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99 cavalier...loose head bolts


rusted and busted
12-31-2011, 05:21 PM
My 99 cavalier with a 2.2L overheated a week ago because the serpentine belt came off, I wasnt very far from home and drove it the rest of the way. I replaced the idler pulley and that fixed the problem with the belt and had the car running and it was fine but a few days later I went to use the car and it wouldnt start. Antifreeze was leaking heavily from under one head bolts. I checked the bolt and it was very loose and I noticed 2 others around it also werent torqued down. Because the leak was so bad I also had antifreeze go into 2 of the cylinders. I tightened the bolts and I got out as much of the coolant as I could and did a compression test. I got decent results for a car with 190,000 miles on it....it read 110/110/110/125. Are loose head bolts a common problem on high mile 2.2's? After doing the compression test I'm thinking the head and gasket are fine.

GuyWithCavalier
01-01-2012, 04:41 AM
My 99 cavalier with a 2.2L overheated a week ago because the serpentine belt came off, I wasnt very far from home and drove it the rest of the way. I replaced the idler pulley and that fixed the problem with the belt and had the car running and it was fine but a few days later I went to use the car and it wouldnt start. Antifreeze was leaking heavily from under one head bolts. I checked the bolt and it was very loose and I noticed 2 others around it also werent torqued down. Because the leak was so bad I also had antifreeze go into 2 of the cylinders. I tightened the bolts and I got out as much of the coolant as I could and did a compression test. I got decent results for a car with 190,000 miles on it....it read 110/110/110/125. Are loose head bolts a common problem on high mile 2.2's? After doing the compression test I'm thinking the head and gasket are fine.

Wow, sounds like it would have been much better to have tightened those bolts before the leak...

That is very disturbing. How could the bolts actually get loose?

Now I'm going to check mine, (220 000 kilometers).

I have been searching internet for this question, and apparently gasket leaks/blown are a major engine failure problem with all kinds of cars.

But also, tightening down the bolts is apparently a serious and delicate procedure, and you need a really good (calibrated) tork wrench/ratchet, and also a special procedure to tighten them.

Did you just bolt them down, or did you follow a special order and method? It is apparently important.

I found out my 1999 2200 ml 4 cyl. has an iron block and aluminium head.

Apparently this means the head expands and contracts at a different rate than the block. So gasket can get ground away,
and special material/tork balance is needed.

I would immediately (when u can) pull head, and put on new gasket following recommended procedures carefully.
Maybe damage is minimal and engine will be good for another 100,000 km.

If gasket blew in first place, it may be weakened in many other places.... replace it if u can I guess.

Where's a mechanic when you need one? haha.

rusted and busted
01-01-2012, 02:10 PM
At this point all I did was tighten down the bolts by the exhaust manifold so I could do a compression test. I havent removed the valve cover yet to check the other bolts. I really wanted to know how bad it is before I start taking everything apart and judging by the results of the ct the head and gasket might be ok.

GuyWithCavalier
01-01-2012, 09:27 PM
At this point all I did was tighten down the bolts by the exhaust manifold so I could do a compression test. I havent removed the valve cover yet to check the other bolts. I really wanted to know how bad it is before I start taking everything apart and judging by the results of the ct the head and gasket might be ok.

I don't want to cause paranoia,
but its interesting that the bolts that are easily accessed (outside the head) were the ones that were loose.

If I were a crooked mechanic looking to multiply the work,
maybe I would loosen a few of these and suggest a head-gasket job,
you know, just to keep the money flowing into the shop...

Sorry, but thats the way I am now after quite a few such episodes.

For instance, I was charged for new pads and rotors on one car, but only got new ones on the front.

In two cars, it was obvious that someone had splashed acid
on the steel body at the mounts for the trailing arms (both GM),
and I think this was a way to quickly put cars out of service,
to sell more cars. There was no rust at all on every other part of the bottom of the cars, even though they went through 10 winters in Canada.

In another case, someone damaged rad with torch while doing muffler.

Misalignment cost me a half-dozen tires, but nobody called it.
They just sold me more tires.

My last car was sabotaged by a mechanic who removed the brake fluid in cylinder while failing the car for certification.
He may also have been the one who sawed my back axle brace...

The games continue...

The reason I'm suspicious is that Torqued bolts shouldn't loosen at all.
For instance, the nut on your front spindle is torqued,
but I've never heard of one loosening by itself.

If as you say, the front bolts are actually nuts on a shaft,
they should be lock-nuts, and never loosen.

MagicRat
01-01-2012, 11:10 PM
Interesting subject.

First off, I think most mechanics can find legitimate problems with cars to fix. They usually don't have to loosen bolts to create them. Unless you have evidence the bolts were loosened (ie, fresh marks on the bolts, etc) lets assume there are legitimate reasons.

You should get a new set of head bolts and carefully replace the old bolts, one at a time, including all the bolts under the valve cover. You would start by replacing the bolts in the center of the head first and gradually work your way to the ends. Torque the bolts using a torque wrench to specs and no further. Hopefully the head is not warped (from uneven bolt torque) and the head gasket has not been blown.

Do not retorque the old bolts. Replace them to be safe You must use a torque wrench and proper specs for this.

tempfixit
01-01-2012, 11:32 PM
Interesting subject.

First off, I think most mechanics can find legitimate problems with cars to fix. They usually don't have to loosen bolts to create them. Unless you have evidence the bolts were loosened (ie, fresh marks on the bolts, etc) lets assume there are legitimate reasons.

You should get a new set of head bolts and carefully replace the old bolts, one at a time, including all the bolts under the valve cover. You would start by replacing the bolts in the center of the head first and gradually work your way to the ends. Torque the bolts using a torque wrench to specs and no further. Hopefully the head is not warped (from uneven bolt torque) and the head gasket has not been blown.

Do not retorque the old bolts. Replace them to be safe You must use a torque wrench and proper specs for this.


I agree with MagicRat. I believe the loose bolts were loose because they stretched from the overheating. When replacing like suggested take a straight edge and lay it against the bolt, you will see by the threads if it is stetched.

rusted and busted
01-01-2012, 11:38 PM
Well there wasn't any "crooked mechanics" working on the car because I haven't had the car in any shop and no it was not the nuts that were loose causing the leak, it was the threaded stud that was loose. I've never had a problem with head bolts coming loose before and wanted to know if this was a common problem on the 2.2's. At this point all I know is that the motor has decent compression but won't start because the cylinders are still wet from the coolant leak. FYI.....yes front spindle nuts are torqued and do not come off but they are also secured in place by a cotter pin.

GuyWithCavalier
01-01-2012, 11:53 PM
Well there wasn't any "crooked mechanics" working on the car because I haven't had the car in any shop and no it was not the nuts that were loose causing the leak, it was the threaded stud that was loose. I've never had a problem with head bolts coming loose before and wanted to know if this was a common problem on the 2.2's. At this point all I know is that the motor has decent compression but won't start because the cylinders are still wet from the coolant leak. FYI.....yes front spindle nuts are torqued and do not come off but they are also secured in place by a cotter pin.

Great discussion.

However, my 1994 Cavalier dispensed with cotter-pins for the spindle nut, as will be found on many GM cars.
Instead, the nut is a 'compression-style' lock-nut,
which is made by taking a high-grade steel nut,
and crimping it either by pinching one end, or pressing on it with a triangular vise.
As a result, the nut goes on freely to a point, then must be tightened with a wrench (but force needed is not as high as torque requirement).
Once placed, the nut cannot undo by itself from vibration,
and needs no cotter-pin.
Most modern critical-use locknuts function this way:
good steel, crimped end, no cotter-pin.


----------------
In case you missed it from my other thread,



On the other hand, if you have already had a leak,
This suggests serious damage to the gasket.

Simply tightening down the head might be a big mistake,
because if the gasket was worn, lost material, or got damaged,
or if some foreign deposits wedged into the crack (dried soot, coolant-residue),
then maybe putting the 'right torque' on all nuts and bolts will actually bend the head around the deposit or the missing pieces, twisting its shape.

One small question remains as to your own vehicle (see other thread):

What if one of the cylinders has a lower compression because there is still an internal problem (say caused by above)?
This would suggest that its only a matter of time before a small hole gets bigger, and you are back where you were again,
only this time with a bent head (from tightening without replacing gasket).

Just my thoughts...

MagicRat
01-02-2012, 12:09 AM
As Guy suggests, there is a strong possibility the gasket is compromised and/or the head is warped. Replacing the head bolts alone is a bit of a gamble.
It's cheap and easy to do and may work. However, be prepared you might end up doing a HG job and machine-shop work on the head.

GuyWithCavalier
01-02-2012, 12:09 AM
Interesting subject.

First off, I think most mechanics can find legitimate problems with cars to fix. They usually don't have to loosen bolts to create them. Unless you have evidence the bolts were loosened (ie, fresh marks on the bolts, etc) lets assume there are legitimate reasons.

You should get a new set of head bolts and carefully replace the old bolts, one at a time, including all the bolts under the valve cover. You would start by replacing the bolts in the center of the head first and gradually work your way to the ends. Torque the bolts using a torque wrench to specs and no further. Hopefully the head is not warped (from uneven bolt torque) and the head gasket has not been blown.

Do not re-torque the old bolts. Replace them to be safe You must use a torque wrench and proper specs for this.

I have a problem with this suggestion:

It seems to miss the mark.

If the head-seal already had a severe leak, which has now caused engine failure,
surely its time to replace the gasket, not the bolts.

The bolts may well be not re-usable, because they are TTY bolts (see other thread).
In that case, certainly replace them.
But they may actually be ordinary bolts, in which case they should work again and again and again.

That aside, It seems if you are going to remove the rocker cover and all that entails,
you are partway to pulling the head anyway.
Why not pull the head and do the gasket?

At this point, the OP has reported the car won't start anyway.
This surely can't be left like this: The antifreeze in the cylinders will destroy the engine.

Sounds like time to pull the head and do it right,
before things go further south...

MagicRat
01-02-2012, 12:12 AM
I have a problem with this suggestion:

It seems to miss the mark.

If the head-seal already had a severe leak, which has now caused engine failure,
surely its time to replace the gasket, not the bolts.

The bolts may well be not re-usable, because they are TTY bolts (see other thread).
In that case, certainly replace them.
But they may actually be ordinary bolts, in which case they should work again and again and again.

That aside, It seems if you are going to remove the rocker cover and all that entails,
you are partway to pulling the head anyway.
Why not pull the head and do the gasket?

At this point, the OP has reported the car won't start anyway.
This surely can't be left like this: The antifreeze in the cylinders will destroy the engine.

Sounds like time to pull the head and do it right,
before things go further south...

Excellent points. I agree with you as my post above shows (you missed it because it went up the same time you posted.) Bolts alone are a gamble.......

GuyWithCavalier
01-02-2012, 12:26 AM
A picture might help...

http://www.econofix.com/headgskt.jpg


In the photo above, smaller deterioration and weakness may lead quickly to more.
If there was a leak, maybe there is some damage already.
I see the brown areas between the two examples as areas of lesser but problematic damage...



EXample 2: (http://i395.photobucket.com/albums/pp33/Frito_023/IMAG0010.jpg) ( < - - click on link)

The above example (http://www.s10forum.com/forum/f105/2000-2-2l-with-a-blown-head-gasket-new-problem-414535/) was supposedly caused by
" the damage a messed up dexcool coolant system can do to your gasket"

He calls this head gasket blown, and it looks surprisingly better than above.
I notice however that
corrosion in the antifreeze areas quickly leads to destruction of the piston seal!

GuyWithCavalier
01-02-2012, 12:36 AM
The Example 2 guy's story is worth quoting cause there's a lot of info in it:


The exhaust Side head bolts were definitely not anywhere near torque spec when i removed the head, it only took about 1/4 turn on my 1/2" drive ratchet to get them to loosen by hand and this is the side that has the water jackets busted through completely in areas on the gasket and the intake side bolts (the ones under the valve cover) all took the expected amount of effort to remove about 2-3 turns before hand loosen-able so what i've read about cast iron blocks with aluminum heads having issues with metal expansion being too great on the exhaust side the cylinder head due to heat and eventually causing blown head gaskets makes sense from what happened to my engine.

the order in what I personally think happened is the gasket started to leak on that side in very small amounts contaminating the coolant with exhaust gasses but not enough to be obvious that it was burning any coolant or leaking and this is what caused the dexcool to sludge up and go bad, after my radiator blew i decided to flush the system and use prestone cleaning solution to clean the system and that caused the head gasket to leak very very noticeably afterwords, engine could barely idle or rev, white smoke out the exhaust and boiling coolant reservoir that smelled like fuel and exhaust

...
Well tomorrow i gotta take the water pump back out it has developed a leak already http://www.s10forum.com/forum/images/smilies/frown.gif its my fault for forgetting to buy a gasket and trying to RTV it back in, I know dumb idea so new gasket for that and i will rtv the shit outta the gasket for safe measure

"i hear ya,on the rtv tip i wouldn't use an assload of it on the new gasket cuz in my experience the more u use the more whatever u use it on is prone to develope a leak.i throw a lil skim coat on both sides of the gasket and let er rip,that ways always worked for me just my two cents

welp it wasnt my RTV job it was the water pump itself, i knew i should have just replaced that thing lol. the good news is i can get the pump in and out without too much hassle so ill have to pick up a new one once i get a few extra bux

in the mean time though what concerns me more is solving my dexsludge problem. in draining my radiator and pulling the pump today witch ofc let out a ton of coolant from the engine block as i knew would happen my coolant is back to dark orange contaminated dexsludge already no doubt due to the coolant left in the heater core that i couldnt flush do to some check valve or something and the coolant and buildup left on in the inside of my engine block =/

anyone on here have experience cleaning out a messed up dexsludge system so it runs cleanly again?


Well yesterday i finished putting in the new delco water pump and i backflushed the system till it ran clear then put in GM's new heavy duty cooling system cleaner in it and followed the instructions on its bottle.

mind you my dexsludge was never so bad that it clogged my heater core or anything like that like some people's and i had flushed my system prob. close to a dozen times in the last few weeks, but the acid in that bottle definately got most of it out that was left in the engine. its got good old green antifreeze in it now and no contamination in the coolant or signs of red particles yet. time will tell how clean it got it i suppose

What was funny is the guy at the dealership was like you don't want to buy that stuff. I'm like yep i do its the only thing that will clean out dexsludge and he said yeah but even our techs here hate using it because its so acidic and he told me i had to replace my thermostat and cap afterwards but i already knew i had to do that from reading on here and elsewhere http://www.s10forum.com/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif

so +1 to that cleaner they sell, just be careful handling it when its in the bottle, once mixed with water i got some on me when i was flushing it out after running the motor for an hour with it in and its barely acidic at that point it like barely burns skin

...

GuyWithCavalier
01-02-2012, 12:45 AM
One more picture, with some notes:

http://www.econofix.com/v8bkdeck.jpg

I hope this helps, although it certainly gives a realistic picture of the work involved in fixing a blown gasket...


This guy says,
The pictures below show a 350 Chevrolet V-8 head and gaskets. This head gasket failed between two cylinders. The customer complained of lack of power along with pinging (spark knock) . When I checked the compression I found two adjacent cylinders with 60 pounds of compression. The other cylinders had 150 pounds of compression. Incidently, I had put a water pump on that vehicle about 3 months before I did this work!
DON'T LET YOUR ENGINE GET HOT: WATCH YOUR GAGES AND STOP... OR ELSE!!!

GuyWithCavalier
01-02-2012, 12:47 AM
Just one more question.

Would it be less work to just drop in another engine from the wrecker?

After all, this ain't no 1970 Boss 302..

rusted and busted
01-02-2012, 11:34 AM
It would be less work to just call the salvage yard and have them tow it away. The car has 190,000 miles on it and has seen its better days. I don't think anyone really read my original post and that was is it common for head bolts to loss their torque. Yeah I know if I replace the head gasket it should fix the problem but a gasket set costs close to $100 and will take a day or two to do the job. As I stated in the start the motor has good compression, if the hg was blown it wouldnt, that hg in the picture you added would show the problem on a comp test. All I really wanted to know is if anyone had this problem happen to them but all I got was replies telling me that I have a crooked mechanic and the correct way to torque a front spindle and how dishonest mechanics up in Canada are....while making good reading at the end of the day it still didn't answer my question.

The closest thing that was of a help was the quote on post #13....."The exhaust Side head bolts were definitely not anywhere near torque spec when i removed the head, it only took about 1/4 turn on my 1/2" drive ratchet to get them to loosen by hand". That lets me to believe this can be more of a common problem and with all the miles on my car the bolts may have backed off and when it overheated it popped the gasket seal....but not immediately because it still ran fine for a few days after. Once it popped coolant poured out the front and into the cylinders. I snugged the bolts down and it's not leaking coolant out of the front or into the cylinders now and its holding compression.
If I'm right it should start again after the cylinders dry out then I'll replace the head bolts with a new set and if I can't get it to go again I'm pulling the head.

Tech II
01-02-2012, 12:12 PM
here's the thing.....I never heard of it(bolts being that loose).....I doubt you are the original owner....

Hank panky possible? Sure.....that's why you NEVER bring your vehicle, even for oil changes, to places that may have a bad rep....sometimes going cheap, isn't the cheapest in the long run.....always ask around for where people bring their vehicles, and, if they ask for a certain tech....

It's possible, that you may have bought this vehicle AFTER a head gasket job was done....these are stretch bolts.....improper procedures, a bad tech, and most important, if new bolts were not used, may cause future problems.... have seen head gasket problems when new bolts were not used....

rusted and busted
01-02-2012, 02:37 PM
No I am not the original owner of it, I got the car from my father-inlaw who bought it over 6 years ago and drove it over 100,000 trouble free miles....he never had any problems with it other than basic routine repairs/maintence. While true you never know what you get when you purchase a used vehicle the amount of miles he drove the car doesnt sound like it was a victim of shoddy repairs. But I guess anything is possible.

I have also heard stories of cars being assembled at the factory and not having all the bolts properly torqued, bolts being cross threaded. In fact I have a brother who bought a new truck back in the early 90's and it burned oil like crazy. Being that it was under warrenty he brought it back to the dealership and long story short....on 6 of the 8 cylinders the rings on the pistons had the gaps lined up causing the problem. So I guess no one should be trusted...lol.

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