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Mike2484 10-26-2012 04:50 PM

Head Gasket help!
I am new to the forum, and I apologize if I am in the wrong section. I am the worried owner of an 03 Liberty that overheated on me at exactly 183999 miles! After correcting the overhead issue (thermostat) I began noticing the milky oil, and loss of power. 11 miles later I parked it in the driveway and began the game plan. It was the left side gasket as I was getting the misfire codes, and I decided not to do any further compression tests as with the mileage I was just going to do both head gaskets while I was there. Long story short I really did not want to take chances with winter coming so I replaced both head gaskets, and both heads as well (refrub, with 12 month 12000 warranty) also all gaskets from the top end, and new head bolts. I even got stuck.. once both heads where off, I needed a new o2 so while I waited I blew air through all the nooks and cleaned up the block nice. New heads went on and I tightened with the recommended tq, and right sequence. Once done, I replaced the oil pump, and all the timing components (ALL!!) never done this before so I wanted to not leave any room for error. I gave it four hand cranks the timing was set! After reassembling I topped off with new radiator, water pump, heater core, hoses, thermostat, entire cooling system. New plugs, oil of course and even rigged the fuel injectors with a switch to clean it all up.. She fired right up and I was relieved since I know the cam sensor may have been off. Ran great and power was as new! A few engine codes as I tied up the evap, and vacume hoses.... THEN WHITE SMOKE and MILKSHAKE oil again.. since the top end build there is 0 miles and maybe 30m of engine run time as I wanted to run the gas in the take tru. My thought was maybe the upper timing cover gasket was not sealed well, which would just let water fall right into the oil pan?? no misfires, this is one big creek im up!!

1SASjeepster 10-26-2012 10:17 PM


First off, I want to commend you on your decision to fix it like you did. It was well thought out without any "half-butt" attempts to repair, like so many do on this forum. You did it right BUT you have to remember, even though you did it right, it can still mess up on you... due to faulty NEW parts, misdiagnosed the problem, etc.

You said you over heated... besides the code, how did you determine it was the cylinder head? The results sound like an expanding crack when the block gets hot. Could be your head gasket... things to consider: did you chase down all head bolt holes with a tap? Did you use a good lubricant on your head bolt threads? (Check out Automotive Racing Performance's "head bolt lube" write up on their website.) Did you tighten head bolts in small increments until you reached peak torque setting?

If you think your upper timing cover gasket is the culprit, why? Did you take a short cut? With the work you seemed to have done, it sounds like you didn't take any short cuts. I wouldn't "second guess" your work unless you didn't do the above mentioned procedures. Those procedures are the ones where normal "shade tree" mechanics are generally ignorant in... and I do not mean that as an insult. I am a "shade tree" mechanic also.

Problem with diagnosing this kind of situation is determining whether it is the block, the head, the head gasket or something else. It is really imperative to find the true problem mechanically before replacing parts... that is why the above questions.

Take care,

Mike2484 10-27-2012 05:12 AM

Well, I really appreciate the help, and I welcome the comments/criticism I rather learn to do it right! The warning signs that made me decide the head gasket or head in general was bad, started with coolant leak with no visible leaks. The oil turned yellowish and the left side spark plugs where all wet. I grabbed a small piece of shop rag and taped it firmly to a socket extension and dropped it into the head hole for the corresponding cylinder, and cranked the engine (not start) just to get the pistons to rotate fully, I removed the rag and it was soaking wet, the plugs them selves where red/ash like. To be completely honest I did NOT tap the head bolts (kicking my self shamefully) I used the Haynes manual and tightened all bolts in the correct sequence, 20lbs, then 20lbs again, then finally 90 degrees on all bolts. I used thread bolt grease on all head bolts except the four on each head by the front.. Those bolts I used the suggested thread lock. The reason I was looking at the timing cover gasket is a few reasons... first off its the easiest and of course I want to hope it was a simple fix (boo) and also I feel I may have been a little lax with the cover as I was like a kid on Christmas and I wanted to run the darn thing soo bad. I wasn’t really taking short cuts but I was really worried about the timing as ive never timed an engine.. let alone a 3 chain 6 gear modular engine that can have piston/valve contact. After the engine was fully comp I let it sit over night,, the next morning YOUR ALL GOING TO SMACK ME FOR THIS I found one of the smaller “o” rings on the ground not sure if it was the top or bottom..I did my best to keep track of the bolts on the timing cover & there is no visible leaks.. I pulled the plugs and they are dry as a bone but very black.. though I expect some old gunk was planing to change the plugs, coolant, and oil with a synthetic switch after around 300 miles. I know Im looking for expert diagnosis on an back yard mechanic job I just find it so odd that the oil/coolant mixed so soon even the blown gasket took a few days to produce significant signs. I also wonder if the combination of heat, and water leak caused a warped block surface that will not mate with any new gasket well. Wish I just pulled the damn block!!

1SASjeepster 10-27-2012 06:30 AM


I am gathering that you didn't check for engine block straightness with a straight edge? Could there possibly be a cracked block also with this deal? I know you don't have a magnaflux capability, few backyard mechanics do, but they do make some dies that go into the coolant that will show you leaks under a black light.

If it were my engine, I would run a compression test on all cylinders while checking the condition of each plug. Write down the results and compare them. That should tell you whether your head gasket is good or not. I am not familiar with the "o" ring you are talking about but what I know about "o" rings is generally they are leaking immediately after the engine warms up or before, not a few days down the line. I would want to rule out the head gasket first before I did anymore. I would then check the "o" ring that you are talking about, then I would try to find that dye and use it. I would then pull everything off.

What I am thinking is if this is your daily driver and you have the finances, go with a long block rebuild IF YOU CAN'T FIND THE PROBLEM. If not, pull the engine ONLY AFTER TAKING A LOT OF DIGITAL PHOTOS WITH A REAL CAMERA AND SAVE THEM TO YOUR HARD DRIVE. They will help you afterwards put everything back together. It sounds like you learned a truly, most valuable lesson about working on any vehicle... and I doubt you will make the same mistake again. If the "o" ring isn't the problem and I am going to assume the cylinder heads are fine, you may have a warped block, an engine block crack or your new head gasket blew because of the warped block. That would be the direction I would take. I wish you the best Mike, and God I hope it is just that "o" ring!!

Take care,

Mike2484 10-28-2012 03:01 PM

Well, I took down the engine to get the timing cover off.. The "O" ring was clearly pouring water right onto the idle gear, I was sure I got off easy.. Even if it was not the big issue it needed to be corrected. Re did both seals and let it sit overnight, i then used a small amount of compressed air in the bleed valve and only felt air getting back to the overflow. filled with coolant (well water until I was sure) let it sit, bleed the system, oil and filter. Started right up, 5min later well we know what happened. Needless to say I will not be risking new heads, and all the other acc I think im just going to get a short block, and new top end gaske/bolt set. Probibily wont be able to get that done until spring. SIGH!!

1SASjeepster 10-29-2012 06:02 AM


At least you found out. That matters, because now you can formulate a plan to overcome the problem. I commend you again. You had great courage in doing what you did and i hope you keep it up. I am always glad to read about keeper like you... it is a far cry from the whiners we get on the forum or those who rip apart an engine and then ask, "Do you know what the head bolts have to be forqued to?" Jesus, I couldn't even imagine tearing down an engine without having that info first. I was just glad to read that you had everything planned out like you did and made it work, well almost, but it was a great effort with only one simple mistake... no biggie.

Have a great winter and stay safe.

Take care,

The time now is 03:42 AM.

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