1995 Cavalier

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Hi guys I am looking for advice in replacing the head gasket for a 2.2 litre Manual Transmission 1995 Cavalier. Below is where I am now!

- It's a project. The biggest I have undertaken to date. I bought the car for 300 bucks and drove it home it was diagnosed at a garage before I bought it.

- I have the haynes manual and have reviewed the procedure

- I will be buying my new torque wrench on the day I have the all clear to take over the garage for as long as it takes.

- Is there anything else I should be looking for when I pick up the gasket kit and head bolts.

- Are the there any FYI's that I should consider also are there any things in particular I should be expecting? i.e. When you remove x then y will pop across the room.

Any help would be appreciated!!


posted by  TexTruck

Hopefully I am not just taking a log here. I'm expecting that I may need advice as the event transpires. Things have moved faster than I thought I now have the garage for the duration of my adventure. I have the gasket kit and the bolts and a brand new torque wrench. Hopefully I will get some actual work done during this week or so.

posted by  TexTruck

My advice to you is to make special note of every wire and hose that you take off so you'll know exactly where it goes. Be careful and take your time. Dont hesitate to ask questions. If possible I'd even advise you to take pictures of everything before you take it down, and as you take things apart, just incase you get confused when trying to remember how everything went when you put it all back together.

It's not that big of a job, but mistakes can be made for first timers. But not if you go by proceedure and pay attention, and ask questions.

Good luck.:thumbs:

posted by  67Coronet383

i would look here http://www.j-body.org/ for advice

posted by  jackal2000

Right on guys! Thanks. I'll take the picture advice........it seems like a no-brainer now but I never thought of it! I just took off the cover I was gonna drain all the fluids i.e. oil and anti-freeze. I am sure about the antifreeze. Iis the oil a good idea too?? I gave up though as it's late and I am stuck at draining the rad. I went looking for the drain plug and all I can find is an empty bolt hole on the bottom of the drivers side of the rad (Canada) What's up with that?? Should there the something there? If so is it the drain plug? If not what is it? If so I guess that explains any hot running scenerios the girl I bought the car from might of had??? What about the head gasket diagnosis the mechanic gave her?? Ya think he'd be just guessing based on coolant loss or worse just making work??? I hope these aren't all dumbass questions??
Weather the gasket needs replaceing now or not I'm doin it though.

posted by  TexTruck

You're in luck. The 2.2 is one of the easiest cylinder heads around to R&R. here are a couple of tips from someone who has done SEVERAL (possibly over 100) as opposed to some of the other "advisors" who most likely have done none.

1. I'm sure your manual probably says something to the effect of "remove and tag vacuum hoses" etc. What it may not say is to pay special attention to the EVAP canister purge hose under the intake. Not so easy to see, easy to damage.

2. Again, the manual probably says to remove the intake and exhaust manifolds from the head. Don't do it. Leave them attached and remove them AFTER the head is out of the car. Do the same thing on assembly.

3. Make sure you perform a good inspection on the deck for any damage and get the head professionally checked for straightness and resurfaced.

4. Make sure your head bolts and holes are properly prepped and FOLLOW THE TORQUE SEQUENCE EXACTLY. After you've reached the torque to yield portion there is no going back. If you have to remove the bolts for any reason, it's time to shell out for a new set.

5. Make extra sure you bleed the cooling system properly so you don't have another overheat and blown head gasket.

Have fun, good luck.

P.S. Have you determined what caused the original head gasket to let go? If not, you need to do so prior to start up.

posted by  vwhobo

Thanks vwhobo
No is the answer to determining what caused the initial gasket crack. Any suggestions? I will take you advice though in regards to the head removal. Thanks again!

posted by  TexTruck

Well., ideally you determine what the root cause was BEFORE teardown, but it seems we're past that point, so...

First we have to determine if the old head gasket gave up due to overheating, improper assembly or possibly old age. You can substantially figure out the last two simply by knowing the mileage on the engine and the repair/maintenance history of the vehicle. You just bought it so you may not know either.

That being said, a set of experienced eyes looking at the engine components as they come apart can give you volumes of information. Are there fasteners missing and hose or electrical connections cobbled together? Those (and others) would be a sign of sloppy workmanship that if the heads had beed off previously could most certainly lead to a blown head gasket.

On the other hand, does the oil smell burnt and is it caked inside the top of the cylinder head? What do the coolant and the cooling passages in the block look like? Has the wax pellet in the thermostat literally exploded from heat? Is there even a t-stat installed? These would be signs of an overheat condition and in the case of the last one, someone misguidedly attemting to "rig" the engine so it won't.

Basically you have your homework cut out for you. At a minimum, I recommend replacing the t-stat and flushing the entire cooling system before you start the engine and then bleed it a fast as you can after start-up and watch the temp guage and troubleshoot it from there.

P.S. What did the "mechanic" who diagnosed the blown head gasket say caused it?

P.P.S. Before I hit submit, I thought of something you may be unaware of. If the engine was overheated, they are sometimes overheated to the point that the pistons scuff and the rings lose their tension. If that happens, the engine will never run correcty if it'll run at all until it's been re-ringed at a minimum. It'll also smoke (burn oil) like a chimney.

posted by  vwhobo

Man am I glad I posted on this site. Thanks very much for your input/advice! Here we go:
I would assume old age tied in with useage is the cause as the car has 305,000K on it or 190,000 miles. However it was 100% lady driven and she didn't come across as the lead footed type (just a guess though).

I don't think the head has ever been removed as everything is in an untouched condition. Actually the only signs of any real under the hood work is a new alternator and battery along witha new set of plugs...but not wires rotor or distrubutor.

As for the oil no it doesn't smell and it actually looks good (on the top side that is, as I only have the cover off at this point) there is no "caking" and it actually is kinda golden in color. I'll have to get back to on the t-stat when I get that far. I have company in town on the weekend so no tinkering for me for at least a week. (Maybe)

I have no idea what the mechanic might have suggested for a cause......dammit I never ask enough questions. But I bought the car as learning experience and already I've learned one or 2 things.

As for the piston rings I think I am good there as I have run the car a number of times before I stuck her in the garage anthere isn't ANY blue smoke comming from it. Can I inspect them some way all the same when I get the head off??

Also I don't know if you saw it but I posted awhile back saying that I sized up the whole rad and could not find the drain plug I did however find an empty bolt hole???? Is that normal or is that where my drain plug should be. I am thinking weird things because of that.......maybe you can set me straight. Also should I drain the oil before I take the head off??

Thanks so much for your advice I am bound to have many more questions so I'll do my best to not have you get fed up with me. Thanks again.

posted by  TexTruck

Okay, I guess I should have asked this to begin with and forgot, but your last post reminded me. Old age you know. If you drove the car home and you have run it a number of times, what are the symptoms that leads one to believe it has a blown head gasket? Engines may and do run with a blown head gasket, but they seldom run very well, especially a four cylinder. Let's make sure this is what you need to do to fix the car.

Has a compression check or leakdown check been accomplished? Is there oil in the coolant or coolant in the oil? Excessive cooling system pressure? White smoke (steam) from the exhaust? Unexplained coolant loss? Combustion gasses in the cooling system? How far is it from where you bought it to where you live? Unless it's less than a mile, one or more symptoms should have surfaced. Make sure you're fixing the right thing. About 20% of the cars I see diagnosed with blown heads gaskets don't have blown head gaskets. And the more I read in this thread, the more I think your car may be in the 20%.

posted by  vwhobo

Okay I managed to track down the mechanic. He says it was visible as you can see the coolant leaking out of the back of the engine. I will "TRY" to verify this this evening but as you've discovered by now I may not notice even it is obvious. But you can smell coolant mixed with oil now that I think of it!

Thanks again

posted by  TexTruck

1. Many things could cause a leak on the back of the engine, a head gasket is but one of them.

2. I don't think so. If there's enough coolant in the engine oil to smell it, there's also enough to make it milky. You said previously that the oil is a golden color. See the disparity?

3. Four words. Cooling system pressure tester. If it's an external leak, and it could well be, this is the way to pinpoint it.

Side note. If the engine has as many miles as you say and the head hasn't been worked previously, you need to budget for a basic valve job as well, or at least disassembly and inspection by a competent machinist.

posted by  vwhobo

I do like to read that someone is having a go at the actual engine rather than connecting shiny peripheral stuff and becoming a mechanical expert.

Regardless of whether the gasket is knackered or not, it would be a grand adventure to whip the head off and see in real life what's there.

You have a good mentor in VWHobo, so the only advice I will offer at this stage is to make sure you soak any residual oil/water from the head bolt holes in the block (use cotton buds if necessary) and use thread conditioner on the head bolts.

posted by  Wally

How do I do a cooling system pressure test?? Can I do it with out spending a big pile of dough on the neccessary tools? Or do I need to bring it to a mechanic?

As curious as I am about my ability to do a gasket change I don't wanna do it for naught. As for the smell ya I see your point and I am not gonna torment you with it any longer until I get to the root..........I was gonna say of the problem but that is the problem The car runs fine I couldn't believe it when I drove her. I mean I test drove on the highway for at least 5 miles the car runs perfectly the head gasket idea only came from what the mechanic told this lady. Maybe I should just let it be? As for the mileage oh ya she has that many 305,000km. What about the valve job? What's involved? Maybe I can change the scope of my project/hobby. :thumbs:

posted by  TexTruck

And Thanks Wally!!

posted by  TexTruck

Compression test, leakdown test and cooling system test can easily be carried out by a mechanical workshop and should'nt be costly.

I'm not familiar with the particular engine you have, but the underside of your oil cap will probably have white cream if you have water escaping into oil side. A weeping gasket may just be a failure of the surface beading and although it will tend to rot in that area, there may well be many more miles left before you need to change it.

The leak that is apparently coming from the gasket may well be tracking from somewhere else (e.g. intake manifold gasket, pin holed hose/pipe, etc)

posted by  Wally

What Wally said... :wink2: I don't know what's available up there, but in the States you can get free loaner tools from the bigger retail parts stores. Maybe Canadian Tire does that too. None of the three tests are hard to do, but the leakdown does require the use of shop air (compressor).

If the head ends up coming off, all the valve job consists of is removing the valves, resurfacing the valve faces and valve seats, checking the springs for proper seating pressure/shimming if required and replacing the stem seals. While it's in the machine shop, it's money well spent to have it (the head) cleaned and checked for straightness and machined if neccesary.

P.S. to Wally. Why do you have to go and call me a "mentor". I've just gotten used to you calling me "mental". :hi:

posted by  vwhobo

Some vehicle owners that only make small trips and dont ever get the motor to operating temps usually have that nice milky coating on the underside of the oil cap from condensation that never gets burnt off, If im wrong someone should let me know:thumbs:

posted by  BanffAutoSpa_ap

Tanks for all the input guys! Especially you vwhobo. I WILL get those tests done asap and make a decision from there! I am still gonna do the gasket and screw it the valves to while I am at it! I'll post again when I gets some garage time going............thanks again guys thanks alot!!

posted by  TexTruck

Staus Report Jan 21 2007
I now have the head cover off and the rocker arms and push rodds removed......bagged tagged and detailed. I know the could have waited but curiosity gets me sometimes.

I have the radiator drained and flushed.....(with little mess.... booo yeaaaaa)

I have the alternator removed which leads me to problem one. Question and info below. I have some pictures of the pulleys on the front of the engine illustrating the lack of the described tensioner for the 2.2 engine I hope to attach but I seem to not be able to do that. Nope can't. I'll try to make them smaller soon and then do it.

1) Where is the tensioner on this car??
-------It is not where the book says. 100% I looked on the net and found a picture of the 2.2 and a full front look at the engine and that tensioner is not on my car . I cut the serpentine belt so now it will be an issue on rebuild but any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

2) I was told I can purchase a replacement head from an auto store. Is this true? Any input? How much would it run me?

Any I'll keep posting as I progress. Advice is welcome.

posted by  TexTruck

Staus Report Jan 28 2007

I now have the head cover off and the power steering pump removed. What a b*tch considering I have really large hands and there's not much space around here. It looks like the there is a leak on the lower end of the upper hose. I haven't really inspected it yet and as I am learning as I go I have no idea weather I can repair it or or if I should replace the whole thing?

As for the pump itself It worked before I took it off so I see no need to replace it. Any ideas from anyone on suggested maintenance procedures while it is off? i.e. cleaning flushing etc.

I also removed the plugs while I was at it today too. The plugs were supposed to be new. But where very very full of carbon. Also on plug either was put in crossed treaded or became that way when I removed it. I was worried the plug would break but luckily It did not and I put tremendous amount of force on it. However now the treading on the inside is damaged. Any suggestions???

Anyhow I'll keep posting as I progress. Advice is welcome.

posted by  TexTruck

1. Your power steering has two hoses... A pressure and a return. The only repair for a leak, depending on where it is and on which hose, it tightening, replacing the o-ring or replacement.

2. As you have the pump off, you could dump out the reservoir and refill it with fresh fluid. If you're really motivated, you can do a basic system flush but I won't explain how to here.

3. Aluminum heads, crossed threaded plugs, what a shocker. Happens to hammer mechanics all the time. It's also an easy fix either for you or the machine shop. If you want to DIY, here ya go;


posted by  vwhobo

Ok Thanks! I will likely have the the plug threading done when I get the head inspected......That's a relief. I actually have the Power steering pump drained. I have the steps for bleeding the system on reinstall. I'll just clean it up a bit unless there is something I should run through it? As for the leak I will attach pics this evening when I get home and show you. I assume it's the pressure hose as its the one with the metal fitting that you shove into the pump as opposed to the rubber hose that was clamped onto a fitting. The leak is on the opposite end of the hose so I may size that up and just replace the whole thing to be safe. Thanks again I'll post a couple pics this eve. and be back with another report next week. So what are the betting odds on the car ever running again? My moneys on it running.......but I'm known to be a cocky SOB even when I'm losing!

posted by  TexTruck

Pics as promised.

posted by  TexTruck

EVAP canister purge hose under the intake. Not so easy to see, easy to damage.

Ok so I tried to remove the aforementioned hose. I have no idea how to get it off. Any help?

posted by  TexTruck

spin slighlty as you pull vacuum line off nipple or get a little pick and work it around slightly

posted by  BanffAutoSpa_ap

Ok but what do you use to loosen it? I can't fit any of my wrenches in there. I was looking for a suggestion on what to use. I may undo the motor mounts when I go at it again and try to pull the engine forward to get at it........does that sound like a good/bad idea??


posted by  TexTruck

No wrench or special tool needed. Unless something has changed since the last of the zillion or so of those that I've done, all you have to do is remove a rubber hose as at least one person has previously mentioned.

Directions to remove EVAP cannister purge hose.

1. Twist.

2. Pull.

3. Cut if necessary.

4. Replace as required.

posted by  vwhobo

Hey Everybody!
Ok so I have the upper intake bolts all removed. Along with hoses, elec. connections etc etc. And it's not even budging. I know why I think though. It's the hose that I have shown in my pictures. I am at a loss as how I can loosen it from the place where it goes into the lower manifold. None of the tools I have will let me even fit in there. Any suggestions? So since I was defeated there I moved to the other end of the hose and loosened that nut thinking if I removed that end of the hose I may just be able to twist the hose to loosen the top part. Good/Bad idea? After I loosened the nut I never even pulled the hose free as I have not drained the oil yet and decided that if I pull that hose oil would start running out. Would it? Well that's where it ends today. Any input is always appreciated.

posted by  TexTruck

Status Report Feb 18 2007
Ok so I finally got the EGR pipe off and figured out what it was while I was at it. I had to take a hack saw to one of my adjustable wrenches but it worked. I now have the upper intake removed as well. I am gonna take VW's advice and not remove the other manifolds. Until the head comes off.........now I'm getting nervous. I got stuck with the Fuel pressure regulator. I assume it's the right idea to detach it from the lower intake manifold.........however the hex bolt that holds it in is too close to the brake resevoir for me to get at with my socket hex keys........I guess I'll go buy the right size in the old fashioned key type if I can find it. That's where I stand now. O also attached a few pics of what the top of the lower manifold looks like for any input.....it looks pretty nasty to me but the car does have over 300k on it. Opinions are very welcome.

posted by  TexTruck

Status Report and questions Feb 25, 2007

Well I was confident that today was going to be the day that the cylinder head came off. I just never thought that I would split one of my lifetime warranty master craft deep sockets. Which leads to question number one. Is it odd that one of the head bolts is next to impossible to turn? Most, as I expected are easy to turn as they are torqued as per spec. Two though were very hard. I got one after just about pushing the car off the jackstands. The second however actually split my deep socket. So now I have to go get a new 15mm.

VWHOBO I respect your advice but had to go against it in regards to the intake manifold. I took it off first as I wasn't sure I had all the hose and connections disconnected and the olny way I could see for sure was to take it off. I will leave the exhaust on though I also see why it's better to put them back on before I put the head back. Which leads to question two. There is a gap betwen the flanges of my exhaust mainfold and the exhaust pipe. I have attached a pic. Is this normal? I also have attached a couple more pics for review. Feedback is appreciated. I am actually disappointed that there is as little feedback as there is.

I am having picture problems so I will post them tomorrow.

posted by  TexTruck

Ok so I went and got a new 15mm deep socket. Sure enough it worked and the bolt came out..........I then moved to the next one and my new g*dd@mn socket split..........I went back to crappy tire and exchanged it again..........went home (I have used much WD-40 before some asks) tapped it with a hammer for good luck put the socket on and twisted..........F*CK it split again.........Not to be defeated I procceded back to crappy tire for a new socket (luckily theses things are lifetime warranty) at which time I also bought a blow torch to add a little heat to my bolt (Is this a bad idea?) I never added much though as the flame used to suck down the spark plug chambers and scare me a little. Anyhow I put the socket on the bolt twisted and........Holy MFing antichrist g*dd@mn etc etc. it split again:banghead: . Can anyone offer advice here?? Maybe I am gonna answer my on question but I have noticed tougher looking black sockets on the shelves that I think I will try, if inspection of them suggests they may be stronger than my sockets. No I haven't inspected them yet as obviously I am a slow learner. Anyhow I may not get another chance to try this till the weekend as stealing family time for my hobby is frowned upon by my wife.......however my pride might walk all over my morals and I may make another attempt this eve. Any input is appreciated!! :doh:

posted by  TexTruck

1. A black socket is most likely an impact socket. Impact sockets are supposed to have thicker walls, have a better heat treat and be stronger. Notice the key word, supposed. I know nothing about the brand of tool you're using so that may not be the case. I've seen places that sell regular chrome and "impact" sockets that are exactly the same tool with the exception of finish. More importantly, you want to make sure you're using a 6-point socket and not a 12-point as they are usually stronger. All impact sockets are 6-point unless they're special purpose. Additionally, you'll find a shallow socket is almost always stronger than a deep socket.

2. Not much point heating up a head bolt. You can't really get it hot where it needs to be heated most, in the thread area, plus heating it may actually make it harder to get out. Expansion and all. Try giving it a few good sharp raps with a BFH and something long enough to reach the head. An old garbage extension will do the job. Just don't dick up the head so the socket doesn't fit.

posted by  vwhobo

Thanks VW
Ya I was actually just doin some research and the black ones are impact sockets and I will purchase one tonight. As for my current socket I have it in my pocket so I pulled it out for a look and wouldn't ya know it.........it's a 6 point.....as for the shallow socket it's a no go as it's the bolts that you need the deep socket for that are the problem.......so I'll give up on those ones. I just cannot believe the break so easily. Thanks again.

posted by  TexTruck

Tear down done!!
Yup It's done. I got the head off. I bought the impact socket yesterday and it took the pressure. I have attached a picture of the the cylinders for a look it looks real dirty with what I assume is carbon formed into chunks on top. Anyone have advice here?? Also I have one other question. I have had a couple good wrestles with a certain type of hose clamp. (Pic attached) Is there a special tool or method of removing these? I obviously have ruined the ones that I removed. What do I call them when I go the buy them? Just in case it's not answered in the removal question how do I put them on? Again is there a method or tool?? So I figure now I won't need anymore info from you losers as reassembly is bound to be a breeze. :fu:

PLEASE, note the sarcasm above. I appreciate all the info.......almost 100% of which came from the old contrary guy. Thanks alot.......I am sure you know that I will be hounding you again.

posted by  TexTruck

1. You can clean out some of the funk from the top of your engine, but don't kill yourself trying. Just make sure that anything you scrape off the top of the cylinders is cleaned out before putting the head back on. A nice thick layer of Vaseline on top of the piston catches it well and is easy to clean out with a paper towel.

2. They are called constant tension clamps. If you really want to purchase the correct tool for them I can lead you the right direction, but... As you have to replace the damaged clamps anyway, just go ahead and get regular worm drive hose clamps. Cost less, no special tool, new and shiney.

3. Make sure the deck surface on the block is spotless before you install the head. Also beg, borrow or steal a thread chaser to clean up the head bolt holes. If you send me some Molsons, I'll show you how to make a serviceable one for free.

4. Screw you buddy. :wink2:

posted by  vwhobo

Thanks again!
As for the Molsons.....as a fellow fan I think you'd really like the new beer I discovered here in Alberta it's called Kokanee and it is excellent. However the corss border tansfer of liquids is a sensitive subject theses days........you'll just have to come over to this side :laughing:

Is it good enough I wonder to clean up the old bolts and then use them like a tap and run them through?

I may actually have more questions in this regard I never even had a good chance to inspect the head yet. Hopefully on the weekend.

Again if you get the chance try the Kokanee.

posted by  TexTruck

Ok. So I am confused as to what I should do in regards to my head. I have called one shop and his quotes were $250 for a surface machining and valve job. Or $400 for a refurbished. So tomorrow I am gonna call the other 2 shops here in Calgary and see the quotes. I am also going to call a dealership and price a new one. However my other option is to go to the local pick and pull and find a quality looking head and replace mine with that. Is this a reasonable option? I was there today and saw a few good looking heads. So I am considering this. Just looking for info here. Any is appreciated.

posted by  TexTruck

Update March 24 2007
Ok I need some help. I have noticed though that Vwhobo is not around lately. I even tried pissing off Cliffy to see if was checking in. Anyhow I need advice and would appreciate any creative suggestions. I have the entire reassembly done but have a huge problem there is antifreeze leaking at a pretty good rate. I cannot see where it’s coming from although it looks like it could be the housing that the EGR valve and the thermostat housing are bolted to. Is this possible? I have looked at all the hoses and it doesn’t seem to be those. I started the car (It did start yea) but only ran it for a second as the antifreeze was leaking of course but it does run out ALOT faster when the car is started. So is there anything anyone can offer here? PLEASE!!!!:banghead:

posted by  TexTruck

Ok so after I put everything together (months ago) I ended up with a leak. Life and defeatism set in and the car sat for a few months. So after getting sick of looking at it I removed the aforementioned housing and replaced the gaskets again. This time I put a coating on it........oops. So that ended my leak. Now the car is done. I sold it yesterday for a little less than I wanted for it. I never lost any money on it and the guy who bought it needed a break (or so it seemed) so everybody wins. Anyhow I would like to thank all those who helped or offered advice. Of course I especially want to thank the Hobo. Thanks alot I appreciate it. I hope your current business endeavor is doing well. I sure hope your around for my next project as I think I now have enough confidence to take on something that will mean something to me..............like an old truck or a 69 Charger..........oh the potential

posted by  TexTruck

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