Friday, August 08, 2008

Blown Head Gasket? Try this:

Poor Hank Sims broke down by Richardson Grove, so he tells us in his latest Town Dandy column. Turns out his car had a blown head gasket. Before you take the car to the junk yard, Hank, or spend megabucks on getting it fixed, you might try some of that stop leak stuff you use for radiator leaks and such. It worked for me.

I used to drive an old Volkswagon Rabbit Diesel. Great gas mileage. One day while I was driving out on Walnut Drive, heading home to my place in Cutten, the temperature gauge went from normal to overheated really fast. I get out and open the hood and there's bubbles in the plastic water reservoir, an obvious sign of something wrong.

To make a long story short, I wasn't too far from home and just drove the overheated car the rest of the way.

For reasons that escape me, I couldn't figure out just what the problem was and took it to the Volkswagon dealer in Eureka. I don't even remember what they did or recommended but I ended up, for whatever reason, buying a new radiator. It was pricey at over $300.

I put the new radiator in and drove off, having left the car in the dealer's lot for a couple days. I hadn't driven more than a few blocks when the temperature gauge goes into the red again. I turned around and went back to the dealer. I tell the parts guy what happened and he suggested maybe I had a blown head gasket and it would be real expensive to fix but suggested I try some stop leak stuff he had.

I thought it was a bit pricey at $10 for the can. The stuff inside was some kind of jello type silver colored balls in a black liquid. I poured it in the water reservoir and took off again. I didn't make it more than a couple blocks before the engine overheated again. Luckily, the Sequoia Auto Supply store was right nearby- on the corner of 7th and E Streets.

For some reason I was fixated on the stop leak solution and went in to Sequoia Auto in search of more stop leak. They had a small tube of silver grey powder for around $3.00. I felt kind of foolish having just spent $10 for something that didn't work and decided $3.00 was a pretty cheap alternative.

I poured the powder into the water reservoir and drove off, and drove and drove and drove. I drove that car- later it became the wifey's car to drive- for years and it never overheated again. We'd probably still be driving it if it hadn't gotten wrecked while parked a few years back.

That probably the best $3.00 I ever spent. The only downside being the $300, or more, radiator I bought that I didn't need after all.

7 Comments:

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You probably bought Alumaseal (or some name like that). It works even on radiators to stop leaks. Bars stop leak clogs up everything and does'nt seem to work. I have used this numerous times on various cars. Got the tip on the product from a radiator shop in Los Angeles when I had a pin hole leak and they said just put this stuff in and you won't need a radiator for a while.

Sometimes overheating is not a leak but a thermostat problem and nothing fixes that one except replacement.

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger Fred said...

By golly, I think it was called something like Alumaseal. It did work and worked fast. We drove that car for maybe ten years or more after I put that stuff in the water system. I'll admit, though, I didnt' trust the fix enough to take it on any long trips and just used the car for local driving.

Yes, I have had thermostat problems on at least one car I've owned. In fact, when I first moved up here my car developed a problem with the thermostat down south of San Francisco somewhere. Took the thermostat out, put another one in, end of problem. Pretty easy fix, actually.

Don't remember if I checked into that possibility when I had the problem with the Rabbit and don't remember whose idea it was to buy a new radiator. Either way, I burned myself in the end.

 
At 11:23 AM, Blogger Hank Sims said...

Too late, Fred! It's on its way to the scrap heap as we speak!

 
At 12:18 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Bummer. I would have liked to see if stop lead would have fixed it.

 
At 4:45 AM, Blogger Stephen said...

I lost my old Volvo (310,000 miles on it) about five months ago . It too overheated and royally outside of Petaluma and I should have left it by the side of the road and hitched home (no buses) but idiot me decided to have it "fixed". $500 later (water pump-fan assembly, labor, thermo-gasket kit fixer) the car is still dead. Sometimes it is best to leave it and move on. Got a bike now and an old Aerostar in good shape for real cheap. Buses are no fun to ride except the Quail out of G'ville which is like a nice car.

 
At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Might be a head gasket problem that mechanic didn't discover. Check the oil and see what it looks like - if kind of milky you have water in it.

 
At 10:31 AM, Blogger Fred Smith said...

I once had a blown head gasket. Repairing it seems like a much better option than just replacing it. The next time it blows, I'll definitely keep your post in mind. Thanks for sharing!

 

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