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Old 11-12-2009, 11:04 PM   #1
doublemm
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Default 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

Hi,

I am new to the forum.

I have a 96 SL1 that I bought new.

This car only has 118k miles & has been pampered its whole life. All maint has been done by me. syn oil every 3-4k & it has never been abused.

We have never had any problems until now.

Low coolant light came on (it has come on before intermitantly)

Checked the coolant & its got oil in it. The oil is clean with no signs of coolant in it.

The car runs like the day it was new & does not overheat. It always has used some oil since day one.

I changed the oil about 1k miles ago & it has used about 1/4 quart since then.

I am assuming I have a crack in the head or a bad head gasket. I have always used dex cool in the car, so I suspect the gasket has been eaten up, now that I know about the issues with dex cool.

I would like some feedback as to my best option for the head. If I fix this (I plan to) I dont want it to happen again.

I will be doing the work myself.

I figure I may as well pull the engine & replace the clutch, timing chain & re ring it & posibly main & rod bearings while i am at it.

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Old 11-12-2009, 11:07 PM   #2
adventureoflink
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1997 SL2
Default Re: 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

All of that maintenance while the motor is pulled sounds good, but you might as well get a new water pump, hoses, and radiator while you're at it. not only are they destined to fail (if they haven't already done so), but they're gonna be gunked up anyway due to the oil in coolant (it causes a chocolate milkshake mixture and is VERY sticky and messy). And yes, you're dealing with a cracked head, common issue in the SOHC motors.

You'll be looking at ~$750 for the head ALONE, core charges included.

water pump goes for ~$55, and the radiator usually goes for ~$90 on radiatorbarn.com and the hoses run for ~$10-15 apiece.

While you're in there, it'd be a good idea to change out the ECTS with the brass tipped kind, instructions are in the how-to library. ECTSes go for $10-12 dollars at autozone.

When everything's put back together, flush out the motor and fill it up with a gallon of the green or yellow coolant (100% mixture) then put in a gallon of distilled water.

one more thing--why are you replacing the timing chain? timing chains usually (out)live the life of the motor if you take good care of the car and change/fill up the oil on a regular basis. also while you're in there to do all that stuff, why not either drill holes in your pistons or put aftermarket pistons in the motor to significantly combat the oil burning?

...
97 SL2
DOB: 3/19/97
Date Obtained: 5/30/07
Status: Alive, 1/2 exhaust

2004 Merc G.Marquis GS
DOB: 2/4/04
Date Obtained: 7/6/12
Status: Alive, no heat

Last edited by adventureoflink; 11-12-2009 at 11:13 PM..

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Old 11-13-2009, 10:39 AM   #3
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Default Re: 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

Is the coolant light on STEADY or BLINKING?

What is the actual coolant level?

Can you post a pic showing the oil in the coolant?

It doesn't make sense that your coolant is low, but there's oil in the coolant and NOT coolant in the oil.

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Old 11-13-2009, 01:22 PM   #4
Good_Apollo
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Default Re: 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

Def sounds like a cracked head. But $750 is not the case:

http://cylinder-heads.com/details.cfm?itemid=2171

I am in the process of rebuilding my SOHC and bought a NEW head from clearwater heads for $335, already has the cam and is ready to bolt up, just make sure to pull the studs from your old head for the exhaust and intake.
These are aftermarket heads that have a different casting that is supposed to fix the cracking issue experienced on SOHC.

While you have it apart you need to either drill your pistons in the oil ring lands or buy new pistons that have drainback holes before you re-ring, otherwise it will just start using oil again a few thousand miles down the road. I bought FM Sealed Power pistons with drainback ports, but if you have a drill press, you can easily drill your stock pistons.

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Old 11-13-2009, 02:20 PM   #5
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Default Re: 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

How much coolant is in the Tank? I had my low coolant light on the other day. When I opened the cap I could still see some coolant in there. but the light was on. So I just bought some more and filled it up to the fill line. and the light turned off. Not saying this is your problem but it might be a cheap fix.

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Old 11-13-2009, 04:15 PM   #6
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Default Re: 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

That may be cheap, but it's not a fix. The coolant should ALWAYS be AT the fill line (seam). Remember, that's a reservoir, not an overflow, so the level in the bottle is the level in the system. If it ever goes down, it's either leaking internally, leaking externally, or boiling away (a form of external leak, I suppose). Refilling treats the symptom, but doesn't get to the cause.

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Old 11-13-2009, 07:25 PM   #7
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Default Re: 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

...is it possible for a car to eat its coolant?

...
97 SL2
DOB: 3/19/97
Date Obtained: 5/30/07
Status: Alive, 1/2 exhaust

2004 Merc G.Marquis GS
DOB: 2/4/04
Date Obtained: 7/6/12
Status: Alive, no heat

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Old 11-13-2009, 09:10 PM   #8
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Default Re: 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

I don't think all of that work is necessary in your case. The cost in parts for doing all of that is going to be well over a grand. You're not using that much oil and the bearings are probably fine considering the maintenance you've kept up on it. It would be different story if it was drinking the oil. Check out Clearwater Cylinder Head that the previous post mentioned. You can get a fixed head for $275 shipped or the new cast head for ~$350 shipped. Then you can just bolt it on with new head gasket and intake gasket. Cleaning the oil out of the cooling system is a real pain. There is a good flushing procedure posted somewhere on this forum.

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Old 11-13-2009, 10:12 PM   #9
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Default Re: 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

I called clearwater yesterday & was told that they no longer sell or can get the new castings. Said they have been discontinued.

I spoke to a few head rebuilders & they said they all use "Good" castings.

I dont want to use a "Good" casting, because IMO, it is going to crack. Its not a matter of if, but when.

At the very least the car will get a new chain & clutch. If I go to the trouble to pull the engine, Im going to do it right & hopefully get another 150K out of it.

I will post some pics of the coolant tank. It looks like muddy water. If I have time, I will pull the rocker cover off & see If I can see anything.

From what I understand, I need to look around the #4 & #5 cam bearing journal area ?

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Old 11-14-2009, 12:25 AM   #10
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Default Re: 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

Quote:
Originally Posted by doublemm View Post
I will post some pics of the coolant tank. It looks like muddy water. If I have time, I will pull the rocker cover off & see If I can see anything.
That could be ginger root tablet deposits; it looks esp. muddy with dex-cool, it being orange-reddish.

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Old 11-14-2009, 09:13 AM   #11
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Default Re: 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

Quote:
Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
That could be ginger root tablet deposits; it looks esp. muddy with dex-cool, it being orange-reddish.
I changed the coolant last year when I had to replace a stuck (open) thermostat.

I have owned the car since new & done all of the maint. myself. There has never been anything in the cooling system except dex cool & distelled water.

I hear what your saying though. I thought the same thing to myself, but it has always been nice & clean in the past.

Last oil change, which was a bit over 4K miles, it used about 2 qts, maybe a bit more. That was about twice the usual amount.

There is also the whipped creme gunk in the tank.

I must have caught it early, but I have no doubt that its toast.

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Old 11-16-2009, 10:18 AM   #12
jetboy287
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Default Re: 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

I have a 98 sl1 that i bought used with a busted engine i found a good used engine for about 350 $ you may want to check you're local jy and see what they have to offer prior to spending 325 on a head and having to pull and rebuild you're old one. I think it had a 90 day warranty on it as well

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Old 11-16-2009, 10:45 AM   #13
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Default Re: 96 SL1 cracked head ? help

It sounds like you're about to put some significant time and money into the car and plan on keeping it for a good long time.

Might be worth considering to look for a good DOHC engine, rebuild/replace what you have to, and do a swap. The DOHC don't seem to have the same cracked head/headgasket issues. You should get nearly the same MPG with the old transmission too.

...
...Wait, what, I actually won that eBay auction? Guess I now (12/2008) own a 1998 SL2, silver, 5 spd :p 102k @ purchase, now 169k
And now (7/2010), a Craigslist 1997 SC2, white, 5 spd

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