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General Tips for DIY Head Gasket Replacement - 99 s70 na

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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smacknab
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General Tips for DIY Head Gasket Replacement - 99 s70 na

Post by smacknab » Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:26 pm

Hello everyone,

I've been working on my 99 s70 na m56 (207k miles) and really enjoying it, but i'm coming to reality with what i believe is a head gasket leak, which i'm hoping to DIY myself. After doing my homework, I'm writing here as I still have some questions and also that i'm getting conflicting information so I'm hoping for some clarity. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

A. Is weak compression between two cylinders (hotdry:210/210/90/90/180) enough definitive evidence to warrant a head gasket replacement? If there anything else it could be? Should i do any other tests before disassembling the engine? I do have some white smoke and a coolant smell, but I don't have a milky oil cap, I don't see oil in my coolant, I cant really tell if i'm loosing coolant.
B. Is the TracyTrueSoap head gasket DIY a very accurate guide for a 99 s70 na? Any variations i should be aware of?
C. If the head surface seems to be true and the issue is say, just a old gasket on a 20 year old car that has deteriorated, what are the main things you would do while the engine is open? (i have the pcv kit which i'm planning to do at the same time, i recently did timing belt/tensioner/waterpump)
D. If the engine head is infact warped... is it a dumb idea to move forward? do you think is it worth it and easy enough to have the head surfaced? alternatively, would you pull a head from a junk yard or buy a used unit? is there any case where you would replace the entire engine? (those are the range of suggestions i've gotten)
E. If it's possible/advisable to resurface and clean the head, does anyone have any shops near Boston they would recommend?

Symptoms
Most definitively, I ran a hot dry compression test earlier and got numbers of about ~210, ~210, ~90, ~90, ~180. I seems like a leak between 3/4, not sure why 5 is lower
The external signs are occasional white smoke I believe mostly at start up (as it seems to come and go) plus a mild coolant smell.

Other than that, as I mentioned; I don't have a milky oil cap, I don't see oil in my coolant, I cant really yet tell if i'm loosing coolant, but i've only put on about 2k miles. It made it Bos-NYC and back last week with no overheating issues.



I've been reading up on the job, watching videos, downloaded the TracyTrueSoap DIY, and have been working my way through RobertDIY's video of a rebuild. All of which, i'm not gonna lie, have been somewhat intimidating just to the scale of the job/time necessary. However, having a step by step DIY is encouraging and from what i've read if I do the job and replace some other seals, the engine could be good for a long time to come.
Also, I spoke to a friend who did a head gasket on his 4runner and said he checked his head and found it was within tolerance so he simply replaced the gasket and called it a day. Obviously thats the situation i would be hoping for, but im not sure how realistic that expectation is.

I bought the car to learn how to work on cars, and its been alot of fun but also quite a bit of money. I'm clearly having sunken cost bias at this point, but I really feel like if i can get past this issue the car will be in good shape, and it seems like a good job for me to try to tackle. Any words of encouragement would be great.

ps. If i disassemble the engine in my garage, if it's in neutral, i will be able to push the car back and forth correct? I'd need to be able to move the car get some things in and out of there, but its getting very cold so i'd like to be working inside as much as possible.



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Re: General Tips for DIY Head Gasket Replacement - 99 s70 na

Post by abscate » Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:31 pm

Those compression readings sure do look like a head gasket failure. It’s a big labor job, but it’s stupid labor

Document everything with

Picture
Notepad
Plastic bags labeled with sharpie referenced to notes

If you measure and note each fastener with size and length, you can ID any leftover parts.
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Re: General Tips for DIY Head Gasket Replacement - 99 s70 na

Post by BlackBart » Mon Nov 11, 2019 8:37 pm

It -could- be two burned valves in two adjacent cylinders, but that’s highly unlikely. A “leak down” test will tell you where the air is leaking out.

You can do this. Do you need the car anytime soon? Slow & careful is my pattern on new things. DIYs are invaluable. Ask questions here. Everything abscate said above. Do you have the right tools - makes it so much easier if you can reach for the right shape and not fret about “How do I get this off?!”
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Re: General Tips for DIY Head Gasket Replacement - 99 s70 na

Post by BlackBart » Mon Nov 11, 2019 8:40 pm

Neutral - yes.
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Re: General Tips for DIY Head Gasket Replacement - 99 s70 na

Post by smacknab » Tue Nov 12, 2019 12:11 am

Abscate I can always count on you for the tips!

Blackbart someone is about to lend me a leakdown tester so I'm going to try that just to make sure. My fiance and I share another car but don't actually need any car to get to either of our jobs. There's some tools on the DIY I haven't seen before for sure, I'm curious what I could rent. I feel like the price of specialized tools or liquids/sealants has been killing my budget.



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Re: General Tips for DIY Head Gasket Replacement - 99 s70 na

Post by erikv11 » Tue Nov 12, 2019 1:02 am

abscate wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:31 pm
Those compression readings sure do look like a head gasket failure. It’s a big labor job, but it’s stupid labor

Document everything with

Picture
Notepad
Plastic bags labeled with sharpie referenced to notes

If you measure and note each fastener with size and length, you can ID any leftover parts.
A head gasket job is not at all stupid labor. Engine swap = stupid labor (but be safe). Head gasket = be very careful, go slowly and do it right (second half of abscate's post). If you're not careful it won't last long at all. Be really careful with the engine surface, make sure everything is very clean. Buy the gaskets from Volvo including the valve stem seals - do those while the head is off.
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Re: General Tips for DIY Head Gasket Replacement - 99 s70 na

Post by greg850r » Thu Nov 14, 2019 11:52 am

erikv11 wrote:
Tue Nov 12, 2019 1:02 am
abscate wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:31 pm
Those compression readings sure do look like a head gasket failure. It’s a big labor job, but it’s stupid labor

Document everything with

Picture
Notepad
Plastic bags labeled with sharpie referenced to notes

If you measure and note each fastener with size and length, you can ID any leftover parts.
A head gasket job is not at all stupid labor. Engine swap = stupid labor (but be safe). Head gasket = be very careful, go slowly and do it right (second half of abscate's post). If you're not careful it won't last long at all. Be really careful with the engine surface, make sure everything is very clean. Buy the gaskets from Volvo including the valve stem seals - do those while the head is off.
Agree on everything here especially the valve stem seals. Also this tool set helps:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ID1UA5I/re ... NrPXRydWU=

Another thought; I never saw a head surface on one of these that wasn't low in the middle by at least .006 and most of those didn't have a head gasket leak yet. Spec says no more than .002. Always have a good machine shop deck the head (not with a table grinder) while it is off or you'll just be doing the gasket again. The last one I did was pulled for a burned exhaust valve. I watched them make 3 passes with an 8", 6 bit cutter, removing .002 with each pass. On the third pass the untouched low spot in the middle went away and it was flat again.


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Re: General Tips for DIY Head Gasket Replacement - 99 s70 na

Post by BlackBart » Thu Nov 14, 2019 12:02 pm

^^ Interesting! I thought I read years ago that the machine shop needs to have the jig to hold the head flat so they can skim it correctly. The reason for all those bolts is because it can move with heat or force. Is this correct?

I didn't need the wing nut tool to press the upper head down. You just get a few of the little bolts started and then gradually walk it down until they're all snug, then torque in the correct pattern.

But the cam lock tool with the teeth that fit into your camshafts is invaluable. Just don't make my mistake and crank the tiny 7mm bolts down and snap one inside the camshaft. They only need to be snug to keep the cams from rotating.

EDIT -
This thing....
IMG_1406.jpg
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Last edited by BlackBart on Thu Nov 14, 2019 9:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: General Tips for DIY Head Gasket Replacement - 99 s70 na

Post by abscate » Thu Nov 14, 2019 2:32 pm

Just turn those screws finger tight while you hold the cam locks in the right place, no tools.
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Re: General Tips for DIY Head Gasket Replacement - 99 s70 na

Post by volvolugnut » Thu Nov 14, 2019 6:33 pm

smacknab wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:26 pm

I bought the car to learn how to work on cars, and its been alot of fun but also quite a bit of money. I'm clearly having sunken cost bias at this point, but I really feel like if i can get past this issue the car will be in good shape, and it seems like a good job for me to try to tackle. Any words of encouragement would be great.

ps. If i disassemble the engine in my garage, if it's in neutral, i will be able to push the car back and forth correct? I'd need to be able to move the car get some things in and out of there, but its getting very cold so i'd like to be working inside as much as possible.
Point 1: Everyone has to start learning about the same place. With internet information, more mistakes can be avoided. If in doubt ask questions. The only stupid questions are the ones you don't ask.

Point 2: Yes you can roll the car in neutral. However, if you have any incline at all (like a lip at the garage door) that will be harder. You can cheat by airing the tires to maximum pressure rating on side wall and by using a long breaker bar on your lug nuts. If the lug nut wants to loosen, move to the other side of the car.

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