So what happened?

Just realized it’s been more than two months since I posted, I did not mean to go so long. Here is the short version of what’s happened:

I pulled the engine back out and changed the head gaskets because I could not get the car to reliably not overheat. I am still not entirely sure the old gaskets failed, but the symptoms I could measure were convincing enough.


So the long version goes something like this:

The car started and ran well, and seemed to have the initial hot-run problem licked as soon as I put bleeder valves on the high spots throughout the cooling system. On nice days I was driving the car to work and back, 18 miles each way, to solve the other minor difficulties that arise in engine swaps.


To get here I

Adjusted the shifter so it’s pretty nice.

Made a fan shroud.


Painted the welds on my trans mount


Dang! I thought that was black paint!

Installed the heater (with a lot of extra hose bends to make a good place for the bleeder)


I put in the new trunk floor

IMG_4713Tightened the CV bolts–one of which had backed out most of the way

CV bolt--backed out!Along the way I found

*Trouble with the fan relay (fixed)

*oil leak at oil pressure gauge (fixed…I think)

gauge drip2

*sticky throttle hangs about 2000 rpm (fixed)

*stalls when rolling to a red light (You have to blip the throttle. Not yet fixed)

*intermittent turn signal lights (fixed; ground)

*Weird charging. Charges good, then fades below 12 on the volt meter. Then sometimes revives. And the GEN light sometimes lights even if the voltmeter is up (not fixed)


The car seemed to run cool enough, with a temp gauge issue only on the day the fan was not running. That was a hot day and the trouble hit at rush hour, so I thought I was good.

By this time I was working on cosmetic stuff, like the fake “side curtain box” to cover the bit of the Soob’s air intake that protrudes into the tub.


I thought I was good enough, in fact, to make a run to Connecticut for the Lime Rock Historic races. The only troubles I had as Labor Day weekend approached were a noisy exhaust (I suspected a pinhole in one of the welds) and the alternator thing. I took the car back to the muffler shop so they could have a look

And the top coolant hose was leaking when I got there.

coolant leak1

Seemed like the clamp, so I tightened it and put some more antifreeze in.

Then noticed more leakage. One of the mechanics walking by said “water pump.”

I argued–the pump’s on the other side of the engine! And it’s brand new!–but he seemed so confident that I took his judgment over mine. (The said there was no exhaust leak either).

I left Bridget home, saw some great racing at Lime Rock, and endeavored to see what was what when I got back.

I pulled off the timing covers, pulled out the water pump and… it was fine. Not a problem at all.

I installed a new front main oil seal and new cam seals as well while I was in there, which cured a pretty good drip from the engine.


Looked again at the hose. It was ripped under the clamp. DANG!

By the time I was getting everything back together on a Friday I was hoping to meet my wife at her boss’s house, where he stages the annual office party. It’s 50 miles from our house, so I thought it would be a great test of the car, which was running very well, save for this stalling thing (gotta be the speed sensor but which speed sensor? The code it throws  says “engine speed sensor” but the device, which looks like it’s working, is a vehicle speed sensor) and the alternator weirdness, which seemed intermittent and innocent enough to chance an evening cruise. My battery is pretty new.

Getting Bridget’s coolant back in there was nothing simple though. The first batch came back through the cap, which I had neglected to put on. That was on a run to the store to get some dessert for the party. Good thing it was a mile up the road and not on the highway.

I put more antifreeze in, opened my bleeders till everything flowed, tested the car with a five-mile run around the neighborhood, and then set out for the wife’s boss’s house.

It was a great ride.

She ran smooth on the highway, the temp gauge holding at about 190F, and I had the windshield folded down on an 80-degree fall afternoon. Just as I got on the bridge over the Susquehanna a kid in a new red Mustang GT rolled up along side and gave me what I took to be the “nice car” nod. So I nodded back.

And he floored it.

So, what the hell, I floored it too.

The 2013 Mustang GT has more than 400 horsepower running through a six-speed transmission. He’d gotten a good jump on me–about a car length.

But he could not pull away.

Bridget pulled with authority from the 60 mph or so we were doing when I hit it, right through about 80 or a little more, at which point I came to my senses and backed off.

The tolls were just ahead. The Mustang went through ahead of me, two booths over. Coming out he tromped it again, revving high through each gear.

So I did the same and, again, stayed with him up until about 80, which came this time in the middle of third gear.

I lifted my right foot and shifted into 4th and laughed.

The temperature gauge, oil pressure, and everything else seemed in perfect order.

The office party was as these things are, and so about an hour and a half after I got there Karen and I were getting out. She had her car, which she’d driven from work, and that was a good thing.

The boss lives quite a few miles into some winding country roads, and as I made my way over them in the dimming light I noticed my GEN light was glowing faintly again.

Then I noticed the temp gauge had spiked to 210.

DANG. Again.

I kept going and the needle slowly fell to about 200.

Then I looked again and it was 220.

I pulled into the parking lot of a nursing home and shut the engine off.

A man came over to help. I asked him if I could leave the car for an hour and he said no problem. Karen drove me home and I got the truck and flat-towed Bridget home.

The next day I opened the bleeder at the top of the engine. It hissed air.

I filled the coolant and opened the other bleeders. I got a tester kit that sniffs exhaust gas in antifreeze.

I drove Bridget to the parts store to get that stuff. The test needs a warm engine.

When I got back there was air under the engine bleeder again. This had been a recurring thing. You bleed it out, then there is air in it again. During one of the fills, a month before, I took video as the running engine seemed to be blowing bubbles into the overflow bottle.

Twice I tried the coolant gas test.

Twice I failed because coolant glugged out of the system and into the test vessel.

I should have done a compression test. But instead I just ordered new head gaskets and new head bolts. I started looking for a machine shop to resurface the heads.

Then I pulled the engine.

exhaust outIMG_4885IMG_4887 on the standIMG_4893Getting the heads off took a week. I could not budge the bolts even with my breaker bar (I did manage to clink over one of the nubs in my 14mm socket though).

I ended up buying a hand and hammer impact driver. That got all the outer bolts off–and it got me a good left hand sprain when I hit it with the sledge.

IMG_4897Finally got my neighbor, Dan, who runs an old Malibu drag car, to wheel his air compressor up the sidewalk and let me try his impact wrench.

Which didn’t get it either.

But after I bripped the bolts with it a few times, Dan tried it with the breaker bar and was able to get them loose. He handed me the bar and I got the ones on my side loose while he held the engine steady.

IMG_4904 IMG_4903I took them to Agile Automotive, a shop up in Fallston that is chock-full of breathed-upon Subies.


Two weekends and $330 later I get the heads back, cleaned, checked and resurfaced.



Cleaned up the block with some gasket-eating junk, brake parts cleaner and a lot of elbow grease.IMG_4949 IMG_4950 IMG_4951And then oiled the cylinders a bit (dig those crazy hone marks!) and put them back together.

IMG_4955 IMG_4956While I’m at it I’m installing a valve to keep the hot antifreeze out of the heater core when it’s hot out. I made a plate to hold the control for it and the heater fan.

IMG_4957And that’s pretty much where we stand. The timing belt is back on. I also have a new rear O2 sensor, because the code reader told me it’s bad. So I’ll install that when I put the engine back in and the exhaust back on.

And I guess I’ll probably tackle the front brakes next. I bought a disc setup two years ago and it’s been sitting on the shop floor since then. With a car that can (theoretically) do 100 mph in 3rd gear, I guess it’s just about time.

And it’s mid-October, so I can’t expect to get all that much driving in anyway.






About stuntmidget

I'm a poor mechanic and general wisenheimer. I love old cars and the stories behind them, true or not.
This entry was posted in Fixes, Improvements and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to So what happened?

  1. emc2mm says:

    Great adventures – made a good read!

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