I haven't seen any drips or strange stains after I cleaned up from the thermostat. It will be worth a look though.

If it turns out to be the head gasket, I think I'm going to go ahead and get it done. Not the cheap route but with winter coming I'd rather do that and make sure the antifreeze level is where it should be. I'll keep you posted.

10-28-2013, 03:47 AM
A band-aid that will leave crap in your radiator and heater core forever. Emergency use only.

For most modern products, thats a myth, perpetrated by people that simply havent done the research or use the wrong stuff.

a. most products break down in an alcohol based anti-freeze, thats why they are more effective when you run straight water with them.
b. most require the heat of combustion to actually work, and therefore cant actually bond and seal your radiator.
c. the newest products dont actually have any solids in them at all and therefore dont "clog small coolant passages" as people claim

Again, they are temporary fixes, not permanent, but most claims that they screw up the rest of your colling system simply arent true anymore when used correctly.

But yeah, no external leaks = BHG. fix it now, or fix it later. either way it has to be done.

10-28-2013, 04:49 AM
Check around the water pump/gasket too. See if you can find any leaks down there.

10-28-2013, 05:42 PM
I would be checking things like the cap before jumping straight to a headgasket.

10-28-2013, 07:20 PM
I would be checking things like the cap before jumping straight to a headgasket.

which is why I asked about the overflow bottle. Its the only way I can think coolant could be lost and not noticed (outside of combustion).

10-29-2013, 11:14 AM
The cap is a pretty new OEM cap. It's about a year old or so. If I get home before dark tonight I'm going to check a few more things for leaks.

10-30-2013, 02:27 AM
Got home before dark and did a little checking. The radiator was about a liter low (I was using a 2 liter bottle to make pouring less messy). The overflow tank was empty and it does hold coolant. I let run for a while looking for external leaks. Nothing I could see. I think I'm going to see if the shop I use has the tester to check for hydrocarbons in the coolant and go from there.

The liter loss was in in about 40 miles of driving this time. It's got to be going some where but damned if I know where at the moment.

10-30-2013, 02:47 AM
Also pressure check the system.

10-30-2013, 06:12 AM
If it's dumping that much your exhaust will smell really sweet if you're burning it, would it not?

10-30-2013, 06:36 AM
Also pressure check the system.

This. It seems like the times that you're losing coolant are when the system is under pressure.

10-30-2013, 11:03 AM
I'll try to pressure test the system in the next few days. No having a garage now is making it a little difficult to try and check things out right. It's not looking like the weather is going to be too cooperative either.

I can't remember for sure if I checked the radiator level after I ran the car through the hill country or not. I thought I did but I don't remember for sure. This showed up after the car was transported back to WV from Texas. The shipping company damaged the CF looking parts on the hood and the grille area so I sort of wonder if something else happened but so far I haven't found anything obvious.

10-30-2013, 02:31 PM
A small crack near the top would explain the loss under pressure...

10-30-2013, 03:28 PM
My 185 had an issue like this that wouldn't go away when I was in Houston. The day I sold it, finally found the cause, which was a split in one of the coolant (bypass) hoses going to the oil cooler. It actually never leaked onto the ground from that spot IIRC, but it did allow loss of pressure. BUT.. as the whole thread points out, the volume of coolant you're losing really aught to be showing up somewhere (and I would imagine you'd smell it if it's evaporating on hot engine parts).

10-30-2013, 10:44 PM
Definitely get a coolant sniffer test to see if you have combustion gasses in your coolant.

I had this issue on the Camry before I sold it. Depending on the temperature, the HG would either be sealed, or enough to leak coolant into combustion. Rarely would you see white smoke, as the problem was really sneaky.

I used Blue Devil for about 4 months of solid sealing before I began the tear-down from hell. The product will not gunk up your system unless you do something really, really stupid. However, you have to get a thorough flush before and AFTER you do repairs. The block passages were gunked up pretty good. Not blocked, but a few of them looked like clogged arteries. I could see something coming loose and plugging a passage making things much worse. There were also loose pieces in the radiator, that I suspect, had come loose over the winter, while the chemical created a new plug in the gasket.

Blue Devil stays in your fluid and activates with very hot exhaust gaskets. Depending on your leak, and what decides to come loose over a 6 month period, could cause blockage of the cooling system.

It's a Band-Aid that I recommend. Like all Band-Aids, you can't leave it on too long.

10-31-2013, 10:50 PM
Leakdown test. Just do a farkin leakdown test. The testers arent that expensive (I got mine for like 40 bucks from harbor freight?)

11-01-2013, 02:26 AM
That and any shop should be able to do a leak down test for you pretty inexpensively if you don't have the time to DIY.

11-02-2013, 05:24 AM
If the weather cooperates tomorrow, I'm going to pressure test the cooling system to see if there is anything there. I'm not smelling any coolant while driving and I don't appear to be getting any steam/smoke after the car is warmed up (it's getting cool here now so I'm getting some steam after startup). After that, I'll see about doing or getting do the leakdown test.

This has gotten to be really irritating.

11-06-2013, 08:35 PM
A simple HG test can be done with combustion gas detection dye. You can rent the tool from oreillys but you have to buy the fluid. It worked on my alltrac, I had a BHG with all of your symtems. A leakdown test or a pressure check didnt show mine because the exhaust would only come out when the engine was at operating temp and running.

11-07-2013, 01:47 AM
Thanks Ben. I'll check and see if Autozone or Advance has this tester. The closes O'Reillys is about 50 miles west of me. Wish they'd build one here.

11-07-2013, 02:02 AM
Shoot me your addy and I'll ship you a bottle of tester fluid (sold separately from the test kit). I have a half bottle left.

11-07-2013, 02:51 PM
the fluid is only like $12? I dont think its worth shipping.

block tester (http://www.autozone.com/autozone/accessories/Tools-Garage-and-Equipment/Block-Tester/_/N-25dh?filterByKeyWord=block+tester&fromString=search)

fluid (http://shop.advanceautoparts.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product_combustion-leak-check-test-fluid--16-oz-bottle-uview_22981758-p?searchTerm=combustion+test)

11-07-2013, 10:27 PM
Napa sells the entire kit for around $40

11-08-2013, 01:49 PM
You can rent the kit from the other places, you just have to buy the fluid. Why buy when it's free to rent?

11-08-2013, 04:09 PM
because some movies are worth keeping

11-08-2013, 07:53 PM
Yeah, but you can't download the kit. Or can you?

11-08-2013, 08:28 PM
This is one of those movies you never want to ever watch twice, trust me!

11-08-2013, 10:18 PM
Having been a Supra owner many times over...I think its worth owning the kit, but that may just be me.

Ive owned 4 different cars that I either bought with or they later developed BHG's...all 4 toyotas. hmmmmm.

11-09-2013, 05:11 PM
Shit happens with old cars. :P

11-10-2013, 04:30 AM
OK. Worked on building steps down from the house to the new driveway today. I'm hoping to have some time tomorrow to head over to Autozone and see about renting the kit they have and try checking this out. I really need to find out if this is the probably or if I need to look into other things. I'll keep you posted.

11-10-2013, 11:59 PM
OK, the mystery continues. I got the combustion gas tester today and ran the test. I had to get the coolant level down in the radiator as the first time I did it I ended up with coolant in the test and ruined the fluid.

Anyway, after getting the coolant level down as low as I could, down to the top of the first row in the radiator, I ran the test. I pumped the bulb like the instructions said for 2 minutes and left the tester sitting in place for over 20 minutes total. The blue test fluid never changed color. I had a lot of bubbles going through it most of the time so there was air going through the tester. From this, it looks like there were no combustion gases going through the coolant. The car was hot, the fans kick on a couple of times so I don't think the temperature was an issue.

Something I did notice though was it seemed like the coolant system would pressurize and suddenly surge up through the radiator. This was an issue the first time I tried to do the test but I hadn't syphoned the coolant down as far as I could get it. That time, it would be running along fine and all of a sudden coolant would come surging out of the radiator. Even this last time with the coolant drawn way done, it did the same thing. I'm kind of wondering now what might be going on there. Could it be a situation where the coolant system is building up pressure and suddenly surging to the point that it over fills the overflow? When I checked the overflow when I first noticed this, there was a little in it but not a lot. The overflow tank on this car is not very big. I'm kind of wondering if it could be overflowing the reservoir and then when it cools back down sucking the tank pretty much dry.

If I did the combustion gas test correctly, it looks like that was fine. Ben, how did you do your test? It looks pretty simple but I might have missed something.

If the test was correct and there were no gases in the coolant, it looks like the head gasket might not be the issue. Not sure now what it could be. I'm kind of concerned that something happened to the car during transport back from Texas. The did damage the CF looking pieces on the hood and the grille. I can't see that anything underneath was damaged but I wonder now. I did have the over heating problem back in June but after fixing the thermostat, I ran the car and couple of hundred miles around San Antonio and then ran over 300 hard miles through the Hill Country with no heating problem. Only after getting the car back to WV and running about 2 miles down the road and back did this issue show up. I'm at a loss.

11-11-2013, 01:44 AM
Pull thermostat?

11-12-2013, 02:51 AM
It sounds like you did the test perfect to me. I have the same issue on my MR2 and it doesnt seem to be the HG

11-12-2013, 05:06 AM
I think its also possible to get coolant into the combustion chamber and thus out the tailpipe, without getting enough combustion gases into the coolant to register on the test.
i.e. a false negative

11-12-2013, 11:52 AM
The thing is I'm not really getting any steam out the exhaust It's getting cold here now and I am getting a little water vapor/steam at start up but not what I'd really expect if it were pulling coolant into the cylinder. I don't disagree with you Facime. I'm still inclined to think it might be the head gasket but I'm not getting any of the classic systems and this test appeared to be clean. I guess I'm going to drive it some this week and see what happens. I hate to have it torn down and it not be the head gasket but I'm at a loss as to what it actually might be.

11-15-2013, 01:51 AM
The weather is supposed to be good here this weekend so I'm going to try to do some more checking to see if the coolant is going somewhere else. I'm going to take it out and run it a good bit more to see if I get any coolant showing in the oil . This thing is really starting to get on my nerves.

11-15-2013, 04:13 AM
Just throwing this out there but could the rad. be bad?

11-15-2013, 04:26 AM
I don't know. The thing is I haven't been able to find an obvious leak so far.

11-15-2013, 05:13 AM
I don't know. The thing is I haven't been able to find an obvious leak so far.

srry but i havent read the whole thread yet so im not sure if this has been asked yet, but have you tried a dye in the coolent yet?

11-15-2013, 12:07 PM
I did the combustion gas test but I haven't put any dye in the coolant yet. I'm thinking about doing that this weekend possibly.

11-18-2013, 12:06 PM
Well I put the dye in the radiator and ran the car for about 60 miles or so yesterday. Nothing showed up and the coolant level in the radiator didn't drop after the run. I scanned the front and back of the engine with the black and nothing showed up. I check the dipstick as well and nothing glowing. I'm going to run the car some more this week and see what happens. I'm kind of wondering now if I had an large air pocket in the system somewhere. I thought I had gotten it burped after I changed the thermostat out this summer but maybe not. I ran the car as far yesterday as I had the last time I had it out. That time the coolant level dropped about a liter. Yesterday, still full. I'm hoping that more miles will tell the tale.

11-18-2013, 01:44 PM
It very well could be it. Lets hope so. If not I will officially have to say I hate your cooling system.

11-18-2013, 02:11 PM
I hate my cooling system

11-18-2013, 07:40 PM
Did you maybe burp it with the heater off in the summer?

11-19-2013, 06:08 AM
I hate my cooling system

See mine actually went fairly well. But that's cause I did it on my driveway. My driveway has a pretty aggressive grade on it, and I also had it on jack stands on top of that. Luckily I had some extra 4x4's to chock the rear wheels. Lol

11-19-2013, 04:37 PM
imho easiest way is installing a flushing tee at the heater line and carefully bleeding it there.

11-19-2013, 06:17 PM
I just crank the heater to max, leave the cap off, and top it up as the level dips til the guage reads normal operating temp. I've never had any issues with heating and I've never bothered with raising the car or anything like that.

11-20-2013, 01:02 AM
I'm thinking now that I may not have gotten burped. I'm sure, after thinking about it, I didn't have the heater on this summer. Hell, it was probably 100 degrees there in July. I've got to get home before dark so I can move cars around and get it out so I can drive it some more to make sure that I don't still have leak somewhere.

11-20-2013, 03:03 PM
Well, I know I bled mine with a long hose and elevated funnel and sqeezed every line to promote bubble movement. I may just pull the engine this winter and go through it again.

11-20-2013, 03:42 PM
I had mine canted anywhere between 35 to 45 degrees towards the sky. You get it there, and normal burping procedures apply. And yeah, getting that thing properly burped will chug down a lot of coolant.

11-29-2013, 11:25 PM
have you checked the cooling system is not pressurising and blowing the coolant out into the expansion bottle ,is the bottle all brown and stained ,also is your coolant clean or murky brown ,the st185 suffers from sludge at the back of the block and clogs up the block return hose ,its the one at the rear of the engine that comes off and doubles back to the metal water rail and is the most common cause of headgasket misdiagnosis, its worth taking off and making sure it is clean before you do much more ,also the radiators on the gt4 suffer from circulation issues when older due to poor design and thin water vanes which clog up over time , the cooling system is pretty much maxed out and a 10% restriction will pretty much over tax the cooling system

11-30-2013, 09:28 PM
Thanks for the input. The overflow is clean. I think I had an air pocket in the system from when I changed the thermostat this summer. After messing with it and letting it run for the combustion gas test I think the air in the system worked its way out. I've run in it a little over 100 miles now and so far everything seems fine.

12-08-2013, 07:47 AM
Awesome. :)