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Finally had some time and did a little tinkering with my 318 Polysphere. I was worried it had been rebuilt since pulling the valve covers off and finding newer gaskets and the springs look awfully new(er) than the rest of the valve train.

My worries faded when I was able to crack into those heads, every gasket I found had no aftermarket indications, everything seemed stock (or what was left of them. Those exhaust manifold gaskets had seen better days.)

So now the heads are off, and wow that's a lot of carbon!

So, what's the best cleaner for removing carbon so I can get a good look at these head to check for cracks? Or am I just going to have to scrub my arms off?
 

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Carbon in the combustion chambers can be removed with a brass wire wheel in your drill motor on steel heads. Also, almost any engine cleaner will help, Gunk in a rattle can is good. If you pull the valves, stay away from the seats with the wheel.
 

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mask and safety glasses; probably best to do it outside.

Me Id take em to the machineshop; have them decrudded and magnafluxed
I'd agree! I you went this far to remove them, then have them checked at a shop, and at least have new valve guide seals installed. I'd hate to clean them and reinstall them without making certain the valves/seats and seals are all good to reinstall.
 
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