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2nd Head Gasket in 12 Months | Rant and Advice Wanted Please Topic is solved

Help, Advice and DIY Tutorials on Volvo's extremely popular car line -- Volvo's 1990s "bread and butter" cars -- powered by the ubiquitous and durable Volvo inline 5-cylinder engine.

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nickelghandi
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2nd Head Gasket in 12 Months | Rant and Advice Wanted Please

Post by nickelghandi » Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:37 am

Hello everyone,

Get comfortable. This is a long read. The TLDR (Too Long Didn't Read for those who might not know) is at the bottom.

I have a 1998 S70 GLT. I bought it a year and a half ago and have put nearly 30k miles on it and loved every one of them. I care for this care obsessively and constantly check fluids and make sure the exterior, interior and engine bay are clean. The paint is peeling on the hood, but I plan to fix that. I will post some photos of my Volvo family of two soon.

I do not drive it like a racecar.

I change the oil with full synthetic every 3k miles and have no leaks. The PCV system is clean and clear. I chase and replace the source of any MIL with Volvo OEM or IPD performance parts only with the exception of Mishimoto radiator hoses which I like more than IPD's silicone. I put only Shell Premium 93 Octane fuel in it (very rarely 89 fuel if it's cold and I am doing only highway driving).

It is now blowing coolant from all available leak places and I can hear air slurping through the heater core each time I rev it on startup. The coolant smells faintly of exhaust if the cap is opened after running for a while. It has NOT overheated as long as I have owned it. Highest coolant temperature was 215 F according to my ScanGauge in 90 F heat going up a West Virginia mountain at 80MPH loaded down with the AC on. Compression tests fine on all 5 cylinders. I am going to be testing the coolant for exhaust gases today, but I am 95% sure this is the head gasket.

How do I know this you might ask?

Because this is the second time.

Last time it passed compression, leak-down, and combustion gas coolant tests. The symptoms were an occasional misfire on a cold start after sitting for 12 or so hours overnight, a small amount of oil in the coolant, and over-pressurization of the cooling system. I dyed the coolant and pulled the plugs one morning to find it had worked its way into the cylinders.

I took it to a "Volvo Specialist" last March (2017) and had the works done. They replaced the head gasket, decked the head, pressure tested the head, replaced the t-belt and water pump, replaced pretty much all vacuum lines, and replaced every gasket they had to while doing the job. The total cost was near $2,000 US. I have only driven it about 10k miles since then because I moved drastically closer to where I work, and also drive an SUV more frequently to work for hauling equipment and whatnot.

Now, just shy of 12 months and about 15k miles later, it is almost certainly leaking again. The shop will not warranty their work although the owner told me last April when I picked it up that he "stood by everything he did" and if it had any trouble related to the HG or any parts he replaced to bring it back within the year, and he'd fix it free of charge. Well now here we are. He says he never said that and that "no shop" will guarantee a head gasket job. Me, being one who doesn't like give money to morons, addicts, or con-artists, politely told him to shove it up his chrome tailpipe in a manner of speaking. I know, I know... It is my fault for not obtaining a written guarantee or warranty, but still. How can you promise someone something and not hold to it? Oh well... lesson learned.

Rant over.

So now I am thinking of either doing the work myself or having a local shop do the work who (guess what) warranties all work for 12 months and even longer after it's been complete. I really wish I had known what good work this place did when I had the job done before.

I love this car to death. I have even named her. I am going to have her painted to fix the peeling clear coat, and hope to build her into a nice sleeper that is comfortable to ride in. I am going to drive this car until I either cannot afford to or cannot find any parts or mechanics willing to undertake work. Therefore, money is no object.

This local shop (who primarily does Asian imports and trucks, but does do Volvos occasionally) is one who I trust. They did the transmission on my SUV and did a great job. They don't gouge you on price, but they aren't cheap either. I know the owner personally. His techs will get the job done right, and I will spare no expense to make sure it is done properly.

The part I need help from this forum on is this:

I want to buy the BEST parts I possibly can to ensure I am not stuck with this problem again in a few months. The other shop did the timing belt and water pump and claims to have used Victor Reinz gaskets, but who knows?

I know there are some options for these vehicles, but reviews seem very limited and many times people never post back with their end results or what worked for them. So, those of you who have done this job (or had it done), and those of you who have built something of a performance vehicle from their P80 series, what do you recommend? I am not building this into a huge performance vehicle, but I might try to push it a little more boost eventually via a tune and an electronic boost controller.

I plan to buy everything from gaskets to head bolts myself and let the local shop do the labor. I don't care where they come from, but I need good parts that will last and stand up better than previous parts. The OEM gaskets made it almost 150,000 miles before starting to fail so hopefully I can get at least that out of whatever I put in.

You will see another post from me very soon about my 1999 V70 that I just picked up knowing it has a burnt valve. I plan on attempting that one myself, but this S70 is very dear to me and I'll feel better knowing I have a warranty against any issues caused by the replacement or the replacement failing itself.

Thanks for any suggestions, consolations, or "you idiot, why didn't you get a written warranty?" remarks.


TLDR:

A "Volvo Specialist" shop screwed me with shotty work and I need a new head gasket again. I want advice on the best possible parts to buy for the replacement to help ensure it does not happen again. All suggestions are welcome. Thank you. Pics coming soon of my Volvo family of two.



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Re: 2nd Head Gasket in 12 Months | Rant and Advice Wanted Please

Post by WhatAmIDoing » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:17 am

A shop that won't warrant a head gasket job is not a shop I would go to. If he has the warranty displayed publicly on advertising, you might be able to get him. You can never go wrong buying genuine Volvo parts in the blue box. Most users here only recommend using Volvo seals and gaskets. Be careful with buying parts for the shop, as this may "void" their labor warranty, or they may refuse to do the work at all. I wish you the best of luck. I would be p*ss*d too after $2k.
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Re: 2nd Head Gasket in 12 Months | Rant and Advice Wanted Please

Post by nickelghandi » Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:36 am

I am not sure if he does, but I might be inclined to drive by there and have a look. The place came highly recommended by several people and the owner seems to know what he is doing and talking about. They are pretty much Volvo exclusive, but occasionally do some other import vehicles.

As for the new shop, I spoke to them and they said if it is OEM or verified better than OEM quality (such as silicone hoses from a reputable source), then they will honor their labor warranty, but of course not the parts.

And yeah I definitely was.

So OEM Volvo is about as good as it gets?



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Re: 2nd Head Gasket in 12 Months | Rant and Advice Wanted Please

Post by s10lowrider1994 » Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:48 am

Sounds like the head wasn’t resurfaced correctly, or your mechanic needs a new torque wrench.
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Re: 2nd Head Gasket in 12 Months | Rant and Advice Wanted Please

Post by abscate » Tue Mar 27, 2018 12:59 pm

Take a compression test and identify the offending cylinder(s)

The only way to immunize yourself from another rant is to take this on yourself. I would have the cylinder head off, and carefully inspected for cracks and unusual stuff that might be blowing these head gaskets.

You are setting your self up again with your parts and someone else's warranty, I fear.
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Re: 2nd Head Gasket in 12 Months | Rant and Advice Wanted Please  Topic is solved

Post by rspi » Tue Mar 27, 2018 1:23 pm

Yippie! Head gasket jobs, my favorite.

I'd like to start off by saying that you should never open the coolant reservoir with the engine hot/warm, it will cause coolant to back up into it. Also, you want to take a close look at the coolant reservoir cap to make sure it doesn't have any micro cracks in it. That can cause false head gasket reading issues.

Now, I have done many many head jobs on these P80 cars, lots of fun. I USE to use VR head gasket kits, NEVER again. Simply got tired of doing the job over again after 12 to 14 months. Failing valve stem seals, cam seals, intake manifold gaskets and now head gaskets themselves. I have given all of those seals to mechanics that trust and use them, I don't. Now I get to watch them redo cylinder heads on cars under warranty. :) A lot more fun that way. I have contacted the "lifetime warranty" company to no avail. I have a few dozens of hours lost that I'd like to get back as well.

So, I suggest that you only use Volvo gaskets if it takes longer than 30 minutes to complete the job. I still use aftermarket head bolts but that's about it.

If you decide to do it yourself and would like a little help, let me know, I'll be in your area soon. I'm going to replace a head in Florence KY the end of next week.

I wouldn't recommend anything other than a ECU tune to make it more fun to drive.
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Re: 2nd Head Gasket in 12 Months | Rant and Advice Wanted Please

Post by rspi » Tue Mar 27, 2018 1:25 pm

abscate wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 12:59 pm
Take a compression test and identify the offending cylinder(s)
The first head gasket job I did on my daughter's car had good compression across the board. I don't think the head was torqued properly which slowly showed it's head over 18 months. It could have been a bad gasket, not Volvo.


'95 855 T-5R M, Panther - 22/28 mpg
'98 S70 GLT, Lil' Red 25/32 mpg
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Volvo's of past: '87 740 GLE, '79 262C Bertone, '78 264, 960's, '98 S70 GLT, '95 850 T-5R YellowVolvo Repair Videos

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Re: 2nd Head Gasket in 12 Months | Rant and Advice Wanted Please

Post by erikv11 » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:02 pm

Only Volvo brand on head gaskets, I have been saying that since day one here.

OP your opener was too long for me sorry :D but I would say that it is VERY easy to ruin the block surface or head surface. I never do the head surface myself, let the machine shop do that, and be verrrrrrry careful with the block surface using a razor blade. No sand paper!


'95 854 T5-R, Motronic 4.4, 185k
'96 855 NA, 140k
'98 S70 NA, 210k (living out west)
'98 V70, T5 tune-injectors-turbo, LPT engine, 280k
'06 S60 R, 160k
gone: '96 NA 850 210k, '98 NA V70 182k

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Re: 2nd Head Gasket in 12 Months | Rant and Advice Wanted Please

Post by nickelghandi » Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:08 pm

S10,

You might be right, but I paid $300 to have the head measured, resurfaced, and pressure checked by a different shop in Lexington, KY after the other shop got the head off.

Abscate and rspi,

I have checked compression on all cylinders and run a test with the indicator fluid to check for exhaust gas in the cooling system. good compression at 170 across all cylinders according to my cheapo gauge, and no blue to yellow transition on the test kit.

Robert,

I don't remove the cap when it is hot. Those "sniff checks" are done with the engine cold. It is after it has been run for a while and then cooled down completely. I got burnt pretty badly on my arm by hot coolant once as a teenager and never want that experience again. The point was the exhaust smell. As for upgrades, I plan on an ECU tune, an electronic boost controller, and MAYBE a 16T turbo if mine ever fails. Nothing huge. Just a little extra get up and go to make sure Hondas and low-end Mustangs can't keep up.

I might actually be up near Alexandria, KY towards the end of next week if you want to meet up, but I will most likely be in my pickup truck as I am taking a couch to my girlfriend's mom. It would be awesome to make a junkyard run and get some parts with you though. I'll PM you my travel plans and you can let me know when/if you want to get together. It'd be great to meet up, and I could definitely use some advice on this particular job. Last year when it failed the first time I spent several hours watching your cylinder head removal and reinstall videos only to decide my skills weren't up to the task. Now I have some more experience and tools and I might tackle it myself, but am still hesitant due to the attention to detail required.

Heck, even if I am at home in Frankfort you are welcome to stop by any time you are passing through this area. I am usually staring under the hood of one or more cars on any given evening.

erikv11,

No worries! That's why I added the TLDR section. I did have a machine shop do the head resurfacing. They did the work and pressure tested it and it checked out fine. That alone cost me $300.

Thanks for all the replies guys. I will get Volvo OEM parts to do this job and I am considering doing it myself in my garage. I will keep this thread up to date with what I do and what the results are. Feel free to keep posting suggestions. I can always use more information.



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Re: 2nd Head Gasket in 12 Months | Rant and Advice Wanted Please

Post by erikv11 » Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:34 pm

If the head is coming back off, you should consider new Volvo valve stem seals. But that's another expense too, not sure what your long term plans are.
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nickelghandi


'95 854 T5-R, Motronic 4.4, 185k
'96 855 NA, 140k
'98 S70 NA, 210k (living out west)
'98 V70, T5 tune-injectors-turbo, LPT engine, 280k
'06 S60 R, 160k
gone: '96 NA 850 210k, '98 NA V70 182k

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