Monday, December 1, 2014

Be Wary of Automotive Forum Advice

Kiwi, the mighty Mini from the Southern Hemisphere is a bit under the weather. The little car has been in my garage for nearly ten years and this is the first time that it's ridden on a roll back carrier. 
That's not my oil on the roll back. Jus' sayin'

While enjoying a drive in this late season warm weather on Sunday, the missus and I were confronted with a sudden case of cylinder deactivation- amazing technology in modern cars but not good at all in our older rides. We pulled over and I verified that I had sparks, fuel and air but the 3 & 4 cylinders were dead. I called Richard Cunningham who runs Classic Motorcar Services in Daphne, Alabama and he surmised that it could be a head gasket failure between the two cylinders. 

Knowing that he was very likely correct, I called the folks at Hagerty Insurance and they arranged a ride for us on Tony's Towing of Fairhope, Alabama. Richard kindly allowed me to drop the wounded car off at his place and he quickly performed a compression test. It went like this:
  • Cylinder 1 - 150 psi
  • Cylinder 2 - 160 psi
  • Cylinder 3 - nuthin' psi
  • Cylinder 4 - still nuthin' psi
Time to pull the head and have a look-see. 

Today, I ordered a head gasket set from the folks at Seven Mini Parts in Northern California. Genuine Payen gaskets come highly recommended so that's what is on the way. Afterwards, I spent a little time browsing some of the Mini forums on the subject of head removal. Many of the members posted helpful information but one stood out as simply asking for trouble. I've included a screenshot below.

Click for a full size image

I'm very far from being an expert in the ways of engine work, but sanding a head sealing surface with 240 grit paper seems to be an almost criminal suggestion. Granted, a plastic scraper and maybe some soft Scotchbrite might be OK but the coarse sandpaper would likely leave deep scratches that could lead to poor sealing. If you have used this practice and had success, please let me know, but for now I think I'll pass.  

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