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Fixing Blown Headgasket & Other Issues

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  • Fixing Blown Headgasket & Other Issues

    My friend's 1990 Festiva froze up, overheated, and blew a headgasket and warped the head.

    I used to have a festiva, and I love the little cars, so me and my buddies are fixing it! (Body is in great shape, interior is oddly dirty, but that can be fixed.)

    It was pumping air into the coolant lines, so we got the head off, and sure enough, the headgasket was blown.

    Using a straight edge and feeler gauge, the best I can tell is the head is banana shaped, with about .017" gap in the middle with the straight edge going from end to end.

    I've been talking to a machine shop which says they can mill it flat. We'll be getting a head gasket kit, and putting it all back together. Does this seem reasonable?

    Part of the issue is though, the cluster gauges don't work. (Partly why my friend didn't know it was overheating.)

    The speedometer works sometimes, the handbrake light is stuck on, the gas gauge works rarely, and the temp gauge is completely dead.

    Should I tear into the dash first to clean connections? Or start tracing down wires and testing sensors?

    And before you say to move on, realize we paid $660 for this car, and we're having fun with it.

  • #2
    You and your buddy should stick with it as long as you're having fun. You can get a lot farther faster with two people working together.
    First thing would be to get a good head back on the engine and make sure you can get it running. The other problems you list are minor and are likely already solved in posts here on the forum.
    If you don't already have a shop manual and an electrical and vacuum troubleshooting manual, I would recommend that you get those asap
    Here are a couple of links to some on ebay. The 90 thru 93 manual are pretty much equivalent.
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/1990-Ford-F...f0f0:rk:5:pf:0
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/1992-FORD-FESTIVA-SERVICE-SHOP-REPAIR-MANUAL-ELECTRICAL-WIRING-MANUAL-SET/142829959475?hash=item2141543933:g:Je4AAOSwxupbHoC V:rk:9f:0

    Did you also check the cylinder block head surface? The manual says that it must be out no more that .006 inch over the entire surface and can be ground no more than .008 inch.
    The maximum variance on the head surface is also listed as .006 inch. Milling off .011 inch does not seem to be a good option.
    Your cam and rocker arm journals are also affected by warping. First thing is to make sure there are no crack in the head and them straighten the head before machining.
    Watch this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1z4vA8ZhLPc


    Nellie - Yellow 90 5spd LPlus (bought '05 at 44,000 105,811 as of 01/18.)

    Trixie - Dark Charcoal 89 L Auto. Bought 06/15/13 $1800 with 89,000 miles / 95,306 as of 01/18. Power windows and swoopie power
    mirrors. Rio front, Aspire rear, 165/55 R14 Miatas. Mercury Tracer front seats. Gave Trixie to my grandson 09/22/2018.
    Rosie - Red 92 GL 5 Speed Sold to Safety Guy 07/12/2018.
    Bessie - Surf Blue '90 5spd LPlus (bought new) As of 10/2018 354K. No longer in the family.. sold to a forum member 10/20/2018

    During the last 15 years I have also owned and then sold or gave away four other Festivas.

    Comment


    • #3
      On the minor problems I'd clean and test, check contacts, fuses, etc. before looking into the display. The display (cluster) is inside where it's nice and warm and dry so less likely to be the problem.

      The brake warning light could be either the switch on the hand brake or low fuild level in the reservoir. Both will turn on the light.

      The speedo cable can be pulled, cleaned, and greased which often fixes the problem according to posts in this forum. Worked for me.. Once the end is out you can connect to an electic drill to test the display. And maybe change the fluid while it's out.

      Have fun.
      Original owner of silver grey carburetted 1989 Festiva. 105k km as of June 2006.

      Comment


      • #4
        Sounds good guys! The machine shop said they can bake it, but often if the valve seats are pressed in, they can just fall out.. Is this an issue for Festivas? Or were they just unfamiliar with this engine?

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm no expert in regards to rebuilding heads. I rely on the machine shop pros to know about the details. The last experience I had with one was in August of 2016.
          I still have the rebuilt head sitting on the shelf in my garage. I just checked the receipt and I paid $299.58. It wasn't warped badly enough to require straightening so I don't know about how much heat they would take before the seats would fall out. The charges were $55 to Resurface the head, $160.00 for Valve Job Clean, Cut valves and seats and Install new stem seals. $15 to polish camshaft, $16.91 for new valve stem seals and $47.52 for 4 new valves. $5.15 tax brought the total to $299.58. I knew I wasn't going to be using it right away so I oiled it up up good, stuffed the openings with paper towels and sealed it in a plastic bag. The head was from the engine that was in Rosie. I had bought a rebuilt head to put on the new short block that I put in her and afterwards decided to have the old head that was in her checked out and have it rebuilt if it was good.
          I'm now down to 1 Festiva... the yellow 1990 with less than 110K on her and I will still help my grandson maintain his1989 (with less the 100K on it) that I gave to him last September, so I doubt that I will ever need that rebuilt head.
          Here is a link which might be helpful...about the valve seats in aluminum heads.
          https://www.aa1car.com/library/ar993.htm

          Talks about straightening: The seats in an aluminum head may also loosen or fall out when the head is being cleaned in a bake oven or preheated in an oven for straightening. The same thing can happen to the guides. Whether or not this occurs depends on the amount of interference fit between the seats and head. The less the interference, the more likely the seats are to loosen and fall out when the head is baked. If you do not want the seats to fall out, turn the head upside down or stake the seats prior to baking.
          Last edited by 1990new; 01-31-2019, 07:15 PM.
          Nellie - Yellow 90 5spd LPlus (bought '05 at 44,000 105,811 as of 01/18.)

          Trixie - Dark Charcoal 89 L Auto. Bought 06/15/13 $1800 with 89,000 miles / 95,306 as of 01/18. Power windows and swoopie power
          mirrors. Rio front, Aspire rear, 165/55 R14 Miatas. Mercury Tracer front seats. Gave Trixie to my grandson 09/22/2018.
          Rosie - Red 92 GL 5 Speed Sold to Safety Guy 07/12/2018.
          Bessie - Surf Blue '90 5spd LPlus (bought new) As of 10/2018 354K. No longer in the family.. sold to a forum member 10/20/2018

          During the last 15 years I have also owned and then sold or gave away four other Festivas.

          Comment


          • #6
            Update on the little white Festiva:

            The machine shop checked the rocker shaft on the top of the head, and the cam journals inside the head. Both were pretty straight. Much straighter than the head gasket surface. So as horrid as it sounds, they milled the head gasket surface flat, cleaned the head, and pressure tested it. (FWIW that was all $156.)

            I ordered the manuals as suggested above, and a head gasket kit, timing belt kit, water pump, and temperature senders from Rock Auto.

            Hopefully it'll be running next week sometime! I'll let you know.

            Comment

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