The blue dragon was misbehaving once again. To repeat, it’s a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera with the Tech-4 variant of the 2.5L Iron Duke engine. She was idling really rough, had a lot of vapor coming from the exhaust, and was drinking coolant at an alarming rate. After replacing the faulty radiator, the coolant leakage got better, but didn’t stop. Sounded like a head gasket issue. Someone told me to check the oil, if it’s a milky color, that means there’s coolant in it, which signals a blown head gasket. So, when I popped the valve cover off, I saw this:
I think that qualifies as a “milky color”. Yikes. Ok, so time to start pulling the engine apart to get to the head gasket. After about 4 more hours of labor and a few smashed arm incidents (those head bolts are tight!), I finally got the head off, and saw this:
Now, a lot of this coolant got in there while I was taking the head off, so it’s really not as bad as it seems. But, notice that cylinder #1 (leftmost) is slightly more full than the others. After drying the water out, the problem became much more apparent:
Yikes again! And so was it really the gasket? I inspected the head and didn’t find any cracks. Then, taking a closer look at the gasket, I found the problem:
So long story short, it was another 5 hours of labor to get everything back together into good working order. I think the total job ran me about $285, which isn’t bad considering I did pretty much an entire upper engine rebuild. That price includes new head bolts (which you should always do – if you reuse, they can snap. If they snap, you’re done), two oil changes, new exhaust manifold, more coolant, and all the associated gaskets.