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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm sorry in advanced, this is going to be long...

Backstory: I created this account for this issue alone and believe me, I have been lurking around this forum seeking a similar thread for about 6 months since I got the 1989 Toyota Corolla (4AF) at the beginning of this year and although this forum has a PLETHORA of useful info and people, I have not come across anything resolving my current dilemma. The coolant in the car has been very slowly accumulating oil globules, but no mixing in the engine oil (thankfully), so I figured "why not jump the gun and do the head gasket before I lose the engine entirely?".

Enter my nightmare: So I order a full head gasket kit from rock auto ( I do all my own repairs and did not cheap out on this, knowing that I never would want to do this repair again lol). Everything for the head removal goes smooth and pain free. I get the head off, remove the water outlets and engine hoist hooks and take it to a machine shop for a proper straight edge/feeler gauge test, and then inevitably a cleaning "special" the shop had for $250 to clean all mounting surfaces and machine/deck them to the necessary flatness. I was told my head was warped 4.5 thousandths and the shop recommends the surfacing at 3 thousandths. So needless to say I did it. Also, since my kit came with valve stem seals, I had them do that as well (for an extra $100). Keep this in mind for later...

Things are getting weird now.....: As I go to install the new head gasket and begin the re-installation, I notice that the new head gasket has all of the blocks coolant jackets/ports covered for every cylinder except the cylinder closest to the pulleys (1 or 4 I can't remember). I do a quick google search/gasket picture comparison to other brands from rock auto and everyone online says DO NOT CUT THE HOLES OUT, and that they are there to slow circulation and aide in the cooling by the radiator, makes sense I figure so I proceed. My second hurdle was figuring out what position the camshafts have to be in to match the crank before I re-apply the belt. I should note at this point that I never fully removed the belt but rather, had it and the cam gear it rests on suspended while taught (trick I saw on youtube to avoid a full timing job/removal). I took pictures of every single thing I touched and removed EXCEPT the cam positions (of course). Knowing this is not something to "wing and see what happens" I SCOURED the forums and online postings (I also own and have been guided through this entire process by my hilton/haynes manual which until this point, was fairly clear). I found a post by another member on here with the same Cam timing issue and copied his cam positions exactly, as some of you members had already solved his issue and verified that he had positioned them properly.

His post= www.toyotanation.com/forum/134-6th-generation-1988-1992/474537-4af-4afe-cam-timing-pictures.html?nocache=1468801123518

I continue on: I then proceed to assume I'm in the clear and finish the re-install. To make sure that I don't guarantee catastrophic failure, I remove the plug wires and crank the motor to see if everything turns freely (obviously I rotated the crank multiple times to test this by hand prior to a powered rotation, I'm just being very cautious here and doing one more final test). Turns over with the same sound frequency each pass and I let it run over 5-7 times as you would for a compression test. Thinking I'm 100% I insert the plug wires and go to fire it up. Takes about 15 crank revolutions before even a cough (fuel pump probably empty from disassembly I figure). Then sure enough it sputters and then fires up. INSTANTLY a puff of mildly thick white smoke comes up from the exhaust manifold. I should note that I have the ever common crack in-between the middle exhaust runners (my fourth set of stock exhaust manifolds), and I know this is a design flaw from another post a user submitted.

Any who...aside from the little puff that dissipated quickly, I IMMEDIATELY noticed a different engine noise then normal. It is usually butter smooth and nearly silent with the exception of the leaky exhaust manifold, but I'm used to that sound and all I hear now is "TAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAP!" But not a sharp PING as you would expect from valves hitting pistons or something else metal-to-metal. Against my better judgement, I let it idle and see if I can figure it out. Inspecting everything finds nothing and I decide to blip the throttle to see if the sound increases consistently (valves tapping) or if something else. Oddly enough, when I give it any throttle the noise goes away. Then when it returns to idle, the tapping ensues... Baffled but needing to confirm my daily is drivable before the work week, I go to reinstall the front passenger tire and get ready to test-drive.

WHAT THE F**K!!!!
I notice a ton of purple streams running down the timing covers and over the pulleys. I use Royal purple for my oil because I'm fancy and I treat this baby well always. I shut the car off and it appears the leak is from the seam of the head ONLY on the passenger side and adjacent corners.

My possible causes FOR THE LEAK are as follows,
1.) The torque wrench I rented from O'Reilly's wasn't calibrated correctly and as a result, the head bolts got torqued unevenly causing it to spill out on the pass side. (yeah yeah not the best calibrated device I'm sure, shoulda bought new blah blah.)
2.) The head gasket I got was too thin (highly doubt that this is it but who knows, maybe Corteco messed this one up.)
3.) The blocked coolant passages on the new head gasket are creating so much excess pressure, versus the opened head gasket that was on it (I assume Toyota factory), that the coolant forced out of the side of the head where the only open coolant ports are (both the leak and open head gasket coolant ports are on Pass side).

BUT this doesn't answer the weird sudden TAPPING NOISE....my guesses:
!.) The cam timing is incorrect and causing the valves to stay closed causing the pressure to find another way out (passenger side of head where leak is).
2.) Remember the valve stem seals I had replaced at the machine shop? Well being that they're the only part of the entire head (internally) that changed during this whole process, maybe the shop left them loose or otherwise in a position to make noise? Can that even happen? How would I know even?!

TL;DR
PROBLEM 1= I changed my head gasket and when I turned it on I had a little puff of white smoke come from the engine, then it leaked oil around the passenger side of the head-block seam. PROBLEM 2= There is now a tapping, not a pinging sound, coming from the engine that was definitely not there before. Head has been professionally evaluated, machined, and new valve stem seals installed.


Thank you all in advance for your time and consideration. I applaud you if you read this far and greatly appreciate any help your willing to give. I'll be pulling the head again tomorrow if I have time before work so pictures and videos are no problem if there's anything you would like to see to help your evaluation of my problem, just let me know!
 

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1997 Corolla
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The oil in the coolant could have been from another source. If you have an automatic transmission, there is a transmission oil cooler built into the bottom of the radiator, and it's possible this started leaking oil into the coolant. Another possibility is that the previous owner added some type of stop-leak to the coolant, and you're just seeing some of that. I don't know how much oil you were seeing in the coolant, but you want to be sure the head gasket is the problem before putting the effort into changing it.

I think some of your theories about the current oil leak don't make sense. First, the coolant pressure is zero when the coolant is cold. The water pump doesn't create any significant pressure. Even at full temperature, the radiator cap limits the pressure to around 13.5 psi. And not having holes for the coolant passages wouldn't change this.

The oil pump is just behind the crank pulley and timing gear, and it pumps oil up to the head from that side, so if you have an oil leak from the head gasket that's where it would be.

I've only changed a head gasket four times in my life, so others can do a better job of speculating what went wrong. You could have not torqued it properly. Did you clean all the threads and holes, and add a few drops of oil to the head bolt threads and washers? It's possibly you didn't clean all the old gasket off so the surface wasn't perfectly flat. Is it possible you put the gasket on upside down, so the oil passage (from block to head) was blocked?

As far as the tapping, if the head wasn't getting enough oil pressure it could make it sound like that, like when you first turn the engine on, and it takes a couple seconds for the oil pressure to build, but in your case, maybe it was never getting enough oil.

Another possibility is that the shims between the cams and valves got mixed up at the machine shop, or you mixed them up if you didn't take them to the machine shop. Each shim is matched to that particular cam and valve. It's a good idea to use some feeler gauges and measure the clearances after you put everything back together.

You might want to get a precision straight edge (at least 12") and with your feeler gauges measure the block and cylinder head to be sure both are perfectly flat. The block should be flat since it's iron, but you can use the straight edge to be sure you've cleaned the old gasket material off and everything is perfectly flat.

If the cams weren't aligned correctly, the engine wouldn't run or you would get backfiring through the exhaust or intake. It wouldn't leak through the head gasket if the gasket was installed and torqued correctly. If the oil seals were bad or not installed it would just allow oil to be sucked into the combustion chamber, it wouldn't cause a tapping. The machine shop installs valves all the time, so I doubt they would forget to install oil seals.
 

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Clacking noise is probably too much valve-clearance and not enough lubrication. Clue is it goes away with higher-rev, typically points to valve-train and lubrication issue.

Don't do anything until you find the leak! Swapping parts has the ever-present problem of covering-up symptoms while not actually solving the problem. For example:

1. Custom dyno-tune has incorrect ignition maps, too lean and too much ignition-advance
2. after 2-months, car blows headgasket
3. owner replaces headgasket, & does minor rebuild, puts it all back together
4. after 2-months, car blows headgasket
5. owner replaces headgasket, & does major rebuild, puts it all back together
6. after 2-months, car blows headgasket

See the pattern & problem? The issue here is not a blown headgasket.

Before you do ANYTHING clean off ALL the oil, use solvents and soaps and get entire engine clean enough to eat off. Then start engine for 5-seconds and find where oil-leak is coming from. If not visible yet, run for another 5-seconds and inspect. Repeat until oil starts to leak and you find the source.

Also do compression-test.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The oil in the coolant could have been from another source. If you have an automatic transmission, there is a transmission oil cooler built into the bottom of the radiator, and it's possible this started leaking oil into the coolant. Another possibility is that the previous owner added some type of stop-leak to the coolant, and you're just seeing some of that. I don't know how much oil you were seeing in the coolant, but you want to be sure the head gasket is the problem before putting the effort into changing it.

I think some of your theories about the current oil leak don't make sense. First, the coolant pressure is zero when the coolant is cold. The water pump doesn't create any significant pressure. Even at full temperature, the radiator cap limits the pressure to around 13.5 psi. And not having holes for the coolant passages wouldn't change this.

The oil pump is just behind the crank pulley and timing gear, and it pumps oil up to the head from that side, so if you have an oil leak from the head gasket that's where it would be.

I've only changed a head gasket four times in my life, so others can do a better job of speculating what went wrong. You could have not torqued it properly. Did you clean all the threads and holes, and add a few drops of oil to the head bolt threads and washers? It's possibly you didn't clean all the old gasket off so the surface wasn't perfectly flat. Is it possible you put the gasket on upside down, so the oil passage (from block to head) was blocked?

As far as the tapping, if the head wasn't getting enough oil pressure it could make it sound like that, like when you first turn the engine on, and it takes a couple seconds for the oil pressure to build, but in your case, maybe it was never getting enough oil.

Another possibility is that the shims between the cams and valves got mixed up at the machine shop, or you mixed them up if you didn't take them to the machine shop. Each shim is matched to that particular cam and valve. It's a good idea to use some feeler gauges and measure the clearances after you put everything back together.

You might want to get a precision straight edge (at least 12") and with your feeler gauges measure the block and cylinder head to be sure both are perfectly flat. The block should be flat since it's iron, but you can use the straight edge to be sure you've cleaned the old gasket material off and everything is perfectly flat.

If the cams weren't aligned correctly, the engine wouldn't run or you would get backfiring through the exhaust or intake. It wouldn't leak through the head gasket if the gasket was installed and torqued correctly. If the oil seals were bad or not installed it would just allow oil to be sucked into the combustion chamber, it wouldn't cause a tapping. The machine shop installs valves all the time, so I doubt they would forget to install oil seals.

Thank you for the quick response! Let me clear up some of these concerns. I do have an automatic transmission and having flushed it recently, and replaced the radiator recently, I know the lines your talking about and would hope that isn't the problem with the new parts. Th oil gradually was accumulating more and more in the over flow reservoir and wasn't like marble sized globs or anything, but rather a even brown film that got more prominent as the days went by until it was a typical disgusting brown soup. What you said about the coolant pressures hopefully means my head gasket placement was correct, I didn't have any indicators of direction on the gasket itself so I just matched fire rings to the block side, as Schrodingers box on youtube indicated. The oil pump theory is intriguing. But that requires massive disassembly to inspect, and I wouldn't know what to look for being one of the few parts on this motor I haven't yet removed. And after the creamy purple oil-and-something mix came out of the head and I removed the valve cover, the cam lobes had a similar purple froth on them. Wouldn't that indicate sufficient oil pressure/circulation? I know oil pressure is hard to check on these bc of the ac compressor so I won't be able to check that anytime soon unfortunately. I did also shoot compressed air into the head bolt holes as well as a little vacuum to get as much liquid as I could and oiled the bolt threads and washers heavily to avoid any drag while torquing. I will definitely measure the valve clearances, that's a great idea. When I brought the head to the machine shop, I had removed the cams but left the valves/lifters inside because they requested I do so. So I never removed any pieces from the head but the cams themselves, and the respective caps of course.

I also took a video of the first start up (focusing on the exhaust tailpipe to watch for any smoke. I was distracted by the engine noise/smoke but after watching it now, there is a large cloud of bluish white smoke coming out. Probably the oil mix?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Clacking noise is probably too much valve-clearance and not enough lubrication. Clue is it goes away with higher-rev, typically points to valve-train and lubrication issue.

Don't do anything until you find the leak! Swapping parts has the ever-present problem of covering-up symptoms while not actually solving the problem. For example:

1. Custom dyno-tune has incorrect ignition maps, too lean and too much ignition-advance
2. after 2-months, car blows headgasket
3. owner replaces headgasket, & does minor rebuild, puts it all back together
4. after 2-months, car blows headgasket
5. owner replaces headgasket, & does major rebuild, puts it all back together
6. after 2-months, car blows headgasket

See the pattern & problem? The issue here is not a blown headgasket.

Before you do ANYTHING clean off ALL the oil, use solvents and soaps and get entire engine clean enough to eat off. Then start engine for 5-seconds and find where oil-leak is coming from. If not visible yet, run for another 5-seconds and inspect. Repeat until oil starts to leak and you find the source.

Also do compression-test.
Sorry, I was having some login issues and couldn't get a password emails sent to me. Figured it out now. I will definitely be checking the valve clearances after work tonight. You're right though. I should probably remove a timing cover or two and let it run to isolate the leak. It's certainly behind the timing covers somewhere. Distributor side of head is clean at the head seam the exhaust side is pretty oily in random spots so that could be leftovers residue (I did power wash the engine bay when I took the head off), the intake side I can't see really but doesn't seem to be anything there if I remember. Believe me, I understand that the head gasket problem is never fixed by just replacing a head gasket. But I have done every test from compression to vac to fuel pressure, to electronic diagnosis, etc. to find the cause of my lost power that started a few months ago. The annoying thing is every test I run indicates better than new performance or its right within spec. The increase in oil in the coolant just made me say forget it and tear it apart. I have some foamy engine cleaner I will use to clean the block and go from there I suppose.
 

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It definitely sounds like a problem with the head gasket with the smoke and all. You could do a compression test as DannoXYZ suggests also.

I wasn't saying that the oil pump was bad, just that that's the area were all the oil pressure is, so that's where the leak would show if the head gasket wasn't sealed correctly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hey, I apologize for the late response. Work ran later than expected last night. Anyways, the frothy mix only appeared upon the first startup after the head gasket reinstall. Never has this motor dripped one bit of fluid (under my ownership), and not only that, but my oil has always been pristine and basically new even after a 7k oil change.

I just compression tested the motor and much to my chagrin, it reads 210 psi across the board. I let each cylinder hold pressure for a minute or two and not only did none of them drop any psi, but I couldn't identify any leaks in the process. I also cleaned as much as my brake cleaner nozzle could hit before doing any of this to make sure I could identify a new leak.

On a side note, I underestimated the required skills/tools for the valve clearance/shim checking. I looked up a how-to last night and it appears I NEED a micrometer to measure old vs new thickness. Is this essential? Or can I just keep blindly adding/removing shims until the feeler gauge is happy? There hopefully is a way to do this with less hardware and personal investment...
 

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Like other have said you clean and then start engine to see where the oil leak is coming from. To help and if you have a good black light and orange glass like the ones used for ac dye, you can pick up an oil dye from any parts store that can make it a little easier to trace oil leaks.
On the noise one thing to double check is the intake camshaft is gear drive by the exhaust cam. The intake cams gear is a two piece design that is spring loaded between the two. If a service bolt was not installed into the gear before removing it the tension that the two gears are supposed to create against the exhaust gear. When this steps are missed the cam gears will make some good noise when running.
On valve clearance. If you have the feeler gauges then it would still be wise to atleast check all the valve clearence. If you find ones that are outside of the specification take those ones out and down to the machine shop that did the work they can measure then and tell you what size you will need. They may even have the ones you need. If not you can order them fron toyota or hit up a junkyard and pull a hole bunch from several cars then take them back to the shop andnthey could measure and tell you if you got ones that you need. Then install them and recheck to make sure it right.
On the compression tester. It should have and internal valve that prevents the pressure from going back into the cylinder. So it should not loose pressure at the gauge reading tell it is realeased. To check a cylinder ability to hold pressure you need what is called a leak down tester. I should note that even a cylinder that creates good compression will still leak down pressure quickly.
 

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Yes, you only need a set of feeler gauges to measure the clearances. If you need to change the shims, then you need a micrometer (which you could get from Harbor Freight for $30-40 minus any discount coupon you have). There is only one shim for each valve. You swap in a thicker or thinner one if it's out of spec.

Are you sure the oil isn't leaking from the camshaft seal?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ae95/4agze=I do have a black light so maybe the oil dye isn't a bad idea just for assurance. I suppose I will re-wire everything up and try to run it again to identify the leak. I did install the service bolt fully threaded when I removed the intake cam, so I'm positive that isn't the issue. As far as valve clearance goes, I have feeler gauges but my smallest is .254 mm which is way too big, so I'll have to get smaller feeler gauges to check valve clearance. Which definitely sounds like it could be my "tapping" problem, given the new valve stem seals and machines head that surely changed tolerances. That's also a good point about the compression tester holding pressure at the gauge only, I never thought about that! Oddly enough, I have been building my own leak down tester for a while now and the same machine shop I went to drilled my damper bit to .040, as required to meter the psi between gauges. So I will be able to leak-down test soon now that I have all the parts ready to build it.

DrZ= thank you for your continued support! I did some more research on the shims and like I mentioned above, I need smaller feeler gauges to test clearance. Then I need an equivalent to the stupid "SST" tool to remove the shims, who knows where I'll find that....

On a side note, the cam shaft seal is an excellent idea and I am not positive that it isn't the source. I will clean and restart the engine tonight around 11pm central time and pray it's something that simple. I did attempt to calibrate my torque wrench today by hanging weights and it is at least 4 ft. Lbs over the desired torque setting. Which means if anything, I was tightening the head bolts MORE than the final 44 lbs. Worst part is after 48 hours the torque wrench isn't returnable. Looks like I now own an out of calibration torque wrench...yay!

As a related result....I think my cam caps might be too tight (seeing as the torque wrench wouldn't click at 9.5 lbs) and also because when I hand turn the crank, there's a squeak from what sounds like the intake cam. Happens any time I rotate it. Perhaps over torqued?
 

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Upon checking clearances, you may be able to swap some of the old buckets around to minimize purchase of new ones, or so I've heard. Math is required, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Well, here's an update for anyone who cares. I'm not trying to keep this thread alive forever, but merely show my appreciation for all your support. DrZ= YOU WERE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!!! The leak WAS the valve cover-cam gear seal! I have a couple pictures and videos that I would have loved to show all of you, however at the bottom of this page, it says I'm not allowed to post attachments :/ Anywho, What this means is DrZ is a genius, and also that I know know my leak isn't JUST the head gasket....but rather two newly isolated leaks. The external valve cover leak is a simple application of more oil resistant RTV. BUT this also means that my head gasket gas also failed internally, due to the milky purple oil throughout. I had nice pics of this as well but I can't seem to drag and drop img/vids here. I have now measured all my valve clearances however, which are as follows,

INTAKE
.178 .178 .178 .152 .152 .152 .127 .178 (Supposed to be .15-.25 cold)

and EXHAUST
.178 .203 .254 .229 .178 .178 .254 .152 (Supposed to be .20-.30 cold)


Naturally, these are almost all out of spec and ironically, now that I have to remove the head (again) and redo the head gasket, I won't need the stupid SST lifter compression tool to remove shims! Because Toyota engineers thought it smart to locate head bolts under the cams, which now will have to be removed! Funny how more work made less work for me in the long run lol.

So now my issues are isolated thanks entirely to ALL OF YOU GUYS' support and knowledge. I am extremely grateful for all the help thus far (not there yet!) and just wanted to say thank you for helping a complete stranger with no motive. You guys rock!!

Where I'm at now.....
Issue 1= Oil Leak -> found at valve cover/cam gear seal. Will easily fix this upon reinstall with new gasket and sealant.
Issue 2= Valve Tapping-> Out of spec cam lifters/shims. Purchased micrometer/caliper and have done measurements/contacted Toyota already for replacement shims once I figure out my sizes needed.
Issue 3= Head Gasket leaking internally mixing coolant and oil-> I'm thinking this is simply the block surface not being prepped enough, as I really didn't clean it too thoroughly. If I can ever track down a 3m bristle disc I'll be set!

Thank you again everyone!
 

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I'm not a genius, it's just that a year ago my cam seal actually popped out and I was losing 1 quart every 40 miles, so I know a lot of oil can leak from there if there's a problem with the seal.

You don't need RTV on the seal itself, but under the metal semicircular piece and in the corners around there where the head cover gasket meets. It shows the locations in a repair manual. Use something like brake cleaner to clean really well before applying RTV.

The block surface is iron so you can be more agressive cleaning it compared to the aluminum cylinder head. A razor blade can scratch the aluminum, but on the block it should be ok.

Be careful using any power tools and/or sanding products. Some of those scrubbing pads contain microfibers that get into the oil and will destroy the engine after it's back together. Just do a Google search to find what is safe and what to avoid.
 

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I didn't read anything other than the first post, meh.

The 4A headgasket is identical in fit/form upside down... EXCEPT one large oil passage on the front of the engine, causing a large oil leak. Something to consider.

Cam seals can leak out of the box if there's a groove in the cam, and/or a cheap seal is used (I've had lots of 4 ages leak with new cam seals).

The valve cover must be installed with the rubber gasket and RTV in all of the hard corners (I tend to RTV the round profiles and corners, about an inch up to and after the hard corner).

The noise could be timing (mechanical or electric). Especially since you had the head shaved, you really need to pull the lower pulley and cover to make sure the mechanical timing is right (also, might need to check the cam alignment to one another as well).
 

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As far as the valve shims - I've always been able to use use feeler gauges and swap across between cylinders.... sometimes you end up going in circles between shims and valves, but I e personally never had to buy new - even when I've swapped cams between engines.
 
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