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Old 02-14-2010, 11:35 PM   #1
Recon427
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Default Blown Head Gasket Detection

Alright. You might have noticed my "Cooling System help please" post earlier this week. However, after talking to a senior Lexus mechanic; he said that my problem sounds more like a mildly blown head gasket.


Here is the run down:
The temp gauge went to the 3/4 mark on Thursday.
It used to oscillate between 1/4 to 1/2+ when car is moving and at idle, respectively. But it only touched the 3/4 mark once.

The car idles normally with the usual light roughness in idle. Acceleration is good. Oil is clear. Oil Cap is clear. Exhaust is clear. No unusual sounds coming from engine compartment.


Now, question is: How do I determine if my head gasket is blown? How fast do the symptoms of "milkshake oil" and foam on oil cap, misfiring cylinders, white smoke, etc. take to appear?

Are there tests I can do to check for head gasket failure? I heard of compression tests and CO level in coolant test. Any ideas?


Thanks in advance.


Lastly, anybody from Chicago that would be willing to help a fellow 318ti owner out in replacing the head gasket if it truly is damaged?

Note: I will flush the coolant and change the thermostat next weekend. In the mean time...I have 500 miles of road to cover.
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Old 02-15-2010, 12:18 AM   #2
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If it is burning, your exhaust will be white all the time & smell sweet. That's a pretty big crack (I've seen it happen to a brand new Chevy blew going up a hill & it POURED smoke into a nearby restaurant). The oil shouldn't take that long to become milky, which it may not be.

Look at your spark plugs too. They usually become tinted by the coolant (like green).

I would say run a compression test and see if any cylinder just doesn't seem to fit.
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Old 02-15-2010, 05:05 AM   #3
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It will become noticeable real fast. Make sure to bleed the coolant system once you flush it, read the how to in the manual.

Are you losing coolant?

When it overheats, is it while driving 50+ mph or idling?

It sounds like you may just need a thermostat, I would also make sure your aux fan works, if the car gets past 1/2 on the temp gauge, and your aux fan doesn't come on, then you have a problem.
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Old 02-15-2010, 02:10 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hatchgrafix View Post

It sounds like you may just need a thermostat, I would also make sure your aux fan works, if the car gets past 1/2 on the temp gauge, and your aux fan doesn't come on, then you have a problem.
+1
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Old 02-15-2010, 06:18 PM   #5
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Thank you for your replies.

The car, as of my incident in massaging the coolant hoses, has not gone past the 1/2 mark. I drove it today at 65 mph on the highway for 40 miles and the temp stayed at about the 1/4 mark all the way. Smooth driving.

The temp gauge used to go past the 1/2 mark at idle but now it sits at 1/2.....I saw it go slightly over but that was about it.

I am wondering; is it worth the $150 to go get:
1) compression test on each cylinder
2) leakdown test
3) cooling system pressure test

I have the appointment scheduled for Friday...however everybody I have talked to says that I shouldn't worry about it.

There are no warning lights on or anything. The mechanic at the dealership said that the first sign would be my "Low Coolant" light to come on. He didn't think it was a head gasket problem.


As of right now:

I am awaiting my new thermostat, coolant, and U&L radiator hoses from autohausaz. I will do the flush this weekend and follow the procedures posted by cooljes.

I will check the Aux. fan as well.


I might be just over fretting about an issue that is as simple as a broken thermostat and coolant flush. The car touched the 3/4 temp mark once. It blows warm air now consistently. Hopefully it will be hot after my flush.
I love my car; so I plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Thank you guys for your help. It is greatly appreciated.
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Old 02-15-2010, 07:05 PM   #6
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I would not go thru with the test unless you see some other symptoms of a HG problem.
White sweet smelling smoke.
Mysterious loss of coolant
exhaust smell in coolant (or burst lines from over-pressure)
Milky oil color.
As far as your other cooling system parts you bought, I would put that off until warmer weather. In the meantime, why not buy more of the cooling system parts which fail on these cars? There is a black plastic cooling fitting under the intake and another on the back of the head (if your engine is M44) which are known weak links on our engines. They are not expensive but if they fail, you will almost certainly overheat. While you are in there you should think about your water pump (plastic impellers are bad), and oil filter housing gasket and bushing (since this will fail when cold weather hits at some point).
There are write ups in the knowledge base about these items.

I think you dodged a bullet, but this should make you think about these few maintenance items.
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Old 02-15-2010, 10:10 PM   #7
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Hi Dave,

Alright, I will cancel my appointment for Friday.

I drove the car back home today [another 40 miles at 75 mph] and the car stayed at the 1/4 mark. Warm air blowing consistently [even at idle, in the beginning and end of the trip].

I will look into the black cooling fittings you mentioned as well as the oil filter housing gasket and bushing.

Since my car year is 1998, M44 engine, I have the water pump with metal impellers.....as far as I know. This spring [April / May] I will change the timing chain and water pump at the same time, as well as the radiator and all coolant hoses.

Thanks for the advice!
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Old 02-15-2010, 11:15 PM   #8
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I'm voting for "thermostat going bad." The temp. gauge should really go to 1/2 and stay there. 1/4 is not better than 1/2. Keep in mind that you'll need to thoroughly bleed the air out of the system before you will get an accurate reading on the temp. gauge. There are a couple of write-ups here on this site that will tell you how to bleed the system..

If the replacement thermostat doesn't cause the gauge go to 1/2 and stay there, replace it too.
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Old 02-16-2010, 02:17 AM   #9
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Roadrash, I agree. I was under the impresssion the needle was staying at the half way point when I made that statement.

Recon, your car can overheat with the needle so low so so long.
Here's how... the sensor is an immersion sensor. If the coolant level is low the sensor stays dry and doesn't read the correct temp.

So... you need to make sure that your coolant level is not dropping AND that both hoses going to the radiator are hot. Another thing... the heat should blow hot even if you are idling. If it cools down alot during idling, it is a sign something is wrong. Might just need another bleed. It helps to park the car on a hill, nose up, to get all the air out.

Sounds like you are not out of the woods yet on this issue.
Keep us posted and we will help out.
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Old 02-16-2010, 02:36 AM   #10
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Hi Dave,

Ok. Well along with the aforementioned parts that I will replace; I will stop by Advanced Auto and pick up a new Coolant Temperature Sensor. It is $17.

Small price to pay and I might as well replace it.

I think as I am doing this I will catalog everything. I should have everything done by Sunday at the latest. So...look for my results post at that time.

Thank you for your help so far!
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Old 02-17-2010, 04:05 AM   #11
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+1 with the thermostat. It should be 1/2 all the time when warmed up. If you have air in the system then the heater doesnt work so good as its the highest point in the system. When the car is cold you should check to see if there is pressure and a little heat in the outlet hose of the radiator to the engine. When the car is cold there should be much pressure back to the engine as the thermostat should be closed and not flowing much through the radiator.
Let me know if you got questions...
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Old 02-21-2010, 12:59 AM   #12
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Alright guys. I spent the whole day bonding with my car. I can tell you that I have coolant on my hair, eyes, face, hands, and pretty much everything I am wearing.

So, since you guys wanted to be informed on how things worked out, here is the update:

After replacing: thermostat & housing, U&L Radiator Hoses, and Coolant;

Temperature gauge rises to 1/2 mark after about 5 minutes or so. Stays there through at idle and under acceleration. I will test it on the highway this coming Monday on my commute to school.

Heat: Works like a charm. Car warms up, heat blows HOT HOT HOT even at idle. After the heat has been blowing for a couple minutes on Hot, I can't touch the cabin air vents for too long because they get extremely hot. I think I can start wearing t-shirts now even though it is 30F.

Now, I have bleed the system only twice so far. I will check for leaks tomorrow morning. Wish me all the best; in that I don't find any leaks.

By the way, why can't somebody post a picture of coolant drain bolt on the engine block? LoL I spent a good 20 minutes trying to find it and then debating whether or not it was actually the coolant drain bolt. I took a video for all the novice mechanics like me and I will post it on youtube so that they know what it looks like.
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Old 02-21-2010, 02:30 AM   #13
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giddyup.
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