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Head Gaskets: are they bad?

Discussion in '1st Gen. Tacomas (1995-2004)' started by dashing, May 27, 2021.

  1. May 27, 2021 at 8:53 PM
    #1
    dashing

    dashing [OP] Member

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    Took my taco into the shop the other day for some little maintenance items that I just couldn't be bothered to do, and upon picking it up, learned that my mechanic thinks the heads might be on their way out. The engine runs like a top, I have never gotten any smoke out of the exhaust, and I can't see or smell any oil or coolant where it shouldn't be, but the fact that this guy said something gives me pause... Before you say that he's just in it for the money I would pay him to do the heads, this guy is a family friend and spent almost 5 hours trying to diagnose whether it was the heads or not, then didn't charge me a dime, and wouldn't accept any payment I tried to give him. This is my only time using him as a mechanic, so I don't really know what to think, but I believe he know what he's talking about in general.The only 2 indications he found that it might have bad heads were that the coolant was pretty low (I hadn't checked it in quite a while, so I really had no idea where it was at... I haven't driven this car consistently in 2 years or so, so I haven't really kept up on maintenance as well as I should have), and he claimed the car had a slight stutter upon starting, which I haven't really seen. I know this guy is just looking out for me, but I'm extremely hesitant to dive into new heads without knowing for sure. I'm also fairly confident that it has never overheated, but my temp gauge went out a few weeks ago so I can't be certain. I definitely haven't seen/smelled any indications of it's overheating. I'm doing a compression test tomorrow which should hopefully shine some light on this issue but I don't really expect to find anything definitive, as I believe my mechanic also ran a compression test and didn't see anything that was decidedly one way or the other. Anyone else ever dealt with anything similar? Any thoughts on this are greatly appreciated
     
  2. May 27, 2021 at 8:59 PM
    #2
    0xDEADBEEF

    0xDEADBEEF Lost Cause Member

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    Sounds like if they're leaking, it isn't much. I'd watch the coolant level, look for the usual signs (water in the oil/bubbles in the radiator while its running), and not worry about it beyond that.
     
    Rachelsdaddy and dashing [OP] like this.
  3. May 28, 2021 at 12:51 AM
    #3
    Strostkovy

    Strostkovy Well-Known Member

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    Fill the coolant with two stroke fuel and you won't have to worry about the integrity of your head gasket.

    (Don't actually do this please)

    To be useful, I'd get that temp gauge fixed and fill your reservoirs to a known level and keep an eye on them. Check for moisture on your oil cap periodically.
     
    dashing [OP] likes this.
  4. May 28, 2021 at 6:15 AM
    #4
    vasinvictor

    vasinvictor Junkie

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    Top off coolant and just check it periodically. No way I'd replace head gaskets yet.
     
  5. May 28, 2021 at 6:22 AM
    #5
    Wyoming09

    Wyoming09 Well-Known Member

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    Leak down test for the state of the valves.

    Just how much coolant was added to bring the level up a gallon plus ??

    Every engine I ever had found a spot where the coolant level was happy

    A slight leak can add up fast a drip here and there never might be seen.
     
    dashing [OP] likes this.
  6. May 28, 2021 at 7:11 AM
    #6
    MalinoisDad

    MalinoisDad Misanthropic dog person

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    I found my very small radiator crack via noticing my coolant overflow tank was empty. Coolant will go somewhere if there’s a leak, and that reservoir will not show the proper level for long I suspect. Keeping an eye on that reservoir might be your simplest task for now. Canary in the coal mine.
     
    dashing [OP] likes this.
  7. May 28, 2021 at 7:24 AM
    #7
    CoastieTX

    CoastieTX Well-Known Member

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  8. May 28, 2021 at 9:11 AM
    #8
    Rastopher

    Rastopher Well-Known Member

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    no idea re the heads but I fixed my temp gauge recently using the method this guy on YouTube shows. It’s a great guide, and despite my initial skepticism i cleaned the cluster with the deoxit and it works perfectly now. Even fixed my lazy gas gauge as well.

    https://youtu.be/VVJSwEakRto
     
    dashing [OP] likes this.
  9. May 28, 2021 at 9:24 AM
    #9
    SLAPS 65

    SLAPS 65 Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap..

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    It’s been my experience with the 3.4 is they start with what feels like a slight miss, I may be wrong but I attribute that to the design of the fuel system, doesn’t hold much if any pressure.
     
    dashing [OP] likes this.
  10. May 28, 2021 at 9:39 AM
    #10
    Wsidr1

    Wsidr1 Well-Known Member

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    What symptom(s) was he trying to diagnose and what tests did he run? All you mentioned is a "slight stutter upon starting". You don't list any of the common ones for a bad head gasket.

    If he worked on it for 5 hrs, he must have some test results, and if he suspects bad head gasket, they should be focused on the type of tests to discover that.

    I am not speaking bad about him, just asking so we know where the processes is at, diagnostically speaking.

    Edit: I see you think he ran compression. Maybe call him for results and see how yours compare.
     
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  11. May 28, 2021 at 11:08 AM
    #11
    dashing

    dashing [OP] Member

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    Thanks for all the responses! The coolant reservoir was nearly dry when I brought it in but it hadn't been filled for 20k miles and I'm not sure how full it was when it was last filled, as I got the timing chain/water pump done when I bought it, and knew almost nothing about engines. This mechanic was basically just trying to figure out where the missing coolant went and why there was a mis upon starting, and never got a definitive answer. After talking to him again, he says he didn't do a compression test on the engine, but did compression test the cooling system with no definitive results. Not really sure what he meant by "no definitive results", but the more I talk to this guy, the more I think he overreacted/maybe just isn't super familiar with the 3.4... I marked the coolant level with a sharpie and am going to tackle the temp gauge and compression test today. I will also most likely test the coolant for exhaust fumes as per suggestion. Thanks again for all the input and I'll keep you all posted as some results come in!
     
  12. May 28, 2021 at 11:33 AM
    #12
    Black DOG Lila

    Black DOG Lila Well-Known Member

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    @dashing
    Reservoir has high and low marks from factory.
    Fill to low mark- engine cold.
    Engine hot- coolant level rises to high mark.
    When engine cools the level returns to low mark.
    This is how the cooling system is designed to work.
    Watch the low and high levels marked on reservoir.
    Marks are about 1/4" apart.
     
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  13. May 28, 2021 at 11:56 AM
    #13
    Rastopher

    Rastopher Well-Known Member

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    I’ve never noticed my coolant level varying like that. Would that indicate an issue?
     
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  14. May 28, 2021 at 12:06 PM
    #14
    Black DOG Lila

    Black DOG Lila Well-Known Member

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    If it doesn't move with engine temperatures it indicates an issue.
     
    dashing [OP] likes this.
  15. May 28, 2021 at 12:08 PM
    #15
    Rastopher

    Rastopher Well-Known Member

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    Interesting, and thanks for the info. I don’t mean to thread jack. I’ll do my research, observe the truck and I’ll follow up later.
     
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  16. May 28, 2021 at 4:31 PM
    #16
    dashing

    dashing [OP] Member

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    Ok big update... I've located a coolant leak that is thankfully outside of the engine. Picture are below, but basically, the leak is between where the coolant comes out of the engine and goes into the cab to the heater. I believe the leak is where the hose clamps on to the engine. Thats the highest I've been able to track it to anyways. Right off the bat I'm relieved that it doesn't appear to be the heads, but the leak is close enough to the engine that I'm still apprehensive that there could be a bigger problem. Is this a common leak? Should I still be worried about the heads still or should I just swap the hose and forget about it? Sorry these photos aren't amazing but it is a challenge to get a good picture from behind the engine. The arrows are just pointing to the hose that's leaking, and the other photo is of the actual leak. You can see the red coolant around the hose clamp on the far left of the close up photo.

    IMG_3562.jpg
    IMG_3563.jpg
     
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  17. May 28, 2021 at 4:44 PM
    #17
    Black DOG Lila

    Black DOG Lila Well-Known Member

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    Heater core flow valve is leaking.
    It's amazing you couldn't smell that.
     
    straightawaykid likes this.

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