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Old 03-28-2005, 03:08 PM
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3.8 Ford Head Gasket Questions

Couple of questions on 3.8 Ford.

I got the 89 T-Bird just about ready to start on.Few questions first though. It has the 3.8 in it,my brother and Dad put head Gaskets on it two years ago,Dad drove it for three days and it began to leak coolant from the lower right bank of the engine.He parked it and has not drove it since.I gave him $500 for it.The heads WERE NOT checked by a machine shop.

1st question-Are the head bolts supposed to be sealed? Do they thread into a water jacket? If so,it may be a simple fix.

2nd question-When you replace the heads/gaskets on the 3.8,you must install new head bolts since they are the torque to yield style.If the head bolts have only three days on them,have they been effected by the heat of the engine and been stretched beyond re-use by torque? Therefore requiring replacement.

3rd question- I asked Coldknock about the difference in the 3.8 gaskets for the Taurus and Bird/Cougar.He said by the looks it is just a few steam hole differences.Here is why.I replaced the front head gasket on a 91 3.8 Taurus,I still have one head gasket for the Taurus left in the garage.Can it be used on the T-Bird?If the holes in the gaskets are different,then I can drill them out with the correct size bit if it is not a metal rimmed pilot hole.I will probably just go ahead and by the head gaskets new,but if someone here who works in a shop environment has done this before,inform me as to why or why not you have done it.


Thanks guys.Ron Castle

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Old 03-28-2005, 03:20 PM
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Don't know about the gasket, but I have reused head bolts on an Escort....They call to replace them too.

I would think that you should go with all new in your case, as they had trouble the last time. Maybe, get the heads checked for straightness too.
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Old 03-28-2005, 03:24 PM
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I was definently planning on having the heads checked.I told them to do that when they did the job.But Dad said they just ripped em off,cleaned ans reinstalled. I am hoping to find out the leak is just from a un-sealed headbolt though.I need a good warm day where I can get the "Miorror On A Stick" out and look for the leak before I rip into this job.Does not look as hard as replaceing the gaskets on the Taurus,but there are still several tight fitting places just waiting to shread my hands.
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Old 03-28-2005, 04:17 PM
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Those things are prone to leaking. Back when the engines were first introduced Ford replaced a lot of head gaskets.
Also the early cylinder heads were produced with a "defect" that they later fixed. The outer row of bolts was machined with no radius in the corner of the cut, lots of heads developed a crack there.
You should check that area of the head could be where your leak is coming from.
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Old 03-28-2005, 04:25 PM
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Thanks Greg.Will definently look into it.What exactly is the radius?Is it on the edge of the head,or is the bolt hole supposed to be chammfered? That very well could be part of the problem.Any more info on it would be appreciated.
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Old 03-28-2005, 06:05 PM
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Sorry but I have to correct myself slightly. I knew I shouldn’t have relied on my defective memory.
The sharp corner is not from the head bolt spot face but from where they machined the exhaust surface.

You can see it in this picture. On lower most portion of the cut early heads have a sharp corner later heads they have a radius.


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Old 03-28-2005, 06:17 PM
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You want to use GENUINE FORD gasket kits as they come with the improved gaskets and new head bolts.
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Old 03-28-2005, 06:21 PM
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1. to my knowledge the head bolts DO NOT enter the water jacket.
2. for the amount of trouble it is to get to the head bolts, i've always gone ahead and replaced them. cheap insurance.
3. I have NO idea.

good luck with it.
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Old 03-28-2005, 06:33 PM
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I would replace the bolts, to my knowledge torque to yield means torqued to the point right before they break, so therefore they're stretched and cannot be reused. If I'm wrong on that someone please correct me.
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Old 03-28-2005, 07:15 PM
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The bolts are torqued to just under the elastic limit, or yield point. As soon as the engine comes to operating temperature, the bolts work like an elastic band to maintain a constant clamping force on the gasket. Cost for new bolts: about 45.00 CAD. Not replacing them could cost an engine. Ditto for what KULTULZ said. Not only are they the updated gasket, the kit Ford sells usually has everything you need, including bolts. Plus, at least up here, the Ford set is cheaper than the Fel Pro stuff anyway. One thing to check, I ran into this once, is that the "short" group of head bolts are actually the right length. I got a head kit in for a customer once, and, not paying enough attention, I found out that the short bolts were about 9 threads too long. This caused a fairly decent leak after about 25 miles of test driving(car had other problems).
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Old 03-29-2005, 02:27 AM
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Ford had some crappy head gaskets for a few years so a lot of these engines had head gasket failure. I have replaced quite a few Tarus, Sable, and T-Bird gaskets myself. I agree to buy the set with bolts for safety and insurance. ALWAYS have the heads resurfaced. I have seen very few that cracked and can't remember a single block failure. When you check the T-Bird, pressurize the system and look for the leak. You may get lucky and have a coolant hose or intake leak. Good luck and hope it is an easy fix. dwhitt
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Old 03-29-2005, 04:23 AM
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Thanks guys.Just got in from work and was glad to get the answers.I believe that I will go on and get the Ford kit.Seems as the right way to do it. I am going to have the heads checked also.
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Old 04-05-2005, 05:23 AM
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I have not got over to work on it yet.However My Chiltons manual shows to apply sealant to the lower bolts.I figure,if I remove the bolts and coolant comes out it is in the jacket.If no coolant flows out,then I am not in a water jacket.One day I may get over there to it.
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Old 04-05-2005, 09:24 PM
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Easy

The lower bolts go through the water jacket. I did head gaskets on an '89 as well, and it leaked because I forgot to put sealant on two of the bolts. And, it was a suprising amount of coolant for such a small area to leak from. After I added sealant and reinstalled, it ran like a champ.

Good Luck,
Andy
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Old 04-07-2005, 08:18 AM
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That my friend,is what I wanted to hear. It is just coming from the r/t rear,seems lower. However I am not counting anything out,as it could have bad heads.I need to get busy,but I need to find the time to do it first.
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