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Old 08-19-2020, 07:56 PM   #1
Tonyte619
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Default Head gasket life expectancy

I have 2 1991 740 turbos.

One lightly modded NA+T with IPD cam and 15G running about 10-12 PSI, stock turbo ECUs.

The other completely stock 13c car.

Over the years, i've done multiple head gasket jobs to both cars. Always with Elring gaskets. Sometimes with bolts, other times with out bolts, sometimes decking the head sometimes not.

No matter what, I always seem to only get about 20k miles out of them, before they start to leak oil and then leak combustion into the coolant and eventually start overheating.

I drive them both very hard, so its not too unexpected.

Just wondering what you guys are getting out of them and with what gasket?
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Old 08-19-2020, 08:14 PM   #2
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I like the Felpro's over the Elrings, wider firing ring, but when I have all the nice bits assembled I run a Cometic. I had no issues with failed Elring's at 20psi from the Holset and stock head bolts though. With all the abuse I've thrown at it, I've had 1 gasket fail to a water jacket while idling, another fail externally from a water jacket, under load only, started seeping at first.
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Old 08-19-2020, 11:06 PM   #3
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I'm at 78k miles on a Reinz head gasket on my stock 940T.
How hard are you cleaning the block? I went at mine with scrapers and solvent until the surface was clean, then kept cleaning until I stopped seeing rust on the rag entirely.

I don't know the history of my car, but the head gasket failed 5 months after I got it. More accurately, the head itself failed, and the coolant was full of Bar's Leak.
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Old 08-20-2020, 01:44 AM   #4
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I drive like I stole my 2.1 T factory and 2.3 N/A. Over 110k on the former and 45k on the latter. Reinz gaskets and new aftermarket bolts no issues. Neither required milling, but threads were cleaned due to high carbon buildup, an serious oversight can cost you that whole job, my guess is something simple like that, or improper torquing, those TTY bolts do not work the second time no matter what the book says.
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Old 08-20-2020, 02:22 AM   #5
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Yeah probably the problem is not in the gasket but in the installment or the installlee
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Old 08-20-2020, 02:59 AM   #6
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Where do you live? What kind of gas do you put in? Something you are doing to both cars is shortening the HGs lives. No reason a stock 13c car should last 20k.
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Old 08-20-2020, 05:33 AM   #7
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Did you chase the threads? I just ran an old head bolt through each, but I can only assume that worked by sheer luck. The right way is to buy a thread chaser and then suck out the contaminants with a straw taped to a shop vac.

Are you torquing each bolt to 10 foot pounds, then 43 foot pounds, and then a 90 degree angle torque? Are you using an angle torque gauge? It doesn't have to be perfect, but it has to be close enough that it's hard to get right without an angle torque gauge. If you're able to do anything for the rest of the day after installing those bolts, it's not tight enough. Angle torquing all ten should suck the life right out of you. Take 240Redblock's advice about not reusing the bolts. You can get a set for $20-30, which for this job is well worth it.

Are you installing the bolts in the right order? I did the cylinder head and valve cover in this order:

Firewall side

9 | V | 10
5 | O | 6
1 | L | 2
3 | V | 4
7 | O | 8

Radiator side

And clean the block surface as thoroughly as you can. The nice thing about iron is you don't have to be too afraid of hurting it. Just don't slash a piston or drop anything in the bores. I used a razor blade and a brass brush, then solvents and shop towels. There's a point where it will look shiny but rust will keep coming off on the shop towels. Keep going until that stops happening. The head surface will be pretty clean if you have it lapped. But wipe it down anyway because there might be a few imperceptible aluminum fragments on your mating surface.

It's unlikely that both cars have severe enough grounding problems that they'd fall apart at the same rate, but bad grounds will accelerate electrolysis. Now, I doubt you're reusing the coolant you drain out, but just in case: don't do that. After you drain out all the coolant that the block drain and radiator will allow, remove the thermostat, and use the exhaust port of a shop vac to blow the remaining coolant in the lagoon through the water pump hose into a drain pan. Run some fresh water through a few times and blow that out with the shop vac too.

Last edited by iamrolling; 08-20-2020 at 05:34 AM.. Reason: Is there a way to do fixed width font on this board?
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Old 08-20-2020, 02:30 PM   #8
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Minimum 91 octane fuel. 93 if you can buy that in your area. These engines in stock form don't like low octane fuel.

Edit:Head gaskets should last between 250-400k miles in my experience.
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Old 08-20-2020, 02:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 240Redblock View Post
I drive like I stole my 2.1 T factory and 2.3 N/A. Over 110k on the former and 45k on the latter. Reinz gaskets and new aftermarket bolts no issues. Neither required milling, but threads were cleaned due to high carbon buildup, an serious oversight can cost you that whole job, my guess is something simple like that, or improper torquing, those TTY bolts do not work the second time no matter what the book says.
Yes, they do work a 2nd and 3rd time. I think the manual says up to 5 times. I don't know how that would every happen unless someone is messing up the job. They are not TTY bolts from the factory.

One of my customers has a 940 I sold him that is just starting to lose coolant to the outside of the engine. It probably has a hairline crack from heat cycling. He just over heated it due to the plastic heater valve breaking in half. That car has 350,000 miles on it. The 7-9 turbos usually last between 175k - 250k before the head gasket starts leaking. The NA redblocks last much longer on average. More in the 250k - 400k range as dl242gt said.

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Old 08-20-2020, 03:08 PM   #10
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Angle gauge is for the birds.
Put a dot of paint pen on the head of the bolt after torquing to the second step at 12 o clock, tighten to 3 o clock.
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Old 08-20-2020, 03:59 PM   #11
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Thanks for the replies.

I clean the block, with a razor and brake cleaner and i follow the torque specs.
I don't have an angle gauge, but i do the last 90 degree as careful as possible, and you can kinda feel them stop stretching once you've done enough of them.

I do live in Cali and only get 91 octane here.
This is actually what i am leaning towards, i think i might be getting some undetectable pinging, mostly in the 13C car. The modded one definitely will ping at times if too hot out.

Also in my decade or so of playing with volvos this has only seemed to be a problem in the last couple years, which makes me wonder if they changed the fuel or i'm getting old and missing something in the process.
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Old 08-20-2020, 04:52 PM   #12
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I've seen redblocks pitted around the fire-ring at the block by now, in which case, engine needs to be replaced or come out & be resurfaced if the pitting is present in that critical location, but not that deep. Condolences.

It's rare, but it happens.

If the bolts aren't badly overheated, they're usually good for a re-use or two at least, especially if the bolts or threads in the block clean up & aren't rusty/pitted.
Measure them for length/stretch per the book, chuck any rust-pitted bolts.
Suspect some of the aftermarket bolts.

It's sometimes age more than miles, seen them leak oil externally by #1 very very very slowly & ever increasing...very very slowly too...just lots of years/30+ years old?

SCP head on the B21FT/narrower bore of the SOHC Turbo volvos?
Long time/takes a ridiculous beating.
For the coming 3rd world equivalent-to-85-octane low-production volume (for passenger cars) gas when most cars are electric/lower cost of operation (in theory), install later larger oil pump/squirters in narrow-bore ~8:1-8.5:1 compression (tighten up the squish & or shave the head a tiny bit cautiously? or offset grind crank for more stroke?) B21FTs, install all the B230s in the trash can, of the SOHC turbo redblocks ? Who knows exactly?

Should be 20-30 years & on decent coolant running properly, 200-300K? A while/not all the time, especially tuned up well, no acidic coolant/major cooling system failures, no pinging etc etc?
A while/5-10 turbo whiteblocks w/4-5x the labor time to the redblock car that's ~5-10+ years older ?

Lot of overheats on the B230FT 7/9s though, sometimes severe enough that it really damages the whole engine from running a little too hot for a lot of years (especially 92+ E-fan cars), to rapid nuclear chernobyl style overheat. Plastic radiator tanks, higher pressure cap, factory IC, faster spinning water pump pulley (more pressure, more hooped out clutch fan), cheap owners, plastic heater valve etc etc. More ductile alloy head, larger bore motor. Short crappy pistons that run hot barely mitigated by oil squirters that they added at the last minute before discontinuing them in the USA.
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Old 08-21-2020, 02:54 PM   #13
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Old 08-21-2020, 03:47 PM   #14
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The volvo redblock SOHC is kind of amusing/funny for HGs; seen about every imaginable (maybe, though so many possibilities with all those fluids/passages/dissimilar metals) kind of failure;
-Electrolysis pitted near fire ring/head compromised from corrosive coolant/****ty wiring/multi-metal engine (alum, brass, copper heater core, iron block, oh my!).
-Pitted block (rare & really sucks when that happens).
-Run to the ragged edge of pinging hot a little bit all the time.
-Leaks oil externally very very slowly/old gasket, head not warped or pitted, block not warped or pitted, HG just very very old/dissolved. Usually ~#1 or #4. That's a sneaker.
-Blown between 2 & 3 fire ring, no idea, seen that one repeatedly on N/A nothing special redblocks, mid-cycle 85-87s mostly, couldn't tell ya! The weird one with that is the car went from very slight miss-power-loss-2-holes on that every time I've experienced it extremely rapidly (like, seconds/minutes) with no warning whatever.
-BCP/Big bore 96mm/2.3L engine super delicate.
-Coolant into combustion chamber. Steam cleaned plug, has a miss cold especially or even slight hydro-lock cold (remove plug and let it spit coolant cranking it over to move it into shop), uses coolant slowly, typically), but doesn't exactly lose compression majorly. Weird.
-Massive coolant blown out externally. Rare/higher boost under duress.
-Melted exhaust port/ran way low on coolant/nuclear B230FT overheat.
-Bolts corroded &/or don't hold the torque anymore.

They revised the head alloy a bunch of times and tolerances on block machining for bores/deck leave a good bit to be desired on redblocks.
More ductile alloy in heads later, doesn't crack between valve seats, but more cam-rattly also B230FT and later on averagely neglected oil change redblock that still basically works/has compression.

Getting a little challenging to find a good oil/good coolant never run hot N/A mid-late cycle head where alloy + likely use/abuse is optimal for a used donor.

Or a later '84 SCP head for B21/23 so you can keep the better early timing cover/marks etc and keep it all sealed up from dirt.

Lot of really lousy quality oil late 70s/early 80s w/little-no zync or lead, plenty of penzoil paraffin to sludge up, no synthetics or semi-synthetics widely available yet.

At least it isn't like the bad run of hondas where half the time the block has to come out to be decked/is warped from minor/regular running warm, count your blessings I guess?

Despite having seen many/varied failures, shouldn't be that often in normal use/cared for
Very shotgun data points on the redblock/arises in very different & varied ways.
Hard to nail down like some other cars where it's more consistent/only fails first in one particular way.
But in normal use, doesn't happen that early/often.

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Old 08-21-2020, 05:03 PM   #15
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Kjets on a Plane is a Tbricks Treasure!
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Old 08-21-2020, 06:20 PM   #16
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^Dubious award?

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Old 08-21-2020, 11:08 PM   #17
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Simply honest admiration of your extensive knowledge, experience, and willingness to share.
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Old 08-22-2020, 09:08 AM   #18
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Simply honest admiration of your extensive knowledge, experience, and willingness to share.
+1 I like
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Old 09-09-2020, 10:16 AM   #19
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Kjets on a Plane is a Tbricks Treasure!
There's only ONE Kjets on a Plane!
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Old 09-09-2020, 10:26 AM   #20
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My head gasket changes:

1) 1989 740 NA 336,000 miles, gasket never changed

2) 1993 240 Classic sedan, gasket changed at 170k, small coolant leak to outside by #1 cylinder, block was fine - just skim cut the head, new Cometic gasket. Car had little mileage for 5 years before purchase.

3) 1993 240 Classic wagon, gasket changed at 171k, radiator neck broke, engine replaced

Our 40th anniversary is next year. I may need a new gasket.

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Old 09-18-2020, 12:53 AM   #21
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Already mentioned but: octane and high miles if inhibitor used and no detonation and properly installed on a hard flat head and a smooth flat block. Volvo block machining is pretty good, so if not damaged no need to touch it generally. Not true of older Mazda blocks which you can see/feel the fly cutter marks in :-o

93AKI US pump gas should be minimum for you, and if you're really beating on it on the limiter for minutes at a time etc, then buy some toluene bulk and blend in 5-30% of that with your 93AKI pump gas.
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Old 09-25-2020, 03:02 AM   #22
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^Dubious award?
in after k-jets

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Old 09-25-2020, 08:19 AM   #23
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Did you chase the threads? I just ran an old head bolt through each, but I can only assume that worked by sheer luck. The right way is to buy a thread chaser and then suck out the contaminants with a straw taped to a shop vac.

Are you torquing each bolt to 10 foot pounds, then 43 foot pounds, and then a 90 degree angle torque? Are you using an angle torque gauge? It doesn't have to be perfect, but it has to be close enough that it's hard to get right without an angle torque gauge. If you're able to do anything for the rest of the day after installing those bolts, it's not tight enough. Angle torquing all ten should suck the life right out of you.
Hopefully mine was done alright. I cleaned out the bolt holes with a dry paper towel, and then a paper towel + solvent. I also hit them with the shopvac+straw.

My back was really sore after torquing down all the headbolts. I thought for sure I was just being soft, but I guess it's more common than I thought!
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Old 09-25-2020, 09:48 AM   #24
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Hopefully mine was done alright. I cleaned out the bolt holes with a dry paper towel, and then a paper towel + solvent. I also hit them with the shopvac+straw.

My back was really sore after torquing down all the headbolts. I thought for sure I was just being soft, but I guess it's more common than I thought!
Running an old head bolt down the threads first might have been good too, but you should be fine. Just remember to triple check everything you removed before starting the car. I recommend pulling the coil power and fuel pump fuses and cranking in 10 second bursts until the oil light goes out during cranking. If nothing else, it'll keep you from having to stare at that light until the oil builds pressure.
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